I realize that I’m fortunate, in many ways, that I perform POTA activations at times when parks are relatively quiet: weekdays, mostly, and during that 9-5 window when many are at work. On the flip side, I’m also activating when there are less hunters out there.
The upshot, for me, is that I rarely have any competition for picnic tables or activation spots at state and national parks. In general, as you’ll see in my activation videos, the park is quiet and sometimes I literally have the place to myself.
I actually take this for granted until I activate on a busy weekend or a holiday. Something like…
While traveling back to the QTH on Monday, September 4, 2023, I decided to pop by Lake James State Park (K-2739) for a quick POTA activation.
Lake James State Park spans about 3,743 acres and is divided into two areas: the Catawba River Access and Paddy’s Creek Area.
Typically, I play radio at the smaller Catawba River area because there are so many excellent picnic sites with loads of trees.
The Paddy’s Creek area is much larger and (big bonus) has many more trails.
Paddy’s Creek also has a large beach and swimming/boating area with a huge parking lot and large covered picnic shelter (that is often occupied or reserved).
On Labor Day, the weather was gorgeous and, as you might imagine, the park was packed!
So why did I choose Paddy’s Creek on such a busy day?
I might have mentioned in a previous video that we recently purchased a used Volvo C40 Recharge EV (Electric Vehicle). While I normally charge it up at home, I’m trying to familiarize myself with charging on the go as well.
I’d read that Lake James has two (free!) convenience chargers at the Paddy’s Creek area. I drove to the site mainly to see where the were located. On such a busy day, I didn’t assume either of the chargers would be available–my plan was to find them, then head to the Catawba River access.
But turns out, the only available parking spot I could find at the Paddy’s Creek lot was one EV charging spot right there at the beach access and shelter! What!?! That’s an omen, I told myself, so I pulled into the spot, plugged in, and by golly, the car started charging.
I’m still new at this stuff, so it’s all a bit of magic to me. Forgive my excitement.
As I often do, I hunted yet another CW POTA activator during my lunch break while working from home.
I have been learning CW for most of the year. Early on, I realized that with a bit of practice sending, and after listening to recordings of POTA activations, like those from Thomas, I could reliably send the proper exchange needed to hunt a POTA activator.
If you can give your call sign, signal report, and state abbreviation, you can make the contact. I started early on with just the basics and then added some of the common “extras” like GM for good morning, TU for Thank You and then 73. Not only is this great practice for getting on the air sending CW, it’s also very rewarding while learning CW. The exchange is short, standard, and easy to follow with a bit of practice.
Once I finished my upgrade to Extra I focused all my spare time, not much though truth be told, on practicing CW.
At some point this summer I set the goal to Activate POTA/SOTA during the W4G SOTA campout this fall. This really wasn’t an aggressive goal, one I figured was attainable but also one that I could hold myself accountable to even knowing I had a very busy summer ahead of me.
During one of the LICW Club classes I heard again that their goal is to get Hams on the air to make a QSO. I thought to myself, yes, that is great, and I want to do more, but I know I have made many QSOs in CW on the air, albeit very short and simple ones. So, I was curious how many.
I jumped on the POTA site and looked up my statistics. I was surprised at how may hundred I had, and yet at the same time, I was a bit disappointed. It’s not that I wanted to have made more CW contacts, it’s that I realized that they were ALL from hunting and not a single one was from calling CQ.
So, I changed my goal.
I know that Hams, especially CW operators, are a great bunch of people and they want to see new CW operators succeed, so there is lots of patience when you call CQ. So, I decided to move up my timeline. This was on a Thursday, and Saturday was a likely candidate for a POTA outing, why not–?
Saturday was my birthday, and I knew I could get away with some personal free time in the morning where I could dive in and call CQ POTA DE N5FY. The next day, Friday, I firmed it up, I would head out in the morning, bring the new to me KX2 and see what happens.
Surprisingly, I was much less nervous than I expected, I had told myself that it wouldn’t help anyways to be nervous so just do it and see what happens. I made it to my local park, to the picnic table I frequent, then setup a No Transformer 2-Wire antenna with the KX2. One press of the ATU button and I had a 1:1 match on 40m band.
