Many of you have reached out this week congratulating me on the article that features my work in the April 2023 issue of QST. Thank you all for the kind words.
I’m truly honored that QST would feature my work here on QRPer.com and my YouTube channel in their pages. Steve (K5ATA) wrote a very gracious article, and frankly, I don’t know what to say other than thank you!
I’d like to thank all of you, readers, for making QRPer.com what it is today with your contributions, guest posts, field reports, hints & tips, and words of encouragement to others in the comments section. I’m honored to have even played a modest role in your radio journey, and your feedback and contributions have taught me so much, which, I feel, has made me a better field operator.
On Sunday, February 19, 2023, I felt like I was moving in slow motion.
The previous day started early and I fit in a long hike, a SOTA/POTA activation, and a second park activation. Round trip driving time was about four hours, but it was worth it. I had an amazing time. Those field reports will be posted in the upcoming week.
The previous evening, I also participated in a live stream and after hours chat with Josh (KI6NAZ) on his amazing Ham Radio Crash Course channel. It was loads of fun, but I was up pretty late after a long day.
Sunday morning, I was feeling it and couldn’t decide if I wanted to do a POTA activation on the drive back to the QTH. In case I decided to, early that morning, I scheduled an activation at Table Rock Fish Hatchery with a very wide activation window. I often don’t have enough mobile phone service to self-spot at that particular site, so I decided that if I was able to make the activation, it would cover me.
I wasn’t even ten minutes into the drive home when I decided to go for the Table Rock activation, of course! I seem to never be too tired for some POTA!
I did make up my mind in advance to try to activate the park on 17 meters because 1.) there was a CW contest that weekend, and 2.) I wanted a more laid-back activation instead of a pileup. I figured 17 meters would have some activity, but not to the degree of the non-WARC bands.
Table Rock State Fish Hatchery (K-8012)
I decided to record the entire activation from set-up to pack-up so I grabbed the action camera from my radio bag in the passenger’s seat and started recording as I pulled into the site.
I had a lot of gear in the trunk/boot of my car–more than normal–because I brought along quite a few radio packs to show on the HRCC live stream for this trip.
I grabbed the Penntek TR-45L and PackTenna random wire. I thought they would pair nicely for a casual POTA activation.
I wasn’t sure if I should write a report about this activation. It was “average” at best. But I thought it might be worth to share that not all activations are perfect, with stunning views in an enjoyable environment.
I am a relatively new ham and completed my first exam in mid-2019. It took me a while to get my head around all the things that the new hobby is offering. My first successful portable activation was in May 2021 on the SOTA summit Michelsberg (DM/BW-855) – here is a picture of my most recent activation some weeks ago:
This first activation was in the middle of the Corona pandemic. The good thing during the Corona time was certainly the possibility to work from home. Before Corona, I did commute roughly 65 km / 40 mi (oneway), which took me in total 2–3 hours daily. During the first two years, I was in the office two times. In the third year, I was there more often, maybe once every two months.
Two weeks ago, my employer announced a “return-to-office” policy, so the “sweet life” was coming to an end.
After the first disappointment, I thought that this may offer me the chance to work portable at new locations. The next SOTA summit is around 20 km / 12 mi away, but a POTA park begins 2 km / 1.2 mi from the office at the pin in the map below. The park is basically all the green wood in the center of the map.
That comes in very handy, as POTA, with the possibility to operate next to my car, does make it easier than hiking in suit and tie to a SOTA summit.
The Nature Park Schönbuch, POTA DA-0008, located southwest of Stuttgart, is a wooded area of 156 km² / 38,000 acres. In 1972 in became the first nature park of the federal State of Baden-Wuerttemberg. The park is an important recreational area for the region.
Right at the beginning of the park, when coming from my office, there is a parking place and next to it a clearing with a fireplace. I thought that this would be a perfect spot for my activities. Weather was cold and windy on my first “return to office” day, I did not expect too many people to be there.
After working and reading the article about the 2023 QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo, I decided to leave the office early at around 4pm and started my activation.
