Category Archives: QRP Radios

New Penntek TR-35 Field Kit, Canine Welcome Party, & Brilliant 20 Meter POTA Conditions!

There are few things that make me happier than radios and pets.  On Saturday, January 7, 2023, I got copious amounts of both.

On the way back to the QTH, I stopped by Table Rock Fish Hatchery (K-8012) for a nice, leisurely POTA activation.

En route to Table Rock I gave some though to the antenna I might deploy. In the end, I decided I’d once again set up the Chelegance MC-750.

There was no question which radio I’d use: it’d be the brilliant Penntek TR-35 packed-up in its new field kit!

Table Rock Fish Hatchery (K-8012)

Table Rock Fish Hatchery isn’t open on Saturdays, but that really isn’t a problem because the picnic area where I set up shop is open 24/7.

And the best part about Table Rock? The welcoming committee…

These two dogs are so incredibly sweet and always a highlight of activating Table Rock. You may have seen them in my previous field reports and videos. Continue reading New Penntek TR-35 Field Kit, Canine Welcome Party, & Brilliant 20 Meter POTA Conditions!

Some ham radio retailers have a limited number of new Yaesu FT-818NDs incoming

As you, no doubt, know by now, Yaesu recently discontinued the FT-818ND QRP transceiver. Within a day of the announcement most US retailers sold out their remaining inventory. There may still be new units at some UK and EU retailers at time of posting.

Ham Radio Outlet

Many thanks to John (KC8RZM) who writes:

I notice HRO, after having no listing for new FT818NDs for a few days, it’s now back being listed as being available for ordering (though not currently in stock).

John was correct, of course. I checked HRO’s FT-818ND product page and see that they’re listed as out-of-stock yet you can still order one for $699.95 US they seemed to have increased the price to $799.99 since yesterday (Jan 24, 2023).

I reached out to HRO to gather more information. HRO Sales Manager, Steve (W4SHG), replied:

We have been told more may be coming, we have no idea how many or when they may arrive.

So it sounds like they’re taking orders for an unknown quantity of radios they’ll be taking into inventory at some point in the future.

Martin Lynch & Sons

It also appears ML&S have new FT-818ND inventory arrive by end of January. They are allowing pre-orders to reserve these units. The price is £624.95 and they include a free MyDEL Leg Peg kit. Not a bad deal!

Should you bite the bullet?

If you’ve been considering a new-in-box, fully warranted FT-818ND, it might be worth reserving one of these units.

I would certainly not panic-buy an FT-818ND because there are so many tens of thousands of these in the wild I think there are deals to be found on the used market. I do suspect there may be a temporary increase in prices on the used market, but in a few months they’ll go back down.

Other retailers?

If you know of any other ham radio retailers who will be receiving new FT-818 stock, please comment below.


Here are some tips from readers from the comments section:

Wimo (Europe)

Leo (DL2COM) comments: Wimo was out of stock a few days ago and now seems to have a few new ones. Click here.Scott (K4IBX) comments: Thomas – thanks for all you do! Nevada Radio still has stock w/shipping and today’s exchange rate about $705+/- delivered via FedEx to US.

Confession time: I bought a brand new Yaesu FT-818ND

I know what you’re thinking:

“But Thomas, don’t you already have two FT-817NDs–?!”

Why yes, I do!

Before you label me as a hopeless radio addict (I am, but let’s shelve that for a moment),  let me explain myself…

First off, why two FT-817s?

If you’ve been a reader for very long, you’ll already know that I’m a huge fan of the FT-817/818.

I won’t go into the reasons here because I published a very long-format article on this topic last year.

Suffice it to say: I believe the FT-817/818 an effective, durable, versatile, and frequency agile multimode radio.

I purchased my second FT-817ND because:

  1. I wanted it for full-duplex satellite work (funny: many satellite enthusiasts call a pair of 817s the “Yaesu FT-1634”)
  2. The unit I purchased was like-new with all original accessories and side rails for $350 shipped.

Although my first FT-817ND has a Collins narrow CW filter installed, I decided to build one for this second unit as well. That way, I could grab either radio on the way out the door to activate a park or summit.

So why the new FT-818ND?

It was always my plan to eventually replace out one of my FT-817NDs with an FT-818ND. Here are the reasons:

  1. I was having difficulty finding a TXCO. The  FT-818ND has a TCXO-9 high-stability oscillator built-in.
  2. I wanted one of my two radios to be a late model.

I had planned to buy a Yaesu FT-818ND sometime in 2023. Possibly at the 2023 Hamvention.

