In the process of moving my videos from the camera, to my laptop, and then to PC where I do my remote uploads (my bandwidth at the QTH is far too poor to upload large videos) I somehow managed to delete this particular video file.
I was quite frustrated, actually, because this particular POTA activation was challenging. Lately, I’ve had so few examples of just how quiet a band can be when propagation is less stable.
The SOTA activation I performed only a few hours earlier had some of the deepest pileups I’ve ever experienced. By the time I started my POTA activation a couple hours later, all of this had changed–at least on the bands above 20 meters and I’d chosen 17 meters (a WARC band) since a contest was in progress on 20 and 40 meters.
I’m incredibly pleased that I stumbled upon the raw video files on my backup drive. I was able to reproduce the video in its entirety. I’m so pleased it wasn’t lost!
This is why it’s a little out of sync date-wise with my other reports.
I hope you enjoy this field report:
Pilot Mountain State Park (K-2750)
After capping off a beautiful 4+ mile hike and SOTA/POTA activation at Hanging Rock State Park, I put my SOTA pack in the car and drove 30 minutes to Pilot Mountain State Park.
Many thanks to Adam (BD6CR) who shares the following guest post about his latest project:
From Open Source Project ADX to Kit ADX-S
by Adam (BD6CR)
BD6CR @ CRKits.COM
Original Design: WB2CBA
Modification and Kitting: BD6CR
I knew Barb, WB2CBA from his uSDX design a few years ago and I introduced both DL2MAN and his designs in my blog. So, when I came across the ADX – Arduino Digital Xcvr a few months ago, I immediately ordered both the ADX (through hole) and the ADX UNO (surface mount) PCB samples.
I started building the ADX UNO and put it in a dental floss case and made a few contacts on park bench. However, the soldering is too much for my eyesight. So, I turned back to the ADX because I don’t need to solder any SMD parts, since both the M328P and SI5351 are module based. I could build the project in 3 hours and it worked the first time.
However, I felt unsatisfied with the strong BCI since the CD2003 radio receiver chip was connected as a direct conversion receiver. JE1RAV mentioned in his QP-7C modification project that he tried JA9TTT’s idea to build a superhet SSB receiver with the TA2003 or CD2003, so I tried and it worked very well. I have decided to name the new circuit as ADX-S, where S stands for Superhet.
I shared the great news with Barb and he encouraged me to carry the flag to make it a kit, since my design D4D was his first digital radio and he loved it.
My hardware modification can be outlined in this schematic. I have added an FL1, PFB455JR ceramic filter by Murata and a C25 coupling capacitor from CLK2 of SI5351 module. The RX audio comes from pin 11 instead of pin 4.
Thomas, thanks for all of your activation videos related to the Elecraft AX1 antenna. I ordered one the day you announced the package deal, and it arrived in less than a week. I’ve activated a few parks with it already (20m SSB). Like you and many others, I’m impressed.
About a year ago, a friend (NG4S) loaned me his pair of WSPR transmitters and suggested that I explore building and comparing antennas. I’ve been hooked on antennas of all kinds and WSPR since then.
I began doing WSPR tests on the AX1 the day after it arrived. With two transmitters set to the same frequency and power output, you can do direct comparisons between two antennas under identical propagation conditions.
I’ve already done a couple of comparisons between the AX1 and other commercial antennas. But I think the test I just completed might be of particular interest because it pits the AX1 against an antenna I’ve seen you use many times – a 28.5’ end fed with a 28.5’ counterpoise. I used 24 AWG silicone insulated wire. The end of the radiator was placed on a 19’5” telescoping fishing pole. This is my preferred POTA mast when I can’t use a tall tree.
I spent some time trying to control other variables so that the only significant difference during the test would be the antennas themselves.
For example, the SOTA Beam WSPRLite Classic transmitters don’t have an ATU. So, I had to make the antennas resonant on the 20-meter WSPR frequency of 14.097 MHz. For the AX1, Thomas’ videos helped a lot. I used a clip-on capacitance hat and adjusted the counterpoise to 15’ 2”. This gave me an SWR of 1.17:1. For the end fed, I tried the two UNUN’s I had available and settled on the 49:1, which got me the closest (2.2:1). I then used a manual tuner to achieve an SWR of 1.29:1.
I also wanted to deal with the difference in power output between the two transmitters. Although they’re identical, and both set to 20 milliwatts, there is no way to ensure both are actually producing that output level. Based on tests by NG4S, one of the transmitters runs at 19 milliwatts. The other actually outputs 27 milliwatts. So, my plan was to run the test for 48 hours. At the end of 24 hours, I would switch the transmitters (and callsigns) so that both antennas would benefit (relatively equally) from one of the transmitters being stronger.
At the end of Day 1, I reviewed the data from the two transmitters on dxplorer.net/wspr. The end fed averaged a 5.7 dB gain over the AX1 based on reports from receiving stations that spotted both transmitters in the same 10-minute block (simultaneous spots).
On Day 1, the stronger transmitter was on the end fed. The maps below are from WSPR.rocks.
I know Mike well enough to trust his evaluation, so I purchased an Anker Soundcore Mini quite literally as I was formatting his article for QRPer.com.
