Friedrichshafen: Christian and Andrea’s Multi-Country POTA Rove

Many thanks to Christian (IX1CKN) who shares the following field report:


Friedrichshafen: POTA Across Borders

by Christian (IX1CKN)

The Friedricshafen fair is one of the most interesting events for its social aspects, where you can finally put a face to colleagues whose voices you’ve only ever heard. Among the various OM (radio amateurs) I met this year was Gabriele IT9RGY, a flagbearer of the Italian Contest Club. When he recognized Andrea IW0HK and me, he said, referring to our respective SOTA/POTA activities: “You two are the real deal.”

I found that to be a very powerful statement, and I am grateful to him for it. Personally, I try to document each outing to capture the sensations it gave me, but also in the hope of inspiring someone. Andrea is more succinct than I am (if we were all the same, the world would be boring), but his spirit is identical. Parks on the Air (POTA) is a state of mind. It was no coincidence that, being in Germany for the Hamradio Messe, we had planned a series of activations.

Our schedule was tight and ambitious, and just completing it was a source of happiness, but there’s more to tell. In Germany, dinner time isn’t synchronized with Roman schedules. So, on Friday evening, after leaving the restaurant (for dinner with the Summits On The Air group) at 20:23, I looked at Hotel-Kilo and said, “If I go to bed now, I’ll digest in a week; let’s go activate a reserve!”

The easiest option in the area (after a disastrous experience last year in DE-0156, the park in the town center hosting the fair) was DE-0766, the Seewald Landscape Reserve. It’s near the FRN airport (and thus not far from the fairgrounds), in a fully bucolic setting. A narrow road cuts through meadows, with footpaths and bike paths leading into a wooded area.

We parked the car in one of these spots. It took only a moment to set up the vertical antenna in the field, but the presence of a swarm of mosquitoes as big as F-18 Hornets advised us to operate from inside the car to save our skin (literally).

Andrea turned on the KX-3 (10 watts would be our fixed power for this trip), and the 14 MHz calls began. Right away, a very strong IZ3QFG Dario (just 380 km from us) answered, highlighting an unusually short skip.

We logged 20 QSOs in 30 minutes… Many were from Italy (Spartaco from Grosseto at full scale, Mauro I1JQJ always active, and Beppe I1WKN a constant), with two “park to park” contacts. A classic for many OMs in the area, but also a great mood booster and a tasty appetizer for the next day… Continue reading Friedrichshafen: Christian and Andrea’s Multi-Country POTA Rove

Construction Notes: VO1DR Monopod Antenna Mount

Many thanks to Scott (VO1DR) who shares the following guest post:


Construction Notes – VO1DR Antenna Mount for Camera Monopod

by Scott Schillereff,  VO1DR

Further to my article about radio during trip to Portugal, a number of readers asked for details on how I mounted my whip antenna system to my camera monopod for /P use.  Here are some photos and notes on this.

General notes:

  • This is a “straight-through” design.  Just direct connections from the BNC center pin to whip (via brass nut), and BNC housing to radial connector.
  • This is not a cook-book construction article, rather just a show-and-tell of how I built mine.  You can use what you have on hand to build something similar.
  • I suggest you start with your telescoping whip, so you know the size and threads for mounting bolt.
  • You could use any type of connector for the radial (wingnut, knurled nut, spade lug, alligator clip, whatever you like).  I prefer banana jacks since a) I can push in the radial banana plug fast, b) the plug is a weak release point (pulls apart if someone walks into the radial), and c) I can easily attach additional radial wires, if desired.
  • Use a strong case (metal clamshell or cast aluminum work well).  With the whip extended, there can be substantial forces (bending moment) from wind or handling. A tiny plastic case would be fractionally lighter but might fail.
  • For size, the one I used (25 x 25 x 50 mm; 1” x 1” x 2”) is about as small as I would go.  It needs to have a big enough footprint to sit firmly on a camera mount fitting.
  • Use high heat (e.g., Weller 100-140 W solder gun) when soldering the center pin wire to the brass whip mounting nut.  Solder the wire to the brass nut before you epoxy the nut.
  • I custom made the white plastic insulating bushing (where whip screws in). This was from a nearly-right bit from my junk box.  You can be creative here.  You could also epoxy on short piece of close-fitting, thick-walled PVC pipe around the outside of the whip mounting hole as a supporting sleeve to give some lateral support to whip when it is screwed in.
  • Dry-fit everything (before epoxying) to make sure nothing touches that shouldn’t and you can screw in the camera nut and whip fine.  Test proper continuity of center pin and radial connections to BNC fitting.  Once glued, there’s no going back!
  • For surfaces to be epoxied (metal nut sides and bottom, insides of mounting case), slightly roughen with sandpaper or jewellers file, then clean with isopropyl alcohol and Q-tip.  This will increase adhesion and strength.
  • Use good-quality, high-strength, long-cure epoxy (e.g., JB Weld), not el-cheapo 5-minute epoxy from the Dollar Store.  LET THE EPOXY COMPLETELY CURE BEFORE MESSING WITH IT!  Just walk away from it for a day… (your patience will be rewarded).

