Category Archives: Videos

POTA During a Beautiful Fall Afternoon at Tallulah Gorge State Park!

Sunday, October 15, 2023, was the final day of the W4 SOTA campout. That morning, Joshua (N5FY) and I packed up our tents/gear then played a little radio at our campsite (at Lake Rabun). We weren’t in a hurry because the morning was so enjoyable. In fact, I think we checked out not a minute before the dealine of 12:00 noon!

We both decided we wanted to squeeze in one more radio excursion before driving back to our QTHs.

Tallulah Gorge State Park (K-2202)

It wasn’t realistic to fit in another SOTA hike due to our schedules, but Tallulah Gorge SP was an easy detour for both of us.

We pulled into the park and queued up to to enter. The park was absolutely teeming with visitors that day. I would have expected nothing less on such a gorgeous Fall afternoon!

Joshua and I found a quiet picnic area–with a few picnic tables spaced apart from each other–near the lake shore. It turned out to be a perfect spot to play radio. We spaced our sites far enough apart so as not to easily interfere with each other while on different bands.

Joshua set up his KX1, a wire antenna, and used VK3IL pressure paddles.

Joshua deployed his KX1 next to the lake and I deployed my KX2 a bit further up the hill.

I paired my KX2 with my “no transformer” random wire antenna. Of course, I used a Tufteln antenna because, I mean, N5FY was standing right there! 😁

This antenna consists of two 28.5′ 26AWG wires connected directly to a male BNC. Simplicity itself on the antenna side. It’s the KX2 internal ATU that does all of the matching (since there’s no transformer). I find that the KX2 can match this antenna from 40-10 meters with ease.

I think the magic of these simple random wire antennas is that they’re directly connected to the radio. There’s a bit of efficiency in having no line losses, etc. even if the ATU does soak up a bit of energy.

Time to hop on the air! Continue reading POTA During a Beautiful Fall Afternoon at Tallulah Gorge State Park!

Postcard POTA Field Report: Pairing the KH1 with an EFHW at Pisgah National Forest

Welcome to another Postcard Field Report!

If you’ve been following QRPer.com and my YouTube channel for long, you’ll notice that I typically post two field reports with videos per week when my free time allows. Each report takes about four hours to produce along with a video. I’ve got a busy day ahead on the road (including a POTA activation), so in order to squeeze this field report into my schedule, I’m going to use my more abbreviated field report format: a “postcard” format!

Speaking of which….

Pisgah National Forest (K-4510)

On the morning of Friday, November 10, 2023, I had a couple hours to fit in some POTA time.

All morning, we had been receiving some much-needed rain in the form of scattered showers in a constant heavy mist.

I decided to explore picnic areas I hadn’t yet visited in Pisgah National Forest along the Pisgah Highway near Brevard, North Carolina.

I was curious if I might find a small shelter at one of the roadside sites. Unfortunately, I did not; however, I did find quite a few sites that were ideal for POTA with tall trees, space between picnic tables, etc. I decided to pick one at random that had no other park visitors.

I did have a small rainfly in the car I could set up, but I decided to simply risk it. The goal was to pair the new Elecraft KH1 with my (MW0SAW) End-Fed Half-Wave antenna.

I wanted to see if the KH1 ATU could match the EFHW on 30 and 17 meters (outside of its resonant bands of 40, 20, and 15 meters).

Setup

Since I wasn’t using the KH1 pedestrian mobile, I connected my N0SA (“SOTA paddle”) and my Anker Soundcore Mini portable speaker.

Antenna deployment was easy enough (though I did take a few tries to hit *the* tree branch I wanted)!

In no time, I had the KH1 on the air and ready to start calling CQ! Continue reading Postcard POTA Field Report: Pairing the KH1 with an EFHW at Pisgah National Forest

The Elecraft KH1 or KX2? Which one should you buy?

Even before I started taking my Elecraft KH1 to the field and generating reports and activation videos, I started receiving questions from readers and subscribers about how the KH1 might compare with other field-portable radios.

At least 70% of all of these questions asked specifically about the venerable Elecraft KX2.

Making a purchase decision

I’m not surprised so many are trying to make a purchase decision between the KH1 and KX2.