It arrived via Amazon, but I had such a busy week, I didn’t get a chance to truly test it until this weekend when I hooked it up to my Elecraft K2 in the shack. I feel like the K2 has a very decent speaker, but the Anker is even better.
This afternoon, I did a POTA activation at K-6856 and, to properly test the Anker Soundcore Mini, I paired it with my Elecraft KX3.
While the KX3 is one of the finest field radios on the market, its built-in speaker isn’t its strong suit. The audio is pretty anemic (especially if you’re K4SWL and do real-time, real-life activation videos–!) 🙂 Truth be told, it’s one of the reasons I don’t take the KX3 to the field more often. I’d rather not do a separate audio recording (line-out) then harmonize it in post-production.
I used the Anker Soundcore Mini for the full activation and it worked beautifully. I love the audio, the size, the run time (something like 14 hours per charge, supposedly), and the overall build quality. I’ve never been disappointed with Anker products and I feel like this one is a great value at $24.99 via Amazon (affiliate link!).
Thanks so much for the suggestion, Mike!
FYI: the field report and video of this activation will be posted in three weeks or so!
Many thanks to Terry (N7TB) who shares the following article:
My CW Journey
by Terry (N7TB)
For many U.S. hams who were licensed before 2007, we had to learn CW at 5 wpm as a Novice or Tech, 13 wpm for a General license and 20 wpm for Extra. Many learned CW at a young age and have used CW since then. It and ham radio are synonymous for them. For many of them, that is the only mode they have used for years.
For me, my experience is quite different.
In 1982 I decided to get my ham license. I bought a Kenwood TS-520S, DG-5 digital display, a 45 ft tower, and a large Cushcraft ATB-34 beam even before I had my novice license: all for $350, a bargain even then (my wife wasn’t convinced). I still had the beam and tower until 7 years ago. In 1982 I had all the gear to work DX using SSB and it seemed to me to be the way to do it. So as a result, I stayed with SSB for decades. Right after I got my license, several ham friends urged me to continue using CW and even invited me to join their weekly CW group to gain confidence and skill. I had absolutely no interest. Several kept at me for years!
I don’t know what causes the “spark” that happens for a person to not only want to learn, or relearn CW as I did, but to also do everything necessary to become proficient. That happened to me when I was 69 years old.
I had tired of SSB and was getting bored with ham radio. I was looking for a new challenge. I decided to see if I could relearn the CW that I had largely forgotten 35 years before. The same friends who urged me to join their group so long ago, welcomed me. Over the first few years I joined them, my confidence and speed increased. Unlike the first time I learned CW, they urged me to not write down anything but to listen to the sound and translate the letters in my head. It was slower than writing it down at first, but it paid dividends later. They all were patient and slowed down for me and increased speed as my skills improved. I still join them every week. They are some of my best friends. We are spread out in WA and OR. On Wednesday mornings we have a QRPP net where we operate 1 watt CW and most of the time we can all hear each other. We never go over 5 watts.
Because I learned CW late in life, I have an appreciation and joy of CW that is hard to describe. It is the greatest joy in ham radio I have ever experienced.
This week, I activated Willamette Mission State Park in Oregon with a wire in a tree and 5 watts from my KX2. I worked 44 contacts, most East of the Mississippi. There are few things that give me as much joy as copying and sending CW. It represents 99.9 percent of all my ham contacts for the last 6 years.
When that day came almost 3 years ago, when I had finished a CW ragchew and was thinking about what was discussed and realized that I never said anything verbally, that my brain had effortlessly translated dit and dah sounds into language and could not tell the difference between speech and CW, I knew I had finally reached my goal of communicating in CW as effortlessly as talking. I will never forget that moment! I was 72 years old. Three years of almost daily work for at least an hour on CW finally got me there. I think it takes longer the older one is when they start.
I guess I could say that CW has become my passion. I don’t know if I would have felt the same way if I had learned it as young man as many hams did in the day. Because I hated CW for so many years and had such frustrations with it, to find myself loving the mode now is an amazing thing.
In a few weeks, I will get the DXCC wallpaper for over 100 CW DX contacts. That, in itself, is almost surreal to me given my history of avoiding CW for so many years. I actually wasn’t working toward it, it just happened because of the ease of confirming contacts through LOTW. My logging software does it for me automatically. Nonetheless, I will take great pride in it because of how much effort it took to become proficient in CW. If someone had told me in 1985 that I would one day achieve DXCC in CW mode, I would have said they were crazy!
I am mentoring several people now as they learn CW. It is exciting to see them progress. It is fun to share in their successes and encourage them as they deal with some of the same things I dealt with.
The thing that has always amazed me and something that I have tried to communicate to those I am working with is that there comes a magical moment when the difficulty of learning CW melts away and all of a sudden you can copy 25-30+ wpm with little to no more effort. Many of you can relate to what I am saying. It’s like a switch is flipped and you will never not be able to effortlessly communicate in CW again.
I will always be grateful to those who helped me on those many weekly hour-long CW chats. That was the key that opened a world that I never knew existed and one in which I will treasure for the rest of my life.
