Category Archives: Videos

Scott’s Self-Supporting Random Wire Antenna System

Many thanks to Scott (KK4Z) who shares the following post from his blog KK4Z.com:


K4SWL+ Antenna

by Scott (KK4Z)

On a recent post on QRPER.com, Teri KO4WFP was at a park in Florida that did not allow wires (or anything else) in their trees. Many POTA activators use End Fed Half Wave antennas which usually require one end in a tree. While it doesn’t happen at all parks, not being able to hoist your antenna could bust an activation.

I realized this may happen to me even though Georgia appears to be pretty lenient when it comes to such matters, I decided to switch to a park friendly antenna. I have been a fan of QRPER.com for quite some time and occasionally Thomas will repost something from my humble blog. That being said, it was K4SWL that got me started using a random wire antenna. My basis for my antenna was his speaker wire antenna which was a 28.5’ vertical antenna with a 17’ counterpoise. I used it a few times in that configuration and then started to modify it. I call this antenna my K4SWL+.

Some of the differences are I use a push-up pole to get the antenna in the air and at the base I use a 9:1 UnUn and a 1:1 Choke to keep RF out of the radio. A random wire antenna can feed RF back into the coax.

The wire is 14 ga. coated flex weave from The Wireman. This was left over wire from some other antenna projects. When I started this project I was using 22-24 ga. coated wire from SOTABeams but realizing there was no need to save weight, used the heavier wire. This allows me to dual purpose the antenna both for FunComm and EmComm. The insulator at the top is 3D printed with my call-sign and the base is U-type lugs. I find these are the best as I do not have to take the nut off of the antenna studs and if pulled hard will come loose instead of damaging the UnUn. I connect the antenna to the top of the push-up pole with a small Nite-eze “S-biner” size 1.

The 9:1 UnUn comes from Palomar Engineering. I have already created a blog post about how to build it and it can be found here: https://kk4z.com/2022/05/28/91-unun-qro/

Part of this blog post was to bring the different components together into one blog post.

The 1:1 Choke can be found here: https://kk4z.com/2022/08/15/lightweight-choke-balun/

I made two different types but I found the second works much better.

The project is pretty easy, the only caveat is to pay attention to what wire goes where. Putting it all together, you need a push-up pole, a Flag holder and maybe a trailer hitch extender. I will provide links below. The Flag Pole holder I used was not available so the link I used is a probable substitute. I have a trailer hitch on both my truck and my camper, When I pull into a campsite I have a choice of which hitch to use to keep my antenna clear from the trees. With the antenna up, I wrap the antenna wire around the push-up pole from tip to base, to prevent the wire from sagging near the tip. I attach the UnUn and choke to the mast with Stretch Velcro Straps. With my antenna up I have park employees drive by me all day along. Most of the time we exchange a friendly wave and occasionally one will stop by for a chat. I have had zero issues with this antenna at any of the parks I have visited.

How does it play? It has pretty much been a main antenna for just about all of my POTA activations. You can go back through my blog post and see what equipment I used with the antenna and the accompanying QSOMap. You do need an antenna tuner with this antenna and I typically use an LDG Z-11 Pro which I’ve had for 15+ years. The antenna tunes up from 80 to 6 meters and I have run the power as high as 65 watts. I normally run 10-35 watts depending on band conditions. I have tried it on 160 meters and while I can get a match, I don’t think much RF is leaving the antenna. I’ve made a few contact with it on 160. If you like to work 160 meters during a POTA activation, I suggest a Chameleon EmComm II with a 60’ antenna and a 50’ counterpoise. I run it as an inverted L with the apex about 20’ up my push-up pole and the end sloping down to something not a tree. Last time I tied it to the lantern stand at the campsite. It worked pretty well and I was able to make contacts on 160.

Video:

Click here to view on YouTube.

If you’re looking for an antenna that you can set up almost anywhere, with little or no hassles, take a look at this one. Don’t forget to check out the short video above. 73 — Scott

Pedestrian mobile POTA hunting on the back forty!

Saturday (January 20, 2024) was the first day in weeks that I had nothing on my schedule. There was no pressing need to leave our mountain home and we had a fresh layer of snow on the ground.