When Gavin (GM0WDD) informed me that Yaesu was discontinuing the FT-818ND on December 28, 2022–only moments after the announcement was made–I immediately hopped over to DX Engineering and purchased one. I realized that the remaining inventory of new radios would be depleted in short order and I was right. By the following day, all major US retailers were out of stock.

Are FT-818ND prices going to soar?

No. I don’t think so.

The FT-817 and FT-818 have been on the market since 2001. In that time, Yaesu has sold bazillions of them. Seriously. These pop up in the classifieds and at hamfests all the time because there are so many floating around out there in the wild.

The FT-818/817 is sort of the opposite of a rare, limited-production-run radio. If you’re looking for a used ‘818, I think you’ll find that the prices are relatively stable.

I would discourage you from paying a premium for an FT-818ND.

Next steps with my ‘818ND

I am going to set this unit up for POTA and SOTA activations; it can do double duty for satellite work.

I’ll remove the Portable Zero side rails from one of my other 817s and attach them to the FT-818.

I initially planned to yank the narrow CW filter out of my 2nd Yaesu FT-817, but that just seemed cruel. If/when I sell that radio, I would like to give the buyer a narrow CW filter option.

I decided, instead, to order a Collins filter from Japan and filter board from Artur in Poland and build yet another 500Hz filter.

I also purchased RT System’s programming software and cable for the FT-817/818. I’ve adopted RT systems for all of my other VHF/UHF radios, so it’ll be easy to load, change, and clone all of the frequency memories. I’ll be nice having both SOTA calling frequencies and repeaters pre-loaded on my radios.

I’ve thought about actually making a no-edit video of building/installing the CW filter and side rails.

Speaking of videos about building a narrow CW filter, though, check out this one Jonathan (KM4CFT) published only recently.

Zero buyer’s remorse

While the announcement by Yaesu may have prompted me to pull the ‘818 trigger a few months early, I have no regrets whatsoever.

The only challenge I’m going to face down the road is trying to sell the “extra” FT-817ND.

Then again, I’ve thought about keeping the third one decked out in the TPA-817 pack frame (see photo above) and lending it out to local POTA/SOTA newbies who want to test out the healing waters of QRP.

Guest Post: A QRP Labs QDX POTA Field Portable Report

(Photo: QRP Labs)

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


QRP-Labs QDX Field Report

K-1716, Silver Sands State Park, Milford, Connecticut

January 13, 2023

By: Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

A digital mode multiband transceiver for $69? Yes! QRP Labs has the QDX kit available for $69 US. Add $20 if you would like a very nice black anodized aluminum case to mount it in and if you want it assembled and tested add another $45. Visit the QRP Labs web site for all of the details (QDX 4-band 5W Digi transceiver (qrp-labs.com)

How well can a $69 digital transceiver work? Read on…

I ordered my QDX kit back in May 2022. It arrived in June, I assembled it and ran some tests at home. It worked well on FT8 into my home antennas. It interfaces nicely with WSJT-X and I liked the idea of using a low power transceiver to band hop on WSPR. My QDX is an early four band version, which does 20, 30, 40 & 80 meters. I set it to band hop on all four bands not remembering that my multiband offset center fed dipole is not resonant on 30 meters. Since the QDX does not have a tuner, it didn’t like the higher reflected power of a two minute long WSPR transmission into a bad load and smoke resulted. I was fortunate that the failure was isolated to the RF power amplifier transistors and replacing those got me running again. This was my own fault, not the transceiver. Now, it band hops on 20, 40 and 80 meters with no issues, I eliminated 30 meters from the hop schedule.

I share this important story at the beginning of my field report as a warning to anyone considering using a QDX to be very careful when connecting an antenna to it. Since the QDX does not have an internal antenna tuner, you either need a resonant antenna or must use an external tuner to provide a 50 ohm load with low SWR to the QDX. The QRP Labs groups.io site has a number of posts from users with different tuner suggestions.

Now comes the fun part. I visited Silver Sands State Park, K-1716, located on Long Island sound in Milford, CT on January 13, 2023 in the afternoon. While it was Friday the 13th, I had nothing but good luck. Knowing I would be running QRP power, I decided to use what I consider to be my best 20 meter antenna. It’s a modified version of a Buddipole, which I call my “no coil” Buddipole dipole. I use a Buddipole VersaTee mounted to a WILL-BURT Hurry Up mast, which is a push up mast that extends to about 25’ high. The dipole consists of two Buddipole 32” accessory arms, one for each side of the VersaTee and two MFJ 17’ telescoping whips, extended to just about 17.5’. This provides a very broad bandwidth and low SWR on 20 meters. See the screen shot of my antenna sweep from the RigExpert analyzer below.

