Category Archives: FT8

KK4Z: Achieving Another Kilo Despite Solar Interference

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


By the Hand of God at US-2173

by Scott (KK4Z)

I book my campsites often months in advance to ensure I get a good campsite. This particular trip was postponed twice due to typical life events that take precedence over having a little fun. Even this trip was not without its own issues. My wife and I forgot that this weekend was also Mother’s Day and unknown to us at the time of the booking was that there was going to be a 4 major Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) making an earth strike during the trip.

The last time I witnessed solar storms of this magnatude, I was in Gulfport MS doing EmComm for my Church in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It was a humbling experience and it shaped my EmComm Philosophy.

I use the same gear for EmComm and FunComm. The equipment gets tested and exercised, and I remain proficient in its use. I also have an understanding of its strengths and weaknesses.

Most trips I take my go box.

It stays packed and contains everthing except a battery or generator to operate. I do keep a small switching power supply for mains power when it is available. Here is a look at the inside.

I have built rack mount or shelf type go boxes and in general, I do not like them. I have deployed to real disasters and found what I have here works the best for me. I do this enough that I am up and running in minutes. One thing I like is the versatility of being able to adapt my radio to the space I have to set up in. Your Milage May Vary, but for me and my 26 years in EmComm; this works best for me.

This weekend was spent at F.D. Roosevelt State Park (US-2173) near Warm Springs GA. The park was named after Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He suffered from Polio and often would travel to Warm Springs GA for hydrotherapy. He built a residence there often referred to as “The Little White Hose”. During his presidency, he established the Civilian Conservation Core (CCC) during the Great Depression. This provided jobs to young single men to help families who had difficulty finding jobs. The CCC built much of the park.

The park contains 9,049 acres (largest in GA) and is built along the Pine Mountain Ridge. It is the southern most moutain range east of the Mississippi River. The highest point is Dowdell’s Knob at 1,395 ft and is a popular POTA and SOTA (W4G/CE-004) site. I took the Radio Flyer and stayed at the campgrounds near Lake Delano.

I arrived there right at 1300 hrs eastern (check-in time) and quickly got myself settled and ready to go. I knew the solar storms were coming and that my time maybe short. I wanted to finish my kilo here (#6) and needed 310 QSO’s. I had already postponed this trip twice so I was a little edgy. My gear for the trip was my 28.5′ Random Wire Antenna with the Peter my IC-7300. I had my Lenovo Thinkpad T-14 laptop and used mains power. The nice part about the antenna besides it performance, is I get zero complaints from park employees. No wires in the trees nor holes in the ground.

Friday’s band conditions were okay. There was lots pof QSB and I stuck with FT8 (35 watts). CW in these more rural parks can be iffy and this go I needed quantity. I started at 1430 hrs eastern and by oooo hrs Saturday (Friday Night) I had 134 QSO’s and when I quit at 2315 hrs I had a total of 230.

Saturday morning, after a quick breakfast I started up again at 0730 hrs. I operated until 1140 hrs when the bottom dropped. Luckily, I ended up with 338 QSO’s including 3 that were mader after the CME hit.

I decided my time would be best spent at home to spend Mother’s Day with my Lovely Bride so I packed up and headed for the house. My stats refelected band conditions and even though I made quite a few contacts, I only had three DX entities: Alaska, Canada and Mexico. I made contacts in 40 of the 50 states.

Operating this weekend reminded me that as reliable as HF commnications can be, it does have its Achilles Heel. For those in EmComm, never stop practicing, refining your techniques, or keeping your gear in order. For everyone else, it’s just another day in paradise.

73 de Scott

Video:

KK4Z: The Happenstance Rove

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


The Happenstance Rove

by Scott KK4Z

Happenstance: a chance circumstance.

That is how it started out.

I recently sold one of my radios and, for giggles, I thought I would check out QTH.com to see if there was anything I just had to have (Danger Will Robinson). I stumbled across a nice IC-7100 and thought I could install it in my truck to make quick POTA activations a little easier. The ad looked good and the call sign sounded familiar. I checked the seller out on QRZ.com. I do this with every ham radio transaction to reduce the opprtunity of being scammed.

