If you’ve been watching my field activation videos for long you’ve no doubt noticed that, at the end of an exchange, I’ll often send “72 de K4SWL” instead of “73 de K4SWL.”
“73” much like “CQ” has a very distinct sound and cadence in CW. Even during one’s earliest days of learning CW, the sound of “73” is sort of burned into the brain and instantly recognized.
I’m sure that’s why when I send “72” some believe I’m sending it by mistake–it’s very conspicuous even to new CW operators.
Perhaps this is why one of the most common questions I receive from new YouTube channel subscribers is:
“Thomas, why are you sending 72 instead of 73?”
The answer is actually very simple…
72 is the QRP version of 73
“72” isn’t a new ham radio abbreviation but according to my light research, it doesn’t date back to the earliest days of wireless either (please correct me if I’m wrong).
The late and great George Dobbs (G3RJV) notes in his book “QRP Basics” that 72 has been in use since the late 1980s as a way some operators identify that they’re running QRP or low power (generally 5 watts or less).
You’ll find it referenced in numerous abbreviation guides like the CW Ops CW guide and in QRP communities like QRP-L and the QRPARCI. In the past, I’ve heard 72 used in QRP contest exchanges too. I suppose it’s also a bit of a “handshake” among QRP operators.
That said, 72 isn’t as commonly used to convey “Best Regards” as the more standard 73. Not by a long shot. I’ve gotten messages from passionate radio purists who’ve told me to stop using it, in fact, since it’s not as standard as 73. I get where they’re coming from because keeping our abbreviations standard makes communication that much clearer.
I’ll admit that I’m a bit this way with the international phonetic alphabet: I like sticking to the script for reasons of clarity and simplicity.
I almost unconsciously go back to using “73” if I suspect the op on the other end is new to CW.
72 is simple and clear
The main reason I choose to use 72 during many of my POTA/SOTA activations is because I believe it conveys a message in the most concise and clear way possible.
Sending “72” allows me to communicate my power level without having to send any extra elements/words like “3 WATTS” or “/QRP” after my callsign–especially since communicating power output isn’t typically a part of a SOTA/POTA exchange.
Sending “72” might also help to explain why my signal strength might be a bit lower, or surprise a DX contact if I’m being received 599.
While it’s true some on the other end might scratch their heads and have to look up the meaning of “72,” once they know it, they know it.
And if sending “72” isn’t your thing or you don’t agree with its use, that’s perfectly okay too! You’ll hear me using it most of the time I’m running QRP in the field, but I don’t expect anyone else to.
To each their own, I say!
When I do hear another op use 72? I know the contact was QRP on both ends and that’s kind of cool in my book!
To date, I believe I’ve activated 11 parks (1 in Ontario, 10 in Québec) during our extended family vacation. Instead of hitting the same parks over and over, I’m trying to activate new parks during each outing because it’s giving us an opportunity to explore some really amazing spots that we might not otherwise discover.
Before we leave La Belle Province, I’ve at least two SOTA summits in mind and 3-4 more parks, family time permitting. Indeed, as I mention below, I hope to activate another park sometime today.
Ham Radio Workbench Podcast
Once again the fine crew of the Ham Radio Workbench Podcast made the mistake of inviting me on another episode of the podcast.
In truth, it’s a proper honor to join them each time (don’t let them know I said that!). Seriously, they’re an amazing group of friends.
This episode was dedicated to our Field Day activities. For many of us, it was an unconventional Field Day and perhaps that’s what made the event so much fun.
John (W7DBO) was invited back to the show and it was great hearing how he integrated his whole family in his Field Day activities.
George had to operate from home, I operated from our condo/chalet here in Québec, and Vince from his very unique club setup in Alberta. Rob had a project that took priority on Field Day, and it’s worth listening to the podcast just to hear Smitty’s tale of life as a Field Day RVer (hint: not for the faint of heart).
I did finally choose that one extra radio: the Discovery TX-500.
