Elecraft KH1 in Motion: Proper Pedestrian Mobile Activation in an Ohio State Nature Preserve

I arrived back at the QTH late yesterday afternoon after an amazing week of travels.

I’ve got (no kidding) more than 100 emails in the inbox that require attention, so if you’ve written to me recently, my apologies in advance for the late reply. I’m spending the next few days catching up with my family.

I did, however, want to take a moment and share a short field report from a pretty extraordinary activation (for me) that took place on Monday, May 20, 2024.

Hamvention Decompression Day

I learned a few years ago that I need a full day post-Hamvention to wind down and relax before starting my travels back home. Fortunately, my FDIM/Hamvention travel companions Eric (WD8RIF) and Miles (KD8KNC) feel the same way. Nearly a decade ago, we started adding a Monday on to our travels.

Typically, we spend most of Monday at the USAF Museum in Dayton – it’s a brilliant, relaxing way to chill out.

This year, however, we decided to shake things up since I’d just spent a full day at the USAF museum in April with my family during our 2024 Total Solar Eclipse trip.

Eric suggested that we check out the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, then activate nearby Gross Memorial Woods State Nature Preserve (US-9410). We all agreed that sounded ideal.

In the BX and Commissary Complex on WPAFB

We packed up and left the hotel around 9:00 AM, then made our way to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Miles and Eric wanted to pop by the Commissary, BX, and Clothing Sales to pick up a few items (I purchased two more Rite in the Rain notepads, too!).

Armstrong museum entrance

We then drove one hour north to the Armstrong museum where we enjoyed nearly two hours browsing all of the displays and reading about the amazing life and adventures of Neil Armstrong – the first person to set foot on the moon.

After leaving the museum, we popped by a local deli and ate lunch – we were served possibly the largest portions of food I think I’ve ever seen. I could only eat half of my pork sandwich! (Al Woody’s Diner, in case you’re interested.)

Gross Memorial Woods State Nature Preserve (US-9410)

Gross Memorial Woods SNP was a short 15 minute drive from Wapakoneta.

We arrived on-site to find a small gravel parking area and a large, older-growth wooded area.

This is a nature preserve, so there was no shortage of “do nots” on the welcome sign.

The preserve consists of a 0.6 mile loop boardwalk trail with two or so wooden benches. There are no tables and you’re not supposed to step foot off of the trail.

Eric and I, of course, opted for low-impact radio gear.

Eric set up his KX2 field kit and used a small telescoping fiberglass pole to suspend his random wire antenna.

I’d initially planned to use my KX2 and a wire antenna, but I didn’t want to put a wire in a tree and I had no separate pole to suspend my antenna like Eric did.

Instead, I thought this might be a wonderful opportunity to test something new: pedestrian mobile with my Elecraft KH1 as I walked the loop trail.

Four Miles of Radio Goodness

Keep in mind that, while I got a fair amount of walking in during Hamvention, I’d also spent most of the day in the car on Sunday as we activated parks in Ohio and Indiana, so I was eager to stretch my legs.

I, once again, used my Tufteln angle adapter on the KH1 (you can see it as the red adapter on the antenna port in the photos). This adapter makes the operating angle a little more pleasant while pedestrian mobile.

Photo of the Tufteln angle adapter from the previous day’s activation.

The 13’ counterpoise wire simply trailed behind me as I walked. Being a boardwalk, it did have a tendency to very slightly pull the end of the counterpoise wire when it would slip between boards. Hypothetically, the wire could slip between boards and get pinched, but that never really happened. Since the end of the counterpoise was bare wire though, there was nothing to easily catch in the boards.

I’ve been thinking about building in a fail-safe mini banana plug connection/link near the top of my counterpoise that would simply pull away from the radio if the counterpoise were to ever grab something (or I trip on it). Since I hadn’t made this mod yet, I wrapped the counterpoise twice around a finger on my left hand as I held the radio. This provided a bit of strain relief. Again, there was never a problem with the counterpoise grabbing, but I wasn’t going to take my chances!

Also, I should note that I wouldn’t attempt operating the KH1 while, say, hiking up a summit trail. While that sounds like fun, I’m quite prone to trip on rocks and roots which is why I use two hiking poles.

I would limit my activations-in-motion to  roads and paths that are smooth and have no exposed tree roots or steep inclines/declines.

The path at Gross Memorial was smooth and had no trip hazards (trust me, I would have found them!).

I prefer my new Zebra pencil!

As a gift, my wife purchased a Zebra Mini Mechanical Pencil [affiliate link]which is identical to the Zebra Space Pen supplied in the KH1 Edgewood Package (you can see it between my fingers in the image above).

This was the second activation where I used the pencil and I must say that I, personally, prefer it to the pen. The reason why is I find that the pencil requires a little less pressure to write which is perfect for pedestrian mobile logging on the KH1 logging tray.

If you have a KH1 Edgewood Package, I’d recommend giving the Zebra pencil a try: it’s affordable at roughly $6.50 US and a nice option for the KH1.

**Horrible Band Conditions**

Propagation? Yeah, it was in the dumps. Conditions were very unstable and the numbers were not in favor of an easy activation.

Eric and I knew this activation would take some time.

Part of me felt like using the KH1 and its 4’ whip would be fairly futile, but I started out of the gate with a little promise.