Figure 1 – VO1DR Antenna Mount, clamped onto top of monopod.  Coax goes to BNC on left; whip screws into top; raised radial connects by banana plug on right

Figure 2 – Antenna mount unclamped from top of monopod.  The black plastic fitting (at right, with wedge-shape) fits into slot on platform at top of monopod (at left) and clamps in with cam arm.  Large steel screw attaches wedge fitting to antenna mount case. Ruler shows scale of things.

Figure 3 – Antenna mount case (right) unscrewed from camera mount fitting.  Steel screw is standard camera mount size (1/4-20 thread size).  Black silicone cap keeps dust out of BNC connector.  If your camera mount does not have a detachable wedge fitting (like the one on the left), you would simply screw the camera mount screw directly into the bottom of the antenna mount case.

Figure 4 – Top of monopod dissembled to show (clockwise from top): black monopod tube with telescoping whip stored inside (stainless steel with 10 mm brass mounting bolt), antenna mount case, detachable camera mount fitting, and round top plate of monopod.  For my monopod, I had to remove one tiny screw and apply gentle torque to break a weak glue joint of this round piece on top of the monopod leg.  It remains a snug hand fit (no screw needed).

Figure 5 – Fully assembled whip antenna mount with wiring.  Radial (blue wire) with tie-off cord (yellow) at left; RG174 coax (5 m) at right.  Whip is only ever screwed in hand-tight.  Deploying in the field, I first tie off the monopod to something (park bench, picnic table, fence, tree), then screw the collapsed whip into the antenna mount and clamp mount on top of monopod, then plug in radial and tie the yellow cord off to something (straight out at 2 m height or slope down to ground anchor), and finally connect the coax to the rig.  When all in place, I carefully raise the whip (slowly, with two hands to reduce bending forces).  Take-down is all in reverse.

Figure 6 – Detail of antenna mount case.  Case is 50 mm x 25 mm x 25 mm aluminum clam shell box with square metal end plates.  These end plates are screwed in to hold the two halves together.  White plastic bushing provides additional lateral support for the whip when it is screwed in.  The bushing is glued to outside of case with CA (Krazy) glue.

Figure 7 – Inside of antenna mount case.  On left, a ¼-20 steel nut is epoxied to inside of case with strong JB Weld epoxy.  In main case, a 10 mm brass nut is epoxied to inside of case with an insulating washer beneath.  This brass nut connects to the whip and is “hot”, so must be insulated from the black aluminum case.  Yellow wire connects center of BNC to brass nut (soldered).  Black wire connects ground side of BNC to radial banana jack.  Use plenty of epoxy; there is a lot of force exerted on the steel and brass nuts.

Figure 8 – Detail of inside of case.  Note separation of banana jack solder post and edge of 10 mm brass nut.  Solder yellow wire to nut before epoxying in nut.

Hope you find this useful.  Just use what you have on hand and some ingenuity to make yours!

Best 72, Scott  VO1DR

QRP SOTA: Lee pairs the KH1 and MPAS 2.0 to activate High Willhayes (G/DC-001)

Many thanks to Lee (M0VKR) who shares the following field report and video:


SOTA CW Activation on High Willhayes Dartmoor

by Lee (M0VKR)

It was an overcast and breezy morning when wife Joanne and myself Lee, M0VKR set out on our latest SOTA (Summits on the Air) activation adventure. Our destination was High Willhays, the highest point in Devon UK – SOTA G/DC001, Dartmoor is well known for its rugged beauty and challenging terrain.

We parked the car a short distance up the road from the army camp, slung our packs over our backs and set off. The gravel tracks leading to the summit stretched out before us and took a winding path through the moorland.

A few sheep and cattle grazed in the rough grass as we made our way upwards on the gentle slope. It was a breezy morning and we had had rain a short while earlier. Despite the weather our spirits were high, and we were eager to reach the top and get on the air with the Elecraft KH1.

In my pack was my now trusty Elecraft KH1 and an MPAS 2.0 vertical antenna, with the KX3 as backup, a reliable setup for such expeditions. I’m pretty sure I could halve the weight in my pack, but as it’s not a huge walk to the summit I don’t mind ferrying the extra gear to the top. The weather, though overcast, was adding a touch of drama to the landscape, and the breeze kept us cool as we trekked upward.

