Category Archives: News

Some random Black Friday 2022 deals

I’ve been trying to avoid looking at sales this week because I don’t really need anything. That said, I’ve had a few pieces of gear on my mind that I’ve been wanting to review/evaluate and Black Friday has made a few of them more accessible.

Nanuk Waterproof Cases

If you’re not familiar with Nanuk, they produce a wide variety of waterproof cases in Canada. They’re essentially Canada’s version of the Pelican case.

I’ve been eyeing their Nanuk 903 which is actually a very compact case–something similar in size to the Pelican 1060 and the Evergreen 56.

Nanuk, DX Engineering, and Amazon all have their Nanuk cases on sale today. I picked up a Nanuk 903 that I hope to use with one of my ultra-compact field radios (perhaps the Penntek TR-35).

Prices vary, but Amazon seems to have the lowest. I just purchased a blue Nanuk 903 with pick foam for $28.00 shipped (affiliate link). Other colors may cost a few dollars more, but they’re all exceptional deals (I picked the least expensive color).

CP Gear Tactical

I believe it was Rod (VA3ON) who first introduced me to this Canada-based pack manufacturer.

I’ve 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 (NB) or the US (or both), thus prices are much higher than mass produced gear.

I’m hoping their Aircrew bag might fit my 2nd Yaesu FT-817ND which is now outfitted with the TPA-817 pack frame I purchased from a reader.  If it doesn’t, I still have many other uses in mind.

Everything in their store is 20% off today if you use the coupon code BKFRIDAY20.

The pack, shipped to my address in the US was $92.60 CAD.

Chameleon Antennas

Update: Many thanks to NJ0Q who notes:

Chameleon has a 25% off Black Friday sale. I grabbed another MPAS lite and saved $90.

Click here to check out the Chameleon Sale!

Yaesu FT-891

I noticed that Gigaparts and Ham Radio Outlet has the venerable Yaesu FT-891 on sale for $599.95 US. That’s a brilliant deal.

Last year, I came so close to buying the FT-891 for $629 during a Black Friday sale. I decided against it at the last moment because I know I tend to reach for my lightweight QRP field radios that can provide me a few hours of radio fun on a 3Ah battery. Even at QRP output levels, the FT-891 needs a larger capacity battery.

That said, if you’re looking for a new 100W radio for the shack or field? The FT-891 is a solid choice.

Radioddity

Radioddity always has deep discounts on Black Friday. This year, they have a store-wide 15% off sale with a coupon code.

Radioddity is a great place to purchase Xiegu Products. They are a sponsor of QRPer.com.

SDRplay RSPdx

SDRplay manufactures affordable, high-performance SDR receivers in the UK. They are currently offering their RSPdx for £130/€156/$169.95. Click here for details and click here for my review of the RSPdx. The RSPdx is a choice radio for mediumwave and low band work. That said, the frequency range is exceptionally wide. This and the RSPduo are my favorites from SDRplay. Note that SDRplay is a sponsor of the SWLing Post.

Airspy

Another SDR and radio accessory manufacturer, Airspy, is offering 20% off of all of their products. I consider their HF+ Discovery SDR to be one of the best sub-$200 SDRs for the HF bands–check out these posts and reviews on the SWLing Post.

Ham radio retailers with Black Friday deals

Here’s a list of ham radio retailers who have Black Friday sales today. If you’ve been looking for an item in particular, you might compare prices between these stores:

Spot any other great deals? Share them in the comments section!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here in the States, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving today. It’s my favorite holiday because it’s all about giving thanks and spending time with friends. family, and (of course) eating some amazing food.

In the spirit of gratitude, I’d like to thank all of you for making what I do here on QRPer.com and YouTube possible.

I’ll admit that I get a real thrill out of sharing what I learn and even taking you along on my various field activations in videos and field reports.

It’s funny, but I’ve made activation videos long enough now that the camera feels more like a companion–with you there at my side–as I enjoy field activations. In the early days, I used to cringe a bit with each video I posted. I knew they weren’t polished, they weren’t edited, and they certainly weren’t ever going to be mainstream on YouTube (and I’m 100% fine with that). Typical YouTube viewers don’t care to watch videos that happen in real time without editing.

In the beginning, I thought I’d be laughed off of YouTube (and I was prepared to face that) but instead, it’s been completely the opposite. I receive kind comments from subscribers on a daily basis and I appreciate each and every one.

As I’ve said in the past, I’m happy if I even play a small positive role in someone’s radio journey.

Back in 2008 when I put QRPer.com on the web, it was always my intention to make it a space to share everyone’s radio journey, not just mine alone. That’s the reason I chose the name QRPer instead of my callsign for the website.

I strongly believe that radio enthusiasm is infectious and we’re all radio ambassadors when we put ourselves out there in a positive and encouraging way. The contributors and guest posts here on QRPer have proven this over and over again. I’ve learned so much from you and I’m most grateful. Thank you.

