Greg discovers the joy of QRP in his first QRP SSB POTA activation

Many thanks to Greg (KJ6ER) who shares a post he originally published on Facebook regarding his first ever QRP SSB POTA activation. This post is just as much a break down of his field kit, so we’re also including it in our Field Radio Kit Gallery.

My First POTA QRP SSB Activation

by Greg (KJ6ER)

Wooo hooo! After 700 QRO SSB POTA activations in California over the past 2 years, I decided to try my first 10-watt QRP SSB activation from K-3473 in San Jose. To my pleasant surprise, it was very successful: 121 SSB QSOs in 4 bands (10, 12, 15 and 17M) across 5 countries including DX to Japan, Alaska and Argentina. I worked 34 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces. I operated a total of 4 hours, averaging a QRP QSO every 2 minutes. Lesson learned: Inspired by my QRP mentor Kevin Behn, QRP is not only as fun as QRO (when the bands are working) but it is simpler and faster to deploy. And I can wear the entire station on my back!

My QRP shack-in-a-pack is the ICOM IC-705 (in an ICOM backpack) with a 7M Spiderbeam fiberglass telescoping pole and my homebrew resonant halfwave monoband antennas. Quite frankly, a significant contributor to my success was the monoband resonant halfwave antenna: low angle of radiation and more gain than a typical quarterwave with radials. I modeled this after my homebrew POTA Dominator resonant halfwave antenna. If you’re interested in more detailed information about this antenna and components in my backpack, take a look at each photo with descriptions (below).

Starting on 10M, I was planning to work my way down the HF bands to 20M where I assumed would get me the most QSOs and help me officially activate.

Well … I never made it to 20M: by band, 24 QSOs on 10M, 13 QSOs on 12M, 32 QSOs on 15M and 52 QSOs on 17M = 121 QSOs! I will plan to do a 20 and 40M QRP activation soon, as well as 2M and 70cm since the IC-705 supports those bands, too.

Many thanks to all the hunters who helped me complete my first QRP activation! While I certainly did not experience any massive pile-ups like my typical QRO activations, the slower pace QRP activation made it very relaxing. I strongly recommend it! Feel free to let me know if you have any questions, I’d be happy to help  72 KJ6ER, San Jose

Field Kit Details

My complete QRP shack-in-a-pack!

The ICOM IC-705 running 10 watts off a 3Ah Bioenno battery. Just to the right of the pack in the field is my 7M Spiderbeam fiberglass telescoping pole supporting monoband resonant halfwave wire antennas for 10M, 12M and 15M. I also use the pole to operate on 17M and 20M as a sloper or inverted-V, and 40M as an inverted-V. I love how fast I can get operating with just a backpack and telescoping pole!

My first QRP SSB 10-watt activation resulted in 121 QSOs on 10-17M including DX to Japan, Alaska and Argentina.

I thought I would need 20M to activate but the uppers bands worked so well, I never got there. I completed my activation in 4 hours and averaged about 1 QRP QSO every 2 minutes. While I was not getting my usual 5-9 QRO signal reports, I was heard clearly on the low noise upper bands with my QRP SSB signal.

The 7M Spiderbeam fiberglass telescoping pole supports my monoband halfwave vertical wire antennas for 10M, 12M and 15M, as well as 17M and 20M when used as a sloper or inverted-V. I also use it as a center mast for my 40M inverted-V.

The amazing performance of these monoband resonant halfwave antennas comes from this little TennTennas 49:1 transformer available on eBay for $33 [note: this eBay partner link supports].

It’s perfect for QRP supporting up to 25 watts power. I use the 100-watt $40 version of the TennTennas 49:1 transformer for my QRO halfwave antennas. Unlike many other activators, I only use monoband halfwave antennas – cutting each element as a halfwave for that band only. I prefer monoband halfwave because it has a predictable low angle of radiation for that band. I place the transformer as high as I can on the pole to elevate the radiated current peak (mid-segment) well off the ground which also helps alleviate ground losses.

My complete QRP shack-in-a-pack is the ICOM IC-705 and ICOM backpack. It holds everything I need for an activation including many half-wave and quarter-wave antenna options. It is my go-bag for portable QRP and emergency ops!

Here is my shack-in-a-pack unzippered with the IC-705 on top and accessories below. I slide the Spiderbeam in the side pocket with a 2-band Diamond VHF/UHF antenna and two 30″ fiberglass poles to support ends of my inverted-V or sloper antenna options.

My accessories fit neatly in these clear zippered travel toiletry bags (available on Amazon) which are also moisture resistant. I have one for my Spiderbeam support lines, one for my TennTennas transformer and accessories, and one for my halfwave and quarterwave wire antennas.

The Spiderbeam support bag includes 3 aluminum tent stakes, a small jewelry hammer in case I have to pound them in the ground, and 3 marine-grade shock cords which include an adjustable carabiner on top and a compression clip at the bottom for the tent stake.

The Spiderbeam telescoping pole is strongly supported by 3 marine-grade shock cords with an adjustable carabiner on top and compression clips at the bottom. I use an adjustable pipe clamp enclosed in plastic tubing with double zip-ties to secure the carabiners at the top. I also added an O-ring at the top of the pole to clip my vertical wire to or, when opened, to slide my inverted-V wire through.

The O-ring at the top of the Spiderbeam allows me to either attach the top of the halfwave wire to with a Mueller clip or open it to slide my inverted-V wire through. This works extremely well for me!

