All posts by Thomas Witherspoon

The Elecraft T1 Protection Case by TufteIn

Long-time QRPer.com reader and supporter, Joshua (KO4AWH), runs an Etsy store with a wide range of products primarily designed for field operators. Over the past few months, Joshua has sent me various prototypes for feedback and also to test in the field. You’ll see some of his antennas in upcoming field reports and activation videos. I’m very impressed with his designs.

If you’re an Elecraft T1 owner, you should be especially interested in his T1 Protection Case.

Joshua sent me an early version of this clip-on case several months ago and it immediately replaced the simple cover I printed from a Thingiverse file. (To be clear, the Thingiverse case served me well for a couple years, but I prefer this one since it doesn’t require a rubber band to hold it on the T1.)

The Elecraft T1 is a hearty little ATU and I don’t worry about damaging it while tucked away in my SOTA pack, but the little buttons on the front are prone to be pushed with any amount of applied pressure. This can result in unintentional operation which can accidentally place it in bypass mode or at least shorten the life of your 9V cell.

The Elecraft T1 is not an inexpensive station accessory and, at the moment, they’re about as rare as hen’s teeth. The lead time on new T1s is counted in months rather than weeks (at time of posting, this is due to vendor board issues).

The TufteIn Protection Case simply snaps on the Elecraft T1 and protects the BNC connectors, ground point, and the front panel buttons.

The case material is durable and adds very little to the bulk of the T1.

Of course, you can’t operate the T1 with the case around it because the BNC connectors are covered, but I have propped up my T1 on the case while using it on rough concrete picnic tables. I’d rather the case be scratched than my T1!

If you own an Elecraft T1 and don’t have a protective cover, I’d encourage you to either print one, or buy Joshua’s T1 case. For years, I simply removed or reversed the 9V battery to keep the T1 from engaging while packed, but that doesn’t protect the buttons and (frankly) it’s a pain to pop the battery out and flip it for each use (then to remember to flip it back when packing away).

The TufteIn case is a simple and affordable ($16.50) solution!

Thanks for sending this to me, Joshua. I dropped my T1 while setting up my TX-500 for Field Day and it protected my favorite little ATU!

Click here to check out the Elecraft T1 Protective Case on Etsy.

Pairing my new Xiegu X6100 with a 31 foot speaker wire antenna (and avoiding RX overload)

Regular readers of QRPer.com might question the wording in my title since I’ve already posted several field reports and even a full review of the Xiegu X6100. So why would this X6100 be considered a “new” radio–?

Since I go over this in more detail in the activation video (linked and embedded below), I’ll give you the nutshell version here:

My activations with the X6100 early this year (2022) were all performed using a loaner unit sent to me by Radioddity. I kept that unit for a few weeks, shipped it on, and purchased one of my own.

In February, when I received the X6100 I purchased, I immediately noticed a small mechanical issue with the encoder.

This is the X6100 open. You can see the back of the encoder to the right of the ribbon cable.

I tried fixing it (with instructions received from Xiegu) but in the end had to return the transceiver for replacement.

The X6100 unit in this field report is my replacement–technically, the third X6100 I’ve had in my hands, and this was my first activation using it.

Many of you have asked why I haven’t taken the X6100 to the field more often this year and this is why. I basically didn’t have a functioning unit for most of February, March, and April. Radioddity was quite responsive to my issues with the X6100, but frankly I had a lot going on during that time frame so it took longer than normal to troubleshoot, modify, test, and send back the faulty unit.

Fortunately, the replacement X6100 has no encoder issues other than the brake is very tight. I’m not willing to break the warranty seal on this unit to adjust it, so I’ll just live with a much-tighter-than-I’d-like encoder.

[Update: Bob (W0BNC) points out that the tight brake is due to friction caused by a felt pad under the X6100 encoder knob. The remedy is to pull off the rubber ring around the encoder knob, loosen the set screw, lift the knob slightly off the body, and retighten. I’ll do this when I’m back with the X6100 after summer travels. Thanks, Bob!]

X6100 field kit test

This activation was also the perfect opportunity to test all of the components of a dedicated field kit I’m building around the X6100.

The kit consists of:

  • The Xiegu X6100 QRP transceiver,
  • a BNC binding post adapter,
  • paddles,
  • the X6100 battery charger,
  • a 31′ speaker wire antenna
  • 25 meters of 2mm throw line,
  • a weaver 8oz weight, and a
  • logging pad and pencil.