Of course, I have great timing. I could not believe the stations on the air on 40m. I never did look but there must have been a contest. I moved up and down about 20kHz and there were stations everywhere! I called “QRL?” on 2 different frequencies and had a reply before I landed on open frequency where I could call CQ.
I had not scheduled the activation; I knew I had a bit of cell phone coverage at this park, so I set the CQ POTA message to calling while I posted a spot.
After two calls, I had my first call back. It was time!
I could have freaked out here, but I was too focused on decoding to even be nervous! Of course, I had to send a partial call and a “?” once or twice to get the full call right. Of course, I made some keying errors. But the caller had patience and worked me and we made the QSO. Now I was really excited!
I called CQ and someone sent me back dits and dahs, and I decoded what they were sending! Boy, this was fun! I continued to call CQ POTA, and tried my best to decode the replies, several pileups, and lots of “?” sent by me. But I was making contacts and having a blast!
After a couple of silent CQ calls later, I switched to 20m. And, again, started to get replies back as well as a couple small pileups. In the end, there were a couple call signs that I could not look up, l had a letter or two wrong, but with almost 20 in the log I knew I had an activation and boy was I happy!
Looking back on the activation, and after talking to another Ham, it occurred to me why I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I might be.
You see, when you are the Activator, when you call CQ, the ball is in your court, you invite people to call back and they are there for you. I almost get more nervous hunting as I don’t want to slow down an activator or run over another caller. But when you are the one calling CQ, it’s your game!
Of course there were several hiccups along the way. For one, it got HOT sitting in the sun. I ended up deploying my hiking chair on the table as a sunshade and pulled a portable fan out of the car. Even the action camera overheated while recording the activation. I couldn’t get the KXPD2 paddle to key the KX2 on 20m when I first got setup. And of course, I had lots of sending errors (although fewer than I expected to have) and sent a A LOT of “?” asking for a repeat.
That said, I am very glad to have jumped in and will continue to activate CW going forward as I continue to build my CW skills. For me, confidence in the ability to Activate on CW is great motivation for practicing, which again, is my biggest learning. If I want to be a good operator, I need to put in the effort, and going out to play radio is one extremely fun way to practice!
If you’ve been reading QRPer.com for long, you’ll no doubt have gathered that I’m [understatement alert] a big fan of the Elecraft KX1.
A couple months ago, a good friend and supporter of this site/channel, reached out to me because he planned to sell his pristine Elecraft KX1. He’s in the process of downsizing his radio inventory in preparation of a move.
He wanted me to have first dibs at his KX1 and I couldn’t refuse. I knew it would be a great unit and I wanted two fully-functioning KX1s.
You might ask, “But wait Thomas, don’t you have three KX1s???”
Yes, this is true.
With this latest addition, I have now have two fully-functioning KX1s (a 3 and a 4 band version) and one other in need of repair. After I make the repair, I plan to give this radio to a friend (one who doesn’t read QRPer regularly) so will be back to two KX1s.
Since Elecraft has discontinued the KX1, they’ve become difficult to find on the market and when they do appear, they often demand a very high price.
That said, if you’ve been looking for a KX1, you will eventually find one. All of my friends who’ve wanted one have put out word and found willing sellers in due time. Elecraft sold quite a few of these back in the day, so there are units floating around out there.
Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)
On Sunday, August 27, 2023, I had an opening to play a little radio and fit in a hike at Tuttle Educational State Forest.
At the time, I needed a little radio therapy and outdoor break: my mom had been admitted to the hospital the previous day (they released her a few days later and at time of posting she’s doing much better).
Tuttle was only a 30 minute drive from the hospital and, as I suspected, I was the only visitor there that Sunday–educational forests aren’t nearly as busy as other NC state parks.
After a nice 3-ish mile hike, I grabbed my radio backpack from the car and started recording an activation video.
My goal was to test this new KX1 and to set up CW message memories.