When I woke up that morning, it was 4F/-15.5C but by the afternoon it has warmed up to a balmy 10F/-12C (but then back to 0F/-17.7C that night).

It was the POTA Support Your Parks Weekend and part of me wanted to hit the road and activate a park or two. But my desire to stay put, relax, and just enjoy reading a good book by our wood stove, cup of coffee in hand, won out.

As I mentioned in previous posts, we’ve had a lot going on in our family. To have a day where nothing was required of me? I needed to take that.

Still, I did have a few household things to do including stocking up on firewood.

While I was splitting kindling in the crisp air, I thought it might be awfully fun to take the KH1 into the woods and just do a little POTA hunting. As soon as I replenished the firewood in the house and while I had my boots on, I grabbed my KH1.

“What dis? We gonna’ POTA, Daddy?”

Hazel is not a cold weather-loving dog, but she can’t resist heading outdoors with me. Even if it’s just on our own property!

My goal? To do a little pedestrian mobile park hunting with the KH1.

I didn’t care how many contacts I made–if any–with my wee radio, four foot telescoping antenna, and a few watts of power. This was all about winter radio therapy.

I also grabbed my camera to make a short video–the first time I’d picked it up in a couple of weeks.

Gear:

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

On the air

Instead of detailing any contacts I made (spoiler: I did make a few) I’ll leave that to the video below.

As always, when you’re QRP and not the DX (ie. you’re hunting or chasing, not activating) you need to call activators slightly off-frequency so that your tone varies from the stronger stations calling them zero-beat. Note that this is applicable to operating SSB as well.

I remember when the KH1 was first announced, I read messages and comments stating that such a compromised antenna and low-power radio would not work for hunting Park-To-Park or Summit-To-Summit contacts because it wouldn’t be heard in a pileup.

That’s simply not the case and I knew it wouldn’t be because for years I’ve used my KX2 and AX1 antenna combo to make hundreds of similar contacts. The KH1 is basically an AX1 and transceiver combined in a handheld unit.

It does help, though, to employ a little QRP skill in the process.

Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of this little field session.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air time; I just start recording and let it roll. 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.

Field reports resuming!

Hazel was absolutely running wild as we walked back to the house. I snapped this photo of her as she was jumping around.

I decided to push this short video to the front of the line. You’ll soon see more field reports pop up from December.

As I mentioned in the video, I took a good two week break because I simply didn’t feel like writing or making videos–I was taking some time with family to grieve and be there for my father and sister. My policy is that I never, ever feel pressed to post on QRPer or YouTube because that would make this feel too much like a job.

It’s not a job: it’s a pure labor of love!

And I will keep it that way. This is why I never look at my YouTube stats and only rarely check out my website stats. Those things don’t really matter to me and they’re certainly not a motivator. What is a motivator is the amazing community we have here–that means more to me than my subscriber count, views, and all of those metrics ever could!

Thank you

Thank you for joining Hazel and me on this little POTA hunting session!

And thank you again for the outpouring of kind and compassionate messages as we’ve navigated the past couple of weeks as a family. It’s appreciated more than you know.

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.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me and have a wonderful week ahead!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Radio Therapy: Fresh air and a little backyard QRP portable

So far, my favorite thing about the Elecraft KH1 is this: it’s a constant radio companion.

Since 2020, I’ve always had a small field radio kit in my vehicle.

My Venus SW-3B kit, which is packed in a headrest pouch, is one example.

When I’m traveling, or just find an opening in the day, I can deploy that field kit and do a little POTA or even SOTA. I know I have a full field radio kit ready to go.

As many of you know, I do a lot of traveling back forth from my QTH to my hometown each week to do caregiving for my mom and dad. Most of the POTA sites I activate are along that corridor between Asheville and Hickory, North Carolina. Having a radio kit in the car at all times makes impromptu activations effortless.

Until the KH1, though, I never had a field radio kit that could so easily live in the backpack/shoulder bag I carry with me everywhere…my EDC bag.

EDC (Everyday Carry)

Linus understands.

Since 2000 or so–back in the days when I was living and traveling extensively in Europe–my EDC bag (sometimes a laptop bag, messenger bag, or backpack) has become a bit like a safety blanket.

I feel lost and unprepared without it.

