Category Archives: Hams

Guest Field Report: K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report

Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:


K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report

K3STL and K3ES at the entrance to K-0621.

by Brian (K3ES)

K3ES Perspective

Saturday November 19 dawned clear and cold in northwest Pennsylvania, but the truth is that I was up well before dawn.  The third Saturday of each month, I try to make the 2 hour drive south to help with Skyview Radio Society’s monthly Volunteer Examiner (VE) testing session for new or upgrading licensees.  Clear skies (which matched the forecast) meant that road conditions would not be a problem.  So, shortly after 5 am I pointed the truck south.

One of the creature comforts I appreciate about our VE session is meeting for breakfast before the test.  It was obvious on arrival at the restaurant that the VEs would greatly outnumber the test candidates, but many hands make light work.  Coffee and an omelet definitely helped fuel the effort.  Since the test sessions normally last less than 2 hours (and that held true this time), three of us VEs had made plans for post-test session POTA.

Before launching into the field report, let me acknowledge that K3STL’s photography was instrumental in providing a report with visual appeal.  Personally, I almost always forget to take the pictures.

POTA Plan

John “Tall Guy” K3STL, Steve K3FAZ, and Brian K3ES in the parking lot at K-0621.

The plan for the day was to attempt activation of two POTA sites, Beechwood Farms State Conservation Area (K-0620) in suburban Pittsburgh, and Todd Sanctuary State Conservation Area (K-0621) about 20 miles further to the northeast.  John “Tall Guy” – K3STL and Brian – K3ES would do a short activation of K-0620, then meet Steve – K3FAZ at K-0621 for the rest of the afternoon.

Knowing it would be a cold day for mid-November (temperatures peaked for the day just barely above freezing), each of us made plans to adjust for operating from our vehicles. That meant that we would be doing parking lot activations at both locations. While we each normally activate with slightly different operating styles that are suited to outdoor POTA operations, some tweaks made it possible to have wind and weather protection for this outing.  In hindsight, it was a perfect choice.

Operating Methods

K3FAZ works an SSB contact.

K3FAZ operated his treasured Kenwood TS-50 using SSB mode with an EFHW antenna in a tree.  Rather than setting up with a table and chair, Steve configured his station to fit in the front seat of his SUV. Continue reading Guest Field Report: K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report

QRPer Notes: HA8SA’s Homebrew Transceiver, BuddiHex Review, and “Marine Mobile” in Iowa?

Because I receive so many tips from readers here on QRPer, I wanted way to share them in a concise newsletter format.  To that end, welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links to interesting stories and tips making waves in the world of radio!


HA8SA Stay At Home Transceiver

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who shares a link to HA8SA’s compact homebrew transceiver. As Pete notes, it’s a “very simple design but with a load of features!”

Click here to check out details on HA8SA’s website.


Buddihex review

Many thanks to John (VE3IPS) who writes:

I think the QRPers will be happy see the BuddiHex review:

https://ve3ips.wordpress.com/2022/11/10/buddipole-buddihex-deployment/

John VE3IPS


“Marine Mobile” in Iowa?

Many thanks to Rand (W7UDT) who shares this brilliant little video from K0KLB’s YouTube channel:

Had a lot of fun experimenting RMOOTA (Random Metal Objects On The Air) with the boat today.. The winds were so strong (sorry about the annoying wind/mic noise) and the noise of the engine kept us from actually driving while making QSO’s.. It was a challenge just the same being stationary in one location.

It was a big contest weekend and the QRM and Pileups were massive.. With my 5w and Random Metal Object as an antenna, it was difficult to get contacts.. I was able to catch them when they were short on business and looking for calls, lol..

We only achieved 4 QSO’s out of the 10 we wanted.. (40%) but, I’m happy with that.. I felt lucky to get one call, LOL..

Thanks for watching everyone.. We (the Skipper and Mate) hope you enjoyed watching it as much as we did making it. 73, Kevin ~ k0klb

The Lyrics written and sung by K0KLB


Many thanks to everyone for sharing their tips here on QRPer Notes!

Rand’s “Shotgun!” Mobile QRP Station

Many thanks to Rand (W7UDT) who shares the following guest post:


 ‘Shotgun!’ My Mobile QRP Station…

by Rand (W7UDT)

I’ll confess, at our overly stylish home, sadly, I don’t have a shack… my XYL has “concerns.”  So, in an attempt to keep my operating license and man card active, I happily practice portable QRP field operations at my QTH and afield.