Grateful…

Again, thank you dear readers for making QRPer.com such a welcoming community. This is a true labor of love, and it’s an honor to serve it up to you!

I’d especially like to thank our Patrons, Producers, Executive Producers and Coffee Fund contributors. Your financial support helps keep this a dynamic radio space over the long haul!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Field Report: QRP SOTA and POTA on Big Cedar and Black Mountain in North Georgia

As I mentioned in a previous post, I attended the W4G SOTA Fall Campout in October and it was nothing short of amazing.

It was so great to spend an extended weekend camping, hiking, and hopping on the air with other SOTA activators.

I especially enjoyed getting to know Joshua (KO4AWH)–the fellow behind Tufteln products— over that weekend. He needed a campsite and since my buddy Monty had to pull out of the trip due family activities, I was happy to share the tent site with him.  It actually worked out quite well since we could then pair up and car pool to our SOTA and POTA activations.

What follows is a field report for two SOTA activations Joshua and I did back-to-back on Friday, October 14, 2022.

The trail head for both of these summits was only a few miles from our campsite at Lake Winfield Scott.

Gear:

Note that I used the same gear during both SOTA activations all packed in my Spec-Ops Brand SOTA backpack.

Black Mountain and Big Cedar essentially share the same trailhead at the Woody Gap Recreational Area parking lot on Highway 60.

We were on site early enough to grab a parking space. Keep in mind that it was Friday during leaf season, so there were quite a few hikers on the trails that day! In fact, by midday, the parking lot was overflowing with cars.

Almost by flip of coin, we decided to hit Big Cedar Mountain first. Turns out, Joshua had actually hiked to this summit in the past and even met a SOTA activator en route (and I believe this might have been his inspiration to try Summits On The Air!).

Big Cedar Mountain (W4G/NG-023)

The 1.1 mile hike to the summit of Big Cedar Mountain was brilliant and the views were absolutely stunning. Continue reading Field Report: QRP SOTA and POTA on Big Cedar and Black Mountain in North Georgia

N0SA SP4 Mini Morse Magnetic Paddles Review

You might recall my previous announcement about the new  N0SA SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle from CW Morse.

The first production run of these paddles sold out very quickly, but I just received the following message from CW Morse about the new paddles:

We’ve finally gotten caught up and will be shipping out Monday & Tuesday [Nov 21/22]! Also have a few more in stock. Making another batch as well.

CW Morse sent me a set of these paddles to evaluate at no charge to me (keep in mind, they’re both a sponsor and affiliate of QRPer.com) and I got a chance to use them Thursday afternoon.

In short?

I love these paddles!

In fact, I think these may become my preferred compact paddles.

I like the size of the finger pieces/pads.  They’re large for such a tiny paddle, which I believe gives them a solid feel while keying. I prefer a larger contact surface area as opposed to thin finger pieces.

The response is very precise, too, and the action can be adjusted by a supplied Allen wrench.

I agree with a few readers who’ve already received their paddles and noted that the carbon fiber reinforced PETG material make the key grippy and very easy to hold.

The size and design is very similar to the SOTA paddle N0SA sold out of last year in a matter of a few hours.

Bonus POTA Activation!

Thursday afternoon, my daughters attended a two hour meeting not even a stone’s throw from the Blue Ridge Parkway. I had *just* taken delivery of the new N0SA paddles, so grabbed the shipping box from CW Morse, my new-to-me Elecraft K2/10 (more on that later!), and my PackTenna Random Wire antenna.

I only discovered that my daughters’ meeting was so close to the parkway about 10 minutes before leaving the QTH. This was one of those bonus activations that deserved a little happy dance, especially since I could spend a good 1.5 hours on the air–a proper luxury for this busy father!

I’ll post a full field report and activation video in a couple of weeks, but in a nutshell, 30 meters was on fire. I’d planned to work 20, 30, and 40 meters (to test the K2’s internal ATU) but 30M was so dang busy, I never had time to QSY.

I had not put the K2/10 on the air yet, so all of the settings were default and it had been a few years since I used a K2, so had to re-familiarize myself with the settings. Thirty meters was so consistently busy, I didn’t have a breather to tinker with the settings.

The new N0SA SP4 paddles worked flawlessly.

I expected nothing less from an N0SA design, but still–the feel and action is superb.

I think this paddle may become the new benchmark for where price and quality meet.

I feel like CW Morse could be charging  $112.95 instead of $82.95 for these and I would still be very pleased with that price. I’m glad they’re not, though, because sub-$100 pricing does give new CW ops an affordable quality mini paddle option.