When I have my EDC bag, I know I have my basics and essentials for working on the road, taking care of small repairs, administering first aid, and even coping with unexpected overnight trips. My EDC bag has the basics for taking care of all of these things and more.

And now, my EDC bag has a tiny QRP field radio kit.

Healing waves…

I’ve been staying with my parents a lot lately–most of the week–doing caregiving for my sweet mother.

This week in particular, I’ve been grabbing my KH1 and using it for a little backyard “radio therapy.”

You see, there has been no time in the schedule this past week for even short POTA activation forays, as much as I’d love that (more on this below).

Instead, I’ve been catching quick radio sessions in my parents’ back yard.

If I worked you this past week, this was my station:

On Sunday afternoon, January 7, 2024, I grabbed my KH1 from the backpack and took it on two short POTA hunting sessions.

In both cases, I walked to the very back of my parents’ yard to distance myself from most of the QRM that surrounds their house.

During the late afternoon session, I decided to grab my camera and make a video.

Video

Here’s a real-time, real-life (short) video of my late afternoon POTA hunting session.  As with all of my videos, I haven’t edited this one. 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.

Being Present & Thank You

We admitted my mother into Hospice care on Monday (the day after I made the video above) and we don’t expect her to be with us much longer.

Because of Hospice, she is at peace, pain-free, and surrounded by her family. Mom made it clear to all of us that she is ready for the next adventure.

All of my energy is going into being present with her, my wife and daughters, my father, and my sister during this time.

Our community here on QRPer.com has lined up some amazing field reports and articles that will allow me to take a break from writing and, frankly, give me something to read and enjoy as well.

Thank you all for your support and kindness during this time.

72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

2,112 miles as AI7LK in the US Pacific Northwest

by Vince (VE6LK/AI7LK)

As always there are links within the article. Click one! Click them all! Learn all the things! 

In December of 2023, I found myself with a surplus of vacation from my employers, and my Brother who’s move-in date to his new home got suddenly moved forward to just before Christmas. I was able to get time off work and make an epic road trip with POTA stops along the way to both allow me to have some radio fun and to give my body a stretching break. My trip would take me from my home in Alberta, westward through British Columbia, southward into Idaho, Washington, Oregon and I even made it as far as Northern California to see the Pacific before turning around and heading back home.

Along the way, I activated at 14 stops which totaled 21 parks in all after factoring in the 2-fer, 4-fer and 5-fer stops! This was a total of 301 actual QSOs netting 508 after the x-fers were computed in. It was a mix of CW and voice with an average of 21 contacts per stop.

There were many highlights of the trip, and naturally spending time with my brother and his wife were at the top of the list–despite the work of moving into a house–followed by the simply spectacular scenery along the route and the route planning itself. While this trip was decided upon on a Thursday evening and I was on the road the following Monday, I still found about 10 hours to research points of interest along my routes and look for POTA entities that had either not been activated yet or were CW ATNO, having only had a Phone or Digital activation previously. For the most part, these were the stops I targeted as my waypoints.

The Columbia River is nearly a mile wide at Rooster Rock SP

Driving along the Columbia River Gorge on I-84 approaching Rooster Rock State Park felt like driving along the base of the Grand Canyon, given the 1000′ height of the cliffs beside me. Rooster Rock State Park (K-2850), is notable for two reasons. 1 – it’s a 5-fer activation point – my first 5-fer stop ever doing POTA, and 2 – it’s windy as heck as you can see in this short video I took for Charlie W7RTA who told me, via Discord, it would blow [what’s left of my hair] off my head.

Click here for 7 seconds of the Columbia River Gorge wind whipping the hair off my head!

Certainly Rooster Rock was a highlight given it’s the only 5-fer activation I’ve ever done. It was activated two hours after a 4-fer at Willow Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area (K-10646). I only learned about the multiples after chatting with folks on the POTA Discord server.

It was a short drive from Rooster Rock SP to the home of KJ6VU in Oregon City, Oregon. While I’ve worked with George on the Ham Radio Workbench Podcast for nearly three years, I’d never met him in person until this trip. It was such a treat to spend time with him.  George is the creator of the Packtenna that so many of us love to use. As luck would have it, the KJ6VU repeater was due for a replacement and scheduled for the next morning, and I was able to put my skills in racking (installing) repeaters to good use. After we finished the repeater I departed and did some performance testing while southbound on I-5 to test its range.