I chose the TX-500 because 1.) it would be a great “bad weather” radio, 2.) it could operate from my KX2 battery packs, 3.) it’s multimode and also covers 6 meters, and 4.) it has such a slim profile. I could easily the TX-500 in my Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack with the Elecraft KX2 and it didn’t make the pack feel any bulkier.
I came very close to choosing the IC-705, but it was just a bit too bulky for the way I had my pack configured.
Back to the hypocrite part…
The day before leaving North Carolina, I removed everything from our Subaru and gave it a deep cleaning.
When I pulled up the floor panel in the trunk/boot area to check the first aid kit, spare tire, and emergency gear I discovered that there was a fairly large unused area under there–a spot where I might be able to sneak a few extra radio supplies.
After a little finagling, I discovered that I could fit spare batteries, two folding PowerFilm panels, the Buddipole PowerMini 2, and two more radios: the MTR-3B field kit, and my Elecraft KX1.
This essentially amounted to contraband since I tend to be the guy who enforces “one bag per person” policy during our family travels.
I got some serious eye rolls from the family when they discovered the hidden radios after we reached our destination. I might not ever live this down.
If I had even a shred of dignity upon our arrival here in Canada, I can confirm it’s gone now.
Elecraft KX2 getting heavy use
Other than Field Day where I primarily used the TX-500, the Elecraft KX2 has been getting a heavy workout on this trip.
The reason why is because I’ve been activating a number of urban parks where an all-in one radio paired with a random wire or the AX1 vertical has been very useful.
Conditions have been very rough during some of these activations as well, so it’s nice to have both CW and SSB modes available and a full 5 watts (the KX1 and MTR-3B are CW-only hover around 3 watts). I’ve snagged some excellent QRP DX at times, but everything has been so unstable.
I didn’t bring the KX2 hand mic on this trip, so all of my SSB contacts have utilized the KX2’s built-in mic. It’s actually worked brilliantly!
I’ve recorded a number of activations here in Canada and will likely post a couple of these out of chronological order while I’m still on this side of the border.
Uploading from our chalet hasn’t been possible–the upload speeds are about as dismal as they are at my QTH. Download isn’t too bad, though.
While at the hotel in Baie-Comeau a few days ago, I uploaded at least four videos with their high-speed internet, so I’ll soon post a couple of them.
In short: the activations here have been amazingly fun. Some of the sites have been truly spectacular in terms of scenery and others are in urban settings taking me well outside my comfort zone.
In short: I’ve loved every minute of it!
We have had an amazing time here in Québec as always.
Our flavor of travel is the opposite of many: we tend to rent a home or apartment for a few weeks or couple of months and use it as a base for exploring the region. We do this as opposed to traveling long distances and only spending relatively short periods of time at multiple stops.
I plan to activate a park while in Québec City today. I’ve no clue which one it’ll be yet, but I’ll announce it on the POTA site once I’ve got a plan together. If you have the time, look for me on the POTA spots page (as VY2SW) or via the RBN! I’d love to put you in the logs.
Here’s wishing all of you a week full of radio and fun!
Many thanks to Paul (W0RW) who shares the following guest post:
Operating in St. Elmo Ghost Town, Colorado
by Paul (W0RW)
I have operated in St Elmo (Ghost Town) several times with my PRC319 Pedestrian Mobile. St. Elmo is at 11,000 feet in a deep canyon so it was hard to make contacts.
My PRC319 runs 50 Watts and I use a 10 foot whip so I had some success to the East on CW. I use a Whiterook MK-33 for a hand held single lever paddle.
Right after my last visit, July 2015, members of St. Elmo and Chalk Creek Canyon Historical group cleaned out the outhouse behind the Home Comfort Hotel in St. Elmo, they found a potentially explosive surprise. On the floor of the outhouse, they found what they believed to be dynamite. Later in the day the bomb squad found blasting caps rather than dynamite.
[Per the Historical Society] there were only 6 Blasting Caps found at St Elmo’s. They called Ft. Carson US Army EOD and they blew them up right there in the center of town.
