I realize that I’m fortunate, in many ways, that I perform POTA activations at times when parks are relatively quiet: weekdays, mostly, and during that 9-5 window when many are at work. On the flip side, I’m also activating when there are less hunters out there.
The upshot, for me, is that I rarely have any competition for picnic tables or activation spots at state and national parks. In general, as you’ll see in my activation videos, the park is quiet and sometimes I literally have the place to myself.
I actually take this for granted until I activate on a busy weekend or a holiday. Something like…
While traveling back to the QTH on Monday, September 4, 2023, I decided to pop by Lake James State Park (K-2739) for a quick POTA activation.
Lake James State Park spans about 3,743 acres and is divided into two areas: the Catawba River Access and Paddy’s Creek Area.
Typically, I play radio at the smaller Catawba River area because there are so many excellent picnic sites with loads of trees.
The Paddy’s Creek area is much larger and (big bonus) has many more trails.
Paddy’s Creek also has a large beach and swimming/boating area with a huge parking lot and large covered picnic shelter (that is often occupied or reserved).
On Labor Day, the weather was gorgeous and, as you might imagine, the park was packed!
So why did I choose Paddy’s Creek on such a busy day?
I might have mentioned in a previous video that we recently purchased a used Volvo C40 Recharge EV (Electric Vehicle). While I normally charge it up at home, I’m trying to familiarize myself with charging on the go as well.
I’d read that Lake James has two (free!) convenience chargers at the Paddy’s Creek area. I drove to the site mainly to see where the were located. On such a busy day, I didn’t assume either of the chargers would be available–my plan was to find them, then head to the Catawba River access.
But turns out, the only available parking spot I could find at the Paddy’s Creek lot was one EV charging spot right there at the beach access and shelter! What!?! That’s an omen, I told myself, so I pulled into the spot, plugged in, and by golly, the car started charging.
I’m still new at this stuff, so it’s all a bit of magic to me. Forgive my excitement.
Xiegu fans will be happy to see that this new transceiver has a removable battery pack. If this pack is easy to source/obtain, that will indeed be a strong point.
It looks like Xiegu has also added fixed rails to protect the front panel along with reinforcement around the chassis.
It looks quite durable, although it also appears there are two knobs protruding on the top of the radio–?
On our previous post, there were a number of skeptical comments about the new Xiegu transceiver. Indeed, some of the comments were from X6100 owners who feel that Xiegu hasn’t fully completed all of the published features promised in the ‘6100 (which was released two years ago). A number of owners also commented that getting support or repair work done after the one year warranty has challenging. These are, for sure, some of the risks associated with price-competitive radios. Xiegu radios offer a lot of features for the price.
After this radio new is released, I will reach out to Xiegu or Radioddity and ask for a loaner to test in the field. I’ll be very interested to know if it has a few of these improvements over previous models:
Better front end with some built-in BCI filtering
Cleaner audio with balanced AGC
Lower noise floor
Longer battery life than the X6100
Published features which actually work in the first production run
I haven’t gotten a confirmation of the price or availability yet.
As I often do, I hunted yet another CW POTA activator during my lunch break while working from home.
I have been learning CW for most of the year. Early on, I realized that with a bit of practice sending, and after listening to recordings of POTA activations, like those from Thomas, I could reliably send the proper exchange needed to hunt a POTA activator.
If you can give your call sign, signal report, and state abbreviation, you can make the contact. I started early on with just the basics and then added some of the common “extras” like GM for good morning, TU for Thank You and then 73. Not only is this great practice for getting on the air sending CW, it’s also very rewarding while learning CW. The exchange is short, standard, and easy to follow with a bit of practice.
Once I finished my upgrade to Extra I focused all my spare time, not much though truth be told, on practicing CW.
At some point this summer I set the goal to Activate POTA/SOTA during the W4G SOTA campout this fall. This really wasn’t an aggressive goal, one I figured was attainable but also one that I could hold myself accountable to even knowing I had a very busy summer ahead of me.
During one of the LICW Club classes I heard again that their goal is to get Hams on the air to make a QSO. I thought to myself, yes, that is great, and I want to do more, but I know I have made many QSOs in CW on the air, albeit very short and simple ones. So, I was curious how many.
