Category Archives: People

3 Watts of Fun: Pairing the Elecraft KX1 and PackTenna 20M EFHW at South Mountains State Park!

On Monday, September 12, 2022, I had one primary objective in mind: to test the Eton Elite Satellite portable shortwave radio.

Many of you know that besides being a QRPer, I’m also an SWL or shortwave listener. Over on my other blog, the SWLing Post, we post news, information, guest posts, and reviews covering the diverse world of shortwave radio and international broadcasting.

Occasionally, I evaluate new receivers and the Eton Elite Satellit is the latest shortwave portable from the Eton Corporation.  It was meant to be their flagship, benchmark portable but unfortunately early production units were plagued with a bit of internally-generated noise. On September 12, I was trying to sort out just how much this internal QRM affected the radio’s performance.

South Mountains State Park (K-2753)

I wanted to go to a known RF-quiet area to check the Elite Satellit and the South Mountains State Park Clear Creek Access was an easy detour during my errands that day.

The Elite Satellit

First thing I did after arriving on site was to put the Elite Satellit through some basic paces (AM/SSB, Mediumwave, Shortwave, FM, AIR, etc.). I also compared it with the Tecsun PL-990 portable.

I made a long list of notes and observations to send to Eton that afternoon.

After I finished the tests, I checked my watch and–woo hoo!–I had just enough time to squeeze in a short activation. I only had a 45 minute window, so this activation needed to be a very quick one.

I had two radio kits with me: The Mountain Topper MTR-3B kit, and the Elecraft KX1 kit.  I chose the Elecraft KX1 because I had such a blast using it the previous day at Lake James.

I had a number of antennas in my pack, but chose the excellent PackTenna Mini End-Fed Half Wave that I cut for 20 meters. This is one of my go-to SOTA antennas since it’s compact, rugged, efficient, and easy to deploy even if your only option is a short tree or telescoping mast as is often the case on a summit.

I felt like 20 meters would be a worthy band for the time of day and recent propagation trends as well. Hopefully, it would be productive enough to provide the 10 needed contacts to validate the activation.  If I needed, I could use it on 30 meters with either its internal ATU or (more likely) the Elecraft T1 that was also along for the ride.

I deployed the PackTenna within three minutes. Very easy and straight-forward setup.
Continue reading 3 Watts of Fun: Pairing the Elecraft KX1 and PackTenna 20M EFHW at South Mountains State Park!

POTA activation with WD8RIF at Beury Mountain WMA in West Virginia!

Grist Mill at Babcock State Forest Headquarters

This year, instead of attending the 2022 Hamvention, my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) and I hatched another plan.

Eric and I–along with his son Miles (KD8KNC) and sometimes Mike (K8RAT)–attend Hamvention every year it’s held.  We’d planned to do the same this year especially with it being the first in-person Hamvention since 2019.

As Hamvention approached though, we both had a lot going on in our lives and decided to save a little money, a lot of travel time, and meet in West Virginia for several days of POTA activations and just hanging out. I explain a bit more about the decision in this previous post.

We camped three nights and performed activations together for four days. It was an absolute blast!

Setting up camp

On the afternoon of Thursday, May 19, 2022, we (Eric, Miles, Theo the dog, and I) met at Babcock State Park and set up our tents at the adjoining campsites we’d reserved.

Babcock would serve as our home base for the entire WV POTA expedition.

As a bonus, Babcock State Park (K-1798) is also a POTA entity, so we activated it in the late shift after dinner each evening.

As soon as the tents were deployed that afternoon, we all jumped into Mile’s Subaru with our radio gear and hit our first park!

Beury Mountain Wildlife Management Area (K-7036)

Beury Mountain WMA is so close to Babcock State Park, I have to assume they share a common boundary.

The drive to the site was very brief but as with many WMAs and Game Lands, the entry road isn’t paved and there are rough patches you might need to avoid. Of course, Mile’s Subaru was way over-engineered for this task! Continue reading POTA activation with WD8RIF at Beury Mountain WMA in West Virginia!

Mike rediscovers radio and POTA “gently reopened the door to an amazing hobby”

Many thanks to Mike (W6MVT) for sharing the following guest post:


Back to Ham Radio for a Year – A Brief Reminiscence

by Mike (W6MVT)

This story will sound like many I have heard over the past year, but I will write it nonetheless as a note of gratitude.

Last March COVID had just restricted our activities and I was wondering how to spend my time. I had received my licenses back in the 80’s. There was a code requirement, there was no internet, no QRZ, no spotting.

Though I enjoyed ham radio very much, family and work took precedence, and the equipment went into storage. I eventually sold it off (who is dumb enough to sell matching Drakes?).

Fast forward to the around 2010, when I knew I would be retiring and might want to get on the air again. I picked up some used equipment and stashed it away without really using it.

