I’ve been in touch with Steve (WG0AT) recently. He happened to be selling his FT-817 at the same time I was looking for a narrow CW filter. The stars aligned and I now have a 500 Hz Collins CW filter in my FT-817ND. Thanks, Steve!
Steve also took delivery of his Icom IC-705 recently so we’ve been trading notes about this fine rig. He and I both have a fear of the ‘705 falling off our laps when using it in the field for SOTA and POTA activations.
Steve, being the king of ham radio customization, started working on a portable desk. He shared iterations along the way and his final product seen in the photo above.
The desk is a brilliant design: it’s lightweight, sturdy, has holes for managing wires/cables, a strap to hold it your leg, and even a cup holder. The cup holder is a bit of genius because he likes a good cuppa tea in the field just like I like a good cuppa joe.
The IC-705 will be able to bolt directly to the lap desk so there’ll be no fear of it falling off a cliff in the field.
Of course, the desk will work with any field-portable radio. Steve shared a few more photos:
I’m going to attempt to build a similar desk for my IC-705. The great thing about it is it’ll easily fit in a backpack, too.
Thanks again for letting me share your photos, Steve! We look forward to seeing this desk in action at a summit near you!
Note: the following post originally appeared on our sister site, the SWLing Post.
In July, I purchased a tiny QRP transceiver I’ve always wanted: the LnR Precision MTR-3B. It’s a genius, purpose-built little radio and a lot of fun to operate in the field.
It’s also rather bare-bones, only including a specific feature set built around ultra-portable CW operation.
While the MTR-3B has features like CW memory keying, a wide operating voltage (6-12 VDC), extremely low operating current (20 ma in receive), real-time 24 hour clock, and a full compliment of keying adjustments, it lacks other features like a volume control, SWR meter, speaker, and built-in antenna tuner.
Some of those may seem like big omissions but SOTA and POTA activators who like extremely lightweight/portable gear love the MTR-3B for being so purpose-built.
The MTR-3B (and its predecessors) operate on three bands: 40, 30, and 20 meters. These are, without a doubt, my favorite bands when operating portable since antenna lengths are reasonable.
Since the MTR-3B doesn’t have an internal ATU, you need to pack an external tuner or, better yet, a resonant antenna–ideally, one that can be used on all three bands.
Although many of my portable transceivers have built-in ATUs, I rarely use them because I primarily operate with resonant antennas. Resonant antennas are more efficient–giving you the maximum mileage per watt. In addition, they’re also more simple: connect them to the rig and hop on the air. No tuner or tuning required.
I was very pleased with this decision as I’m guessing LnR Precision wanted to hand off antenna production so they could focus on the very popular Mountain Topper transceiver line.
Vibroplex is owned by my buddy, Scott Robbins (W4PA), who is not only a successful entrepreneur, but also an award-winning contester and DXer. I’ve known Scott for years and knew he’d not only be a great steward of the Par product line, but also push new innovations.
I emailed Scott asking if Vibroplex had a field-portable antenna that would be resonant on 40, 30, and 20 meters. Turns out, there’s a Par antenna designed specifically to pair with the MTR-3 series transceivers: the Par EndFedz EFT-MTR.
The new EndFedz ® EFT-MTR is a 40m/30m/20m tri-band QRP antenna rated up to 25 watts. The “MTR” name was selected as LNR Precision developed this antenna to be the perfect companion to the wildly popular 40/30/20m Mountain Topper QRP transceiver. The EFT-MTR’s total length is 65′ of 22 AWG polystealth wire and weighs less than 4 ounces! It is built with the same high level of workmanship and quality that you have come to expect with all EndFedz ® antennas.
A particular innovation on this antenna: This EndFedz is a little different than previous designs. The user has the option to remove an SMA connector at the end of the 30M resonator to enable just 30 meters, or keep the SMA installed for 40 and 20 meters. Because of the broad bandwidth of the antenna, it is unlikely that it will require tuning in the vast majority of deployments. This is particularly true of 30 meters where the band is very narrow. As our tagline states, “They Just Work!”
Included with the EFT-MTR is the EndFedz Antenna Winder. Conveniently allowing winding up the antenna line to not have a tangled mess at the end. The winder will hold both the antenna and 25 feet of RG-174U coaxial cable (optional accessory).
Scott offered to send me an EFT-MTR to evaluate in the field (disclaimer: at no cost to me) and I accepted without hesitation, of course!