Low and behold! the seller John KX6F, is an old army buddy of mine. We served together in the 101st Airborne Division in C/158 TF 160. That was 40 years ago and I hadn’t seen him in at least 15 years. John is a good guy and was a major influence to me becoming a ham. I served with him from about 1980-1983 when I was transferred to Germany. Life and stuff took over and I was finally able to get licensed in 1995.

I sent John an email asking if I could pick up the radio in person and take him out to lunch. He told me that he suffered a severe stroke a couple of years ago and that dining in would be a better option. No problem. On Monday 04/22, I asked when would be a good time to come. He said Tuesday would be good. I had one night to plan a trip. He lives about 5 hours away from me so I thought I would turn this into a rove. I decided on two nights of camping and 5 parks in 5 states. The XYL had a hip replaced so I hadn’t been out in a while, it was time to stretch my legs.

Here is a map showing the stops.

Blue is day one, red is day 2 and green is day 3 and the trip home.

#1 Clarskville, TN. First stop was John’s. We had pizza for lunch and reminisced about old times. John looked good and was as jovial as ever. I was glad I made the trip. He and his wife were very gracious. After about an hour and half, I could tell it was time to go. The radio is in great shape and I am sure I will enjoy it.

KK4Z with KX6F
My new radio at the QTH

From John’s house I drove to Lake Barkley State Park (US-1284 and #2 on the map). I spent the night there in a very nice campsite. Right at dusk, a Barred Owl flew into my campsite. He was less than 20 feet away from me at eye level. Once we made eye contact, he flew off to another perch – silent as a ghost.

All the states on this trip were new activation states for me so I made sure I had enough contacts for a valid activation. I was prepared to do either CW or FT8 but due to band conditions, it looked like FT8 was going to be the weapon of choice. I made 20 contacts and managed to work Australia, Canada and France.

Wednesday morning I broke camp and headed toward Ft Massac State Park (US-0993 and #3 on the map) just over the line from Kentucky. It was a nice park inside of the town of Metropolis. I found a spot with clean restrooms nearby and enough room for my truck and camper. There were a lot people using the park to exercise. I used FT8 to make 20 contacts on 30 and 10 meters and the only DX was Canada.

From Ft Massac State Park my next destination was Big Oak Tree State Park (US-1749 and #4 on the map) in MO about 1 1/2 hours away. Along the way near the town of Omstead, IL, I spotted a Bald Eagle having lunch with Vultures at the roadkill cafe.

The park is located in rural MO. and surrounded by farms. There was no cell service here but the park and the views were great. I set up near the picnic area. Ten meters was hopping. DX stations included: Hawaii, Belize, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Sardinia, and Spain. I was running 25 watts. I made 20 contacts before packing it up and moving to my next park.

Stop #5 and my second overnight was Mississippi River State Park (US-1102). This was a very nice park and I managed to reserve a campsite on the water. It also had zero cell service, even my cell phone went SOS.

My money band was 10 meters again making DX contacts with Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Japan, and New Zealand. Ten meters acted like 20 meters, and 20 meters acted like 40 meters. I ended up with 33 contacts total.

Thursday morning had me heading toward home with Georgia on my mind (I even heard the song on the radio). I made a stop at Trace State Park (US-2554 and stop #6) just outside of Tupelo, MS. I stayed long enough to make 20 contacts and one DX into Canada.

I got home about 1600 hrs eastern Thursday afternoon. I worked 5 parks in 5 states: Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, and Mississippi, in 2 days. I crossed 4 major rivers: Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi (twice). I added 5 new states to my POTA activations.

It was a good trip considering I only had about 2 hours to plan it. I learned some new things about my equipment and I have plans to make things better for next time.

My first rove proved to be a lot of fun. Usually I drive to a park, spend a couple of days and then drive home. I am hoping to try another rove before the year is out.

Video

See the YouTube video below. Until then — 73 de Scott

For Conrad, DC Travel = DC POTA!

Washington, DC Field Report

By: Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

January 30, 2024

Periodically, I travel to Washington, DC for my job. On my latest trip, I carved out some time to activate some parks. The hotel I was staying at is just a few minutes away from the National Mall, which provides many activation options on the POTA website. After scoping it out on Google Earth and researching trails using the National Parks mobile app and web sites, I settled on the Jefferson Memorial, K-0792 as my first stop which is a two-fer with the National Mall, K-0655.