North Carolina Parks On The Air Activation weekend
The first North Carolina Parks On The Air Activation weekend occurred September 9 & 10. Between a limited amount of time available and weather, I only was able to activate three parks, including an over-night camp out. The primary goal was to return to the Dismal Swamp State Park (K-2727) in Camden County. While the Dismal Swamp in Camden County is a rare and sought after County on CW for those wanting to work all 100 North Carolina counties and all 3000+ US counties, it also is a place comforting to my tortured soul.
As there is no camping at Dismal Swamp State Park, one camps at the nearby Merchant Mill Pond State Park (K-2745) in Gates County. This is a pleasant small State Park with canoeing and fishing in a 190 year old millpond, with old-growth Cypress trees. It is near the lower extension of the larger Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, which begins in Virginia.
As an older park, Merchants Mill Pond SP does not have any hook-ups for water or electricity. Fortunately, I was camping in our Solis campervan, which is self-contained by solar power and good for boondocking.
The oppressive heat gave way to rain, so I set up inside the van at my campsite. This gave me an opportunity to use my new favorite portable radio, the Penntek TR – 45 Lite, a QRP CW only radio. An outstanding feature of this rig is that it has no menus, only knobs and toggle switches, and reminds me very much of my radios from the early 1960s, but with modern specs.
The internal keyer performed well with the Putikeeg magnetic paddle from Amazon. Even though there was distant thunder, I felt it was safe to set up an inverted V on a fiberglass mast, bungee-corded to a trailer mount hitch on the camper van. I ran the RG-174 coax through a rear window by sliding the window screen open a bit.
Not wanting to invite an onslaught of mosquitoes, I only used red lights inside the Solis, reminiscent of military operations. The TR -45 Lite did well on 40 CW with 5 W and the inverted V in the rain, and no mosquitoes invaded the van.
The overall goal was to return to the Dismal Swamp. I started early in the morning, setting up on a picnic table in the park between the Canal and the walkway, along the canal. Even though it was midmorning, the weather became interesting, at 90° F and 90% humidity.
For this activation, I used the old IC 706 MKIIG and a modified Wolf River coil set up. I used the Chameleon 17 foot telescopic whip. This whip is Mil-Spec and has a great feel and quality of workmanship. However it is 11 inches too short for the Wolf River “Sporty 40” coil. To address this, I made an 11 inch jumper from solid copper wire left over from my Dad’s days with Southern Bell telephone, and fitted it on an alligator clip, clipped to the top of the whip. The other modification was not to use the three 31 foot radials. For this activation, I tried the KB9VBR “Magic Carpet” ground plane.
This is a 32 x 84 piece of aluminum window screen, laid on the ground, under the antenna tripod. It may be a dB or so less than the radials, but it sure takes up a lot less space, especially in a crowded parking lot. The key is the Whiterook MK-49 made by ElectronicsUSA. It is my favorite backpacking key, lightweight and withstands being thrown into a backpack with no protection. This set-up worked well both on 20 and 40 CW, juggling CW keying with eating leftovers for breakfast until the rain came.
I then decided to wander on some back roads in Eastern North Carolina and wound up in historic Edenton, originally built in the early 1700s and the first capital of the Colony of North Carolina. Their diverse history is reflected in the town square, where there is a 13 Colony US flag, a monument to the Confederate War dead, and the British Union Jack!
The radio setup was very pleasant at the Historic Site (K-6842) near the Albemarle Sound, which begins at the Eastern North Carolina coast, and runs to the leeward side of the North Carolina Outer Banks on the Atlantic Ocean.
I decided to try the TR-45 Lite again, but this time with a Buddipole on 20 meter CW. Propagation was variable with early contacts in Utah and Idaho, but the band became difficult. It was very pleasant operating with the ocean breeze and looking at the 1886 Roanoke River lighthouse, until the rain started again.
So it was time to pack up, but a return trip to spend a weekend in Edenton would be a very pleasant activity. On the way out of town, I passed a puzzling POTA site, the National Fish Hatchery (K-8007), established in 1898, and home of an Annual Fishing Rodeo. Activating there was tempting, but the rain was prohibitive.
