Category Archives: Pedestrian Mobile

K4AAC & K4RLC: SOTA Babe in the Clouds at Mt. Jefferson

Many thanks to Bob (K4RLC) for the following field report:


SOTA Babe in the Clouds at Mt. Jeff

de Bob (K4RLC)

Two weekends ago, Alanna K4AAC & I took a short trip to the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina to combine a POTA Weekend and Summits-on-the-Air. We stayed at the New River State Park, a small newer state park that the New River (actually the oldest river in North America) transverses. New River SP is also near some SOTA peaks and the idyllic Blue Ridge Parkway, an almost 500 mile highway that follows the Blue Ridge mountains, starting near Cherokee, North Carolina and ending in Northern Virginia.

Courtesy: National Park Service

This was a needed trip to the fresh air and incredible vistas, as this year brought health problems for both of us, especially an Emergency Room visit for Alanna Easter weekend. Fortunately, with great physicians from UNC and med changes, she was able to rebound fairly quickly.

Friday, we set up a trap Inverted-V on a push-up pole, lashed to the campsite split rail fence. For the radio part, the goal was to put the new Elecraft KH1 through it’s paces. While most rave about this new hand-held CW rig, I still prefer my KX2. Anyway, Friday night with 3 watts on 40 CW with the KH1 and the inverted-V. As it was rainy, I ran the coax inside our Winnebago Solis and set up at the kitchen table (the Winnebago Solis is their smallest vehicle, really just an ergonomic camper van built on a Dodge RAM Promaster chassis).

With a 140 watt solar panel on top and two 100-ampHr batteries, you can boon dock off the grid for several days. Had a productive run of Qs sitting at the table, and with several other LICW members.

As the weather report for Sunday was bad, we decided to do a Summits-on-the-Air activation Saturday on near-by Mount Jefferson, a nearly 5000 ft peak named  for its original owners, Thomas Jefferson and his Father. This is a partial drive-up south of the town of West Jefferson (named for ?).

There are several trails on the top, including the Mountain Ridge Trail and the Lost Province Trail. The trails are incredibly well maintained, flat gravel trails, not like the rock scrabble of the AT, but a definite steep incline. Alanna did great climbing  the steep trail, only having to stop a few times to catch her breath.

About half way up, we were in thick clouds, with visibility only a few feet. It was ethereal. At the SOTA activation zone, there is a rock ledge where you can set up….but be careful, as you don’t want to tumble off the ledge, way down to the valley below. At first, Alanna operated in the clouds. She looked like a spirit SOTA babe emerging through the clouds.

Mt Jeff overlook in the clouds

A few hours later, a cold front came through and blew the clouds away. What a difference! We could see 70 or more miles, down the valley and into the nearby state of Tennessee.

Mt Jeff overlook in the clear

Unfortunately, there was a major solar flare, with an A Index of 12, so conditions were very rough. At first, I tried the KH1 as a hand-held with the attached 4 foot whip and one 13 ft counterpoise. To make conditions better, I set up the Elecraft AX1 miniature vertical on a tiny tripod and attached four 13 ft radials, in the trees and over the rock ledge. It was still an effort, but managed to get the required SOTA contacts. As Mt Jeff (W4C/EM-021) is both a SOTA peak and a NC Park natural area, it’s a two-fer. Unfortunately, my luck capped below the required number of POTA contacts. Thanks to all who tried to dig me out. The Reverse Beacon Network spotted  us around the country, but with very weak signals on 20 CW.

Mt. Jeff with KH1 & whip antenna
Mt. Jeff with KH1 & AX1 on mini-tripod

Sunday, the weather was hit and miss, so we decided just to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway (US-3378), stopping at breath taking overlooks and hiking some on the Mountains-to-the-Sea trail. The MST runs almost 1200 miles from the Great Smoky mountains in the western part of NC to Jockey’s Ridge State Park in the Outer Banks, where North Carolina meets  the Atlantic Ocean. We’ve section-hiked the MST, just as we’ve done on the Appalachian Trail.