Joanne, ever the supportive partner, helped carry some of the cooking equipment and victuals and she kept the mood light with her cheerful conversation.

After a brisk hike, we reached the summit of High Willhays. The view, even under the Grey sky, was breathtaking. Rolling green hills and expansive moorland stretched out as far as the eye could see.

I set about preparing the station, using the MPAS 2.0 vertical antenna, which is quick to deploy and ideal for the variable conditions we faced. Despite the less-than-ideal propagation conditions, I was determined to make the activation a success.

Although the MPAS in vertical form isn’t very efficient on 40, I prefer to take advantage of the quick setup that it offers, one of these days I will look at adding a top section to make 40 more efficient, perhaps as a sloping inverted L or something similar, more reading of the manual required!

With everything set up, I made the first call on the 40m band. My Friend Matt MW0KAX answered, he was essentially line of sight from Wales, so his signal was strong. That was the first and last contact on 40m. I changed to 20 meters, where the MPAS was more efficient for the little KH1 and it was able to breathe a bit easier. The tuner in the KH1 is nothing short of amazing, and quite happily tuned 40 meters in a few seconds.

The static crackled, and for a moment, there was silence. Then, a faint reply came through. The thrill of making that first contact was palpable. It still amazes me every time I make those first few contacts that QRP does work, even with a compromised antenna system. Despite the challenging conditions, My limited skill, Plenty of luck and the reliability of the equipment began to shine. All the equipment I was using was off the shelf, I hadn’t made a single thing myself, maybe one day.

One by one, contacts started to come in. Each short QSO contact was a small victory, a testament to perseverance and the joy of ham radio. It is necessary to persevere as a newer CW operator and use QRP power levels and poor propagation conditions. It’s non-negotiable after driving for 2 hours, and a 4km hike that we go home empty handed. I logged each contact meticulously, my excitement growing with every successful connection. Joanne watched on slightly bemused but very supportive of the hobby, sharing in the triumphs that each contact brings and providing much-needed encouragement.

By the end of the activation, We had made several QSOs. While the propagation conditions had been far from ideal, the activation was undeniably a success. We had achieved what we set out to do: connect with fellow hams across the airwaves from the summit of High Willhays for a SOTA activation.

As we packed up our gear, the breeze picked up, and the clouds began to clear slightly, offering a glimpse of blue sky. The trek back down was filled with reflections on the day’s achievements and plans for future activations. We both felt a deep sense of accomplishment. We had braved the elements, navigated the challenging RF conditions, and emerged victorious.

This activation, like many before it, was a reminder of the joys of ham radio, CW and QRP operation and the adventure it can bring. For me and my wife Joanne, High Willhays would always hold a special place in our memories, not just for its height, but for the heights that we reached together on the airwaves.

Activation Video:

Take care and Speak soon, 72,

Lee M0VKR

Tabletop QRP POTA: A Father’s Day Getaway to Mount Mitchell State Park

When our family needs a change of scenery without a long drive, Mount Mitchell State Park is our go-to destination. I’ve mentioned before that it’s my “happy place” here in North Carolina. Mount Mitchell is only about 6 miles from our home as the crow flies, but it takes about 50 minutes to drive there, and it’s not in the direction of any of our usual destinations. Heading up the Blue Ridge Parkway and watching the flora change with elevation makes it feel like a proper getaway.

On Sunday, June 16, 2024, we wanted just such a getaway, as my wife and daughters were treating me to some Father’s Day fun. After visiting my father-in-law in the hospital in the early afternoon, we drove to Mount Mitchell.

Mount Mitchell State Park (US-2747)

Sundays on Mount Mitchell tend to be busy, especially in the summer. However, on this particular Sunday, it was rainy, foggy, and there were storms in and around the area.

Weather like this never bothers us on Mount Mitchell, as it can shift in an instant, as long as thunderstorms don’t intrude.

As soon as we arrived, I grabbed my radio bag from the car and found an empty picnic shelter. I’d been hoping for a free shelter since it was raining, and fortunately, we got our pick!

One of the first things I did after dropping off my pack was to tie Hazel to a picnic table because she was laser-focused on a chipmunk she saw run up a tree next to the shelter. That dog drives chipmunks and squirrels crazy, I’m sure.

My wife and daughters dropped off some art supplies at one of the shelter tables, then went on a short hike while I performed my POTA activation.