The parking place at the park was pretty empty, just one old car with four lads in it and doing whatever lads are doing in the woods. I have a 16-year-old son and have given up trying to understand what boys at that age are doing.
The spot was OK, but not as perfect as I had thought. It was in a trough surrounded by large trees. In addition, it was wet, cold and windy.
Due to the wind, I have decided against the 10 meter / 33 ft pole and used the PAC-12 again.
The actual activation did not go as smoothly as my previous one. It might have been due to the time, and afternoon during the week, or the topographical conditions. With a small foldable seat and a tiny desk made of a trunk and a brick, I operated for 40 minutes.
In total, I made 16 QSOs; 10 on the 30-meter band and 6 QSOs on 20 meters.
Although I made a successful activation of the Nature Park Schoenbuch, DA-0008, I think I need to change my plans. Being in the office and therefore close to this park more often in the future, I will be more picky in terms of weather and location. The park has way more to offer than a wet and cold meadow in the middle of the woods. I will look for better weather and locations, such as the following – I just need to find those places.
My Postcard Field Reports are information-packed, just slightly more concise and distilled than my average field report so that I can publish them on a busy day.
One of the least expensive radios I’ve ever purchased is my TEN-TEC R42020 two-band CW only radio. I believe I paid $120 for it (shipped!) a couple years ago and it sat on my shelf unnoticed for months until I took it on a POTA activation last year.
Here’s the admission: I really love this little radio!
It is not a feature-rich radio, and the sidetone sounds like a 1080s handheld arcade game, but it works a charm! The receiver and audio are fantastic and it sports two of my most useful POTA/SOTA bands: 40 and 20 meters.
What’s not to love?
I had an early morning doctor’s appointment on Thursday, February 23, 2023. As a little reward for doing my annual physical I decided to add a POTA activation to my morning. This was a last minute decision, so only a couple minutes before leaving the house that morning, I grabbed my TEN-TEC R4020, the Chelegance MC-750, and my Spec Ops Backpack (filled with all other field accessories), and I hit the road!
I chose the MC-750 that day because I needed an antenna that could be configured to be resonant on 40 meters since the R4020 has no internal ATU. That and I couldn’t remember if I’ve configured the MC-750 for 40 meters in the past. I know I’ve deployed the MC-750 with the 40M coil, but I think I may have used an ATU to match it.
The search for the best portable speaker for ham radio.
Welcome to the end of my exhausting search for what maybe the best speaker for portable ham radio.
My list of requirements was short: it had to be small, amplified, and have an internal battery.
But most importantly, it had to have a AUX input.
The last requirement shortened the list very quickly. Most speakers today that have any quality of build are lacking in the old fashion AUX connection.
I tried a minimum of six speaker and even tried making one of my own. Rich sound quality was not most important factor to me. Let’s face it: we are not listening to the Beatles.
Now we are going to focus in the two that made the cut. On the bigger side was the JBL Charge 4. Rugged? Yes. Battery life? Great. Size and weight? OK. Take it from the car to the picnic table ok? Yes. Throwing in the pack for a SOTA or a long hike? Not the best choice.
Thank you for sharing this, Mike. I’m often asked about the portable speaker I use in the field. It’s a Sony SRS-XB12, but the only good source of them is eBay because they’ve been discontinued for so long.
This Anker speaker seems to be the same size and sport the same features of the Sony, at a slightly lower cost. I’ve also had very good luck with Anker products in the past (I’ve had some of their ear buds and several of their battery banks). In fact, I’ve just ordered this speaker because the battery life is also much better than that of my Sony speakers. I’ll plan to take this to the field and include it in my activation videos–I’ve give the Sony speakers to my daughters.
Because I receive so many tips from readers here on QRPer, I wanted way to share them in a concise newsletter format. To that end, welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links to interesting stories and tips making waves in the world of radio!