Cooking  over an open campfire is the only way to get that great wood smoke flavor. Our hot dogs and hamburgers by campfire, with guacamole, were delicious.

K4AAC Alanna with guac & campfire

Looking forward to trying the KH1 in decent propagation conditions, as it may be the go-to for SOTA and overseas travel.

All-in-all, the clear clean mountain air and great mountain vistas were really therapeutic for our health, and the kind of medicine you can’t put in a bottle.

73 de K4RLC Bob

Handheld SOTA DX and Testing K6ARK’s New KH1 Pressure Paddles!

On Tuesday, March 12, 2024, I woke up with SOTA (Summits on the Air) on my mind.

That morning, I plotted to activate a local drive-up summit I’ve basically ignored the past few years.

Peach Knob (W4C/CM-097) is one of the most popular summits in the Asheville area no doubt because it’s so accessible. That said, it’s also a cell phone and water tank site with limited parking. When I first drove up a few years ago, there was a crew working and I would have only been in the way had I opted to activate. Also, to truly be within the activation zone on Peach Knob, there’s really only one small portion of the site where you can set up. Most of the summit is on private land.

I do SOTA primarily for the hikes. I’m not aggressively chasing activation points (ahem…obviously!) so I tend to ignore drive-up sites that are cramped and a bit awkward. Someday, I’m sure I’ll eventually hit Peach Knob just to do it, but that Tuesday? Yeah, I quickly decided I wanted a hike too.

I had a window of about three hours to fit in a SOTA activation. For POTA (Parks on the Air), that’s a generous number–I could easily hit three POTA sites in that amount of time, but SOTA takes more time. Typically there’s a longer drive to a trailhead, then a round-trip hike to figure into the planning as well. I immediately thought of one summit that would fit the bill.

Bearwallow Mountain (W4C/CM-068)

Bearwallow isn’t a long drive from downtown Asheville–maybe 20-25 minutes one-way. The hike to the summit is also fairly short and most enjoyable. The activation zone is the opposite of Peach Knob; it’s massive!

I arrived at the trailhead around 12:30 local and found that there were very few people parked there–-after all, it was a random Tuesday mid-day!

I’d packed my Elecraft KH1 field kit with the intention of doing a fully pedestrian mobile activation. I also had another goal: to test a prototype KH1 pressure paddle Adam (K6ARK) sent me to thoroughly test. I felt there was no better way than to SOTA with it!

Funny, but when operating pedestrian mobile with the KH1, you need so little extra kit. In fact, I could just grab my Pelican M40 case containing the full kit and be ready to go. But I always carry a first aid kit, headlamp, water, and other emergency supplies even if the hike is short and easy. Even if I have no need of those supplies on a short hike, someone else may. Twice, I’ve given other hikers first aid supplies from my pack.

Also, since I planned to film this activation, I needed to carry my camera, mics, and a tripod. I chose one of my favorite day packs: The GoRuck GR1!

My activation video, below, includes a bit of the hike and the contents of my backpack as I set up the KH1.

Gear:

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On The Air

I decided to start this activation on the highest band the KH1 can serve up: 15 meters. After a delayed start (due to phone calls), I began calling CQ SOTA and the contacts started rolling in. It was funny–my first two contacts mirrored a previous Bearwallow activation: Christian (F4WBN) and Michael (N7CCD) in the same order! Within three minutes, I’d logged the four contacts necessary to validate the activation. Continue reading Handheld SOTA DX and Testing K6ARK’s New KH1 Pressure Paddles!

Field Report: Elecraft KH1 for a Quickie POTA Two-Fer!

On Wednesday, March 27, 2024, I had a number of errands to run in town. Before leaving the house that morning, I looked at my schedule and honestly couldn’t see a wide enough opening for an activation.

In the latter part of the morning, however, I was miraculously ahead of schedule en route to a meet-up in Asheville. I decided to take a scenic route option along the Blue Ridge Parkway (US-3378). It was misty and foggy that morning; a beautiful time to drive the BRP.

