All posts by Thomas Witherspoon

Guest Post: A Booty Boss Micro Radio Kit

Many thanks to Carolanne (N0RNM) who shares the following guest post:


A Booty Boss Micro Radio Kit

by Carolanne Fisher N0RNM

I am a bit of a tinkerer and an aspiring POTA activator, so when I received my Elecraft KX2 a couple of weeks ago with its way-too-big carry bag, I immediately started to think about ways I could keep the KX2 protected on the trail in a much lower-profile, light-weight, and easy-to-carry kit that would always be ready to go. The trick was to find a case of just the right size, with plenty of built-in organization and flexibility to build the kit around. I found what I hoped would be exactly what I was looking for from the excellent Red Oxx Manufacturing company (redoxx.com) — a soft-sided compact bag they call the Booty Boss Waist Pack. At least the specs looked good…

My Booty Boss Micro Radio Kit, packed up and ready to roll. The color isn’t exactly “low-profile,” but I figure there is more than enough black and gray in the world.

I am certain that whoever designed this bag did it specifically with the KX2 in mind. It is small enough to take anywhere, yet it fits my entire setup, including the radio, an extra battery pack, an AX1 antenna, complete with its 40 meter extension coil, 2 counterpoises, along with other necessities perfectly. I printed and spiral-bound a small note pad, shoved in a few accessories, and I was ready to rock and roll. The bag is even lightly padded for a bit of peace of mind. I am a CW-only kind of op so a mic is not a concern, especially since if I absolutely needed to use phone, the KX2’s built in mic would serve perfectly fine.

A peek into the top of the fully packed bag. I replaced the carrying strap that came with the bag with a Red Oxx Claw Non-Slip strap to make a more secure carry.

I tested the bag during several “back-porch activations” and everything seemed to work great. That is until I tried to use it under more realistic conditions — without the shaded picnic table to deploy on and the comfortable chair to sit on. Sitting on a rock while balancing the radio on my knee with its floppy AX1 antenna, and note pad while actually tying to send code proved to be a bit more than I could handle. It was clear that something like a clipboard was necessary to complete the micro radio kit, but a normal-sized clipboard would completely break the one-tiny-bag ethos.

A couple of years ago I designed and 3D printed a portable folding easel to support my sketchbook, watercolors, water etc. when out and about nature journaling or urban sketching. It worked great for that so I made a smaller version, added a recess for the radio and made sure it had room for the notepad. [Click here to download the SketchUp file of the radio desk.] In order to fit in the bag, the size, even when opened to its full 8” x 9.5” size is a bit cramped, but with the addition of a leg strap, like a pilot’s lap desk, it it does the trick.

The complete current contents of my micro radio kit. Total weight: 4.3 Pounds

Here is everything currently in the bag and how it all gets stowed:

Front zip pocket

  • 13’ and 33’ counterpoises for use with the AX1
  • An extra 28.5’ random wire antenna with 50’ of mini throw line attached (fly fishing backer line with two 1 oz. fishing weights) along with a 17’ counterpoise

Front main compartment

  • Folded radio desk
  • Note pad
  • Pencil

Two small interior pockets

  • Binder post
  • Spare KX2 Battery

Interior zip pocket

  • Spare set of paddles w/ KX2 attachment and cord (by Peter GM0EUL)
  • Spare pencil
  • Copy of my radio license

Rear main compartment

  • Ax1 antenna (whip, 20 and 40 meter coils) lying the bottom
  • KX2 (fits in the bag with the KXPD2 paddle attached)

Large slip pocket

  • Ear phones
Kit fully deployed with the KX2 on the custom radio desk.

The KX2 fits flat on its back or up on its kick stand in its custom sized recess. A sticky gel pad (from Amazon) placed in the recess pretty much “glues” the rig to the desk until you want to remove it.

Although I don’t use it all that often, the AX1 is my all-purpose, quick-to-set-up and a snap-to-put-away antenna. I mount the bipod inboard to the radio (over the BNC connection) so it fits on the desk to provide support. I wedge the bipod out from the rig with a spare pencil or a stick from the trail placed between the rig and the front leg to take some of the twist pressure off the BNC connector.