Adrian Ciuperca (KO8SCA): 3Y0J Presentation to the Northern Illinois DX Association
Many thanks to Eric (WD8RIF) who shares this excellent presentation by Bouvet activator, Adrian (KO8SCA):
Many thanks to Scott Wooten who shares the following announcement via YouTube:
Welcome to the Georgia State Parks on the Air event. Our goal is to have all fifty Georgia State Parks on the air in one weekend. This event is open to all licensed Amateur Radio Operators whether you live in Georgia or not.
There are two ways to participate: Activating or Hunting. Activators fall into two different categories: Single Operator or Club, and there is a special category for Georgia ARES operations.
The first annual 36 hour event kicks off on April 1, 2023 at 1200 Zulu and concludes at 2359 Zulu on April 2, 2023.
If you participate please remember this event is considered a CONTEST, so while casually operating Parks on the Air on the WARC bands is permissible, this event does not allow operations on the WARC bands.
For more information or to sign up as an activator, go to GAPARKS.org
A completely under-prepped SOTA & WWFF activation which turned out to be perfect
In preparation for a tough conversation a good friend once told me: “You know what, just walk into the fire. If you have bad news to deliver, don’t sugar coat it and do it right away. You’ll be fine.”
“Just walk into the fire.” I believe this can be applied to many other situations in life. While I would consider myself to be well-prepared on most trips, hikes and activations and getting a lot of joy out of optimizing my kits I try to stay open-minded. Imagine the things you would miss out on if you wouldn’t be spontaneous or only do things while fully prepared and 100% safe – even if it means taking risks.
Last Wednesday, I kind of walked into the fire. Not fire as in fire-fire but fire as in Latvian winter storm. In general this wouldn’t be such a big deal had I brought the right clothes, gear and shoes to my short business trip to Riga.
Due to very strict luggage restrictions I could only bring one small backpack for three days. Inside I had enough room for a laptop, washbag, spare clothes and the compact QCX-Mini Kit I built for exactly these occasions. I was wearing sneakers and jeans. At this point I had not planned a specific activation but I wanted at least to be able to operate YL/ & /p maybe 30 minutes from a nearby park – not a problem if you can jump right back into the warm hotel afterwards.
During our stay, my schedule for Wednesday morning freed up so I decided to try activating one out of only three SOTA summits in Latvia: YL/YL-003. It turns out this summit is also located within WWFF territory YLFF-0007 about a 1,5h drive from Riga. Big Thanks to Val (YL2SW), Latvia’s WWFF manager, for assisting me with local rules and processing my log. A quick look at the weather forecast showed freezing temperatures, 90% chance of snow, heavy winds and overcast. Many of you will understand why a SOTA&WWFF combo in a rare country could be a small reason not to use the hotel’s sauna on a day like that. Sometimes things just need to get done.
I got up early the next morning and was very happy to be able to grab a Bolt rental car from the street and get going quickly. The drive went by without issues up to a point just about 3km away from the mountain (well, 1-pointer hill I should say). The roads were completely covered in snow so I could barely see where I was driving. Latvia is a rather flat country but here it started to get a bit hilly and the tires were certainly not cut out for that. Continue reading CQ From Latvia with Love→
As I mentioned in my recent AX1 vs AX2 video and blog post, I purchased an Elecraft AX2 antenna and bi-pod in late January (note: two days before Elecraft announced their February ’23 sale price! Doh!).
I received the AX2 package a few days later and I was certainly eager to take it to the field.
My first opportunity came on Tuesday, February 14, 2023, when a short activation window opened up in the afternoon.
Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)
One of the first things I noticed after taking the AX2 out of the package is just how solid and compact it is. The AX1 is short, but the AX2 is a few inches shorter because the base is more compact.
Unlike the AX1, the AX2 is a mono band antenna, thus the coil only needs to accommodate one band. When you receive a new AX2, it’s configured for 20 meters out of the box, but the user can modify the coil to work anything from 20 to 6 meters.
Even though I mentioned this in my AX1 v AX2 article and video, I’d like to reiterate that the AX2 is nearly-resonant on 20 meters. It is not reliably resonant.
