Category Archives: Antennas

Gordon’s Simple AM-801 Alligator Clip Mod

Many thanks to Gordon (KF5JWL) who writes:

Tom,

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and finally tried it.

I attached an alligator clip to the AM-801 [window antenna mount] so it could be used to connect a counterpoise. Turns out alligator clips (at least the Mueller version I had lying around) have a toothy clip part at one end and a banana jack or socket at the other end. I didn’t want to go down the Google rabbit hole to find out if this is standard on all alligator clips. The clip also has a 6-32 threaded hole between the two ends so I drilled a clearance hole (using a #28 drill) in the AM-801 near the edge and attached the clip with a stubby 6-32 screw.

My trusty automatic center punch apparently failed to make a significant impression in the AM-801 so my drill bit wandered somewhat and the resulting hole was not exactly where I wanted it but I was still able to connect the alligator clip.

73,

Gordon KF5JWL

Thanks, Gordon! That’s a clever addition to the AM-801. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Testing the Tufteln AX1 Support: Late-Shift POTA with Vlado in Pisgah National Forest

On Tuesday, February 13, 2024, one of my daughters had a dress rehearsal for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The venue where the cast meets is a good 45 minutes from my QTH, and if I didn’t have POTA fever, I’d have to find something to do to burn four hours of time.

Since I do have POTA fever, I see these windows of waiting around as an opportunity!

An opportunity to spread the POTA fever, even.

On that particular Tuesday night, my dear friend Vlado (N3CZ) didn’t have any plans, so I invited him to join me on a short, late-shift activation. The idea was that he’d perform an activation, then we’d go grab dinner at a restaurant in Mills River.

Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Game Land (K-6937)

Quick note about park numbers: As of the time of publishing this article, we’re still using the “K” prefix for US parks. Tomorrow (March 20, 2024), all US park prefixes will change to “US.” Pisgah National Forest, for example, will be US-4510 starting tomorrow. Today, it’s still (barely!) K-4510, so that’s what we’ll use.

We drove to the Sycamore Flats Picnic Area where I performed a number of late-shift activations in February. What I love about the site is that it’s rarely busy (especially at dusk and into the evening), there are numerous spots to set up, and it’s pretty convenient to the Shakespeare venue.

Tufteln AX1 Antenna Stand

I’d mentioned to Vlado in advance that I was going to test “a new antenna support system.” I think he might have assumed I was packing a large tripod with a 1/4 vertical or something similar, so it was fun to pull out the AX1 and  Tufteln AX1 Antenna Stand!

Vlado, like me, loves compact radio gear, and I knew he’d never used the Elecraft AX1 before, so I was looking forward to showing him just how capable of an antenna it is for POTA, even on 40 meters.

That day, it had been pretty gusty, and in the evening hours, while a little calmer, it was still a tad windy. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to pair the AX1 with Joshua’s AX1 stand because it’s much more stable than the AX1 bipod in windy conditions.

Source: Tufteln.com

The stand consists of two parts: a base and an antenna sleeve. The sleeve screws into the base, and the AX1 simply slides into the sleeve. The height is perfect for the KX2’s BNC (indeed, it works with a number of radios). The stand will also accommodate the AXE 40M coil.

Source: Tufteln.com

When attached to the KX2, it makes for a very stable base. You can even use it as a stand-alone antenna support for the AX1.

Joshua has had this stand in his Tufteln product line for over a year, but I don’t think I’ve actually used it during an activation that I’ve also filmed.

New Mics!

Speaking of filming, this activation with Vlado gave me an opportunity to test my new DJI wireless mics. The system comes with two mics so both Vlado and I used them.

I filmed the activation, but in truth, was doing this more or less to test the mic audio. I believe I mentioned early on that this video might not ever be published.

In the end, I decided to publish it–the audio was quite good, and the wireless mics cut down on the wind noise dramatically.

Gear:

Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

N3CZ: On The Air

My goal was to get Vlado on the air and give him a taste of POTA using the AX1 and 40M coil. I hadn’t planned to activate–since we were grabbing dinner afterward–but I did end up activating after the UTC day changed.

Without realizing it, I actually put a lot of pressure on Vlado.

He started his activation at 18:42 local (23:42 UTC). That meant, in order to log a valid POTA activation on February 13, he needed to log at least ten contacts in 18 minutes (using the AX1!).

