Getting To Know You Series: The Elecraft KX2 – My thoughts, notes, and a POTA activation!

I’m very fortunate in that over the past few years I’ve accumulated a number of QRP radios that I use in rotation when I do park and summit activations.

I’m often asked for advice on choosing radios, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, I feel like the decision is a very personal one–everything is based on an operator’s own particular preferences.

I’ve written formal reviews about most of the field radios in my collection over the years. In those reviews, I try to take a wide angle view of a radio–I try to see how it might appeal to a number of types of operators: field operators, DXers, summit activators, contesters, rag-chewers, casual operators, SWLs, travelers, outdoor adventurers, mobile operators, etc. I highlight the pros and cons, but I don’t focus on my own particular take because, again, my style of operating might not match that of readers. I try to present the full picture as clearly as I can and let the reader decide.

On that note, I’ve had an idea bubbling around in my head for quite a while.

I thought it might be fun to take a radio out for a field activation and spend a bit of time explaining why I enjoy using that particular radio and why it’s a part of my permanent field radio collection. Instead of taking that wide-angle view of a radio like I do in magazine reviews, I would share my own personal thoughts based on long-term experience.

Getting To Know You

Each new video in the Getting To Know You series will highlight one of the field radios from my field radio collection.  I’ll spend time in each video explaining what I personally appreciate about each radio, then we’ll do a park or summit activation with the radio.

I’ll release these every few weeks or so–when the notion strikes me.  They will not be on a regular schedule, but I hope to include each of my radios in this series over the the next year.

The Elecraft KX2

The first radio in the Getting To Know You series is my Elecraft KX2.

Without a doubt, I’ve put more time in with the Elecraft KX2 than any other radio I’ve ever owned. As a field radio op, it’s one of my all-time favorite transceivers.

I originally purchased and reviewed the KX2 in 2016 (click here to read my review).

In the activation video (below) I’ll tell you about how I acquired my KX2, why I think it’s one of the best portable HF field radios ever made, what makes it so unique, and why I turn to it more than any other radio I own. Then, we’ll perform a POTA activation.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

On Friday, June 23, 2023, I pulled into Tuttle Educational State Forest knowing it could rain on me at any point. We’d just come out of nearly a solid week of rain (after a very long dry spell). I had packed my ENO rain fly in the car, but my hope was that the Tuttle picnic shelter would be unoccupied.

Not only was it unoccupied, but the iffy weather meant that I was the only park guest there at the time.

First thing I did on site was film the Getting To Know You portion of the video, then I moved to the other side of the shelter to set up for an activation.

I launched my arborist line in a nearby tree and deployed my PackTenna 9:1 End-Fed Random Wire antenna. I didn’t include the antenna deployment in this particular video since I had used up so much of my available time talking about the KX2. If you want to see this antenna deployed, check out this recent field report and video.

I then ran my RG-316 line into the shelter and set up the KX2.

Time to hit the air!


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On The Air

I started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters not knowing what the bands were like that particular day.

Fortunately, I didn’t wait long before I started logging POTA hunters.

I logged my first ten contacts in  13 minutes which validated the POTA activation. Woo hoo! (These days, we can’t take those 10 contacts as a given!)

I operated for five more minutes adding five more contacts for a grand total of 15 logged.

Unfortunately, I had to cut this activation pretty short. The Getting To Know You portion of the video had really eaten into my on-the-air time.


Here’s what this 5 watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

What’s your take on the KX2?

If you own or have owned the Elecraft KX2, I’d love to hear your take on this pint-sized radio. Please comment!

As much as I love this radio, I know several people who simply didn’t like it and sold it after only a few weeks/months of owning it. Again, so much has to do with our own personal preferences.

Note that new Elecraft KX2 orders have a lead time of 12-16 weeks at time of posting (10 July 2023). That number could change for the better or worse over time, so I recommend checking the shipping status page at Elecraft before ordering.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this POTA activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them. I also hope you appreciate this new radio series. I’ve another one in the pipeline to post in the next couple of weeks.

Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me! Have an amazing week!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

15 thoughts on “Getting To Know You Series: The Elecraft KX2 – My thoughts, notes, and a POTA activation!”

  1. Tom-

    That QSO map looks more like 40M than 20M! Glad you got your requisite contact total.