Of course, any time I’m on the grounds or within the boundaries of a national or state park, it feels odd not to activate it (do you feel that way too–?) even though I drive the BRP.

I looked at my watch and realized I had about 15-20 minutes max to perform an activation.

I only had one radio in the car: my Elecraft KH1. I didn’t have any of my camera gear which was fine, because it would have been very difficult to set up a video and complete the activation all within 15-20 minutes.

I pulled over to quickly schedule my activation on the POTA website. I then drove about 5 minutes up the BRP to a larger pull-over with a short path to the Mountains To Sea Trail (US-8313).

Instead of setting up on the MST, I just walked down the bank and stopped within a few feet of the MST. This would yield an easy POTA two-fer!

I set up the KH1, sporting some new pressure paddles via K6ARK (one’s I’m testing), and I hit the air.

Gear:

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I called CQ POTA and started receiving replies slowly. Well, in truth, it wasn’t that slow, but it felt like it when I was in such a rush.

After working five stations, I checked the POTA spots page and discovered that I had not been auto-spotted. Sometimes the connection between the POTA spots page at the Reverse Beacon Network is down. Indeed, several times lately, I’ve tried to activate when it’s been down–my timing has been impeccable.

I had a little mobile phone service, so I self-spotted and the rest of the contacts rolled in quickly.

I called QRT after logging 10 contacts with apologies to those who were still calling me. I had to get back on my schedule.

My QSO Map:

Screenshot

This quick activation did make me realize how the KH1 seems to be fitting into my POTA/SOTA routine.

I never intended going pedestrian mobile 100% of the time after I got my KH1. Instead, I find it to be the radio that gives me the most freedom and flexibility when I need it. The KH1 allows me to seize radio opportunities I’d otherwise miss.

In this case, setup and pack-up time was really no more than 40 seconds in total.  It took me a minute to walk down the bank to the spot next to the trail to do the activation. All the rest of the time was radio time. I feel confident that had I been spotted properly, I would have validated the activation (10 contacts) in less than 15 minutes.

It’s fun to realize you can play radio anywhere (almost literally) with a handheld transceiver like the KH1. It almost feels like cheating!

Eclipse Time!

As I write this post, I’m in our hotel’s breakfast area. We’re in Dayton, Ohio to view the total solar eclipse tomorrow. I hope to fit in a couple of activations– the only radio I’ve brought along for the ride is the KH1 (well, save my SW-3B Headrest kit).

Traffic yesterday (en route to Ohio) was pretty heavy. I imagine it’ll be much worse today and even crazier tomorrow.

We took a break from traveling, yesterday, to visit my father-in-law’s alma mater. Can anyone recognize this beautiful campus? Bonus points for correctly identifying it!

Our family is meeting up with Eric (WD8RIF) and his wife, so I’m sure we’ll manage to hit at least a couple of parks!

I must admit: it feels odd to be in Dayton a few weeks prior to Hamvention.

Maybe I should camp out at the Greene County Fairgrounds for the next five weeks just to be the first to grab a good deal in the flea market–!?!

[Sinister laugh slowly fades…]

72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Thank you!

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While not a requirement, as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

Dale Goes “SOTA-Lite” with the Elecraft KH1

Many thanks to Dale (N3HXZ) who shares the following field report:


SOTA-Lite with the KH1

by Dale (N3HXZ)

My KH1 Edgewood Package finally arrived in late February. As an owner of a KX2, I wondered why the heck I was buying the KH1. I am perfectly satisfied with the KX2 for my SOTA operations. However, the idea of shedding a few pounds in my pack got my attention, and the notion that I could set up and be on the air in a minute or so was also intriguing. I like to do several summits a day and this would be a time saver.

I decided to take Elecraft to task by convincing myself that I could do successful activations with just the Edgewood package.

The only exception to the package was to bring along the AXE1 extender so that I could operate 40 M.