Photo of Jefferson Memorial

Just steps away is the George Mason Memorial where the Potomac Heritage Trail National Scenic Trail, K-4564 passes right through and is located along the East bank of the Lower Potomac River. The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, K-4567 runs by as well. The bench I found on the shore of the river met the minimum 100’ rule for both trails and was also located in the National Mall park, so this location was a three-fer.

Photo of George Mason Memorial
View of the Potomac River
Bench along walking path near George Mason Memorial

I tried to travel as light as possible this trip. The gear I chose to bring was the Elecraft KX2 along with the AX1 antenna and my laptop with the USB sound card and CIV cable.

Samsung laptop with Electraft KX2 and AX1 antenna

The January winter weather was mild, in the low 40’s F so setting up and activating outside wasn’t a problem. With it being off season for tourists, I had the park almost all to myself.  There were signs posted at the memorial asking visitors to be quiet and respectful, so the last thing I wanted to do was set up on the steps and draw attention to myself. I found a wall near the Tidal Basin’s water’s edge and was able to set up out of the way of anyone wanting to photograph the memorial, but still be on the property. Continue reading For Conrad, DC Travel = DC POTA!

N2YCH: January POTA Travel in Frozen Alaska!

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


Conrad’s January Alaska Activation

By: Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

Why would you go to Alaska in January?” is what everyone asked me.

I’ve wanted to see the Northern Lights for as long as I can remember. The best time to see the aurora borealis is between late August to late April in Fairbanks, Alaska. Days are short in January, sunrise is at 10:24am local time and sunset is at 3:38pm. It’s twilight before the sun comes up and after it sets so it’s not pitch dark, but it’s mostly dark for about 19 hours a day in Fairbanks at this time of year. Once I began researching, I learned that peak viewing times for the aurora are between 10p and 2a local time even with the extended darkness. Check aurorasaurus.org for more information.

So, the answer to the question is, “The odds are better to catch the Northern Lights in the winter.”

Cold weather and snow doesn’t bother me having lived in Syracuse, New York for ten years. I have experience with winter weather and driving. Fairbanks is one of the best places in the state to see the aurora since it is directly below the “Aurora Oval” and it has over 100 days a year when the aurora is visible. Except for January 12th through the 15th, 2024, when the sky had 98% cloud cover and it was snowing. Aurora viewing was not happening during my visit.

However, this trip was not a total loss by any means. There are things to see and do here, including activating parks! I activated three parks in three days, Denali National Park (K-0022), Chena River State Recreation Area (K-7228) and Creamer’s Field Wildlife Refuge (K-9697). I’ve heard stories from hams in Alaska that propagation can be spotty, that there can be total radio blackouts from solar flares and that bands we don’t usually worry about in the lower 48, like 20 meters, can be useless at times. I packed enough equipment and antennas to activate on any band from 40 meters to 6 meters, up to 100 watts using my Elecraft KX3 with the Elecraft KXPA100 amplifier. On the first day at Denali, I used the amp for the entire activation, but I realized at the end of the day that Thomas, K4SWL, who runs “QRPer.com” wouldn’t be too happy with a field report from “QROer.com” Conrad, N2YCH. To remedy that, I activated my second park using just my KX3, no amp. At K-7228, my first 11 QSO’s were QRP and the park was officially activated using only QRP power. I activated my third park QRO, read on and I’ll explain why.

[Thomas here: For the record, readers, I gave Conrad a Special Use Permit to mention QRO on QRPer! Ha ha! Of course there’s no problem going QRO from time to time!]

Back to propagation, I emailed one of the most active POTA activators in the area prior to my trip to get a sense of what to expect. I highly recommend doing this for anyone planning to travel somewhere and activate. Look at the POTA pages for the parks you want to activate and you’ll surely see a repeat activator with a Kilo award or many visits to those parks. They know the parks the best and also what to expect for propagation. They also share your passion for POTA and are usually very happy to help. The advice I received was that it would be difficult to make contacts on 20 meters and that watching the MUF (maximum usable frequency) charts would serve me well. (Check out hf.dxview.org) The activator said 10 meters would probably be the best band during daylight hours. He was exactly right. Even with QRO power, 20 meter reception in Alaska was noisy and my signal did not get out very far on FT8 watching the pskreporter.com spot map. I moved to 10 meters and quickly had a steady pile up. I stayed on the air until I depleted a 9ah and a 3ah battery I brought. What fun!

