Category Archives: Grab And Go

Field Radio Kit Gallery: KO4WDE’s Dual Purpose Xiegu G90 Field Kit

Many thanks to Doug (KO4WDE) 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, read this post


KO4WDE’s Dual Purpose G90 Field Kit

by Doug (KO4WDE)

I have always been an outdoorsman, and for all of my professional life I have been a teacher.   It wasn’t until 2021 that I became a ham. I started out with my tech, and earned my general a few days later.  I built a modest shack around an IC7300 and a Par Endfedz 80-10M EFHW. When these three facets of my life combined something sparked in me and I immediately did two things, took my radio with me outdoors, and I took it to school. Long story short, we now have a school radio club. (KQ4CWT), and I am a POTA junkie.

The Need:

To go portable, I would take my 7300 with me, powered by a Bioenno 20Ah battery, packed neatly into a hard case, with the battery and Wolf River Coil SB1000 stuffed in the front pockets of a massive brown deployment style bag.  My “go kit” was more like a “Hire a mover kit” and weighed a ton.  This worked well, but I really wanted something different.  I needed a portable field radio kit that would be small enough for me to use when hiking and camping, but also serve as a valid and friendly introductory platform for middle and high school students exploring ham radio.

I needed a radio that would provide some of the luxury of the IC7300, including the panadapter waterfall for seeing signals, as well as SSB, and digital mode capability.  The kids, like me, really like FT8.

The Solution:

I settled on the Xiegu G90 radio.  It was much smaller and lighter in weight, had less power consumption, and had many of the features that I thought would still hook kids’ interests, as well as serve me well in the field.  An internal and capable tuner is much appreciated as well. I love the G90, and my students love the G90.

The Build:

To build this kit, I started out with the basic components: the radio, the battery, and the antenna.  To power the radio I use a Bioenno 9ah battery.  It is a bit bigger than what I need but this comes in handy for FT8 activations and the demanding duty cycle penalty that entails, and gives me some slack for device charging. The Wolf River Coil antenna was replaced by an antenna that my club built as a project.   It is a 3D printed chassis and winder for the antennas components and wire designed by (IU10PK) and listed online as “tactical end fed antenna winder” on thingiverse. In addition to these basic components I added an FT8 kit consisting of a DigiRig Mobile, needed cabling and a Evolve III notebook pc.

After reading all of the gallery builds here, I decided to choose a medium sized sling bag to fit the rest of the loadout. Again, I was looking for something to pull double duty for POTA and student work.  My huge original “Hire a mover kit” taught me that I had a tendency to carry way too much. I wasn’t aiming for “Spartan Simple” but I wanted to cut as much as I could. I made a list of my radio critical components, and my support components and shopped accordingly.  I intentionally chose a bag slightly smaller than what I thought I would need to force myself to trim the fat.  I settled on the “Large Rover” sling pack by Red Rock Outdoors.  I chose gray because it would look more at home in my classroom than FDE or OD green, but the color has really grown on me.

The Bag: Red Rock Outdoors Large Rover

(Meme dog talisman adds 5db to all antennas- a wonderful handmade gift from a student!)

The main compartment:

 The main compartment of the bag carries the G90 (with the semi-attached and very bulky fan unit), battery and a Tactical Tailor shemagh I use as a table cloth or ground cover for my bum.  I use the rolled shemagh as a protective layer between the battery and radio.  The battery sits inside the main compartment nicely as well.  Inside the main compartment, there are two sleeves, the rear is unused but the front sleeve houses my coax cable.  The zippered “flap pouch in the top of the main compartment stores my hand mic.  I use little 3D printed protective covers for the mic connectors.

(Little 3D printed protectors for connectors)

The other compartment(s):

The front of the bag has a medium sized pouch with several elastic loops and sleeves.  I use this pouch for my EFHW antenna and my “K4SWL” style bare bones 25M arborist throwline.  There is a small zippered sleeve on the outside that carries an additional 100 feet of 3mm Paracord divided into two sections.

(The front compartment is quite roomy)

At the top of the bag, there is a small zippered pouch that houses my Digirig Mobile and assorted cabling for the G90.  It also carries my charger for the Bioenno battery, and a tiny Anderson Powerpole to USB-C PD charging adapter made by Tufteln that I use to top off the Evolve III’s battery.

The rear of the bag has a very nice sleeve for a device.  The evolve III is a perfect fit.