I also wanted to prove to myself that I could carry all my gear with just a waist pack (Hence SOTA Lite!). A picture of my gear is shown below. I have an older AXE1 and it does not fit into the whip post of the KH1. I reverted to using the AX1/AXE1/Whip attached to the bnc jack. I include the 33’ counterpoise for 40M, a right angle jack for the ear buds (to not conflict with the log tray), a small first aid kit, deet, a spare keyer, a power bar, and a waist pack. The total equipment weighs in at 2.9lbs (excluding water!).

My traditional SOTA gear includes the KX2, the Chameleon MPAS-Lite Vertical antenna, a small portable pad to set the gear on, and a folding stool. Along with a backpack, the equipment comes in at 17 lbs. Hence the KH1 gear saves me 14 lbs! I decided to jettison the folding stool and operate in true pedestrian style (standing) with the KH1.

Traditional SOTA gear:

KH1 SOTA gear:

Jim (KJ3D) and I have done several activations together and he also purchased the KH1. Our first outing was a day trip on March 4th from our QTH’s in Pittsburgh to Maryland to activate Marsh Hill (W3/WE-001) and Dan’s Rock (W3/WE-002).

Jim operated on 17M and 20M, I operated on 15M and 40M. My favorite band for morning operations is 15M. If you hit it right, you can work both Europe and the West Coast at the same time. 11 AM was such a time and with the KH1 at 5 watts, I was able to reach east as far as Sweden and west as far as California. Not bad for a compact transceiver, 5 watts, and a compromised whip antenna!

I decided to also check out 40M with the AX1/AXE1 on the bnc post. It tuned up nicely and I worked a couple stations (including an S2S!). The QSO map of the contacts is shown below.

The first activation also gave me some real-time experience using the log tray. I was skeptical going in as to how effective this would be, especially in a pile-up. I also like to record RST signal reports so I can report a complete QSO. The log sheets are not set up for that, but you can jot down the signal reports in a lower line. I was recording about 4-5 QSO’s per sheet. With a pile up going on, I found it easier to just stuff the sheets in my pocket after they were used up rather than trying to insert them in the log tray behind the unused sheets.

Still, I applaud Elecraft for the log tray design; doing the best you can with the real estate space available in an all-inclusive compact transceiver unit.

My operating platform switched from a rectangular pad holding the KX2 gear on my lap while sitting in a stool to operating from my left hand while standing. The picture below captures my operating set-up. As a courtesy, I like to include the chaser’s name in my QSO. I have a sheet of ‘Frequent Chasers” in my hand as a quick reference!

Having completed an initial outing to work out the kinks of operating a new rig, we took a two-day trip to the Blue Ridge mountains on March 14th-15th and activated seven summits along Skyline Drive. I wanted to see if the KH1 and my slimmed down gear would meet the challenge. T

he summit hikes along Skyline Drive are not too rigorous; roughly 0.5 to 1 mile each way with elevation gains from 200 ft. to 600 ft. We operated North Marshall (W4V/SH-009), Hogback Mountain (W4V/SH-007), The Pinnacle (W4V/SH-005), Stony Man (W4V/SH-002), Hawksbill (W4V/SH-001), and Hazeltop (W4V/SH-004). Here is a pic of Jim operating atop North Marshall.

The KH1 performed flawlessly. We operated all the bands (40/30/20/17/15). Activations got easier as we got more familiar with operating the rig. I grew very accustomed to activating standing up; Jim preferred to sit on a rock or log. What surprised the both of us was the positive impact on our physical endurance from shedding 14 lbs of gear. This cannot be underestimated for rigorous summit hikes and for me is a key reason to buy the KH1.

Another key factor was eliminating the time needed to set up and tear down a more traditional SOTA set-up (transceiver, antenna, cables, etc.).

Finally, my fears about operating 5 watts with a compromised whip antenna have vanished. From my experience having 5 operating bands is more important than more power, or a larger antenna. Below is a composite of my two-day activation QSO’s which encompassed the 5 bands available with the KH1.

