Last August, I celebrated my fifth year as a ham and at 74 I’m still able to do some backpacking. This was my first attempt at taking a radio along. The QCX-original was the only model at the time and sold for $49 + shipping. The case is a dollar store pencil box with the radio mounted on stand-offs.
I changed the antenna you see to K6ARK EFHW setup with counterpoise. No coax. I used the on-board key. The throw line was arbor line much like yours and my weight was the tent peg pouch filled with rocks from the camp site. This was my food bag hanging setup. Under $100 for everything.
Before I used it much I discovered POTA from you and purchased a KX2. Haven’t camped much lately but I have activated 70 of Georgia’s 203 parks and having a ball!
[I should note that a] few years back when I made the kit, prices were lower so it may be more difficult to hit that $100 mark. For example, a QCX-mini (no case) runs $57.79 and the QRPGuys EFHW kit is now $30. Adam’s (K6ARK) EFHW kit I changed to is only $20. The “water resistant “ pencil case is still $1! I was more interested in weight rather than cost and as shown the weight is 22.5 ounces.
Thanks Thomas and wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and peace and good health in the coming year.
I love it, Allen! Pure QRP fun on a shoestring budget. Not bad at all! You make a good point here that many kits can be built into a waterproof (or in your case a water resistant) case. I’ve often wanted to do this myself and may very well one day!
In early November, I happened up a new waterproof case called the Evergreen 56. As with Pelican cases, it’s waterproof and also made in the USA. Like Nanuk cases (that are also waterproof and made in Canada) Evergreen cases have a built-in locking mechanism to keep the latch from accidentally opening during transport.
I thought the price for the Evergreen 56 at $28 US was fair and in-line with the Pelican 1060 and Nanuk 903 which are similar in size. I grabbed one made of a clear material with one radio in mind: my QCX-Mini!
There are a number of color options available for this Evergreen case, but I like the clear polycarbonate one because it makes it so much easier to see what’s inside (for a quick gear check) but also to confirm that no one part of the kit is being pressed too hard inside the case after the lid is sealed.
After receiving the Evergreen 56, I was very pleased with the quality–again, on par with what I would expect from Pelican or Nanuk. It is incredibly solid and the seal is watertight. The Twist Lock Latch (see above) is easy to operate and the case comes with two “keys” for adjusting the inner lock.
The Evergreen case has a soft egg crate-like rubber boot interior as opposed to the pick foam material you’d typically find in a water tight case. The case also has a hammock-like rubbery webbing on the inside of the lid that can be used to organize smaller contents (I knew instantly I’d use this to hold the antenna!).
The QCX-Mini fits in the Evergreen case perfectly–this was no surprise–but I was eager to see if my other station components could also fit. Note that I didn’t buy anything specifically to be used in this case; I used components I already owned. I could minimize the contents even further if I used a smaller battery, antenna, and key. Here are the components of the first version of the QCX-Mini Field Kit: Continue reading Testing a new QCX-Mini Field Kit built in an Evergreen 56 Watertight case→
As many of you know, I’m a bit of a backpack geek (okay, that’s an understatement).
If you don’t believe me, listen to the Ham Radio Workbench episode where they invited me to take a deep dive into my world of packs, bags, and organization. It’s not for the faint of heart or the short of time. (It was seriously fun, though!)
You would think being a pack geek that I would produce more videos showing a breakdown of what’s in my packs and how I organize them. The irony is I watch numerous videos on YouTube of how others pack out their various field and travel kits.
I’ve had several requests to do a video about my main SOTA pack which is designed around the Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC tactical backpack (see above). I think the reason why I haven’t made a video and post yet about this pack is because I knew it would be quite detailed and, frankly, take a lot of time to detail.
That said, here we go!
Designed to be modular
This particular pack is not set up to be a fully self-contained field backpack for just one radio. Quite the opposite: I use its main compartment to hold a wide variety of modular field kits I’ve put together.
What do I mean by “modular”–?
As I prepare my pack to hit the field, I decide which radio I plan to take; typically that radio is in a pouch, bag, or case of its own that contains radio-specific connectors and accessories.
A SOTA road trip from Berlin to Tuscany via the Alps and back
by Leo (DL2COM)
Flashback March 2021: I am sitting on a couch in the countryside 2h north of Berlin, Germany. It’s a rainy day and my 1-year-old kid just fell asleep on my chest. I am watching Youtube and enjoying the feeling of just having maintained the chainsaw after a productive run preparing firewood.
Then suddenly something special got washed into my feed: Adam K6ARK activating a summit in CW somewhere on the U.S. West Coast. I thought: I have no idea what this wizardry is but this is exactly what I want to do. Right here, right now. Well I have a child to take care of, the next mountain with a prominence of >150m (~500 feet, min. requirement to be a valid SOTA summit) is 3h away, I don’t know what ham radio is, I have no license and what the heck is CW.