I share this story with you because I know there are others who read Thomas’s blog, striving to become proficient in CW and wonder if they will ever “get it.” You will if you keep at it, and when that magic moment arrives for you when CW becomes effortless, you will have the satisfaction of doing something that so few hams are willing to do. It is worth all the work you put into it! I wish you the greatest success in achieving CW proficiency!
I do my best to shake up each field activation I perform. Even if in some small way.
While it would be way more efficient to deploy the same radio and antenna combination at each park and summit I visit, I get a thrill out of trying different radio and antenna combinations.
I should add that I’m fully aware how fortunate I am to have a lot of radios and even more antennas to pair in various combinations. I keep reminding myself that building and buying radios and antennas is still cheaper than restoring a 1940s era Willys CJ-2A.
Recently, a reader reached out and asked my opinion about the Chameleon Tactical Delta Loop (CHA TDL) antenna. I think the TDL is a brilliant antenna system, actually, and the one I recommend the most from Chameleon because of its versatility.
Not only can it be deployed as a multi-band vertical delta loop but it has all of the parts needed to be an MPAS Lite vertical as well, save the counterpoise.
The CHA TDL comes with a 25 foot wire that connects the two 17′ whips into a loop configuration, but the clamps on the end of that wire can’t connect to the ground lug on the MPAS ground spike terminal as-is. That said, you could easily make a short connector cable or connection point that would allow the CHA TDL wire to clamp to the ground spike terminal. Else, of course, you could cut a dedicated 25′ counterpoise from pretty much any wire you might have around the shack.
You can buy the same counterpoise used with the MPAS Lite package, but it’s more affordable just to build your own since there’s no magic in the counterpoise. And, FYI, configured as the delta loop, there’s no need for a separate counterpoise; only if you configure it as a vertical.
This same reader also has an Icom IC-705 and an mAT-705 Plus antenna tuner. He was curious how well that combo might work with the CHA TDL. I knew that the combo would work well, but I thought, “why not try it?”
I realized that it has been ages since I last deployed the CHA TDL in the field.
Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)
Tuesday, February 28, 2023, was a gorgeous day weather-wise, although it was a bit gusty at times.
I arrived at K-6856 and decided to film the full set-up of the CHA-TDL.
For an antenna with a fairly large profile when deployed, it’s actually very compact, albeit a bit heavy (mainly due to the weight of the solid stainless ground spike and TDL hub). That said, I did take this same CHA TDL setup on an 11 mile round-trip SOTA hike once and didn’t find it too heavy.
It’s because they are much more difficult to fit in my active schedule.
You’ll notice that the bulk of my POTA activations take place within a one hour window of time. This includes set-up, on-the-air, and pack-up time. The brilliant thing about POTA sites is that they’re so accessible in my weekly travels. (Plus, I absolutely love POTA too!)
My average SOTA activation, on the other hand, requires at least a three hour window of time. In fact, it’s usually much closer to four or five hours.
At first, I thought about doing a five park POTA rove, hitting four parks and one game land all that eight hour window of time. It was very doable and I knew it would be fun.
But then again, park roves allow very little time for hiking–typically, they’re wham-bam style short activations. It was also a gorgeous day weather-wise so I scrapped the idea of a POTA rove. (This time!)
Many of you have been asking about the SP4 paddle and when it might be in stock once again.
I’m happy to not that CW Morse is working on a large production run of SP4s right now and have inventory at time of posting. I spoke with CW Morse and they noted that if you find that they’re out of stock, check back again soon as they’re finishing batches of them every few days.
Many thanks to Bob (K7ZB) who shares the following guest post:
The ATS-20 in HF CW Transceiver Mode
by Bob Houf (K7ZB)
I picked up an ATS-20 last summer and played with it on SWBC and the ham bands but found the telescoping whip antenna to be marginal.
The unit I purchased from Amazon turned out to be solid: no problems have surfaced after 9 months of intermittent listening. By default, I have enjoyed it primarily listening to FM in my office.
When I used my long wire antenna, the performance on shortwave greatly improved – easy copy of DX and the value of the receiver began to impress me.
Recently I came across a Swedish ham who co-developed a line of radios covering a broad range of WSPR and associated designs built to a very high standard.
Already having a WSPR setup I was intrigued by a very low power CW transmitter that Zach co-developed with KB9RLW which puts out 300mW on 40, 30 and 20 meters at a price point that is less than the ATS-20, and – most interestingly – the design of the radio allows it to work in transceive mode with the receiver by providing a T/R switch when used with the proper SMA-BNC cable arrangement.
Many of you have reached out this week congratulating me on the article that features my work in the April 2023 issue of QST. Thank you all for the kind words.
I’m truly honored that QST would feature my work here on QRPer.com and my YouTube channel in their pages. Steve (K5ATA) wrote a very gracious article, and frankly, I don’t know what to say other than thank you!
I’d like to thank all of you, readers, for making QRPer.com what it is today with your contributions, guest posts, field reports, hints & tips, and words of encouragement to others in the comments section. I’m honored to have even played a modest role in your radio journey, and your feedback and contributions have taught me so much, which, I feel, has made me a better field operator.