Finally, the article would not be complete without a view atop Dan’s Rock (W3/WE-002) just off I68 near Cumberland MD.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Aside from a beautiful view looking east, you have psychedelic paint covering the rocks! At first you think this is an affront to the natural beauty of the land, but after a while it kind of grows on you. 🙂

Radio Gear:

Roadside POTA: Pedestrian Mobile with the Elecraft KH1 at Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve WMA

My family decided to take a short pre-Christmas break on the coast of South Carolina in mid-December.

It had been a hectic month, so we looked at our healthy hotel points balance and decided to burn up a few of those on an impromptu four-night getaway.

We decided to stay at the same Myrtle Beach hotel where I stayed only a couple of months prior to attend a family funeral in Georgetown, SC. You might recall my activations at Lee State Park, Myrtle Beach State Park, and Huntington Beach State Park during that particular trip.

In truth, we’re not big fans of Myrtle Beach—we prefer more secluded, less commercial spots along the coastal Carolinas. In the summer, Myrtle Beach is jam-packed with visitors—the traffic is a little insane—but in the winter, Myrtle Beach is relatively quiet. Getting around is a breeze, and accommodation is easy to find.

This trip was all about family time, so I didn’t pre-plan a single activation, and I didn’t pack several radios. In fact, the only radio I brought was my Elecraft KH1, which lives in my everyday carry backpack.

The KH1 is a constant companion these days. It was really fun to take it on one of the balconies of our room and hunt parks and summits. Despite a little QRM, I was able to make a number of contacts just using the KH1 whip and dangling the counterpoise.

I remember working my friend Alan (W2AEW) while he was activating a park in New Jersey. I sent him the photo above. What fun!

Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve Wildlife Management Area (K-3903)

On Wednesday, December 20, 2023, we decided to spend part of the morning and afternoon in Conway, South Carolina, which is about a 30-minute drive from Myrtle Beach.

My wife asked, “Surely, there’s a park you can activate along the way?” (She and my daughters fully support my POTA addiction.)

After a quick glance at the POTA Map, I determined that indeed there was!

Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve WMA was essentially on the way to Conway, and I could tell based on a quick Google Map search that one of the access points (a huge gravel parking lot) was conveniently located next to the highway. Score!

I grabbed my backpack and camera (of course I brought along the camera just in case!). We drove 25 minutes to the access point which was easy to find.

As luck would have it, as I parked, I noticed that a motor grader was resurfacing part of the parking lot and the main WMA access road. This wouldn’t affect my activation, of course, but it was incredibly loud—especially the constant back-up alert.

So that my KH1 audio would be audible over the grader noise and the highway noise, I connected it to my Zoom H1N recorder.

Setup was quick despite setting up the audio feed and arranging the camera position under the shade the open hatch of my Subaru provided.

Gear

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On The Air

I started calling CQ POTA on the 20 meter band and it didn’t take long before hunters started calling back. Continue reading Roadside POTA: Pedestrian Mobile with the Elecraft KH1 at Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve WMA

Pedestrian mobile POTA hunting on the back forty!

Saturday (January 20, 2024) was the first day in weeks that I had nothing on my schedule. There was no pressing need to leave our mountain home and we had a fresh layer of snow on the ground.

When I woke up that morning, it was 4F/-15.5C but by the afternoon it has warmed up to a balmy 10F/-12C (but then back to 0F/-17.7C that night).

It was the POTA Support Your Parks Weekend and part of me wanted to hit the road and activate a park or two. But my desire to stay put, relax, and just enjoy reading a good book by our wood stove, cup of coffee in hand, won out.

As I mentioned in previous posts, we’ve had a lot going on in our family. To have a day where nothing was required of me? I needed to take that.

Still, I did have a few household things to do including stocking up on firewood.

While I was splitting kindling in the crisp air, I thought it might be awfully fun to take the KH1 into the woods and just do a little POTA hunting. As soon as I replenished the firewood in the house and while I had my boots on, I grabbed my KH1.

“What dis? We gonna’ POTA, Daddy?”

Hazel is not a cold weather-loving dog, but she can’t resist heading outdoors with me. Even if it’s just on our own property!