Here’s a photo of the antenna in the air.

The temperature on this January day was a mild 55 degrees so I was able to set up my equipment in the back of my Jeep. Here’s everything I needed to do the activation. Since the antenna is resonant, I did not use a tuner.

My iPhone gives you an idea of just how big the QDX is, which is sitting just to the right of it. There are only three connections needed, the antenna cable, a 12V power cable and the USB cable. I was using my Bioenno 9ah battery for power. I brought the Bird Model 43 with a 25 watt element in it to monitor the output power and also to measure the reflected power, which barely even nudged the meter. It was effectively zero watts reflected. In the photo above, I was in a transmit cycle and you can see the power meter just a touch above 5 watts. On the computer, you can see a mini pile-up of six hunters in the queue. One thing to note about the QDX is that you can’t adjust the power by lowering the PWR slider in WSJT-X. It’s recommended to leave that at maximum. The way to adjust output power is to adjust the power supply voltage. In this case, the Bioenno had a full charge, so the radio was running full power.

I began the activation without spotting myself, just to see who’d hear me. Here’s a map of the pskreporter showing my spots.

I eventually spotted myself so hunters would know what park I was at. I was amazed that during my activation, I never ran dry or had to call CQ POTA, there was a steady stream of hunters the entire time. The QDX does a fine job receiving, here’s a screenshot of WSJT-X including the waterfall to show what it was receiving.

So, how did the $69 radio do? In a one hour and 17 minute activation, I completed 46 FT8 QSO’s. Here’s my coverage map.

I managed to complete three park to park QSO’s, too. One park called me and I called the other two who heard me and answered. I use JTAlert which helps me keep track of the order of who called. I always try to answer the hunters in the order they called me. I’ve set up a Directed CQ alert in JTAlert for anyone calling “CQ POTA” which helps me to see who else is at a park while I’m activating. If I’m able to contact them, I use the POTA spot list to include their park number in the SIG_INFO field of my log, which is N3FJP. N3FJP is handy to use since I start a new log for each activation and I’ve configured it to upload to LOTW and QRZ when I’m done for the day.

Another thing worth noting is that there is no speaker on the QDX. I’m one of those digital operators who actually listens to the cycles while I’m on the air. It provides a certain cadence to hear each cycle go by so you know what to be looking at or clicking on and when. With no sound coming out of the QDX, it forces you to find that cadence by looking at the computer screen. For me, it means watching the receive audio levels and the progress bar to see if I’m transmitting or receiving. The QDX does have a single red LED on the front panel that will flash during transmit cycles, which is also a helpful indicator.

I’d say the results shown here speak for themselves. I had a steady stream of hunters, I had just one or two QSO’s that needed a second RR73 to confirm and the coverage was as good as most activations I’ve done with more expensive radios and more power. Despite the self-inflicted hiccup I experienced at the beginning, I’d say that If you’re looking to try activating digital for Parks On The Air or even for your home, the QDX certainly works very well and provides a lot of value for the money.

New Year’s Day POTA: New VK3IL Pressure Paddle, New FT-817/818 Narrow Filter, and New TPA-817 Pack Frame!

I try to start each year by doing a POTA or SOTA activation on New Year’s Day.

POTA actually issues a certificate for completing an activation on New Year’s Day so there are typically loads of activators and hunters working the bands. It’s an ideal time to play radio.

This year, we had a number of family activities on New Year’s Day, but I made a little time to fit in an activation during the late afternoon at my most accessible spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway: the Southern Highland Folk Art Center.

As with my last activation, I suspected I would be operating in the dark, so I brought my LED lantern along for the ride.

Although not intentional, this New Year activation had a lot of new-to-me stuff involved!

New VK3IL Pressure Paddle

The prior evening–on New Year’s Eve–while my wife and daughters were watching a classic movie movie marathon, I used the time to heat up the soldering iron and work through a few kits and projects that had been sitting on my desk.

One of those projects was a Pressure Paddle designed by David (VK3IL).

Michael (G0POT) sent me the Pressure Paddle circuit board and heat shrink via Andy (G7UHN) several months prior. [Thank you so much, fellas!]

To my knowledge, the VK3IL Pressure Paddle isn’t available in complete kit package, but it’s quite easy to source everything yourself.

On his website, David provides the Gerber files you’ll need in order to purchase the circuit boards from your favorite manufacturer (I’m a huge fan of OshPark here in the States).