For one thing, the KH1 and KX2 represent some of the smallest, most compact and lightweight shack-in-a-box HF field radios on the market. We’ve a lot of QRP field radios to chose from these days, but few have options for both internal ATUs, internal batteries, and attachable paddles. Very few are as light and compact as either of these two radios.

Another reason for the comparison is that many are in the long queue to purchase a new Elecraft KX2. At time of posting this article, if you place an order for the KX2, you are going to wait a few months for delivery.  The KH1 also has a lead time, but it’s likely shorter than that of the KX2 (check out the Elecraft Shipping Status page for more info).

Comparing models

While the KH1 and KX2 have a lot in common, they’re also quite different in many respects.

We radio ops like to compare features and specifications and Elecraft knew the KX2 and KH1 would be compared frequently, so they created a handy chart:

Click here to download Elecraft’s KX2 v KH1 comparison chart (PDF).

At the end of the day, though, I would argue that one’s enjoyment of a radio has more to do with how well it fits the operating style of the owner.

The KX2 is one of the best portable QRP field radios ever made, in my humble opinion. It’s a little high-performance machine that can handle any mode you care to use between 80-10 meters.

The KH1, on the other hand (pun intended), is designed to be an exceptional handheld radio for pedestrian mobile use and as a super lightweight, low-impact, field portable station. It’s essentially CW-only and operates on 5 bands (40-15 meters).

If you can be honest with yourself about how you plan to use the radio, it’ll help you make this purchase decision.

For example, if you never see yourself operating pedestrian mobile–you’re more of a sit down at a table sort of op–there’s a good argument to go for the KX2. If, however, you’re an avid SOTA/POTA portable activator who is primarily a CW op and you like the idea of a super quick deployment and handheld operating from anytime, anywhere, you should consider the KH1.

Video

To dig into this comparison a little deeper, I decided to make a video where I discuss the differences between the two radios and also speak to different styles of operating and which radio might suit that style best:

Click here to view on YouTube. 

I would be curious which radio you prefer and why. Please consider commenting!

Thank you!

I hope you found this post and video useful.

As always, 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.

Patreon supporters have access to 100% ad-free, and downloadable videos for off-line viewing via Vimeo. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files. This is how your support truly helps this site and channel!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

SOTA DX with a 20 Meter Delta Loop on beautiful Yonah Mountain!

I’ve taken a wide variety of antennas on SOTA (Summits On The Air) activations, but one wire antenna I’ve always wanted to deploy is a simple vertical delta loop.

This summer, I mentioned to my friend Joshua (N5FY) that I planned to build a delta loop antenna and next thing I know, he built one. I suppose he’d been thinking about adding it to his line of portable wire antennas at Tufteln.

I was planning to build a 20M delta loop fed with twin lead, but Joshua’s choice is better for multi-band operating. His 20M delta loop features a 4:1 transformer so it can be fed with 50 Ohm coax like my RG-316 (which is also easier to pack than twin lead).

You might recall that I used his 20M delta loop antenna at Holmes Educational State Forest (see photo above) in early September. It worked a charm and wasn’t too difficult to deploy (loops are obviously more finicky than a one wire end-fed).

The great thing about this loop is it’s resonant on 20 and 10 meters, and it’s quite easy to tune on 17, 15, and 12 meters with pretty much any ATU.

Fast-forward to Saturday, October 14, 2023 when Joshua and I were participating in the W4G SOTA campout in north Georgia…

Yonah Mountain (W4G/NG-048)

It rained cats and dogs Friday evening into Saturday morning.

Fortunately, most of the rain stopped by the time I surfaced that morning.

Joshua and I ate a quick breakfast, grabbed our SOTA backpacks, then drove to the Yonah Mountain parking area/trailhead.

Last year, we also activated Yonah Mountain as well, but underestimated the hike and our timing. We ended up being a good hour or so late to our SOTA evening potluck. This time, we were keen to spend more time on Yonah Mountain and get back to the campsite in plenty of time to join everyone for dinner (and share exaggerated stories about our SOTA adventures).

Last year, we arrived at the trailhead and it was parked full. This year, even though we arrived in the morning and even though it was incredibly foggy/misty, it was still quite full!