My goal? To do a little pedestrian mobile park hunting with the KH1.

I didn’t care how many contacts I made–if any–with my wee radio, four foot telescoping antenna, and a few watts of power. This was all about winter radio therapy.

I also grabbed my camera to make a short video–the first time I’d picked it up in a couple of weeks.

Gear:

Note: All Amazon, CW Morse, ABR, Chelegance, eBay, and Radioddity links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

On the air

Instead of detailing any contacts I made (spoiler: I did make a few) I’ll leave that to the video below.

As always, when you’re QRP and not the DX (ie. you’re hunting or chasing, not activating) you need to call activators slightly off-frequency so that your tone varies from the stronger stations calling them zero-beat. Note that this is applicable to operating SSB as well.

I remember when the KH1 was first announced, I read messages and comments stating that such a compromised antenna and low-power radio would not work for hunting Park-To-Park or Summit-To-Summit contacts because it wouldn’t be heard in a pileup.

That’s simply not the case and I knew it wouldn’t be because for years I’ve used my KX2 and AX1 antenna combo to make hundreds of similar contacts. The KH1 is basically an AX1 and transceiver combined in a handheld unit.

It does help, though, to employ a little QRP skill in the process.

Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of this little field session.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air time; I just start recording and let it roll. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Field reports resuming!

Hazel was absolutely running wild as we walked back to the house. I snapped this photo of her as she was jumping around.

I decided to push this short video to the front of the line. You’ll soon see more field reports pop up from December.

As I mentioned in the video, I took a good two week break because I simply didn’t feel like writing or making videos–I was taking some time with family to grieve and be there for my father and sister. My policy is that I never, ever feel pressed to post on QRPer or YouTube because that would make this feel too much like a job.

It’s not a job: it’s a pure labor of love!

And I will keep it that way. This is why I never look at my YouTube stats and only rarely check out my website stats. Those things don’t really matter to me and they’re certainly not a motivator. What is a motivator is the amazing community we have here–that means more to me than my subscriber count, views, and all of those metrics ever could!

Thank you

Thank you for joining Hazel and me on this little POTA hunting session!

And thank you again for the outpouring of kind and compassionate messages as we’ve navigated the past couple of weeks as a family. It’s appreciated more than you know.

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.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me and have a wonderful week ahead!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Ham Radio Workbenches On The Air (& POTA): A short field report and a very long activation video!

Many of you know I’m on the crew of the Ham Radio Workbench podcast. In fact, as of this month, I’ve been there a year now (my how time flies).  Although it shows a certain lack of judgement on their part, I’m glad they invited me on board!

On October 9, fellow HRWB crew member, Mark (N6MTS), pitched an idea to us via email:

“What do y’all think about doing an HRWB On The Air event?”

We all agreed it sounded like a great idea. Things like this normally take a year’s worth of planning, promoting, and organizing. Not when Mark’s in charge, though.

Next thing we know, Mark had us sorting out the best date/time (December 3, 2023/1800-22:00UTC) for HRWBOTA and even reached out to some amazing volunteers who helped put together a website and spotting page.

Holy cow!

December 3, 2023

I planned to operate the entire four hour event period from Lake James State Park (K-2730) since it would be an easy detour en route to Hickory, NC (where I was staying that night). Of course, each contact would could for both HRWBOTA and POTA.

The previous day, however, I learned that one of my daughters had a meeting in downtown Asheville from 18:00-19:00 UTC. She doesn’t have a driver’s license yet, so I had to take her. Had it not been an important meeting in advance of her finals, she would have skipped.

This really threw a wrench in the works. I knew that by the time her meeting ended and I dropped her off at the QTH, the earliest I could be at Lake James was 20:15-20:30 or so.

How could I increase my on-the-air HRWBOTA time?

KH1 to the rescue!

Since the Elecraft KH1 was packed in my EDC bag, I decided to play a little HRWBOTA in the parking lot behind the meeting building.

I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest. I wasn’t spotting myself anywhere but the HRWBOTA spotting page, and I was limited to the 15, 17, and 20M bands with the KH1’s 4′ whip antenna.