In the second bag, accessories include the small TennTennas 25-watt 49:1 transformer, my homebrew widget for a quarterwave wire with 2 elevated radials, a 4-position Powerpole distribution block and extra rings/clips.

In the third bag, I have my 2 wire antennas: the resonant quarter-wave with radials on the left for 17M and 20M, and a resonant half-wave on the right for 10-40M. I use spade connectors between each of the elements for fast band changes.

Here is my homebrew monoband resonant half-wave wire antenna for 10-40M. The Mueller clip on the left attaches to the TennTennas transformer. To that, I attach the long 10M element via spade connector. To lengthen the wire for each band, I insert labelled incremental sections of wire with spade connectors. These all wrap up easily on the wire winder. In the field, it takes me about 20 seconds to change bands. It’s so easy and convenient!

My POTA cable of choice is Messi and Paoloni coax for both QRO and QRP. For QRP, I use this extremely lightweight and low loss 25′ M&P Airborne 5 cable which I got at GigaParts for just $38. Amazing performance! This low loss coax coupled with my halfwave antenna gain really helps minimize signal losses especially for QRP activations.

In the side pocket of my ICOM backpack, I store the 7M Spiderbeam fiberglass telescoping pole (27″ compressed), the high-performance Diamond NR770HAB antenna for 2M and 70cm, and two 30″ fiberglass poles I use for my inverted-V ends or my sloper (just one pole).

On the side of my ICOM backpack, I attached an antenna mirror mount to connect my antennas, as well as a small Molle pouch below it for my miscellaneous accessories.

In my Molle pouch, I store the RigExpert Stick to confirm my resonant frequencies, a versatile BIBURY 19-in-1 Multitool, a small Diamond RH789 telescoping whip for AM/FM/Weather bands, an iPhone charging cable and an LED flashlight.

For all my POTA logging with both QRO and QRP, I use the ASUS L210 11.6″ Windows laptop. It is very tiny, lightweight, durable and has long battery life. It usually sells for less than $200. My logging software is ACLog which, for me, is perfect for POTA. It is storing more than 50K POTA QSOs over the past 2 years, as well as the complete FCC North American database within the software for instant lookups without internet in the field. Amazing POTA logging software for only $40.

I absolutely love using ACLog on my ASUS 11.6″ Windows laptop in the field. The logging program never crashes, it stores a QSO history with each hunter so I can comment on our progress, and it includes a free download of the entire FCC North American database into the program so I can instantly identify a hunter by their callsign – with NO INTERNET. It also provides a lot of stats – here are just a few for this particular QRP activation.

12 thoughts on “Greg discovers the joy of QRP in his first QRP SSB POTA activation”

  1. Great report. I did not know you could do that with ACLog. It is my main logging software at home. Time to experiment.
    One suggestion for connecting your antenna to the top of your pole is I use a very small carabiner. My wire has a very small eyelet with a small plastic wire tie. Makes a very lightweight connection. I use this on a 12 meter Spiderbeam pole.

    1. Hey Dennis, yes ACLog has this amazing portable POTA feature that most folks don’t realize. And the best part is – you don’t need an Internet connection to get the lookups when you’re in the field (typical POTA challenge). In ACLog, click on ‘CallBook’ and then ‘ACLog CallData (Free)’. You should turn off the ‘QRZ Internet Lookup’ option. I currently store all 54K of my 2-year POTA QSOs in the program. The database has never crashed and runs very fast on my very small 11.6″ ASUS field laptop. And I’ll have to experiment with your carabiner suggestion at the top, seems like a great idea! 73 KJ6ER

  2. Such a great field report and description of rig. It’s especially delightful because I’ve been on the other end of some of Greg’s QRP POTA activations.

    However, he’s left out an important detail which I suspect contributes to his success – his exultant cries of “Whoo Hooo! 10 watts! Whoo hoo!” over the air. Whether operating QRP or QRO his evident joy in operating is contagious.

    1. I have had really good luck with Greg’s design of a portable vertical antenna. Using a 17′ telescoping element (with an added 11″ Buddipole element) and two 16.5′ elevated radials it has some directivity and has been a good antenna for use with my portable system. I use either a KX3 or Penntek TR45-L for QRP and sometimes my IC7300 for QRO. Take a look at Greg’s QRZ page for more information on his antenna work.

      1. Hey Don, great to hear from you! I’m so pleased you are inspired by my POTA portable antenna designs. Yes, the two elevated tuned radials on a quarterwave element provide some directivity between the span of the radials and also helps alleviate ground losses. 73 KJ6ER

    2. LOL Paul! Yes, you’re absolutely right, I always ‘wooo hooo’ when I have a coast-to-coast QSO and/or successful QRP activation! Always a pleasure to hear you on the air – and I hope to ‘wooo hooo’ you once again soon! 73 KJ6ER

  3. Greg,
    Great to see some of your portable gear and antennas on your page. It’s always a pleasure to work you and especially when we are both in a park.
    VY 73 es Gud DX
    de VE6LK/AI7LK

  4. Greg – you are an inspiration! It’s been a while but I hope to get you in the log again soon for a coast to coast woo-hoo!
    Stuart AJ4RM

    1. Hey Stuart, thanks for the nice comment! Yes, our last QSO was on 10M 2 months ago … we’re overdo. I’m sure I can work the Heart of Dixie on QRP, too! Looking forward to it my friend. Until soon, 73 KJ6ER

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