Based on so many reader recommendations, I purchased a BaMaKeY TP-III paddle recently. It’s also a wonderful paddle, but cost me 157.25 Euro which is nearly twice the price of the SP4 paddles. While I think the TP-III paddles are brilliant (and I’ll soon post a review) I actually prefer the N0SA SP4 paddles (note that this is my own personal preference–both are amazing keys). I prefer the SP4’s larger finger pieces.

Size comparison: CW Morse CNC Machined Aluminum Paddles (left) N0SA SP4 Paddles (right)

The great thing about CW Morse is that they have the capacity to handle customer demand of the SP4 paddles–this is something N0SA couldn’t do as a one-man show. I think CW Morse also has economies of scale working in their favor and, no doubt, this is how they continue to be the market leader in terms of quality for price.

If you’ve been looking for quality mini paddles for your compact field kit or shack, look no further. These are a no-brainer. You’ll love them.

Click here to check out the new N0SA SP4 SOTA/POTA paddles at CW Morse.

The enduring Yaesu FT-817 and FT-818 series transceivers

The following article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine:


The enduring Yaesu FT-817 and FT-818 series transceivers

by Thomas (K4SWL)

Last April, our family went on a camping trip at New River State Park in Ashe County, North Carolina; we had an absolutely brilliant time.

Naturally, as with any camping trip or extended travel, I’d put a lot of thought into choosing the portable transceiver and field kit to take along.

The great thing about camping at a state park is that I can “activate” that park via the “Parks On The Air” (POTA) or “Worldwide Flora and Fauna” (WWFF) programs pretty much anytime: early morning, late afternoon, or even in a late shift well into the night. Or, of course, all of the above.  Since my activation site is also where I’m eating and sleeping, my radio usually gets heavy use.

Before leaving on that April camping trip, I knew what radio I wanted to operate the bulk of the time: my Yaesu FT-817ND. For a lot of reasons which  I’ll delve into later, I think the FT-817ND (or its latest iteration, the FT-818ND) is an amazing QRP field radio.

Despite unstable propagation and a little campground QRM that moved in over the weekend––no doubt from a neighboring RV, chock full of noisy switching power supplies––I found the FT-817ND activation to be a most enjoyable experience. I posted a few field reports and activation videos from my New River activations on QRPer.com

The thing is, each time I publish a field report using the FT-817ND, I receive a string of questions from subscribers and readers. Questions such as…

  • Should I buy a new FT-818 or a used FT-817?
  • Why do you like the FT-817ND so much?
  • What’s the difference between the 817 and 818?
  • How does the FT-817/818 compare with _____ radio?

Most queries, however, are a version of this comment from reader David:

“We have such a wide array of QRP rigs available to us these days, I’m curious what brings you back to the Yaesu for activations? It’s bigger than our more modern radios, with no ATU and more current draw.   I’m just wondering if there is something that you find it does particularly well, or if it’s just ‘because I like to use it,’ which to me is an entirely valid reason, too! My 897 served me well, as does my 891; I’ve had Yaesu handhelds forever, so I’m certainly a fan. I don’t own an 817/8 but they have a devoted following so I just wanted to get your perspective on it.”

Or as another subscriber distilled the question:

“Why choose a legacy design like the 817/818 when newer QRP transceivers have better overall field specs and features?”

Of course, these types of questions are simple enough when it comes to asking, but when it comes to answering, much more complex.

Of course, as I said in my recent TSM article about choosing a field radio, one’s love of a particular radio is by definition quite subjective, and this certainly applies to my response…we all have our own personal preferences.  But behind these preferences are objective facts, such as product’s unique features, specifications, and form factor; let’s take a look at these.

Continue reading The enduring Yaesu FT-817 and FT-818 series transceivers

Spring Flashback: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and Chameleon MPAS Lite at New River State Park

This year, it’s been a challenge for me to keep up with field reports that accompany my activation videos.  It’s been a very busy year with a fair amount of travel, DIY projects, and family activities.

I recently realized that I have a number of activation videos from much earlier this year–videos I skipped over in order to post some of my Canadian field reports while I was still in Canada (at one point, I was over 2 months behind posting field reports and activation videos!).

I’ve often said that even if only a handful of people enjoyed my reports and activation videos, I’d still post them. I feel like they could even play a small part in someone’s path to doing field radio or learning CW, it’s wort it.

Plus, I occasionally like looking back at them myself.

In a sense, these reports are my travelogues and they bring back memories of some beautiful spots where I’ve played radio, gone camping, and enjoyed time with my family.

So why don’t you join me as we travel back a few months to…

Springtime

Photo by K4TLI

In late April 2022, I took my family on a camping trip to New River State Park here in North Carolina. You might remember this post and a couple field reports from that trip.

In short, it was an amazing trip and I got to play radio quite a bit!

Each day, I played radio from the morning into the evening. The camp site was actually ideal for playing radio. Until…

Saturday morning (April 30) I woke up, made some coffee at the picnic table, then fired up my radio. It was then I learned that one of the new RVs that joined the campground Friday evening brought some sort of RFI-spewing device with them.