Note that Mount Mitchell is also a SOTA summit, but the picnic area is not within the activation zone. I could have easily gone to one of my go-to SOTA spots on the summit and knocked out a SOTA activation quickly (only four contacts are needed), but I wanted to save that for another day. Plus, being in the shelter meant that I could have a nice leisurely, dry activation!

I brought along my Penntek TR-45L and planned to pair it with a random wire antenna for the activation. However, since the weather was iffy—again, my primary concern was any thunderstorms that might sneak up on us—I decided to skip the wire antenna and go tabletop instead.

Fortunately, my Elecraft KH1 lives in my EDC bag at all times, so I set it up for tabletop mode.

New Tufteln KH1 Right Angle Adapter

KH1 “tabletop mode” gave me the perfect excuse to try out an accessory my friend Joshua (N5FY) sent me: his version of a KH1 right-angle antenna adapter.

You might recall that I have used the Elecraft KH1 adapter in previous activations and I think it works brilliantly. The first version of Elecraft’s adapter had one issue: the parts would fall apart if you weren’t careful with how you attached it to the KH1.

Joshua designed his right-angle adapter with captive components so that it’s all in one piece and can’t come apart.

I should note here that Elecraft actually updated their right-angle adapter design so that it also has captive components as well—so you have two choices! I’ll use the new Elecraft adapter in a future video and field report.

Joshua’s Tufteln design works really well (it’s also less expensive than the OEM adapter), and I like that it’s bright red, which means I’m less likely to leave it in the field!

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 assumed that 20 meters might be the most productive band that afternoon, so that’s where I started calling CQ POTA after snagging a Park-to-Park with K9NUD. Continue reading Tabletop QRP POTA: A Father’s Day Getaway to Mount Mitchell State Park

WN5C: Notes from a homebrew POTA adventure

Many thanks to Sam (WN5C) who shares the following guest post:


Notes from a homebrew POTA adventure

Sam (WN5C)

I recently wrote about the homebrew transceiver I built to operate on a month-long trip through the American Southwest. Upon arriving back in Oklahoma here’s the final outcome: 27 days, 40 parks, and 669 QSOs. I honestly can’t believe that the rig went the distance, or that I made so many contacts on 2 watts or less!

The priority of this trip wasn’t radio, though. I’m an archaeologist and I’m starting a new research project that marries my historical interests with my love of two-way communication. In short, I’m studying the effects of how communication technology aided the American colonization and transformation of the western United States around the turn of the twentieth century. This means I walked and mapped single-wire telephone lines strung up in pine trees in northern New Mexico (used to connect fire lookouts with Forest Service ranger stations), a fascinating story of dramatic changes in land management. I also visited heliograph (sun-mirror signaling) stations established in southeastern Arizona by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1886 to assist in apprehending Geronimo.

Working Fort Bowie NHS (US-0815) in Arizona. The peak in the distance, Helen’s Dome, had a heliograph station on top. From the fort telegraph lines would have connected remote operations to the rest of the Army’s 1880s communication network. Next time I’m climbing up on top!

I look forward to relocating and studying the artifacts from more of these heliograph sites (mostly on remote peaks) to reconstruct this communication network and understand the lives of both the soldiers and the Apache, and how this novel surveillance system altered the battlefield. Based on the artifacts I’ve seen so far there are many cans of Army-issued proto-Spam and beer bottles surrounding the signaling station where American Morse Code would have been sent and received via flashes of sunlight. The original Field Day?

But back to radio. I covered a lot of ground and activated parks in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Kansas.

The POTA sites that I activated (click image to enlarge).

At some locations I was camping so I was able to do multiple long activations and work the lower bands well into the evening. These were some of my favorite moments of the trip, being the only spot on the POTA app and leisurely working with no time or weather-based worries. It also gave me a chance to hear callsigns I was unfamiliar with, essentially exploring a new area of the country.

Working closer states after hours on 30 and 40 meters at Colorado NM (US-0918).

For other times, due to time constraints or weather (thunderstorms or that it was unbearably hot), I got my 10 contacts and moved on. Sometimes I packed the equipment for a long hike, often carried it from the car to a picnic table, and a few times deployed my antenna and operated from my vehicle.

Not every activation was a grand adventure. Sometimes, like here at Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR (US-0226) in Colorado, I worked from the passenger seat in the car.

Every activation was memorable in its own way. I worked folks from 44 states, five Canadian provinces, and an unforgettable contact from Italy.

A map of the contacts I made (not including those in northern British Columbia, Alaska, and Italy).

The radio held up surprisingly well. Aside from it looking like a Dalí painting as the 3D printed box continued to deform in the heat, and some hot glue remelting, the electronic components worked as they should. I look forward to printing a stronger case and making some upgrades going into the fall. I do now have a real respect for the engineering that goes into designing field radios, especially those that are thrown into a pack!