All in all, it was a very pleasant activation for the first NC POTA weekend. I got to test different radio and antenna configurations. I would say for the TR -45 Lite, the inverted-V worked best. For the ICOM IC-706 , the “Magic Carpet” aluminum screen worked very well and was very easy to set up.
I did not have time to do a head to head comparison of the antennas; that is a Fall project. Please note I originally got a stainless steel screen from Amazon, but testing with the Rig Expert showed that it really did not conduct as well as aluminum and had higher SWR, so make sure to purchase the aluminum screen.
For a first NC POTA Weekend, the results were modest and certainly can be improved upon next year. Down east on the Outer Banks, Jockey’s Ridge and the Wright Brother Memorial is on my future list, but an annual pilgrimage to the Dismal Swamp (especially in non-summer months) is a must.
There’s a portable wire antenna design I’ve been wanting to put on the air for POTA and SOTA for what seems like ages: a 20 meter vertical loop.
I mentioned in a Ham Radio Workbench podcast episode a few months ago that I planned to build a field-portable delta loop antenna and that led to a mini discussion about configurations, feed points, height off the ground, etc. and how all of those factors can influence the characteristics and dynamics of the antenna.
Vertical loops are pretty fascinating and incredibly effective.
Delta loops are super easy to build (no more difficult than an EFHW) but this summer has been insanely busy for me and I simply hadn’t gotten around to it yet.
Then my good friend Joshua (N5FY) who runs tufteln.com sent me a prototype 20M delta loop in the mail. We’d been talking delta loops and he couldn’t help but build one. He asked that I take it to the field and put it on the air, then give him any feedback and notes I might have.
Joshua’s design incorporates a 4:1 transformer and was cut to be resonant on 20 meters. I’d actually planned to build one identical to this because the type of loops I’ve deployed at home have been fed with ladder/window line which isn’t as portable as something I could feed with RG-316.
Holmes Educational State Forest (K-4856)
On Friday, September 1, 2023, I grabbed the delta loop antenna and the KX2, then made my way to Holmes Educational State Forest.
I knew that Holmes wouldn’t be busy and that there were a number of options for spots to set up.
After a little scouting, I found a great site to set up the antenna.
I planned to set up this antenna as close as I could to an equilateral triangle with the apex up about 30 feet and the feedpoint in the middle of the base of the delta.
Deploying the antenna in this configuration meant that I only needed one line in a tree to hoist the apex of the delta and two lines to pull out the corners of the base.
I brought along some paracord with tent stakes to secure the base corners of the loop. In the end, though, I simply attached the paracord to trees instead of using the stakes.
I (somewhat reluctantly) made a video of the entire activation including the antenna deployment. I wanted to take my time deploying this antenna for the first time, so the antenna deployment section of the video is much longer than usual.
In the end though? It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. The last vertical delta loop I deployed was a 40 meter loop which is roughly double the size–in my head I was expecting the aperture to be larger than it was.
The 20 meter loop is actually pretty compact and almost as easy as setting up as an inverted vee.
I’m very fortunate in that in the past few years I’ve accumulated a number of QRP radios that I use in rotation when I do park and summit activations.
I’m often asked for advice on choosing radios, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, I feel like the decision is a very personal one–everything is based on an operator’s own particular preferences.
Over the years, I’ve written formal reviews about most of the field radios in my collection. In those reviews, I try to take a wide angle view of a radio–to see how it might appeal to a number of types of operators. I highlight the pros and cons, but I don’t focus on my own particular take because, again, my style of operating might not match that of readers. I try to present the full picture as clearly as I can and let the reader decide.
The Getting To Know You series gives me an opportunity to highlight one radio at a time and showcase what I love about it and why it’s a part of my permanent radio collection. After we spend a bit of time talking about the radio, we’ll do a park or summit activation with it!
And, spoiler alert: I think the MTR-3B is one of the most ingenious little QRP transceivers ever made.
In truth, all of the Mountain Topper series radios are outstanding if you’re a CW operator and into truly portable, ultra-lightweight, field radio activities.