Okay, so for the QRP activation, I was at a trailhead parking area out near the Chena Hot Springs resort. Before the activation, I stopped and did the tour of the Aurora Ice Museum and took a dip in the natural hot springs. I do recommend the hot springs if you ever go to Fairbanks. It was -10F degrees when I was there, quite an experience.

Chena Hot Springs

I intentionally wanted to delay my activation from early morning to closer to sunset to see if operating during the evening gray line passing over would help improve the number of contacts I could get. The short answer is that it was worse…way worse. I went back to activating closer to sunrise on my third day and had similar results as I did the first day, much better. Sunrise wins.

The map above shows my initial ten QRP QSO’s from K-7228.

What really continues to amaze me is just how far my signal can reach with the portable equipment I was using. I brought the Buddipole so I could configure it as a vertical or a dipole. I tried it as a vertical on 20 meters on my first day and as I said, the reception was poor. The beauty of the Buddipole is that I could quickly reconfigure it to a 10 meter dipole. With the tripod, it’s roughly 10’ off the ground. There was no wind to speak of, so I didn’t need to guy it. If there was, I would have used a bungee cord to secure it to the car bumper or side mirror.

It breaks down and fits in the bag I bought with the Buddipole tripod and I tossed it into my checked bag on the plane. With the tripod and mast, it’s just a little too long for the carry-on bag. I could have brought a fiberglass push up mast and wire antennas in my carry-on, but I decided on the checked bag and brought the Buddipole to have as many options as possible. After all, I was traveling all the way to Alaska. Continue reading N2YCH: January POTA Travel in Frozen Alaska!

Master of the Black Dog: Conrad’s POTA/SOTA activation leads to a new quest!

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


Connecticut POTA/SOTA combined activation

By: Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

November 24, 2023

The author, Conrad, N2YCH at POTA K-1717, Sleeping Giant State Park & SOTA Mt. Carmel, W1/HH-002

Looking for my next activation challenge, I wondered if there were any overlapping POTA parks with SOTA summits in the state of Connecticut. I’ve only done two SOTA activations to date, one in Maine and the other in New Hampshire. I thought, there must be a few in Connecticut.

On my home computer, I brought up both the POTA map and the SOTA mapping page and quickly realized that it would take too much time to try and compare the two maps. Instead, both sites offer KML exports, so I exported all of the Connecticut parks from the POTA site and the summits from the SOTA mapping page and imported both files into Google Earth Pro. A yellow push pin represented the POTA locations and a blue triangle the SOTA locations. It was easy to spot the overlapping sites. Mt. Carmel and Talcott Mountain are both POTA parks and Summits for SOTA. There are a few other SOTA sites that have POTA trails that cross over as well.

I decided to tackle Mt. Carmel, SOTA W1/HH-002 also POTA K-1717, Sleeping Giant State Park. I’d already activated Sleeping Giant for POTA before, but not from the summit. For a SOTA activation to count, the operator must be within the “Activation Zone” as defined by the SOTA rules.

The Connecticut state web site has good maps and information about the park and showed that the trail to get to the summit is an “easy” 1.6 mile hike. I thought that sounded like a reasonable distance. What they don’t tell you on the web site that it’s also a 600’ climb up in elevation from the trailhead to the summit. I knew it would require a climb, but I didn’t expect that. I made the trip up, but it was challenging, especially carrying my backpack with the radio, a VHF handheld, antenna, batteries, computer, water, etc. I plan to travel lighter the next time.

The Mt. Carmel trailhead

Before I get to the activation, a little about the park. It’s called Sleeping Giant because from a distance, the ridge looks like a person laying on their back.