Setting up a portable shack on Vail Pass in the White River NF in Colorado (US-4410). This was near the end of the trip, the plastic case was looking pretty bad.

After I began feeling less anxious about the homebrew radio (it kept turning on!) I could start focusing on the trip itself: an amazing POTA adventure with an often-uncooperative sun. Here’s a few themes I noted. Continue reading WN5C: Notes from a homebrew POTA adventure

War Diaries: Stalemate by Volodymyr Gurtovy (US7IGN)

I am pleased to announce that my friend and QRPer contributor, Wlad (US7IGN), has released his latest book: War Diaries: Stalemate.

You might recall Wlad’s first book, War Diaries: A Radio Amateur in Kyiv, which we’ve mentioned here and on the SWLing Post.

Wlad has seen firsthand what it’s like to live and work in Kyiv during the Russian invasion. Through his diaries, you feel like you’re right there with him, experiencing the dangers and instability that come with living in a country under attack.

I highly recommend Wlad’s first book, and I’ve already ordered his second. I hope you’ll consider ordering a copy as well. It’s available in both print and eBook formats.

Wlad is a regular contributor and commenter here on QRPer.com (and over at the SWLing Post)–his books offer a unique perspective on the war from the viewpoint of an SWL and ham radio operator. It’s a fascinating perspective from a truly remarkable individual.

Click here to purchase War Diaries: Stalemate.

Note: All Amazon links are auto-converted to affiliate links that support QRPer.com (and the author) at no cost to you.

VO1DR Portable in Portugal: Coffee, Cobblestones and Contacts!

Many thanks to Scott (VO1DR) who shares the following guest post:


Coffee, Cobblestones and Contacts – Portable in Portugal

by Scott Schillereff, (VO1DR), St. John’s, NL, Canada

On a recent trip throughout Portugal (May 29 – June 12), I operated /P QRP CW at five locations, with varying success.  Here are some details and pictures that you might find interesting.

Portugal and /P sites

Figure 1 shows a map of Portugal and the five locations where I operated.  On this trip, we were on the move a lot, so radio was tucked in here and there when I found some free time.

Figure 1 – Portugal and operating locations. 1 Lisbon, 2 Faro (Algarve region), 3 Foz do Duoro (near Porto), 4 Funchal (Madeira island; off coast of Morocco), 5 Monte Estoril (coast west of Lisbon).

QRP gear

I was packing the following gear in a small compartmented zip bag:

  • ATS-V5 CW transceiver for 15, 12, and 10 m (small-run kit from Steve Weber, KD1JV; fits into lid-less Altoids tin).  My max P(out) was 1.7 W on 15 m rising to 2.3 W on 10 m.
  • Homebrew whip antenna system.  2.54 m telescoping whip on top of a 2 m camera monopod; raised radial (coiled up to preset lengths to resonate on each band); no ATU; directly wired via 5 m of RG174 coax to choke at rig.
  • Homebrew common mode choke – RG174 coax threaded through five FT37-43 toroids and coiled around a larger unknown ferrite core (scavenged from TV).
  • Homebrew resistive SWR bridge – common design to null out an LED at low SWR; max tuning SWR 2:1; switchable in and out of Tx circuit; direct BNC connector to rig
  • 30,000 mA-hr Lithium-ion battery– car jump-starter; lightweight (284 g); 15V and 5V no-load outputs; 15V output through voltage controller to rig.  One charge did entire trip.
  • Homebrew Voltage Controller – simple design based on LM317T regulator and small V-A display (see article in SPRAT #195, p.24).  Vin max 40V; Vout 1.2-37V; Iout up to 1.5A.
  • Homebrew single paddle key, made with popsicle stick inside a plastic screw-top vial.

I chose a whip- versus a wire-based antenna system because I anticipated setups on hotel balconies, beaches or in city parks, not “off in the woods”.  Wire antennas are certainly more portable and could be taken in carry-on without worry, but might be more noticeable during setups in city parks.  Wire antennas are also not much good on beaches or balconies (without distant anchor points).  I wanted to be less conspicuous, and didn’t need to worry about weight.

Air travel with radio gear

I put all my QRP gear and antenna in my checked bag and had no trouble anywhere.  I added a note in English and Portuguese stating that this was amateur radio gear for hobby use, and included a copy of my Canadian licence. I probably could have taken the works in carry-on, but I was a bit uncertain about the metal monopod and whip (might be perceived as a weapon) so I just checked it all.