Steve Weber (KD1JV), the designer behind the ATS and Mountain Topper series, created a brilliant platform that has only been improved upon over time.
I’ve only ever operated the MTR-3B and MTR-4B. That said, I’d love to add a high band MTR-5B to my field radio collection someday.
I recently reviewed the MTR-4B (see photo above) and I absolutely love it, but in truth? I prefer the more compact MTR-3B simply because it’s rare that I operate 80 meters in the field and I like the even more compact from factor of the 3B. It’s literally the size of a pack of playing cards.
That said, I wish the 3B had some of the later model MTR-4B upgrades like easy-access sidetone adjustments and power/SWR metering, but I still prefer the MTR-3B.
What? A second MTR-3B?
Confession time: last month, a good friend and QRPer.com patron/supporter offered to sell me his MTR-3B for a very fair market price. He could have put this on eBay or in ham classifieds and surely commanded a much higher price, but he knows how much I love this radio and offered his never used MTR-3B to me.
It didn’t take long for me to accept his offer–like quicker than the blink of an eye quick.
I’ve been looking for a second MTR-3B because 1.) these radios are no longer manufactured and 2.) if something happened to my one and only MTR-3B, I would sob uncontrollably.
I should state here that I blame my buddy, Vince (VE6LK), for introducing the “Two is one, one is none” slogan. Over time, I’ve convinced myself to keep two copies of my favorite radios such as the KX1, FT-817, and MTR-3B.
Vince, by the way, is a card-carrying, certified enabler!
Holmes Educational State Forest (K-4856)
On Friday, August 25, 2023, I made my way to Holmes Educational State Forest to play a little POTA with the MTR-3B.
The site was very quiet. The new school year had just started, so it was too early for school field trips at the park.
After completing my first POTA Rove, it was time to look for other opportunities. The next day, we planned a trip close to the border between Poland and Germany. Due to the high density of POTA parks in Poland, it was not too hard to find a POTA park for me.
The park Łęgi koło Słubic Nature Reserve (SP-1908) is a floodplain for the Oder River, the border river between Poland and Germany. As described in my previous post, the border was shifted from further east to the Oder river as part of the territorial changes at the end of World War II. Later, Poland was the only country, along with Czechoslovakia, where people from East Germany, i.e., the Soviet-controlled part of Germany, could travel to without permission. This arrangement came to an end in 1980 with the rise of the Solidarność (Solidarity) movement in Poland, a social movement against the pro-Soviet government, and the subsequent declaration of martial law.
After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the border became a kind of ‘wealth border’ between Eastern and Western Europe, giving rise to various issues such as crime and immigration. Following Poland’s accession to the European Union in 2004 and its entry into the Schengen Area in 2007, which involved the removal of all border controls, the situation improved. Now the only thing indicating a border ahead is the black-red-yellow post.
The current rapid pace of development in Poland does not make it impossible to overtake Germany in the foreseeable future.
Back to the activation. I took the following equipment with me:
When going (as in walking) to an unknown park without knowing the circumstances, I like to have the option to choose between an antenna with a small and a large footprint. So far, I have just made a handful of car-based activations. But I increasingly like it as it opens another world with big antennas and bigger rigs. We recently made a test activation with an Icom IC-7300 and a 6-band Cobweb antenna from AWK, by chance also from Poland.
But that’s another story.
Not sure if I have mentioned it: My BaMaKey had a technical issue and I had to send it back to the manufacturer. The repair took just a couple of days and the communication was very smooth and convenient. I was happy to have my favourite key back in time before my vacation.
So after I dropped my family to do their business, I went on and looked around for a nice place. Of course, I had to see the actual border.
The weather looked a bit difficult, but it remained dry.
Eventually, I found a place in a meadow with more than enough space for the SOTABeams linked dipole so I could leave the JPC-12, the ground mounted vertical, in the backpack. In the meanwhile, I am used to the SOTABeams antenna. I can build it alone in less than 5 minutes and – as it is hard to beat a dipole – have a very good antenna for operating QRP.