From the CT DEEP site

It’s located in a mountain range called Hanging Hills which extends North from Long Island Sound through Connecticut and Massachusetts up to the Vermont border. Quinnipiac University is across from the entrance to the park and the Quinnipiac Indian Tribe once inhabited the area. Please indulge me as I also share the ghost story of “The Legend of the Black Dog of the Hanging Hills.”

“If a man shall meet the Black Dog once it shall be for joy; and if twice, it shall be for sorrow; and the third time he shall die.”

As the legend has it, the Hanging Hills area is haunted by the Black Dog. You don’t want him to cross your path three times. It’s this story that is the basis for the SOTA “Master of the Black Dog” certificate. “An activator must have entered valid activation logs from each and every summit in the Hanging Hills Region and must have survived all of the activations.” There are currently four summits in the Hanging Hills Region. I need this award.

So far, I have completed activating one of the four summits and did NOT see the black dog. Wish me luck on the remaining three.

The view about half way up
The Lookout Tower

The lookout tower at the summit is the main attraction of the park. Built in 1936, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It stands four stories tall and is 739’ above sea level, providing a 360 degree view in all directions and a clear view over New Haven to Long Island sound. According to the Sleeping Giant Park Association, over 100,000 people visit it each year.

I’ll admit, after hiking the trail up, the last thing I wanted to do was climb four stories more. I did go up before I left to get some photos.

For the activation, I found a bench to set up on with space behind me to set up the Chelegance MC-750 antenna. I ran FT8 on 20 meters beginning around 10 am ET and after roughly 30 minutes, moved up to 10 meters. My experience running QRP on digital modes is that I will cover the Eastern half of the US and some Europe on 20 meters. I can usually make contacts out to the West Coast and into Europe on 10 meters especially later in the day. By activating on both frequencies, I tried to cover as much area as I could to provide the best opportunity for hunters and chasers to reach me.

Setup: MC-750 vertical antenna in grass behind bench and KX3 and computer on bench

Equipment List

Coverage from the summit: Yellow pins are 20 meters, Green pins are 10 meters

Looking at the map, you can see that I covered the Eastern portion of the US on 20 meters. It was also 10 am local time and still pretty early on the West coast. When I shortened up the antenna and retuned the KX3 for 10 meters, I started making contacts with Germany, Italy and other EU stations.

The hike down from the summit was much easier, the temperature had warmed up a bit and I stuffed my coat into the backpack for the trip down. When I got to my Jeep, I noticed a number of empty picnic tables nearby and decided to set up and get a few more POTA contacts while I was there. I ended up with 48 total for the day.

The summit I was at was an easy one (worth 1 point) compared to many and it was challenging to me. I came away from the experience with a new appreciation for the challenges SOTA activators face. I also came away with a new goal, to get the Master of the Black Dog certificate!

N2YCH’s Top Band POTA Activation Field Report

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


Top Band POTA Activation Field Report

By: Conrad Trautmann (N2YCH)

November 15, 2023

In February 2023, Brian, K3ES, wrote here on QRPer.com about designing and building his own QRP portable random wire antenna he called the VK160 to work on 160 meters to make parks on the air contacts. This was in order to achieve his goal of getting the James F. LaPorta N1CC award where activating on 10 bands at 10 parks is needed. It’s not as easy as it sounds. As an avid parks on the air activator myself wanting to try activating on 160 meters, I built my own antenna based on Brian’s design and used it to get my first contacts ever at a park on the “Top Band.”

The Antenna

Brian used a 9:1 unun that he built himself in his design. Rather than build my own from scratch, I took a short cut and bought a QRPGuys 40m-10m UnUnTenna to use as the starting point for my VK160. Even though it says 40m-10m, it works on 160 meters, as you’ll see.

With shipping, it cost $36.00. It comes with all of the parts you need to assemble the antenna except for the wire. The main thing I liked about the QRPguys design was that the circuit board also doubles as a wire winder, so it’s all self-contained.

I sourced the wire from Davis RF and ordered 200’ of “POLY STEALTH – 26 AWG, 19 0.22000 44.00 STRAND COPPER CLAD STEEL, BLACK PE JACKET.” It cost $50 including shipping. The polyethylene insulation prevents the wire from knotting up. I measured out 144’ for the radiator based on Brian’s design and used the remaining wire as the counterpoise.

