Category Archives: QRP

Lightweight SPOTA Hat Trick on Angel Island

San Francisco Radio Diary – Part 3

by Leo (DL2COM)

Do you remember the last time you arrived at a new vantage point on a hiking trail and all of a sudden you were stunned by a view that you didn’t expect at all? 

“No kidding.” I said when I approached the summit of Mount Caroline Livermoore on Angel Island and “bang” there it was: San Francisco Bay showing itself from its best side all around and in beautiful sunlight. Wow what a moment to remember.

The stunning view from Angel Island
Is this CGI?

If you’re passing through San Francisco and you’re looking for the perfect ham radio-infused hiking day trip and a very hard-to-beat city panorama, Angel Island is your ticket to a heavenly experience. If you’re the fast type you could get an activation done in half a day even including the summit. My two cents though: Bring a little time and let it soak all the way in. It’s worth it and not just because you can log three references in one go:

Angel Island State Park is covered by the very large Golden Gate National Recreation Area. If you are eager to read about the history of Angel Island you can do so here or here (former immigration station).

A few hours earlier: 

KX2 radio kit, sandwich, granola bars, water. The contents of my backpack on November 8th 2023. This was going to be a good day. I just knew it when I approached the dock at San Francisco Ferry Terminal (Gate B).

San Francisco Ferry Terminal
See ‘ya city life

I had a couple of minutes left so I enjoyed walking through the ferry building with all its nice shops, bakeries and cafes. Many options for advanced coffee-heads to get their fix before going aboard.

coffee and backpack
Yes please

The ferry takes you across the bay in just about 30 minutes, past Alcatraz Island and without noticing you’ll have left big city life behind and swapped it for a remarkable landscape. You can check out their service times here and make sure to keep an eye on the last departure from the island. Otherwise you’ll have to stay for the night. Also the only restaurant on the island was closed (for renovation?) and I am not sure what their plans are to open again. 

From the arrival dock at Ayala Cove I decided to start the hike towards the north-east side of the island via the North Ridge Trail. It takes the better part of an hour to get to the summit if you walk at a constant pace but of course depending on your level of fitness and also how much time you take to enjoy the views. The trails are in very good shape and there is nothing keeping you from finding your personal and comfortable rhythm up the mountain.

Yes I admit it – I am getting excited before an activation.  Most likely it’s because I am looking forward to having fun on the airwaves but then it’s also about not knowing what to expect at the operating site and how to tackle potential challenges. So I usually try to get there fast.

At the summit:

I was still catching my breath from the not-so-difficult ascent and then I saw a demounted truss mast lying on the ground. Should I try to somehow get this up pointing towards the sky and use it as an antenna support? Tempting, but given the fact that I was alone and lacking proper guying material it seemed a bit mad. This brings me to an important fact: There are pretty much no usable trees inside the activation zone when it comes to hoisting a wire. So I do recommend bringing some form of a mast. A luxury I didn’t have due to luggage restrictions on my flight to the U.S.. So the trusty Elecraft AX1 needed to make do.

Truss mast on the ground
Should I or should I not?

There is however a very nice picnic area just below the summit and well inside the AZ. It doesn’t have a roof and it might get a bit windy but it sports a fabulous view and plenty of options to attach masts. Luckily, I was completely alone for the most part of the activation so I didn’t need to worry as much about someone tripping over the counterpoise wire. I used a second round of 50+ sunscreen on my central-European mozzarella body and got the antenna tuned up. 

Downtown San Fransico and Alcatraz Island
Downtown San Francisco and Alcatraz Island

A few seconds into calling CQ on 20m K6EL came in 599+ from a summit nearby and I was super happy to log him given the fact that we had completed an activation together only one day before. He was followed by many US operators almost all the way over to the east coast and then, of course, Chris (F4WBN) from France. Wait – which antenna was I using again in W6?

Ham radio QRP station in San Francisco
Dream operating location

I have “whipped out” this compromised whip so many times to complete an activation that it has become one of my favorite antennas in the arsenal. What fun to reach France from the West Coast with it.