I’ve no clue what it was. If I were to venture a guess, I’d say it was likely something used in electronic warfare. It was intense.

At the campsite that morning, I couldn’t copy a single signal that wasn’t S9+ on my meter. The noise level was S8 or S9.

I decided that I’d need to move to a different part of the park to play radio after breakfast and our family’s morning hike.

Fortunately, there was a large picnic shelter within a short drive of our campsite.

I had the whole place to myself! Continue reading Spring Flashback: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and Chameleon MPAS Lite at New River State Park

Vince’s chilly #POTAThon1111 run on Remembrance/Veterans Day 2022

Many thanks to Vince (VE6LK) who shares the following guest post and field report from Alberta, Canada:


#POTAThon1111 – report from the field

by Vince (VE6LK)

My goal is to activate all of the parks I can that have never been activated.

I’m blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the world and see these parks up close. One wall in my shack has a map of all the un-activated parks and routes within a day’s drive of me, and most are already planned with routes. There will be more #POTAThons!

[Click all images to enlarge.]

#POTAThon is what I call it when I plan on getting to more than one park in a day. Usually these things aren’t thought of for weeks in advance, they are more like a “tomorrow morning” kind of thing. Opportunistic, if you will.

But first, a note about the day I chose…

November 11 is called different things in different countries, but what we share in common is we honour our Veterans and we give thanks for the freedoms they fought for. So today I paused to give thanks and think of the lives they gave so that I have the freedoms I do today. I would bundle up that giving of thanks into an urgently needed day away from the office.

And with that, #POTAThon1111 was born.

#POTAThon is what I tag these activities on my Twitter feed and the month and day denote when it happened. By definition a #POTAThon is more than one activation in a day; I’m simple like that. #POTAThon1111 is the third such event.

The first was #POTAThon0930, an ambitious day attempting 8 sites with two operators and most of them in backcountry outside of cellular range. You can see the video from that day when you click on this link. We didn’t get to all 8 but we had a hoot trying.

Just before I departed for #POTAThon0930, Thomas Witherspoon K4SWL (you know him, right?) said words to me I’ll never forget: “Vince, just work CW at a speed where you are comfortable, people will adjust. If you work the sacred language, I will find you.

With those words of encouragement, I gave it a go. On that day I worked CW and a bit of SSB, but since then it’s been all CW for POTA. While the propagation wasn’t with Thomas and I on 0930, we did connect some weeks later – KX3 to KX3 no less.

You need to understand that I think I’m terrible at CW, but I also need to let you in on a secret: there’s no such thing as a Bad CW Contact. I explain that concept in more detail on YouTube, and the essence is: just do it and roll with it, warts and all. People adjust their ways and usually their speed. Go out and have fun trying. Continue reading Vince’s chilly #POTAThon1111 run on Remembrance/Veterans Day 2022

New N0SA SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle from CW Morse

Update: This post was originally posted a few days ago which turned out to be prior to this paddle being in-stock in any quantity. CW Morse has some of these online and available for order at time of posting this morning (14 Nov 2022) and will have many more later this week. We’ll post an update on QRPer when their main production run is available. 

Many thanks to Timothy who notes that CW Morse has added a new key to their product line: the SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle.

This key looks a lot like the N0SA paddle you see in many of my videos because it is designed by N0SA and made by CW Morse!

Here’s the description from CW Morse’s website:

The SP4 POTA/SOTA CW Morse Magnetic Iambic Double Paddle – Designed By N0SA.

Super Lightweight, Portable Compact Paddle With An Attached 3.5mm Cable.

Uses Magnetic Tension And Easily Adjustable With Stainless Steel Contacts.

Great for portable operations, and supplied with 3M Dual Lock Velcro for easy mounting and removal of the paddle from base or anything of your choosing.

FEATURES: Small and light weight – only 1.7ozs.
WITH BASE: Small and removable from base – 1.25 lbs.

Measures 2.5″ x 1.1″ x 1″

Frame and finger pieces are 3D printed with carbon fiber reinforced PETG.

Levers are solid CNC Machined 6061 aluminum.

3 foot flexible cloth covered cord with molded 1/8” plug stays flexible down to 0 Deg F.

All fasteners used are Stainless Steel.

Allen wrench that is needed for spacing adjustment is also included with the key.

Adjustments stay put when set, so adjust once and forget about it! 🙂

This paddle is available with or without a steel base.

I have not tried this new paddle yet, but I did know it was in the works. I’m so glad it’s now being offered because I’m a huge fan of both N0SA and CW Morse (disclaimer: CW Morse is a proud sponsor and affiliate of QRPer.com).

The price for the new key is $82.95 without a base or $109.95 with base.

Click here to check out the new N0SA paddle at CW Morse.