While the electric blasting caps are usually shorted and would not be effected by a QRP radio, my 50W radio was at a dangerously high level to be transmitting near a box of blasting caps.
It would be a smart idea to avoid operating in any old mining areas where unexploded dynamite might exist.
I sold my Elecraft K2/100 to fund the purchase of my Elecraft KXPA100. I don’t regret purchasing the KXPA100 in the slightest (even though I so rarely use it), but I do regret selling not one, but two K2s over the years! I’ll snap one up if I find a good deal.
I also sold my Elecraft K1 to help fund the purchase of my Elecraft KX3 in 2013.
At the time, the seller’s remorse wasn’t immediate because the KX3 was such a revolutionary portable radio in almost every respect. The K1 seemed so limited in comparison.
Still, since I started doing CW POTA and SOTA activations, I’ve been keeping an eye out for a good deal on another 4 band/ATU Elecraft K1.
Why does the K1 have appeal when I have so many “superior” radios at my disposal–?
Good question! I reckon I just like it.
The K1 feels more like an analog radio rather than a digital one; no doubt, this is due to its VFO’s limited range. It’s more akin to an analog radio with a digital frequency display.
The K1 is also super compact for a radio with a traditional tabletop form factor. The menus and features take a bit of time to learn–they’re cleverly implemented, but you definitely need an owner’s manual or cheat sheet to master them.
The K1 is not general coverage; it can only be configured to operate on a maximum of four CW bands. It does have an internal ATU option, but I don’t think it’s on par with the KX-series internal ATUs in terms of matching range. It works well with a variety of field antennas, though!
The K1 does have a very low noise floor and wonderful audio. Those are perhaps the two things I love most about it.
The separation/distance from Eric’s Tri-Bander antenna worked a charm: there was very little interference between our two stations.
I started the activation by calling CQ POTA on 20 meters. Funny: I actually thought I was on 40 meters; the K1 display (much like that of the KX1) only shows the last three digits of the frequency display; when I saw “61.1” I assumed “7061.1” but of course it was actually 14061.1. I realized this as I later changed meter bands.
Although the propagation forecast was pretty dismal, the EFHW performed very well.
Within 18 minutes, I logged 16 hunters (including WD8RIF some 20 feet away).
I then moved to the 40 meter band (so Eric could move to 20) and worked an additional six stations in six minutes!
The final contact was both an HF and eyeball QSO with WD8RIF. I got that on video–very much a fun first for me!
Here’s what my five watts into an end-fed half-wave looked like on a QSO Map:
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation with WD8RIF. I include a bit about Eric’s station and also his QRPguys Tri-Bander antenna after I go QRT. As with all of my videos, there are no ads and I don’t edit out any of the activation:
Make sure to check out Eric’s field report which includes details about his KX3 set-up that you’ll see in the video above.
Thank you for joining me (and Eric, Miles, & Theo) on this POTA activation.
Although detailed field reports take a few hours to write-up and publish (along with activation videos), I truly enjoy the process. It gives me a chance to re-live an activation and share the whole experience with kindred spirits. This was such a fun activation.
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.
Oh, and if you have a four band Elecraft K1 with ATU you’d like to part with? Get in touch with me! 🙂
We’re in the Baie-Comeau area at present, and I’ll only have a short window to fit in this activation before we hit the road again and do a little off-grid camping for a few days!
I’ll be QRP and hopefully on 20 and 40 meters CW. If I have the time (and mobile coverage to self-spot) I’ll attempt to do a little SSB as well. If I can find an adequate tree (they’re not so tall along this trail) I’ll deploy an EFHW, else it’ll be a random wire.
Conditions have been so rough lately, I’m not quite sure what to expect; especially this early in the morning at this location.
Many thanks to Mike (VE3MKX) who has shared a large gallery of photos from the 2022 Milton, Ontario Hamfest.
“The Burlington Amateur Radio Club organizes the event and confirms that they had 108 vendor spaces sold and over 475 general admin passed through the gates. A great day of meeting friends, lots of deals and smiling faces!”