I spotted myself, hit the air and started calling CQ HRWBOTA!

In the span of about 45 minutes, I managed to log a total of 15 stations! Not bad considering I was standing in an urban parking lot, swimming in QRM, and going QRP!

I didn’t make a video of this part of the HRWBOTA activation–sorry about that if you worked me then. I needed every moment of on-the-air time I could grab. Here’s my log sheet:

Lake James State Park (K-2739)

I legged it to Lake James after my daughter’s meeting–in fact, to save time, I started my activation video while I was still in my car driving on I-40.

I arrived at Lake James, parked, plugged in the car, grabbed my gear and made my way to the picnic area next to the lakeshore. It wasn’t hard to find a site with a tree that might support my KM4CFT 30/40M linked EFHW antenna.

I include the full antenna deployment and station set-up in my (rather long) activation video below. Continue reading Ham Radio Workbenches On The Air (& POTA): A short field report and a very long activation video!

The Elecraft KH1 or KX2? Which one should you buy?

Even before I started taking my Elecraft KH1 to the field and generating reports and activation videos, I started receiving questions from readers and subscribers about how the KH1 might compare with other field-portable radios.

At least 70% of all of these questions asked specifically about the venerable Elecraft KX2.

Making a purchase decision

I’m not surprised so many are trying to make a purchase decision between the KH1 and KX2.

For one thing, the KH1 and KX2 represent some of the smallest, most compact and lightweight shack-in-a-box HF field radios on the market. We’ve a lot of QRP field radios to chose from these days, but few have options for both internal ATUs, internal batteries, and attachable paddles. Very few are as light and compact as either of these two radios.

Another reason for the comparison is that many are in the long queue to purchase a new Elecraft KX2. At time of posting this article, if you place an order for the KX2, you are going to wait a few months for delivery.  The KH1 also has a lead time, but it’s likely shorter than that of the KX2 (check out the Elecraft Shipping Status page for more info).

Comparing models

While the KH1 and KX2 have a lot in common, they’re also quite different in many respects.

We radio ops like to compare features and specifications and Elecraft knew the KX2 and KH1 would be compared frequently, so they created a handy chart:

Click here to download Elecraft’s KX2 v KH1 comparison chart (PDF).

At the end of the day, though, I would argue that one’s enjoyment of a radio has more to do with how well it fits the operating style of the owner.

The KX2 is one of the best portable QRP field radios ever made, in my humble opinion. It’s a little high-performance machine that can handle any mode you care to use between 80-10 meters.

The KH1, on the other hand (pun intended), is designed to be an exceptional handheld radio for pedestrian mobile use and as a super lightweight, low-impact, field portable station. It’s essentially CW-only and operates on 5 bands (40-15 meters).

If you can be honest with yourself about how you plan to use the radio, it’ll help you make this purchase decision.

For example, if you never see yourself operating pedestrian mobile–you’re more of a sit down at a table sort of op–there’s a good argument to go for the KX2. If, however, you’re an avid SOTA/POTA portable activator who is primarily a CW op and you like the idea of a super quick deployment and handheld operating from anytime, anywhere, you should consider the KH1.

Video

To dig into this comparison a little deeper, I decided to make a video where I discuss the differences between the two radios and also speak to different styles of operating and which radio might suit that style best:

Click here to view on YouTube. 

I would be curious which radio you prefer and why. Please consider commenting!

Thank you!

I hope you found this post and video useful.

As always, 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.

Patreon supporters have access to 100% ad-free, and downloadable videos for off-line viewing via Vimeo. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files. This is how your support truly helps this site and channel!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Elecraft KH1: A Quickie Pedestrian Mobile POTA Activation!

Thursday, November 9, 2023 was a typical “dad taxi” day for me.

By the time I got around to doing a POTA activation that afternoon (which was always on the docket) it was within 30 minutes of when I needed to pick up my daughters.

Fortunately, the Blue Ridge Parkway Folk Art Center was en route to town.