An EFT-MTR field review
I’ve taken the EFT-MTR antenna to three park activations at this point and have formed some opinions about it.
First of all, I couldn’t be more pleased with the size as it fits perfectly in my MTR-3B field kit built around my Red Oxx Booty Boss pack.
I really like the built-in antenna winder: it’s larger than that of the EFT Trail-Friendly, but also much easier to wind up and manage post-activation.
I’ll admit, the length of the EFT-MTR was a bit surprising the first time I deployed it: 65 feet. Keep in mind, though, I had been used to a much shorter 41 foot radiator on the EFT Trail-friendly. Occasionally, I operate in spots where I simply don’t have the room to deploy a long antenna. I also worried that the EFT-MTR resonance might be negatively affected by winding its way through trees and over a branches. The MTR-3B transceiver does not like high SWR values and has no built-in SWR meter to monitor it. Last thing I wanted to do was harm the MTR finals.
Fortunately, winding its way through trees doesn’t seem to have a significant impact on SWR.
Each time I’ve taken the EFT-MTR to the field, I’ve also taken my KX2 which I’ve used to read the antenna’s SWR value. So far, the difference has only been negligible and SWR well within the tolerances of the MTR-3B. Score!
To be resonant on 40, 20 and 30 meters, the EFT-MTR requires a field modification. On the coil about 2/3 the way up the antenna, there’s an SMA connector with a small screw on cap (see above). When the cap is on (thus completing the connection) the antenna is resonant on 40 and 20 meters. You must remove the cap for it to be resonant on 30 meters.
Since I’ve been using the EFT-MTR, I start an activation on 40 meters (which is typically my most productive band), then move to 20 meters (typically, my least productive). If I have the time, or need the extra contacts to confirm a valid activation, I lower the antenna, unscrew the SMA cap, and raise the antenna again.
I thought at first this would be a major pain, but it hasn’t. Now that I’m using an arborist throw line, it’s super easy to lower and raise antennas. But even when I’ve used fishing line, it really hasn’t been an issue.
The only issue I see is I’m afraid I’m going to lose that little SMA cap in the field. To prevent this, I’ve made it a routine to immediately put it in the internal zippered compartment of the Booty Boss pack. I might find a source for those caps, though, just in case I still lose this one.
I’ve been very pleased with the EFT-MTR’s performance. I’m guessing it’s actually higher gain than my beloved EFT Trail-Friendly antenna. On my last activation with the EFT-MTR, I knocked out eight 40 meter contacts in about eight minutes during a period of poor propagation. Note that the MTR-3B was only pushing 3 or 4 watts of power.
I then moved to 20 meters where, frankly, propagation was so crappy I didn’t hang out there long. Instead, I lowered the antenna, removed the SMA cap, and started calling on 30 meters. Within a few minutes, I racked up the rest of my contacts.
I was very pleased with how quickly the Reverse Beacon Network picked up my CQs and was thus auto-spotted on the POTA website.
If you own a Mountain Topper MTR-3 series transceiver, I highly recommend the EFT-MTR antenna. As with my EFT Trail-friendly and Par sloper, the quality is top-shelf. I expect the EFT-MTR will last even longer than the EFT Trail-friendly since the winder is so accommodating and the in-line coil is designed so that it doesn’t snag on branches as easily.
I’m looking forward to much more field fun with the MTR-3B and EFT-MTR combo!
My good friend David Cripe (NMOS) has recently informed me about a new product he’s offering to the radio community via his eBay store: Kev-Flex Stealth Kevlar Antenna Wire. Kev-Flex looks like a superb option for field antennas of all stripes especially since it has an incredibly high tensile strength. It’s available in 75′ bundles, but Dave can also cut custom lengths. NM0S is also a trusted retailer in the ham radio world, so you can purchase with confidence.
Kev-Flex is a unique antenna wire manufactured exclusively for NM0S Electronics. The lightweight center core of the wire is made from Kevlar fiber, giving the wire its incredible strength. The Kevlar core is wrapped with six tinned strands of 30 AWG copper. The effective surface of the wire creates an effective skin area capable of handling well over 100W.
The cable is protected from the elements by a coating of UV-resistant black polyethylene. With a total diameter of only 1/16″ (incl. insulation) and a weight of just 16 feet per ounce, the tensile strength 125 lbs allows lengthy unsupported horizontal runs. Kev-Flex is ideal for extremely long LW-antennas and Beverages and is great for balloon or kite-supported antennas. Its low weight and high break-load makes it most suitable for SOTA activations and other field operations.