The repeater crew. L to R: Josh K6OSH, Nick KF7SOM, the Author, and George KJ6VU

Along the way I got to have a coffee break with Nick Smith NT3S who I had met via Discord. Nick can be found activating parks and going overlanding on weekends. Thanks Nick for the time to have a break with you!

Over the next several days I spent time in Grants Pass Oregon assisting my brother and his wife to get moved in. Grants Pass even has a Harbor Freight Tools and I was able to get some shopping done! So as it turns out I wouldn’t be slugging boxes every day and there was a bit of a break during my visit to go out and play radio. I know the POTA program is especially popular in the United States and I’d heard that every entity has been activated at least once, which is very different from here in Canada where many parks are untouched. In my research and thanks to the parks added in the autumn of 2023, there are some in the system that had never been activated. On one Saturday afternoon I was able to visit one of these parks -Cathedral Hills Trail System- and work 72 contacts in under an hour on SSB.

Cathedral Hills Trail System, Grants Pass Oregon
Tall trees at Cathedral Hills Trail System, Grants Pass Oregon

On the following Tuesday, I headed out from Grants Pass to head to California if only to tick off the box on POTA’s website saying I’d activated there. I had no idea that Highway 199 would be so scenic. I activated six entities on this day.

At the end of Highway 199 is Tolowa Dunes State Park (K-1202). The photo at the top of this article is on the dunes and at the coast of the Pacific Ocean near Crescent City CA. Yes, I walked along the surf despite the threatening weather. It also allowed me the luxury to park within the dunes themselves to do my activation with a spectacular view. Continue reading 2,112 miles as AI7LK in the US Pacific Northwest

Pairing the Elecraft KH1 and my Tufteln No-Transformer (aka, Speaker Wire) Antenna

On Thursday, November 30, 2023 I had a chunk of afternoon open to fit in some Parks On The Air time. My travels took me near one of my favorite local parks: the Zebulon Vance Birthplace Historic Site (K-6856).

As I packed my car that morning, I brought along some of my Mountain Topper transceivers as well. The plan was to first shoot a video comping the new Elecraft KH1 to these venerable SOTA machines, then do a POTA activation with the KH1 and a new-to-me kit antenna.

The Mountain Topper comparison took a bit longer than I had anticipated (surprise, surprise) so my POTA time was actually somewhat limited. If interested, my KH1/Mountain Topper comparison was posted several weeks ago–click here to check it out.

Tufteln No-Transformer EFRW

One goal of my afternoon activation was to finally put my new-to-me Tufteln “No-Transformer” end-fed random wire antenna on the air.

You might recall that I shared a campsite–during the W4 SOTA campout last year–with good friend Joshua (N5FY) of Tufteln fame and fortune. Being the antenna guy he is, Joshua brought along a full antenna building station and set it up on our picnic table. That first afternoon at camp, he gave me a kit to build this random wire antenna. Thanks again, OM!
These “No-Transformer” random wire antennas are designed to be paired with a good ATU–either external or internal. This type of antenna couldn’t be more simple.

Since there’s no transformer (no 9:1, etc.) the ATU does all of the heavy lifting to make a match. While this might not seem like an efficient way of doing things, one benefit of this design is that there’s no feed line: the radiator and counterpoise connect directly to the radio if your radio has a built-in ATU.  I’ve found that there’s some inherent efficiency in this approach.

Just two wires (radiator and counterpoise) connected directly to a BNC with a little strain relief.

The antenna is identical to the speaker wire antenna I built in the field and have used so extensively over the past few years. Joshua’s design is just much lower-profile and more compact.

When I built this particular antenna, I decided to go for a much longer length than any other random wire I’ve made to date. The idea was to have an antenna that might possibly match 80M. Joshua might correct me, but I believe we cut something between 70-80 feet for the radiator.

At Vance, I deployed this antenna into some short evergreens that surround the picnic shelter. It wasn’t an ideal deployment, per se, but adequate for a quickie activation!