The Wrap-up:

Although I am new to ham radio and field operations I feel like this little budget kit works exceptionally well for its dual intended purpose.  It’s capable for use in the classroom (or school grounds) as a teaching tool, but also small enough to not murder me on the trail.

The Kit Components:

            Red Rock Outdoors “Large Rover” sling bag

  1. G90 radio with “H2” stand (note: this is an affiliate link that also offers a discount to QRPer.com readers)
  2. 9Ah Bioenno LiFePO4 battery and 2 amp charger
  3. 150A Power meter (Powerwerx clone)
  4. DIY 40-10m EFHW antenna (Link to 3d file)
  5. 25’ Rg8x coax
  6. 25 meters of Marlow Excel 2mm line and a 10oz weight.
  7. Digirig Mobile and cabling
  8. Tufteln Anderson to USB-C adapter
  9. Two 50’ foot lengths of 3mm paracord on scaled down 3d printed antenna winders
  10. Evolve III notebook
  11. 3D printed ethernet cable protectors for mic jacks
  12. Tactical Tailor Shemagh (Discontinued)

Note: Amazon links above are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you. Thank you!

Field Radio Kit Gallery: WN1C’s Elecraft KX3 Camera Bag Activation Kit 

Many thanks to Thomas (WN1C) 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, read this post


KX3 and Speaker Wire Camera Bag Activation Kit 

by Thomas (WN1C)

For the QRPer’s Field Radio Kit Gallery, this is my KX3 and speaker wire in a camera bag activation kit.

This kit is the continuation of the equipment I used for my Maine ATNO expedition and other activities on that return to my parents almost a year ago. Primarily, it’s a change in bags and an improvement of the audio connection options for more sustained activations. Writing up this kit for the gallery also will probably be an incentive for further change. With how loosely packed it is, there’s space for options! You can see this kit in action on my recent trail activation.

The bag packed and ready for an expedition, even if just a little ways away.

The outside is the discontinued Peak Design Everyday Messenger 15″ v1. I picked this up lightly used on my local craigslist with an eye for expanding the kit contents capabilities. In that endeavor, it has been successful, but concentrating on this configuration to start:

Open the top to reveal the gear packed between dividers!

There’s a certain pattern (that I might not keep following in future re-packings), but the arrangement internally is:

  • Outer pouches: coax, radials, headlamp as necessary
  • Lid flap padded pouch: infrequently used adapters and short cables
  • Left division: antenna(s), throw line and weight, headset, coax, banana cables
  • Mid-left division: logging pouch with paddles and notebook
  • Mid-right division: KX3 with cover and heatsink
  • Right division: power cables, hand microphone, lithium-ion battery banks, LiFePO4 battery pack
  • Flopping around on top: TH-350 HT
  • Front zipper pouch: additional notebooks, earbud headphones, pen, coax, ARRL VE badge

Of course, not all of this gets used at the same time. Different LiFePO4 options with Anderson Powerpole connectors can be substituted. For quick and lighter operating (or when wearing more hats), the headset can be left behind. Anyway, to the details!

Full contents spread out much wider than I usually have space for! Featuring the wooden floor I rarely operate over because apartment living.

So, what is all of this?

Bags

  • Peak Design Everyday Messenger 15″ v1 (discontinued, acquired second hand) with an additional bright red divider stolen from one of my Crumpler camera bags
  • Case Logic accessories pouch from who knows where (underneath the notebook)
  • One of WesSpur’s low cost throw line bags (don’t get it, it’s smelly plastic and falls apart, as shown in the picture)

Radios

  • Star of the show: Elecraft KX3 in the “KX3 Pack” configuration (KX3, KXAT3, KXBC3, MH3) with Side KX KX3 Combo panels and cover, plus an aftermarket heatsink
  • TYT TH-350 tri-band HT (144-222-430 MHz) with bundled SRH-17 tri-band whip

Getting RF Out

  • 2x 28′ (ish) speaker wire on BNC-F to binding posts/banana connector, in use for a while, though now beefed up with a bit of heat shrink and crimped spade lugs
  • 4x 17′ speaker wire shorted together on dual banana plug (radials)
  • 6′ RG-58 BNC-M to BNC-M with a random split ferrite on it from who knows where
  • 2x Pomona banana test leads for occasions of connecting more things together
  • 60′ Marlow Excel Throw Line 2mm (a K4SWL recommendation)
  • WesSpur 10 oz Throw Weight
  • Assorted S-Clip Plastic Carabiners for the speaker wire, throw line, and whatever else needs clipping together
  • CablesOnline 25′ RG-316 with BNC for spare feedline
  • 2 foot BNC RG-316 jumper
  • Adapters: BNC F-F coupler, BNC-M to dual Banana-F/Binding Post, Dual Banana-M to BNC-F, BNC tee, BNC to center Banana-F/Binding Post; all provide options of hacking some options together