Everything, save the antenna, fits in my Red Oxx Hound EDC pack.

Eventually, I’ll replace the speaker wire with some thinner Wireman stuff and it should all fit in the Hound pack, albeit snuggly!

I’ve decided that the X6100 will live at my parents’ home in the NC foothills, so I’ll always have a field radio kit available while staying there overnight.

Lake Norman State Park (K-2740)

On May 9, 2002, an opportunity opened up in the afternoon to finally take my new X6100 to the field! Continue reading Pairing my new Xiegu X6100 with a 31 foot speaker wire antenna (and avoiding RX overload)

Making everyday Field Day

Since I began my ham radio journey in 1997, I’ve always looked forward to one event more than any other: ARRL Field Day.

No doubt, this is due to the fact that one of my earliest experiences after being licensed was participating in Field Day with my (then) local club ACARA in Athens, Ohio. We were operating 1A battery which meant “One transmitter, club or non-club group, power output of five watts maximum.”

In short? It was a blast and a proper introduction to the power of QRP.

In fact, Eric (WD8RIF) has such a deep archive of field events on his site, you can read the original  field report here.

I was already looking forward to the next field day as we were packing up our site that year.  It was insane fun.

2022 Field Day

Gaétan Trépanier (VE2GHO) making final adjustments to the club’s HF Yagi during Field Day 2017

I had hoped to spend Field Day 2022 with the amazing crew at C.R.A.Q (Club Radio Amateur de Québec), but it just didn’t work out due to our family schedule which included some beautiful hikes. I’ve spent Field Day with C.R.A.Q. twice before and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I did, however, make a couple dozen random Field Day contacts in CW on 20 meters from our condo.

I’m grateful to Vince (VE6LK) who held a Field Day Zoom conference call all weekend hosted by his local club, the Foothills Amateur Radio Society. It was a drop-in, drop-out 24 hour session and was a brilliant substitute for all of the amazing side conversations one would typically have during an in-person club Field Day event. It was great meeting members of FARS, friends like George (KJ6VU), and so many others who popped by for a visit.

Field Day Everyday!

I’ll admit that I get a bit of that Field Day feeling each time I do a park or summit activation.

There’s none of the in-person camaraderie because my activations are typically solo, but on the air I’m connecting with my POTA family and friends. It often feels like a little on-air reunion where we all check in.

Of course, it certainly scratches that Field Day itch of setting up my radio gear in the great outdoors, operating from battery power, experimenting with antennas, and sometimes even managing small pile-ups.

I live for that stuff!

How about your Field Day?

Tell us about your 2022 Field Day experience in the comments section!

Did you play Field Day with a club or at home? Did you hop on the air? What were conditions like? What gear did you use and did you experiment with any new antenna designs?

Inquiring minds want to know. Please comment!

Paul’s SOTA excursions captured on live webcams

Many thanks to Paul (W0RW) who shares the following guest post:


Can you See Me Now? Portable Operation From a Web Cam.

by Paul (W0RW)

There are now thousands of web cams operating around the world and they make great portable operating locations.

By watching a webcam stream, the stations who works you can watch you live as you talk to and log them.

When I am activating a site with a live webcam, I post the web cam link on my QRZ.com page and then stations who contact me can then go to QRZ, click and watch. I usually have a big sign that shows up on the web cam with my call and my frequency. Even DX guys who can’t hear me can watch me operate.

Many web cams are now live streaming; they give you fast refresh rates and real time video. Other bandwidth limited cams refresh at slower rates and may give only 1 frame every minute.

I was at the ‘Teller 1 Web Cam’ on 8 June 2022 (see photos above) and made 10 Q’s on CW and 10’Q’s on SSB. It has an almost real time video but with a delay of about 10 seconds. It is at 10,000 feet.

The HD Pikes Peak Panoramic Cam that I frequently use (At 14,115 feet) has a revolving 1 minute refresh rate.

I am standing right above the ‘RW’ sign.

The remote Independence Pass, Colorado, Web Camera is a solar powered wireless camera with a 1 minute refresh rate. I am standing just to the left of the tree.

This camera is down now and won’t be back on line until July.

