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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
N6ARA TinyPaddles ($24.95): I believe every CW field operator should carry a set of N6ARA’s TinyPaddles. They were originally designed to be backup paddles, but I know many ops that use them as their primary set in the field!
If your budget is flexible, you might also consider these paddles which are still less than $200:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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→
Thank you for sharing this, Don! That’s a clever use for that book lamp. I’ve often thought that all field radios ought to have a logging lamp on them like the KX1. This is a nice and inexpensive workaround!
When I got back to the States, I was eager to do a POTA activations with my other radios–many of you know I like to rotate them–but there was one, in particular, I was eager to put back on the air…
The Mountain Topper MTR-4B.
This MTR-4B V2 is on loan to me from a very generous reader/subscriber. In fact, get this: he ordered the MTR-4B early this year and had it drop-shipped to me directly from LnR Precision. He knew I’d be in Canada for the summer, so has been incredibly flexible with the loan period (basically leaving it open ended).
My review of the MTR-4B will be published in the November or December (2022) issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine. Then I’ll be sending the MTR-4B to its rightful owner!
In the meantime, I built an ultra- compact field radio kit around the MTR-4B and in my Tom Bihn HLT2 EDC pouch.
It contains the radio, a battery, an antenna (although I used a different one during this activation), fused power cord, paddles, earphones, RF choke, RG-316, logbook, pencil, and even a full throw line and weight. I’ve listed all of the components with links below.
It’s hard to believe it all fits in such a compact kit and it works so well. It’s nice to know that with the kit it in my backpack, I’ve got everything I need to play SOTA or POTA at the drop of a hat.
South Mountains State Park (K-2753)
On August 8, 2022, I drove to my hometown to check in on my parents. I didn’t have a lot of time, but I wanted to fit in a quick activation with the MTR-4B along the way.
One of the easiest parks for me to hit en route is the South Mountains State Park Clear Creek Access–it’s maybe a 10-15 minute detour off of Interstate 40.
The weather was amazing that day, although I’ll admit I had to get used to the heat and humidity after spending so much time in Canada this summer!
This access point of South Mountains only has one picnic table. I’m always prepared with a folding chair if that table is occupied, but so far it’s always been available. I’m sure the reason is because this particular South Mountains access point is way less popular than the main entrances. Most of the visitors here come to fish at the reservoir.
The great thing about having your whole station in a pouch is that setup is quick and easy.