The activation was difficult. It was a holiday season, a morning during a weekday, and the conditions were tough. After 30 minutes, I had just 4 QSOs. So I asked in the chat groups of my local ham radio club and a German POTA group for help. After 1.5 hours, I ended the activation with 15 QSOs, of which 5 were from the alerted groups. At least the place was nice, and the weather was not as hot as in the days before.
The next day, I wanted to spend some time with my 7-year-old son, and I was looking for an opportunity to combine it with a quick activation. I remembered the bunkers and museums of the Ostwall (East Wall), technically Festungsfront Oder-Warthe-Bogen (Fortified Front Oder-Warthe-Bogen). The structure, spanning 120 km / 75 miles in total, was constructed between 1934 and 1944. It stood as the most technologically advanced fortification system during the era of Nazi Germany, and continues to be one of the largest systems of its kind in the world today. Continue reading Poland Adventures – Part II→
On Sunday, August 20, 2023, en route to check in with my parents, I popped by Lake James State Park for a little early evening POTA fun.
In the car, I’d pack the Elecraft KX2 kit and I still had the REZ Ranger 80 vertical antenna system on loan from REZ Antennas (it’s since been returned to them).
The last time I deployed the REZ was on Mount Mitchell in some pretty sketchy weather. While I recorded a couple of short videos, I didn’t record a full activation video since we were having a family picnic that day.
Before sending the Ranger 80 back, I wanted to fit in a proper activation showing how I deploy the antenna, how I tuned it for the first time, and how it might perform on the 40 meter band.
Lake James State Park (K-2739)
It was golden hour at Lake James and the park was bustling with activity. There were kids running around, parents chasing them, and several families cooking out at the numerous picnic sites.
I sought out a location that was private and quiet mainly because the Ranger 80 antenna has four 31 foot radials, thus a large footprint; I didn’t want children, pets, or anyone tripping on the ground radials.
Fortunately, one of my favorite spots overlooking the lake was free, so I could simply set the Ranger 80 up in the woods where folks weren’t walking.
The Ranger 80 is super easy to deploy: simply extend the vertical, attach it to the top of the base, then attach the stainless spike to the base and plunge the entire thing into the ground. Next, you deploy the four radials and connect it to the base of the antenna.
It only takes a couple of minutes especially since the counterpoises are wound using the over-under method. I simply tossed each line into the woods and didn’t worry if they were all lying perfectly on the ground.
Note to REZ: Consider offering optional high-visibility counterpoise wires–for those of us setting up in busy parks, it would make the ground radials more conspicuous to passersby.
Next, I needed to tune the Ranger 80 for the forty meter band.
Typically, when I use a sliding-tap tuning coil style antenna like this one, I turn on the radio and move the coil until I hear an audio peak, then I fine tune it by sending a “dit” on the radio, checking the SWR, and adjusting the coil slider.
That evening, though, I had my RigExpert AA-35 Zoom antenna analyzer so I set it to continuous SWR monitoring and adjusted the coil until I achieved a good match. Easy.
I should add here that when you use an antenna like this frequently, you learn where the best tap points are on the coil thus tuning becomes easier. My friend Alan (W2AEW) actually made a PVC rig for his coil antenna (click here to check it out).
With the antenna all set up and ready to rock-and-roll, I simply hooked up the Elecraft KX2, my VK3IL pressure paddles, and prepared the logs.
The final boat-only accessible island is Minnie Island, located in the middle of Gardner Lake in the town of Salem, Connecticut. I DO have experience kayaking on a Lake, thanks to my uncle, who has two kayaks and has taken me out on Tillson Lake in New York’s Hudson Valley a number of times. Unlike the challenges the river posed, I felt like I could manage the lake on my own. I did need a kayak, though, which I didn’t own.
I had to do some kayak research then. In case you didn’t know this, different kayaks have different specifications on how much weight they can hold. I’m a big guy, six foot five inches tall. Add me, plus a backpack of radio equipment, and I needed to be sure I didn’t sink.
