As I mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been using the Elecraft AX1 in heavy rotation this year. I made a commitment to myself to do a string of activations with it in January and February and also pair it with a wide variety of radios beyond the Elecraft KX2 and KX3. So far, I’ve paired the AX1 with the:
In truth, the AX1 can be paired with any radio when you use a tripod mount.
It’s a bit trickier when connecting the AX1 directly to a radio and using the Bipod as a support because 1.) the antenna connector on the radio mustn’t be too high off of the surface, 2.) there needs to be enough clearance on the back of the radio to accommodate the bipod legs and 3.) ideally, it’s nice to have a ground point on the radio, else you’ll need to clamp the counterpoise to the shield of the BNC connector.
In addition, if your radio doesn’t have a built-in ATU of some sort, then you’ll also need a capacity hat or external ATU to finish off the impedance match. (For more notes about the AX1 and AX2, check out this previous post.)
Of course, you don’t have to use Elecraft’s bipod to support the AX1 when directly connected to a radio–you can build or 3D print your own support–but the bipod is really convenient when it does work.
Objective: Lunch Box Radio
One radio I’ve been eager to pair with the AX1 is the Penntek TR-45L.
The weather in/around Québec City has been amazing lately; nice cool mornings and warm, clear days. I know this probably won’t last, so we’ve been taking advantage of it as much as possible (il faut en profiter, as francophones like to say).
Yesterday, we had a few errands to run in town: we needed to pick up some groceries, order a tarte au citron for my birthday (today!) from our favorite patisserie Pralines & Chocolatin Château-Richer, and yes, enjoy the great outdoors.
I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d be able to fit in an activation, but I tucked my KX2 radio pack in the car just in case. I didn’t take the camera because it was family time and if I managed an activation, I didn’t want to film it this time. That, and I have a huge backlog of activation videos I need to publish; I sidelined a lot of my field reports while studying for the Canadian Basic exam over the past month.
Le Domaine Maizerets (VE-5020)
We decided to hit one of our favorite little parks conveniently located on the east end of Québec City (Beauport): Le Domaine Maizerets.
We’ve been to this park a few times in the past to attend a Celtic festival and to meet with friends.
The grounds are beautiful and there are loads of foot paths.
I was a bit surprised it had never been activated because this is a very popular park and even has free entry with free parking.
Keeping it Stealthy
I decided I wanted to stay fairly low-profile while doing this activation. I wasn’t worried about permissions (families, friends and groups meet here for all sorts of activities) but I wanted to see just how stealthy I could be while operating from a park bench in a city park. I don’t get this opportunity a lot because, back home, I’m usually operating from rural state/national parka and in remote game lands.
We found a couple of benches at the edge of the park that very conveniently had perfect antenna trees behind them.
While no one was watching, I deployed the PackTenna 9:1 random wire antenna; the jacket on its radiator is black and simply disappears with trees and flora in the background.
The more conspicuous parts of the antenna–the feed point and RG-316–were tucked away behind the park bench.
My high-visibility arborist throw line was hidden behind the tree and out of sight from those walking on the footpath.
From the footpath, you couldn’t see the antenna, coax, nor the throw line unless you were looking for it.
From behind the bench, you could though; in the very unlikely event someone would have walked behind us, it was pretty conspicuous (always avoid antenna tripping points). That and my family would have warned anyone coming near.
The Elecraft KX2 was a natural choice for this activation: it’s all-in-one and incredibly compact. I can also operate it and log using the knee board Carolanne (N0RNM) kindly made for me last year. No picnic table needed.
Operating CW with earphones is insanely stealthy. A CW op makes almost no noise whatsoever.
One of my daughters (K4TLI) was kind enough to log for me on my Microsoft Surface Go (using N3FJP’s AC Log).
Here’s what I looked like to anyone passing by:
My wife (K4MOI) and other daughter (K4GRL) were on the bench next to us sketching and painting. We looked like any other family at the park simply enjoying the amazing weather.
On the air
This was only my third activation here in Canada using my new Canadian callsign: VY2SW.
I’m still getting use to sending the new call; it flows well for me, but my muscle memory keeps kicking in and I find myself accidentally sending K4SWL. 🙂
Since I’m in Québec but have a Prince Edward Island callsign, I do intermittently add a /VE2 to the end of my call. It’s a fistful (VY2SW/VE2) so I don’t use it with every exchange or CQ.
Conditions lately have been absolutely in the dumps and yesterday was no exception.
When a propagation path opened, it was great, but conditions were very unstable with severe QSB.
I spent the better part of an hour hopping between 30, 40, and 20 meters to scrape together enough contacts for a valid park activation.
40 meters was absolutely dead due to flaring. I tried hunting a few CW and SSB stations there, but if I could hear them, they were barely audible.
20 and 30 meters served me better, but the QSB was so deep and frequent, I had to repeat my exchange on a number of occasions. Some stations would call me with a 599+ signal and after my reply with signal report, they were then barely audible.
Still, I managed to snag my ten with a couple to spare. 🙂
Many thanks to all of you who waded through the ether to reach me on the other end.
It’s interesting looking at the QSO map post-activation. My best DX (EA4B) was easily the strongest station I worked with my 5 watts.
Click to enlarge the map:
This activation was so much fun.
Sure, contacts weren’t frequent but they were all meaningful and, frankly, none of us minded spending time outdoors on such a gorgeous day! It added an extra dimension keeping things very stealthy, too.
Thanks for reading this field report. Now that my Canadian exam is in the books, I’ll have time to catch up on the numerous activation videos in the backlog!
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 certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support which allows me to open up my work life to write more field reports and film more activation videos.
I hope you get a chance this week to play radio outdoors or chase/hint some park, island, or summit activators!