The completed antenna

I did a back yard test once it was all assembled and it worked great. For $86, I had created my own VK160. I encourage you to read Brian’s detailed design/build report here.

The POTA Activation – November 14, 2023

Now that I had completed building and testing the antenna, the next challenge was how to actually put it to use at a park. 160 meters doesn’t really come to life until dusk or after dark. In Connecticut, most state parks close at dusk. The park rangers clear the parks to close them at the best time to activate the band. However, there is one park nearby my QTH, the Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, K-0228, that has an annex called the Great Meadows Unit in Stratford with a nice parking lot that is not gated and has no posted hours. I arrived and set up at sunset, around 4:30 pm ET and operated from 5 pm until 6 pm. It gets dark here early in the Northeast US in November.

Another challenge is how to manage and string up 144’ of wire. Brian suggested an inverted V over a tree branch in his write up. There were no trees nearby, so instead I used a Spiderbeam fiberglass pole secured to my Jeep to get the feed point up in the air about 25 feet. I used RG58 cable from the feed point to the radio.

Spiderbeam fiberglass pole supporting VK160

Finally, I used one of my $3.00 Home Depot electric fence posts to secure the far end to keep it tight and up in the air and set up the antenna as a sloper. I laid out the counterpoise on the ground under the sloping wire.

By the time I had all of this set up, it was getting dark. I connected my Elecraft KX3 to the other end of the RG58 cable and to my surprise and delight, I was already receiving stations.

My KX3 has a built-in ATU and one tap of that ATU button and it tuned to 1.0:1. I started the activation right at 5 pm local time and in about 15 minutes, I had six QSO’s on 160 meters.

The PSK Reporter map showed me being received by stations on the dark side of the gray line in the Northeast. It was pretty much what I expected for QRP power on the low frequency. Then, the next ten minutes things were quiet. It appeared I had gotten everyone who could hear me.

Since this is a random wire antenna, it should work on all bands so I decided to test it on 80 meters. Again, the KX3 tuned right up and I got six more QSO’s. I was surprised to see Del, N2NWK from Washington, DC pop up on JT Alert. I have a an alert set for stations calling CQ POTA. Del was also at a park. I called and he answered and we ended up with a park to park. Anyone who knows Del knows that when you hunt him, he’s usually activating at a two-fer, at least. When I checked my hunter log afterwards, I saw four parks listed from him (a four-fer?).

At this point in the activation, I had gotten the ten QSO’s that I needed to call the park activated. I thought, let me try the VK160 on 60 meters. I re-tuned the KX3 and got five more fast QSO’s. The antenna worked great.

Before I packed up, I decided that I really wanted at least ten contacts on 160 meters, which was my original goal. I went back to 160 meters, now close to an hour later than when I began the activation, and easily added five more new QSO’s to the log. Maybe propagation had changed the later/darker it got or some new hams were on the band who weren’t on earlier, but I was satisfied to have gotten more than 10 on the top band.

The Results

Here’s how I did. Green pins are QSO’s on 160 meters, blue pins are 80 meters and the pink ones are 60 meters (click image to enlarge).

Equipment List

Conclusion

The “Top Band” activation was a success! The VK160 worked flawlessly, thank you Brian, K3ES for posting your design and providing the inspiration to activate on 160 meters.

My POTA “My Stats” page now shows 11 digital QSOs on 160 meters that I didn’t have before. I love conquering new challenges and given the challenge of going mobile with an antenna that will actually work and tune up on that low of a frequency at a park that won’t make you leave at sunset, well… that was quite an accomplishment!

Thank you to the 22 hunters (11 on 160 meters) who helped make it a success, including my friend Del, N2NWK in Washington, DC.

Conrad, N2YCH and Del, N2NWK

BG6LH Designs a Board for Integrated Yaesu FT-817/818 FT8 Operation

Many thanks to Cao (BG6LH) who writes:

Hi, Thomas!

I would like to share my QRP FT8 kit for Field Operation.

A long time ago, I was seeking the most lightweight QRP kits for FT8 field operation. My goal was to have just one radio, one antenna, one phone, without too many cables, boxes, etc.