Keep in mind that Vlado is a contester and DXer (also, very much a QRPer!). He’s used to operating CW at insane speeds when needed. In fact, he’s always one of the top people (if not the top) in the CW speed test at the W4DXCC contesting and DX conference.

I suggested he operate around 20 words per minute.

He started calling CQ POTA, and the first few contacts came in pretty slowly. I was getting nervous that I might have unintentionally made Vlado’s first POTA activation one that wouldn’t be valid.

Then the pace started picking up. (Whew!)

He ended up logging a total of 10 contacts in 12 minutes! Woo hoo!

Here’s his QSO Map, showing what the AX1 pushing 5 watts for twelve minutes can do:

Next, we decided that I would, indeed, perform a quick activation.

I spotted myself on the POTA site and started to call CQ, then it hit me: it was 23:58 UTC. If I worked one contact in that two minutes, it would be considered an activation on February 13 of only one contact.

Instead, we waited for a little over a minute for the UTC day to change!

I ended up working a total of 24 contacts in 21 minutes. Woo hoo!

Here’s my QSO Map:

And here are our logs:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

What fun!

I always enjoy hitting the field with Vlado.

Since this quick little activation, he’s been out there hitting POTA sites regularly.

He hasn’t seen the doctor yet, but I’m positive he caught POTA fever. It’s incredibly contagious.

Also, the Tufteln AX1 stand worked perfectly in the wind. I’m going to keep this tucked away in my pack alongside my second AX1 to pair with a wide variety of radios.

Thank you!

Thank you for joining me during this activation!
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them!

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 not a requirement, as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo makes it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me!
Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

Let’s Give it a Go: Pairing the Elecraft AX1 and Emtech ZM-2 Manual ATU

Last month, I received a comment and question from Gordon (KO4AYC) here on QRPer.com:

“I am curious if anyone has used the AX1 with the AXE1 40 meter extender and tuned this antenna for 40 meters using the Emtech ZM-2 tuner?”

For the life of me, I couldn’t remember if I’d tried this combo before.

The ZM-2 ATU is a simple manual antenna tuner that you can purchase either as a fun-to-build kit or fully assembled and tested.

I’ve owned my ZM-2 for many years, and I believe every QRP field operator should have one. They do a brilliant job of matching random wire antennas and taking your resonant antenna to a non-resonant band. Being a manual ATU, they require no power source. If you’d like to read a quick tutorial on tuning the ZM-2, read this previous post.

I figured the easiest way to answer Gordon’s question was to give it a go!

The AX1 does require a counterpoise, so before hitting the field, I did check to make sure there was continuity between the shield of the ZM-2’s BNC connector and the black binding post when the ZM-2 was switched to “GND” for coax antennas. Fortunately, there was! I loved this idea because it meant that no matter the radio, I knew I’d have an easy connection to ground for the AX1 counterpoise.

Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)

On Wednesday, February 21, 2024, I grabbed the ZM-2, AX1, and AXE 40M coil (since Gordon specifically asked about 40M) along with my Yaesu FT-818ND. It was time to see just how effectively the ZM-2 might match the AX1.

I store my AX1 in this Maxpedition pouch (see link in gear section below).

Upon arrival, I began setting up the station.

Even though it was approaching 2:00 PM locally, I wanted to see if the ZM-2 would match the AX1 (with AXE coil) on 40 meters first. I didn’t expect a lot of activity on that band so early in the afternoon, but I figured I could hopefully work a couple of stations.

I attached the AX1 directly to the ZM-2 antenna port and deployed the whip and 40M counterpoise.

It was a bit gusty, and I quickly realized that the AX1 might topple over in the wind. To secure the antenna, I used the handle of my GR1 backpack. It was a semi-effective arrangement (actually, the handle sort of pulled the antenna toward the pack, which wasn’t ideal either–I eventually removed it).

In calm conditions, I wouldn’t worry about the antenna toppling over; the ZM-2 provides enough of a base that it’s stable. In the wind, though, you’ll definitely need to secure the ZM-2/AX1 combo to keep it from being blown over.

My plan was to start on 40 meters, then also hit 30, 20, and 17 meters. This would give me an opportunity to see if the ZM-2 could match the AX1 on multiple bands.