I jumped on the POTA site and looked up my statistics. I was surprised at how may hundred I had, and yet at the same time, I was a bit disappointed. It’s not that I wanted to have made more CW contacts, it’s that I realized that they were ALL from hunting and not a single one was from calling CQ.
So, I changed my goal.
I know that Hams, especially CW operators, are a great bunch of people and they want to see new CW operators succeed, so there is lots of patience when you call CQ. So, I decided to move up my timeline. This was on a Thursday, and Saturday was a likely candidate for a POTA outing, why not–?
Saturday was my birthday, and I knew I could get away with some personal free time in the morning where I could dive in and call CQ POTA DE N5FY. The next day, Friday, I firmed it up, I would head out in the morning, bring the new to me KX2 and see what happens.
Surprisingly, I was much less nervous than I expected, I had told myself that it wouldn’t help anyways to be nervous so just do it and see what happens. I made it to my local park, to the picnic table I frequent, then setup a No Transformer 2-Wire antenna with the KX2. One press of the ATU button and I had a 1:1 match on 40m band.
Of course, I have great timing. I could not believe the stations on the air on 40m. I never did look but there must have been a contest. I moved up and down about 20kHz and there were stations everywhere! I called “QRL?” on 2 different frequencies and had a reply before I landed on open frequency where I could call CQ.
I had not scheduled the activation; I knew I had a bit of cell phone coverage at this park, so I set the CQ POTA message to calling while I posted a spot.
After two calls, I had my first call back. It was time!
I could have freaked out here, but I was too focused on decoding to even be nervous! Of course, I had to send a partial call and a “?” once or twice to get the full call right. Of course, I made some keying errors. But the caller had patience and worked me and we made the QSO. Now I was really excited!
I called CQ and someone sent me back dits and dahs, and I decoded what they were sending! Boy, this was fun! I continued to call CQ POTA, and tried my best to decode the replies, several pileups, and lots of “?” sent by me. But I was making contacts and having a blast!
After a couple of silent CQ calls later, I switched to 20m. And, again, started to get replies back as well as a couple small pileups. In the end, there were a couple call signs that I could not look up, l had a letter or two wrong, but with almost 20 in the log I knew I had an activation and boy was I happy!
Looking back on the activation, and after talking to another Ham, it occurred to me why I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I might be.
You see, when you are the Activator, when you call CQ, the ball is in your court, you invite people to call back and they are there for you. I almost get more nervous hunting as I don’t want to slow down an activator or run over another caller. But when you are the one calling CQ, it’s your game!
Of course there were several hiccups along the way. For one, it got HOT sitting in the sun. I ended up deploying my hiking chair on the table as a sunshade and pulled a portable fan out of the car. Even the action camera overheated while recording the activation. I couldn’t get the KXPD2 paddle to key the KX2 on 20m when I first got setup. And of course, I had lots of sending errors (although fewer than I expected to have) and sent a A LOT of “?” asking for a repeat.
That said, I am very glad to have jumped in and will continue to activate CW going forward as I continue to build my CW skills. For me, confidence in the ability to Activate on CW is great motivation for practicing, which again, is my biggest learning. If I want to be a good operator, I need to put in the effort, and going out to play radio is one extremely fun way to practice!
If you’ve been reading QRPer.com for long, you’ll no doubt have gathered that I’m [understatement alert] a big fan of the Elecraft KX1.
A couple months ago, a good friend and supporter of this site/channel, reached out to me because he planned to sell his pristine Elecraft KX1. He’s in the process of downsizing his radio inventory in preparation of a move.
He wanted me to have first dibs at his KX1 and I couldn’t refuse. I knew it would be a great unit and I wanted two fully-functioning KX1s.
You might ask, “But wait Thomas, don’t you have three KX1s???”
Yes, this is true.
With this latest addition, I have now have two fully-functioning KX1s (a 3 and a 4 band version) and one other in need of repair. After I make the repair, I plan to give this radio to a friend (one who doesn’t read QRPer regularly) so will be back to two KX1s.
Since Elecraft has discontinued the KX1, they’ve become difficult to find on the market and when they do appear, they often demand a very high price.
That said, if you’ve been looking for a KX1, you will eventually find one. All of my friends who’ve wanted one have put out word and found willing sellers in due time. Elecraft sold quite a few of these back in the day, so there are units floating around out there.
Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)
On Sunday, August 27, 2023, I had an opening to play a little radio and fit in a hike at Tuttle Educational State Forest.
At the time, I needed a little radio therapy and outdoor break: my mom had been admitted to the hospital the previous day (they released her a few days later and at time of posting she’s doing much better).
Tuttle was only a 30 minute drive from the hospital and, as I suspected, I was the only visitor there that Sunday–educational forests aren’t nearly as busy as other NC state parks.
After a nice 3-ish mile hike, I grabbed my radio backpack from the car and started recording an activation video.
My goal was to test this new KX1 and to set up CW message memories.
Many thanks to Kevin (N2TO) who shares the following announcement:
Announcing the Brooklyn QRP Doghouse Operation Sprint 2023
I would like to thank Thomas K4SWL and offer my congratulations for induction into the ARCI QRP Hall of Fame! Well done!
Here is a sprint you can work and stay out of the doghouse on the Saturday afternoon prior to Thanksgiving. Play radio, and have plenty of time to mow the lawn, shovel snow, clean the guest room; do whatever it takes to get ready for Thanksgiving.
This is a single-op QRP CW sprint. Stations may be worked more than once on different bands but area codes count once.
Date: Saturday, November 18, 2023 Time: 1700-2100 UTC
Information can be found here: https://brooklynqrp.blogspot.com/ If you would like to operate the sprint please email [email protected] as we are trying to drum up interest. Results will be posted after Christmas. We hope to hear QRP CW activity on November 18th and have a great sprint.
North Carolina Parks On The Air Activation weekend
The first North Carolina Parks On The Air Activation weekend occurred September 9 & 10. Between a limited amount of time available and weather, I only was able to activate three parks, including an over-night camp out. The primary goal was to return to the Dismal Swamp State Park (K-2727) in Camden County. While the Dismal Swamp in Camden County is a rare and sought after County on CW for those wanting to work all 100 North Carolina counties and all 3000+ US counties, it also is a place comforting to my tortured soul.
As there is no camping at Dismal Swamp State Park, one camps at the nearby Merchant Mill Pond State Park (K-2745) in Gates County. This is a pleasant small State Park with canoeing and fishing in a 190 year old millpond, with old-growth Cypress trees. It is near the lower extension of the larger Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, which begins in Virginia.
As an older park, Merchants Mill Pond SP does not have any hook-ups for water or electricity. Fortunately, I was camping in our Solis campervan, which is self-contained by solar power and good for boondocking.
The oppressive heat gave way to rain, so I set up inside the van at my campsite. This gave me an opportunity to use my new favorite portable radio, the Penntek TR – 45 Lite, a QRP CW only radio. An outstanding feature of this rig is that it has no menus, only knobs and toggle switches, and reminds me very much of my radios from the early 1960s, but with modern specs.
The internal keyer performed well with the Putikeeg magnetic paddle from Amazon. Even though there was distant thunder, I felt it was safe to set up an inverted V on a fiberglass mast, bungee-corded to a trailer mount hitch on the camper van. I ran the RG-174 coax through a rear window by sliding the window screen open a bit.
Not wanting to invite an onslaught of mosquitoes, I only used red lights inside the Solis, reminiscent of military operations. The TR -45 Lite did well on 40 CW with 5 W and the inverted V in the rain, and no mosquitoes invaded the van.
The overall goal was to return to the Dismal Swamp. I started early in the morning, setting up on a picnic table in the park between the Canal and the walkway, along the canal. Even though it was midmorning, the weather became interesting, at 90° F and 90% humidity.
For this activation, I used the old IC 706 MKIIG and a modified Wolf River coil set up. I used the Chameleon 17 foot telescopic whip. This whip is Mil-Spec and has a great feel and quality of workmanship. However it is 11 inches too short for the Wolf River “Sporty 40” coil. To address this, I made an 11 inch jumper from solid copper wire left over from my Dad’s days with Southern Bell telephone, and fitted it on an alligator clip, clipped to the top of the whip. The other modification was not to use the three 31 foot radials. For this activation, I tried the KB9VBR “Magic Carpet” ground plane.
This is a 32 x 84 piece of aluminum window screen, laid on the ground, under the antenna tripod. It may be a dB or so less than the radials, but it sure takes up a lot less space, especially in a crowded parking lot. The key is the Whiterook MK-49 made by ElectronicsUSA. It is my favorite backpacking key, lightweight and withstands being thrown into a backpack with no protection. This set-up worked well both on 20 and 40 CW, juggling CW keying with eating leftovers for breakfast until the rain came.