This time of year however, with winter bearing down on us, I choose to deploy via my ‘Shotgun!’ mobile QRP station.  Simply, a quarter inch sheet of birch plywood, cut and finished nicely to fit suspended from the grab bar and headrest of my Jeep Wrangler’s passenger seat.  Ergo, ‘Shotgun!’

Grab, hang, stow and go!

It’s not a new idea, but I must say, it has become a very good solution to the chilly problem of posterior frostbite and hypothermia.

I’ll elaborate…

Continue reading Rand’s “Shotgun!” Mobile QRP Station

Jay discovered that his first CW POTA activation wasn’t scary at all!

Many thanks to Jay (W1ASP) who, last week, sent me a note about his first POTA CW activation. I asked if he’d consider writing up a short field report about his experience to share with others and he was happy to do so. Thank you, Jay.


Halloween POTA

by Jay (W1ASP)

Halloween doesn’t have to be scary.

I set out to Bear Brook State Park (K-2643) for my first CW POTA activation.

Bear Brook is relatively close by, its the largest state park in New Hampshire with over 10,000 acres. There’s camping, hiking and biking trails along with an archery course and plenty of swimming and fishing areas.

I didn’t give it much thought about what day it was, just that I had the time to do an activation and it was nice out, what a perfect opportunity to break in the newly assembled kit.

I decided on a spot next to the water and as luck would have it there was a picnic table right there. I took out my gear, set up and proceeded to tune around and listen. The band seemed pretty quiet. I wasn’t sure if I’d get enough QSO’s in to make it an official activation. I decided on 14.038 MHz, I sent QRL? I then held down the memory button, took a deep breath and hit it again to transmit: CQ POTA DE W1ASP

I waited a second or two and used the memory keyer once more, again nothing. I went to the POTA website on my phone and added my activation.

The memory keyer was used for a third time, I noticed a message pop up on my logging app, the Reverse Beacon Network spotted me. It wasn’t too long after, the first call came back to me!

I was nervous and fumbled a bit here and there but once I took my time I was fine, sending their call back and TU UR 599 599 NH BK. I cheated a little and left the CW decoder enabled. I wanted to be sure I had the call correct as I logged my 13 QSO’s. (I swear the 13 wasn’t intentional.) for my first CW park activation! I only realized that it was Halloween while walking back to my truck.

I thought to myself, “that wasn’t scary at all.”

Once I decided that, as an activator I’m in charge of the QSO, I relaxed and it was a lot of fun. I may have made a few mistakes but everyone was patient with me. I later received an email from another Ham in Delaware. He was using the same radio, and referred to them as the perfect “picnic portable radio” we emailed back and forth a few times and I look forward to hearing him on the air again soon.

 

The week before, I finished building my second QCX Mini. The first kit I built was for the 30 meter band around this time last year, this second one is a 20 meter version. I love these little radios, there’s something about these little transceivers that I just can’t seem to put them down.

I took my time making sure it was working properly, I hooked it up in my shack and I had my first QSO with another POTO activator in Maryland just over 400 miles away.  To say I was excited is an understatement!

I planned on putting together a kit about a month ago for POTA and eventually SOTA with the QCX Mini as the radio. I decided on using a small pack, I wanted it to be a self contained kit that had everything I needed to do an activation and nothing extra.

I keep the wire and radios together,  and depending what band I choose to operate on is the one I pack. I’m considering a third kit; maybe a 10m version? I threw the EFHW matching transformer in the bag along with a notebook, mechanical pencil and a battery pack I put together using four 3.2v LifePo batteries. The paddle I’m currently using is a stainless paddle I found on online with a mini CW paddle for backup and set of folding headphones.

I’m looking forward to my next park, this was a great experience. I wanted to learn CW since I became a Ham in 2016, that’s another story of what got me into Ham Radio in the first place.

W4G SOTA Fall Campout Recap

As I noted last week, I participated in the W4G SOTA campout at Lake Winfield-Scott Campground in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in north Georgia.

In short? It was amazing!

I thought I’d share a few photos and memories…

Campsite and friends

These SOTA campouts typically involve an announcement via the W4 SOTA group then we all make individual reservations at the chosen campground. Since we’re not reserving the whole campground as a block, we tend to share our individual camping sites with others who might not have been able to reserve a spot.

