Category Archives: Field Radio Kits

MJ’s Mountain Topper MTR-4B brag photo!

Many thanks to Mike “MJ” ( WO9B) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

I’m not normally enthusiastic about an equipment review, but as for the MTR gear…welcome to the 4B-V2 club. For no good reason I have to pass along a brag photo of my setup.

After growing tired of chasing a key around the picnic table, a removable epoxy bracket was added to mount the venerable Begali Adventure paddle. The battery is a small LifePO4 1.1 Ah battery which provides about 5 hours of Field Day operating.

Naturally, I use a Spark Plug for my antenna. The last two Field Days have been with this setup. It is an outstanding piece of gear. It took me one email exchange with Steve, WG0AT, to overcome the lack of a volume control. Not a moment of buyer’s remorse.

See you on the air….

MJ, WO9B

Thank you for sharing this, MJ! I love brag photos.

What a nice combo, too: the Begali Adventure and the MTR-4B! 

Readers: MJ is owner of www.sparkpluggear.com. I’ve heard many good things about his Spark Plug EFHW. I need to grab one and give it a go soon!

And yes, MJ, I’ll see you on the air!

Dale’s solution for enhanced CW field ergonomics

Many thanks to Dale (N3HXZ) who shares the following guest post:


Ergonomics of Operating CW in the Field

by Dale (N3HXZ)

About a year ago I started getting active in Parks On The Air (POTA) and Summits On The Air (SOTA). I had always been an avid hiker and backpacker, and though I am getting up there in years (recently retired!) these amateur radio opportunities were just the medicine I needed to rekindle my passion for the outdoors and amateur radio.

Thanks to Thomas (K4SWL) and his blog post and videos I was able to quickly come up to speed on the basics and get out into the field for CW activations.  I quickly discovered that operating CW in the field is quite different from operating at home. The creature comforts of a good chair, a level and spacious operating table, and isolation from the weather makes for a great experience in the shack, but is not available in the field, especially if you are backpacking to your destination. My early activations were sitting on a rock, or the ground, and using only a clip board to mount my rig (Elecraft KX2), locate my CW paddle, and place a notepad to record QSO’s.

While simple, this operating setup poses problems. Attaining and maintaining a flat workspace is tough in the field in order to keep things from shifting or falling off the clipboard, especially if you are not firmly seated. There is not enough space to set your wrist in order to steady your CW operating, and the notebook pages can flap in the wind, or the wind can blow your logbook clear off the table while operating. I realized I needed to upgrade my mobile station! Continue reading Dale’s solution for enhanced CW field ergonomics

Jim’s Icom IC-705 travel kit housed in a Nanuk 915 rugged waterproof case

Recently, I was in in touch with Jim (WA7VFQ) who was trying to decide which radio to take on a vacation to the North Carolina coast. He replied with details about the field kit he put together for the trip which will require air travel. Jim writes:

Last year in one of your QRPer posts you mentioned your search for a case for one of you radios. I commented that I had a Nanuk case that I liked and promised pictures.

Well, we are finally there!

It wasn’t until yesterday that I decided to take my Icom IC-705 over my Elecraft KX3 [on vacation]. I had new foam for the case and last night I did my “foam plucking” and I’m pleased with the outcome. I had a couple of Icom decals and since it wasn’t the Elecraft, one of them wound up on the exterior. Some guy on the internet was touting the Tom Bihn Travel Trays; we have 4 on them, 3 large and one small. All are headed to NC with us. One of them will carry my extra radio gear.

The Nanuk 915 (above) houses the Icom IC-705 (with cage), a RigExpert 230 Stick analyzer, Bioenno 4.5 Ah battery and Mat 705 Plus ATU. Continue reading Jim’s Icom IC-705 travel kit housed in a Nanuk 915 rugged waterproof case

The Elecraft KX2 version of Scott’s chest plate/manpack

Many thanks to Scott (KA9P) who writes:

As a follow-up to my previous post: this chest pack is still a bit of a work in progress but has been tested and works as is. I didn’t want the non-IC-705 owners to feel left out 🙂

The Condor MCR-3 chest plate can be used with a Condor T & T pouch (30 bucks) for most QRP rigs with a KX format.