I then decided to wander on some back roads in Eastern North Carolina and wound up in historic Edenton, originally built in the early 1700s and the first capital of the Colony of North Carolina. Their diverse history is reflected in the town square, where there is a 13 Colony US flag, a monument to the Confederate War dead, and the British Union Jack!
The radio setup was very pleasant at the Historic Site (K-6842) near the Albemarle Sound, which begins at the Eastern North Carolina coast, and runs to the leeward side of the North Carolina Outer Banks on the Atlantic Ocean.
I decided to try the TR-45 Lite again, but this time with a Buddipole on 20 meter CW. Propagation was variable with early contacts in Utah and Idaho, but the band became difficult. It was very pleasant operating with the ocean breeze and looking at the 1886 Roanoke River lighthouse, until the rain started again.
So it was time to pack up, but a return trip to spend a weekend in Edenton would be a very pleasant activity. On the way out of town, I passed a puzzling POTA site, the National Fish Hatchery (K-8007), established in 1898, and home of an Annual Fishing Rodeo. Activating there was tempting, but the rain was prohibitive.
All in all, it was a very pleasant activation for the first NC POTA weekend. I got to test different radio and antenna configurations. I would say for the TR -45 Lite, the inverted-V worked best. For the ICOM IC-706 , the “Magic Carpet” aluminum screen worked very well and was very easy to set up.
I did not have time to do a head to head comparison of the antennas; that is a Fall project. Please note I originally got a stainless steel screen from Amazon, but testing with the Rig Expert showed that it really did not conduct as well as aluminum and had higher SWR, so make sure to purchase the aluminum screen.
For a first NC POTA Weekend, the results were modest and certainly can be improved upon next year. Down east on the Outer Banks, Jockey’s Ridge and the Wright Brother Memorial is on my future list, but an annual pilgrimage to the Dismal Swamp (especially in non-summer months) is a must.
There’s a portable wire antenna design I’ve been wanting to put on the air for POTA and SOTA for what seems like ages: a 20 meter vertical loop.
I mentioned in a Ham Radio Workbench podcast episode a few months ago that I planned to build a field-portable delta loop antenna and that led to a mini discussion about configurations, feed points, height off the ground, etc. and how all of those factors can influence the characteristics and dynamics of the antenna.
Vertical loops are pretty fascinating and incredibly effective.
Delta loops are super easy to build (no more difficult than an EFHW) but this summer has been insanely busy for me and I simply hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
Then my good friend Joshua (N5FY) who runs tufteln.com sent me a prototype 20M delta loop in the mail. We’d been talking delta loops and he couldn’t help but build one. He asked that I take it to the field and put it on the air, then give him any feedback and notes I might have.
Joshua’s design incorporates a 4:1 transformer and was cut to be resonant on 20 meters. I’d actually planned to build one identical to this because the type of loops I’ve deployed at home have been fed with ladder/window line which isn’t as portable as something I could feed with RG-316.
Holmes Educational State Forest (K-4856)
On Friday, September 1, 2023, I grabbed the delta loop antenna and the KX2, then made my way to Holmes Educational State Forest.
I knew that Holmes wouldn’t be busy and that there were a number of options for spots to set up.
After a little scouting, I found a great site to set up the antenna.
I planned to set up this antenna as close as I could to an equilateral triangle with the apex up about 30 feet and the feedpoint in the middle of the base of the delta.
Deploying the antenna in this configuration meant that I only needed one line in a tree to hoist the apex of the delta and two lines to pull out the corners of the base.
I brought along some paracord with tent stakes to secure the base corners of the loop. In the end, though, I simply attached the paracord to trees instead of using the stakes.
I (somewhat reluctantly) made a video of the entire activation including the antenna deployment. I wanted to take my time deploying this antenna for the first time, so the antenna deployment section of the video is much longer than usual.
In the end though? It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. The last vertical delta loop I deployed was a 40 meter loop which is roughly double the size–in my head I was expecting the aperture to be larger than it was.
The 20 meter loop is actually pretty compact and almost as easy as setting up as an inverted vee.