At Lake Windfield Scott campground, the SOTA group did reserve one large group campsite, but only a couple months ago it was canceled by the park service due to a trail maintenance group that needed it.

Typically, I camp with my friend Monty, but he had other family plans that weekend.

When I found out my buddy Joshua (KO4AWH)–the fellow behind Tufteln products–needed a spot to pitch his tent, I offered up my site.

As you can see in the photo above, both of our tents fit on the tent pad with absolutely no extra room to spare. 🙂

It was such a pleasure getting to know Joshua. What a kindred spirit and super nice fellow.

KO4AWH (left) and K4SWL (right) on the summit of Black Mountain.

We ended up doing all of our SOTA activations together as you will see in upcoming activation videos and field reports.

Joshua is as pack and organization obsessed as I am. A proper pack nerd! I really enjoyed checking out his bags, cases and all of the brilliant accessories that are a part of his field kits.

He brought both an IC-705 and TX-500 along for the ride. He logs in the field using the HAMRS app (same one I do) but on an iPad Mini (see photo above) and I must admit that the size of the iPad mini is nearly ideal–much better than a phone for logging.

He also used the SDR-Control app to connect wirelessly with his IC-705 and operate digital modes.

Summits

We activated a total of three summits during the weekend (Big Cedar, Black Mountain, and Yonah Mountain). It would have been easy to activate six or more if that was the goal–the area is chock full of accessible summits.

Continue reading W4G SOTA Fall Campout Recap

Rich packs the KX2 field kit for air travel and a POTA activation!

Many thanks to Rich (KQ9L) for sharing the following field report:


Field Report and Lessons from Torrey Pines State Beach (K-3580)

by Rich (KQ9L)

As you can tell from my call sign, I am a W9er, but recently had the opportunity to travel to California and specifically to the San Diego area. I thought it would be fun to try to activate a park near my hotel. I consulted the POTA website and found one park which was within 5 miles of my hotel, perfect!

While planning for the trip, I carefully chose and packed my gear to minimize added weight and bulk of my carry-on luggage. Because on this requirement, I chose my Elecraft KX2 with built in battery, my KXPD3 paddles, a K6ARK end-fed half-wave and the telescoping fishing pole from the PackTenna portable mast system.

Everything fit perfectly into a Lowepro CS40 case and Tom Bihn HLT. I did not bring the tripod from the PackTenna system to cut down on weight and bulk.


The hardest part of traveling with this setup was the fishing pole as I could not fit it diagonally in my carry-on legal luggage and I ended up having it sticking out the top of my soft side Patagonia MLC carryon backpack / travel luggage.

I received a few odd looks from passengers and airline personal but to my relief I did not get hassled for the odd looking thing sticking out of my luggage. To minimize the space my luggage occupied in the overhead storage, I simply pulled the pole out of the luggage and stowed it in the bottom of the overhead bin. Easy! Everything made it safely to my destination and no the got destroyed.

This morning [October 15, 2022] I decided to go out early to activate Torrey Pines K-3580 which is just north of San Diego.

I ran into a problem which I guess I should’ve anticipated. Being from the central time zone and normally a 5 AM riser, I found myself ready to go by 3 AM Pacific time. I dillydallied for a few hours and watched a few of your YouTube videos to get me psyched up and ready for the activation.

I got out to the site right at sunrise and set up without much difficulty. I found the vegetation to be conducive to setting up the fishing pole by leaning it up against some of the shrubbery. Continue reading Rich packs the KX2 field kit for air travel and a POTA activation!

Treetop Antennas: Featured with my friend Wlodek (US7IGN) on BBC Radio 4 Short Cuts

I’m very honored to be featured with my good friend Wlodek (US7IGN) in a short radio documentary on BBC Radio 4 today.

Wlodek is long-time reader and subscriber here on QRPer.com and the SWLing Post. Wlodek lives in Kiev, Ukraine and we keep in touch these days over email. Like me, he is passionate about field radio work and before the Russian invasion, you’d often find him in nearby forests experimenting with some pretty impressive field antennas.

Sadly, when Russia invaded Ukraine earlier this year, it very quickly brought an end to all of that for Wlod. Not only were amateur radio operators not allowed to transmit under the state of emergency, but it’s no longer safe to venture into nearby forests.

Radio producer, Cicely Fell, learned about our love of all things field radio and put together an audio piece that airs today on BBC Radio 4:

BBC Radio 4 Short Cuts

From the forests of North Carolina, USA to the city of Kyiv, Ukraine – two ham radio enthusiasts seek each other out and a voice from the past prompts a dialogue on listening between a rabbi and a radio producer.

