Pedestrian Mobile POTA Hunting: Pairing the KH1 and N6ARA’s Tiny Paddle Plug

On Sunday, March 3, 2024, I had a couple of errands to run in downtown Asheville and also had to pick up my daughter.

I ended up having about 40 minutes to kill and, since I had my Elecraft KH1 field kit packed in my EDC bag, I thought it might be fun to fit in a little radio time.

Since I was downtown, the only viable POTA site to hit would be the Thomas Wolfe Memorial–you might recall my activation there last year–but technically, the park was closed. It is an urban park in the middle of Asheville, and there are no gates to keep people from walking across the grounds, but still, I’d feel better activating with permission from the staff first. (I’m pretty sure they’ll grant that permission, by the way.)

Instead of activating, I decided to do a little POTA hunting.

I parked at the spot where I planned to meet my daughter and grabbed my KH1 field kit.

Upon opening it up, I remembered that I had put N6ARA’s new KH1 TinyPaddle Plug Adapter in the M40 case!

My good friend, Ara (N6ARA), designed a small 3D-printed adapter that allows his TinyPaddle Plug to fit the KH1 securely. He sent me (free of charge) this new key/adapter to evaluate.

The adapter is a super simple design that works with the TinyPaddle Plug (not the TinyPaddle Jack).

I hadn’t used this new adapter in the field yet–I only very briefly tested it at the QTH a couple of days prior.

I mentioned last year, shortly after the KH1 was introduced, that I expected a number of 3rd party paddles to start appearing on the market. Since the interface with the KH1 is a standard 3.5mm plug, it does open the door to 3D-printed designs and experimentation. Admittedly, it’s a small space to fit in a paddle, but it’s doable.

I believe N6ARA was actually the first non-Elecraft paddle I used on my KH1 because his TinyPaddle Plug will fit it natively. That said, the new KH1 adapter makes it a proper secure fit–the way it should be!

Side Note: The OEM Elecraft KH1 paddles (the KHPD1s) are now in Revision 2, and all KH1 owners (who received the original paddles) will get version 2 paddles eventually via Elecraft for free.

The original KH1 paddles have a green circuit board.

I haven’t received my Rev 2 paddles yet, but I know I will before long. It’s my understanding that the Rev 2 paddles have a much better feel, and keying is more accurate.

Still…it’s brilliant that Elecraft used a standard jack so that we hams can design our own paddles if we like.

The TinyPaddle Plug

Ara’s TinyPaddle design is super simple, and while he originally designed the TinyPaddle to be a back-up option, I know a number of hams who use the TinyPaddle as their main field key.

If you’d like to hear more about the TinyPaddle and Ara (N6ARA), I’d encourage you to listen to this recent episode of the Ham Radio Workbench podcast when he was our guest. He’s such a brilliant fellow.

Park Lot Pedestrian Mobile

Again, I can’t stress how cool it is to have a radio that allows you the flexibility to hit the air pretty much anywhere, anytime.

The KH1 is so quick to deploy, low-impact, and low-profile.

It’s as conspicuous as holding a transistor radio with a telescoping whip. So far (it’s still early days, let’s be honest here) no one has seen me with the KH1 and asked me if I’m a spy. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked this over the years of POTA activating!

POTA Hunting vs. Activating

Even though both activities–hunting and activating–are a part of the same program, they are very different animals.

When you’re an activator, you are the DX. This means that you are the game everyone wants to snag.

When you’re the hunter, you’re often competing in a pileup of other hunters all trying to work the same station.

Hunting requires more patience and a different skill set; especially if you’re a pedestrian mobile QRP operator competing with QRO stations at the QTH with large aperture antennas.

Some tricks I tend to use:

  • Never zero-beat an activator. Move slightly off-frequency to vary the tone of your signal on the other end. This is the most effective tip I’m sharing here.
  • In a big pileup, I will sometimes call twice, but I try to do it within the space of the existing pileup time. I don’t want my call to string out the length of a pileup.
  • I will sometimes vary the speed of my call–either speeding up or slowing down. Some ops hear a call better when it’s sent slower or even faster.

Even though I know it would increase my chances of being heard, I don’t intentionally send my callsign after everyone else or even send my call while the activator is working someone else. As an activator, I actually give hunters who do this less priority because I don’t want to encourage others to follow suit and create an unruly pileup.


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On The Air

Unlike a normal POTA field report, I’m just going to let my video (below) tell the story.

In short, the hunting session was amazingly fun–I only worked a few activators, but I was very pleased with the results considering my modest station.

Another thing I had to contend with was S5 and S6 levels of QRM. This parking lot is in the middle of an urban neighborhood, so it was quite noisy on the HF bands.

Still, as a hunter? I get to pick my signals. I can choose to work stations that are above the noise floor.

As an activator? I hate QRM because I know there are likely stations attempting to work me but they’re below that QRM-elevated noise floor. I find it frustrating to say the least.

All this to say that the QRM doesn’t bother me too much as a hunter. I feel like I can work around it since I can pick and choose the stations I attempt to work.