Friday evening, I met with my good friends on the crew of the Ham Radio Workbench podcast and we recorded an episode. During the recording, Vince (VE6LK) spoke about his CW goal progress (which, by the way, is going quite well) and he mentioned that he’s moving into the phase where CW is becoming fun.
Vince’s comment reminded me that I started a post draft many weeks ago that focused on several things I learned during my own CW journey. These were all surprises–perhaps even small revelations–that either no one ever told me about in advance or I thought couldn’t possibly apply to me.
This morning, I decided to finish off this post and publish it, so here are six things I learned after becoming a CW operator and activator:
1. More (much more) space on the bands
So, in theory, I understood this prior to becoming a CW activator. As we do our license study, we all learn that CW, as a mode, is a fraction of the bandwidth of Single-Sideband (SSB).
But in practice–when I moved from operating SSB to CW–it almost felt like I had an unfair advantage. That’s especially the case today with the popularity of POTA and SOTA. The bands can be crowded.
I love SSB, but if I’m being completely honest with myself, one of the reasons I operate the mode so little these days (besides the fact that many of my radios are CW only) is because it’s orders of magnitude easier to find a clear spot on the bands as a CW activator. This is especially the case on weekends when bands are generally more crowded.
CW is such a narrow bandwidth mode, I can be 500 Hz away from another signal and we don’t interfere with each other.
2. You really do begin to recognize peoples’ fists
My CW friends have always told me this, but I didn’t really believe it until I took a deep-dive into the world of CW.
You will start to recognize the cadence and “fist” of operators you work regularly who don’t send mechanically perfect CW (i.e. those sending CW from a keyboard).
This is especially the case with ops who use straight keys, cooties, and/or semi-automatic bugs, but even those who use electronic keyers.
Our brains are obviously quite good at recognizing patterns. Without trying, variances in speed, spacing, and cadence of operators you work regularly become obvious and expected. After you recognize someone’s fist, their callsign will pop out of a pileup. It’s the equivalent of recognizing someone’s accent. It’s pretty amazing, actually.
3. CW gets easier with on-the-air time
Although some of my friends did mention this when I was learning CW, I think I just couldn’t believe it.
As a CW student–when I was learning all of the characters and trying to build speed–it felt like a real struggle. I remember how hard my brain had to work in some of my first QSOs and rag chews. I literally had to rest afterwards!
But a funny thing happens when you simply get on the air and start using CW regularly at comfortable speeds.
Without trying, CW just gets easier and easier. In fact, this is what Vince discovered too: CW evolved from being difficult to being downright pleasurable.
I remember in my early days of doing CW activations, I’d arrive on site and before I started calling CQ, I’d think, “I hope I remember how to operate CW–!” Of course I did, but there was a part of me that thought I could simply forget all that I’d learned and freeze up.
As I built confidence, I was still very much aware of just how much attention I had to focus on listening to the other op and copying their call and exchange correctly. It wasn’t easy.
But within just a few months of doing random CW POTA activations, the mode became a pleasure to use even though I still had to work a bit to copy fast operators or those with distinctive fists. Complicated copy moved from being a struggle and brain-drain to being more of a puzzle I enjoyed putting together.
Your brain naturally taps into that language center whether you want it to or not and, quite often, without you realizing it.
It just gets easier and effortless. And fun.
4. CW therapy is a real thing
You’ve often heard me call POTA and SOTA “radio therapy” and indeed it is. There’s just something about tapping into that community of radio friends that puts me in a great mood.
CW maybe even takes it a step further.
I mentioned in point #3 that as you learn CW, it becomes a mode you look forward to using–one that gives you a great sense of pleasure.
For me–and for a number of my radio friends–CW is also therapeutic.
When I operate CW, I go into a focused state of mind that’s actually quite relaxing. When I’m operating CW, all of my stresses seem to melt away while I’m on the air and the feeling doesn’t end when I hop off the air. It just seems to put me in a good mood.
I liken it to mountain biking. When I’m cycling on a single-track trail, I have to give all of my attention to the path in front of me and simply enjoy the experience of pedaling through the forest. I don’t worry about my obligations, my email load, hectic schedule, or projects that need attention. I’m more mindful of tree roots, puddles, and wildlife.
For me, it’s the same when I operate CW; I simply live in the moment and, turns out, that’s therapy money just can’t buy!
