30 Meters with a 4 Foot Whip–? Impromptu POTA Hunting with the Elecraft KH1!

My Elecraft KH1 packed in a Pelican Micro M40 case. This protects my KH1 while traveling around in my EDC backpack.

On Friday, December 8, 2023, playing POTA was not in the plan.

I needed to finish a field report, publish it, then attempt to make a dent in my email and comments backlog. Lately–as you might have noticed–it’s been difficult to keep up with everything.

That morning, I dropped off my daughter at her robotics class, then made my way to the Mills River Library and municipal park.

I arrived at the park around 9:20 AM, parked my car at one of the free EV charging spots, then walked to the library front door only to discover a sign that said they’d be opening an hour late (10:00).

All of the sudden, I had 40 minutes to kill.

Since my Elecraft KH1 now lives in my EDC backpack full-time, I thought, “Why not hunt a little POTA?

I started walking to the baseball field to set up then turned around, went back to the car, and grabbed my action camera. I mean…why not film this session since the camera was in the car trunk/boot? Right–? Right!


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POTA Hunting!

Keep in mind that the Elecraft KH1 is designed to operate on 20, 17, and 15 meters using the 4 foot whip antenna (assuming you have the internal ATU option).

This was awfully early in the morning for any of those bands–I knew 20 meters would be my best bet of the three.

I tuned around, but I couldn’t hear or work any of the handful of activators on 20 meters. They were all outside my 20M propagation footprint–most were simply too close for 20M.

Then I noticed my buddy, John (AE5X) spotted on the 30 meter band.

For kicks, I tuned down to the 30 meter band, found a clear spot, then hit the ATU button. I was surprised to achieve a 2:1 match!


Of course, a decent impedance match doesn’t equate to efficiency. Then again, what did I have to lose? Nothing…that’s what!

I called John once, but another strong station caught his attention. Once he finished that exchange, I called him again and he replied! Woo hoo!

I suspect my effective power output was around 1-2 watts, but it was enough to make an exchange with John, so I was a very happy camper.

I also tried to work KD8IE on 30 meters, but could not punch through the strong signals from other POTA hunters.

By chance, though, I heard my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) calling CQ POTA just below KD8IE.  I could hear Eric because I had my filter wide open–as in SSB wide.

I tuned  down, called him and he came back with my call and a question mark after two tries.

We exchanged details, sent 72, and logged each other. What fun!

I found out later that my signal level was actually fine on Eric’s end, but I was *almost* outside of his CW filter edges. He struggled hearing me because I was too far from his centered frequency. I didn’t notice this on my end, of course, because I had my filter so wide open.

I’ve learned from this: next time I’ll narrow my filter before hunting stations. The majority of activators do not run with their filters wide open like I do.

By the way, if you’d like to read Eric’s field report from that same time frame, click here.


Here’s the real-time, real-life “Slow TV” video of this hunting session with the KH1:

Click here to view on YouTube.

30M on the KH1 whip!

I’m pretty sure Elecraft wouldn’t recommend using your KH1 on 30 meters with the whip only because of its low efficiency, but I also know the KH1 will have no problem dealing with the 2:1 match. I bet you’d get an even better match if you lengthen the counterpoise–I simply used the supplied 13′ wire.

Of course–and again–30M on a 4′ whip is not an efficient antenna system, but it’s efficient enough to make some contacts! As my buddy Kurt (NT0Z) says, “RF gotta’ go somewhere.

I will check in with N6KR and see what he says about this setup.

Library time

Post activation, I found a comfy spot to work in the library and published a new field report.

It struck me that no one passing by would have ever guessed that I had a full HF station in my backpack! For just a moment, it made me feel like an unassuming Cold War spy!

Oh yeah, the backpack: I took advantage of a Black Friday sale at Trakke and purchased the Bannoch Backpack I’d been eyeing for weeks–the discount was deep!

I justified this purchase knowing that I was doing my bit to support the economy of Scotland! Ha ha! Seriously, though, I do love this backpack.

Thank you!

Thank you for joining me for this mini POTA hunting session!

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. Click here if you’d like to support me on Patreon. No pressure.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

10 thoughts on “30 Meters with a 4 Foot Whip–? Impromptu POTA Hunting with the Elecraft KH1!”

  1. Nice report and nice hunting! (It’s always fun when I’m afield and work K4SWL!)

    Have you considered using the AX1/AXE1 combination on the KH1’s BNC jack for 30 and 40m?


  2. Hi Tom,

    Nice to see you rising to the challenge of 30 m with a 4′ whip. I’ve made Qs on this band, too, hand-held with the KH1.

    We did anticipate this. Here are two excerpts from the KH1 owner’s manual:

    Page 4: “The KHATU1 antenna tuner comes with a modified top panel that embodies a whip mounting screw, loading coil, and band-selection switch for use on 20/17/15 meters (and on 30 meters with reduced efficiency).”

    Page 9: “Operation on 30 m is possible in the 20 m switch position. SWR may be high and power output reduced.”



    1. Great report as usual Thomas. If we’re using the AEX1 with the KH1 for 30M , should we use the 17M or 20M position on the radio? One thing I do with my counerpoises is attach a small alligator clip to the far end. This allows me to either anchor it at an angle or add on an extra 13 foot section to get a better match on 30 or 40. I also made up a little pigtail for the tripod mount or the radio so I can add 2 or 3 counterpoises without having to jam extra clips or wires under the thumbscrew.

  3. Fantastic! Some time ago I did some experiments with my AX1 and AXE1 mounted on a tripod (using the AXT1) and connected with coax to my antenna analyzer. I used the analyzer’s Bluetooth function so I could keep my distance from the antenna. As I recall, I found that the AX1 + AXE1 could be resonated on 30 meters with the switch set to 17 meters, four top sections of the whip collapsed, and with the short (13 foot) counterpoise attached. I don’t think I’ve ever used that setup to make any contacts, though. I must remedy that! Note that in that case my antenna will be a THREE foot whip (and a couple of coils)! 🙂

  4. I’ve had some good QSOs around Europe with my FT-817nd and SPX-100 (like an MFJ-1899T) on 30m, even though there isn’t a specific tap on the coil for that band which means that to tune it you end up with a whip length of just 16″. Like your set-up, it doesn’t seem like it should work, and yet it does!
    Just goes to show that a compromise is better than no antenna at all, especially where time is severely limited.
    73 amd thanks for the inspiration as ever, Simon G0CIQ . .

  5. I am new to pota hunting and not yet a good cw op. I have been using the tx/rit of -0.120. Is that too far off of the activators freq? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. TU for your contributions to ham radio and I always read all things qrp’er.
    Don W5VRX

  6. That Trakke backpack is sweet! Wish I’d bought one when I was in Scotland last June. Are they really $US400? Yikes. $CAD484. Double yikes! Do you know what the equivalent in bottles of fine Scotch whiskey that would be? Or part of a new radio?

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