Side note: I can’t remember if I mentioned this in a previous field report, but one sad bit of news for me is that there’s a new source of QRM at the Folk Art Center. It’s likely coming from the VA medical complex next door, but it raised the noise floor to at least S5 on most bands. This will make it more difficult for me to work weak signals from this particular POTA site.

Then again? My buddy Alan (W2AEW) recently pointed out to me that compromised antennas like the AX1 don’t feel the effects of local QRM as a higher-gain antenna would. I’d been thinking the same thing.

Gear:

Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

On The Air

I hopped on the air and started calling CQ POTA on the 40-meter band. I worked one station quickly (thanks, W5GDW) and then silence. I didn’t expect 40 meters to be active this time of day, but I didn’t think it would be completely dead either.

I checked the POTA spots page and discovered that the connection to the Reverse Beacon Network was down. Even though I scheduled the activation, the system hadn’t spotted me.

Once spotted, I worked three more stations in quick succession.

I didn’t hang around on 40 meters. Continue reading Let’s Give it a Go: Pairing the Elecraft AX1 and Emtech ZM-2 Manual ATU

POTA by Lantern Light: One Activation in Two Days with Two Antennas!

On Friday, February 9, 2024, I had an opportunity to do an extended Late-Shift POTA activation in Pisgah National Forest. I couldn’t pass that up!

Once again, one of my daughters had a casting call and a Shakespeare performance that opened up an activation window from about 17:00 – 20:00 local (22:00 UTC – 01:00 UTC).

If you’ve followed my POTA activities for a while, you’ll note that multi-hour activation windows are very much a rarity. More often than not, I’m squeezing activations into 30-60 minute windows of time as I go about my work and family duties.

Pisgah National Forest and Game Lands

The closest POTA site, once again, was Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Pisgah Game Lands (K-6937). There are so many sites to choose from within Pisgah; it’s always a difficult decision in terms of picking a location.

In this case, I decided to stay a little closer to mobile phone service just in case my family needed to reach me during that time. I chose the Sycamore Flats picnic area and was happy to see that the picnic shelter was available.

I thought it might be fun to set up two antennas since I had so much time. For the first part of the activation, on 20 meters, I would deploy the Chameleon MPAS Lite vertical.

For the second part (the following UTC day), I would deploy my MM0OPX 40-meter end-fed half-wave as I knew 40 meters would be much more active after sunset.

EFHW Deployment

Since sunset was approaching, I deployed my MM0OPX EFHW first because it’s much easier to deploy a wire antenna in a tree when it’s still light outside.

Side note: I mention in the activation video that a good headlamp (like my Fenix) makes working in the dark quite easy. I’ve deployed wire antennas after sunset with headlamps before–it’s quite doable–but I still prefer using a throw line when there’s still sunlight. It’s just easier (for me, at least) to judge distance.

I deployed the EFHW in a tree and in the brush between two pathways. While it would have been easier to deploy it on a path, I always try to deploy my wire antennas in a way that hikers and other park guests wouldn’t easily walk into them–especially at dusk when even high-visibility line colors are difficult to see.

Chameleon Carbon Fiber Tripod

The second antenna deployment was my Chameleon MPAS Lite vertical, and this activation gave me an excuse to test the new Chameleon carbon fiber portable tripod.

In January, Chameleon sent me a box with a few of their smaller accessories/promotional items. I plan to give away everything, save the tripod, in an upcoming QRPer giveaway.

I’ve been eager to test the tripod because it’s lighter and easier to transport (in my SOTA pack) than the stainless spike that comes with the MPAS Lite antenna system. This tripod will also come in handy when operating at parks that don’t allow stakes in the ground. Continue reading POTA by Lantern Light: One Activation in Two Days with Two Antennas!

SSB Style: Mark pairs the Elecraft KX3 and AX1 for some challenging activations

Many thanks to by Mark (W2ITG) who shares the following field report:


Elecraft KX3/AX1 Field Report

by Mark (W2ITG)

I’m an avid POTA activator and wanted to try an experiment to see if I could complete an activation using just the Elecraft KX3 & AX1 on 40 & 20m SSB. I’ve seen others do it on CW but not on SSB. My CW learning is not going well by the way.