The Condor T & T pouch is a frequently reviewed favorite of hikers and hunters – YouTube videos abound. The key feature is the way the pouch opens from a chest plate, or just straps, to form a tray. I expect you could modify other clamshell pouches of other sizes with an adjustable cord to do the same thing. I haven’t seen other pouches built to do this, yet.

The “tray” section contains a number of MOLLE loops as well as some loop material. This makes it easy to fashion your own radio attachment system. I have been using some hook material fastened to the back of KX2 for now, but am working on something that locks in, rather than tempt fate. Continue reading The Elecraft KX2 version of Scott’s chest plate/manpack

Brent’s updated review of the CQHam TB Box

Many thanks to Brent (VA3YG) who writes:

Hi Thomas, hope you’re well.

Just a short message to bring you up to date on the performance of the new equipment.

In a nutshell, it’s brought me back to my old faithful friend, the FT-817. I bought my FT-817 20 years ago and it’s served me flawlessly all these years. It’s not the best at everything but it’s a perfect QRP shack-in-the-box.

The TB Box makes the little Yaesu a pleasure to use. The tuner tunes my 43’ vertical and K6ARK end fed random wire from 80-10 for the vertical and 40-10 for the ef random wire.

The battery tray slips out to reveal 6 Panasonic 18650 cells. The battery life is exceptional even with the 817 set on 5 watts. I’m just now in the process of topping the batteries up.

Attached are a couple pics of my operating situation today….it was such a nice day out on the driveway. I have a telescopic pole attached to the RV and strung the 41’ of wire up. Also, a closeup of the battery tray and one of the cells.

I can whole heartedly recommend this piece of gear to supplement an FT-817/FT-817ND/FT-818ND.

Loving it!

72/73,
Brent VA3YG

Very cool! Thank you for sharing the update, Brent! I’ll admit that I like the “old school” simplicity of this power and trans match system.

Click here to check out the CQHam TB Box on eBay. (partner link)

Leo’s complete QCX-mini field kit and ZM-4 manual tuner kit

Many thanks to Leo (DL2COM) who recently reached out after watching my livestream with Josh at HRCC on the topic of QRP/CW portable. 

Leo shared some photos of a complete radio kit he built around the QCX-mini along with a ZM-4 ATU kit he also recently built. Leo has kindly agreed to share these on QRPer.com.

Leo notes:

Attached is a photo of my ultra light kit.

It consists of a QCX-Mini 20m version (self-built), K6ARK EFHW, Palm Radio Pico Paddle, Eremit 2Ah LiFePo battery, headphones and a few cables.

I usually also carry a small arborist kit and if there is still room also the 6m mast from Sotabeams, depending on what I think will work best.

I chose a hard case and went for the Peli 1060 Micro. It has room for everything I need and it could easily hold a bit of RG316 coax in addition (even more if I chose to shorten the 30m arborist line).

The main benefit for me is that I really don’t have to worry at all about what’s inside – compared to a soft pouch. So I can just shove it into my backpack or glove box and forget about it since this configuration is a lot more rugged and water proof – while being slightly heavier. Continue reading Leo’s complete QCX-mini field kit and ZM-4 manual tuner kit

SOTA: Breaking in the Venus SW-3B on Dogback Mountain & taking in Wisemans’ View!

When I take a new radio to the field, I often don’t know what to expect until I arrive at the site and put it on the air. It’s one thing to use a radio in the shack, and quite another to use it in the field.

Earlier this year, I purchased a Venus SW-3B, three band QRP transceiver after much poking and prodding from readers and subscribers.  I actually contacted Dale (BA4TB) at Venus and asked for a loaner to do a review, but he had no units set aside for loans, so instead offered me a coupon code. I was hesitant to purchase yet another QRP radio–which is why I asked for a loaner–but his coupon discounted the radio enough I could even afford to splurge for expedited shipping.  He made money and I didn’t have to worry about loan periods, etc. It turned out to be a win/win.

I knew I wanted the SW-3B’s maiden voyage to be a SOTA summit, but I had to wait for a good weather window.

On Thursday, February 10, 2022, I got that opportunity!

Dogback Mountain (W4C/EM-066)

I learned about Dogback Mountain from my buddy Dave (W4JL) who activated it earlier this year. He told me it was a drive-up summit and was high enough to even rack up winter bonus points.

