Category Archives: Accessories

New Penntek TR-35 Field Kit, Canine Welcome Party, & Brilliant 20 Meter POTA Conditions!

There are few things that make me happier than radios and pets.  On Saturday, January 7, 2023, I got copious amounts of both.

On the way back to the QTH, I stopped by Table Rock Fish Hatchery (K-8012) for a nice, leisurely POTA activation.

En route to Table Rock I gave some though to the antenna I might deploy. In the end, I decided I’d once again set up the Chelegance MC-750.

There was no question which radio I’d use: it’d be the brilliant Penntek TR-35 packed-up in its new field kit!

Table Rock Fish Hatchery (K-8012)

Table Rock Fish Hatchery isn’t open on Saturdays, but that really isn’t a problem because the picnic area where I set up shop is open 24/7.

And the best part about Table Rock? The welcoming committee…

These two dogs are so incredibly sweet and always a highlight of activating Table Rock. You may have seen them in my previous field reports and videos. Continue reading New Penntek TR-35 Field Kit, Canine Welcome Party, & Brilliant 20 Meter POTA Conditions!

New Year’s Day POTA: New VK3IL Pressure Paddle, New FT-817/818 Narrow Filter, and New TPA-817 Pack Frame!

I try to start each year by doing a POTA or SOTA activation on New Year’s Day.

POTA actually issues a certificate for completing an activation on New Year’s Day so there are typically loads of activators and hunters working the bands. It’s an ideal time to play radio.

This year, we had a number of family activities on New Year’s Day, but I made a little time to fit in an activation during the late afternoon at my most accessible spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway: the Southern Highland Folk Art Center.

As with my last activation, I suspected I would be operating in the dark, so I brought my LED lantern along for the ride.

Although not intentional, this New Year activation had a lot of new-to-me stuff involved!

New VK3IL Pressure Paddle

The prior evening–on New Year’s Eve–while my wife and daughters were watching a classic movie movie marathon, I used the time to heat up the soldering iron and work through a few kits and projects that had been sitting on my desk.

One of those projects was a Pressure Paddle designed by David (VK3IL).

Michael (G0POT) sent me the Pressure Paddle circuit board and heat shrink via Andy (G7UHN) several months prior. [Thank you so much, fellas!]

To my knowledge, the VK3IL Pressure Paddle isn’t available in complete kit package, but it’s quite easy to source everything yourself.

On his website, David provides the Gerber files you’ll need in order to purchase the circuit boards from your favorite manufacturer (I’m a huge fan of OshPark here in the States).

Next, you simply need to order the components. Here’s the list assuming you’re using DigiKey:

  • Quantity of 2: 732-7579-1-ND (CAP CER 10000PF 10V C0G/NP0 0805)
  • Quantity of 2: BSS806NH6327XTSA1CT-ND (MOSFET N-CH 20V 2.3A SOT23-3)
  • Quantity of 2: 311-470KCRCT-ND (RES 470K OHM 1% 1/8W 0805)
  • Quantity of 2: 1738-SEN0294-ND (RP-C18.3-ST THIN FILM PRESSURE S)
  • Quanity of 1: Three conductor wire with a (typically) 3.5mm plug (note that I had one of these in my junk drawer)

Keep in mind: the components are surface-mount. If you’re not used to working with SMD components (ahem…that would be me) I suggest buying a few spares of each in case you lose or damage one or more during the build.

It also helps to cover the finished board in heat shrink not only to protect the board and make it easier to grip, but most importantly (if you’re me) hide your electrically-sound yet unsightly surface mount soldering job.

The build might have taken me 20 minutes.

New FT-817ND Narrow CW Filter

Some time ago, I purchased a second FT-817ND with the idea of doing full-duplex satellite work. I later realized I could be taking the second FT-817ND out to the field more often if I simply had another narrow CW filter installed, so I built one.

This New Year’s Day activation was actually the first time I’d taken this particular FT-817ND and its new narrow filter out to the field!

New Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame

Earlier this year, I also decided that I wanted to outfit my 2nd Yaesu FT-817ND with an Armoloq TPA-817 pack frame. The idea was to experiment with building a rapid-deployment field kit around it.