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.

TinyPaddles for the win!

I feel like N6ARA’s TinyPaddles pair rather well with the KH1. I’ll keep these as spare paddles for my KH1.

I feel like the operating position–while not as close to the radio as the OEM paddles and slightly off-center–is still very usable and not uncomfortable.

Something to keep in mind, though: TinyPaddles feel more like precision paddles in that most of us adjust them so that the spacing between key contacts is tight. This isn’t always a positive when operating handheld portable because it’s easier to inadvertently key if your hand brushes against one of the finger pieces. I did accidentally send a dash a couple of times while adjusting the tuning encoder.

Still, the TinyPaddle Plug and Adapter are super affordable and obviously an effective combo for the Elecraft KH1. Well done, Ara!

I plan to use mine as a backup key, performing the odd activation and hunting session, and I feel like they’ll be a great choice for operating with the new KHRA1 adapter. These are sensitive enough that I can operate them attached to the KH1 while in tabletop mode.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me during this short POTA hunting session!
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 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 makes 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)

8 thoughts on “Pedestrian Mobile POTA Hunting: Pairing the KH1 and N6ARA’s Tiny Paddle Plug”

  1. Thomas, as you’ve mentioned, being a POTA hunter is a whole different animal than activating. It might deserve an entire article of its own.

    I’ve often suspected that while I get good DX while activating, including regular contacts clear across the country, most of “my success” is actually because the hunters are doing the heavy lifting. They most likely are not QRP, some have directional antennas, and some maybe even run amplifiers.

    Hunting while QRP portable is a new dimension of challenge. First of all, your signal has to compete with all the other QRO hunters with their Yagis swinging to and fro. The distance dynamic is the same, but you are not doing any “heavy lifting.” And if you have time budget, either personal or one imposed by the variable ionosphere, the QRP hunter has to carefully pick their battles, The strategy of simply waiting out the pileup might not work.

    I believe it’s important for activators to put themselves in the shoes of the hunter every now and then, it gives you a better understanding of what hunters experience and probably makes you a better activator.

    And those who primarily hunt should give activating a try. You’ll get a taste of what it’s like out here. Be careful though, the rush of “being the DX” can be addictive!


    1. Having just done a three state POTA activation rove, I wholeheartedly agree with Matt’s observation that doing a lot of hunting can really help hone your activation skills, and doing a bunch of activations can really inform your hunting practices.

      Much of this boils down to the advice I picked up from one of the VE6LK “One CW Question” videos that’s actually applicable to SSB as well: send the way you want to receive. When you’re hunting, send the way you’d want to hear if you were activating. When activating, operate the way you’d want to hear it if you were the hunter.

    2. Being the dx is addictive ☺️. Hats off to the collection of people, (maybe I’ll work on writing up a history), who invented lo-fi contesting. It’s made QRP a worthwhile endeavor for the kids and I. Being able to do something low stakes like SKCC straight key month where I had a few QSOs from France, or SOTA we’ve talked to JG0AWE few times has really highlighted what QRP can do in a way that I don’t think would have necessarily happened if we hadn’t had those opportunities

  2. Thomas-Tnx for info on N6ARA adapter. Just ordered. Went thru Youtube and you have a zillon videos already with KH1. Mine just came, but I’m afraid of blowing it up, so no real activations yet. Putzing with firmware for 1.25. Did hit RBN once, but that’s it. Anyway, need to replace fence posts and fence at beach…then play radio. Best, Bob K4RLC

  3. Matt W6CSN is right about POTA hunting. It’s a challenge, especially when the hunters are also QRP. As one of those QRP hunters, I’ve come to know activators who are especially accommodating to weak signal operators. Yet, sometimes our only strategy is waiting out a pile-up.

    Fortunately, there are a number of activators who regularly hang around for quite awhile and clear chances open up.

    1. Re QRP – in the “old” days, stations sometimes signed like N4REE/QRP. When I was in Greece last year, they assigned me this tortuous call SV3/K4RLC/P when I was running the KX2 portable – I had to add the */P . So, I wonder if adding either */QRP or */P would work when running QRP?
      Just got the KH1 configed & may try for Sunday’s activation.
      Just a thought.

  4. I’m a CW neophyte. I understand perfectly the advantage of not zero beating the activator’s signal and thus avoiding being part of the ‘bleeeeeeeet’ the activator hears when there’s a pileup.

    So I get that part. What I want to know is how far off is good, and in which direction – higher frequency, or lower? I’ve been trying to listen to the pileup and pick the direction and distance to avoid what everyone else is doing, and watch to see if the activator consistently picks higher or lower. But some advice from experienced CW activators on this would be welcome.

    1. Recommend to listen and just try different offsets. I think it’s less of a precision affair that trying to work out a DX station’s split operation habits.

      If the band is crowded the station may have a narrow filter in which means you have no more than a few hundred hertz to work with.

      But just tuning off by a hundred hertz will give you signal a distinctive tone.

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