40 QSOs on 20&17m later (yes including some S2S SSB via the KX2’s internal mic and even a contact on 15m thanks to the capable tuner) I had to go QRT because the sun was strong and I wanted to make sure I had a relaxed hike back down. 

ham radio QSO map
Testing the transmit and receive capabilities of a QRP dummy load

Because you get a couple of loop trail options you will also get a completely new perspective of the island and landscape while walking back to the dock which is nice. It is worth mentioning that poison oak is pretty common there and branches of these plants hang down across the paths. I actually touched a leaf accidentally with my arm but was lucky not to get a full load of the poison. The itching was already gone in about an hour.

At the dock I had a nice chat with some of the rangers and then hopped on the ferry back to SF. Thanks to all chasers and hunters for making this a truly special day.

Gear used:

ham radio gear and energy bars
Recharging for the next adventure

California, what have you done? I need to come back. I’ll be back.

vy 73 de Leo W6/DL2COM

A Slimmed-Down Solution: My first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-45L “Skinny”

You might recall a recent POTA activation where Jonathan (KM4CFT) joined me at the Vance Birthplace K-6856 US-6856–?

Jonathan used my Penntek TR-45L for his portion of the activation, and I was pleased he got to spend some time with this magnificent CW machine. You might also recall that it still had a buzz in the speaker audio–something inside the radio was vibrating.

KM4CFT working the TR-45L in late December 2023.

I tried to track down the buzz as Jonathan operated by tightening some of the screws holding on the speaker grill (yeah, I’m sure that was annoying, and he’ll think again before activating with me in the same space–!). I knew, though, it was something inside the chassis that was vibrating with audio.

As I also mentioned, my TR-45L was a prototype unit (I helped Beta test it)–it had a couple of mods and wasn’t exactly representative of the upgraded production model.

John (WA3RNC) at Penntek reached out to me after I published my recent field report and video; he offered to upgrade my TR-45L to the production chassis which would sort out the buzz. I was most grateful, of course!

He then asked if I would be interested in checking out the TR-45L “Skinny,” which is essentially a TR-45L in a much skinnier chassis. The Skinny model lacks the ATU and battery options but is lighter weight and more portable. I mentioned to John that I’d like to purchase one, actually. Since John was interested in sponsoring QRPer, we ended up working out a barter (at full market price) for ad space. I love this arrangement, actually, because I was going to approach him about sponsorship at some point anyway.

The Skinny!

Now keep in mind that the TR-45L is one of my favorite CW radios. I love the audio, the receiver characteristics, and the “Apollo era” aesthetic. I think it’s one of the best-looking and best-sounding radios on the market.

The Skinny is just like the bigger TR-45L, just roughly half the depth. I did have concerns that the audio wouldn’t be as good since the acoustic chamber would be smaller, but turns out, I had nothing to fear. The Skinny’s audio is on par with its bulkier sibling.

There was no learning curve with the Skinny because 1.) it’s identical in operation to my TR-45L and 2.) Penntek radios have super simple interfaces, and almost every function has a top-level direct control.

Zebulon Vance Birthplace (US-6856)

On Tuesday, February 27, 2024–the day after receiving the TR-45L Skinny–I packed it up and took it to the Vance Birthplace for its inaugural POTA activation!

That day, I had about 90 minutes to enjoy an activation, and I was looking forward to spending time with the new Skinny.

Vance was a great choice that day because the weather was moody; it was gusty, rainy, and I knew their picnic shelter would provide excellent cover.

The Skinny (in its padded bag), the MC-750 and my ABR cable assembly.

The TR-45L Skinny, unlike my original TR-45L, has no internal Z-Match ATU, nor does it have an internal battery. In fact, there’s no room for either in the Skinny, so it’s not even an option.

I paired the Skinny with my Chelegance MC-750, which is a resonant antenna when deployed correctly, so there was no need for a matching device. I supplied power via one of my 3Ah Bioenno LiFePO4 batteries.

Setup was simple and easy!

Gear:

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On The Air

I hopped on the air with the intention of working 20 and 17 meters. Continue reading A Slimmed-Down Solution: My first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-45L “Skinny”

K3ES Field Report: Hiking with Molly and discovering a new two-fer activation site!

Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:


Molly is on the trail of a POTA activation.  Temperatures are in the 40s, but there is still snow on the ground.

A Hike and a 2-fer

by Brian (K3ES)

When you live in northwestern Pennsylvania, and a February day shows up with the sun shining, moderate temperatures, and nothing pressing on the calendar, it is time to go and enjoy the outdoors.