This is actually one of the big projects I’m working on in 2023. I’ve yet to sort out the antenna mount I’d like to use with this frame based on how I plan to deploy it. Continue reading New Year’s Day POTA: New VK3IL Pressure Paddle, New FT-817/818 Narrow Filter, and New TPA-817 Pack Frame!

Jim’s Elecraft KX2 leg mount

Many thanks to Jim (WU3K) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

I recently came up with a new way (for me) to hold the KX2 when I am out in the field.

The set-up utilizes the Side KX KX2 mount and the RAM Body Mount for Legs.

This set up does a pretty good job for me.

73,

Jim
WU3K

This is absolutely genius, Jim! Besides the leg mount looking like a excellent solution, the Side KX mount could then be used for other mounting locations either at home or mobile!

Thank you for sharing!

Rich’s easy-to-build and incredibly affordable Field Clip Board V 1.0

Many thanks to Rich (KQ9L) who writes:

Hello Thomas,

I’ve attached couple pictures of V1.0 of my field clip board. I’ve been searching for the perfect clipboard to use in the field. The main requirements of the design include: lightweight, low cost and the flexibility to allow a comfortable operating position while securely holding a radio.

What I came up with is a based on an inexpensive fiber board clip board:

I chose to set it up somewhat unconventionally and designed it to use the clipboard “upside down”.  Setting it up this way provided ample space at the top to mount the radio while still providing room to attach a metal pad mounting point for paddles.

The radio is held securely in place with craft 3mm elastic bands. The bands were made with metal “toggles” so I can easily add more holes to the clipboard to accommodate varying rigs.

The metal pad is just a stick-on metal plate purchased from Amazon. I plan to add a leg strap in the future and will do so once I’m sure no other major modifications need to me made.

I’m pretty happy with the way the clipboard came out and would appreciate any comments or suggestions!

Rich
KQ9L

This is brilliant, Rich! I love both how affordable this board is and how easy it is to build. Having the clip at the bottom of the board is a fantastic way to secure your logging notebook as well. 

Thank you for sharing!

Charles’ simple solution to protect the MC-750 ground spike tip

Many thanks to Charles (KW6G) who writes:

Thomas:

I purchased an MC-750 from DXE last week…It arrived Monday….Great antenna; very nice workmanship….I have not yet deployed it, but that will be in the near future….

After reading your emails/posts and viewing the videos, I got to thinking…The real oversight in this antenna design is the fact that the manufacturer has provided no protection for the tip of the ground spike….I can see where it would not be long until it worked its way through one of the ends of the carrying pouch…

So with this in mind, I went off to the hardware store where I found a 3/8″ ID X 1 inch long nylon spacer which fit over the end of the spike perfectly — problem solved for all of 58 cents…

Here are a couple photos:

73’s de Charles, KW6G

What a great, affordable solution! Thank you for sharing this, Charles!

25% Off: Spec-Ops Brand Backpack Sale This Weekend

If you’ve been watching my videos and reading my field reports, you’ll no doubt have noticed that my favorite field radio backpack for SOTA and POTA is the Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC.

This pack is made in the USA and is insanely rugged. Click here to see more details about this pack and click here to see how I kit out this pack for field radio use. This pack (and this T.H.E. pack series in general) even has antenna ports built in!

I just received a promotional flyer from Spec-Ops and this weekend they are offering a 25% discount on all of their backpacks plus free shipping on orders over $200.

This is an insanely good deal. This means you can buy the EDC pack like I have for $134.96 instead of $179.95.

You must use the coupon code BESTPACK at checkout to claim the discount.

If I didn’t already have their full size T.H.E. pack, I would buy one in this sale. Tempted to buy one of their Reckon Rucks!

Spec-Ops Brand hasn’t had a sale like this in years. If you’ve been considering one, now would be the time to bit the bullet.

Click here to check out Spec-Ops Backpacks.

A Few Field Radio Gift Ideas for Less Than $100!

I received an email from a reader’s spouse asking about gift ideas for the holidays and beyond; ideas that could not only be used this month, but also tucked away for the future. They weren’t looking for the obvious things like a transceiver–they were looking for accessories that might enhance their significant others’ field radio fun.