Paul w0rw
Colorado


That makes for a fun dimension in playing SOTA, Paul! Thank you for sharing. So far, I haven’t activated a summit with a webcam, but it looks like there are numerous ones in Colorado. I’ll have to keep this in mind before heading out there!

Xiegu G106 and D90: A few pre-production unit photos

I’ve a friend who works with a number of radio manufacturers including Xiegu. He recently took delivery of the new Xiegu G106 QRP transceiver and a Xiegu D90 USB-Radio Interface.

Based on the photo above, the G106 is even more compact than I originally assumed.

These are the accessories included in his G106 box:

Looks like the same cables and mic included in other Xiegu radio packages.

He also took delivery of the new Xiegu D90 expansion card:

Note that these units are very much early prototypes and don’t even have serial numbers. Nonetheless, he plans to take the G106 to Field Day today–I’m looking forward to hearing his report.

Yaesu FT-817ND: A morning QRP POTA activation at New River State Park

No better way to start a QRP day…

I took the family on a multi-day camping trip at New River State Park in April 2022.  During that trip, I made an activation of New River each day and also fit in a quick SOTA activation (click here to read an overview). I didn’t film all of my on-the-air because some of that radio time was spent sitting around chatting with my family and even some neighbors at the campground.

Since I’ve already posted a summary of that fine trip, and since I’m traveling today, I’ll keep this field report brief(er).

Morning POTA

One thing I love about POTA while camping is how effortless it is to do morning activations. You simply roll out of bed and get on the air. That easy.

The following field report was for an activation session on the morning of April 29, 2022.

I spent the early morning that day brewing a couple cups of coffee and catching up on my QRP Quarterly and QST, then I took Hazel on a short hike.

Back at the campsite, I served Hazel some breakfast and then she enjoyed her first of many morning naps. (I swear that dog is only awake a max of one hour per day–!). Continue reading Yaesu FT-817ND: A morning QRP POTA activation at New River State Park

VO1DR’s Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the Icom IC-705

Many thanks to Scott (VO1DR) who shares the following guest post:


Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the IC-705

By Scott Schillereff (VO1DR)

St. John’s, NL, Canada     

Since getting my novice ticket in 1970 (WB9CXN) under the watchful direction of Charles “Rock”  Rockey, W9SCH (SK), I have been a dyed-in-the-cloth homebrewer and QRPer.  My one and only commercial rig before this year was a Ten Tec PM-3 I bought with paper-route money in 1971 (still have it).  Fast-forward to today.  I now live in Newfoundland, and Europe is as close as Georgia.  I continue to build my station components and antennas.  A recent sea-change though – I inherited some money and decided to splash out on a for-life rig that would serve well in the shack and on the road (RV or hiking).  After researching options, I settled on the ICOM IC-705.  A fantastic performer; a receiver like I’ve never heard before; more bells and whistles than I could dream of, and a form-factor like a….. delicate, expensive brick!

The 705 is not a sleek, trail-friendly radio.  It’s on the heavy side and, well…awkward to pick up!  But, man, what a radio!  So, my first step was to buy a Windcamp ARK-705 exoskeleton.  This protects the rig on all sides and gives you something to grab onto.  I don’t mind the weight and size; I want this rig to be working in 25 years.

My operating interests are home use, mobile in my 25 ft motor home, and portable on day hikes.  I’m new to POTA and SOTA but maybe that’s next, thanks to you, Thomas!

I’m genetically wired not to buy the luxury ICOM backpack; I prefer to build my own and integrate with my hiking gear.  With that in mind, I would like to share my field package system to move the 705 around safely with little risk of damage.  Also some other homebrew portable gear. Continue reading VO1DR’s Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the Icom IC-705

A casual and stealthy POTA activation at Le Domaine Maizerets

The weather in/around Québec City has been amazing lately; nice cool mornings and warm, clear days. I know this probably won’t last, so we’ve been taking advantage of it as much as possible (il faut en profiter, as francophones like to say).

Yesterday, we had a few errands to run in town: we needed to pick up some groceries, order a tarte au citron for my birthday (today!) from our favorite patisserie Pralines & Chocolat in Château-Richer, and yes, enjoy the great outdoors.