    My Saturday morning POTA outing on 20M was a bit of a struggle. Only the stronger stations were hearing me despite running 50W. One happy exception was VK6T in the IARU contest. Probably grey-line.

    73- K1SWL

    1. Thanks Dave for your radios. With the NorCal QRP club and SWL Labs, I was inspired to combine my hiking fun with radio fun. Glad to see that you are dabbling again in kits and new radios. Hopefully, it is fun again for you.

  2. My primary interest is not POTA but camping and travel. Having a radio along is an extra as I enjoy the outings, fishing and park trails. At times I like to sit back, relax and enjoy radio and rag chews which makes the KX2 my perfect radio. My only complaint with the KX2 was having to remove the battery to charge it. I now have the new replacement internal charger/clock module and now no complaints. Having several other radios including the KX3 and IC-705, the KX2 is still my go-to radio for travel, park and portable use. It is compact, lightweight and full featured with a great antenna tuner, low current consumption and packed in the ES60, I can carry my key, earphones, two homemade antennas- EFHW and EFRW, and an extra battery in one small package with room to spare. To make a quick stop and go, park activation, a random wire is all that is needed in a very small compact package. It is my personal choice, but I’m interested in what others have to say.

  3. Hi Thomas,
    I don’t have a stable full of radios to compare it to other than one….it’s big brother the KX3. I am 99% a SOTA op, and of my 192 activations, the first 35% were on the KX3, while all of the last 65% have been on the KX2 since receiving it (March 2021).

    I now kinda think of the KX3 as too big!

    For SOTA the KX2 is all the radio I could ever want (I only do SSB and ‘someday’ CW)….

    One of the best features for me is the internal battery (minimizing the ‘rats nest’ of cables) that allows me to operate (typically) at 10-watts SSB for 3 full activations…and at 5-watts for a 4th activation. I average a little more than 10 contacts per activation. I have never been ‘skunked’ ….. I simply love the KX2.

    My QRZ page will explain how I operate standing-up during my activations.

    I hate to see the KX3 get so little use….but I can’t bring myself to part with it…

    Thanks for this new series of “Getting To Know You”!

    73, Jim / AC3B

  4. QRP radios are addicting. I have more QRP radios than any other. I recently acquired a K3/10. It will be going on my next camping trip. I tend to go large when I don’t have to pack it on my back. But, a KX2 keeps lurking in the back of my mind. Tnx for the great insight.

  5. Please mention in the review of each radio the audio quality with earphones/headphones because not all of us use a speaker or the speaker if the radio has one. That way no-one is bothered by the “noise” and in my case, copy is much, much better.

    I find the Xiegu radios to have bad audio. Specially the X5105 which to me is very bad. I also own the X6100 and the G90.


    1. I have a 5105. It was used and had version 1.04 firmware. It was awful till I upgraded to the latest. It’s still not the best but useable. My Ten Tec R4030 (Youkits import) without dsp is much clearer. The ubitx (ver3) has excellent audio but that version lacked mic gain. I hope to fix that soon. 73 John N4HNO

  6. I love the KX2 also – it is my primary POTA radio. I bought it last year (got the full “shack in a box” kit), and waited about 20 weeks for it. My portable rig, for years, had been the Icom IC-703+, which I have had for nearly 20 years. Great radio with a good performing tuner. But, fairly heavy and big by comparison. I have also had an FT-817 (which I sold to fund the KX2), mainly for the size and the built-in ATU). The FX-4CR is also a great, multi-mode portable rig, but does require an external battery and ATU (or resonant antenna). Your previous reviews as well as just watching you operate the KX2 in various POTA scenarios were a big factor in my purchase decision, and it has been the most satisfying ham radio purchase ever. At the end of last year, I picked up the TR-45L to add to the POTA arsenal. But, I enjoy operating the TR-45L so much in the shack, and the KX2 in the field, that the 45 have never made it outside yet…

  7. I given my KX2 by my brother AA4MX and have been using it instead of my IC756. Brought back CW that I hadn’t used in years. I use it in my condo/shank antenna fan dipole on balcony. 103 DXCC countries and many, many POTA stations including you several times.
    Once a month a couple of go to a county park and operate for a few hours.
    KX2 is perfect for my use. 72 Jim KI1H

  8. The KX2 is such a fun radio! If the WX is nice, I’d almost rather sit outside with the KX2 and AX1/AX2 and make a few contacts than sit in the shack running 100 watts to my HF9V vertical.