One of the best ways to do that is to take a hike with your dog.  Hopefully  your dog is like Molly, who doesn’t mind taking a break mid-hike for a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation.  So on Wednesday, February 21 we scheduled an activation and jumped in the truck for a drive to the trail head.  The hike to and from the activation site would be a nice change from the short walks we had been taking to the pond behind our house in the colder weather, and from activating while sitting in the truck.  And, to better share the joy with our POTA hunters, we would make this activation a 2-fer, giving them credit for both the North Country Trail National Scenic Trail (K-4239) and Pennsylvania State Game Land 024 (K-8725).

Molly is ready to go.  She is not at all amused by waiting for me to take pictures.

Since I had hiked the planned route before, both solo, with friends, and with Molly, I expected that the route would be familiar.  Some of it was, and some of it was brand new to us.  You see, the North Country Trail volunteers had been busy since we last hiked as far up the trail as we planned to go.  They had cleared and marked an entirely new route for one section  of the trail, bypassing an old favorite activation site!  So, we got to do some exploring, and we found a new favorite activation site.  Bonus!

Finding a New 2-fer Site

One of the things that I enjoy about POTA is planning my activation.

Since days long ago as a Boy Scout, I have enjoyed outdoor navigation.  Map and compass always fascinated me.  Things have gotten much easier with Global Positioning System (GPS), online maps, and online satellite imagery.  Still, I do most of my activation planning while sitting comfortably at home with a tablet or a computer.  For this trip, finding the newly marked trail (that had not yet been transferred to the online map) presented a bit of a challenge.  While I could follow the marked trail easily, I needed to be sure that I had entered Game Land property so that the 2-fer activation would be valid.

Thankfully, I had access to an app on my smart phone to help me solve this problem as we walked along the trail through the woods.  The On X Hunt app combines GPS, topographic maps, satellite imagery, and tax office databases to identify land ownership (even when the owner happens to be the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania).  Full functionality of this app is not free, but as the owner of a parcel of land, it is something I had elected to pay for.  Once it became clear that the newly marked trail would not quickly rejoin the prior route, I set up the app to record our track on the map.  After confirming that Molly and I had definitely crossed PA Game Land property line (there were no marking signs along the new trail), we went just a bit further, then found a promising spot to set up for the activation.

With a change to the K-4239 North Country Scenic Trail route, we found a new 2-fer site within K-8725, along the partially snow-covered Game Land road that carries this section of the Trail.

Setting Up to Activate

I chose to locate our station in the woods beside a Game Land road that provided the path for the North Country Trail in that particular area.  We set up on the inside of a bend flanked by trees with long overhanging branches.  I placed my chair in the woods on the inside of the bend, and tossed a throw line over a branch on the outside of the bend, then deployed my Packtenna EFRW with 71 ft wire as an inverted V across the road.  I used the throw line to hoist the middle of the radiating wire up about 30 ft, and secured both the feedpoint and the far end of the antenna to nearby trees, about 6 ft off the ground.

Even though I did not expect traffic on this road (shaded areas were still snow covered, and the snow showed tracks only from woodland creatures), I try to deploy my wire antennas high enough that they are not a hazard to others who may travel through.

Temperatures were rising, but with the high only expected to hit 50F, I brought a blanket to give Molly some additional insulation (though she is a rough, tough POTA dog, as a Boston Terrier, her coat is not particularly thick).  I laid out the blanket beside my operating position,  so that it could provide both top cover and insulation from the ground.

Molly is settled in for the activation.

I connected my RG316 coaxial cable to the antenna feedpoint, set up my camp chair next to Molly, set up the radio, and prepared my log book. In very short order, I was on the air, spotted by the Reverse Beacon Network, and logging contacts. Continue reading K3ES Field Report: Hiking with Molly and discovering a new two-fer activation site!

Field Radio Kit Gallery: W4JL’s Venus SW-3B and “Sporty Forty” Vertical

Many thanks to Dave (W4JL) who shares the following article about his portable field radio kit which will be featured on our Field Kit Gallery page. If you would like to share your field kit with the QRPer community, read this post Continue reading Field Radio Kit Gallery: W4JL’s Venus SW-3B and “Sporty Forty” Vertical

Testing the Tufteln AX1 Support: Late-Shift POTA with Vlado in Pisgah National Forest

On Tuesday, February 13, 2024, one of my daughters had a dress rehearsal for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The venue where the cast meets is a good 45 minutes from my QTH, and if I didn’t have POTA fever, I’d have to find something to do to burn four hours of time.