Finally, I designed a PCB. It is a Bluetooth DIGI Adapter and can be mounted on the rear panel of my FT-818.

Just plug it to the DATA and ACC jacks. It can be powered by ACC jack’s 13.8V Pin.

It works well with FT8CN, an android FT8 app.

Now, my dream has come true!

My Antenna was a so-called GAWANT, designed by JF1QHZ, I guess it’s a simple Vertical EFHW. I built it with a 1.2 meter rod.

It’s working on 7~28MHz bands, not very efficient, but so small and portable.

For FT8 QRP POTA, field operation, all of these components can be put in a small bag, and deployed in minutes.

I shared my PCB design on Github. If anyone wants to modify it, you are welcome to do so!

https://github.com/BG6LH/FT-81x-BT-DIGI-Adaptor

Thank you for sharing this, Cao. This is absolutely amazing and an incredibly clever design! I suspect a lot of FT-818/817 enthusiasts will make this same build via your design!

Thank you for reaching out and for sharing your work with the QRP community! 

Field Report: Dave ventures into the fog to play FT8 POTA!

Many thanks to Dave (K1SWL) who shares the following field report:


October 6th POTA activation

by Dave (K1SWL)

I’m pretty much a died-in-the-wool CW guy. I’m not averse to dabbling in other modes, though. Friday, October 6, 2023, was such an occasion. I’d noted that there’d been little recent Digital activity in one of our area’s Parks. As if it needs more familiarity, it looms over I-91 only three miles from the Connecticut river. As a result, it’s been activated more than 75 times.

This was Mount Ascutney State Park in VT, and at 3144′, features a paved road to the summit. Off I went!

Finding a parking space at the summit lot wasn’t an issue. The top of the mountain was socked in above 2500 feet. Visibility was 30 to 50 feet, and sightseers were inexplicably scarce.

I normally use a 20M end-fed antenna and homebrew pneumatic launcher. The stunted trees at that elevation made that less practical. I used instead Hustler resonators for 10M and 20M atop the truck cab on a mag mount. I usually consider that setup a compromise, but at 2000 feet above average terrain (HAAT), it didn’t matter.

The operating position inside the truck is quite comfortable. A melamine-clad slab serves as the operating surface. (see above) The chain at the far end was a design ‘iteration’. I’d originally just supported that end on the passenger-side arm rest. I’d operated from the driver’s side, and one day got out, went around and absent-mindedly opened the passenger door. The whole station headed for the ground. I caught the rig but the Vibroplex Iambic paddles were a loss. A fabulous excuse for a Begali- and a hard protective case! When I’m operating from the truck, an IC-706MKIIg and 15-AH Bioenno battery does the honors. If gear needs to be carried any distance, the KX3 makes more sense. The station itself takes two minutes at most to set up.

So how’d it work out? A closeup of the WSJT-X screen (seee above) illustrates it. (The device is an MS Surface.) I was getting as many as 3 replies to my CQs at a time. I wound up ‘interleaving’ three contacts at a time. It got confusing! I need to look into ‘Fox/Hounds’ operation to speed things up for the future.

All in all- a great success. A total of 62 FT8 contacts in a little over 2 hours. 16 of these were on 10M at the start and the balance on 20M. The attached QSO Map (att. 4) shows the contact distribution- mainly eastern US with a few Europeans for good measure. Will I do it again? You bet!

73- K1SWL

Field Radio Kit Gallery: W7UDT’s QRP Labs QDX Digital Mode Field Kit

Many thanks to Rand (W7UDT) who shares the following article about his portable field radio kit which will be featured on our Field Kit Gallery page. If you would like to share your field kit with the QRPer community, check out this post.

Rand writes:


My Digital HF Field Kit…

by Rand (W7UDT)

Thomas & the gang… this is (de) Rand W7UDT

The QRP Labs QDX is yet another, brilliant creation from genius Hans Summers. Hans has created a cult following, with an assortment of kits, and assembled bargains of fun!

Many of you know this, and have his gear. And as sexy and alluring my Elecraft KX2 may be, it’s often, as a minimalist, that I reach for my QCX Mini(s), or my QDX (Hi & LoBanders).