Being the enabler I am, I was happy to oblige and, in fact, decided to turn my reply into a post (since it quickly turned into a very long email) with their permission. For obvious reasons, I’m keeping their ID secret! 🙂

Here’s a rather random sampling of things that came to mind. I tried to limit this to items that retail for less than $100 US. Note that some of these product links are affiliate links:

A quality LiFePO4 battery

Being a QRPer, I don’t need a large battery to enjoy hours of radio fun per charge. My favorite battery chemistry is LiFePO4 due to its weight, safety, shelf life, and recharge cycles (which is in the thousands as opposed to hundreds).

For me, a 3Ah battery is more than enough capacity to keep my QRP radios on the air for 3-5 activations per charge (depending on length of activation, etc.).

I’m a big fan of Bioenno batteries. Their customer support is excellent. You can purchase their 3Ah 12V battery for $64.99 US including the charger. If you already have a charger, the battery alone is $49.99. Click here to check it out.

If your significant other likes to push 100 watts, consider a larger capacity battery. I also have a 15Ah Bioenno battery for this purpose, though it exceeds the $100 gift price threshold). Click here to check it out.

A very affordable Li-Ion rechargeable battery


One of the most affordable rechargeable battery packs for the QRPer in your life is the TalentCell Rechargeable 12V 3000mAh Battery Pack. This pack typically costs around $30 US and is sometimes even less expensive.

This little pack is great because it will not only output 5V to recharge USB devices, but it also outputs 12 volts which is brilliant for QRP radios like the Elecraft KX series, TX-500, FT-817/818, Mountain Toppers, Penntek TR-35,  Venus SW-3B, and many others. I actually now pair this with my QCX-Mini. The battery comes with the charger and standard barrel connectors on the included DC cord which fits Elecraft and Penntek field radios among others.

This is a small battery, so can only be paired with efficient QRP radios.

While I don’t consider this a high-quality solution like a Bioenno battery, it is insanely useful and affordable. Click here to check it out.

Morse Code Keys!

I could easily write a series of articles about Morse Code keys. That’s not what you’re looking for, though, right? You want some quick suggestions. Here is a sampling of some of my sub $100 favorites listed in alphabetical order.

If your budget is flexible, you might also consider these paddles which are still less than $200:

Okay, so if you don’t mind pushing more than $200, I highly recommend any key made by the amazing Begali family. Their Simplex paddle was my first set of paddles and I still use them today. I plan to buy their Traveler next year. They’ve a massive selection of models and styles. Continue reading A Few Field Radio Gift Ideas for Less Than $100!

N0SA SP4 Mini Morse Magnetic Paddles Review

You might recall my previous announcement about the new  N0SA SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle from CW Morse.

The first production run of these paddles sold out very quickly, but I just received the following message from CW Morse about the new paddles:

We’ve finally gotten caught up and will be shipping out Monday & Tuesday [Nov 21/22]! Also have a few more in stock. Making another batch as well.

CW Morse sent me a set of these paddles to evaluate at no charge to me (keep in mind, they’re both a sponsor and affiliate of QRPer.com) and I got a chance to use them Thursday afternoon.

In short?

I love these paddles!

In fact, I think these may become my preferred compact paddles.

I like the size of the finger pieces/pads.  They’re large for such a tiny paddle, which I believe gives them a solid feel while keying. I prefer a larger contact surface area as opposed to thin finger pieces.

The response is very precise, too, and the action can be adjusted by a supplied Allen wrench.

I agree with a few readers who’ve already received their paddles and noted that the carbon fiber reinforced PETG material make the key grippy and very easy to hold.

The size and design is very similar to the SOTA paddle N0SA sold out of last year in a matter of a few hours.

Bonus POTA Activation!

Thursday afternoon, my daughters attended a two hour meeting not even a stone’s throw from the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had *just* taken delivery of the new N0SA paddles, so grabbed the shipping box from CW Morse, my new-to-me Elecraft K2/10 (more on that later!), and my PackTenna Random Wire antenna.

I only discovered that my daughters’ meeting was so close to the parkway about 10 minutes before leaving the QTH. This was one of those bonus activations that deserved a little happy dance, especially since I could spend a good 1.5 hours on the air–a proper luxury for this busy father!