I had planned that day to pair up my Elecraft KH1 with a random wire antenna, but looking at the time, I realized that was being a little ambitious–the few minutes to deploy and pack up the antenna would cut into the activation.

Instead (since I had just received my KH1 logging tray/cover) I decided to put it to the test with a real pedestrian mobile activation using the KH1, its  whip antenna, the logging sheets I printed/cut, and the teeny space pen included with the logging tray. In theory, this all looked doable, but in practice I didn’t know if I would actually be able to log on a tray attached to the side of my radio!

I had planned to use my Zoom H1n recorder for the KH1 audio since I would be making an activation video (see below), but frankly, I simply didn’t have time to set it up. I had to make do with the KH1 wee speaker.

Speaking of the speaker…

After playing with the speaker for a few weeks now, I’ve found that it sounds much better when I run the KH1 with a wide CW filter.

I’d always assumed being a low-fidelity 1″ speaker that narrow audio would be best, but I was wrong about that. In the field, I tinker with the filter and attenuation settings for the best audio balance.

Still, it’s not perfect (the speaker is really a “bonus” feature) but it’s much improved over my initial POTA activation.

Of course, I would have been using earphones had I not been recording the activation on camera. Via earphones, the KH1 audio is excellent!

Gear:

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On The Air

I hopped on the air, started calling CQ POTA, and the stations started rolling in. Continue reading Elecraft KH1: A Quickie Pedestrian Mobile POTA Activation!

Elecraft KH1 Super Power? Anytime/Anywhere POTA/SOTA Hunting!

Photo from morning SOTA activation on Richland Balsam.

Yesterday morning, I took my Elecraft KH1 to the summit of Richland Balsam and performed a SOTA activation using only the KH1’s whip antenna on 20 meters (I ran out of time to hit 17 and 15M).

It was insane fun. Without really intending to, I actually filmed the entire hike to the summit, entire activation, and the hike back to the car. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that before.  I plan to post the video by Monday (Nov 6) if at all possible (again, trying to push my KH1 videos to the front of the line for a little while).

Parking Lot Pedestrian Mobile

After the SOTA activation, I drove back to town to pick my daughters up at their acting class. I arrived about 20 minutes before the class ended and thought, “why not pull out the KH1 and see if I can hunt some POTA activators–?

I opened the trunk of the car, grabbed the KH1 from my SOTA pack and then decided to even film this short, impromptu hunting session.

As you’ll see in the video below, it took no time at all to deploy the KH1, hop on the air and work a couple of stations.

Short Video:

Click here to view on YouTube.

I could have also chased some SOTA activators, some DX, or just looked for a random ragchew with someone calling CQ.

I like hunting/chasing POTA and SOTA activators, though, because the time commitment is manageable. For example, by the time I ended this video, my daughters and one of their friends were already hopping in the car to hit the road. I didn’t have to apologize to anyone for ending a QSO early. 🙂

November is KH1 month

I decided that I’m only going to use the KH1 both in the field and in the shack during the month of November. The only exceptions will be other radios I need to test or if I need to make contacts outside of the 40-15 meter KH1 window.

One of the big reasons for this level of commitment is that I am in the testing group of the KH1. This is how we flesh-out any minor issues that may have gone unnoticed.

Another reason is I do plan to post a comprehensive review of the KH1 eventually and I only feel comfortable doing this after I’ve spent dozens of hours with a radio.

If I’m being honest, another reason is that I absolutely love this anytime, anywhere radio. It’s so insanely portable, I take it with me everywhere. The KH1 and I have been inseparable since last Monday when I took delivery. And, yes, I’m still contemplating what her name will be.

Note that I will post some of my other activations videos this month (I’ve quite a few out there!) and I will also post the occasional bonus video exclusively on Patreon. Indeed, I posted a video on Patreon yesterday where I paired the CHA F-Loop 2.0 with my Icom IC-705.

Stay tuned for more radio goodness and I hope everyone has an amazing weekend!

72,

Thomas (K4SWL)