This was at K-1635 Washington Rock State Park 02-07-2024, with a beautiful view of the NYC skyline approximately 20 miles away.

My 1st attempt was a failure because I ran into SWR issues on 20m when I picked up the microphone & RF was getting into the audio as well. This was with the antenna mounted directly on the side of the radio using a 90 degree elbow connector, the AX1B bipod & an elevated radial connected to one of the case screws of the radio, unfortunately it didn’t work.

It’s a good thing I had brought along my Tuftln EFHW and telescopic carbon fiber fishing pole as well because it saved the day which allowed me to complete the activation. When activating make sure to have a backup plan, so far I have no incomplete activations.

Fast forward to 02-27-2024 I’m making another attempt but using a clamp mount, clamped on to the side of the picnic table, 25’ of ABR Industries RG-316 with built in CMC choke, the Elecraft AXT1 tripod adapter, and an elevated counterpoise.

I was much more successful, but barely. I did get my 10 contacts, 7 on 40m and 3 on 20m. This really took me by surprise as the AX1 is more of a compromise on 40 than it is on 20m.

Radio set up at a different picnic table.
This clamp mount was taken from one of my BuddiStick setups.
Notice the electric fence post in the background to elevate the counterpoise.
The QSO map, it took me an hour and a half to get these 10 contacts.

Using the AX1 was quite the challenge to say the least. It does prove that even with a very limited antenna you can make contacts. My guess as to why it didn’t work as well on 20m, is poor band conditions. Living in the very populated northeast is what I believe allowed me to make more contacts on 40m.

Would I recommend buying this antenna? Most definitely, just as long as you know what it’s limitations are. I will try another attempt, but by trying 2 elevated counterpoise wires instead of 1. This antenna can use all the help it can get.

QRP & Coffee: Late-Shift POTA using the new Chelegance MC-750 80 Meter Coil!

I mentioned in a previous post that Jesse at Chelegance had sent me some antenna goodies to evaluate. One of them was the MC-599 portable dipole antenna which you might have read about in my previous field report.

Another item he sent, which I was equally excited about, was an 80-meter coil for my beloved MC-750 vertical antenna.

In the spirit of full transparency: he sent this at no cost to me, and, as a reminder, Chelegance is also an affiliate of QRPer.com.

I’ve been eager to take the 80-meter coil on a POTA activation because 1.) if it proved effective, it would be great to have such a low-impact, low-profile antenna for 80 meters, but 2.) it’s been very difficult to fit in an evening POTA activation with my family life.

It would have been difficult to gauge how effective an 80M antenna performs in the late morning or early afternoon when I typically activate local parks/summits.

On Wednesday, February 6, 2024, a two-hour window of opportunity opened. One of my daughters had a dress rehearsal that night, and I knew of a nice, quiet, secluded POTA spot only 25 minutes away.

Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Game Land (K-6937)

My original plan was to arrive at the Looking Glass Falls’ picnic area, deploy the antenna, fire up the stove, make some coffee, eat on-site, then begin my activation after the start of the UTC day.

So why wait for the new UTC day?

Mainly because once you hit the new UTC day, it counts as a new activation. That really works in your favor as an activator if your goal is to complete a valid activation (with ten contacts) and you’ve enough time to do that before the UTC rollover. If you time it all correctly, you could activate double the parks with a minimum of 20 contacts (split 10/10). In my case, that would mean a total of four parks activated in one evening (since this was a two-fer).

I decided fitting in an activation prior to the UTC rollover simply wasn’t worth the rush.

Once I arrived on-site, however, I was already changing my mind.

I started my activation video, deployed the MC-750, and looked at my watch. I had roughly 15 minutes before the UTC rollover.

It would be tight, but I decided to give it a go and try logging ten contacts before 18:59:59 local (or 23:59:59 UTC).

If I couldn’t log ten before the UTC day, who cares!? It would be a fun challenge for sure, but I wasn’t going to cry if I couldn’t gather enough contacts for a valid activation.

There was another factor, too: operating 80 meters with a 17′ loaded vertical isn’t exactly “efficient.” My theory, though? It doesn’t need to be efficient. It’s crazy portable, convenient, and as a POTA activator, I only need enough performance to get the job done.

Time to hit the air!

Radio Gear:

Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

Coffee Gear:

Photo from the Fall of ’23.