Getting Signals In and Out

  • Koss SB-45 Communication Headset (cheaper relative of the popular Yamaha headset; it shows, mostly in the cable quality)
  • Bamatech Bamakey TP-III Rot (an excellent set of dual paddles that can also serve PTT duty) stored in an Altoids Peppermint tin
  • Cable Matters Retractable 3.5mm Audio Cable
  • Hosa YMM-261 Stereo Breakout to allow use of the SB-45 electret mic with another switch wired to a 3.5mm plug for PTT on the KX3 mic port rather than just VOX
  • Custom microswitch to 3.5mm PTT (not very good at its job) using this snap switch
  • Elecraft MH3 hand mic from the kit configuration
  • Old Apple earbuds, headphones only (TRS)

Power

  • Bioenno BLF-12045W 12V / 4.5Ah LiFePO4 pack (can be substituted with the 3Ah pack I also have)
  • Anderson PowerPole to barrel plug for KX3 power
  • Old (sometimes RF noisy) USB Type-A power banks, one with a built-in flashlight (souped up with a much nicer white LED)
  • Misc USB cables, A to Micro-B and C for charging from batteries

Documentation

Lunch break? Time for a rapid SOTA/POTA activation!

by Vince (VE6LK)

As always there are lots of links within the article. Click one! Click them all! Learn all the things! ? Also, it’s with thanks to the management at QRPer.com who give me this outlet for creative writing.

While on business travel in Northern Alberta recently, I found myself with a slow workday and a few hours owed from lunches not taken that week. A quick plan was hatched and out the door I went after ensuring that all at work was going to be fine without me for 2-3 hours. But before I get to that story…

While travelling to and from this site, I’ve made it a mission to activate as many ATNO [All-Time-New-Ones, ie. never-activated parks] as possible within POTA. I plan these 500km trips with some small side journeys to these parks or natural areas and to break up the otherwise long drive along the foothills of the Canadian Rockies up and down the Highway 22 (aka. Cowboy Trail) corridor. It’s truly a lovely drive and I don’t mind it in the least.

Now back to my late-day lunch break adventure…

With the nearest park to me (VE-3162, Whitecourt Mountain) already activated but only on phone, I figured I’d activate it on CW and do more QSOs than the other activator just for good measure. I can’t believe that a park this close to a townsite had only one activation before I got there to activate it.

If that isn’t enough, it’s also a SOTA entity [VE6/ST-102] with a broad and not-steep slope making the activation zone quite wide. On top of that I can do this two-fer as a drive-up! This worked in my favour as I parked my truck within the activation zone! This SOTA entity had been done a couple of times already so I knew that electrical noise would be my nemesis.

For those of you that may have disremembered, I’m in shape -round- and that shape doesn’t easily climb summits, so a drive-up is totally my kind of summit. But I had to get a move on as there were only two hours left on the Zulu timeclock.  At my hotel room I had more gear, but being nervous nelly that I am at times, I do not leave my KX3 in the room unless there’s a safe. Given that the KX3 gets lonely without companions, I ensure that it always has a battery, antenna and key along for the ride so they keep each other happy as can be 🙂 I had just enough of my portable kit with me to make this happen.

Continue reading Lunch break? Time for a rapid SOTA/POTA activation!

Seal the Deal: Exploring the Best Watertight Cases for the Elecraft KH1

Well before I actually had a KH1 in hand, I noted the dimensions of the radio from the preliminary spec sheet and started exploring the world of compact, watertight cases.

Why a watertight case?

This Pelican 1060 case houses a complete Mountain Topper MTR-3B field kit including a throw line and throw weight.

I like to have a watertight case option for pretty much any QRP radio I take on SOTA (Summits On The Air) activations.