Jump to July 2022: I am sitting in my car commencing a vacation road trip to the south of Tuscany, Italy. Due to the chaotic luggage situation at EU airports and unreal prices for rental cars my family and I had decided that we would be better off if I drove down while my wife and kids took the plane without having to check in any bags (btw: best decision ever).
Our schedule allowed for me to leave a few days early so I could make room to do a little bit of hiking and throw in a few casual SOTA activations because why not. On top I saw that there were a few never activated summits in close proximity to where we planned to stay. I could feel my heart pumping already followed by a strong reassuring feeling radiating from the well-thought-through contents of my backpack in the trunk. Am I ready? Who cares. I am on my own now. I had completed a quick 1-pointer activation in May and a few POTAs but what was planned now was a different level.
Going into detail about every summit would go beyond the scope of this article so here are just a few highlights: The first leg down to the Garmisch-Partenkirchen area went by in a wink (7h drive). I passed most of the time rehearsing CW by singing license plates out loud. The fun peaked with plates along the lines of M-OT-9990 or E-SI-5545. It’s all about melody and timing, remember. I met up with my buddy Chris whom I hadn’t seen in a long time and who agreed to join me on the first hike up Zirbelkopf (8-points summit) to witness the cult activity I had tried and failed to explain to him beforehand.
Many thanks to Scott (VO1DR) who shares the following guest post:
Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the IC-705
By Scott Schillereff (VO1DR)
St. John’s, NL, Canada
Since getting my novice ticket in 1970 (WB9CXN) under the watchful direction of Charles “Rock” Rockey, W9SCH (SK), I have been a dyed-in-the-cloth homebrewer and QRPer. My one and only commercial rig before this year was a Ten Tec PM-3 I bought with paper-route money in 1971 (still have it). Fast-forward to today. I now live in Newfoundland, and Europe is as close as Georgia. I continue to build my station components and antennas. A recent sea-change though – I inherited some money and decided to splash out on a for-life rig that would serve well in the shack and on the road (RV or hiking). After researching options, I settled on the ICOM IC-705. A fantastic performer; a receiver like I’ve never heard before; more bells and whistles than I could dream of, and a form-factor like a….. delicate, expensive brick!
The 705 is not a sleek, trail-friendly radio. It’s on the heavy side and, well…awkward to pick up! But, man, what a radio! So, my first step was to buy a Windcamp ARK-705 exoskeleton. This protects the rig on all sides and gives you something to grab onto. I don’t mind the weight and size; I want this rig to be working in 25 years.
My operating interests are home use, mobile in my 25 ft motor home, and portable on day hikes. I’m new to POTA and SOTA but maybe that’s next, thanks to you, Thomas!
Many thanks to John (VE3IPS) who shares the following guest post:
Nova Scotia POTA After-Action Report
by John VE3IPS
We had planned a vacation trip out to Nova Scotia to get our lobster fix. As I always do, I prep my radio with local repeaters, look up local radio clubs, museums and check the POTA and SOTA map for locations to operate from.
I noticed that several park locations had not been activated. Thus I had an opportunity to be first activator and to get some much needed Nova Scotia parks in the Hunters logs. I printed the map and noted the park identifiers. I decided to just activate the parks that were never activated. I could have worked more parks but you have sights to see and can’t be behind the mic all the time. My antenna was prepped to be rapidly deployed in a few minutes and torn down accordingly.
I also was able to attend the Halifax ARC Hamfest on June 4, 2022.
So a vacation with ham radio elements to keep me excited with some objectives in mind.
We did visit Peggy’s Cove, Burnt Coat Head to watch the tides in the Bay of Fundy, local wineries, Lunenburg (a movie shoot was underway), the Halifax Citadel and of course eat lobster every day. I spent over $200 in gas as we did a lot of driving around (gas is just over $8 a gallon CAD), retail tax at 15% and prices for food and restaurants up by 30%. Nova Scotia is a bit more expensive than other cities.
I decided to bring my Icom 705 with a LifePO4 battery to offer 10 watts instead of the FT-891 or FT-818. Why? Because it offered a voice memory for calling CQ Parks, built in SWR meter and better IF filters over the FT-818. I wanted to cover the Marine and VHF/UHF repeaters as well and that ruled out the FT-891.
Due to the Kleenex box form factor I ended up using a Lowe Pro Omni Trekker camera bag to use as a carry on. This included a Nikon V1 camera and Binoculars.
When I was first getting into Ham radio a couple years ago, I ran across a slide presentation done by Fred KT5X on “Ultra-lyte” QRP. In it, Fred has pictures of a trail running hydration vest that contains a complete SOTA station, water, snacks and a jacket. I was sold on the idea, and made it my goal to start making my own ultralight setup.
As time went on, I really got into the ultralight approach to SOTA, taking every opportunity to reduce weight and shrink my pack down. I enjoy some trail running, mountain biking and combining SOTA/POTA with either is the ultimate combo of adventure and ham radio. Continue reading Matt’s “Ultra-Lyte” Hydration Vest QRP Field Kit→
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….
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!