On The Air

I’d scheduled my activation on the POTA website, so was relying on it to spot me via the Reverse Beacon Network.

I started calling CQ POTA and the contacts started rolling in… very… slowly.

Well, it felt slow because I had a goal of ten contacts in fifteen minutes. Continue reading QRP & Coffee: Late-Shift POTA using the new Chelegance MC-750 80 Meter Coil!

Filling in the Gap at Skidaway Island

The Sunday of President’s Day weekend, I was supposed to camp overnight at Reed Bingham State Park and pursue two more activations for my 2024 goal of 60 new-to-me parks. However,  the Wednesday evening prior, I sustained an injury to my right hand which happens to be my sending hand. The injury was serious enough that I rescheduled that trip for June and, for my bi-weekly QSO with my code buddy Caryn KD2GUT, I sent on the paddle with my left-hand which turned out better than I expected.

Since I did not go out of town as planned, my son Sean attended his bi-monthly Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) meeting Sunday afternoon. Another code buddy, Gary K4IIG, suggested that while I waited for Sean, I should consider activating. The weather was unpleasantly chilly and overcast so I opted against an activation but did want to try out my new antenna, the Chelegance MC-750. I knew I needed another vertical for my POTA kit and it came highly recommended by several other hams.

Not welcoming weather!

After dropping off Sean, I headed to Skidaway Island, a 30-minute drive. Seven hundred acres of the north end of the island belong to the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, part of the University of Georgia. The site is for salt marsh research and houses the administrative offices for Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. The land is open to the public for daytime hiking and wildlife viewing. In fact, Daisy and I have walked there on several occasions. The habitat is typical coastal maritime forest with live oaks, Spanish moss, and palmettos along with some more open areas populated by pine trees.

Daisy and I chose the open field outside the institute at which to park and set up the new antenna. We were not the only ones using the field that afternoon despite the weather. While there, several other dog owners showed up to let their pups run and play in the field.

I read the simple three-page instructional PDF from Chelegance’s website and thought I had a good idea of how to set up the MC-750. However, I had not read any instructions about using it with the tripod accessory. I knew the bottom spike needed to be removed but couldn’t get it out with my bare hands. This is why I carry a Wave+ Leatherman [QRPer affiliate link] with me! I rarely use it but when I need it, I REALLY need it. Soon the spike was off and I was ready to set up the antenna.

True to what I heard, the Chelegance vertical is easy to set up. You screw together a few sections, plug in the four radials at the bottom, select your band and extend the whip to the location marked on it, then screw the whip on. Viola! Yes, it was that easy!

Usually my son’s D&D sessions last 3.5-4 hours so I figured I would log onto the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) sked page and see if I could scare up some QSOs as I work toward the rank of Senator. Yes, even POTA Babes do non-POTA things. For me, my non-POTA CW activities are code buddy and SKCC-related QSOs.

SKCC is a wonderful organization of more than 28,000 ops from all over the world. To pursue their awards and ranks, one has to use a mechanical (straight, cootie, or bug) key though anyone can participate in their sprints or other events to join in the fun (just send “none” for the SKCC number if using a paddle). It is because of them that I learned to use a straight key and cootie (my favorite key) and am now learning to use a bug.

I decided to start with 20 meters and moved the whip to the 14 MHz mark.  Then I remembered my code buddy Caryn KD2GUT mentioning something about a contest going on this weekend. I set up my laptop and checked the Reverse Beacon Network online graph by HA8TKS. WHOA! That band was chock full of signals. As I was using my KX2 and was therefore QRP,  I knew there was no point calling CQ on that band.

Source: https://dxcluster.ha8tks.hu/V2/rbn_ct1boh/

What about 17 meters? Checking that band yielded much better results. Now to log into the SKCC sked page.

Source: https://dxcluster.ha8tks.hu/V2/rbn_ct1boh/

The SKCC sked page is a wonderful resource. You can private message ops for a QSO or just to say hi! If calling CQ, you can post your frequency and on what you are working. I claimed 18.088 and noted I was working toward Senator, using QRP and slower ops were welcome. (I like to slow down for newer ops or those who are in an ambling frame of mind as many other ops slowed down for me when I entered the hobby.)

