My First POTA Activation with the New Elecraft KH1 Handheld QRP Transceiver!

Yesterday, I posted some initial notes about the Elecraft KH1 and mentioned that I hoped to perform a POTA activation later in the day.

I’m pleased to report that I was able to fit in that activation!

I’m pushing this report and video to the front of the line because so many readers are eager to see how the KH1 performs during a field activation. Instead of focusing on the park, in this field report we’ll be taking a closer look at the KH1 and my initial impressions after performing a pedestrian mobile POTA activation with it.

Packing the KH1

I had a very hectic schedule yesterday and was on the road in/around Asheville from 8:00AM to 2:00PM before an opportunity opened to fit in an activation.

After a quick trip back to the QTH for lunch, I packed the Elecraft KH1 field kit in my EDC pack (a travel laptop bag).

Herein lies my first impression of the KH1: even though I knew I had packed the entire kit, I felt like I must have been leaving something behind.

Sounds funny, but even though I pride myself on making fully self-contained field radio kits, I felt like there must have be something else I needed. The KH1 field kit just seemed too small, too lightweight, and too compact to have included everything I needed for an activation.

Intellectually, I knew that it included everything needed, but I still did a mental inventory:

  1. Radio? Check.
  2. Antenna? Check.
  3. ATU? Check.
  4. Paddles? Check.
  5. Battery? Check.
  6. Counterpoise? Check.
  7. Log book and pencil? Check.

Hard to believe, but it was all there.

Trust me: the first time you take your KH1 to the field, I bet you’ll feel the same way I did.

Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)

Because I was so short on time, I decided to activate the Blue Ridge Parkway which is the most convenient POTA entity when I travel into Asheville from Swannanoa.

It was cold and blustery afternoon the afternoon of November 1, 2023. At my QTH, I checked the temperature and it was about 34F. I knew it would be a bit warmer in town which is a good 1,000 feet lower in elevation, but I still grabbed my gloves on the way out the door. Glad I did!

As I mention in the activation video below, I wasn’t exactly on my “A Game.” I had received a couple of vaccines the previous day and my body was a bit achy as if I was starting to get the flu. But, of course, I wasn’t. Still… I didn’t feel 100%.

I arrived on site and set up couldn’t have been easier:

  1. Open the KH1 pack
  2. Remove the KH1
  3. Attach the counterpoise and string out on ground
  4. Remove whip from clips and attach to top of KH1
  5. Extend whip
  6. Turn on radio
  7. Find a clear frequency
  8. Hit the ATU button for a 1:1 match!

We’re talking a 30 second process even for someone who moves slowly.

Important notes about my KH1

Keep in mind the following notes that are relevant at time of posting this field report (November 2, 2023):

  • I am waiting on a firmware update to add:
    • CW Message Memories
    • CW Decoding
    • Internal Logging
  • I purchased the full “Edgewood” package but I don’t yet have my logging tray/cover yet. Elecraft plans to ship this within the next few days.
  • My KH1 is a very early serial number because I’m in the volunteer testing group.

The KH1 Speaker

The KH1 internal speaker is located on the bottom of the radio between the AF Gain and Encoder knobs.

I consider the Elecraft KH1 speaker to be a “bonus” feature. The speaker is small (1.1 x 0.65”) and limited in fidelity.

I had planned to connect my Zoom digital recorder to the KH1 and record audio directly from the headphone port during this activation.

Unfortunately, I was not able to hear my sidetone via the Zoom H1n audio output (via earphone). Turns out, I had an incorrect setting on my recorder’s audio level, but I was pressed for time in the field and decided to record the activation using the KH1’s internal speaker.

Not an ideal situation, to be honest. The speaker works, but its audio output is limited by design. The KH1 has very low current consumption numbers (50-70 mA in receive, 0.5-1.0 A transmit) –as with all other similar field radios, audio amplification comes second to battery life!

Frankly, I’m super pleased that Elecraft put this small speaker in the KH1. This is one thing I’ve always wished my KX1 had.

And as you’ll see in this “trial by fire” the KH1 speaker might not have been ideal, but it certainly worked!


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On the air

Having never operated pedestrian mobile during a POTA activation, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Also, I was worried that the speaker audio might not be loud enough to be picked up by my camera mics. Turns out, that was not an issue.

