My first POTA Activation with the Index Labs QRP Plus Field Transceiver

Sometimes, we do things for the pure nostalgia of it all!

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently acquired a circa 1995 Index Labs QRP Plus transceiver. Being transparent here, this was an impulse purchase fueled by pure, unadulterated nostalgia.

The QRP Plus was the first QRP transceiver that I’d ever laid my eyes on only a month or so before obtaining my ham radio ticket in 1997. I’ll write about this in more detail in the future–and I speak to this in my video below–but let’s just say that this little cube of a radio made a big impression on me at the very beginning of my ham radio journey.

I thought it might be fun to take it to the field and compare this 1995 state-of-the-art radio with so many of my other field radios. The QRP Plus wasn’t a perfect radio, but it was a marvel at the time it was produced. I can’t think of a smaller, more battery-efficient general coverage 160-10M QRP transceiver at the time.

I was eager to introduce this little radio to the world of POTA so on the morning of Thursday March 21, 2024, I grabbed it and hit the field!

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (US-6856)

I called the Vance site that morning and learned that a large school group would be arriving around noon. Since I was planning to leave around that time anyway, it was perfect timing for me.

Since I hadn’t created a field kit specifically for the QRP Plus yet, I brought my watertight stackable Husky brand box that basically contains everything I need to set up a field radio station, save the radio.

I unpacked everything I needed: a key, key cable, battery, power cord, cable assembly, antenna, logbook and pencil.

Since the QRP Plus has no internal tuner, I paired it with my MM0OPX 40M EFHW antenna which would give me 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters. Note that Index Labs used to make an external manual ATU for this radio called the QRP Companion–I’ve never seen one in person, though.

Even though the Vance staff told me that the school group would not be using the picnic shelter, thus I could have free reign, I still deployed my antenna in a way that it would not become a trip hazard–keeping it close to the shelter and as conspicuous as I could (I do wish I would have brought along my flagging tape, but I left it at home).

Setting up the QRP Plus station was quick and easy. Time to hit the air!


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On The Air

I started calling CQ POTA on the 40 meter band, hoping it would be a little productive while we were still in the latter part of the morning.

Fortunately, many POTA hunters started calling back. I worked my first ten contacts in ten minutes, successfully validating the activation!

I continued working 40 meters until I’d logged a total of 33 contacts in 35 minutes.

At that point, I knew the most logical band to move to would be 20 meters, in terms of productivity. Then again, I wanted to try the higher bands, but had a hunch that if I jumped on 20 meters, I might run a pile-up until it was time to call QRT. I decided it might be fun to see if there was any activity on 15 meters.

I started calling CQ POTA on 15 meters and, to my surprise, worked an additional four stations in five minutes.

Next, I decided to hit the highest resonant band on my 40M EFHW, the 10 meter band.

Fortunately, 10 meters was open!

I ended up working seven more stations on 10 meters including contacts in the UK, France, Italy and Belgium. Many thanks to all those EU stations that hunted me.

All in all, I worked a total of 44 contacts–a proper break-in for my new-to-me Index Labs QRP Plus transceiver!

QSO Maps

Here’s what this five-watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map. To make some of these contacts a little easier to view, I made screenshots of the EU and NA details.

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.

What fun!

It was brilliant getting reacquainted with the QRP Plus.

One major highlight of this activation was working my dear friend Eric (WD8RIF) during this inaugural QRP Plus POTA activation. As I mention in the video, it was Eric and his QRP Plus that first caught my attention back at an FYBO event in 1997.

Here’s a photo from that very day courtesy of WD8RIF:

And here’s Eric’s field report mentioning an “as-yet-unlicensed Tom Witherspoon.”

Eric, by the way, has an incredible QRP Plus reference page on his website.

In truth, it would be hard for me to recommend grabbing a QRP Plus unless you found a great deal on one. Compared with modern QRP transceivers, it’s less sensitive, overloads easily (especially in contest conditions), has a quirky and poppy AGC, and I find that the electronic keying is a little soft.

Then again? The ergonomics are superb. The audio is quite good for a field radio and…well…I think it has some serious QRP street cred.

I believe this QRP Plus will be a keeper–I’ll run it until one of its obsolete components fails me. Hopefully, that won’t happen for a long time, but I’m willing to take the risk and enjoy this fabulous little radio cube in the meantime!

Thank you–!

Thank you for joining me during this amazing 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 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)

17 thoughts on “My first POTA Activation with the Index Labs QRP Plus Field Transceiver”

  1. Great report Thomas!

    ‘Sometimes, you will never know the value of a moment, until it becomes a memory’ ~ Unknown

    Nostalgia is a sign of aging… and we can’t help growing old, we can only relish it! My first QRP rig was a Steve Weber MTR2b Mountain Topp’r. What fun I had! Still a great rig!

    Thanks again Thomas!

    1. Absolutely. 🙂 And I’ll admit, I’ve been an old soul for a long time because nostalgia runs deep in my veins.

  2. Thomas … I remember when these rigs came out, they caused quite a stir because of the band coverage and the small size. I never owned one but worked a few people using them. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    You touch on one topic that I rarely see discussed and that is both physical and RF safety concerns when operating portable; more specifically doing POTA activations as that tends to happen in parks that can sometimes be quite busy with children and pets. Perhaps this merits some further discussion in a future post?


    Michael VE3WMB

    1. I am an old school QRPer. I have two INDEX LABS plus rigs and they are my go to “to the field” rigs.

      The INDEX LABS rig is unique in that there is NO RF amp before the 1st mixer and the IF frequency is 50 mHz. At the time it was the most compact SSB/CW transceiver on the market.

      The variable bandwidth audio SCAF filter is the best I have ever used.

      When I’m not using the INDEX LABS rig I use my Heathkit HW-9, HW-8, HW-7 or TenTec 515. They are all still solid QRP rigs.

      Sam AE4GX
      Aiken SC

    2. Yes, I spoke about this at length once during an activation, but that’s probably been a couple years ago now. I’ll have to remember to bring this up again. Thanks!

  3. I had one of these for many years, finally sold it to a Texas ham who is enjoying it very much as we speak. A great little rig, you will enjoy using it. Thanks for a great report!!

  4. Thomas,

    If you ever have circuit failure or other electrical failure of your QRP Labs radio just connect with Guy, N1GMM, in Bealeton, VA. He has lots of experienced repairing them and other small QRP xcvrs. Knows the ins and outs and has spare parts.

  5. Your reports can no longer be considered objective) In the hands of a skilled operator, any radio becomes very effective. I remember when I started using Morse Сode, I immediately felt the difference in the keys and could not work on one of them. When I turned it back on a few years later, I didn’t find any flaws.

    1. It is funny how when you’ve gotten a bit of experience at the key and on the air, you can compensate for any shortcomings. Frankly, your ears become so much better over time and with experience that the receiver becomes less and less important.
      This little radio is so much fun to operate. 🙂

  6. Great little radio. I am on my second QRP Plus model but this one is the Plus 2. I made the mistake in selling my first one years ago and when Mike, KG4MTN was selling his I had to get another one and am not sorry that I bought it. I would say if you can find one in good shape buy it! 73, Richard, K0RDS

  7. Thanks for report. I think I remember these Index Labs rigs being advertised in the UK. Though, I have never seen one. The Companion seems like a useful accessory – ATU, noise bridge and battery to power the rig. A similar product for some more recent QRP portable rigs would have perhaps been a nice option.

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