Category Archives: News

MJ’s Mountain Topper MTR-4B brag photo!

Many thanks to Mike “MJ” ( WO9B) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

I’m not normally enthusiastic about an equipment review, but as for the MTR gear…welcome to the 4B-V2 club. For no good reason I have to pass along a brag photo of my setup.

After growing tired of chasing a key around the picnic table, a removable epoxy bracket was added to mount the venerable Begali Adventure paddle. The battery is a small LifePO4 1.1 Ah battery which provides about 5 hours of Field Day operating.

Naturally, I use a Spark Plug for my antenna. The last two Field Days have been with this setup. It is an outstanding piece of gear. It took me one email exchange with Steve, WG0AT, to overcome the lack of a volume control. Not a moment of buyer’s remorse.

See you on the air….

MJ, WO9B

Thank you for sharing this, MJ! I love brag photos.

What a nice combo, too: the Begali Adventure and the MTR-4B! 

Readers: MJ is owner of www.sparkpluggear.com. I’ve heard many good things about his Spark Plug EFHW. I need to grab one and give it a go soon!

And yes, MJ, I’ll see you on the air!

Using WSPR Data to Study Propagation 40 & 20 Meter Bands

Many thanks to Jim (KX4TD) who writes:

Hi Thomas,

I am a subscriber and ham radio operator circa 1974. Like you (and a lotta hams) I started as a SWL using a transistorized Lafayette Radio receiver.

Last evening, I listened to the April 2022 Wireless Flirt podcast from Ireland where you were interviewed about the comeback of SW radio. Well done Thomas! You are one articulate dude!

I currently have a uBitx that I use for base and portable operation. We share an interest in POTA and other QRP field operations.

My latest obsession is WSPR. Attached [linked below], please find some of my WSPR findings on 40 meters.

73,

Jim KX4TD

Click here to download PDF: “Using WSPR Data to Study Propagation on the 40-meter and 20-meter Bands”

Thank you so much for sharing this and for the kind words, Jim! It’s strange, but I’ve yet to dive into the world of WSPR. I actually have a QRPLabs QCX+ transceiver kit I purchased specifically to explore WSPR. I just need to find the time to build it now! 

Thanks again for sharing your amazing report!

Update: A few more details about the new Xiegu G106 QRP transceiver

Yesterday, I posted some photos of the new Xiegu G106 transceiver.

Since then, I’ve been getting a few updates from my friend as, I assume, Xiegu releases preliminary info.

This is the latest illustration (click to enlarge):

You can see Xiegu is certainly eyeing the park and summit activators out there.

They’re also touting digital mode operation and I’ll have to assume this means the radio has an internal sound card which would certainly simplify a field-portable digi mode kit.

I was originally told that the G106 had six bands, but this image implies 80-10 meters including the WARC bands. We’ll have to verify this once the production marketing information is released. Since this is the 2022 Hamvention weekend, we could be learning more int he next couple of days.

I’ll continue to post updates here on QRPer.com. Bookmark the tag G106 if interested.

Oh yeah, I do hope there are some fold-out feet or a bail hiding under that G106 chassis!

Hike and Talk: Future of Ham Radio, POTA/SOTA’s Role, CW Renaissance, Power of Kindness, and Engaging our Youth

As I drink a cup of coffee and type this post, I’m also packing my camping and radio gear in the car for a four day POTA expedition with my buddy, Eric (WD8RIF). As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s what we’re doing in lieu of going to the 2022 Hamvention.

I’d planned to write up a field report this morning (I’ve a few in the pipeline) but I simply don’t have the time to do a proper job and I like taking my time with these reports.

Instead, I unearthed a “Hike and Talk” video I made earlier this year and completely forgot about.

Be warned…

My “Hike and Talk” videos aren’t for everyone. I don’t edit them–they’re pure unscripted stream of consciousness. And they’re quite long by YouTube standards.

If this isn’t your sort of thing, just skip this one–I won’t be offended.

On this particular day, I had the future of amateur radio on my mind.

Since it’s been a couple of months since I made this video, I listened to it this morning while packing if for no other reason than to simply refresh my memory. Since I don’t typically do this sort of thing (sharing my thoughts and opinions out there in the public space) I always find it a bit cringe-worthy to review these after the fact. I’m no authority on any topic and never want to paint myself as one, so I typically only discuss these things in interviews and even then, I rarely, if ever, listen my interview post-broadcast (save this one, perhaps).

Proud Prof

But this rambling “Hike and Talk” session reminded me of something that still makes me swell up with pride. I mentioned one ham radio class in particular that I taught for the high school students in our home school cooperative.

It reminded me of a couple of photos I took during that class:

In this first photo (above), I took the class out to the parking lot at the school and I had them set up a (then prototype!) Mission RGO One transceiver on a folding table under a large tree. I had the students erect both an end-fed resonant antenna and a simple 20 meter vertical. I picked the RGO one because all of the adjustments we had talked about in the classroom—AGC, Filters, A/B VFOs, Direct Frequency Entry, Pre Amp, Attenuation—are on the front panel and one button press away. Plus, it’s just a cool radio!