The outer insulation makes the wire kink-resistant, and its slippery finish makes it ideal for stealth antennas that must be passed through trees or other obstacles without snagging.
This antenna wire is sold in 75 foot long bundles, which is enough for a 40M dipole or EFHW. Two 75 foot bundles would make a great 80M dipole. Custom lengths are available on request.
– Kevlar fiber core wrapped with six 30 AWG copper strands – Weather-proof black polyethylene (PE) insulation, 1/16″ O.D. – Weight: 16 feet per ounce – Breaking-load: 125 lbs – Velocity factor 0.97
Colin Evans, M1BUU, from near Haworth, West Yorkshire attained SOTA Mountain Goat on Saturday 28th January on the summit of Whernside, G/NP-004.
Colin took rather an unusual approach to his activation of Yorkshire’s highest mountain, by constructing his equipment whilst on the summit.
Colin had taken a QRPme 20m RockMite kit, a home made key kit, a home made vertical antenna kit and a gas powered soldering iron along with him. Sheltering from the wind, rain and snow in a small tent, Colin successfully constructed the RockMite, key and antenna in just under 4 hours.
The first QSO for Colin with his 250mW RockMite was with N1EU near Albany, New York, over 3000 miles away, the three subsequent QSO’s were with European stations, satisfying the SOTA rule requirement of four QSO’s to claim the activation points.
SOTA Mountain Goat is awarded for gaining 1000 SOTA Activator points. For more information, visit www.sota.org.uk
“Just wanted to pass on a link to a few videos I put
together in case you’d like to share them, especially the Yaesu
FT-817ND kit I put together.”
Adam has also posted some SOTA activation videos where he uses his go kit (click here to watch). I’m amazed that Adam manages to fit so much in that small box. Certainly a handy kit for hiking to a SOTA activation!
This Sunday (July 14, 2013) from 16:00-22:00 UTC, grab your QRP rig and head for the outdoors in the new SYBO (Scorch Your Butt Off) contest. According to the SYBO website, this contest is all about operating in hot weather conditions (something very easy to find this year in North America); a nice contrast to the FYBO (Freeze Your Butt Off) winter QRP contest.
Basic rules and exchange are as follows:
Scorch Your Butt Off QRP contest SUNDAY, July 14, 2013 1600-2200 UTC
Single Op Field or home
Multi Single Field or home
Multi Multi Field or home
SOTA – Summits On The Air Field (not the house roof)
QRP 5 watts max CW around QRP calling frequencies 10, 15, 20 and 40 meters
One point per contact – one contact with each station per band
RST, SPC (State, Province or Country), Name, Power, Temperature (Fahrenheit)
at the operator’s position. Indoor stations must report Indoor temperature.
Example – 559, NJ, Larry, 5W, 85F
States, Provinces and DXCC count once each band
Field Stations x 4
Alternative Power (including batteries) x 2
QRPp (less than 1W) x 2
SOTA stations – add 100 points* to their SYBO score per summit activated
* Bonus points do not count towards SOTA awards
Highest Operating Temperature (at your operating location –
Below 90 F = x1; Cool weather
90 – 99 F = x2; Break out that Hawaiian shirt
100 – 104 F = x3; Just starting to warm the rattlesnakes up
I just received this message from Olivier Parriaux (F4GLD):
This supply is ready!
This Thursday [09 May 2013] we will activate, if time permits, the beautiful summit of Cret de gout which is located in the Jura mountains in JN26WD.
F/JU-004 – Cret de la Goutte Locator JN26wd
46.15140 ° N (46 ° 9 ‘5.0 “N) Longitude 5.86560 ° E (5 ° 51’ 56.2” E) 1621 meters, 5318 feet
Scheduled departure was 0300 TU [UTC] you should be able to follow the ascent via APRS.
We use + or – frequency QRP only Phone on 7/14/21/28 MHz bands depending on the propagation and F4OQU F4GLD Olivier Gilles.
HF Station KX3 5W max, Buddistick antenna, battery and three …
We also try to activate UHF
VHF F0FNC Laurent around 144,290 in SSB.
FT-817 5w max, DK7ZB antenna
We planned things on the air from 5h30/6h30 TU [UTC]
Hoping to see you on the air on Thursday.
73’s to all.
Like Olivier, if you’re planning a SOTA or QRP DXpedition of any stripe, contact me and I’ll be happy to post your announcement here on QRPer.