Although the micro radio kit holds everything I need to make contacts, there are plenty of times that I like to have a more luxurious set up — a folding chair and table, my Alex Loop antenna, tripod, lunch, iPad, etc. Or perhaps I’m off for a multi-day and need an external battery, a solar charging system, food, shelter, etc. This scenario is precisely where the micro radio kit really comes into its own. It is tiny enough to slip into just about any bigger bag or placed on the waist belt of a backpack. No more wondering if you remembered this or that bit of radio kit or loosing track of things you borrowed from another kit. If you actually did forget something extra you thought you packed, not to worry, the micro radio kit has everything you need right inside to make contacts.

As a tiny everything necessary, nothing extra radio bag, the Booty Boss micro radio kit is, well, the BOSS!

– Carolanne (N0RNM)


Thank you so much for sharing this, Carolanne! As you know, I’m a massive fan of Red Oxx gear and also own the Booty Boss. It’s simply brilliant that you can even pack a folding radio desk inside! Thank you so much for sharing your field radio kit with us.

How I pack out my GoRuck GR1 for POTA and Overnight Travel

As I’ve mentioned a number of times on QRPer and on the SWLing Post, I’m a pack geek.  I enjoy organizing and packing my gear for field radio activities and travel.

Last week, I made a very quick overnight trip to visit my parents. My time during this trip was very limited and I did not plan to fit in an activation, but Monday morning, I was able to knock out an errand very early and that freed up a couple of hours in the early afternoon. Fortunately, prior to leaving my QTH, I decided to pack a few travel items in my GoRuck GR1 pack along with a field radio kit built around my Elecraft KX2.

I never leave home without a field radio kit because I never know when an opportunity to play radio might happen.

On the way home Tuesday, I popped Lake Jame State Park and fit in a quick, last minute activation.  Moments before arriving at the lake, I received a request from one of my YouTube subscribers asking if I would make the occasional video showing what’s in my radio packs and field kits.

I’ve been meaning to make these videos but, frankly, often forget when I arrive at a park or summit because I’m just a little too focused on starting my activation.

Since I had some overnight items in my pack, it wasn’t a typical SOTA or POTA field kit, but I decided to make the video anyway. After all, I love watching videos about how others pack and organize their radio and travel kits. But then again, I’m a pack geek. I did mention this right–?

Although I’m not always the neatest person (my wife is probably chuckling at this gross understatement), I’m a meticulous and very organized pack geek. What you see in the video is exactly how I pack when no one is looking. 🙂

I’ll add here that if you’re interested in field radio kits and packs, I’d encourage you to check out my Anatomy of a Field Radio Kit series; Part 1 has already been published and Part 2 will be posted later this week.  In Part 2, I take a much deeper dive into safety gear I take on SOTA activations.

Gear

In the video, I mention that I would attempt to link to all of the items in my pack. I spent time sorting out links this morning; many links go straight to the pack manufacturer because the packs I use typically have no distributors other than the manufacturer, I have also purchased a lot of the smaller items on Amazon, but many can be found in big box stores like Walmart, Target, Canadian Tire, etc.

Activation items

Extra Travel Items in the GR1

Health & Safety Items

US Pack Companies I love…

  • Red Oxx (my favorite overall)
  • Tom Bihn (brilliant tailored/urban travel bags)
  • GoRuck (note that not all are made in the USA these days)
  • Spec Ops Brand (incredible value for tactical packs)

If I missed something, let me know in the comments.

Video

Like all my videos, this one us unscripted, made in one take (unedited), and also has no ads:

Out of order…

So this video was made prior to an activation at Lake James last week. I’ve mentioned before that my Internet speeds at the QTH are worse than dismal, but since this pack video was relatively short, I was able to upload it ahead of the activation video (it took 1.5 days to upload this 2GB file).

The activation video will be published in another week or so depending on my access to some proper broadband service.

Any other pack geeks out there?

I would love to share photos, descriptions, and/or a video of how and what you pack for field activations.  If you’re interested in submitting a guest post, please do so!

Also, I’d love to hear about your favorite packs and how well they’ve held up with time.

Feel free to comment and thank you once again for hanging out here at QRPer.com!

New stock of Inkits Easy Bitx SSB TCVR Kits

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who shares the following announcement from Sunil Lakhan (VU3SUA):

We have a new stock for easy bitx kits.
This kit is much improved and has no wiring.
The kit is very compact and portable too.

