The other day, I was thinking…
If 2014 Thomas looked at 2024 Thomas’ QRP radio inventory, he wouldn’t believe the number of radios he’d accumulated in a mere decade.
It’s a little insane, really.
The thing is, over the years, I’ve picked up some great QRP bargains at local hamfests and via various online classifieds. While it’s not exactly “chump change,” you can often find good used QRP radios for less than $300.
Sometimes it’s hard (for me) to pass up those deals.
One such deal was a local fellow who wanted to sell his Ten-Tec R4020 a few years ago. He listed it for $125, and there weren’t any takers for a few days. (Keep in mind, this was a wee bit before our current CW Renaissance.)
I contacted him and snapped it up. I thought the R4020 might be a fun little two-band radio for POTA and SOTA adventures.
I was right!
The audio is superb. It has a low noise floor, great sensitivity, and a well chosen filter width. What the R4020 lacks in features, it makes up for with audio fidelity, in my opinion.
I look forward to each and every activation with this QRP wonder.
Speaking of which…
Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)
On Wednesday, January 3, 2024, I made some time in the afternoon to stop at Tuttle Educational State Forest.
I believe I was on the way back to the QTH that afternoon after an overnight with my folks in Hickory, NC.
I love Tuttle, but it had been a while since I completed an activation here. In the activation video (below) I said it had been a couple of months, but later I checked and realized it had been four months! Wow! Hard for me to believe it had been that long!
That day, the park was void of visitors. I was the only person in the parking lot. No surprise here: kids were just heading back to school after a long Christmas break, so there were no field trips on site.
Since there was no competition in the picnic area, I decided to grab a site I might not have actually used before in previous Tuttle activations. I’m evidently working on my WATPT (Worked All Tuttle Picnic Tables) award!
First, a quick inventory…
Before heading to Hickory the previous day, I grabbed the little Blue Ridge Outdoors pouch that held my R4020 and much of the supplies I’d need to get on the air.
I knew, though, that this wasn’t a fully self-contained field kit. Not yet, at least. I hoped that between my main radio gear pack and what I had in the car, I could piece together an entire station.
In my activation video, I speak to the mental checklist I use to make sure I have all of the necessary components to complete my field kit. I did this on site as I set up (typically, this is done prior to leaving the QTH).
Fortunately, I had everything I needed, including an external speaker.
Side note: Some of you might notice the (disproportionately) large Bioenno battery I used during this activation. Yes, it’s crazy overkill for this wee QRP radio. I’d normally use a 3Ah battery, but frankly, I need to exercise my 15Ah battery from time-to-time, too! It gets the least amount of field time because I normally save it for my QRO radios that I use so little in the field.
- TEN-TEC R4020
- Anker Soundcore Mini Speaker
- My cable assembly was homemade. If you want to purchase a high-quality cable assembly, I recommend an ABR Industries RG-316 cable assembly (Use Coupon Code ABR10QRPER for 10% Discount!)
- Key cable: Cable Matters 2-Pack Gold-Plated Retractable Aux Cable – 2.5 Feet
- Begali Traveler
- Blue Ridge Overland Gear Large Zippered Pouch
- GoRuck GR1 USA
- Bioenno 15 Ah LiFePo Battery (Model BLF-1215A)
- PackTenna End-Fed Half-Wave
- Weaver arborist throw line/weight and storage bag
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil
- Rite In The Rain Top Spiral Notebook
- Camera: OSMO 4 with Sensyne Phone Tripod
On The Air
My 40 meter PackTenna EFHW would have been a better choice–since it would have been resonant on both of the R4020’s bands (20 and 40M)–but at the time of day I was operating, I knew 20 meters would serve me well, so 20 meters it was!
I hopped on the air, started calling CQ POTA and, fortunately, the band was alive.
Within nine minutes, I worked the ten contacts necessary to validate this activation. Woot!
I continued working stations for a total of 39 minutes, logging 43 stations in that time frame!
Here’s what this five watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (click map to enlarge):
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.
Loving the R4020
I do believe the R4020 offers up so much more fun than its $125 price tag would suggest.
If this were my only POTA or SOTA radio, I’d be a very happy camper. It lacks some of the features I really like in a modern field radio such as: programmable message memories (it has a basic CQ call, though), adjustable filter widths, separate sidetone control, and an RF Gain pot.
But, then again, the R4020’s simplicity is also its strong suit.
I should add this caveat emptor: Anytime you purchase a radio that has long since been discontinued like the R4020, you do risk a crucial component failing that may or may not be replaceable. This is especially the case if it’s a chipset failing–quite often, there are no replacements available on the market.
That said, the R4020 (along with the R4030 and other YouKits equivalents) have proven to be durable radios with excellent longevity. I feel like I’ve already gotten my $125 worth of fun with it and I suspect we’ll have many, many more radio adventures together!
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! Here’s wishing you an amazing week ahead. I hope you have an opportunity to play a little radio!
Cheers & 72,