Category Archives: QRP

Field Report: Pairing the Discovery TX-500, Elecraft T1, and CHA MPAS Lite

You might recall that I’ve been testing a new backpack that I plan to use primarily for SOTA activations. It’s the Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC.

I’ve now taken it on a few activations, but the very first outing was on Monday, December 7, 2021.

That afternoon, my daughters attended an afternoon art class that was only four miles from our QTH as the crow flies, but took 45+ minutes to drive. Gotta love the mountains!

I had no complaints whatsoever about the drive, though, because it was within five minutes of the Zebulon Vance Historic Birthplace; one of my favorite local POTA spots!

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)

After dropping off the girls, I drove to Vance and was happy to see that no one was occupying their one picnic shelter. Even though the Vance site is relatively spacious and they’ve numerous trees along the periphery of the property, it’s a historic/archaeological site and as a rule of thumb I only set up at picnic areas in parks like these.

It was a breezy day and temps were hovering around 44F/7C. These are ideal conditions in my world.

I grabbed the Discovery TX-500 for this activation. I had been using it quite a bit in the shack, but realized I hadn’t taken it to the field in a few weeks. I decided to pair it with the Chameleon MPAS Lite vertical antenna since I had already loaded the Lite in my pack, using the pack’s built-in antenna port. Continue reading Field Report: Pairing the Discovery TX-500, Elecraft T1, and CHA MPAS Lite

Jon’s field report from Point Mugu State Park

Many thanks to Jon (KA6TVX) who shares the following field report from K-1186.

Jon writes:


Activation of park K-1186 Pt. Mugu State Park the hard way

 

I thought you might be interested in my activating K-1186.

Within the park is Mugu peak that’s 1200 ft above sea level. This is not the highest or most prominent in the park but to get to it you follow an old Chumash Indian trail that goes up the mountain making it a much rougher hike than usual.

The round trip is about 3 miles but took 2 hours to reach the peak. After we got there I set up the Ic-705 and the Wolf River Coil Silver Bullet and tuned it for 40 meters CW.

I noticed that the battery on iPhone was almost dead so was logging on paper. No contacts on 40 after 30 minutes of calling so switched to 20 and retuning my antenna. Got 13 contacts (after I got home and entered them in HAMRS I noticed that each contact was from a different state which I have not had before).

My son came with me; that was really nice.


Thank you for the mini field report and photos, Jon! What a beautiful location. Sorry that 40 meters wasn’t more productive for you, but it looks like 20 meters certainly made up for it. Well done! 

Like you, I believe it’s fun to pack in a radio at a park and go on a long hike. It gives me a bit of that “SOTA” feeling, but there’s no particular summit I have to hit and the activation zone is basically anything within the park boundary!

Thank you again for sharing your experience on Mugu peak.

My last activation of 2021: It was a blast!

I’ve been so busy these past few weeks, it only hit me yesterday afternoon (Dec 30, 2021) that if I wanted to activate another park or summit in 2021, I needed to do it that same afternoon. I knew that we had plans for today and would visit with friends.

Looking back at 2021

As I’ve mentioned before, I really don’t follow my park and summit statistics with any regularity. For me, each activation and opportunity to play radio is a reward in and of itself.

I’m not a competitive fellow but I’ll admit that I’m in awe of those activators who are! Some have truly mind-blowing activation numbers. I’d encourage you to check out the POTA and SOTA leaderboards!

For SOTA, I set a vague goal of activating 12 summits in 2021–roughly one summit per month.

Yesterday, it hit me that I hadn’t checked my SOTA numbers and thought, “What if I’ve got 11 and need one more? Could I get one more summit before Saturday?!?Continue reading My last activation of 2021: It was a blast!

Xiegu X6100: Scott’s thoughts and impressions

Yes, Scott will freely admit that his sticker is tongue-in-cheek!

Many thanks to Scott (KN3A) who recently commented with his thoughts and impressions of the Xiegu X6100. Scott writes:

When you published your X6100 [field] report, I could not wait to see the video! You tipped me off when we had our QSO that you were using it! As you said in your YouTube comment, a X6100 to X6100 was accomplished at your activation!

I am an avid POTA/SOTA QRP operator and mostly use my Icom IC-705 on activations. It is a superb radio and no intention of ever selling it. The reason I was attracted to my X6100 was the fact it’s an SDR, has a very nice display screen and has a built in ATU. I use many different antennas on activations, and some require a ATU, like my Sotabeams Bandhopper 3. I like using it when I go backpacking and activating due to how easy it is to deploy and lightweight.

To those who attempt to compare the X6100 to the IC 705 is like comparing a Ford F-150 to a Toyota Tacoma. I had an X5105 for a few months and went on a few activations with it. I would mostly compare the X6100 to the X5105 and call it a big upgrade to the X5105.

I got familiar with the X6100 in my hamshack the past 3 weeks, and although I know of it’s shortcomings, which I did share with Thomas prior to it’s arrival at his QTH, I am very pleased with the radio even with the features that are not enabled yet.