Yonah Mountain is an incredibly popular destination.

Another fun fact about Yonah: it’s not really a beginner’s summit despite the fact it’s so popular with hikers and runners.

It offers up proper elevation change, gnarly trail portions, steep inclines, and about four miles of trail round trip. Although not an incredibly long hike, it’ll give you more of a workout than you might think first blush.

We reached the summit in due time and set up our stations about 30 meters apart.

The whole time, I was also monitoring the partial solar eclipse we were having that day.

I brought along some solar eclipse glasses and ended up sharing them with everyone on the summit. It worried me seeing so many young people staring at the sun with only their sun glasses or even–gasp!–with the naked eye. (I mean, weren’t they paying attention in science class–?) 🙂

At one point in the activation during the actual peak of the partial solar eclipse, I left the radio and did a little more sun-gazing. Continue reading SOTA DX with a 20 Meter Delta Loop on beautiful Yonah Mountain!

Field Report with N5FY: Checking out the new N6ARA MiniSWR (and a sweet 9V battery) at Don Carter State Park!

I am catching up with field reports and videos from last month and, I must admit, it’s fun reliving these activations.

October was such a busy month, it’s all been a bit of a blur.

Because I have a second Thanksgiving meal to prepare this morning for my wife’s family, I need to keep this report short–which won’t be easy because there’s a lot to unpack here– so we’re going to attempt do another Postcard Field Report!

Postcard Report from Don Carter State Park (K-2171)

I mentioned in a previous post that I participated in the W4 SOTA campout last month. .

Part of the fun  of the campout was hanging with my good friend Joshua (N5FY) whom many of you know from his amazing Tufteln antennas and accessories.

On the morning of Friday, October 13, 2023, Joshua and I activated Rocky Mountain (W4G/NG-011), a beautiful 10 point summit along the Appalachian Trail.

That afternoon, we met with Joshua’s family briefly, then planned to head to a pub in Clayton, Georgia, where a number of the W4 SOTA campers were gathering.

Joshua determined we had just enough time to pop by Don Carter State Park (K-2171) for a quick POTA activation and still make it to Clayton in time. As a bonus, Don Carter SP has a number of covered picnic shelters, making set up in the dry quite easy (it was raining at the time).

For this activation, I used my Mountain Topper MTR-3B field kit that I had used during my SOTA activation on Rocky Mountain. In fact, it was the only radio kit I brought with me for activations that day.

Joshua lent me his Tufteln 40/20 meter linked EFHW antenna (we only used the 20 meter portion of it) and I also got to use a few other accessories that were still very new to me:

N6ARA MiniSWR Meter

One was my friend Ara’s latest creation, the MiniSWR meter. Ara (N6ARA) kindly sent me this production unit to test (at no cost to me) earlier in October.

I was very excited about this particular product because a few of my QRP radios lack a built-in SWR meter (my MTR-3B, MTR-5B, TR-35, and SW-3B to name a few). Ara’s MiniSWR meter is so tiny, it’s easy to carry even in my MTR-3B SOTA kit that’s built into a Pelican 1060 waterproof case. (If you’d like more details, I’ll be adding this MTR-3B kit to the Radio Field Kit Gallery soon).

The MiniSWR in action earlier that day on Rocky Mountain.

As with all of Ara’s products, the MiniSWR works brilliantly, is very affordable, and is available as a kit or pre-assembled. Check it out at N6ARA.com!

Rechargeable 9V Batteries

Another new-to-me product was this USB-C rechargeable 9V battery originally recommended by Adam (K6ARK).

Being honest here: this battery sort of blows my mind!

When paired with super efficient QRP radios like my MTR-3B (which uses something like 18mA in receive), one charge will take me through as many as two or three full SOTA/POTA activations!

These batteries are insanely affordable too. You can buy two for $15 and change at Amazon.

When I purchased these, I also bought two 3S packs in a Prime Day deal. These 9V batteries work so well, though, I’ve yet to add PowerPoles to the new 3S packs. I prefer the size and ease of use of these 9V cells.