1. Lisbon Old Town

Due to a *two-day* travel disruption on the way to Portugal (thanks to Air Canada at Toronto Pearson airport; another story), we only had one night in Lisbon. Our hotel was a four-storey concrete and steel building in a narrow street. Our 3rd storey room had two little balconies about 3 m apart, with metal rails. To test the waters, I mounted the monopod and whip on one balcony and tied off the radial to the other balcony. The antenna impedance match was fine but, either due to band conditions, night time, or metal in the buildings, all three bands (15-10 m) were dead. Not a single signal; not even the ghoulish drone of digital signals; a total bust. Not a great start, but things improved later – read on!

Figure 2- Tram on steep street in Lisbon Old Town, close to our hotel

2. Faro (Algarve Region)

We travelled by wonderful inter-city Portuguese train to Faro in the Algarve.  Faro is a hub city in this sun-drenched and slow-moving southern region of Portugal; a region where everyone seems to be in second gear, and quite content there. Being a coastal city, I had hopes of good propagation.  Our schedule meant I could only play radio at our hotel late one afternoon. I set up in a quiet corner of a concrete-walled, 2nd storey courtyard with an open roof.  The top of the whip extended ~1 m above the concrete wall, but the radial was deployed entirely within the courtyard.  An improvement on the air – I could hear a number of stations, mainly on 15 m, and worked LY2NK (Lithuania, 3,119 km).  I was amazed at what 1.7 W and a whip antenna with a single raised radial could do!

Figure 3 – Walking street in Faro, 5 min from our hotel.
Figure 4 – Boats at Ilha da Culatra, on day trip out of Faro

3. Porto and Foz do Duoro (“mouth of the Duoro”)

We travelled on a delightful high-speed train (complete with coffee and snacks trolley down the aisle!) up to Porto in the north of Portugal.  Porto has a much different vibe than the Algarve.  A more working-class, energetic, commercial feel, and steeped in the wine- and port-making industry along the picturesque Duoro River. The Duoro Valley is a huge viticulture region and, yes, they still stomp grapes with bare feet on harvest day (don’t worry – in the making of port, fortification with 60% alcohol (aguardente) abruptly stops sugar fermentation and kills every living microbe in the batch!).

One afternoon, we took a clattering electric tram from downtown Porto west to Foz do Duoro, a seaport town 6 km away where the Duoro R. empties into the Atlantic.  After an espresso in an outdoor café, I set up the radio in a city park adjacent to the ocean – monopod lashed to a park bench and a radial tied off to a palm tree.  Figure 5 shows my park bench set up with a sea wall and Atlantic in the distance.  In QRP radio, as in real estate, “localização, localização, localização”!  Conditions were great here and I worked these stations on 15 m:  TM56JO (France; 1,087 km); HA0DD (Hungary; 2,476 km); OU5U (Denmark; 2,146 km); LY2PX (Lithuania, 2,903 km); and 9A2N (Croatia, 2,119 km).  Very exciting! And, again, passers-by  took no notice.

Figure 5 – Radio set up on park bench, Foz do Duoro, Portugal. View west to Atlantic Ocean in distance.
Figure 6 – Detail of my radio set up. Clockwise from L to R: paddle key in clear plastic vial; blue floss container with volume control for ear buds; ATS-V5 rig (green cover) in bottom of Altoids tin; oltage controller in bright blue Altoids tin; Li-ion battery pack (black rectangle); common mode choke (red sleeve); resistive SWR bridge (silver top with LED). Zippered back for this gear is immediately to right. The whip collapses to about 14 in and fits inside the camera monopod for transport.

4. Madeira

Air travel is fairly cheap within Portugal, so we detoured to Madeira, an autonomous Portuguese island in the Atlantic ocean ~1,000 km southwest of Lisbon.  The main city (Funchal) is about even with Casablanca on the Moroccan coast.  Madeira is a very rugged volcanic island with its highest point (Pico Ruivo) 1,862 m (6,109 ft) above sea level.  We were based in Funchal and toured around to see the sweeping vistas, mountain-scapes, and steep coastal cliffs. Continue reading VO1DR Portable in Portugal: Coffee, Cobblestones and Contacts!

Eternal Keypad for the IC-705? Shane is visually-impaired and seeking advice.

Many thanks to Shane who writes with the following question:

I really need some advice.

I know you have produced many videos on the Icom IC-705, and I am wondering if there is a way to directly enter frequencies on this rig, without using the touchscreen.

Being totally blind, I really need to know this before I fork out around $1400 or so, and I figured you (or someone you know) might have the answer?

Is there a small external keypad, like the one that I use with my Yaesu FT-891. Any help you could give me would be so much appreciated, here. Best and 73

Great question, Shane. We’ve touched on this topic before, but not specifically about the Icom IC-705.