I’ve learned that the length I chose for this radiator isn’t ideal for most of my ATUs to hit some bands. I will end up trimming this antenna a bit until I find the right length. I’m tempted to shorten it for matching on 60 meters, then build another 9:1 random wire to hit 80 and possibly 160 meters.

Setting up the KH1 took no time at all. I did discover during this activation that I needed to better secure the KH1 to the table. Wind gusts were tugging on the random wire a bit (as the trees swayed) and it would move the KH1 around on the table. The KH1 weighs less than a pound, so it’s super lightweight! This will be easy to fix next time.

Gear:

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

On The Air

I tuned the EFRW antenna on 30M and got a perfect impedance match.

I started calling CQ POTA and hunters replied!

In fact, I worked ten stations in exactly ten minutes. Two of them were Park-To-Parks–thanks KD8IE and KC3WPW!

I worked two more stations for a total of only twelve logged. I would like to have spent more time on the air, but I had two appointments on my schedule that afternoon.

QSO Map

Here’s what this five watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map:

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.

Thank you!

Thank you for joining me on this short activation!

Had I realized how low I was running on time at the beginning of this activation, I might have made the antenna deployment and my commentary a bit briefer to have more air time. That said, I don’t do POTA for the numbers, I do it because it’s amazing fun and such a positive part of my day. This little activation was no exception! Pure radio fun.

I hope you enjoyed this 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 certainly 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 make 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!

Have a brilliant weekend, friends!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Keying In The Rain: One rather soggy but incredibly fun POTA activation!

I’m lucky enough to live in a part of the world where–by and large–the weather is pretty darn nice.

In fact, I recently received a comment from a reader who jokingly said that I should work for the tourism board of western North Carolina because the weather always seems so pleasant in my POTA/SOTA videos.

It’s true: most of the time I hit the field to play radio, the weather is very pleasant.

That said, you see more of these “fair weather” activations because I tend not to make videos of ones in poor conditions mainly because I don’t like managing the camera in high winds, heavy rains, or even super cold conditions–especially when I want to get in and out of the field quickly. The camera tends slows everything down.

On Friday, December 1, 2023, though, I decided to do a park activation in the rain and make a video! Here’s my field report:

Pisgah National Forest (K-4510)

That Friday morning, I dropped my daughters off at classes, then made my way to the Mills River library to put the finishing touches on a field report and publish it. It was rainy and I wasn’t complaining; it had been a very dry fall in WNC up to that point.

After I published my field report and attempted to catch up on the email backlog a bit, I hopped in the car and headed to the Sycamore Flats picnic area in Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Pisgah Game Lands (K-6937).

That day, knowing it would be soggy, I packed my Discovery TX-500 which is pretty much rain-proof. By this, I mean that it’s designed to cope with rain, but it’s not designed to be completely submerged in water.

Truth be told, I had no intention of making an activation video. Once I arrived on site, though, I thought, “Why the heck not?” After all, other than being rainy and chilly, conditions were pretty pleasant. That and my OSMO action camera is completely waterproof.

I grabbed the camera and started filming the activation while closing up the car.

Setting Up

When playing POTA in the rain, I tend to select picnic tables or sites that are under the canopy of trees if at all possible. Trees not only provide antenna supports, but they also help divert a bit of the rain.

I found an ideal site under the canopy of a few hemlocks.

I deployed my PackTenna end-fed half-wave (EFHW) oriented (nearly) vertically and with the feed point close to the tree trunk so that it would be better protected from the rain. I wasn’t worried about the antenna getting wet, but I also didn’t want the toroid and windings to get completely soaked either. It’s never a bad idea to use what bit of natural protection the trees can offer.

As you can see in the photo above, I had my TX-500 completely exposed, but the battery, in-line fuse, and (to some extent) the speaker mic were all protected in the TX-500’s Telesin Case.

As always, I used my Rite In The Rain notepad which is a champ at handling wet conditions. Continue reading Keying In The Rain: One rather soggy but incredibly fun POTA activation!

October Leaf Colors at Lake James: Pairing the Elecraft KX1 and Chelegance MC-750

This past fall was a busy season for me.

So busy, in fact, I completely overlooked an activation video I filmed two months ago (on Monday, October 23, 2023)!