I’ve created a gallery of 132 images that can be viewed on our sister site, the SWLing Post.
Many thanks to Kevin (VA3RCA) and Mike (VE3MKX) for taking and sharing these excellent photos!
Many thanks to Joshua (KO4AWH) who shares the following guest post:
ATU-10 Random Wire Testing
by Joshua (KO4AWH)
I had a bit of time to do some field tests and I recently acquired an ATU-10. So I jumped right in and did some ATU-10 Random Wire Testing. The testing was completed with a Tufteln 9:1 QRP Antenna configured with an elevated feed point sloper and a counterpoise hanging straight down. The coax feed was RG316 17′ with the ATU at the radio with a short jumper. Several different radiator lengths are used as mentioned below. The ATU-10 was sourced from newdiytech.com, price was $120.24 shipped to me in GA USA, Ordered June 25, delivered July 8th.
A quick list of ATU-10 Features:
0.91″ OLED Display that shows Power, SWR and internal battery remaining.
USB-C Rechargeable LiPo 1.7Ah
Bypass Mode (When I set to this mode however it would tune anyways)
Latching Relays (No power needed to keep in position. Hold tune with ATU off)
Input port for communication with IC705 (and potentially others)
7 Inductors, 7 capacitors
C array, pF 10, 20, 39, 82, 160, 330, 660
L array, uH 0.05, 0.11, 0.22, 0.45, 0.95, 1.9, 3.8
C array, pF 22, 47, 100, 220, 470, 1000, 2220
L array, uH 0.1, 0.22, 0.45, 1.0, 2.2, 4.5, 10.0
USB-C firmware update (ATU shows up as a drive, simply copy the new firmware file to the device and it will automatically update)
Weight 232g (8.1oz)
Tufteln Case adds 23g (.8oz) for a Total of 255g (8.9oz)
Compared to the T1 with cover for a total weight of 187g (6.5oz)
SWR measured with a RigExpert RigStick 320, Lab599 Discovery TX-500 and the ATU-10
The test process was to first check the SWR on the antenna with no tuner. SWR values recorded from the TX500 and RigExpert Stick 320. Values recorded in the 2 columns under the “No Tuner” section. This was completed for each of the Bands listed in the table rows (see below). SWR values were the lowest in the band range for all recorded numbers. Continue reading Joshua tests the ATU-10 portable automatic antenna tuner→
More specifically, I wanted to activate the park by way of the scenic one-way road that starts near the New River Gorge Visitor’s Center and descends down to the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge (the “old” New River bridge).
Why? Because in December 2016 during the National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) program, I passed through West Virginia and activated some very rare parks on my way to a multi-day park run with Eric in Ohio. I fully intended to activate the New River at this very spot (underneath the “new” New River Bridge) after hearing how amazing the drive was from Eric.
Unfortunately, I happened to time my trip through West Virginia on a day when we received about an inch of snow. Even though (at the time) I was driving a Toyota minivan with nearly bald tires, the snow didn’t pose a problem at any other site, save this one. I had to change my plans and activate the New River in a spot where the access had less elevation change on a narrow snow-covered road. With my Subaru, this wouldn’t have been an obstacle in the slightest.
I was looking forward to going back to this site and was very pleased to see that Eric and his son, Miles, had already planned this trip in the draft itinerary!
New River Gorge National Park (K-0696)
On the morning of May 20, 2022, Eric, Miles, Theo the dog, and I left our campsite at Babcock State Forest and made our way to the New River Gorge Visitor’s center next to the New River Bridge.
If you’re ever in this area, I’d highly recommend checking out this visitor’s center as it has some well-designed exhibits detailing the impressive engineering that went into the construction of the New River Gorge Bridge.
There are also some fantastic views from the visitor’s center and from its short gorge overlook trail.
From the trail overlook at the visitor’s center we could see the spot where we planned to activate near the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge deep in the gorge (see photo above).