I started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters and (BOOM!) a pileup ensued!

It was a bit crazy, I’ll admit.

I worked my first ten contacts within ten minutes. Already, my POTA activation was validated.

I continued working station after station. The pileup felt almost DXpedition grade–certainly a worse-case scenario for the KH1’s wee speaker.

Still, I worked 44 stations in a total of 43 minutes on the air.

Sadly, I had to call QRT because I was running very late.


Here’s what this five watt pedestrian mobile 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.

Post-Activation Thoughts/Notes

  1. Operating pedestrian mobile was HUGE fun. It’ll be even more fun when I receive the KH1 logging tray/cover. Bending over to log on the picnic table was sub-optimal (just look at my handwriting in the logs! Ha ha!).
  2. The KH1 speaker worked even in a challenging signal environment. That said, it’s not optimal. Again, if I hadn’t been recording a video, I would have worn earphones.
  3. The KH1 paddles keyed accurately and worked flawlessly. The action is much softer than my other paddles, but this seems to work well pedestrian mobile.
  4. There was no fatigue at all holding the KH1 in my left hand for the duration of the activation. Honestly, you kind of forget you’re holding it. I imagine there are some smart phones that weigh more!
  5. I might need to find a chest mount for my camera when doing these pedestrian mobile activations. I’d welcome any input or advice here–action camera mounts are not a product category I know well.
  6. Next, I want to use the KH1 on a tabletop and connected to an end-fed antenna. Look for that field report soon!

AE5X from the other side of the QSO

Update: Many thanks to my buddy John (AE5X) who posted this video of our exchange during this activation:

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this brilliant little activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

30 thoughts on “My First POTA Activation with the New Elecraft KH1 Handheld QRP Transceiver!”

  1. I listened to all the hunters but I could not hear you in Rocket City (Huntsville Alabama). Sounds like you were out there quite a while. Thanks for this ride up and also looking forward to the video!

  2. Awesome !

    I can envision a 3d-printed “dock” that the KH1 could snap into that would strap the radio to your leg. The back end would be slightly elevated to tilt the radio for better screen visibility. This would be great for operating with a conventional antenna (BNC port) while sitting on a rock or, better yet, a beach chair 😉


    Michael VE3WMB

  3. Something I think is this will make a great backpacking radio. If you are going backpacking this would take up practically no space and you could get your fix of POTA or SOTA while on a backpacking trip.

  4. Based an EZNEC model, relatively small footprint tabletop operation on 40M can be achieved with a 33′ counterpoise and a 16′ wire antenna attached to the whip jack center post via an alligator clip. Set the whip switch to use the 20M loading coil. If you use small gauge wire, perhaps a helium balloon can provide a skyhook for the antenna wire; otherwise, a lightweight 20′ carbon fiber pole (e.g., sotabeams carbon 6) or nearby tree can support the wire. Alternatively, you could use the AX1 with its 40M loading coil, but at the cost of reduced radiation efficiency compared to the 16′ wire.

    1. Based on more EZNEC modeling and keeping the 16′ wire antenna attached to the whip jack, I found that the supplied 13′ counterpoise produced resonance at about 8.5mHz. Depending on ability of the built-in ATU, the KH1 may be able to match this antenna configuration on 40M (via inductive loading) and 30M (via capacitive loading).

  5. I was honored to be your first QSO on the new radio. I got the HamAlert so it was perfect timing. Interested in hearing more about the radio in future videos. 72 de KN3A

    1. It was brilliant working you, Scott! And then followed up by Alan as well! Like a little family reunion! Ha ha!

  6. I have been looking for this radio and your review seemed to make perfect sense. This is from an extra classer who has a hard time putting a kit together. I am a turn it on turn it off guy. Thanks.

  7. You wrote: “I might need to find a chest mount for my camera when doing these pedestrian mobile activations.”

    My recommendations, expensive I know, they might serve as a starting point for your search:

    Phone mount:

    Chest pack:

  8. I’m left-handed when writing, but I key right-handed. I might just find a way to set my phone on the logging tray, because I usually log on the HAMRS app. (I can type on a smartphone with either hand). Hand written logging might require juggling or learning to write with the other hand.