Since I do have POTA fever, I see these windows of waiting around as an opportunity!

An opportunity to spread the POTA fever, even.

On that particular Tuesday night, my dear friend Vlado (N3CZ) didn’t have any plans, so I invited him to join me on a short, late-shift activation. The idea was that he’d perform an activation, then we’d go grab dinner at a restaurant in Mills River.

Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Game Land (K-6937)

Quick note about park numbers: As of the time of publishing this article, we’re still using the “K” prefix for US parks. Tomorrow (March 20, 2024), all US park prefixes will change to “US.” Pisgah National Forest, for example, will be US-4510 starting tomorrow. Today, it’s still (barely!) K-4510, so that’s what we’ll use.

We drove to the Sycamore Flats Picnic Area where I performed a number of late-shift activations in February. What I love about the site is that it’s rarely busy (especially at dusk and into the evening), there are numerous spots to set up, and it’s pretty convenient to the Shakespeare venue.

Tufteln AX1 Antenna Stand

I’d mentioned to Vlado in advance that I was going to test “a new antenna support system.” I think he might have assumed I was packing a large tripod with a 1/4 vertical or something similar, so it was fun to pull out the AX1 and  Tufteln AX1 Antenna Stand!

Vlado, like me, loves compact radio gear, and I knew he’d never used the Elecraft AX1 before, so I was looking forward to showing him just how capable of an antenna it is for POTA, even on 40 meters.

That day, it had been pretty gusty, and in the evening hours, while a little calmer, it was still a tad windy. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to pair the AX1 with Joshua’s AX1 stand because it’s much more stable than the AX1 bipod in windy conditions.

Source: Tufteln.com

The stand consists of two parts: a base and an antenna sleeve. The sleeve screws into the base, and the AX1 simply slides into the sleeve. The height is perfect for the KX2’s BNC (indeed, it works with a number of radios). The stand will also accommodate the AXE 40M coil.

Source: Tufteln.com

When attached to the KX2, it makes for a very stable base. You can even use it as a stand-alone antenna support for the AX1.

Joshua has had this stand in his Tufteln product line for over a year, but I don’t think I’ve actually used it during an activation that I’ve also filmed.

New Mics!

Speaking of filming, this activation with Vlado gave me an opportunity to test my new DJI wireless mics. The system comes with two mics so both Vlado and I used them.

I filmed the activation, but in truth, was doing this more or less to test the mic audio. I believe I mentioned early on that this video might not ever be published.

In the end, I decided to publish it–the audio was quite good, and the wireless mics cut down on the wind noise dramatically.

Gear:

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

N3CZ: On The Air

My goal was to get Vlado on the air and give him a taste of POTA using the AX1 and 40M coil. I hadn’t planned to activate–since we were grabbing dinner afterward–but I did end up activating after the UTC day changed.

Without realizing it, I actually put a lot of pressure on Vlado.

He started his activation at 18:42 local (23:42 UTC). That meant, in order to log a valid POTA activation on February 13, he needed to log at least ten contacts in 18 minutes (using the AX1!).

Keep in mind that Vlado is a contester and DXer (also, very much a QRPer!). He’s used to operating CW at insane speeds when needed. In fact, he’s always one of the top people (if not the top) in the CW speed test at the W4DXCC contesting and DX conference.

I suggested he operate around 20 words per minute.

He started calling CQ POTA, and the first few contacts came in pretty slowly. I was getting nervous that I might have unintentionally made Vlado’s first POTA activation one that wouldn’t be valid.

Then the pace started picking up. (Whew!)

He ended up logging a total of 10 contacts in 12 minutes! Woo hoo!

Here’s his QSO Map, showing what the AX1 pushing 5 watts for twelve minutes can do:

Next, we decided that I would, indeed, perform a quick activation.

I spotted myself on the POTA site and started to call CQ, then it hit me: it was 23:58 UTC. If I worked one contact in that two minutes, it would be considered an activation on February 13 of only one contact.

Instead, we waited for a little over a minute for the UTC day to change!

I ended up working a total of 24 contacts in 21 minutes. Woo hoo!

Here’s my QSO Map:

And here are our logs:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. 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.