It’s reassuring to know that if I stumble and fall on my pack, the case will prevent me from crushing the radio. In addition, a good case keeps my radio dry if I get caught in heavy rains or (even more likely) slip on a rock and fall in a river/creek. In fact, many of these watertight cases will float with the KH1 inside so if it goes overboard while kayak mobile, it’ll be easy to retrieve. (For the record: I don’t want to test this theory.)

With one exception, all of the cases I explore here cost somewhere between $25-$40. I consider this cheap insurance for a $500-1100 radio.

My requirements

I searched a few manufacturer’s websites and tried to find interior dimensions that would accommodate the KH1 and all protrusions: 1.4”H x 2.4”W x 5.6”L (3.5×6.1x14cm).

I primarily searched two watertight case manufactures: Pelican and Nanuk. I trust products from both of these companies and both offer compact watertight cases. There are more manufacturers out there, but but both of these companies offer quality products. Pelican cases are even made here in the USA. Many Nanuk models are made in Canada, but not their Nano series included here.

In the end, I was searching for two case sizes:

  1. A compact case to only hold the KH1 “Edgewood” package: the KH1 with paddle attached, Cover/Logging Tray, Whip Antenna, and 13′ Counterpoise. There also needed to be enough room for a pair of earphones.
  2. A slightly larger case that would accommodate the KH1 “Edgewood” package along with earphones, a throw line, throw weight (or rock sack), and a simple random wire antenna.

The idea with the second, slightly larger, case is that it would give me the option to use a wire antenna during an activation and would be fully self-contained (meaning, everything needed for the activation included).

The contenders

I took a total of eight cases to a local park and spread them out on a picnic table for this test. This made the process of comparing the cases quite easy. I actually made a video of this whole process–you’ll find the video further below in this post.

Here are the cases I tested in the order you find them in the video (any Amazon links here are affiliate and support QRPer.com):

Hint: many of these cases are available in multiple colors–prices can vary greatly based on the color. A red case might cost as must as 30% less than a black case, for example.  Always check the pricing of color options, but make sure you don’t accidentally select a different size case in the process (this is easy to do).

Again, you’ll see a lot of detail in the video below, but let’s look at each of these cases with my notes: Continue reading Seal the Deal: Exploring the Best Watertight Cases for the Elecraft KH1

Field Radio Kit Gallery: K2EJT’s FX-4CR Field Radio Kit

Many thanks to Evan (K2EJT) 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, read this post. Check out Evan’s field kit:


FX-4CR Field Activation Kit

by Evan (K2EJT)

I have a lot of QRP field radios (more than I need and then some).  Some of them are one trick ponies, and some of them can do several things very well. One radio, however, does everything well, and ticks every box for me.  It’s tiny, well built, runs all modes very well, has 20w output, a color waterfall, and doesn’t break the bank.

That radio is the FX-4CR from BG2FX.  Now, before I sing the praises of this little radio, I need you to know that it wasn’t always great.  In fact, when I first got it it was pretty painful to use.  I’m primarily a CW operator, so if a radio is lousy for CW, it doesn’t get used.

This radio was pretty atrocious on CW when I first got it.  Keying was strange.  It would miss dits and dahs.  It had all sorts of popping and artifacts when you sent.  It was fine on receive……but sending was pretty much unusable.  I got it, used it for one activation in May, and then put it away in my gear closet, disgusted at how bad it was for CW.

Fast forward to the August 2023 firmware update, and Yu fixed all of the weird CW bugs, and now I can wholeheartedly sing the praises of this radio.

This kit lives in a Pelican case I’ve had forever.  I forget which model it is (it’s so old the label fell off years ago), but it fits the kit nicely.

Inside the case you’ll find everything you need for a field activation.  Notice I didn’t say a CW activation……ANY activation.

CW?  Absolutely. In fact, with the latest firmware this radio is an absolute pleasure to send on.

SSB?  Heck yeah.  The audio from this radio is very good. The external hand mic is tiny but well built, and the radio even has an internal mic which is quite good as well.

Digital?  Ah….digital.  Now THAT’S what sets this radio apart from pretty much any other QRP field radio out there aside from the IC705.  This thing has a built in sound card, so digital is a breeze.  Wait….you forgot your USB cable you say?  Not a problem, because this thing has Bluetooth digital as well, and it works flawlessly. You’ll notice a cell phone in the pictures.  I run FT8 on that via Bluetooth using an Android application called FT8CN.  All you need is the rig and your phone, and you’re in business.