    Thanks for the blog and video Thomas

    1. I have converse problem in that I am right-handed for writing, and almost everything else, but learned to send left-handed (thinking it would make it easier to log). I find it much easier to send from the wrong hand than to write from it so you might give that a try.

    1. If the KH1 can be made FT8 capable (i.e., 3K audio spectrum input converted to RF), then this will open up other possibilities.

  9. Thank you for your great video and written reports. I’ll look forward to seeing your table-top activation. Wayne said that they want to develop a right-angle/support for the whip antenna. Until then I guess it’s the old “toss-it-in-a-tree” routine. (Or use the AX1, but that would just duplicate the capability that is already in the KH1.)

    1. Cut a 4′ length of #12 solid insulated wire; solder an alligator clip to one end; bend wire near alligator clip 90 degrees; place KH1 on tabletop; attach alligator clip to center pin of KH1 whip jack; support vertical wire with two alligator clip “legs” clamped on in an inverted V shape at insulated bottom of wire whip. Not elegant, but . . .

  10. Thomas, when I saw your POTA spot, I had a hunch you might be working the KH1. I was fortunate to make contact with you during a lull in your pile-ups. As I was listening to your signal while waiting for my opening, I noticed your signal was drifting quite a bit up and down the band. You might want to evaluate that some more and provide your feedback to Wayne so they can perfect it before I get around to filling my order.

    1. I will check this out on a dummy load, Mike! Thanks for the feedback. This was my first time using the KH1 and I had gloves on. I do remember twice accidently hitting the encoder. It’s possible I could have done that then.

      I’ll check, though.

  11. Thank you Thomas!
    You answered my question with this QRPer report. Yes, it was a KH1 you were working. What a joy to work you again. Keep up all the fine reporting.

    Fred K3NCE

  12. Pedestrian Mobile is “where it’s at”! I’ve done several POTA/PM activations with my KX2/AX1. Logging is the biggest challenge (I use a digital recorder in my pocket set to voice activation and a lapel mic). Looking forward to hearing how the flip cover works once you receive it.

  13. In a conversation with Wayne he said that for 30/40 use with the whip,attach the AEX1 between the radio and the whip-along with a 33’ counterpoise. Can’t wait!

    1. Dan —
      For 40 meters you need:
      RADIO > AX1 > AXE1 > WHIP
      I did a test a while back and for 30 meters I found the best match was achieved by collapsing a few top sections of the whip and using the short (13 foot) counterpoise. As I recall, I had the antenna attached to a tripod using the AXT1 and a short run of coax. Mounting directly on the radio might give different results and, as always, YMMV!

      1. Thanks William and sorry for the late reply. I was referring specifically to using the AEX1 on the KH1-as the equivalent coil used for the AX1 is inside the radio. If I’m going to be on 30
        Or 40M using my KX2 ,I use a tripod (actually a light stand) to mount the AX1 and AEX1,plus a 33’ counterpoise. I usually have connected at least two 13’ counterpoises as well. In I find this loads great on 30 and 40. This way I’m usually able to work some of the SOTA and POTA chasers who are closer to me-20,17 and 15 are often too long for local work-say 50-500 miles. Gotta keep those chasers happy!

        1. Dan —
          Thanks for the clarification and additional info. I’ll have to do some more testing on 30 meters! I have the long counterpoise and two of the shorter ones so I’ll give that a try.

    2. Based on my limited experience with tripod mounted AX1+AXE1, impedance match on 30M was achieved with 17/15M switch setting and about 1/3 of 33′ counterpoise folded back on itself. This configuration was resonant at about 8mHz with 1.3 VSWR and matched to 30M with a manual tuner. With the 20M switch setting and full 33′ counterpoise, resonance was about 7.3mHz with 1.1 VSWR. Regardless of configuration, the low resonant-frequency VSWR of this short vertical indicates it suffers significant ground loss, which is normal for a short vertical with one counterpoise. To improve efficiency, with minimal effort, elevate the counterpoise about 4′ above ground. While this will improve radiation efficiency, I doubt it will have noticeable impact on signal strength.

  14. One thing you can do to improve gain is to position your antenna (AX1,dipole or Inverted vee or whatever) near the edge of a slope facing in the direction you would like to work. The waves will focus somewhat like a fresnel lens.

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