We hopped on the air with one of my students calling CQ (SSB) on the 20 meter band. Her very first contact was with a station in Slovenia—and she simply beamed with excitement. Thank you propagation gods!

In the photo above–taken a week or two later–we were forced to play radio indoors. I’d planned to set up the ALT-512 QRP transceiver outside and see what sort of DX we could work with a simple home brew mag loop antenna. Heavy rains moved in, though, so we moved back to the classroom, they set up the loop in a small window of this large brick building, and we worked station after station on FT8. You can see one student operating, another logging, another looking up each grid square and address, and one at the board calculating how many miles per watt we were achieving with each contact. We had huge fun!

All of the young ladies in my class passed their Technician exam by the end of the term and are all now licensed amateur radio operators. They were all amazing students.

I couldn’t have been more proud of them.

The Video

But I digress. Here’s my “Hike and Talk” video in all its glory:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you!

I hope you enjoyed watching (or skipping) the video!

Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support which allows me to open up my work life to write more field reports and film more activation videos.

Here’s wishing you some rewarding radio activity this week!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Photos of a new Xiegu G106 HF transceiver [updated]

A friend who works in the amateur radio industry has shared the following photos and given me permission to post them.

These are images of the Xiegu G106 HF transceiver (click to enlarge):

As a field operator, one thing I noticed immediately are the protrusions around the faceplate that protect the encoder and what I assume in a multi-function knob. The form-factor seems to be roughly that of the Xiegu G90 (even smaller) with a backlit LCD display that resembles the Xiegu X5105 (only, again, much smaller).

I’m assured this isn’t vaporware, and I have to assume we’ll learn a lot more about the G106 soon.

The front panel is incredibly simple, so I must assume it’ll reply on menus for filter control, etc.

I have no other details at this point. When I learn more about the Xiegu G106, I’ll post updates here on QRPer.com.

Xiegu G1M replacement

Update (17 May 2022): I’ve just learned that the Xiegu G106 is the replacement for the Xiegu G1M . It’s sports 6 bands [actually, it might be more according to this update] has 5 watts of output power, and, of course, is SDR based like other Xiegu products. I’ve also learned it can receive wide band FM (hence the FM broadcast band image above).

An additional photo:

I’ll continue to post updates here on QRPer.com. Bookmark the tag G106 if interested.

Icom drops hints about the SHF-P1 controller prototype/concept

Yesterday, Icom posted the following teaser and image above on Twitter in advance of the 2022 Hamvention:

Are you ready for Dayton Hamvention 2022? Something new and exciting is on the horizon, visit us in building 2 from Friday, May 20 through Sunday, May 22.

At first, I was scratching my head because the product image (at the top of the page) looks like an IC-705, but the frequency displayed is 5.780 GHz.  Then I remembered mention of Icom’s SHF (Super High Frequency) Band Challenge some months ago.

I looked up the SHF Project page on Icom Japan’s website and found the details.

Basically, Icom seems to be repurposing the IC-705 platform to be used as a controller for the SHF transceiver. Why not? The IC-705 has fantastic ergonomics and a brilliant spectrum display.

In order to mitigate line losses, the SHF transceiver/RF module is designed to be mounted directly on a tower at the antenna and controlled remotely via a LAN cable. Here’s a simple diagram from Icom’s news release:

Here’s what the SHF RF module looks like:

Icom will have the new SHF-P1 controller prototype on display at the 2022 Hamvention:

I think it’s pretty cool that Icom’s working on a 2.4 GHz/5.6 GHz project even during these challenging times for manufacturers. I’ve never even tinkered in these frequency ranges, but I think it would be a lot of fun to explore.

For more information about this project and links to all previous news releases, check out the SHF project page on Icom’s website.

Dale’s solution for enhanced CW field ergonomics

Many thanks to Dale (N3HXZ) who shares the following guest post:


Ergonomics of Operating CW in the Field

by Dale (N3HXZ)

About a year ago I started getting active in Parks On The Air (POTA) and Summits On The Air (SOTA). I had always been an avid hiker and backpacker, and though I am getting up there in years (recently retired!) these amateur radio opportunities were just the medicine I needed to rekindle my passion for the outdoors and amateur radio.

Thanks to Thomas (K4SWL) and his blog post and videos I was able to quickly come up to speed on the basics and get out into the field for CW activations.  I quickly discovered that operating CW in the field is quite different from operating at home. The creature comforts of a good chair, a level and spacious operating table, and isolation from the weather makes for a great experience in the shack, but is not available in the field, especially if you are backpacking to your destination. My early activations were sitting on a rock, or the ground, and using only a clip board to mount my rig (Elecraft KX2), locate my CW paddle, and place a notepad to record QSO’s.

While simple, this operating setup poses problems. Attaining and maintaining a flat workspace is tough in the field in order to keep things from shifting or falling off the clipboard, especially if you are not firmly seated. There is not enough space to set your wrist in order to steady your CW operating, and the notebook pages can flap in the wind, or the wind can blow your logbook clear off the table while operating. I realized I needed to upgrade my mobile station! Continue reading Dale’s solution for enhanced CW field ergonomics

Why I’m skipping Hamvention this year

I made a tough choice a few weeks ago.