Set up

Joshua helped me set up in short order. We deployed the 20M EFHW next to the picnic shelter and Joshua kindly lent me his OSMO 2 Action Camera and Anker SoundCore Mini speaker so I could make a video of this impromptu activation. Continue reading Field Report with N5FY: Checking out the new N6ARA MiniSWR (and a sweet 9V battery) at Don Carter State Park!

Elecraft KH1: A Quickie Pedestrian Mobile POTA Activation!

Thursday, November 9, 2023 was a typical “dad taxi” day for me.

By the time I got around to doing a POTA activation that afternoon (which was always on the docket) it was within 30 minutes of when I needed to pick up my daughters.

Fortunately, the Blue Ridge Parkway Folk Art Center was en route to town.

I had planned that day to pair up my Elecraft KH1 with a random wire antenna, but looking at the time, I realized that was being a little ambitious–the few minutes to deploy and pack up the antenna would cut into the activation.

Instead (since I had just received my KH1 logging tray/cover) I decided to put it to the test with a real pedestrian mobile activation using the KH1, its  whip antenna, the logging sheets I printed/cut, and the teeny space pen included with the logging tray. In theory, this all looked doable, but in practice I didn’t know if I would actually be able to log on a tray attached to the side of my radio!

I had planned to use my Zoom H1n recorder for the KH1 audio since I would be making an activation video (see below), but frankly, I simply didn’t have time to set it up. I had to make do with the KH1 wee speaker.

Speaking of the speaker…

After playing with the speaker for a few weeks now, I’ve found that it sounds much better when I run the KH1 with a wide CW filter.

I’d always assumed being a low-fidelity 1″ speaker that narrow audio would be best, but I was wrong about that. In the field, I tinker with the filter and attenuation settings for the best audio balance.

Still, it’s not perfect (the speaker is really a “bonus” feature) but it’s much improved over my initial POTA activation.

Of course, I would have been using earphones had I not been recording the activation on camera. Via earphones, the KH1 audio is excellent!

Gear:

Note: All Amazon links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

On The Air

I hopped on the air, started calling CQ POTA, and the stations started rolling in. Continue reading Elecraft KH1: A Quickie Pedestrian Mobile POTA Activation!

KX2/AX1 Travel: Two Quick POTA Activations on the South Carolina coast!

SC Coast: A Postcard Field Report

When life gets busy (it is now) I don’t always have the time to produce a full field report. This is especially the case when I have, not one, but two field reports and two activation videos!

This “Postcard” field report covers two activations on the evening of October 2, 2023. At the time, I was staying on the coast of South Carolina for a night. (You might recall I activated Lee State Park with friends earlier that afternoon.)

Instead of producing two full-format field reports, this will be one report with two activations.

Note that I used the same gear for both of these activations.

Gear:

Note: All Amazon links are affiliate links that support QRPer.com at no cost to you.

Myrtle Beach State Park (K-2907)

I arrived at my hotel in South Myrtle Beach around 17:30 local. I checked in (thank you, Hampton Inn for the room upgrade!), dropped off my bag in the room, then immediately made my way to what turned out to be my first of two parks.

As I purchased my park ticket at the entrance gate, the park employee told me that my ticket would also allow me into Huntington State Park (just 20 minutes down the road) until end of day.

At that point, I had no intention of hitting a second park…but of course I just couldn’t resist the temptation of that free entry!

I know that some South Carolina parks are picky about antenna deployments, etc. so I stuck with my low-impact, low-profile combo of the Elecraft KX2 and AX1. It doesn’t disturb the trees, the ground, nor any park visitors.

I parked at the pier and set up at a picnic area under the trees nearby. Early October is very much off-season on the coast, so the park was relatively quiet.

There was no one else in the picnic area, so I had the place to myself. Continue reading KX2/AX1 Travel: Two Quick POTA Activations on the South Carolina coast!

A welcome POTA layover with friends at Lee State Park in South Carolina

On September 30, 2023, my uncle Reggie passed away at the age of 83. I was incredibly fond of him. His funeral was to take place in Georgetown, South Carolina on Tuesday, October 3rd.

The funeral time was confirmed on Sunday evening (Oct 1), so I made all of my travel plans that night. I decided to leave early Monday morning and drive to Myrtle Beach where I’d reserved a hotel room for one night. I’d then attend the funeral the following day and drive back to my home in the mountains. Round trip, this would amount to about 12 hours of driving.