Then 2020 arrived and the world changed dramatically. One day, prompted by who-knows-what, I had the bright idea to dust off the gear and hook it up, mostly to see if it even still worked. A makeshift wire in the back yard and a quick listen and there it was – a CQ.

I was actually nervous to answer – it had been that long. It was KE8BKP, who it turns out, was activating a park. I hadn’t a clue what that meant, but I shakily answered. We exchanged reports and he went on the to the next one. I had two immediate reactions. First, I was reassured by that brief, painless interaction. The stuff worked and I could still “do this.” Second, things had changed a great deal since the “old days.” But I researched POTA and SOTA and DX Clusters and all the other magic that now exists.The point is that POTA gently reopened the door to an amazing hobby, one that still fascinates me. I went on to become an active hunter and now a prolific activator.

Since it has been a year now, I felt it important to acknowledge this moment, and to note one more thing. When an activator answers a call, we don’t know the other person’s circumstances. Maybe they are a new – or returning “old” ham. Maybe it took courage to key the mic or pound the key. I have appreciated the manner in which POTA hams enthusiastically help one another improve, learn and in turn help others. Thanks to Jeff, KE8BKP, and all the others since, and to come. And thanks to the many volunteers that keep the program running each day.

73, and be well,

Mike W6MVT


Mike, I couldn’t agree with you more. I think all POTA, WWFF, and SOTA activators are essentially ambassadors for ham radio. We never know what’s happening on the other end and I strongly believe in patience and understanding when answering calls and performing an exchange. It can have a huge positive impact for the person on the other end.

So glad you found Parks On The Air and that you’re enjoying playing radio once again!

Thank you for sharing your story.

SOTA: “Inside the Summit-Obsessed World of Ham Radio”

Many thanks to Steve (WG0AT) who shares the following article which features him and some of his SOTA friends:

(Source: Outside Magazine)

Inside the Summit-Obsessed World of Ham Radio

It’s like biathlon, but for geeks

On a gray Friday afternoon last spring, Steve Galchutt sat high atop Chief Mountain, an 11,700-foot peak along Colorado’s Front Range. An epic panorama of pristine alpine landscape stretched in almost every direction, with Pikes Peak standing off to the south and Mount Evan towering just to the west.

It was an arresting view, and the perfect backdrop for a summit selfie. But instead of reaching for his smartphone, Galchutt was absorbed by another device: a portable transceiver. Sitting on a small patch of rock and snow, his head bent down and cocked to one side, he listened as it sent out a steady stream of staticky beeps: dah-dah-di-dah dah di-di-di-dit. “This is Scotty in Philadelphia,” Galchutt said, translating the Morse code. Then, tapping at two silver paddles attached to the side of the radio, he sent his own message, first with some details about his location, then his call sign, WG0AT.

At this point, a prying hiker could have been forgiven for wondering what, exactly, Galchutt was doing. But his answer—an enthusiastic “amateur radio, of course!”—would likely only have further compounded their confusion. After all, the popular image of an amateur-radio enthusiast is an aging, armchair-bound recluse, not some crampon-clad adventurer. And their natural habitat is usually a basement, or “ham shack,” not a windswept peak in the middle of the Rockies.

Galchutt fits part of this stereotype—he’s 75—but the similarities end there. An avid hiker and camper, his preferred shack is atop a mountain, and the higher the summit, the better.

Another rapid-fire burst of dits and dahs sprung from the radio. “Wow!” Galchutt said, “Spain!”

Nearby sat Brad Bylund (call sign WA6MM) and Bob and Joyce Witte (K0NR and K0JJW, respectively). Together, the four are part of a group called Summits on the Air (SOTA), an international, radio version of high pointing. […]

Continue reading the full article at Outside Magazine.

2019 Homebrew Heros Award Winner

Many thanks to Pete Eaton who notes that Hans Summers has won the 2019 Homebrew Heroes award. Congratulations, Hans!

Click here to view on YouTube.

NM0S’ Ozark Patrol regenerative receiver kit

k0awb_ozarkpatrol 3small

Just learned that David Cripe (NM0S) has a new kit for sale: the Ozark Patrol regenerative receiver kit.

The Ozark Patrol is a simple, straightforward kit, designed with beginners in mind. The kit is a through-hole design, which is to say, with no surface-mounted parts.  All of the component values and reference numbers are silk-screened on the board to indicate each part’s location, making for truly quick and fool-proof assembly.

What’s more, Dave is a talented kit designer; he’s the brains behind the kit for our successful ETOW HumanaLight (originally conceived by engineer Greg Majewski). He’s not only clever like that, he’s also a great pal.

In the past, when Dave has announced new radio kits for sale, he’s sold out within a few days. That’s why I ordered mine the moment I saw the announcement.

