Category Archives: Field Radio Kits

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!

POTA RaDAR Run Final Activation: Testing the new MTR-3B field kit at Tuttle Educational State Forest

On January 26, 2022, I fit in multiple park activations in one day as a RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio) run. My hope was to activate four or five sites between 14:00 – 21:30 UTC.

Here are the field reports and videos of my first four activations:

The next park in my run (#5) was Tuttle Educational State Forest and it was the final park in this modest RaDAR run!

I packed up the gear at Johns River Game Land in a matter of three minutes, popped it all in the car, then drove 8 minutes to nearby Tuttle Educational State Forest which, at this point, almost feels like a home away from home.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

As I pulled into the Tuttle parking lot, I found my buddy Max (W4GZ) activating the park from his truck. It was no surprise finding Max here since I had just worked him Park-To-Park (P2P) from Johns River next door.

Max delivered some precious cargo: some more of his mom’s homemade QRP pickles!

“Them’s QRP pickles!”

Max continued to activate Tuttle from his truck while I set up my station. Continue reading POTA RaDAR Run Final Activation: Testing the new MTR-3B field kit at Tuttle Educational State Forest

Steve is QRV in the Swiss Alps

Steve (MW0SAW) and I were recently exchanging emails and he has kindly allowed me to share a few photos and details of the QRP field kit he has taken on holiday:

I’m currently in Switzerland (ski holiday)–I did bring the Venus SW-3B. I was very surprised to get 2 USA stations last weekend with 4-5 watts in the ARRL CW contest.

Only a couple of Europeans today. But it’s all fun and I did have a lovely morning ski so can’t complain lol.

My gear:

Steve
HB9/MW0SAW

Wow, Steve! I would love to be in Switzerland right about now. I’ve got a bucket list item to journey there someday (in summer months) and activate at least 10 summits. Having lived in Grenoble, the Alps always feel a bit like home.

I love how compact your setup is and obviously the K6ARK EFHW is doing the trick if you’re making contacts State side with QRP and during a contest competing with the big guns!

Hmmm…I’m now thinking I might grab a second Maxpedition Fatty Pouch. I just checked and Maxpedition still has the “buy one, get one free” deal on their website.  The link above goes to Amazon (hence the affiliate link which my site auto-converts) because pricing is typically best there, but I believe you get an even better deal at present going directly to the source; especially if one could use two pouches!

Thanks again, Steve, for sharing your field kit photos and notes!

César’s field radio kit

Many thanks to César (CA7OKD) who shares the following photo (click to enlarge) and description of his field radio kit:

Hi Thomas,

I share my backpack to get away anywhere, to a hill, park or beach…

    • Backpack for photographic equipment
    • Mini EF Hfkits antenna (the Balun Hfkits is missing because I lost it on a beach)
    • Coaxial M&P Hyperflex 5 with M&P connectors
    • Bottom: MFJ1899T antenna
    • Xiegu X5105, Micro, Dry Bag
    • Xiegu X6100 (perhaps the first in Chile)
    • Folding tripod stool chair

I had a very good RS-188 (McHF clone) and a uSDR; I sold them because these equipments don’t have a tuner (I like to keep the minimum).

The X5105 is a very good transceiver, the integrated tuner is wonderful.

The X6100 that fails to convince me. At least in 40 meters it is acceptable.

Greetings,
César CA7OKD

Thank you for sharing this, César! Photography backpacks in many ways are absolutely ideal for radio gear. Many allow for a great amount of flexibility in terms of adjusting internal organization. In addition, they’re very well-padded.

Interesting what you say about the X6100 compared with the X5105. I’m hoping to do a video soon focusing on the differences between these two. 

Thanks again for sharing!

Any experience using the FT-818/817 CQHAM TB-BOX?

Many thanks to Motters (M7TRS) who writes:

For some strange reason I stumbled across something on eBay for the FT-817/818 as I am still looking for my first HF setup.

Anyway, it’s a tuner and battery pack for a 817/818 and when I saw it I wondered if you knew about it.

https://ebay.us/vSiNwc (partner link)

YouTube video demonstration:

[Update] And this video:

Thanks for the tip, Motters. I was not at all familiar with this pack. I do like the simplicity of the setup. 

The price is certainly right at $179 US.

There are so many FT-817/818 owners out there, I’m very curious if anyone has any experience with this particular pack and if you can report on the overall quality. Please comment!