I spent about 10 minutes calling CQ and queried on the general section of the sked page if anyone was hearing me as I had a new antenna. That is when Jim N0IPA from Colorado answered my call. Jim, like me, is learning to use the bug. I suspect he is working on the Triple Key Award, too. To achieve this award, an op has to have 100 unique SKCC-member QSOs each with a straight key, cootie, and bug. I happened to be Jim’s first bug QSO! The standard SKCC exchange is RST, QTH, name, and SKCC number and it wasn’t long before we had each other in our log.

About ten minutes later, Jacob N3VH answered my call. He is located in New Jersey and said by the end of our QSO, my RST was a 559. Both Jacob’s and Jim’s QSOs counted toward my Senator progress putting me at 48 out 200 QSOs left to earn my toga!

Unfortunately, my son’s D&D session ended earlier than expected which meant it was time for this POTA Babe to call QRT.  The short time was well worth it as I now felt more comfortable with the new antenna and was 2 QSOs closer to earning the rank of Senator with SKCC. Plus, I got on the air with QRP for a non-POTA exchange which is unusual for me. I also have a place I can visit (if the weather cooperates) two weeks from now for more non-POTA QRP work. The fun with ham radio never stops, does it?!

And for those of you wondering how my progress with my 2024 POTA goal is coming along, you’ll find out soon when I attempt to activate park #17 on that journey. Stay tuned…

QRP POTA and testing the new JNCRadio MC-599 portable dipole antenna!

In late December 2023, I received a package from Jesse at JNCRadio/Chelegance. It was their new MC-599 portable dipole antenna. They sent it—full disclaimer: at no cost to me—for evaluation, but shortly after receiving it, life got crazy and I was delayed in taking it to the field.

Fast-forward to February, and I was eager to take it to the field and see how it might perform. On February 5, 2024, a nice window of opportunity opened in the afternoon while one of my daughters was rehearsing A Midsummer Night’s Dream with her cast. Pisgah National Forest and Game Land were a 20-minute drive from her meeting site, so I headed there to deploy this new antenna.

The JNCRADIO MC-599

On-site, I pulled out the two main components of the MC-599 dipole system: the bespoke padded bag holding the antenna and the portable mast.

I knew the basics about assembling the MC-599 because I had watched a video on the Chelegance website that morning.

However, this was the very first time I had deployed the MC-599. I had never even removed any of the antenna components from the padded bag.

With this antenna, it’s best to have an open area for the two sides of the dipole (two telescoping whips) to fully extend without touching tree branches, etc. I had one particular picnic site in mind at the roadside picnic area I chose, but a couple was having a picnic there when I arrived. I waited to see if they might be leaving soon, but they weren’t, so I chose a site I had used before, even though it was flanked by trees.

Assembly was easy: I simply attached the center of the dipole to the 13′ mast, then attached the two telescoping whips to either side and extended them to the 20M position silkscreened on the whip (identical to the MC-750 vertical markings—see below).

Next, you simply attach your coax to the center of the dipole, then extend the mast all the way up.

I had to avoid touching tree branches, but it actually fit quite easily into this small space.

Since it was a bit breezy, I used some line to guy the mast. Ideally, you’d want a minimum of three guying points, but I only had two lines with me, so I made do, and it worked fine—the antenna was stable.

Next, I set up my radio: the Yaesu FT-818ND. Since the MC-599 was, in theory, resonant, I didn’t need an ATU for a match.

I turned on the FT-818 and discovered that the SWR was a perfect 1:1. Amazing.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised because my Chelegance MC-750 is always perfectly resonant (without needing a transformer) simply following the whip markings for guidance.

I should note here that the MC-599 can handle up to 200 Watts PEP—I was pushing 5-6 Watts. Also, the frequency range using the whips is from 20-6 meters. Chelegance also includes two 7 MHz wire elements that can be deployed in an inverted vee shape to play radio on the 40-meter band. It’s an efficient system and has many fewer components than a Buddipole systems I’ve used in the past.

Gear:

Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

On The Air

Keep in mind that my POTA site was in a deep valley, flanked by high ridge lines–I wasn’t sure what to expect as I hopped on the air.

I started calling CQ POTA and the first station I heard was DL1OK operating in Spain as EA8/DL1OK. Logging Dmitrij was a good sign indeed for this portable dipole!