Check out in our store ..
Colors available . Black . Black with white panels . Blue with white panels .
Add a note for preferred color:
https://amateurradiokits.in

Thank you for the tip, Pete!

A review of the Xiegu X5105 QRP “shack-in-a-box” field transceiver

The following review was first published in the August 2021 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine:


Recently, I found myself in an embarrassing situation: I was being interviewed on the Ham Radio YouTube channel Red Summit RF, when someone in the chatroom asked how many HF QRP radios I currently own?

How many…?  It dawned on me suddenly that I didn’t know the answer.

Throughout my life as a radio hobbyist, I’ve owned a number of transceivers, but I’ve never owned so many at once as I do currently. Since I was licensed in 1997, I’ve owned up to two or three transceivers at once.  But things really started changing for me in 2020. And I blame the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our family loves to travel––but during the pandemic, we were essentially grounded. I keenly missed the travel.  So, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I turned my attention to more regional destinations––and often took the family along––by activating local parks through the Parks On The Air (POTA) program and local summits through the Summits On The Air (SOTA) program.

As a result of this activity, I also began reviewing and evaluating more and more QRP transceivers––and, if I liked them (as I all too often do) purchased them following the review period.

Fact is, I thoroughly enjoy trying out radios, putting them through their paces and engaging all their bells and whistles; I enjoy shaking up my field activations by employing different radios with different antennas and accessories on each outing . I also enjoy writing up field reports and including activation videos on my blog, QRPer.com. Altogether, radio activation gives me a great deal of satisfaction, as does encouraging others to give it a go.

Continue reading A review of the Xiegu X5105 QRP “shack-in-a-box” field transceiver

Reminder: Portable Ops Challenge, September 4-5, 2021

If you’d like to participate in a contest that balances the playing field between fixed, high-power stations and QRP portable stations, you might take a look at the 2nd annual Portable Operations Challenge.

The POC will take place September 4-5 during three, 4 hour periods. The exchange is very simple: your 4 character Maidenhead Grid Square. You can even combine this event with a scheduled summit or park activation. 

This contest even includes prizes for the winners.

Check out the POC webpage for full details. I’ve pasted details from the POC page below:


PORTABLE OPS CHALLENGE

The Fox Mike Hotel Portable Operations Challenge is designed to optimize equal operating conditions for portable operating during a contest involving non-portable stations. The scoring allows and encourages regular home-based station operations to take part while offering a handicap-style scoring algorithm to be more equalized for portable stations. The approach is akin to the handicap index in the sport of golf. More difficult courses are scored with a higher slope value, indicating a greater challenge to achieve a normal par score of 72 on that course with a handicap of subtracting strokes for golfers who do not typically shoot as low a score as other golfers. A number of factors go into deriving the slope rating for a golf course but they represent the challenge that the course presents to each participant golfer and the golfer’s capability for playing the course.

The POC aims to make portable operations “on par” with more typical fixed-based operations while preserving the enjoyment of being in a new operating environment. Moreover, fixed-based operators can also easily participate in the action, challenging the handicapped-scoring for portable ops. Can the Super Station contester best the Little Pistol portable operation? If we use a scoring metric that reduces the advantages of fixed stations to that of pure radio sport operating, is there a chance that an efficient portable operator or team can come out ahead of the current winning contest station operators? That’s why this is called the Portable Operations Challenge!

Frank K4FMH

THEORY OF THE CONTEST SCORING FACTORS

Several aspects of fixed (permanent)-station contesting can be stacked in the operator(s) favor when compared to most portable operations. One is the use of greater RF power output. Another is a permanent tower with directional, gain producing beams. A third is that it is easier to have multiple transceivers and operators, allowing for a “per-transmitter production” that yields superior scores. A fourth is the mutual attractiveness for fixed-station ops to work other fixed-station ops and ignore the weaker (especially QRP) signals. The addition of having the full force of Internet communications (when allowed), spotting sources, better ergonomics for operating positions, food/drink conveniences, and climate-controlled shelter all add-up to give “course advantages.”

While some portable operations (an example can be some large Field Day teams) can meet or exceed the advantages to contesting identified above, the vast majority do not.