Photo shows the color touch screen of the IC-705At the end of the day, the IC-705 is a very visually-oriented radio since so many of the important features and functions rely on a dynamic, flat, color, touch-screen display. There are physical buttons, but they are typically used to open up more options on the touch-screen display.

I don’t know of an external keypad for the IC-705 that allows for direct frequency entry. I have seen external pads for controlling CW and Voice memory messages, but not for direct frequency entry.

Photo of the IC-705 on a picnic table at the Vance Birthplace.

I’ve spent the better part of a half-hour looking through the IC-705 advanced manual.

I was hoping to find that there were voice announcements above and beyond those found in the Function menu (which are somewhat limited). Unfortunately, I don’t see a way that it can announce each digit entered in the frequency input, nor a way to audibly confirm the frequency, either in voice or CW.

As for other ways of entering frequencies outside of the radio—say, via a PC—I know this can be done. I use a program with my Macbook called SDR-Control. It will wirelessly connect to the IC-705 and allows you to directly enter the frequency via your computer keyboard. Using a computer adds an extra level of complexity, though, and I’m not sure if a screen reader would work well with it. You might reach out to the developer in case others have asked.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure the IC-705 would be the best choice in terms of accessibility when you’re blind or visually impaired, since, at its core, its main interface relies on a touch screen and very few physically defined buttons and controls.

Any experience here?

Photo of the IC-705 on a picnic table at an angle. Also in the photo is a logbook and key.I would love to stand corrected, though!

Readers: If you have any advice for Shane, especially if you use the IC-705 and are visually impaired, please comment!

Shane is specifically asking if there is an external keypad out there that could be used with the IC-705. It seems with all of the connectivity of the IC-705, there might be something out there that would work.

I should add: if there are peripherals and techniques used with its 100W sibling, the IC-7300, they may also work with the IC-705 since the user interfaces are so similar.

Let’s see if we can help Shane!

Experimenting during Field Day 2024

by Vince (VE6LK)

Field Day 2024 started out with the best of plans to be spent with the best of friends and ended up totally different – and, unexpectedly, I had a hoot! With my carefully made plan behind me, my new last-minute plan was to run solo for Field Day in the backcountry of Kananaskis Country and bring along my new-to-me Nikon D3400 and lenses and rekindle my interest in (D)SLR photography at the same time as doing some experimentation with radio gear.

I grew up in a home with a scratch-built enlarger and a darkroom, so a love of taking pictures has been with me for a long time. My Father taught me patience to get the shot as he would set up a 120 format bellows camera on an air-triggered remote release to get closeups of chipmunks while we were camping, a process that took hours and yielded excellent results. My Brother, AG7GM, has attempted to instill within me the basics of composition, rule of threes and such and his wonderful skill in editing both stills and live video. While I have plenty of patience, with composition I think I’m fair to middling at best.

Thus photography has always been on my mind.

With a recent sale of a few ham radio related items, I had fun money, so just for fun I started looking [on Thursday before I activated] at used DSLRs and was shocked at how much camera I can get for such a relatively low cost compared to new. I had said once, 25 years ago when I divested out my 35mm kit, that when I could get a DSLR with a 25 to 300mm lens for <$500 I’d jump in… and finally that day is here, even if it means carrying two lenses. Of course, I started looking on the day before Field Day for deals – and scored them too! 🙂 Around these parts, good quality pre-owned consumer grade DSLRs are easily available. I purchased this as much for still photography as for ability in shooting high-quality video for my YouTube channel.

These peaks form part of the border between Alberta and British Columbia to the west

For me, Field Day has always been about the experimentation rather than chasing points. Trying new things. Changing up from the normal way I operate in the field. Comparing, analyzing and making notes as I go.

For example, and as a tribute to Chip Margelli K7JA (SK) after corresponding with his brother David, last year I attempted to wet a piece of string and see if the KX3’s tuner would match it and radiate a signal. Chip was known for many things, among them his proficiency in CW as he demonstrated on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2005. David told me that he and Chip would do crazy and fun experiments like loading up clotheslines and wet string to experiment .. and it fostered a new direction I could take each FD and on some days between. The string experiment was a failure last year but I haven’t given up yet!

This year, I wanted to work with a few different antennas and a Charmast 100W battery pack from Amazon along with a USB-C PD 12v power cable for my KX3 [note: Amazon affiliate links!].