Stations kept flowing in. I worked my first ten contacts in ten minutes.

I continued working stations in a continuous pileup until I ran out of time. I ended up logging a total of 46 contact all within 50 minutes. I did spend a few extra minutes (as I always do) trying to pull out weak stations and slower code stations.

What fun!

QSO Map

Here’s what this five-watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map.

Note that this map does not include my contact with EA8/DL1OK in Spain:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

MC-599 notes

I’ve got to admit: the MC-599 made a great first impression.

As with the MC-750, I’m most impressed with the build quality. The components are all sturdy and nicely machined. The padded case was custom made to hold the MC-599 and its components. Everything fits together as it should and—again—was resonant when deployed according to the whip markings.

Even on this inaugural deployment, it didn’t take long to set up. The next time I deploy it, it will go even faster. Packing it up afterward (as you can see in the video) went very quickly.

Keep in mind: the MC-599 is a low-impact, high-profile antenna.

If you’re at a site that doesn’t allow antennas in trees, the MC-599 could be an excellent option. Other than using optional guy lines that would require tent stakes in the ground, it would have no impact on park grounds.

I love the fact that the MC-599 is self-supporting. This would be an absolutely brilliant antenna to use at parks with wide-open spaces and few trees for support.

That said, it is not a stealthy antenna. In fact, portable dipole antennas are some of the most conspicuous portable antennas you could deploy. They’re maybe slightly less conspicuous than a hex beam or Yagi. Even though I was cloaked by a few trees, the couple that was occupying the picnic site I had hoped to use couldn’t help but stop by on their way out and ask what it was I was doing. I bet if I had been using a wire antenna, they wouldn’t have even seen it.

I would always ask permission before setting up an antenna like the MC-599 at, say, a small historic site or urban park.

I could also see using the MC-599 for SOTA (Summits On The Air), but primarily on summits that are either drive-up, or where the hike is minimal. The aluminum alloy mast is lightweight for its size, but it’s quite large to consider taking on an extended hike. However, for a nice drive-up summit, I imagine you could work some serious DX. Just bring a few guy lines in case it’s windy.

I do think the MC-599 would make for a great Field Day antenna. Since it can handle up to 200W PEP and is easy to lower and switch bands, it would be a brilliant portable option for those operating a multi-band 100W rig.

But obviously? It’s an exceptional performer with QRP power. It’s hard to beat a dipole even when it’s only 13′ off the ground.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this fun activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them!

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.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Scott’s Self-Supporting Random Wire Antenna System

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


K4SWL+ Antenna

by Scott (KK4Z)

On a recent post on QRPER.com, Teri KO4WFP was at a park in Florida that did not allow wires (or anything else) in their trees. Many POTA activators use End Fed Half Wave antennas which usually require one end in a tree. While it doesn’t happen at all parks, not being able to hoist your antenna could bust an activation.

I realized this may happen to me even though Georgia appears to be pretty lenient when it comes to such matters, I decided to switch to a park friendly antenna. I have been a fan of QRPER.com for quite some time and occasionally Thomas will repost something from my humble blog. That being said, it was K4SWL that got me started using a random wire antenna. My basis for my antenna was his speaker wire antenna which was a 28.5’ vertical antenna with a 17’ counterpoise. I used it a few times in that configuration and then started to modify it. I call this antenna my K4SWL+.

Some of the differences are I use a push-up pole to get the antenna in the air and at the base I use a 9:1 UnUn and a 1:1 Choke to keep RF out of the radio. A random wire antenna can feed RF back into the coax.

The wire is 14 ga. coated flex weave from The Wireman. This was left over wire from some other antenna projects. When I started this project I was using 22-24 ga. coated wire from SOTABeams but realizing there was no need to save weight, used the heavier wire. This allows me to dual purpose the antenna both for FunComm and EmComm. The insulator at the top is 3D printed with my call-sign and the base is U-type lugs. I find these are the best as I do not have to take the nut off of the antenna studs and if pulled hard will come loose instead of damaging the UnUn. I connect the antenna to the top of the push-up pole with a small Nite-eze “S-biner” size 1.

The 9:1 UnUn comes from Palomar Engineering. I have already created a blog post about how to build it and it can be found here: https://kk4z.com/2022/05/28/91-unun-qro/

Part of this blog post was to bring the different components together into one blog post.