5. CW opens the door to the 30 meter band
It’s funny, but I never thought about this prior to becoming a CW operator: CW (and digital mode) operators have access to the 30 meter amateur radio band.
What’s so special about 30 meters? Quite a lot actually:
30 meters is a WARC band! So on contest weekends? It’s a refuge for non-contest activities like POTA, SOTA, and/or rag-chewing.
30 meters feels like a blend of 40 and 20 meters in terems of its properties. The propagation footprint is a little wider than 40 meters, but not quite as wide as 20 meters.
Sometimes the 30 meter band is open when 40 meters or 20 meters is closed or wiped out by flaring.
30 meter antennas are easy to deploy in the field and at home. For example, a 30M end-fed half-wave (EFHW) is a little longer than a 20M EFHW, but shorter than a 40M EFHW. Also, it’s not difficult to build a 40M EFHW with a link that you can disconnect to make it a 30M EFHW.
Above and beyond all of these specific points, I remember times when the 40 and 20 meter band simply weren’t productive and the 30 meter band saved my bacon.
In short? If you’re a CW (or digital mode) operator, you really need to take advantage of the 30 meter band!
6. No one cares about how slowly you send or any mistakes you make as a new operator
I speak as someone who remembers all of my first CW QSOs and activations and as someone who regularly works new CW operators today.
Most of us are a bit self-conscious when we first try our hand at CW. We worry about how we’ll sound to other operators and we don’t want to annoy them.
I’ll let you in on a few secrets:
Every CW operator on the air has been in your shoes at the beginning of their CW journey. They get it. They’ll be patient with you and, in fact, encouraging! The reaction you’re likely to experience from them is empathy–you just can’t hear that over the air.
I get a thrill out of working new CW operators. When I hear a slow, nervous, and shaky fist, I go out of my way to work them. I’ll give them all of the time they need to get their exchange across accurately. It’s an honor to work a new CW operator.
Don’t be afraid to ask other ops to “QRS” (slow down) or send “AGN?” (again?) or question marks to clarify an exchange or call sign. The other op would much rather slow down for you and repeat to help you. It’s not an annoyance…on the contrary…it benefits them.
In short: it’s safe to simply ignore these worries. The CW community is an incredibly supportive one. You’re among kindred spirits that are here to help you!
How about you?
These are just six things I learned after becoming a CW operator.
Of course, there were many advantages of CW that motivated me to learn the mode in the first place like:
Being able to use the Reverse Beacon Network for auto-spotting.
Opening the door to super simple, ultra-cool compact CW-only radios.
Making the most of my QRP power. I’ve often heard that 5 Watts CW is a rough equivalent to 70 Watts SSB.
Being able to operate stealthily when needed. When CW operators use earphones, we make almost no noise at all in the field save the sound of our key clicking!
So. readers, what did you discover after learning CW? Or, what are you looking forward to after you learn CW?
Many thanks to Philip (KA4KOE) for the following guest post:
Review of the FX-4CR Mini-Transceiver: What’s Old is New Again.
by Philip (KA4KOE)
My start in Amateur Radio began in 1979 as a newly-minted, 16 year-old Novice. At the time, my resources were slim. I worked in a country store; pushing a broom, putting up stock, bagging groceries, etc. I was paid $23.46 every two weeks. At this time, Heathkit was selling kits to the ham radio community that ran the gamut from simple to elaborate. Looking over the catalog, my young eyes were drawn to the HW-8. What drew my attention was not the radio’s features, but the price.
The Heathkit HW-8 was listed for $129.95, plus shipping. I did not even notice that the power output was specified at 3.5 watts on 80 meters. The green gem was a bonafide ham radio transceiver!
In due course, the kit was acquired, assembled, tested, and put on the air with an Elmer’s aid. I made a bunch of contacts with that CW-only transceiver. The term “QRP” never entered my mind. I don’t have any photographs from my early days on the air: the only photograph of the HW-8 dates from 1981 during my freshman year of college. By that time, I had acquired an HW-100 from a fellow ham. See Photograph No. 1: note the chrome Vibroplex Lightning Bug, homebrew “T” network transmatch, and of the course the ‘8 on far right (see red arrow).