Our scoring metric equalizes some of these advantages. Four factors are used in scoring each contest operation submission. These are the same regardless of whether it is a single operator or a team of operators, unassisted or assisted through the use of operation spotting. These include:

a. Kilometers-per-watt (KPW). Using the Maidenhead Grid Square, the distance in miles divided by the reported power output in watts for the reporting contest participant.

b. Fixed (permanent) vs Portable operation (favoring portable).

c. Mode of contact: Phone vs. CW vs. Digital (favoring phone over CW over digital)

d. Number of transmitters in use (points X 1/t where t = # transmitters)

The logic underlying this metric is as follows:

The KPW metric will tend to equalize power used as well as antenna gain. The km-per-watt is computed per-contact using the centroid lat-lon of the Maidenhead grid square exchanged during the contact. Favor goes to the greater miles-per-watt which equalizes to some degree the antenna gain, power, and point-to-point propagation conditions. The MPW is the basic contact score. Fixed (permanent) station operators have their resident setup which gives an advantage over portable ops, although a team could replicate a Field Day setting with portable crank-up towers, amps, generators, and so forth. Favor goes to the portable operator. The amount of this multiplier can be adjusted much as a competitive “tuning parameter” in future contests.

All things being equal in a QSO, phone is most challenging, followed by CW and then digital (especially weak signal modes like FT8). Favor goes to phone first, CW second, and digital third.

The more transmitters shape the number of contacts so more transmitters get increasing decrements in the points awarded, regardless of the number of ops. This emphasizes the per-transmitter production rather than just the amount of equipment and number of operators. We are experimenting with what seems appropriate discounts for the number of transmitters in simultaneous so as to render a more equitable competition, favoring sport over equipment.

POC DATES

SEPTEMBER 4-5, 2021
CONTEST OBJECTIVE:
For portable and fixed stations to work as many other portable and fixed stations as possible during the contest
period.

CONTEST PERIOD:
The contest consists of three individual and separate 4-hour periods on September 4 & 5, 2021 UTC.

The sessions are:
Session 1: 0800 – 1159 September 4, 2021 UTC
Session 2: 1600 – 1959 September 4, 2021 UTC
Session 3: 0000 – 0359 September 5, 2021 UTC

Stations may be worked once per band and mode by session for a maximum of 15 contacts between stations per session. Duplicate contacts will be removed without penalty. Scoring will be done by each individual session. Participants may operate one, two or all three sessions. Overall champion will be determined by aggregating scores from the three separate sessions. The Individual with the highest aggregated score will be crowned Grand Champion. The single station with the longest distance in KM per watt will be the Distance Champion.

BANDS:
80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 meters

MODES:
CW, Phone (SSB), and Digital
Digital mode is any data mode that can transmit the required contest exchange. Cross mode contacts are not permitted.

EXCHANGE:
4-character Maidenhead grid square

SCORING:
Total score for the session is the sum of all QSO Values.

See Rules Document for official details.

POTA Field report from Fort Dobbs State Historic Site

It’s funny: when I started my POTA journey in earnest during February 2020, I plotted out all of the state parks in the part of western North Carolina where I travel the most.

At the time, POTA had only a wee fraction of the community it does now and many of the parks and game lands were still ATNOs (All-Time New Ones)–parks that had never been activated. Fort Dobbs was still one, in fact, and I had marked it on my POTA game plan spreadsheet.

My mission back then was to rack up unique-to-me parks as I explored the region; in doing so, I ticked off quite a few ATNOs. It was fun!

I focused on parks a little further afield first. This provided me with a sense of adventure and travel during the first round of Covid-19 lockdowns.

At the end of 2020, I realized I had never activated Ft. Dobbs State Historic site which was, ironically, one of the lowest hanging fruit sites around. It’s only, perhaps, 30 minutes from where I travel each week.

I suppose Fort Dobbs has been “out of sight, out of mind” until I saw a tweet from Andrew (N4LAZ) who activated Dobbs on August 6, 2021. I mistakenly assumed that the only spots to set up on site were around the periphery of the parking lot. This time of year, in the middle of the hot and humid summer? I’m less enthusiastic about open parking lot activations.