I started on eBay, looking for people selling used kayaks. There are all different kinds of kayaks. Some made for the ocean and dealing with waves and others for casual lake paddler. Some have rudders, some have small, sealed cockpits and some even have motors. I had no idea how serious you could get with all of the accessories and options. I was really looking for something simple.
After striking out on eBay, I found a fishing supply store at the end of the Connecticut River that also had kayaks you could rent. I visited their web site and was happy to see that they were having an end of season clearance sale, where they were selling their rentals. I visited their shop and after looking at my options, I ended up buying an Old Town Vapor 10 kayak. It came with a paddle and life jacket and it was 50% of the price new. A great bargain. The added benefit is now I own my own kayak…a friend suggested that now that I do, there might be IOTA activations in my future.
What sold me on the Vapor 10 was the open cockpit. No trying to squeeze myself in and plenty of room to bring a backpack with the radio equipment in-between my legs. Also, I was able to fit it into my Jeep Wrangler.
I’m very fortunate in that over the past few years I’ve accumulated a number of QRP radios that I use in rotation when I do park and summit activations.
I’m often asked for advice on choosing radios, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, I feel like the decision is a very personal one–everything is based on an operator’s own particular preferences.
I’ve written formal reviews about most of the field radios in my collection over the years. In those reviews, I try to take a wide angle view of a radio–I try to see how it might appeal to a number of types of operators: field operators, DXers, summit activators, contesters, rag-chewers, casual operators, SWLs, travelers, outdoor adventurers, mobile operators, etc. I highlight the pros and cons, but I don’t focus on my own particular take because, again, my style of operating might not match that of readers. I try to present the full picture as clearly as I can and let the reader decide.
On that note, I thought it might be fun to take a radio out for a field activation and spend a bit of time explaining why I enjoy using it and why it’s a part of my permanent field radio collection. Instead of taking that wide-angle view of a radio like I do in magazine reviews, I share my own personal thoughts based on long-term experience.
Each new video in the Getting To Know You series will highlight one of the field radios from my field radio collection. I’ll spend time in each video explaining what I personally appreciate about each radio, then we’ll do a park or summit activation with the radio.
I’ll release these every few weeks or so–when the notion strikes me. They will not be on a regular schedule, but I hope to include each of my radios in this series over the the next year.
I’ve always been a big fan of Ten-Tec products because I love their focus on quality, high-performance receivers, and benchmark audio fidelity.
Ten-Tec has produced some impressive radios over the years and was a trail-blazer in the world of QRP with their Power Mites and original analog Argonaut series (check out these and more T-T radios here).
When Ten-Tec manufacturing was located in Sevierville, Tennessee, I knew many of the employees of the company and even did Alpha and Beta testing for their QRP radios like the Patriot, Rebel, and Argonaut VI.
I purchased my Argonaut V used in 2021 when I saw it for sale on QTH.com. The price was right and, frankly, I wanted a Ten-Tec radio back in my life.
In the activation video (below) I’ll speak to all of the reasons I love the Argonaut V, why I think it’s so unique, and why I’ve no intention of ever selling it. Then, we’ll perform a POTA activation with it.
Keep in mind that my perspective will primarily focus on HF CW operating–I don’t actually own a microphone for the Argonaut V, but I do plan to at some point.
Lake James State Park (K-2739)
On Sunday, August 13, 2023, I made a detour to Lake James State Park en route to visit my parents in Hickory, NC. As I’ve mentioned many times before, Lake James is one of the easiest parks I can hit in my travels and it’s open every day of the week–in the summer, it’s also open quite late which is a bonus.
The only negative with evening activations at Lake James is fighting the mozzies–they can be persistent!
I picked out a picnic table close to the car and pulled the Argonaut V from my Husky latching box.
I then immediately deployed my MW0SAW 40 meter End-Fed Half-Wave antenna. Since the Argonaut V doesn’t have an internal ATU, the EFHW would give me the flexibility to operate on 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters natively.
Of course, it was in the early evening, so I only intended to hop on 40 meters, but I had the option to move up the band if needed.
After deploying my antenna, I recorded the “Getting To Know You” portion of the activation video–I’d encourage you to check that out below!