What fun!

I always enjoy hitting the field with Vlado.

Since this quick little activation, he’s been out there hitting POTA sites regularly.

He hasn’t seen the doctor yet, but I’m positive he caught POTA fever. It’s incredibly contagious.

Also, the Tufteln AX1 stand worked perfectly in the wind. I’m going to keep this tucked away in my pack alongside my second AX1 to pair with a wide variety of radios.

Thank you!

Thank you for joining me during this activation!
I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them!

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

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo makes it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me!
Cheers & 72,
Thomas (K4SWL)

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:

Pedestrian Mobile POTA Hunting: Pairing the KH1 and N6ARA’s Tiny Paddle Plug

On Sunday, March 3, 2024, I had a couple of errands to run in downtown Asheville and also had to pick up my daughter.

I ended up having about 40 minutes to kill and, since I had my Elecraft KH1 field kit packed in my EDC bag, I thought it might be fun to fit in a little radio time.

Since I was downtown, the only viable POTA site to hit would be the Thomas Wolfe Memorial–you might recall my activation there last year–but technically, the park was closed. It is an urban park in the middle of Asheville, and there are no gates to keep people from walking across the grounds, but still, I’d feel better activating with permission from the staff first. (I’m pretty sure they’ll grant that permission, by the way.)

Instead of activating, I decided to do a little POTA hunting.

I parked at the spot where I planned to meet my daughter and grabbed my KH1 field kit.

Upon opening it up, I remembered that I had put N6ARA’s new KH1 TinyPaddle Plug Adapter in the M40 case!

My good friend, Ara (N6ARA), designed a small 3D-printed adapter that allows his TinyPaddle Plug to fit the KH1 securely. He sent me (free of charge) this new key/adapter to evaluate.

The adapter is a super simple design that works with the TinyPaddle Plug (not the TinyPaddle Jack).

I hadn’t used this new adapter in the field yet–I only very briefly tested it at the QTH a couple of days prior.

I mentioned last year, shortly after the KH1 was introduced, that I expected a number of 3rd party paddles to start appearing on the market. Since the interface with the KH1 is a standard 3.5mm plug, it does open the door to 3D-printed designs and experimentation. Admittedly, it’s a small space to fit in a paddle, but it’s doable.

I believe N6ARA was actually the first non-Elecraft paddle I used on my KH1 because his TinyPaddle Plug will fit it natively. That said, the new KH1 adapter makes it a proper secure fit–the way it should be!

Side Note: The OEM Elecraft KH1 paddles (the KHPD1s) are now in Revision 2, and all KH1 owners (who received the original paddles) will get version 2 paddles eventually via Elecraft for free.

The original KH1 paddles have a green circuit board.

I haven’t received my Rev 2 paddles yet, but I know I will before long. It’s my understanding that the Rev 2 paddles have a much better feel, and keying is more accurate.

Still…it’s brilliant that Elecraft used a standard jack so that we hams can design our own paddles if we like.

The TinyPaddle Plug

Ara’s TinyPaddle design is super simple, and while he originally designed the TinyPaddle to be a back-up option, I know a number of hams who use the TinyPaddle as their main field key.

If you’d like to hear more about the TinyPaddle and Ara (N6ARA), I’d encourage you to listen to this recent episode of the Ham Radio Workbench podcast when he was our guest. He’s such a brilliant fellow.

Park Lot Pedestrian Mobile

Again, I can’t stress how cool it is to have a radio that allows you the flexibility to hit the air pretty much anywhere, anytime.

The KH1 is so quick to deploy, low-impact, and low-profile.

It’s as conspicuous as holding a transistor radio with a telescoping whip. So far (it’s still early days, let’s be honest here) no one has seen me with the KH1 and asked me if I’m a spy. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked this over the years of POTA activating!

POTA Hunting vs. Activating

Even though both activities–hunting and activating–are a part of the same program, they are very different animals. Continue reading Pedestrian Mobile POTA Hunting: Pairing the KH1 and N6ARA’s Tiny Paddle Plug

Bird Dogging POTA in Augusta, Georgia

As I had no appointments scheduled for Monday, February 26 during the day, I planned a POTA outing in the Augusta, Georgia area which is a two-hour drive from my home QTH. The destination: Spirit Creek Educational State Forest (K-4654).