Andrew mentioned that the site actually has an excellent covered picnic area where he was allowed to perform his activation.

That’s all I needed to know!

Fort Dobbs State Historic Site (K-6839)

On Tuesday, August 10, 2021, I traveled to Fort Dobbs State Historic Site and quickly found the covered picnic area Andrew had mentioned. It was, indeed,  ideal for POTA!

Continue reading POTA Field report from Fort Dobbs State Historic Site

John seeks advice pairing a mAT-40 ATU with homebrew QRP transceivers

Many thanks to John (G1AWJ) who writes:

Firstly, I must say that I really do enjoy reading the postings on your website!

I wonder if you or any of you colleagues can help me with the connections for the mAT-40 ATU?

It comes with connecting control cables for Yaesu, ICOM, etc but I want to control it manually, remotely, with home built QRP transmitters. I want to make a small control box similar to that with the CG-3000 auto ATU ( the great advantage of the mAT-40 is that it will tune with less than 1 watt input)

Many thanks in anticipation
73
John G1AWJ

Readers, if you have any advice for John, please comment! Unfortunately, I’ve no experience with the mAT-40. Click here to comment!

Pairing the Mission RGO One with the CHA LEFS at Lake Norman State Park

As I mentioned in a previous post, I do love rotating out radios I take to the field. Shuffling radios not only helps me remember a radio’s features and menu system, but it helps me understand any advantages one radio might have over another.

One radio I use at the QTH a lot is the Mission RGO One. I reviewed this radio for The Spectrum Monitor magazine, and later posted the review on The SWLing Post. It has been a few months since I posted a field report and video using this rig yet it’s one readers ask about all the time because this is a small production run radio.

Before heading out to Lake Norman State Park on August 9, 2021, I grabbed the Mission RGO One, the Chameleon CHA LEFS sloper, and my 15Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 battery. I knew this combo would serve me well as propagation that day was in the dumps!

Lake Norman State Park (K-2740)

Lake Norman is such an effortless park to activate. They’ve a huge picnic area, large trees (for both antenna support and shade!), and are typically not incredibly busy during the week. I love Lake Norman because they also have a very nice Lake Shore Trail I enjoy hiking post-activation.

That Monday morning, as I drove to the park, it was approaching lunch time and I did worry that some of my favorite picnic spots might be taken, but when I arrived, I was happy to see I pretty much had the place to myself!

Gear

Setting up the CHA LEFS sloper antenna takes a couple minutes longer than a standard end fed antenna only because the feed point is elevated and the radiator slopes down from the feed point. Since I typically do activations on my own (with no extra hands to help), I find that a little extra antenna prep equates to a quicker overall deployment.

My procedure for deploying the CHA LEFS

The CHA LEFS sloper

First thing I do is identify a good tree limb at least 45′ or so high and also identify an unobstructed path for the sloping radiator to travel.

Prior to hoisting the antenna, I stretch out the radiator and attach it to a tree or support (using the supplied paracord) in the direction I want the slope to follow.

I then use my arborist throw line to snag the desired tree limb and I connect the end of the throw line directly to the CHA LEFS’ feed point. Chameleon provides Paracord for hoisting the antenna, but the great thing about the arborist throw line is that it’s more than strong enough to handle this job. It saves the extra step of pulling paracord through the tree.

Next, I attach a 50′ length of coax (PL-259s on both ends) and stretch the coax out in the opposite direction of the CHA LEFS radiator. Doing this keeps the antenna from spinning and tangling the radiator and coax as it’s hoisted into the tree.

Finally, I simply pull the throw line and raise the antenna feedpoint to the desired height. Again, I like a height of at least 40-45′, but lower will still work. As I raise the antenna, I do put a little tension on the coax feedline just to keep it from swinging around the throw line or radiator.

Of course, if you have two people, one person can simply stretch the coax as you’re raising the antenna feedpoint which will also keep it from tangling.

That’s all!

In truth, the amount of extra time to deploy the CHA LEFS as opposed to, say, an end-fed half wave is maybe three minutes.

I picked the CHA LEFS for this particular activation because it’s resonant on my favorite bands, it’s efficient, and it was so effective the last time I performed an activation during poor/unstable propagation.