I’ll post a full field report and activation video in a couple of weeks, but in a nutshell, 30 meters was on fire. I’d planned to work 20, 30, and 40 meters (to test the K2’s internal ATU) but 30M was so dang busy, I never had time to QSY.

I had not put the K2/10 on the air yet, so all of the settings were default and it had been a few years since I used a K2, so had to re-familiarize myself with the settings. Thirty meters was so consistently busy, I didn’t have a breather to tinker with the settings.

The new N0SA SP4 paddles worked flawlessly.

I expected nothing less from an N0SA design, but still–the feel and action is superb.

I think this paddle may become the new benchmark for where price and quality meet.

I feel like CW Morse could be charging  $112.95 instead of $82.95 for these and I would still be very pleased with that price. I’m glad they’re not, though, because sub-$100 pricing does give new CW ops an affordable quality mini paddle option.

Based on so many reader recommendations, I purchased a BaMaKeY TP-III paddle recently. It’s also a wonderful paddle, but cost me 157.25 Euro which is nearly twice the price of the SP4 paddles. While I think the TP-III paddles are brilliant (and I’ll soon post a review) I actually prefer the N0SA SP4 paddles (note that this is my own personal preference–both are amazing keys). I prefer the SP4’s larger finger pieces.

Size comparison: CW Morse CNC Machined Aluminum Paddles (left) N0SA SP4 Paddles (right)

The great thing about CW Morse is that they have the capacity to handle customer demand of the SP4 paddles–this is something N0SA couldn’t do as a one-man show. I think CW Morse also has economies of scale working in their favor and, no doubt, this is how they continue to be the market leader in terms of quality for price.

If you’ve been looking for quality mini paddles for your compact field kit or shack, look no further. These are a no-brainer. You’ll love them.

Click here to check out the new N0SA SP4 SOTA/POTA paddles at CW Morse.

Sam sources a larger tuning knob option for the Penntek TR-35

Many thanks to Sam Duwe (WN5C) who writes:

John (AE5X) had suggested a while back finding a larger tuning knob for the Penntek TR-35.

I was striking out in finding one that fit but had to put in a Mouser order and thought I’d give this knob a shot (Mouser # 706-11K5013-KFNB) and I really like it!

I accidentally bought the gray version and had to paint it black. It’s shiny because of the clear coat and rough because of sanding and because I’m apparently awful at painting, but I find that it fits with the plastic bezel of the radio.

With the optical encoder it really glides, and totally changes the feel of the radio. Pretty good deal for $2.36.

Thank you for the tip, Sam!

How Joe keeps his Icom IC-705 cool during long FT8 sessions

Many thanks to Joe (KD2QBK) who writes:

Hi Thomas:

I’ve recently discovered QRP FT8, which I’ve been working with my Icom IC-705. I run with an end-fed sloper that runs out of my 2nd floor shack window using a 49:1 unun and a length of RG-58. I’m also using an Emtech ZM-2 tuner between the antenna and the radio when needed.

The set up works really nicely, except for the way FT8 heats up and overtaxes the radio after a while. Searching around a bit, I’ve found just the right solution for that issue. The AC Infinity MULTIFAN S1 USB-powered table fan.

https://amzn.to/3DvqemJ (affiliate link)

It’s basically just a 3-inch square fan like you’d find in a computer or some other electronic devices, with rubber “feet” attached. It can stand upright or lay flat depending on your need. it’s stated purpose is to cool or ventilate routers, game consoles, audio equipment, etc.

The AC Infinity MULTIFAN S1 includes a speed control switch and an inline USB socket to daisy-chain other devices. One caveat with the inline socket: because it’s placed in the line between the fan and the speed control switch, the switch must be set to high speed else the socket won’t have adequate power for the attached device.

All I do is plug the fan into a USB socket and place it at the rear of the radio, sans battery, to keep it cool. I have it set up to blow onto the radio. Obviously I need to power the radio with an external source when the battery isn’t attached. I’ve not tried to use the fan with the battery attached, but I don’t think it would help much. The ventilation slots next to the battery compartment don’t seem wide enough to let much air in. Continue reading How Joe keeps his Icom IC-705 cool during long FT8 sessions