Source: Google Maps

Apple Maps routed me west on I-16 and then northwest through Statesboro, home of Georgia Southern University (the Eagle Nation). On the drive, I passed acres and acres of farmland, some of it for cotton. I noticed a few of the fields had a reddish tinge and were full of a plant I had not seen before. I did some detective work once back home and  think the plant is red sorrel, a member of the buckwheat family that is native to Europe. I am guessing the red sorrel is a cover for the field between crops.

Source: https://1000logos.net/georgia-southern-eagles-logo/

Red sorrel?

Apple Maps also routed me through Waynesboro which is the “Bird Dog Capital of the World.” The city hosts the largest field trials in the world. Field trials are a competition to evaluate a dog’s ability to find and point coveys of quail. Waynesboro is bird dog crazy; even the town’s water tower is decorated with a bird dog. Wow – the interesting stuff I learn about my home state!

Source: http://thetruecitizen.demo.our-hometown.com/wp-content/uploads/images/2006-08-23/008p1_xlg.jpg

However, we aren’t here to discuss bird dogs but POTA. After sitting longer than I usually drive to a POTA destination, I arrived at my destination. The 570-acre property is surrounded by private land with the entrance tucked between two residences. The road through the forest appears decently maintained and is easier on which to drive than my previous forays into such properties.

Not far into the forest was an open area for parking and a kiosk with hunting information. Upon checking the kiosk, I read the only thing in season right now is small game and knew I’d be unlikely to come across anyone on a Monday morning hunting. However, to be on the safer side of things, I set up in the parking area rather than somewhere else in the forest.

Source: https://georgiawildlife.com/spirit-creek-forest-wma

Speaking of hunting, Bob WK2Y who lives in Atlanta, reached out to me after my Hiltonia WMA article. He emphasized the need for ops to wear blaze orange in such places whether in hunting season or not because of hunting violations which are more frequent than I realized. (I plan on addressing that topic in a future WMA article.) Because of this, I now always keep a blaze orange vest in my kit for Daisy and me. I’ve ordered a blaze orange hat as well as purchased hot pink magnetic decals for my car. (The website said “hot pink” though I think “bright pink” is more like it but close enough.)

In the parking area was a pine tree perfect for my EFRW. Continue reading Bird Dogging POTA in Augusta, Georgia

Let’s Give it a Go: Pairing the Elecraft AX1 and Emtech ZM-2 Manual ATU

Last month, I received a comment and question from Gordon (KO4AYC) here on QRPer.com:

“I am curious if anyone has used the AX1 with the AXE1 40 meter extender and tuned this antenna for 40 meters using the Emtech ZM-2 tuner?”

For the life of me, I couldn’t remember if I’d tried this combo before.

The ZM-2 ATU is a simple manual antenna tuner that you can purchase either as a fun-to-build kit or fully assembled and tested.

I’ve owned my ZM-2 for many years, and I believe every QRP field operator should have one. They do a brilliant job of matching random wire antennas and taking your resonant antenna to a non-resonant band. Being a manual ATU, they require no power source. If you’d like to read a quick tutorial on tuning the ZM-2, read this previous post.

I figured the easiest way to answer Gordon’s question was to give it a go!

The AX1 does require a counterpoise, so before hitting the field, I did check to make sure there was continuity between the shield of the ZM-2’s BNC connector and the black binding post when the ZM-2 was switched to “GND” for coax antennas. Fortunately, there was! I loved this idea because it meant that no matter the radio, I knew I’d have an easy connection to ground for the AX1 counterpoise.

Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)

On Wednesday, February 21, 2024, I grabbed the ZM-2, AX1, and AXE 40M coil (since Gordon specifically asked about 40M) along with my Yaesu FT-818ND. It was time to see just how effectively the ZM-2 might match the AX1.

I store my AX1 in this Maxpedition pouch (see link in gear section below).

Upon arrival, I began setting up the station.

Even though it was approaching 2:00 PM locally, I wanted to see if the ZM-2 would match the AX1 (with AXE coil) on 40 meters first. I didn’t expect a lot of activity on that band so early in the afternoon, but I figured I could hopefully work a couple of stations.

I attached the AX1 directly to the ZM-2 antenna port and deployed the whip and 40M counterpoise.