Next, you simply need to order the components. Here’s the list assuming you’re using DigiKey:

  • Quantity of 2: 732-7579-1-ND (CAP CER 10000PF 10V C0G/NP0 0805)
  • Quantity of 2: BSS806NH6327XTSA1CT-ND (MOSFET N-CH 20V 2.3A SOT23-3)
  • Quantity of 2: 311-470KCRCT-ND (RES 470K OHM 1% 1/8W 0805)
  • Quantity of 2: 1738-SEN0294-ND (RP-C18.3-ST THIN FILM PRESSURE S)
  • Quanity of 1: Three conductor wire with a (typically) 3.5mm plug (note that I had one of these in my junk drawer)

Keep in mind: the components are surface-mount. If you’re not used to working with SMD components (ahem…that would be me) I suggest buying a few spares of each in case you lose or damage one or more during the build.

It also helps to cover the finished board in heat shrink not only to protect the board and make it easier to grip, but most importantly (if you’re me) hide your electrically-sound yet unsightly surface mount soldering job.

The build might have taken me 20 minutes.

New FT-817ND Narrow CW Filter

Some time ago, I purchased a second FT-817ND with the idea of doing full-duplex satellite work. I later realized I could be taking the second FT-817ND out to the field more often if I simply had another narrow CW filter installed, so I built one.

This New Year’s Day activation was actually the first time I’d taken this particular FT-817ND and its new narrow filter out to the field!

New Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame

Earlier this year, I also decided that I wanted to outfit my 2nd Yaesu FT-817ND with an Armoloq TPA-817 pack frame. The idea was to experiment with building a rapid-deployment field kit around it.

This is actually one of the big projects I’m working on in 2023. I’ve yet to sort out the antenna mount I’d like to use with this frame based on how I plan to deploy it. Continue reading New Year’s Day POTA: New VK3IL Pressure Paddle, New FT-817/818 Narrow Filter, and New TPA-817 Pack Frame!

QRPer Notes: TR-45L Overview by K2OM, 8 Year Old Isabella Works the ISS, and POTA with the CW Flea

Because I receive so many tips from readers here on QRPer, I wanted way to share them in a concise newsletter format.  To that end, welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links to interesting stories and tips making waves in the world of radio!


K2OM’s overview of the Penntek TR-45L (YouTube)

Click here to view on YouTube.

Tony (K2MO) adds, “I suggest adding this link to your TR-45L [videos in the field]


Isabella Payne’s amateur radio contact with NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren on the ISS (YouTube)

Click here to view on YouTube.


POTA with the CW Flea/Belka twins (AE5X)

Check out this short article by John (AE5X) where he uses a CW Flea transmitter and Belka-DX receiver for a QRPp POTA activation. I love what John’s done here and I think I may have to give the CW Flea a go too someday.

Here’s the video that accompanies his blog post:

Can you ID this QRP SSB radio? (Update: solved quickly!)

Many thanks to Todd (KH2TJ) who writes:.

Hey have a question about a QRP radio that a friend of mine acquired from an SK estate. I was thinking this radio might be a Mountain Topper or maybe one of an early N6KR radios, but a search has come up empty. Maybe you could help identify it? Thanks in advance for any info:

Todd’s friend also noted:

It works on the phone portion of the 20 meter band with about 5 watts out. When the “Spot” button is pressed the radio reports the tuned frequency in CW.

I’m not terribly familiar with SSB QRP transceivers. Perhaps a QRPer reader can chime in with an answer for Todd? Please comment!

UPDATE:

This was solved rather quickly by readers. This is, of course, a White Mountain Series SSB Transceiver by the amazing Dave Benson (K1SWL)!

As soon as I read the first reply, it jogged my memory. I believe the photo Todd sent above face-on threw me a bit; I think I would have recognized more readily had it been a shot showing the size of the radio.

Dave (K1SWL) is a regular here on QRPer and he might even have more comments about this fine mono-band SSB radio!

Breaking in my new-to-me Elecraft K2 and CW Morse SP4 paddles during a POTA activation

Radio addiction is a real thing.

We addicts often justify purchases knowing that, in the world of amateur radio, we can always sell gear we’ve purchased without losing too much money each time.

At least, in theory!

In November, last year, I was in touch with a friend who I recently purchased my second KX1 from; turns out, he had an Elecraft K2 he was willing to part with, as well. This is a radio he built (thus, the workmanship is top-shelf) and had updated over the years to be fully loaded the way I would want it myself: all firmware upgrades, all important upgrades for CW and SSB operation, and an internal ATU.