Aside from the rig itself and the Pelican case, this kit contains the following:

  • Bioenno 3ah battery
  • The hand mic
  • Power cable
  • cwmorse.us key
  • Retractable 3.5mm cable
  • Rite in the Rain notepad for logging
  • Pentel mechanical pencil
  • Weaver 8oz throw weight and 65’ of hi viz reflective cordage
  • 15’ of RG316 coax
  • Spark Plug Antennas EFHW and a homebrew wire for the antenna
  • The user manual
  • My phone for FT8

(Gear links below)

There are also a set of flip down laptop legs on the radio from Amazon to get the viewing angle correct.

Now, this radio isn’t perfect (no radio is).  There are a few things to keep in mind.

First, it’s small, but it’s heavy (530g or almost 19oz).  Second, because it’s a 20w radio and it’s as small as it is, it can get hot…..very hot if you’re running digital.

Third, the firmware update process is a little nerve wracking.  Aside from that, it’s a pretty sweet little radio for $550.  It would be nice if it had an internal battery and a tuner, but I can live without those considering how much functionality is packed into this little rig.

Out of every field radio I own (and as I said, I own a ton), this one is probably the most capable.  It’s amazing for CW (finally), SSB, and digital.  It’s tiny.  It’s 20w.  It isn’t crazy expensive.  If I’m doing anything other than just CW in the field, this is one of the radios I grab most often.  Is it the best radio I own?  No.  Is it awesome for what it is?  Absolutely!

Evan

K2EJT

Gear Links:

Readers: Check out Evan’s YouTube channel for more field radio goodness.

Introducing the new Elecraft KH1 handheld-portable CW QRP transceiver

WG0AT holding the Elecraft KH1

From Elecraft:  something BIG, in an incredibly small package…!

Just this morning, Elecraft introduced the new Elecraft KH1.

In brief, the KH1 is a five-band (40, 30, 20, 17, and 15 meter) handheld QRP CW transceiver with options for an internal battery, internal ATU, whip antenna, and fold-out logging pad.

Exciting!  And if you’d like to get the scoop on this new handheld radio–– along with photos––we’ve got it here.

Q: What is the Elecraft KH1?

WG0AT with the KH1 making contacts pedestrian mobile.

A:  The Elecraft KH1 is a compact, five-band CW QRP transceiver designed for both handheld and tabletop operation. Indeed, the “H” in the model number signifies “Handheld.”

To be clear, although it is quite small, the KH1 isn’t just a tiny radio:  it’s ergonomically purpose-designed, to be a pedestrian-mobile CW station.  It’s lightweight, easy to hold and use, and will fit both right and left-handed operators. With the optional “Edgewood Package,” it also includes a fold-out logging pad.

Q: How much does the Elecraft KH1 weigh?

A: With all options (ATU, Antenna, Battery, and logging pad) the KH1 weighs in at a featherweight 13 oz.

Q: What features does the Elecraft KH1 offer?

A:  Here’s a feature list from the Elecraft brochure:

KH1 features:

  • 40-15 meter ham bands
  • 6-22 MHz for shortwave broadcast band listening
  • CW mode; 5 watts, all bands
  • ATU includes whip & high-Q inductor for 20/17/15 m
  • 2.5 AH Li-Ion battery & internal charger
  • CW decode & 32K TX log
  • Scan/mini-pan feature
  • RTC [Real-Time Clock]
  • Full remote control
  • Speaker
  • RIT, XIT, & VFO lock
  • Light gray case stays cool even in bright sunlight
  • Three CW message memories with chain and repeat functions

Like nothing else on the market…

The KH1 design is all Elecraft and built on several years worth of design iterations. It is, no doubt, fueled by Wayne’s passion for handheld portable HF.

Again, the KH1 focuses on ergonomics that would make handheld operation not only easy, but enjoyable.

The two main multi-function controls (the AF Gain and Encoder), for example, are located on the bottom of the radio. This gives the operator easy and ergonomic access to the controls while the radio is in-hand.

The four buttons on the top of the radio default to the most useful functions one would need while operating portable. Using them to dig deeper into the menu levels, however, is also intuitive and well thought-through.

While the KH1 menus and features are naturally not as deep as those of the KX2 and KX3, it’s impressively well-equipped for a radio this size. At the end of the day, it’s a much more simple field radio––by design––than its KX2 and KX3 predecessors. If anything, it’s more akin to the venerable KX1!