That said, one of the things I love about making field reports and recording videos is re-living activations a second time. It’s fun to remember the site conditions, the weather, the radio/antenna choices, and all of the folks I might have logged.

I enjoyed stepping back in time a couple of months for this one!

Lake James State Park (K-2739)

That Monday was the first day I surfaced to fit in an activation after fighting a respiratory bug the previous week. I felt much better and tested negative for Covid, so I made my way to Hickory to help my parents with some tasks.

On the way that morning, I stopped by Lake James to play a little POTA with one of my favorite radios in the world: the Elecraft KX1.

On October 23–as I mention in the video–the QRP world had only just learned about the new Elecraft KH1 and I had yet to receive the almost-production unit I ordered as a field tester.

I knew that once I received the KH1, I’d be using it heavily for a few weeks, so I wanted to fit in a little KX1 time in advance!

POTA in Color!

The weather and fall colors at Lake James were absolutely stunning!

New KX1 Tufteln Cover!

Back when I filmed this video, it had only been one week since the W4 SOTA campout where my friend Joshua (N5FY) gave me a few prototype snap-on protective covers for my KX1s.

These covers are very clever because they protect all of the important front-panel components yet remain very low-profile so add little bulk to the radio.

Image: Tufteln.com

Joshua provides two new screws for the front panel (you simply replace out the stock KX1 screw); the cover magnetically snaps onto the higher-profile screws and seats itself securely.

Image: Tufteln.com

I demonstrate my cover in the activation video.

At the time, this was a product Joshua was considering adding to the Tufteln line-up–since then, he’s made it available to order–click here to check it out.

At present, Joshua offers the covers in two colors: black and light brown. Mine are the light brown color.

You’ll notice in the video that Joshua added my callsign to the covers he gave me. I don’t think the production covers are customized with your callsign because Joshua makes these in batches. You would need to check with him about customization–I assume there would be an extra charge and lead time for that because it would require modifying the file and printing a one-off cover.At any rate, I love the covers and have added them to all of my KX1s. Note that I used a Sharpie to write the name of each radio on the cover–this makes it very easy to tell the difference between my KX1 models (they’re named Ingrid, Greta, and Ruby)!

Gear:

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

On The Air

It was early enough in the morning that I decided to spend some time on the 40 meter band to work POTA “locals.” I deployed my Chelegance MC-750 with the 40 meter coil.

I tested the SWR and discovered it was high due to a loose connection on the end of the cable assembly–I fixed that and the SWR came down to 2.5:1. With the MC-750, I could have easily lengthened or shortened the whip to get a perfect match, but instead I took the lazy (& speedy) route and simply used the KX1 ATU to get a 1:1 match.

Even though I’d spent a long time talking about the KX1, KH1, the Tufteln cover, etc. in the  video, I actually didn’t have a lot of on-the-air time. (Typical me to talk away my activation time!).

I started calling CQ POTA and the contacts started rolling in.

Within ten minutes, I’d already worked ten contacts.

I worked a couple more, then called QRT. Looking at the time, I had to end this activation earlier than I’d hoped. I needed to hit the road again.

I packed up in short order, but still took a few moments to enjoy the beauty of that lovely autumn morning.

QSO Map

Here’s what this five watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map:

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.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them. I enjoyed reliving this Octeber activation.

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.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make 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!

Here’s wishing all of the you best of the Holiday Season!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

30 Meters with a 4 Foot Whip–? Impromptu POTA Hunting with the Elecraft KH1!

My Elecraft KH1 packed in a Pelican Micro M40 case. This protects my KH1 while traveling around in my EDC backpack.

On Friday, December 8, 2023, playing POTA was not in the plan.

I needed to finish a field report, publish it, then attempt to make a dent in my email and comments backlog. Lately–as you might have noticed–it’s been difficult to keep up with everything.

That morning, I dropped off my daughter at her robotics class, then made my way to the Mills River Library and municipal park.

I arrived at the park around 9:20 AM, parked my car at one of the free EV charging spots, then walked to the library front door only to discover a sign that said they’d be opening an hour late (10:00).

All of the sudden, I had 40 minutes to kill.

Since my Elecraft KH1 now lives in my EDC backpack full-time, I thought, “Why not hunt a little POTA?