It was a bit gusty, and I quickly realized that the AX1 might topple over in the wind. To secure the antenna, I used the handle of my GR1 backpack. It was a semi-effective arrangement (actually, the handle sort of pulled the antenna toward the pack, which wasn’t ideal either–I eventually removed it).

In calm conditions, I wouldn’t worry about the antenna toppling over; the ZM-2 provides enough of a base that it’s stable. In the wind, though, you’ll definitely need to secure the ZM-2/AX1 combo to keep it from being blown over.

My plan was to start on 40 meters, then also hit 30, 20, and 17 meters. This would give me an opportunity to see if the ZM-2 could match the AX1 on multiple bands.

Side note: I can’t remember if I mentioned this in a previous field report, but one sad bit of news for me is that there’s a new source of QRM at the Folk Art Center. It’s likely coming from the VA medical complex next door, but it raised the noise floor to at least S5 on most bands. This will make it more difficult for me to work weak signals from this particular POTA site.

Then again? My buddy Alan (W2AEW) recently pointed out to me that compromised antennas like the AX1 don’t feel the effects of local QRM as a higher-gain antenna would. I’d been thinking the same thing.

Gear:

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On The Air

I hopped on the air and started calling CQ POTA on the 40-meter band. I worked one station quickly (thanks, W5GDW) and then silence. I didn’t expect 40 meters to be active this time of day, but I didn’t think it would be completely dead either.

I checked the POTA spots page and discovered that the connection to the Reverse Beacon Network was down. Even though I scheduled the activation, the system hadn’t spotted me.

Once spotted, I worked three more stations in quick succession.

I didn’t hang around on 40 meters. Continue reading Let’s Give it a Go: Pairing the Elecraft AX1 and Emtech ZM-2 Manual ATU

POTA by Lantern Light: One Activation in Two Days with Two Antennas!

On Friday, February 9, 2024, I had an opportunity to do an extended Late-Shift POTA activation in Pisgah National Forest. I couldn’t pass that up!

Once again, one of my daughters had a casting call and a Shakespeare performance that opened up an activation window from about 17:00 – 20:00 local (22:00 UTC – 01:00 UTC).

If you’ve followed my POTA activities for a while, you’ll note that multi-hour activation windows are very much a rarity. More often than not, I’m squeezing activations into 30-60 minute windows of time as I go about my work and family duties.

Pisgah National Forest and Game Lands

The closest POTA site, once again, was Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Pisgah Game Lands (K-6937). There are so many sites to choose from within Pisgah; it’s always a difficult decision in terms of picking a location.

In this case, I decided to stay a little closer to mobile phone service just in case my family needed to reach me during that time. I chose the Sycamore Flats picnic area and was happy to see that the picnic shelter was available.

I thought it might be fun to set up two antennas since I had so much time. For the first part of the activation, on 20 meters, I would deploy the Chameleon MPAS Lite vertical.

For the second part (the following UTC day), I would deploy my MM0OPX 40-meter end-fed half-wave as I knew 40 meters would be much more active after sunset.

EFHW Deployment

Since sunset was approaching, I deployed my MM0OPX EFHW first because it’s much easier to deploy a wire antenna in a tree when it’s still light outside.

Side note: I mention in the activation video that a good headlamp (like my Fenix) makes working in the dark quite easy. I’ve deployed wire antennas after sunset with headlamps before–it’s quite doable–but I still prefer using a throw line when there’s still sunlight. It’s just easier (for me, at least) to judge distance.

I deployed the EFHW in a tree and in the brush between two pathways. While it would have been easier to deploy it on a path, I always try to deploy my wire antennas in a way that hikers and other park guests wouldn’t easily walk into them–especially at dusk when even high-visibility line colors are difficult to see.

Chameleon Carbon Fiber Tripod

The second antenna deployment was my Chameleon MPAS Lite vertical, and this activation gave me an excuse to test the new Chameleon carbon fiber portable tripod.

In January, Chameleon sent me a box with a few of their smaller accessories/promotional items. I plan to give away everything, save the tripod, in an upcoming QRPer giveaway.

I’ve been eager to test the tripod because it’s lighter and easier to transport (in my SOTA pack) than the stainless spike that comes with the MPAS Lite antenna system. This tripod will also come in handy when operating at parks that don’t allow stakes in the ground. Continue reading POTA by Lantern Light: One Activation in Two Days with Two Antennas!