I picked the Mission RGO One because it has an amazingly quiet receiver and handles QRN like a champ. Plus, being a tabletop radio, it also sports a proper speaker, large controls, and up to 50 watts of output power if needed.

Although I’m a QRPer, on days with horrible propagation, I have been known to increase the power beyond 5 watts if operating SSB especially. This year, I set out to validate all of my park and summit activations with 5 watts or less, so at least my first ten contacts at a park will be QRP.

Before starting this particular activation, I took a few moments to record a video and answer a reader question.

On the Air

I thought I’d start by calling CQ on the 40 meter band in CW. Within 15 minutes, I snagged the ten contacts needed for a valid POTA activation. I was very pleased with this.

Since I had mobile phone service, I checked the POTA spots and worked AA3K (Park To Park) then moved to the phone portion of the 40 meter band.

During the exchange with AA3K, I did pump the power up to a cloud-scorching 20 watts! A proper rarity for me.

I then worked an additional five contacts in about 8 minutes in SSB. Very satisfying!

QSO Map

Here’s my QSO map of the entire activation. The red polylines represent SSB contact, the green are CW:

I was very pleased with the results especially after reading reports from other activators that same day who really struggled to get their ten.

Video

Of course, I made one of my real-time, real-life, no-edit videos of the entire activation. If you’ve never seen one of my videos before and have a strong dislike of professional, well-polished YouTube channels, you’re in for a treat! 🙂

Click here to view on YouTube.

Lake Shore Trail

Post-activation–and despite the heat and humidity–I hiked the length of the Lake Shore Trail; roughly six miles. I highly recommend this trail if you can fit it into your schedule.

Thank you!

As always, thank you for reading this report and thank you to those who are supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement–my content is always free–I really appreciate the support.

Here’s wishing everyone a little radio fun this week!

Cheers & 73,

Thomas (K4SWL)

New Chameleon Pocket Antenna Series

FYI: I just received this announcement from Chameleon Antennas. They will be sending some samples of these antennas for me to test in the field.

(Source: Chameleon Antenna)

INTRODUCING THE CHA POCKET ANTENNA SERIES – PRE ORDER

The CHA Pocket Series are a series of single and multi-band HF antennas that can literally fit in your pocket when not in use. There are THREE models available: a 40-6 Meter Off- Center Fed Dipole (OCFD), 40 Meter Dipole, and a 20 Meter Dipole.

This series of antennas are designed for ultra-light (all are 7 oz. or less) low power (QRP) portable operation. When running low power, an effective antenna is essential to actually making contacts – these are full-size antennas with full-size performance, but built with lightweight materials and miniaturized components. They were designed to complement the exciting new lineup of lightweight, battery operated, HF portable transceivers.

STARTING TO SHIP AT THE BEGINNING OF SEPTEMBER 2021

Click here to check it out at Chameleon.

Click here for the user guide.

Please note that Chameleon is a sponsor of QRPer.com!

 

How to send a standard POTA CW exchange

Many thanks to Mike (KO4RIT) who writes:

For those of us really, really new CW operators and aspiring QRPers, can you do a video (or a walk n talk) showing several POTA QSO’s in slow motion?

Love your work, thanks.
73
-mike ko4rit

Mike, your timing was impeccable.  I noticed your message on my phone as I was preparing a park activation at Lake Norman State Park on August 9, 2021.

I decided to take a few moments prior to the activation and dissect a “typical” POTA CW exchange on my notepad with the camera rolling.

As I mention in the video, there is no standard or “POTA ordained” exchange, however, once you get into CW you’ll notice that most follow a common formula. POTA, SOTA, and WWFF CW exchanges are, in fact, very formulaic.

I believe in exchanging all of the important details–callsign, signal report and sometimes a state, province, or park number–along with a  little common courtesy. You don’t want to make the exchange too long, but these aren’t contest situations either, so it’s okay to go off script a bit sometimes, too. Just remember that there are (hopefully!) others in-line waiting to work your station when you finish your exchange in progress.

Video

Note that this video is impromptu, unscripted and unedited. I’m sure I missed a few details and it’s perfectly fine, dear readers, to leave other best practices below in the comments section.

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.


Do you enjoy QRPer?

Please consider supporting us via Patreon or our Coffee Fund!
Your support makes articles like this one possible. Thank you!