The drive into the gorge was quite scenic with a number of spots to park and take in the enormity of the New River bridge.At the bottom of the gorge, the view was pretty spectacular as well!
TufteIn 9:1 EFRW (End-Fed Random Wire) antenna
I mentioned in a previous post that long-time QRPer.com reader and supporter, Joshua (KO4AWH), runs an Etsy store with a wide range of products primarily designed for field operators.
Besides the Elecraft T1 protection case I mentioned previously, he also sent a couple of his QRP field antennas for testing and evaluation (to be clear: free of charge). Thanks, Joshua!
At least ninety percentof all of my radio operations happen in the field. Whether I’m in a park, on a summit activation, or I’m out camping, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed “playing radio” outdoors. In fact, it was the joy of field radio––and the accompanying challenge of low-power operations––which launched my labor of love in the world of ham radio.
I’ve been running QRPer.com now for fourteen years, and during that time, the questions I’m asked most deal with selecting a field radio. Turns out, it’s an incredibly difficult question to answer, and we’ll touch on why that is before we dive into the reasons one radio might hold appeal over another for you.
Instead of offering up a list of field radios on the market, and reviewing each one—and, to be fair, there are so many these days—I’ll share with you a series of questions you might ask yourself before making a radio purchase, and follow up with a few bits of advice based on my own experience.These deceptively simple questions will help hone your decision-making. Finally, I’ll note a few of my favorite general coverage field radios and share what I love about each.
Spoiler alert: It’s all about the operator, less about the specs
When searching for a new radio, we hams tend to take deep dives into feature and specification comparisons between various models of radios. We’ll reference Rob Sherwood’s superb receiver test data table, we’ll pour over user reviews, and we’ll download full radio manuals before we choose.
While this is valuable information—especially since radios can be quite a costly “investment”—I would argue that this process shouldn’t be your first step.
I’ve found that enjoyment of any particular radio—whether field radio or not—has everything to do with the operator and less to do with the radio’s actual performance.
A realistic assessment of yourself
The first step in choosing a field radio is to ask yourself a few questions, and answer them as honestly as you can. Here are some basic questions to get you started in your search of a field radio:
Question 1: Where do I plan to operate?
If you plan to operate mostly at the QTH or indoors with only the occasional foray outdoors, you may want a field-capable radio that best suits you indoors—one with robust audio, a larger encoder, a larger display, and more front panel real estate.
On the other hand, if you plan to take your radio on backpacking adventures, then portability, battery efficiency and durability are king
Of course, most of us may be somewhere in between, having park activations or camping trips in mind, but overall size may be less important as we may be driving or taking only a short walk to the activation site. When your shack is a picnic table not too far from a parking lot or even an RV, you have a lot more options than when you have to hike up a mountain with your radio gear in tow.
Question 2: What modes will I operate the most?
Are you a single mode operator? If your intention is to only use digital modes, then you’ll want a radio designed with easy digital mode operation in mind.
If you plan to focus on single sideband, power output may be more important and features like voice-memory keying.
If you plan to primarily operate CW, then the radio world is your oyster because it even opens the door to numerous inexpensive CW-only field radios.
If you plan to primarily operate CW, I would strongly suggest going low power or QRP. I’ve often heard that 5 watts CW is roughly equivalent to 80 watts single sideband. I tend to agree with this. CW field operators hardly need more than 5 watts, in my experience.
Many libraries have online access to hundreds of magazines.
I came across Practical Wireless which originates in the UK. It differs somewhat from ARRL’s QST in that it has articles that speak to basic electronic theory along with what I am accustomed to with QST, reviews, news, contesting etc.
Further I found CQ magazine. I thought this might be of interest to fellow QRP subscribers. Thank you Thomas for inspiring me and so many other radio amateurs. 73
Jay Orchard VE3JLO
Thank you for the tip, Jay!
You’re right: Practical Wireless is an excellent magazine. I’ve been a reader since my days of living in the UK. I used to be able to buy it at news/magazine stands.
Like you, I’m able to read it on my laptop or tablet via my library’s online publication portal.