I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d be able to fit in an activation, but I tucked my KX2 radio pack in the car just in case. I didn’t take the camera because it was family time and if I managed an activation, I didn’t want to film it this time. That, and I have a huge backlog of activation videos I need to publish; I sidelined a lot of my field reports while studying for the Canadian Basic exam over the past month.

Le Domaine Maizerets (VE-5020)

We decided to hit one of our favorite little parks conveniently located on the east end of Québec City (Beauport): Le Domaine Maizerets.

We’ve been to this park a few times in the past to attend a Celtic festival and to meet with friends.

The grounds are beautiful and there are loads of foot paths.

An ATNO!

I checked to see if Le Domaine Maizerets was actually a park in the POTA system and I discovered that not only was it a POTA park, but it was an ATNO (All Time New One); meaning, it had never been activated before.

I was a bit surprised it had never been activated because this is a very popular park and even has free entry with free parking.

Keeping it Stealthy

I decided I wanted to stay fairly low-profile while doing this activation. I wasn’t worried about permissions (families, friends and groups meet here for all sorts of activities) but I wanted to see just how stealthy I could be while operating from a park bench in a city park. I don’t get this opportunity a lot because, back home, I’m usually operating from rural state/national parka and in remote game lands.

We found a couple of benches at the edge of the park that very conveniently had perfect antenna trees behind them.

While no one was watching, I deployed the PackTenna 9:1 random wire antenna; the jacket on its radiator is black and simply disappears with trees and flora in the background.

The wire is next to impossible to see from even 5 meters away

The more conspicuous parts of the antenna–the feed point and RG-316–were tucked away behind the park bench.

My high-visibility arborist throw line was hidden behind the tree and out of sight from those walking on the footpath.

From the footpath, you couldn’t see the antenna, coax, nor the throw line unless you were looking for it.

From behind the bench, you could though; in the very unlikely event someone would have walked behind us, it was pretty conspicuous (always avoid antenna tripping points). That and my family would have warned anyone coming near.

The Elecraft KX2 was a natural choice for this activation: it’s all-in-one and incredibly compact. I can also operate it and log  using the knee board Carolanne (N0RNM) kindly made for me last year.  No picnic table needed.

Operating CW with earphones is insanely stealthy. A CW op makes almost no noise whatsoever.

One of my daughters (K4TLI) was kind enough to log for me on my Microsoft Surface Go (using N3FJP’s AC Log).

 

Here’s what I looked like to anyone passing by:

Click to enlarge – Photo courtesy of K4TLI

My wife (K4MOI) and other daughter (K4GRL) were on the bench next to us sketching and painting. We looked like any other family at the park simply enjoying the amazing weather.

On the air

This was only my third activation here in Canada using my new Canadian callsign: VY2SW.

I’m still getting use to sending the new call; it flows well for me, but my muscle memory keeps kicking in and I find myself accidentally sending K4SWL. 🙂

Since I’m in Québec but have a Prince Edward Island callsign, I do intermittently add a /VE2 to the end of my call. It’s a fistful (VY2SW/VE2) so I don’t use it with every exchange or CQ.

Conditions lately have been absolutely in the dumps and yesterday was no exception.

When a propagation path opened, it was great, but conditions were very unstable with severe QSB.

I spent the better part of an hour hopping between 30, 40, and 20 meters to scrape together enough contacts for a valid park activation.

40 meters was absolutely dead due to flaring. I tried hunting a few CW and SSB stations there, but if I could hear them, they were barely audible.

20 and 30 meters served me better, but the QSB was so deep and frequent, I had to repeat my exchange on a number of occasions.  Some stations would call me with a 599+ signal and after my reply with signal report, they were then barely audible.

Still, I managed to snag my ten with a couple to spare. 🙂

Many thanks to all of you who waded through the ether to reach me on the other end.

QSO Map

It’s interesting looking at the QSO map post-activation. My best DX (EA4B) was easily the strongest station I worked with my 5 watts.

Click to enlarge the map:

This activation was so much fun.

Sure, contacts weren’t frequent but they were all meaningful and, frankly, none of us minded spending time outdoors on such a gorgeous day! It added an extra dimension keeping things very stealthy, too.

Thank you

Thanks for reading this field report. Now that my Canadian exam is in the books, I’ll have time to catch up on the numerous activation videos in the backlog!

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 which allows me to open up my work life to write more field reports and film more activation videos.