(Source: Elecraft)

The KH1’s paddles (KHPD1) are located at the bottom of the radio––they flip down for transport, and up during use, so your fingers are well away from the AF and Encoder knobs.

The KH1 has an optional internal ATU that is not as wide-range as that of the KX3, KX2, or T1, but is much better than that of the KX1. I understand that it’ll match most of what you throw at it.

Wayne told me that one of the most complicated parts of the KH1 design was the fold-out logging pad. He wanted the logging pad to be functional for one-handed operation. The indents around the loose-leaf logging sheets allow you to pull out a completed sheet and slip it behind the others in the stack.

The logging sheets are available as a PDF download; simply print and cut. No doubt, the format would be easy to modify.

Whipped!

This is the part I love: the KH1 is designed to operate with a telescoping whip antenna.

Basically, you unclip the whip from the side of the radio (assuming you have the ATU/whip option) and screw it on the top of the top. The ATU will match the whip antenna––there’s a mechanical slide switch that selects 15/17 m or 20 m high-Q inductance for whip––or an external antenna on the BNC port.

If you’ve been reading my field reports and watching my videos, you know I’m a huge fan of the Elecraft AX1 antenna. The KH1 basically has the option of a built-in AX1 antenna…Just take my money!

Speed…and stealth

If the counterpoise is already attached and wrapped around the body of the KH1, you will be able to deploy the station and be on the air in about 20 seconds.

As many of you know, I’ve always said that the secret power of the AX1 and AX2 antennas is speed of deployment. The KH1 allows for an even speedier deployment.

This will be most especially appreciated when activating summits in the winter where exposure to the elements from simply setting up the antenna and station will often make your hands go numb.

Also, the KH1 is so low-impact and low-profile, you’ll be able to activate parks that might otherwise be off limits to an HF field installation. I know of one urban park that, with permission, I’ll definitely use the KH1 to activate; it has no park benches and no trees, just a strip of grass around a historic building in the middle of a city. Perfect for the KH1!

KH1 versus KX2?

The KH1 and KX2 are very different animals. Elecraft actually produced this comparison chart to help potential customers make a purchase decision.

KX2 & KH1 Comparison Chart (PDF)

My advice? If you have a KX2 on order, don’t cancel it.

The KH1 is not a KX2 replacement. The KX2 is a much more capable radio. The KH1, however, is a radio focused on ultra lightweight, low-profile, pedestrian-portable, CW HF field operation.

A KH1 review?

Yes, it’s coming! I will purchase and review the KH1 “Edgewood” package. My unit should ship next week, so look for updates and photos, and I will push those field reports and videos to the front of the line.

To be completely transparent:  I have been in a volunteer group of testers for the KH1. Other than this, the only real affiliation I have with Elecraft––besides knowing Wayne, Eric, and some of their staff––is being a long-time customer. I own, or have owned, every radio they’ve ever made, save the K3 and K4 lines. And it’s Elecraft that makes my favorite field radios.

Product Brochure

Click here to download the KH1 product brochure.

Pricing & Availability

As with all Elecraft products, you’ve many options in terms of pricing.

Basic KH1 ($549.95 US):  Including the KH1, power cable, USB cable, manual

KH1 Edgewood Package ($1,099.95): Includes all BASIC KH1 items, plus all options (KHATU1 Antenna Tuner, KHPD1 Keyer Paddle, KHLOG1 Logbook Tray w/mini-ballpoint pen, KXBT2 rechargeable Li-Ion battery, KHIBC1 Internal Battery Charger,  and ES20 Custom zippered carrying case)

Click here to view the Elecraft KH1 on the Elecraft website.

Field Kit Gallery: KM4CFT’s QRP Labs QMX/QCX-Mini Go Kit

Many thanks to Jonathan (KM4CFT) 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. Jonathan writes:


Hi Tom,

I thought I would share the two go kits I have. I tend to customize my equipment and supplies before I go on a POTA or SOTA outing but I keep these for the rare occasion when I want to grab a radio real quick. [The first on is my] QRPlabs go kit:

The kit is for my QRP Labs QMX/20 meter QCX mini. It contains everything I need to operate 20 meters CW.

The case is a regular Lowepro case that I got with my KX2 when I purchased it from another ham. I did not realize it came with it so I accidentally ordered an extra from Elecraft which I now use with the KX2 kit [featured in a future Field Kit Gallery post].

The kit uses many components from K6ARK, including the 20 meter EFHW antenna and the retractable paddle.