On Christmas eve, I went hiking and afterwards did a quick POTA activation inside my car using my IC 7100 and 50 watts. The temperature was getting warmer and warmer out, so I made a hasty decision to go home and get the x6100 and take it to another local park and sit outside on a picnic table. I decided to use my spark plug antenna and use my 17 ft. Shakespeare fishing pole. I had almost 1:1 SWR on 40 and 20 meters and had to use the ATU as I was having about a 3:1 on 30. The ATU kicked in and had a perfect match in seconds, which is also the same response as the G90 and x5105. Continue reading Xiegu X6100: Scott’s thoughts and impressions

New Xiegu X6100 firmware adds WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity

The X6100 WLAN configuration screen.

Many thanks to Radioddity who sent me the following note this morning:

We released new [Xiegu X6100]  firmware, which adds BT & WiFi function.

    1. Added WIFI function
    2. Added Bluetooth function
    3. Fixed the bug that can not save the user-selected filter group(1,2,3)
    4. Optimized the ALC algorithm and corrected the problem of power rise slow.
    5. Optimized the system settings.

For more details, please check this blog below,
https://radioddity.com/blogs/all/xiegu-x6100-firmware-upgrade-20211207

New Firmware Update Guide:
https://radioddity.s3.amazonaws.com/Xiegu_X6100_Wifi_%26_Bluetooth_Function_Instructions_20211230.pdf

QRPer Notes: sBITX Prototype, Updated Icom Control Software, and Jim Stafford (W4QO) SK

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!


sBitx Prototype

Many thanks to Pete (WB9FLW) who sends a link to this article on It’s Ham Radio:

Ashhar Farhan VU2ESE demonstrated Hfsignals upcoming SDR transceiver – sBitx today at Lamakaan Amateur Radio Meet.

VU2ESE was working on this SDR Prototype for some time now. sBitx is the latest iteration of the popular homebrewer transceiver Bitx series started a couple of years by Farhan.

Keynotes

    1. Raspberry Pi instead of Arduino – No more Arduino Code, sBitx code is written from the scratch for Raspberry Pi.
    2. Power Output: 40 Watt ~ 20 Meters, 15 Meters ~ 25 Watts, 10 Meters ~ 10 Watts
    3. Ditched IRF 510 for IRF Z24N for Finals
    4. $250 for global buyers. Indian buyers would have to wait for now.
    5. Display: 7″ Raspberry Pi Stock Display
    6. Easy Digital Modes – FT8, RTTY, Free DV etc. No extra wiring is required.
    7. Simple Integration with existing Linux Desktop or Remote Login via SSH or VNC

Here’s the Github for sBitx: https://github.com/afarhan/sbitx

Click here to continue reading full article.

 

New control software for IC-705 and IC-R8600

Many thanks to Markku (VA3MK) who writes:

Icom has released new Control software for IC-705 and IC-R8600 and it is available on their Icom Japan website now.

Jim Stafford, W4QO SK

Photo of Jim (W4QO) from his QRZ page.

This week, we learned that Jim (W4QO)–a noted fellow in our QRP world–passed away.

Jeff Davis (KE9V) wrote a wonderful tribute on his blog. Jeff writes:

Jim Stafford, W4QO became a Silent Key yesterday. That news wasn’t unexpected, I had been closely following the North Georgia QRP mailing list these last few weeks dreading the announcement that arrived yesterday morning.

I had known Jim for more than 20 years. We first met in the late 90’s during a Four Days in May event back when the conference took place at the old hotel south of Dayton. I think we hit it off because we both were native Hoosiers, but his infectious enthusiasm for the hobby made everyone want to be around him.

He became my guide into the world of low-power radio and over the following years we regularly renewed our friendship on the air, via email, and in person almost every year during FDIM at Dayton. [Continue reading on Jeff’s blog…]

The new Xiegu X6100: Let’s see how well it performs CW in the field!

Last week, I received the new Xiegu X6100 QRP HF transceiver on loan from Xiegu distributor/retailer Radioddity. This is the exact same unit Josh (KI6NAZ) reviewed for Ham Radio Crash Course (click here to see his updated X6100 video).

Many thanks to Josh for sending me this X6100 so promptly and performing the first firmware update!

I took delivery of the X6100 last week after returning from vacation in the Outer Banks. It was bittersweet as I was so eager to check out this new radio but simply had too many projects on the table to complete before Christmas day.

That and in the morning light after our return, my daughter pointed out that one side of my horizontal delta loop antenna had fallen to the ground. Fortunately, I was able to fix the antenna in short order. It’s certainly time to push the schedule up for completely replacing this 10 year old wire antenna!

X6100: Known issues

I had gotten a few messages from X6100 early adopters like Scott (KN3A) and Rich (KQ9L) noting that the current firmware version (the December 7, 2021 release) had taken care of a few initial bugs, but there were still a few outstanding points that specifically affect CW operators. Most notably:

  • Noise reduction (or DNR) in CW mode severely distorts audio
  • CW message memories can be stored and saved but cannot yet be played back on the air (SSB message memories are fully functional, however)
  • Fine tuning is limited to 10 Hz steps at the moment

Someone had also noted possible CW keyer timing issues.