As I turned on the KH1 and searched for a free spot on 20 meters, I happened upon Eric (VA2IDX) activating Mont-Saint-Bruno National Park (CA-0508) near Montréal. It only took one or two calls to work him. We were both pretty weak, but I was so pleased to start out this pedestrian mobile activation with a P2P from across our northern border.

Next, I found a clear spot on 20 meters and started calling CQ POTA.

I quickly worked Van Marcus (WA2PNC) in Colorado and Michael (N7CCD) in Washington state. I call that DX on a day like Monday!

Then silence.

WD8RIF, in the meantime, hunted me for some easy P2Ps on 5 bands within the park.

I tried 15 and 17 meters – to give WD8RIF time on 20 meters – but there were no takers. In fact, I couldn’t even hear hunters on those bands.

Eventually, little windows of propagation opportunity opened where I’d work a handful of stations at a time. This activation was all about persistence and determination.

After a total of 105 minutes on the air, I eventually logged KB4N, NA7C, W4TPD, W2WC, W9MET, N0ANE, VE6LK, W5GJ, and W7RF. All on 20 meters.

I was super pleased to work my good friend Vince (VE6LK) P2P in Alberta. Eric and I both logged him and received 519 signal reports. It was weak, but we made the connection!

Pedestrian Power!

I didn’t make a video of this activation because I have no means of attaching my camera to my body for a fully pedestrian mobile experience. Perhaps someday I’ll get a chest mount? We’ll see.

I did learn a few things while hiking and keying.

The KH1 makes a walking activation quite easy, effortless, and fun! I used the KH1’s built-in memory keyer in beacon mode to call CQ POTA effortlessly. I did also key manually just for the fun of it.

Being properly pedestrian mobile, I also decided to add an extra CW message memory. In position 4 I had my simple “CQ POTA DE K4SWL” and in position 6 I added “CQ POTA DE K4SWL/PM.”

I was uncertain if the RBN would spot me properly using K4SWL/PM, so I would alternate between messages 4 and 6. In the end, though, I thought it was nice to indicate in my CQ that I was pedestrian mobile.

The KH1 operated continuously the entire activation and never got hot in my hand.

The KH1 – weighing in under a pound – was no problem to hold the entire time. In fact, I didn’t even think about it being in my hand the entire time – it was only after the activation when Eric asked if it ever felt heavy that I realized I never even noticed.

Of course, the four foot whip antenna did grab branches in two spots of the walk where branches were lower. It was never a problem, though, I simply lowered the radio.

The antenna did serve as an amazing device to catch spider webs before my face did! In fact, at one point, I looked up at the antenna as I walked and there were webs holding small bits of leaves and flapping in the wind like little flags.

Another interesting thing: I wasn’t bothered by all of the mosquitos hiding in the nature preserve because I was constantly on the move and I reckon they simply couldn’t keep up!

Eric also asked if I stopped walking to work stations. I hadn’t thought about this a lot but I did, indeed, stop when I worked a weak station. I didn’t stop walking for the small handful of strong stations, though.


I must admit that this was a brilliant activation and I had a blast even though it was so slow-going QSO count-wise. I made 6 or so laps around the loop trail at a very slow and casual walking pace.

Interestingly, Eric had a harder time making contacts even though he had a better antenna. Likely, this was all due to the luck of timing with propagation. I managed to have a valid activation (10 contacts logged) nearly an hour before he did.

Check out my QSO Map! Not bad!

The KH1 is becoming one of my favorite field radios of all-time. It offers a level of flexibility that simply isn’t found in other portable transceivers.

It was brilliant walking this entire activation and feeling like I did a little exercise while calling CQ POTA.

Many thanks to all of the people who stuck it out to log me. I really appreciate it!

6 thoughts on “Elecraft KH1 in Motion: Proper Pedestrian Mobile Activation in an Ohio State Nature Preserve”

  1. Thomas-good to hear you had a great activation post-Dayton with the KH1. I heard you calling CQ & answered but couldn’t make the trip.
    Since I was in Greenville for our daughter’s wedding, took the KH1 out to the old Voice of America Site A, now NC Wildlife Gamelands and a POTA site.
    PS-really like Josh’s antenna mod also. And….wedding was wonderful.
    73 de K4RLC Bob

  2. With band conditions and time constraints, at least that’s what I am telling myself, I haven’t yet made that first contact with the KH1.

    However, nearly immediately, the value of the Tufteln whip angle adapter became apparent. Ordered one and also table top adapter.

    Still hope to have that first QSO on the whip before the accessories arrive.

    1. Update: first KH1 QSO achieved today during my lunch break. Worked Memorial Day special event station K1A on 17 meters, pedestrian stationary from a local city park/athletic field.


  3. It was brilliant to catch both you and Eric, and thanks for the photos. My activations that day were equally difficult even with higher power (25W).
    I was thinking that perhaps a small fishing float 1-2″ diameter (the red and white spherical ones) tied to the end of the counterpoise would keep it from getting snagged?

  4. /PM is great fun! I’ve used 2 mm banana plugs and jacks to make inline quick disconnects for one of my counterpoise wires. Might be just what you need for a safety disconnect for your counterpoise wire. Check Amazon for “2.0mm Male and Female Bullet Banana Connectors Plugs – Pack of 10 Pairs”.

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