The battery is a TalentCell from Amazon. I use it because it supplies 12v instead of 13.8v. One of the downsides of the QMX is that it cannot handle 13.8v, so I have to stick with 12.

I keep a cheap pair of earbuds with me just in case but I try to bring a nicer pair of headphones whenever possible.

Hopefully this information is useful to you and your readers!
-Jonathan KM4CFT

Readers: Check out Jonathan’s YouTube channel by clicking here.

POTA Field Report: Testing my CP Gear Tactical Aircrew/Pubs Bag with FT-817ND and Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame

Last year, during a Black Friday sale, I took a calculated risk and purchased a bag I hoped would accommodate my Yaesu FT-817ND that has been outfitted with an Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame.

CP Gear Tactical Aircrew/Pubs Bag

Rod (VA3ON) first introduced me to CP Gear Tactical–a  military pack manufacturer based in New Brunswick, Canada.

I’d had their their Aircrew/Pubs Bag with Padded Tablet Pocket on my wish list since the Ham Radio Workbench podcast episode where we talked about backpacks and pouches. CP Gear Tactical manufactures a wide variety of gear primarily for the Canadian military market. Everything is made either in Canada or the US (or both).

I contacted CP Gear Tactical shortly after outfitting my FT-817 with the TPA-817 pack frame. I measured the frame carefully and asked if the interior padded pocket (which is actually designed to hold a tablet–might fit my radio.

I never heard back from them. I could have called them, but on Black Friday, when it was on sale for 20% off and free shipping, I decided to throw caution to the wind and simply purchase it. My total price in USD was something like $62 shipped.

As soon as I opened the CP Gear pack, the first thing I did was check to see if the FT-817 with pack frame would fit in the interior pocket.

Much to my surprise, it fit it perfectly!

Indeed, it’s as if the pocket were specifically designed to accommodate the FT-817ND/TPA-817 combo.

Even the middle Velcro strap fits precisely in the middle of the radio between the pack frame side extensions. The strap holds the rig securely; once, I accidentally fumbled while holding the bag and even though it was upside down, the FT-817 remained securely inside. The strap held it in place.

The bag has loads of room inside. In fact, you can very easily transform it into a fully self-contained field radio kit.

I actually give a small tour of this pack in my activation video below, so if you’d like to see some of the exterior pockets, I would encourage you to check it out!

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)

On Tuesday, April 11, 2023, I once again popped by the Vance Birthplace for a leisurely POTA activation–I thought this activation, in particular, would be a good one to test my new Aircrew/Pubs bag! Continue reading POTA Field Report: Testing my CP Gear Tactical Aircrew/Pubs Bag with FT-817ND and Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame

Testing my new Headrest QRP POTA Field Kit!

I love field radio kits.

If you’ve read my “Anatomy of a Field Kit” series, you’ve likely gathered that field kits are a bit of an obsession. [Yeah, understatement alert!]

My field kits roughly fall into two main categories: modular and fully self-contained. My modular kits are ones where components like the battery, antenna, throw line, key, and radio are in separate pouches and can easily be combined to make a complete station before I leave for an activation.

My fully self-contained kits are ones that quite literally have everything needed to perform a park or summit activation in one pouch or box. A good example that I’ve documented here is my MTR-3B field kit.

For more on this, again, check out my “Anatomy of a Field Kit” series.

Vehicle kit

If you’re a devoted park and/or summit activator, I think it’s important to keep a dedicated kit kit in your car at all times. Why?

  • It’s ready to grab for impromptu activations
  • It’s handy in case of road-side emergencies in remote areas
  • It’s always  accessible to demonstrate amateur radio to those who are curious
  • It’s always always there for those times when you hadn’t planned to play radio, but the opportunity presents itself

I always have a full radio kit in my Subaru and over the years, I’ve changed and adapted it. For the most part, though, it’s been located in the trunk/boot and lives with anything and everything else I keep back there. Sometimes, it’s in the way when we need to fill that trunk space with family items for a trip or when we’re hauling things around town. Other times, it’s floating/sliding around freely in the back.

On long family trips, I’ve been known to store radios under the floor, but it’s a true hassle to remove them because I have to remove anything in the trunk before lifting the floor.

Contraband I hid in the car during our two month Canada trip last year.