At the same time, I had read mostly positive comments about SSB operation from QRPer readers and subscribers.

Frankly, knowing Xiegu’s history of pushing the production and distribution timeline ahead of a radio being fully-functional and properly tested, I expected a few bugs and issues that would need to be sorted out in firmware updates.

To be very clear: I’m not a fan of the “early adopters are the Beta testers” philosophy. I wish Xiegu would thoroughly Beta test their products so that they were more polished and fully-functional right out the door much like we expect from the likes of Elecraft, Icom, Yaesu, and Kenwood. There are almost always minor post-production bugs to sort out even with these legacy manufacturers, but issues should be of the variety that somehow slips past a team of Beta testers who actually use the radio.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox! 🙂

X6100: In the shack

Over Christmas weekend, I did have some time to hook the X6100 up to my (repaired) sky loop and casually work a number of park and summit activators. Of course, I formed a few initial impressions about the X6100 and I speak to those in the video below. Continue reading The new Xiegu X6100: Let’s see how well it performs CW in the field!

POTA Activation: In the Presence of a North Carolina Icon!

Dear QRPer readers:

As you likely know, my activation reports typically run a few weeks behind.  Although I’ve got several in the pipeline, I pushed the following report to the front of the line. 

You might brew a cuppa’ coffee or tea for this one. 

Here’s wishing you and yours very Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

73,

Thomas (K4SWL)


A Special Holiday Activation

As mentioned in my previous activation report, we’ve spent the past week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina; specifically, Hatteras Island.

It’s been amazing.

If you’re not familiar, the Outer Banks (OBX) is a 200-mile (320 km) long string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia that separates the Pamlico Sound,  Albemarle Sound, and Currituck Sound from the Atlantic Ocean.

No trip to the Outer Banks would be complete without visiting North Carolina’s most iconic structure: the Cape Hatteras Light Station in Buxton, NC.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

On Thursday (December 16, 2021–last week) the weather was stunning, so my family took a few long walks on the beach, explored Hatteras Island, and spent the afternoon at the Cape Hatteras Light Station which is located within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The Cape Hatteras lighthouse is a North Carolina icon and arguably one of the most recognizable lighthouses in North America due to its height, its age, and the black/white helical daymark paint scheme. Continue reading POTA Activation: In the Presence of a North Carolina Icon!

Field Report: Beautiful weather and three parks on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Last week, my family hopped in the car and took an eight hour drive to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

We’ve had such a busy 2021 that we decided to take a full week prior to Christmas and fit in some proper vacation and family time.

We love going to the coast off-season to avoid big crowds. Turns out, we chose well, too: it’s as is we have the whole of the Outer Banks to ourselves. Other than a couple days with some “invigorating” weather (which we actually enjoy) it’s been absolutely spectacular.

The view from our cottage

While radio plays an important role in any travels, my family time always takes priority. The good thing about activating parks is that radio and family time often go very well together!

On Friday, December 17, 2021, my daughter Geneva (K4TLI) and I decided to spend the day together while my wife and other daughter worked on an art project at our rental cottage. We had a few loose plans, but mainly wanted to fit in a nice beach walk, possibly discover some new scenic spots, and enjoy a take-out lunch together.

She very much liked the idea of fitting in a bit of POTA, so we hit the field with two sites in mind.

The plan

My Subaru is still in the body shop getting repaired after a bear decided to open the doors and make himself at home, so we have a Toyota Camry rental car on this trip. It’s been a great vehicle for sure, but its trunk space is limited and we packed quite a lot of food knowing local restaurants would be closed this time of year.

We all limited our luggage and I limited the amount of radios and gear I took. I could write an entire article about my holiday radio and antenna selection process (seriously, I put too much thought into it) but in a nutshell I limited myself to two radios and two antennas.

Here’s what I chose for this trip: Continue reading Field Report: Beautiful weather and three parks on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

I’ve sent the Chinese uSDX QRP SDR Transceiver back…

A couple weeks ago, I posted my initial thoughts about the Chinese uSDX/uSDR QRP transceiver.

In short, it wasn’t exactly a glowing review.

I’ve now tested the uSDX at home for a couple weeks and decided to send it back to the eBay distributor.

I made a short video detailing the reasons why I’m sending it back (see blow), but in short there are two main reasons:

1.) The receiver and audio

I understand that quality control varies greatly with the various versions of the uSDX being manufactured in China.

With that in mind, I have to assume mine is one with an incredibly inadequate receiver.

My uSDX receiver overloaded when in the presence of pretty much any strong-ish signal.

As an example, one of the first signals I tuned to on the CW portion of the 20M band–K4NYM activating a park in Florida–had FT8 audio bleeding in from over 20 or 30 kHz away. K4NYM had an S9 signal, but he was very much a portable operator, not a blowtorch contest station. The uSDX should have easily been able to handle this situation.

On my unit, if you tuned to a strong CW signal (or worse yet, a pileup) it opened the receiver window so wide that signals across the band bled through. There was essentially no selectivity. Continue reading I’ve sent the Chinese uSDX QRP SDR Transceiver back…