The 1:1 Choke can be found here: https://kk4z.com/2022/08/15/lightweight-choke-balun/

I made two different types but I found the second works much better.

The project is pretty easy, the only caveat is to pay attention to what wire goes where. Putting it all together, you need a push-up pole, a Flag holder and maybe a trailer hitch extender. I will provide links below. The Flag Pole holder I used was not available so the link I used is a probable substitute. I have a trailer hitch on both my truck and my camper, When I pull into a campsite I have a choice of which hitch to use to keep my antenna clear from the trees. With the antenna up, I wrap the antenna wire around the push-up pole from tip to base, to prevent the wire from sagging near the tip. I attach the UnUn and choke to the mast with Stretch Velcro Straps. With my antenna up I have park employees drive by me all day along. Most of the time we exchange a friendly wave and occasionally one will stop by for a chat. I have had zero issues with this antenna at any of the parks I have visited.

How does it play? It has pretty much been a main antenna for just about all of my POTA activations. You can go back through my blog post and see what equipment I used with the antenna and the accompanying QSOMap. You do need an antenna tuner with this antenna and I typically use an LDG Z-11 Pro which I’ve had for 15+ years. The antenna tunes up from 80 to 6 meters and I have run the power as high as 65 watts. I normally run 10-35 watts depending on band conditions. I have tried it on 160 meters and while I can get a match, I don’t think much RF is leaving the antenna. I’ve made a few contact with it on 160. If you like to work 160 meters during a POTA activation, I suggest a Chameleon EmComm II with a 60’ antenna and a 50’ counterpoise. I run it as an inverted L with the apex about 20’ up my push-up pole and the end sloping down to something not a tree. Last time I tied it to the lantern stand at the campsite. It worked pretty well and I was able to make contacts on 160.

Video:

Click here to view on YouTube.

If you’re looking for an antenna that you can set up almost anywhere, with little or no hassles, take a look at this one. Don’t forget to check out the short video above. 73 — Scott

W6CSN: Activation 72 of the Presidio of San Francisco National Historic Site

Many thanks to Matt (W6CSN) who shares the following post  from his blog at W6CSN.Blog:


Activation 72

by Matt (W6CSN)

Today’s activation of the Presidio of San Francisco National Historic Site (K-7889) was pretty standard for a mid-winter POTA outing. Normally, I wouldn’t bother to write it up on this blog. After coming here 72 times there is not much new to say about it. Nevertheless, maybe somebody will find value in this field report.

Even though the weather was dry this afternoon, the radio operating began in the car where I used the FT-818 to net 14 contacts on 17 meters. I must admit being warm while doing a POTA activation is not bad!

The Bencher is a breeze to operate on the center console.

After a while, the calls started to dry up so I extended the antenna fully to get on 20 meters, but the best SWR I could get was 3:1. I suppose the lack of good bonding of the coax shield to the car body, which I’ve read about in other blog posts on qrper.com, was responsible for the less than optimal antenna match.

After taking down the badly matched roof mount antenna , I flipped the car around and backed into the parking space to set up my usual 20 meter station on the trunk lid with the antenna clamped to a steel post.

The trunk lid is where I usually operate from when at this park.

At the same time, I switched radios to the Mountain Topper MTR-4B. Previously the current draw of the FT-818 had dropped the battery voltage to 12.6v, but with the lighter load of the MTR, the voltage rebounded above 13v. The MTR-4b is designed to accept 13v, something the other radios in the MTR series are not recommended for. However the SWR in this antenna configuration was 1.0 to 1 so I felt okay to run the radio at the full 5 watts with the higher voltage.

The Wolf River coil provides a good match on 40 meters.

Unfortunately, 20 meters wasn’t performing all that great, yielding a mere four contacts. The POTA website showed several JA’s activating parks on 40 meters, so I added the Wolf River coil to the base of the antenna in hopes of hearing them. Alas, no copy, so I put out a few CQ POTA calls of my own on 7.062 MHz. W6OOD responded from Southern California, but my report was not particularly strong. And, with the light fading I decided to call it a day.

QSO map by http://tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer

Activation #72 netted a total of 19 QSOs on three different bands, coast-to-coast. Not bad for an unremarkable Friday afternoon ham radio outing.