    I started in QRP in the 1980s when I built my HW-8. At the time I had no idea what I was getting into! Didn’t even know if it was possible to make contacts with such low power. I got into pedestrian mobile and HFpacking around 2000 when I bought my FT-817. Bought my KX2 in late 2021, so I guess a new QRP radio once every 20 years is about right!

  9. Hi Thomas,
    “Getting to know you series” is such a good idea.
    I am a new OM and the first radio and watching at your videos and park activations really fired up my interest in qrp outdoor activation.
    In April I placed my order for a KX2 shack in a pack that’s still in production que. In the meantime I come across a second hand full option KX3 in really good shape and I decided to go for it thinking about selling when the KX2 will be in my hands.
    But I have to be honest here … I will never sell the KX3 because I’m really in love with it! I got my first DX QSO with K2D running 10 watt and EFHW antenna from my home balcony thanks to the exceptional filtering on the CW. The KX3 (hopefully the KX2) will be in my backpack in few weeks in the Italian Alps and I know for sure it will be a lot of fun.
    73 Michele IU2RNU

  10. I have too many radios. Each has a place – the latest I had the FT-891 and RGO One on an activation. The RGO ONE is new to me. I’ve been a ham for many years, so how hard could it be to operate? I need the manual, so went to the 891 and made several hundred POTA contacts from K-4463 yesterday. Okay, so KX2. This was the first time in a few years that I did not have a small CW radio with me. I started QRP with an HW8 when I was working at a fire station on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. Wow, what a great location in 1982. When Elecraft started operation, I had been introduced to Wayne Burdick through the NorCal QRP club, and was ready to try whatever Elecraft put out. I had all of the NorCal kits, but had to try the KX1 when it came out. The KX1 is still one of my favorite radios. Easy to use, small, sips batteries. Worked DXCC with it from another fire station using a G5RV on top of a “condemned” 5 story training tower – not used for anything but my antenna tower. We did have time in the evenings to ourselves, when not getting calls. I found a KX2 and a KX3 about the same time. Bought both with overtime money. I use all three about the same, and like them all. Now retired, and my life settling down a bit, I have time to put some of the southern California parks on the air. The KX-line are easy to use radios, but most importantly, they work, for what they are intended. In the shack, I have a K3. I switch between the many different MTR xxx radios, fun shirt pocket radios that work well, too. My quest is for the perfect antenna. Radios are fine, but the antenna is the most important part of the system, in my opinion. So far, the best field portable antenna can’t beat the hexbeam at 25′ at home. I have splurged on a BuddiHex that I need to get used to. Have only used it once. It is more complex and cumbersome compared to an end fed wire – I prefer the random length – 71′ – antenna compared to an EFHW.
    If I am walking to a site, the KX1, KX2 and MTR3b are all three carried in my pack usually, with a backup 3amp Bioenno battery, End Fed random wire and ZMtuner, or AX1/2 using KX internal tuners. A short piece of RG316, earbuds and that is my station. If I am driving, I can take along a different, heavier antenna. I use homebrew delta loop, sort of, patterned after teh Chameleon tactical delta loop, a wolf river coil, or now getting the BuddiHex out of the box. I had used a CrankIR, or a 20′ crappie pole with a piece of wire, counterpoise and a tuner.
    I’ve had the KX1 for 20 years, the KX2 adn KX3 about 8-10 years?
    If anyone no longer likes their KX1 or KX2, let me know – I’ll buy it from you HI HI

  11. Absolutely love the KX2. Have used the IC703+ for several years. Now it sits on the shelf begging to go out but the KX2 is so easy to take. Of course the the car has the FT891 ready to use if the KX2 sould ever fail.

  12. Great (personal) perspective. This’ll be a great series and I’m looking forward to all of them! FWIW, the KX2 is also my favorite and the radio I use for POTA activations almost exclusively. I have a Venus SW3B that I keep in the truck in case I decide to do a spontaneous drive-by POTA activation, an FT-891 mounted in the truck for mobile operations, and an IC-7300 that I keep in the RV for activations while camping. But nothing really compares to the KX2. What an amazing radio. Keep up the good work. 73 Skip K4EAK

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