Click here to listen via the BBC Radio 4 website (note that the audio can be streamed shortly after the program airs today).

Many thanks to Cicely and her talented team at Falling Tree Productions for spending a little time with us in the forest and on the air! Truly an honor.

VO1DR’s Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the Icom IC-705

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!

I’m genetically wired not to buy the luxury ICOM backpack; I prefer to build my own and integrate with my hiking gear.  With that in mind, I would like to share my field package system to move the 705 around safely with little risk of damage.  Also some other homebrew portable gear. Continue reading VO1DR’s Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the Icom IC-705

Bob’s new stainless key and stealthy speaker wire that snags serious QRP DX !

Many thanks to Bob (WD4EWZ) who writes:

Thomas,

Let there be no doubt that your speaker wire antenna is awesome! I have been licensed for 46 years but was inactive during much of that time. I finally pulled the trigger, largely on your reviews, on a new Icom IC-705, AH-705 and PowerWerx PS.

I live in a very HOA restricted area so antennas were my bane. I built your speaker wire antenna not expecting much, and for the first few days I got nada. The bands were terrible and the antenna was looped around my lanai.

On Friday I had an inspiration. I made a throw line, moved an unused bird feeder anchor post and got the antenna about 40 feet up into a tree. The wire is invisible from the street, and we have more latitude in the backyard. My wife likes it so much she wants me to just leave it there, and make another for POTA/SOTA.

Does it work? Oh my goodness… Last night I nailed 9K2BM in Kuwait on 20m SSB, and this morning the JAs were melting the face off my IC-705.

This antenna is a wonder. As is the 705, after a week of learning how to optimize the settings.

Joe, at HRO in Winter Springs warned me that the 705 had a learning curve, and I foolishly said ‘yeah, sure.’ I do this (computer science/IT/data science) for a living. Don’t worry about me.’ Wrong! A huge learning curve, but I’m getting there.

Also, my new paddles recently arrived. I love this little stainless paddle — the magnets are strong enough to hoist a car, and the price is amazing… $69 on Amazon [affiliate link]!

I am using a 4″ square steel forging plate I had from my days of making metal jewelry. (Too many hobbies). It works a treat.

Thanks so much for your writings and 73.

Bob (WD4EWZ)

Thank you for sharing this, Bob! Loads of readers have asked me about those stainless paddles, so it’s great to get a report on them. 

I also love how you’ve implemented the speaker wire antenna in such a stealthy way! And the DX you’ve snagged? Simply amazing.

Thanks again for sharing!

Brooks’ first Parks On The Air (POTA) activation

A few weeks ago, I received an email from Brooks (KO4QCC), a newly-minted  ham radio operator who asked to tag along on one of my POTA field activations. 

Brooks, it turns out, lives within spitting distance of a number of parks I regularly activate here in western North Carolina. He mentioned he was interested in observing an activation to learn a bit about deploying a field radio kit and, of course, to learn what it’s like to be on the air.

Brooks was also plotting the purchase of his first field radio kit and was very interested in the Icom IC-705 and MFJ-1988LP End-Fed Half-Wave (EFHW) antenna. 

Of course, I welcomed him to join me but since we both have busy family lives–and my schedule especially took some twists and turns in March–it took a few weeks before our schedules aligned.

I asked Brooks if he would consider actually doing the activation himself instead of simply observing or tag-teaming it.  I’m a big believer in hands-on radio time.

Brooks loved the idea!

On Sunday, March 27, 2022, a window of opportunity opened in our schedules and we agreed to meet at Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861). I packed my:

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really a “YouTuber” so I’m not actually inclined to capture every moment on video, but it struck me that others may appreciate experiencing (vicariously) what it’s like to do a park activation for the first time.

Prior to meeting, I asked Brooks if it would be okay if I made a video of his activation adding that there was absolutely no pressure to do so–just a thought. I’ll be the first to admit that if I were in his shoes, I’m not sure if I’d want a camera capturing my first activation jitters for all to see. 

Brooks loved the idea–as he, too, saw value in this sort of video–so I brought my camera along for the ride.

In the same spirit, I asked Brooks if he would write up the field report and he wholeheartedly agreed, so I’ll turn it over to him now: Continue reading Brooks’ first Parks On The Air (POTA) activation