I guess it’s a touch of OCD that compels me to minimize and simplify my field kits. (Yes, I need help!) And yet, if you too, upon reading this confession, find it all too interesting and read on.

Here’s the QDX field deployment in a nutshell…

Deploy the antenna, a LNR Precision Trail Friendly End Fed Wire. With a toss and some luck, the weight clears the chosen branch and the antenna is hoisted aloft.

Often I operate along the Boise River Greenbelt, just off the path near the river. I find that perfect spot to operate.

The flow of water, doesn’t make too much noise, and doesn’t matter with this mode, FT8. Only that it has a sunny view, and it’s comfortable and dry.

The QDX transciever & DC Pack is velcro’d to a clipboard, and once secured, I attach a 6′ section of RG316 and an inline 1:1 balun. The BNC coax is then connected. A trusted prussick knot, attachs the coax and clipboard, and provides the strain relief and work surface needed to operate.

8″ USB c/b cable connects the QDX with my Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, to the QDX. The transiever is powered by a 3aH 12v DC Pack of (3) 18650 LiFePo4 batteries. With the swich thrown, it archs to life. I then open the FT8CN app on my Samsung, select the Comm Port, and Wow! What fun!

The software does all the work, and even logs the contacts automatically. An occasional touch to the screen, can have you operating at will. It’s a free app on GitHub, that will pleasantly surprise and surpass any low estimations of ‘Free Chinese Stuff.’

All this can be viewed on YouTube, watch Linas LY2H.

Here’s my assembled field kit for my QDX (LoBander). I absolutely love this thing!

It’s a very tight kit. As simple as Hans ‘the Man!’ can make it. What a capable marvel of creative genius. Here’s a pic…

These modes offer error correction, and incredible Dx. The software function flawlessly, and automatically logs the contacts. Hang it high, and the antenna is happy! Easy, cheap and fun! 72 de W7UDT Rand

Notes ~ FT8, JS8 Call & RTTY Only, using the amazing & free FT8CN software.

Conrad’s Kayak POTA Activation on Minnie Island

Minnie Island K-1698 Kayak Activation

by Conrad (N2YCH)

9/1/2023

As many readers know, I am on a Parks on the Air (POTA) quest to activate all references in the state of Connecticut. There are 136 parks, and four of them are only accessible by boat. You may have seen my recent field report here on QRPer.com about activating three islands located in the Connecticut River. For those islands, I enlisted professional help from a boat captain with the navigation experience and proper tools (like radar and maps) to access those islands.

The final boat-only accessible island is Minnie Island, located in the middle of Gardner Lake in the town of Salem, Connecticut. I DO have experience kayaking on a Lake, thanks to my uncle, who has two kayaks and has taken me out on Tillson Lake in New York’s Hudson Valley a number of times. Unlike the challenges the river posed, I felt like I could manage the lake on my own. I did need a kayak, though, which I didn’t own.

I had to do some kayak research then. In case you didn’t know this, different kayaks have different specifications on how much weight they can hold. I’m a big guy, six foot five inches tall. Add me, plus a backpack of radio equipment, and I needed to be sure I didn’t sink.

I started on eBay, looking for people selling used kayaks. There are all different kinds of kayaks. Some made for the ocean and dealing with waves and others for casual lake paddler. Some have rudders, some have small, sealed cockpits and some even have motors. I had no idea how serious you could get with all of the accessories and options. I was really looking for something simple.

After striking out on eBay, I found a fishing supply store at the end of the Connecticut River that also had kayaks you could rent. I visited their web site and was happy to see that they were having an end of season clearance sale, where they were selling their rentals. I visited their shop and after looking at my options, I ended up buying an Old Town Vapor 10 kayak. It came with a paddle and life jacket and it was 50% of the price new. A great bargain. The added benefit is now I own my own kayak…a friend suggested that now that I do, there might be IOTA activations in my future.

What sold me on the Vapor 10 was the open cockpit. No trying to squeeze myself in and plenty of room to bring a backpack with the radio equipment in-between my legs. Also, I was able to fit it into my Jeep Wrangler.

Next stop, the Gardner Lake Boat Launch, which was about a 30 minute drive North. Continue reading Conrad’s Kayak POTA Activation on Minnie Island