Back on January 26, 2022–during my POTA RaDAR run–I tried to activate Dogback Mountain, but the forest service road was too icy in all of the wrong places. I made it to within three miles of the summit but stopped and performed an activation of Pisgah Game Land and Pisgah Forest instead.

The road had no ice on it February 10, although it was very muddy and slippery in spots. Made for a very enjoyable drive in the Subaru, although post-activation you would have never guessed I’d washed the car the day before!

I arrived on site and parked the car at a pull-off that was well within the activation zone of the summit.  Dave was right: this summit was very accessible (well, as long as your vehicle has a bit of clearance–this isn’t a road for sports cars or low sedans).

I walked up the short path to the true summit and was absolutely gobsmacked by the views of Linville Gorge, Table Rock, and Hawksbill Mountain. Continue reading SOTA: Breaking in the Venus SW-3B on Dogback Mountain & taking in Wisemans’ View!

Joe’s Penntek TR-35 weatherproof field kit

Many thanks to Joe (K0NEB) who writes writes:

I found this case at Harbor Freight [see above]. It adds weatherproofing and I put in a 3D printed key I make and cables and a pen and notepad for logging and copying CW.

73 de K0NEB
Joe Eisenberg

Here’s a link to this case at Harbor Freight; it seems to be their equivalent to the Pelican 1060 which is an ideal size for many compact QRP radios.

Thanks for the tip, Joe!

FYI: Joe is the kit building editor at CQ Magazine where you’ll find his many excellent articles. In fact, he’s featuring the TR-35 in his April column at CQ Magazine.

Brent’s initial impressions of the CQHAM TB-BOX

Many thanks to Brent (VA3YG) who writes:

Hello Thomas,

The Fedex courier just left my driveway. I ordered the CQHam TB box on Feb 29 and paid the $39 US for Expedited International shipping vs the Free Speedpack shipping from Hong Kong that promised it by June 1.  I really don’t like waiting for a parcel to arrive! Lol

I know there was some interest on your site about this product, so I thought I would write and give you some brief, first impressions.  Sadly,  I don’t have any more time to play with it until next week as I’m about to leave now to visit friends.

It arrived in 10 calendar days, well packed and everything inside survived the Fedex journey from Hong Kong to Southampton ON via Anchorage AK and Memphis TN.

No one would ever mistaken this equipment for gear made by Elecraft or Icom but it appears to work just fine. The variable capacitors are not smooth and the fit and finish is okay at best but I think, if you’re careful with it, and do your adjusting carefully, it should last you some time.

The “faux” leather case is actually quite nice and reminds me of the Yaesu FT-817 case.  As a bonus, a telescopic whip was included.

The batteries came charged and the rig showed 11.3vdc. I didn’t remove the battery tray as it didn’t want to slide out willingly and I didn’t want to force it. I’ll try that later when I have more time….

I connected my 43’ ZeroFive vertical with 30 radials to it and was able to tune from 80m right up to 10 meters with no problem.

I made a nice contact (my first phone contact in about 8 yrs) on 17 meters with a station in Biloxi.

It should be fun and it’ll give me an excuse to work the 817 again.

73 fer nw,
de Brent VA3YG

Thank you for sharing your initial impressions and the inside shots of the matching unit, Brent. We look forward to any updates you might provide as you spend more time with this field kit!

Mark discovers an affordable case for the Penntek TR-35

Many thanks to Mark (W8EWH) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

I read with interest your posts about the PENNTEK TR-35 and liked it enough to go ahead and order one for myself. I built it over a couple of weekends of occasional work, and put it on the air. I really like it.

Since I’d like to take it out on some POTA activations, I did some investigation into a case and found the following case on Amazon:

Click here to check it out on Amazon.com (affiliate link).

 

This case fits the TR-35 very nicely. See the attached photos.

There is even room for a couple of cables to be tucked away under the mesh on the lid side. The only modification I made was to add a couple of pieces of packing foam around the top and BNC side to just keep the radio from sliding around a little. But really a person preference of mine.

I thought I’d share this with you so you can share with others that have this radio and are looking for a nice hard case.

Mark
W8EWH

What a great tip, Mark!  Looks like it fits the TR-35 perfectly. Thank you for sharing this!