I hope you get a chance this week to play radio outdoors or chase/hint some park, island, or summit activators!

Until next time…73!

Cheers,

Thomas (VY2SW / K4SWL)

Scott Builds a clever Icom IC-705 Paddle Mount

Many thanks to Scott (KK4Z) who shares the following project from his blog KK4Z.com:

Paddle Mount for the IC-705

I kinda like the idea of being able to mount your paddle to your radio when operating portable. You can use the weight of the radio to help prevent the paddles from moving around and it frees your off hand for other tasks. We see examples of this with the Elecraft KX series of radios and there are some adapters for radios such as the Yaesu Ft-817/818.

I really like my IC-705. It is probably my best radio for POTA/potable operation. I think the only time I would leave it home is if weight became a problem or I needed to exercise one of my other radios. Recently, Begali came out with a mount to attach their Adventure paddle to the IC-705. It is a sweet set-up; however, the approx. $400 USD price tag got me looking for other alternatives. I have nothing against Begali, I own three of their paddles, and they are superb instruments. I think I wanted to tinker, and this gave me a good excuse.

For paddles, I have a set of Larry’s (N0SA) SOTA paddles. I love these paddles. When I go on an activation/Portable Operation, I bring these and my Begali Travelers. If I was going to do a SOTA activation, I would just bring Larry’s Paddles. Next was a trip to Tractor Supply Company (TSC) for a sheet of 16 ga. Steel. That set me back $16. I cut it to 3″ by 3 1/2″ using a cutoff wheel on my grinder.

I already have a stand I made out of 1″ x 1″ angle aluminum so I cut this to fit behind it.

The blue on the metal is Dykem Blue which is a layout fluid. In creating this project, I am only using hand tools. Power tools consisted of a grinder with a cut-off wheel. a hand drill, and my trusty Dremel tool. Here is a picture of me giving the mount a rough finish with a file. Continue reading Scott Builds a clever Icom IC-705 Paddle Mount

VY2SW: Woo hoo! I passed!

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been studying for my Canadian Basic license exam.

I’ve been working on this in my very limited spare time for a few weeks now, balancing study from the book above and HamStudy.org–both brilliant resources.

Now that I’m actually on Canadian soil, I scheduled an online exam with my friend, the amazing Vince (VE6LK).

Vince must be one of the busiest remote examiners in all of Canada. He’s professional and has the process down to a science which makes the whole experience very fluid and low stress. His website has a load of resources!

Although I’d been on the road most of the day yesterday and was a bit tired, I was ready to write the exam. I gave Vince my schedule and told him I would even be willing to schedule as early as 9:00PM last night or anytime this weekend.

The 9:00 time worked for Vince, so he sent me a Zoom link and I did a bit of last-minute study before meeting him online for the exam.

The Canadian Basic is a 100 question test, so it takes some time to get through it all.

I was absolutely chuffed to pass with 94% which meant passing Basic with Honours.

Vince started the online process which allowed me to create an account on the ISED website.

Getting a call

I’d been giving my callsign a little thought.

Since my mailing address is in Prince Edward Island, I knew the prefix would be VY2.

Every new call issued in Canada is essentially a vanity callsign and  you’re allowed to choose from available suffixes (and even purchase additional callsigns in the future).

PEI is one of the few provinces that also allows Basic licensees to claim a 2×3 or even a 2×2 call. If I were in Ontario, for example, I could only request a 2×3 as a Basic with Honors license.

This morning, with my first cup of coffee in hand, I finished setting up my ISED account and requested my callsign.

VY2SW

I decided that I wanted my Canadian call to reflect the suffix in my US call, so I requested VY2SW.

As soon as I hit the SUBMIT button on the ISED website, it confirmed that the call had been assigned to me. A couple hours later and I’m showing up in the callsign database.

The Canadian licensing system is incredibly efficient and effortless to use.

POTA and SOTA in Canada

Now that I’m VY2SW, I cannot use my US callsign as K4SWL/VE3 or K4SWL/VE2 while on the air.

I’ve already added VY2SW in the POTA system as my second callsign, so I believe it’ll compile all of my park activations under one account. I suppose there’s a way to do this in the SOTA system too.

Sometime within the next two days, I will be doing my first activation as VY2SW here–a park somewhere in the Ottawa region. I can’t wait and I certainly hope to work you!