This, of course, was a pretty somber reason to take a road trip–although it would be nice to spend time with my SC family. I wanted to make the most of my travels and fit in a little “radio therapy” along the way. I glanced over the POTA map for a park that might make for a nice break from travels.

Before hitting the sack Sunday evening, I remembered that many months ago Keith (KY4KK) told me to give him a heads-up anytime I planned to pass by Florence, SC. I knew that Florence would be a simple detour on my journey, so I reached out to Keith and asked if he and his POTA buddies Tommy (N4GS) and Steve (W4JM) might, by some chance, be available for a quick POTA activation. Of course, this was very late notice.

Keith wrote back and recommended that I activate Lee State Park–he and Tommy were both available but, unfortunately, Steve had other plans.

Monday morning, I hit the road and arrived at Lee State Park in the early afternoon.

Lee State Park (K-2905)

I pulled into the park driveway and was greeted by a number of Halloween displays. Evidently, the park staff loves decorating for holidays.

At first glance, this looks like a POTA activator that never never got their ten logged.

I pulled into the visitor’s center parking lot and immediately met Keith and Tommy.

After a quick greeting, Keith said, “Thomas, our job here is to get you on the air as smoothly as possible so you can continue your trip.”

Keith, KY4KK (left) Tommy, N4GS (right)

Herein lies what I love about amateur radio and POTA specifically: even though Keith, Tommy, and I had only just met in person, they were instant friends.

I must say, Lee State Park is the perfect POTA park; there are loads of tall trees, covered picnic areas, open spaces, ample parking, and ham-friendly staff. It just doesn’t get better than this!

We walked to a large covered picnic area and Keith suggested that we deploy his 40 meter EFHW antenna.

I agreed without hesitation!

Unlike me, Keith is adept at using a slingshot to deploy his antennas.

As I started setting up the radio, Keith aimed his slingshot and snagged a really high branch on the first go. This 40M EFHW was being deployed as a vertical!

I decided to bring along my Penntek TR-45L on this trip. I’m glad I did: it was ideal for this sort of POTA activation! Continue reading A welcome POTA layover with friends at Lee State Park in South Carolina

Elecraft KH1 + Speaker Wire = Pileup Madness on Bakers Mountain!

Since the beginning of November, I’ve been pushing my Elecraft KH1 activations to the front of the line so that readers and subscribers who are considering this wee handheld radio might get a chance to see and hear it in action.

So far, I’ve used the KH1 for what it was designed to do: pedestrian mobile/handheld using the built-in whip antenna. I’ve activated a park, a summit, and even did a little parking lot POTA hunting.

I’ve decided that November is KH1 month–this is the only radio I’ll use this month.

I will start blending in some of my field reports from October (there were some really fun ones in there) that feature my other field radios and a variety of antennas starting next week. I’ll still be pushing some of my KH1 field reports to the front during that time as well. Also, I’ll likely post more bonus videos over on Patreon.

Where to activate?

On Monday, November 6, 2023, I had several hours in the afternoon to take the KH1 on another mini radio adventure. I wasn’t sure where I’d perform an activation, though.

This time, I didn’t want to do a pedestrian mobile activation. I wanted to see how the KH1 might play on my kneeboard and how it might pair with my 28.5′ speaker wire antenna. I was curious if its internal ATU would find acceptable matches on all bands.

I packed the KH1, throw line bag, Tufteln Kneeboard, Helinox chair, 2L water bag, camera gear, and speaker wire antenna in my GoRuck pack (FYI: all links and full inventory are below).

This was more gear than I’d need, but all of these items were in my radio box in the trunk/boot of my car.

I had only one errand to run that afternoon: I needed to drop off some of my wife’s illustrated Christmas cards at my friend Hamilton William’s Gallery in downtown Morganton.

After catching up with Hamilton, I had to make a decision about where to go for an activation. I knew this: it was an incredibly beautiful day, so whatever I did, it needed to include a hike!

I considered a few parks but the most convenient spot for a proper hike was Bakers Mountain. It also required the least amount of driving since it was essentially on the way back to Hickory.