I started walking to the baseball field to set up then turned around, went back to the car, and grabbed my action camera. I mean…why not film this session since the camera was in the car trunk/boot? Right–? Right!

Gear:

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POTA Hunting!

Keep in mind that the Elecraft KH1 is designed to operate on 20, 17, and 15 meters using the 4 foot whip antenna (assuming you have the internal ATU option).

This was awfully early in the morning for any of those bands–I knew 20 meters would be my best bet of the three.

I tuned around, but I couldn’t hear or work any of the handful of activators on 20 meters. They were all outside my 20M propagation footprint–most were simply too close for 20M.

Then I noticed my buddy, John (AE5X) spotted on the 30 meter band.

For kicks, I tuned down to the 30 meter band, found a clear spot, then hit the ATU button. I was surprised to achieve a 2:1 match!

What?

Of course, a decent impedance match doesn’t equate to efficiency. Then again, what did I have to lose? Nothing…that’s what!

I called John once, but another strong station caught his attention. Once he finished that exchange, I called him again and he replied! Woo hoo!

I suspect my effective power output was around 1-2 watts, but it was enough to make an exchange with John, so I was a very happy camper.

I also tried to work KD8IE on 30 meters, but could not punch through the strong signals from other POTA hunters.

By chance, though, I heard my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) calling CQ POTA just below KD8IE.  I could hear Eric because I had my filter wide open–as in SSB wide.

I tuned  down, called him and he came back with my call and a question mark after two tries.

We exchanged details, sent 72, and logged each other. What fun!

I found out later that my signal level was actually fine on Eric’s end, but I was *almost* outside of his CW filter edges. He struggled hearing me because I was too far from his centered frequency. I didn’t notice this on my end, of course, because I had my filter so wide open.

I’ve learned from this: next time I’ll narrow my filter before hunting stations. The majority of activators do not run with their filters wide open like I do.

By the way, if you’d like to read Eric’s field report from that same time frame, click here.

Video

Here’s the real-time, real-life “Slow TV” video of this hunting session with the KH1:

Click here to view on YouTube.

30M on the KH1 whip!

I’m pretty sure Elecraft wouldn’t recommend using your KH1 on 30 meters with the whip only because of its low efficiency, but I also know the KH1 will have no problem dealing with the 2:1 match. I bet you’d get an even better match if you lengthen the counterpoise–I simply used the supplied 13′ wire.

Of course–and again–30M on a 4′ whip is not an efficient antenna system, but it’s efficient enough to make some contacts! As my buddy Kurt (NT0Z) says, “RF gotta’ go somewhere.

I will check in with N6KR and see what he says about this setup.

Library time

Post activation, I found a comfy spot to work in the library and published a new field report.

It struck me that no one passing by would have ever guessed that I had a full HF station in my backpack! For just a moment, it made me feel like an unassuming Cold War spy!

Oh yeah, the backpack: I took advantage of a Black Friday sale at Trakke and purchased the Bannoch Backpack I’d been eyeing for weeks–the discount was deep!

I justified this purchase knowing that I was doing my bit to support the economy of Scotland! Ha ha! Seriously, though, I do love this backpack.

Thank you!

Thank you for joining me for this mini POTA hunting session!

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make 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. Click here if you’d like to support me on Patreon. No pressure.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Ham Radio Workbenches On The Air (& POTA): A short field report and a very long activation video!

Many of you know I’m on the crew of the Ham Radio Workbench podcast. In fact, as of this month, I’ve been there a year now (my how time flies).  Although it shows a certain lack of judgement on their part, I’m glad they invited me on board!

On October 9, fellow HRWB crew member, Mark (N6MTS), pitched an idea to us via email:

“What do y’all think about doing an HRWB On The Air event?”

We all agreed it sounded like a great idea. Things like this normally take a year’s worth of planning, promoting, and organizing. Not when Mark’s in charge, though.

Next thing we know, Mark had us sorting out the best date/time (December 3, 2023/1800-22:00UTC) for HRWBOTA and even reached out to some amazing volunteers who helped put together a website and spotting page.

Holy cow!

December 3, 2023

I planned to operate the entire four hour event period from Lake James State Park (K-2730) since it would be an easy detour en route to Hickory, NC (where I was staying that night). Of course, each contact would could for both HRWBOTA and POTA.