I’ve still been receiving a lot of messages from readers stating that their AX2 and AX1 are resonant on 20 meters, so they don’t pack any sort of matching device in their field kit. They simply hook the AX2 up to their little QRP radio and hop on the air.
While it’s true that these antennas may provide an acceptable SWR most of the time, you really can’t rely on a solid, reliable match as you could with an end-fed half-wave.
I’ll repeat what I mention in a previous post:
Small verticals like the AX1 and AX2, that use coils to electrically “lengthen” the antenna, have a higher Q than, say, a large aperture quarter or half wave antenna. In practical terms, this means that the window of resonance is narrow and more fickle than, for example, an end-fed half-wave.
A lot of factors can affect the SWR on higher-Q antennas like the AX1/AX2 including:
the type of terrain,
height off the ground,
length of counterpoise,
configuration of counterpoise,
and, most notably, the operator’s own body capacitance.
You may find that the AX2, for example, is natively resonant on 20 meters at one location, but isn’t at another location. This is quite normal. It’s also the reason why Elecraft states that both antennas are designed to be used with an ATU.
So there you go! If I hook up my AX1 or AX2 to a radio, I’ll always have some means of matching the impedance–either an external ATU, or a capacity hat. You can also tinker with the length of the telescoping whip and counterpoise to tweak the match.
How I found the best antenna for my SOTA/POTA activations
by Thomas (DM1TBE)
Until January this year I had a German “Klasse E” / CEPT-novice amateur radio license (equivalent to the US General Class), which limits the use of HF to the 10-,15-, 80- and 160-meter bands. When I started with SOTA I used homemade single band end-fed antennas most of the time. However, that is only feasible for the 10- and 15-meter bands.
Unfortunately, both bands are very moody and sometimes they have not worked at all. Unlike the UK for example, FM is uncommon for SOTA in my home association DM (i.e. Germany Low Mountains). You can be lucky and get your 4 QSOs, but I did not want to rely on pure luck.
Therefore, I bought an end-fed half-wave antenna for 10-, 15-, 20-, 40- and 80-meter bands, after some experiments with 10-80-meter end-fed half-wave antennas, from a small German company called ANjo.
Although I could not use the 20- and 40- meter bands at that time, the EFW80-10P (en: auto-translated) antenna gave me the possibility to use the 80-meter band. The antenna could also be tuned for 15. It has a mechanical length of 23.6 m / 77 ft and a coil for the 80-meter band. It is pretty lightweight with 0.4 kg / 14 oz and allows up to 30 watts PEP – more than enough for me. 80-meters is not the best band for daytime SOTA activations, but in 21 months doing SOTA activations, it worked 37 times and tipped the scales for an activation from time to time.
It was sometimes a bit tricky to raise the long wire into the air, but it always worked … better or worse …somehow … like here in the woods along a trail.
Those of you who know me well know that I don’t have a lot of free time. At this point in my life, I’m a very busy father, husband, son, and hopeless field radio addict. But when George (KJ6VU) asked if I wanted to joint the HRWB crew, it was a no-brainer.
I’ve been a long-time subscriber to the HRWB podcast, so when I was first invited to be a guest in 2021, I felt like I already knew George (KJ6VU), Mark (N6MTS), Mike (VA3MW), Rod (VA3ON), and Vince (VE6LK).
After all, I’d spent…what…hundreds of hours listening to them as I drive, travel, mow, split firewood, and put around the shack–? Don’t get me started on the number of things I’ve purchased as a result of being a subscriber to the podcast.
During the recording of that first episode where I was a guest, I realized just how much I enjoyed hanging with those guys. They have such a wealth of knowledge between them, yet none of them take themselves too seriously and they’re always up for a good laugh.
They invited me back several times as a guest and in December ’22, I was asked if I would become a permanent guest.
Although it shows a certain lack of judgment on their part, I quickly accepted before they could change their minds.
So there you go.
On that note, I will be attending the 2023 Hamvention and will be hanging out at the Halibut Electronics and Ham Radio Workbench booth when I’m not cruising the event, taking photos, and likely recording some video. Please stop by and visit!