I wanted to know, in no uncertain terms, that the Charmast would or wouldn’t be as quiet as my trusty Talentcell LiFePO4 pack. The Charmast is also used in my field soldering kit with a Pinecil as it delivers USB-C PD. What better way to test this out than to head as far away from noise sources as possible, see the Canadian Rockies in their early summer glory with snow on the peaks, rivers running high (and cold) and the sun in the sky? Just for grins I would ensure that I was in POTA entities while doing Field Day.

Continue reading Experimenting during Field Day 2024

On a POTA Mission with the RGO One!

On Thursday, June 6, 2024, I had two missions:

  1. To help fellow volunteers at the Asheville Radio Museum assemble shelving.
  2. To fit in a POTA activation over lunch.

I started out the day pretty early at the QTH sorting out a few chores, then I made my way to the museum around 9:30.

The Asheville Radio Museum

I’m a member and volunteer of the Asheville Radio Museum, a small – but brilliantly curated – museum on the campus of Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.

That Thursday morning, we organized a shelf-building party to assemble a shipment of new shelves we’re going to use to house our collection in a new space A-B Tech has given us on the third floor of the Elm building.

We’re super excited about the new space not only because it’s much larger, but there’s even a dedicated workbench where we can invite students and guests to learn some soldering and repair skills.

If you’re ever in the Asheville, North Carolina area, I’d strongly encourage you to check out the Asheville Radio Museum. Check our website for directions and hours.

We ended up working on the shelves for a couple of hours, and once assembled, I decided to grab lunch at Bridge & Tunnel Coffee in the Coman Student Activity Center next door. The food and coffee were absolutely amazing. A-B Tech students are so lucky to have a café of this caliber on campus!

I spent more time hanging with my friends at lunch than I had planned. No regrets there.

I knew there was still plenty of time to make my way to the Vance Historic Birthplace and fit in a POTA activation! Twenty minutes of driving later, and I was pulling into the Vance parking lot.

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (US-6856)

As I made my way around the visitor’s center, I was very pleased to see that the picnic shelter was unoccupied. School was still in session for many districts in the area and field trips tend to take place near the end of the term. Had there been a school group at this small historic site, I would have gone elsewhere to activate so as not to disturb them.

The weather was pretty amazing – the perfect day to be outdoors playing radio.

Speaking of radio, I brought a special one with me that day.

The Mission RGO One

As I mention in my activation video below, I receive more questions about this radio than any others I take to the field. Some have seen it in previous activation videos, and many see it in my QRPer.com banner rotation.

Typically, I’ll get a message with the following question, “Thomas, what is that cool radio with the white faceplate I see in the banner on QRPer?”

It’s no wonder I get a lot of questions about it. The Mission RGO One is a very low-production run modular transceiver – the creation of Boris Sapundzhiev (LZ2JR).

Boris produces the Mission RGO One in small batches at his facility in Bulgaria. This is very much a cottage industry radio – one you won’t find in many shacks or on Field Day because there just aren’t a lot out there (compared with Yaesu, Elecraft, Icom, etc.).

I’m a massive fan of the RGO One. So much so, that if I had to pare down my radio collection to only two HF transceivers, the RGO One would be one of those two.

I love the RGO One’s legacy design and the fact it’s a down-conversion superhet receiver with 9MHz IF. The receiver is absolutely amazing.

You don’t see the RGO One in many of my POTA videos mainly because I tend to use my smaller, portable radios in the field. That said, the RGO One was designed with field operating in mind – it’s a very capable radio and lightweight compared to other tabletop radios.

The RGO One is my main HF radio in the shack, so it actually gets heavy use. If I’ve ever hunted you at the QTH while you were activating a park or summit, it was likely with the Mission RGO One.

As I mention in the video, I will plan to make a “Getting To Know You” video with the RGO One in the near future, so I’ll speak a bit more about it then.

In the meantime, you can read my full review of the Mission RGO on The SWLing Post and check out more about any upcoming production runs on Boris’ website.

Setting Up

I decided to deploy my KM4CFT EFHW kit that I trimmed for 30 meters with a 40-meter extension. This antenna is brilliant because it resonates on 30 and 17 meters as a 30-meter EFHW, then if you link the 40-meter extension, it’ll give you 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters. That’s six bands on one antenna without the need for an ATU.

Next, I paired my Begali Traveler paddles with the RGO One.

Although the RGO One has a maximum output power of 50 or 55 watts, I had it set to my standard 5 watts QRP.

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

Being in the early afternoon, I decided to hop on 20 meters first, as I assumed it might be one of the more productive bands. Conditions – as we all know – have been quite rough as of late, so I tend to start my activation on the band where I think I’ll accumulate the most contacts. Continue reading On a POTA Mission with the RGO One!

QRP radios, product announcements, reviews, news and more. Low power amateur radio fun!