And, hey…not only does just $40 plus shipping ($46 in the US) get you a superb regen receiver kit, but proceeds also support the Four State QRP Group. Win-win, in my book.

Here are a few specifications and design features listed on the Four State QRP Group’s website:

  • Frequency Range: 3.5-15 MHz in two bands
  • Sensitivity: Yes!
  • Power Supply: 6 x AA batteries
  • Audio Output: A 2.6” speaker is included, as well as a jack for 1/8” stereo headphones

Want one, too? Click here to order your own Ozark Patrol kit…and enjoy tinkering as well as listening!

Adam’s Yaesu FT-817ND Go Kit

Adam (KJ6HOT) writes:

“Just wanted to pass on a link to a few videos I put
together in case you’d like to share them, especially the Yaesu
FT-817ND kit I put together.”

Adam has also posted some SOTA activation videos where he uses his go kit (click here to watch).  I’m amazed that Adam manages to fit so much in that small box. Certainly a handy kit for hiking to a SOTA activation!

Thanks for sharing, Adam! I’ll add this link to our Going Portable page. If you have a portable set-up you would like to share, please contact me.

2013 Ten-Tec Hamfest and W4DXCC: Rob Sherwood guest

TenTecLogoAlong with the Dayton Hamvention, I try to attend the Ten-Tec hamfest every year. Not only is it one of the hamfests nearest my home base, but also their “radios only” free tailgating is the source of many great quality radio finds. In the past, I’ve purchased several “boat anchors” and Ten-Tec radios at this event’s tailgating.

This year I’ll be joining the ranks of tailgaters as well, as I reluctantly part ways with my trusted OMNI VI+ in order to pay for some shack upgrades. If you come to the hamfest, be sure to stop by and say hello.

Moreover, this year Ten-Tec has invited Rob Sherwood (NC0B) of Sherwood Engineering to a speak-and-greet. I know Rob; he’s a great presenter, and you’d be hard pressed to find a guy more knowledgeable about receiver design. His free presentation will take place at 11:00 am on Saturday. (He will also host a forum Friday night at the W4DXCC–see below).

Here’s the Ten-Tec Hamfest presentation schedule (see full details on their website):

Friday Afternoon Forms:

1:00 PM  John Occhipinti will speak about the Ten-Tec user nets followed up with a 40 meter SSB net beginning at 2:00 PM direct from the TEN-TEC Homecoming Hamfest.

Saturday Morning Forums:

9:00 AM  Learn about the new FG-01 Antenna Analyzer by You Kits  (Jim Wharton, NO4A)

10:00 AM  Learn what makes a quality receiver  (Rob Sherwood, NCØB)

11:00 AM  Learn about the many features offered with the TEN-TEC 506 Rebel  (Craig Behrens, NM4T)

…and QRP @ W4DXCC

W4DXCC-Logo-2013-Blue2Each year, the W4DXCC coincides with the Ten-Tec Hamfest, and I always try to attend this excellent event, too. My buddy Dave Anderson (K4SV) is the new president of the W4DXCC, and does a fantastic job putting together an informative, fun event. I’ve made many friendships there over the years.

Though the W4DXCC is a DXer/Contesting convention, that definition isn’t strict, so don’t think for a moment that QRP doesn’t have a place there–! Indeed, my good friend, Vlado (N3CZ), is opening the convention with a presentation on QRPer operation.  I do hope he will also display some of his homebrew QRP transceivers (one of which was built into a USB keychain!); no doubt his presentation will be very interesting.

If you’re planning to attend the Ten-Tec hamfest, consider spending the remainder of the day at the nearby W4DXCC. At $30 at the door, it’s a bargain, and I promise you’ll return home with new friends and an even better understanding of DXing.  Come join the fun!

A ham club at a bacon festival: what’s not to like?

(Source: Roanoke Times)
(Source: Roanoke Times)

Many thanks to the Southgate ARC for bringing this to my attention:

The Roanoke Times reports that radio hams were among those attending a bacon festival

The newspaper says hams from the Roanoke Valley Amateur Radio Club, W4CA, showed up.

“It’s the ham club at the bacon festival,” club member Jim Martin AK4LB explained.

Read the full story at
http://m.roanoke.com/news/2192835-12/thousands-pig-out-at-bacon-festival-in-downtown.html

Roanoke Valley Amateur Radio Club
http://w4ca.com/

BBC World Service interviews Paul (N6PSE)who is attempting to organize a DXpedition to North Korea

(Source: BBC World Service)

A small group of US ham radio enthusiasts have been in North Korea recently to ask for permission to set up a ‘pop up’ ham radio station there. Paul Ewing is one of them; he wants to lead a group to set up a call sign for two weeks, to make contacts around the world from perhaps the most isolated society in the world. The BBC’s Dan Damon asked Paul to explain.