Rationale and the radio
Without getting into my entire life’s story, I will start this paragraph by stating that my ham “career” has now come full circle as I’m back to using compact, lightweight, low power gear; this time by choice.
I had the bad habit of deploying too much gear during POTA activations. I came across internet chatter with regards to a relatively new product; the FX-4CR SDR mini-transceiver. The base specifications are as follows:
Dimensions: 107mm (4.2”) L x 65mm (2.6”) W x 43mm (1.7”) H.
Weight: 0.46 KG (1 LB).
Display and Panadapter Span: 50mm (2.0”) TFT, Approximately 24 KHz +/- (48 KHz total) and waterfall. See Photograph No. 3.
Modes: LSB, USB, CW, FM, AM, Digital.
Receive Current Draw: 210 mA.
Transmit Current Draw: 3.0A to 4.0A at full rated 20W output.
Input Voltage Range: 9 VDC thru 16 VDC (do not exceed). The optimal supply voltage is 14 VDC.
Connectivity: Bluetooth for CAT/Audio. USB Port for CAT/Audio and Firmware Updates. Integral audio soundcard input/output.
Output Power: Continuously variable from 0.1 thru 20W. Recommended maximum wattages are SSB – 20W, CW and Digital – 10W.
No internal battery or antenna matching unit.
The prospective buyer should realize what this radio “brings to the table”. As others have previously stated on the various internet chat groups and social media, do not expect Elecraft performance at the $550 (including shipping) price point for this radio. All radios have flaws and this one is no exception. Issues of which I am aware are as follows: Continue reading KA4KOE takes a look at the FX-4CR by BG2FX→
I’m very fortunate in that in the past few years I’ve accumulated a number of QRP radios that I use in rotation when I do park and summit activations.
I’m often asked for advice on choosing radios, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, I feel like the decision is a very personal one–everything is based on an operator’s own particular preferences.
Over the years, I’ve written formal reviews about most of the field radios in my collection. In those reviews, I try to take a wide angle view of a radio–to see how it might appeal to a number of types of operators. I highlight the pros and cons, but I don’t focus on my own particular take because, again, my style of operating might not match that of readers. I try to present the full picture as clearly as I can and let the reader decide.
The Getting To Know You series gives me an opportunity to highlight one radio at a time and showcase what I love about it and why it’s a part of my permanent radio collection. After we spend a bit of time talking about the radio, we’ll do a park or summit activation with it!
And, spoiler alert: I think the MTR-3B is one of the most ingenious little QRP transceivers ever made.
In truth, all of the Mountain Topper series radios are outstanding if you’re a CW operator and into truly portable, ultra-lightweight, field radio activities.
Steve Weber (KD1JV), the designer behind the ATS and Mountain Topper series, created a brilliant platform that has only been improved upon over time.
I’ve only ever operated the MTR-3B and MTR-4B. That said, I’d love to add a high band MTR-5B to my field radio collection someday.
I recently reviewed the MTR-4B (see photo above) and I absolutely love it, but in truth? I prefer the more compact MTR-3B simply because it’s rare that I operate 80 meters in the field and I like the even more compact from factor of the 3B. It’s literally the size of a pack of playing cards.
That said, I wish the 3B had some of the later model MTR-4B upgrades like easy-access sidetone adjustments and power/SWR metering, but I still prefer the MTR-3B.
What? A second MTR-3B?
Confession time: last month, a good friend and QRPer.com patron/supporter offered to sell me his MTR-3B for a very fair market price. He could have put this on eBay or in ham classifieds and surely commanded a much higher price, but he knows how much I love this radio and offered his never used MTR-3B to me.
It didn’t take long for me to accept his offer–like quicker than the blink of an eye quick.
I’ve been looking for a second MTR-3B because 1.) these radios are no longer manufactured and 2.) if something happened to my one and only MTR-3B, I would sob uncontrollably.
I should state here that I blame my buddy, Vince (VE6LK), for introducing the “Two is one, one is none” slogan. Over time, I’ve convinced myself to keep two copies of my favorite radios such as the KX1, FT-817, and MTR-3B.
Vince, by the way, is a card-carrying, certified enabler!
Holmes Educational State Forest (K-4856)
On Friday, August 25, 2023, I made my way to Holmes Educational State Forest to play a little POTA with the MTR-3B.
The site was very quiet. The new school year had just started, so it was too early for school field trips at the park.