The previous day, however, I learned that one of my daughters had a meeting in downtown Asheville from 18:00-19:00 UTC. She doesn’t have a driver’s license yet, so I had to take her. Had it not been an important meeting in advance of her finals, she would have skipped.

This really threw a wrench in the works. I knew that by the time her meeting ended and I dropped her off at the QTH, the earliest I could be at Lake James was 20:15-20:30 or so.

How could I increase my on-the-air HRWBOTA time?

KH1 to the rescue!

Since the Elecraft KH1 was packed in my EDC bag, I decided to play a little HRWBOTA in the parking lot behind the meeting building.

I wasn’t sure what to expect to be honest. I wasn’t spotting myself anywhere but the HRWBOTA spotting page, and I was limited to the 15, 17, and 20M bands with the KH1’s 4′ whip antenna.

I spotted myself, hit the air and started calling CQ HRWBOTA!

In the span of about 45 minutes, I managed to log a total of 15 stations! Not bad considering I was standing in an urban parking lot, swimming in QRM, and going QRP!

I didn’t make a video of this part of the HRWBOTA activation–sorry about that if you worked me then. I needed every moment of on-the-air time I could grab. Here’s my log sheet:

Lake James State Park (K-2739)

I legged it to Lake James after my daughter’s meeting–in fact, to save time, I started my activation video while I was still in my car driving on I-40.

I arrived at Lake James, parked, plugged in the car, grabbed my gear and made my way to the picnic area next to the lakeshore. It wasn’t hard to find a site with a tree that might support my KM4CFT 30/40M linked EFHW antenna.

I include the full antenna deployment and station set-up in my (rather long) activation video below. Continue reading Ham Radio Workbenches On The Air (& POTA): A short field report and a very long activation video!

SSB and CW QRP POTA: Testing my new KM4CFT End-Fed Antenna Kit!

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Jonathan (KM4CFT) sent me one of his new QRP end-fed half-wave/random wire antenna kits.

When my friend, Alan (W2AEW), caught wind that I planned to buy some 26AWG wire for this build, he sent me a spool of wire from a large reel he’d recently picked up at a hamfest.

What a nice guy! The blue wire is absolutely ideal for portable antennas.

Being the nice guy he is, Alan actually published a video about building Jonathan’s antenna kit on his YouTube channel. I highly recommend watching it!

Before I received the kit, I already knew what type of antenna I’d build: a 30 meter end-fed half-wave (EFHW) linked with a 40 meter extension. This antenna design has been on my mind for some time and Jonathan’s kit was the perfect excuse to build one.

Why a 30M EFHW with a 40M extension? Because a 40M EFHW gives me excellent SWR matches on 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters without needing an ATU.  A 30M EFHW gives me matches 30 and 17 meters.

Thus, with one linked wire antenna, I can cover 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, and 10 meters! That’s a lot of bands!

And since the antenna needs no extra matching, it’ll work with my transceivers that lack an internal ATU.

The Mountain Topper MTR-5B I acquired earlier this year.

In fact, I originally thought about this antenna design to use with my Mountain Topper MTR-5B which covers 40, 30, 20, 17, and 15 meters.

I built this antenna by first trimming it for a 1:1 match on 30 meters including a loop and strain relief to attach the extension.

When I was satisfied with my 30M EFHW, I then made the 40M extension, attached it to the 30M section with 2mm bullet banana connectors, then trimmed the antenna for a 1:1 match on 40M.

I spent the better part of 60 minutes trimming this antenna. I feel like patience really pays off because it’ll set up the antenna for good matches on all of the upper harmonics. Admittedly, I was a bit pressed for time that day, so I only tested this antenna in one configuration (an inverted vee shape) so hadn’t checked the SWR as a sloper or vertical.

My advice is to aim for a 1.3:1 or better match on 30M and 40M–that should be very doable if you wound your transformer correctly.

This was my first attempt at making in-line links, so I wouldn’t consider link my method as a “best practice”–rather, check out K7ULM’s guidance for making in-line links. Continue reading SSB and CW QRP POTA: Testing my new KM4CFT End-Fed Antenna Kit!