Many thanks to Teri (KO4WFP) for the following guest post:
The Final Countdown and an Innovative Solution for My Nova Scotia Trip
by Teri (KO4WFP)
As I finalize preparations for my trip to Nova Scotia, during which I plan to activate six or seven parks, I ask myself “How the heck did I get here?” Those of you who read my first field report in this series know that Thomas Witherspoon’s decision to activate parks in Canada last year was my motivation. I admit it is gutsy of a relatively new op to believe I can undertake such a venture.
The necessity of traveling to Nova Scotia by plane drove the decision of what equipment to take. QRP became the name of the game, a great option for a CW op. I purchased the Elecraft KX2, a rig with a great reputation. Once it arrived in early May, I spent the next month and a half acquiring the necessary accessories and skills for this adventure. The final step before I leave is ensuring I have what I need and the room for it. Given others might want to undertake a similar venture, I will share what equipment I have chosen to take and how I am packing it.
I know most people prefer a roll-on suitcase, but after a trip to New York City last summer, I had enough of schlepping wheeled suitcases up and down the many flights of stairs we traversed. Upon my return to Savannah, I immediately purchased an Osprey Fairview 55 pack. The Fairview pack can be carried as a suitcase by a handle on its side or as a backpack (my preference). As for its size, it meets airline carry-on dimension requirements for domestic flights and has a few points to attach items you might carry if actually using it for hiking. And, best of all, it is made for YLs!
Included with and attached to the front of the pack is a smaller backpack that can be used as a daypack. I figured this would be perfect for most of my ham equipment and proceeded to find a way to fit everything in it. The larger Fairview pack would serve as my carry-on and the smaller daypack as my personal item for the flight.
As you can see, the daypack has a fair amount of room. In the main compartment I have the gorillapod tripod for mounting the AX1 on top of the rental car or a picnic table, the carrying case for Craig, my KX2, and his accompanying items, and two Tom Bihn travel bins. There are two additional compartments inside the daypack – a mesh, zippered pouch and a slot for a laptop or iPad.
When I first began CW POTA activations, I used a notepad to track contacts. However, to save time, I switched to a refurbished laptop with N3FJP loaded to log contacts in real-time. Juggling it and the key didn’t prove as difficult as I originally thought. Also in the laptop slot are documents I don’t want bent like my license (not pictured), band plan, UTC conversion chart, and call sign prefixes for European countries. I am also taking a small steno notepad as a backup for logging contacts as well as making notes for the trip reports I’ll write afterwards.
In the zippered, mesh pocket are the Elecraft manual that came with the rig and my two longer lengths of RG-316, one 25’ and the other 50’.
When I purchased my KX2, I also purchased the Elecraft carrying case. I’m not sure if I will stick with this case long-term but for this trip, it works. The case actually holds a fair amount of stuff.
In the main compartment of the carrying case (on the right in the photo above) is my KX2, a repurposed bag with both the AX1 and my Tufteln EFRW QRP antenna, the two counterpoises for the AX1 (under the antenna bag), and on top, the 10’ length of RG-316.
The zippered pouch is a great catch-all for those little items you need but can’t figure out how best to store. In this pouch, I have a spare set of headphones, several carabiners, the 90 degree BNC attachment for the AX1, the AX1 instruction manual, a BNC binding post I hope to try one day for an antenna experiment, spare Fun-tak for holding my key in place, spare batteries for my digital recorder and key, some flagging tape, a spare cord wrap, my N6ARA spare key and cable, and the charging cord for my Sony noise-cancelling headphones (not pictured). After several early POTA activations on which I forgot items, I now keep a laminated checklist in this pouch. I noticed the one in the photo needs to be updated and replaced before the trip as I’ve tweaked my gear list.
In the middle compartment of the Elecraft carrying case are my digital recorder, splitter cable, AX1 bipod, and a spare pen.
The two Tom Bihn travel bags hold misc items I want contained. The red-colored, medium-sized one has my Sony noise cancelling headphones and cord, my key and its cord, and three bungee cords.
The smaller Tom Bihn travel bag holds my throw line and one of the Weaver 10 oz. weights. Note: Thomas advised me that some hams have received questions regarding the weights when going through TSA. Not pictured is a printout I’ll carry from Amazon of the invoice and item photo from Amazon’s website to hopefully quickly address any questions about the Weaver weights.
On the outside of the daypack in one of the front mesh pockets is a pouch with my spare throw line and weight.
The remaining pieces of equipment for the trip I will put in the larger Osprey pack – the chargers for the KX2 and ASUS laptop as well as the KX2 manual written by Fred Cady. But one final piece of equipment remains – the SOTAbeams Travel Mast.
When I decided to do this trip, I opted for the AX1 antenna due to its smaller footprint and light weight. However, as I learned during my Alabama activation, this antenna might not perform well enough on a given day to give me the ten contacts I need for a valid activation. So I added a EFRW antenna to my arsenal and learned how to get antennas into trees. But what if I don’t have any trees at a site? The first site I plan to activate, the Citadel in Halifax (VE-4841), is such a site. How then can I successfully deploy the EFRW?
I do have a SOTAbeams travel mast but, as I am flying, there is no way I can take a pole and hammer or my hitch mount to support the mast. Then I remembered I have a guying kit for the mast. Problem solved! Until I looked at the tent stakes for the kit and read on the TSA website those are not allowed in carry-on luggage. (No, I am not checking any luggage – why give the airline permission to lose my stuff?) Hmmm. Back to the drawing board.
Surely there had to be a way to use the SOTAbeams travel mast. After some thought, I realized I could try bungeeing it to the outside of the rental car at the support between the driver and passenger windows (assuming it isn’t raining). But that wouldn’t provide enough stability to keep the mast from kicking out at the bottom. And then my husband suggested I put the mast INSIDE the open backseat window. Guess what? It worked, though I may have to shorten the height of the mast if the conditions are windy.
After I took these photos, a friend suggested sliding the driver’s seat forward and putting the mast between the back of that seat and the window frame of the driver’s side. Of course, how this ultimately works out will depend on what rental car we are assigned, but this gives me the possibility of a mast if there are no trees to support my EFRW!
There remained one last question to answer – would the travel mast fit in my Osprey backpack? It did – barely – when situated diagonally. Then I remembered it came with a fabric bag. Removing it from the plastic protective case and inserting it into the fabric bag shortened it just enough that it will fit in my suitcase lengthwise!
Well, there you have it! At this point, there is nothing left to do except head to Nova Scotia and finally begin this grand adventure. Stay tuned…
Equipment List for Trip
- Osprey Fairview 55 Pack
- Elecraft Carrying Case
- Elecraft KX2
- AX1 with 40 meter extender
- EFRW QRP Antenna from Tufteln
- SOTAbeams Travel Mast
- Joby Gorillapod 3K Stand
- RG-316 Coax from Tufteln – 10’, 25’, 50’ lengths
- Sony – WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Canceling Headphones
- 9A5N Solid State CW Paddle
- N6ARA Tiny Paddle (backup key)
- Loctite Fun-tak
- Olympus Digital Recorder
- ASUS UX325J refurbished laptop
- Marlow 2mm Throw Line
- Weaver 10 oz weight
- Thomas Bihn small and large travel tray