I’ve always wanted a way to store my kit in the car in a dedicated space. In the past, I’ve tried to make a kit that could fit under the driver’s seat–thinking that might be ideal–but there’s very little clearance under it and it’s difficult to remove.

Enter the BROG Headrest Pouch Kit

Before I placed my initial order for the Blue Ridge Overland Gear (BROG) Gadget Bag, I checked out other items on their website. One that immediately caught my attention was their Headrest Kit.

It consists of a Velcro panel that fits around a vehicle headrest and a pouch (or pouches) attach to it.

BROG caters to Overlanders and vehicle storage/organization is huge in that community. The headrest kit makes a lot of sense: it’s using space that’s accessible, doesn’t interfere with any passengers, is off the floor, and is otherwise underutilized!

The big questions, of course:

  1. would the pouch offer enough space to store an entire radio kit,
  2. and would the kit weight too much for the Velcro back to hold it in place?

I asked for the Headrest Pouch Kit ($47.99) to be sent with my Gadget Bag order.

BTW: Big thanks to BROG for giving me flexibility with this order. Since I had no experience with their gear, I asked that they send me a list of items and allow me to evaluate them, then pay (full price) for what I decided to keep. 

Would it work?

I knew I’d need to store a very small transceiver in this dedicated pack. A few could potentially fit the bill–namely the:

  • Mountain Topper MTR-3B
  • Venus SW-3B
  • QCX-Mini
  • TEN-TEC R4020

I eliminated the QCX-Mini from this list because it’s mono band (mine is set for 20M) plus, I really love the field kit I already designed for it. Same for the MTR-3B–the kit I built for it is now time-tested and I love it as-is. The R4020, while quite compact, is the largest in this group of wee rigs. Continue reading Testing my new Headrest QRP POTA Field Kit!

Field Report: BROG Gadget Bag Tour, New Anker Speaker, & Pairing the KX3 w/the MC-750 for Serious QRP POTA Fun!

On Tuesday, March 28, 2023, I packed my Elecraft KX3 and took it to the Zebulon Vance Historic Birthplace (K-6856) for a nice, relaxing, early afternoon POTA activation!

It had been a few months since I’d taken the KX3 to the field and it really does deserve some outdoor time because…well…I still think it’s one of the best HF field radios on the market.

I’m spoiled, though, because I also own a KX2 and it does 80% of what the KX3 does, is much smaller, and sports a very long-lasting internal battery. Because of this, my KX2 gets way more field time and the KX3–hooked up to a KXPA100–is my main radio in the shack.

When I make an activation video in the field, I like using a speaker rather than recording from the line out of the radio. Besides the extra post-processing, sometimes the line-out audio from left and right channels are out of phase from each other and end up cancelling each other out in YouTube videos if listening in mono. I recently learned how to fix this, but I find the whole process just adds *that* much more time to post-processing and I’m always pressed for time.

The Elecraft KX3 has a built-in speaker, but it’s pretty anemic. I almost always pair the KX3 with an external speaker to amplify the otherwise excellent KX3 audio for my activation videos.

On this particular day, I had a new speaker to try as well: an Anker Soundcore Mini. I purchased this speaker on the same day I posted Mike’s speaker search and review of the Soundcore Mini. Although I have a Sony SRS-XB12 portable speaker and love it, they’re no longer produced and the battery life isn’t quite as good as the Soundcore Mini (Anker states up to 15 hours per full charge).

This activation would give me an opportunity to really test the Anker Soundcore Mini in the field. In the end, it did a brilliant job.

I should note that I also brought my Blue Ridge Overland Gadget Bag (see above) to the field that day, so I include a little tour and overview of this pack in my activation video.

I did recently post a review of the BROG Gadget Bag here on QRPer as well.

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)

As I mention in my activation videos, Vance is a small park and, unless you plan to operate from your car, there’s really only one good site to set up: in the picnic shelter. Thing is, if a school, club, or civic group is scheduled to meet that day, the picnic shelter will almost certainly be reserved for them.

Each time I activate Vance, I ask the park staff in advance if the picnic shelter is reserved and if it’s okay if I perform the activation. Fortunately, the shelter is reserved only about 20% of the time. On days when it’s reserved, I simply activate elsewhere.

On the 28th, I had the site to myself and the staff encouraged me to activate as long as I wanted to. Continue reading Field Report: BROG Gadget Bag Tour, New Anker Speaker, & Pairing the KX3 w/the MC-750 for Serious QRP POTA Fun!