Since last year, I’ve been planning to attend the 2022 Hamvention and the Four Days In May (FDIM) evenings.

Hamvention weekend is one of the big highlights of my year and–until the pandemic–I hadn’t missed a single on in more than a decade.

I was really looking forward to this year if for no other reason than to connect with friends I only see at Hamvention.

My buddy Eric (WD8RIF), his son Miles (KD8KNC), and sometimes our good friend Mike (K8RAT) attend Hamvention together. We split accommodation, car pool, and fit in park activations before, during, and after. We also fit in an annual pilgrimage to the USAF museum. It’s incredibly fun.

As fun as Hamvention is–which is insanely fun–I realized that it was going to be a pricey 3-4 night excursion when I already have some pretty epic, much-anticipated travels planned this summer with my family.

Since I had literally no items on my Hamvention shopping list (Eric didn’t either) and since I wanted to funnel all of my travel monies into the amazingness that awaits us this summer, I had a hard time justifying the costs of the trip.

So I reached out to Eric who, turns out, was feeling much the same way.

We hatched an alternate plan that ended up winning us over. Continue reading Why I’m skipping Hamvention this year

3D printed side rails and cover for the Venus SW-3B

Many thanks to Rick (K8BMA) who writes:

I’ve had a SW-3B for a couple of years now. Even use it in the ham shack.

I also have a KX2. From packing the KX2 around, I have noticed problems with the main tuning encoder, probably from having weight up against it. I pack it in one of the bags they sell.

Recently, I came across 3D printed end plates, cover and, STL files for the SW-3B. My son, a packaging engineer printed off a set of these parts at work for me.

Just what you need for yours. I also found a similar cover for the KX2. Next on my list.

Enjoy your posts.

73, Rick K8BMA

Thank you so much for sharing this, Rick! I believe you printed KN6EZE’s side panels and cover that are available on Thingiverse. I am definitely planning to print some of these as well. One reader noted that the encoder is a bit of a weak point on the SW-3B and it should be protected in transport if possible. 

I’ve been thinking about grabbing some KX2 side rails and Lexan cover from this company. Then again, I reckon I could also simply print some!

Thank you for the tip!

QRP POTA at Fort Dobbs: No antenna? No problem!

I’m a pretty organized field radio guy if I do say so myself.

In all of the hundreds of field activations I’ve attempted since the days of the National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) program, I’ve only arrived on site two or three times and discovered I was missing a key component of my field kit.  Out of those times, only once do I remember that the missing component prevented my activation (it was hard to power my radio without a battery and power cable). The other times, I was able to improvise.

As I mentioned in this two-parter series, I tend to build two different types of field kits:

  • one that’s fully self-contained (like the MTR-3B kit),
  • or one that’s modular, where component families (transceiver, antenna, power, etc) are in their own packs and can be moved from pack to pack.

I always prefer having dedicated field kits, but they’re pricey because they require a dedicated antenna, battery, radio, key/mic, earphones, pack, connectors, and sometimes even their own throw line.

I assemble modular kits around a particular radio and antenna system prior to leaving the QTH to go on an activation. I have a method for doing this which prevents me from leaving stuff behind.

Save this time…

On Thursday, April 7, 2022, before leaving the house for a quick overnight trip, I grabbed my SOTA pack and disconnected my Elecraft KX3 from the KXPA100 amp in the shack.

My pre-side rails KX3 in the shack.

My KX3 is used a lot in the shack–along with the Mission RGO One and Ten-Tec Argonaut V–it’s one of my staple rigs at the QTH. I didn’t think I would have time to complete an activation on this quick trip, but if I did, I wanted to use the KX3. I also grabbed one of my pouches that contained a 12V battery, distribution panel, and power cord.

Also inside the pack was my Elecraft KX2 kit. It was in there from a previous activation, so I just left it in the bag.

When a window of opportunity for a quick activation opened on Friday, April 8, 2022, I grabbed it. I didn’t have time to go far afield, so I chose to activate the closest park to where I was running errands that day.

Fort Dobbs State Historic Site (K-6839)

As I was driving to the site on I-40, it dawned on my that I might have forgotten to pack an antenna.

Not a good feeling, but I was only 10 minutes from the park, so there was no turning back.

You see, a couple days beforehand, I did a bit of an antenna inventory at the QTH–I took all of my antennas out of their packs, checked them over carefully for any damage or fault points and  made notes.

I normally keep a 20M EFHW antenna in my KX2 field kit, but I remembered that also I removed it during the inventory.

Once I arrived at Fort Dobbs, I opened my SOTA pack and confirmed that I had no antenna. Not a one.

I kept a clear head and realized that if I wanted to complete the activation, I needed to do one of two things:

  1. Search the car in case, somehow, I had a spare antenna floating around in there. Unlikely, but I’d feel like a fool if I aborted an activation with an antenna in the car.
  2. Go to a nearby hardware or dollar store and find some cheap wire.  The KX3 has a brilliant internal ATU to match pretty much any wire I connect to it.

So, I searched the car. Continue reading QRP POTA at Fort Dobbs: No antenna? No problem!