His was also a 10 watt (QRP) version of the K2; Elecraft owners call these “K2/10s.”

My first K2/10 next to the TEN-TEC Argonaut VI I was Beta testing at the time.

I owned a K2/10 between about 2008 and 2016. I sold the K2/10 to purchase another radio. The week after selling my K2/10, a local ham offered me an insane deal on a used K2/100 (a version with a 100W amp) from a club estate sale. No one in our local club wanted it and he really wanted to unload it. I purchased it and for a good three years it was my only 100 watt radio.

My K2/100

Then, in 2019, I sold the K2/100 for $800 and purchased an Elecraft KXPA100 amplifier with ATU for $800 to pair with my KX2 and KX3.

Using my KXPA100 during Field Day in 2020.

I’ve never regretted that decision because I do love the KXPA100 amplifier, although I seldom use it (so much so, I’ve even considered selling it). To date, it is the only device I own that outputs 100 watts.

I did miss the K2. It’s a fantastic radio to take outdoors and has superb receiver chops for the most demanding, RF-dense conditions.

When my buddy offered up his K2, I couldn’t resist. I made myself a goal, though: I had to sell enough stuff to fund the purchase. My friend was good with this. Even though I could have paid him immediately, I asked if he could wait for payment and shipping until I had gathered the funds from sales. I needed that dangling carrot because, frankly, I dislike selling things; I’d rather give away or donate stuff, but I did need to raise funds for this purchase. Continue reading Breaking in my new-to-me Elecraft K2 and CW Morse SP4 paddles during a POTA activation

If Yaesu designed an FT-818 replacement…what would you like to see?

We hams can be quite opinionated when it comes to our radios.

After Yaesu announced last week that it was discontinuing production of the FT-818ND, hams across the globe expressed their opinions about this pint-sized rig.

It seemed to me that the majority who posted messages in email groups and on social media had high praise for the FT-817/818. Indeed, many of those same people purchased an FT-818ND the same day of the announcement. The rush of FT-818ND purchases wiped out new inventory at most US retailers overnight.

Not everyone had praise for the FT-817/818 series, though. Many felt the ‘818 was a relic of the past and irrelevant in 2023. Some even posted long “good riddance” rants about the FT-818.

Let’s face it…

Our love of radios is highly subjective

What one person loves, someone else might hate. This is especially the case in the incredibly diverse ham radio world where radios are used in different parts of the spectrum, with different modes, for different activities, and in different operating environments. Continue reading If Yaesu designed an FT-818 replacement…what would you like to see?

QRPer Notes: Mike’s POTA Bag Load Out, CHA F-Loop Remote Tuning Mod, and KB6NU’s review of the Ailunce HS2

Because I receive so many tips from readers here on QRPer, I wanted way to share them in a concise newsletter format.  To that end, welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links/videos to interesting stories and tips making waves in the world of radio!


511 Deployment 24 POTA radio bag (KE8PTX)


CHA Loop Remote Tuner | K7SW ham radio


The Ailunce HS2 has lots of potential (KB6NU)

Just before Thanksgiving, I received an email from Cara Chen at Retevis. She wrote,

I am responsible for the radio review cooperation. We have a SDR radio HS2 for review cooperation. Are you willing to test and write a blog about it?

When I asked her what that meant, she said that she would send me an Ailunce HS2 SDR Radio, if I would review it here on my blog. When I told her that I would be brutally honest in my review, she seemed OK with that and sent me the radio.

What follows is an honest review. It’s not a QST-style review. I don’t have the test equipment that they do, nor did I have the time to put the radio through all its paces. Even so, I did operate the radio on HF and VHF, phone and CW, enough to make the review worth reading, I think.

If you don’t want to read the rest of this review, I can sum it up as follows: The Ailunce HS2 is a fun, little radio, with lots of potential. It’s not perfect, though. The buttons are too small, the display is too small, and the manual needs work. More about all those below.

What’s in the box?

As you can see below, the radio came with a handheld microphone, a DC power cord, and a USB cable.

First impressions:

  • It’s really small. It’s 45 mm H x 120 mm W x 190 mm D (1.77 in H x 4.72 in W x 7.5 in D)
  • The carrying case is kind of nifty. If you’re going to operate portable, it’s nice to have.
  • The extruded metal case include a nice heat sink.
  • There are a lot of connectors on the rear panel, including the power connector, an SO-239 for HF and VHF antennas, an SMA for a GPS antenna, two USB connectors, an Ethernet connector, and four 3 mm phone jacks.

Continue reading on KB6NU’s website…