Bakers Mountain (W4C/WP-007)

It being an early Monday afternoon, there weren’t many other hikers at Bakers Mountain. In fact, I never ran into any other hikers on the main loop trail.

Bakers Mountain park is (sadly) not a POTA entity. It’s a county park, so does not currently qualify. There was talk once of Bakers Mountain being turned into a state park, but it falls just shy of the amount of acreage needed to qualify.

Bakers Mountain is a one point SOTA summit, but the hike (if you do the full loop trail) is actually pretty strenuous if you take it at a nice clip. I’d consider it a moderate hike overall.

I’ve already activated Bakers Mountain this year, so this activation’s point will not add to my goal of reaching Mountain Goat (1,000 points). That’s okay, though. Unless my family life changes in a way that frees up a lot more time, Mountain Goat is a good 5-6 years in the future at my pace! I’m perfectly fine with that.

I reached the summit and found a spot to set up in the shade. Continue reading Elecraft KH1 + Speaker Wire = Pileup Madness on Bakers Mountain!

My first SOTA activation with the new Elecraft KH1 handheld QRP transceiver!

On Friday, November 3, 2023, I had planned to activate Mount Mitchell–the highest summit in eastern North America. I need to activate Mitchell soon because I’ve yet to activate it for SOTA in 2023 and when winter weather sets in (quite early at that altitude) the park is inaccessible.

Unfortunately, last week, the National Park Service closed an 8 mile portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway due to (no kidding) park visitors feeding and trying to hold bears at the Lane Pinnacle Overlook.

I won’t get on my soapbox about how people are so out of touch with nature that they feel human interaction with bears is a good thing. It breaks my heart because as we natives of WNC say, “a fed bear is a dead bear.” Bears that become comfortable with humans become (at best) a nuisance and (at worst) aggressive.  This is bad for people and it’s bad for our bears who are otherwise shy and avoid humans.

Okay, I said I wouldn’t soapbox about this…

That 8 mile section being closed meant that what would have been a 50 minute drive to the summit of Mitchell turned into a 90 minute drive. Round trip, I simply couldn’t fit that in my day, so I made alternate plans.

Another summit on my list to activate before year’s end was Richland Balsam.

Richland Balsam is actually the highest summit on the Blue Ridge Parkway and is, in fact, at one of my favorite points along the parkway.

That  Friday morning, I dropped my daughters off at their classes and drove an hour or so to the Haywood-Jackson Overlook.

In the valley, as I started my drive to the parkway, past the Cradle of Forestry, it was 30F/-1C. I was concerned that on the summit–nearly 4,000′ higher in elevation–that the temp would be closer to 20F. Fortunately for me, as I gained elevation, the temperature climbed too. We were having inversion that day so the higher altitudes were actually warmer than lower altitudes. This is not uncommon in the fall and was very welcome that particular Friday morning!

Richland Balsam (W4C/WM-003)

Only three weeks earlier, there would have been no free parking spots at the Haywood-Jackson Overlook overlook–it would have been packed.

Fortunately for me, all of the leaf-lookers had gone and I literally had the place to myself. What a luxury!

And the temperature? A balmy 43F/6C.

The hike to Richland Balsam is one of the easiest along the parkway.

At the north side of the parking area, you’ll see a trailhead for the Richland Balsam Nature Loop Trail.

I wish my iPhone camera could haver truly captured how the moon looked in the sky.

The trail isn’t long; I believe the entire loop is just shy of 1.5 miles.

Although I didn’t set out to do this, I ended up making a video of the entire loop trail hike along with the activation (of course, you can skip over those parts in my activation video below).

Sadly, one thing you won’t be able to enjoy in my video? The smell. The air is filled with the fragrance of balsam trees along the entire trail–it’s just amazing!

The summit of Richland Balsam is at 6,410 feet ASL (1,954 meters).

The summit is covered in trees which is brilliant for SOTA activators. Another luxury is that there are two benches within the activation zone. I did pack my Helinox Zero chair as a backup, but didn’t need it.

SOTA with the KH1

Setting up my KH1 for a SOTA activation couldn’t be easier or faster. I show the whole process in my video at a very casual pace. Continue reading My first SOTA activation with the new Elecraft KH1 handheld QRP transceiver!