Tag Archives: Adam (K6ARK)

Handheld SOTA DX and Testing K6ARK’s New KH1 Pressure Paddles!

On Tuesday, March 12, 2024, I woke up with SOTA (Summits on the Air) on my mind.

That morning, I plotted to activate a local drive-up summit I’ve basically ignored the past few years.

Peach Knob (W4C/CM-097) is one of the most popular summits in the Asheville area no doubt because it’s so accessible. That said, it’s also a cell phone and water tank site with limited parking. When I first drove up a few years ago, there was a crew working and I would have only been in the way had I opted to activate. Also, to truly be within the activation zone on Peach Knob, there’s really only one small portion of the site where you can set up. Most of the summit is on private land.

I do SOTA primarily for the hikes. I’m not aggressively chasing activation points (ahem…obviously!) so I tend to ignore drive-up sites that are cramped and a bit awkward. Someday, I’m sure I’ll eventually hit Peach Knob just to do it, but that Tuesday? Yeah, I quickly decided I wanted a hike too.

I had a window of about three hours to fit in a SOTA activation. For POTA (Parks on the Air), that’s a generous number–I could easily hit three POTA sites in that amount of time, but SOTA takes more time. Typically there’s a longer drive to a trailhead, then a round-trip hike to figure into the planning as well. I immediately thought of one summit that would fit the bill.

Bearwallow Mountain (W4C/CM-068)

Bearwallow isn’t a long drive from downtown Asheville–maybe 20-25 minutes one-way. The hike to the summit is also fairly short and most enjoyable. The activation zone is the opposite of Peach Knob; it’s massive!

I arrived at the trailhead around 12:30 local and found that there were very few people parked there–-after all, it was a random Tuesday mid-day!

I’d packed my Elecraft KH1 field kit with the intention of doing a fully pedestrian mobile activation. I also had another goal: to test a prototype KH1 pressure paddle Adam (K6ARK) sent me to thoroughly test. I felt there was no better way than to SOTA with it!

Funny, but when operating pedestrian mobile with the KH1, you need so little extra kit. In fact, I could just grab my Pelican M40 case containing the full kit and be ready to go. But I always carry a first aid kit, headlamp, water, and other emergency supplies even if the hike is short and easy. Even if I have no need of those supplies on a short hike, someone else may. Twice, I’ve given other hikers first aid supplies from my pack.

Also, since I planned to film this activation, I needed to carry my camera, mics, and a tripod. I chose one of my favorite day packs: The GoRuck GR1!

My activation video, below, includes a bit of the hike and the contents of my backpack as I set up the KH1.


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On The Air

I decided to start this activation on the highest band the KH1 can serve up: 15 meters. After a delayed start (due to phone calls), I began calling CQ SOTA and the contacts started rolling in. It was funny–my first two contacts mirrored a previous Bearwallow activation: Christian (F4WBN) and Michael (N7CCD) in the same order! Within three minutes, I’d logged the four contacts necessary to validate the activation. Continue reading Handheld SOTA DX and Testing K6ARK’s New KH1 Pressure Paddles!

Field Radio Kit Gallery: K6ARK’s Ultra Lightweight QRP Field Kit

Many thanks to Adam (K6ARK) who shares the following article about his portable field radio kit which will be featured on our Field Kit Gallery page. If you would like to share your field kit with the QRPer community, check out this post.

by Adam (K6ARK)

To me, the pinnacle of portable amateur radio involves Summits On The Air (SOTA) activations in particularly remote and hard-to-reach areas.  Many require long approaches, difficult climbs, and high-altitude travel to get there, so minimizing the size and weight of my portable radio kit is of utmost importance.  To that end, I’ve managed to refine my smallest fully functional kit down to quite a compact and light-weight package.

An MTR2B which operates on 20 m and 40 m.  It has been repackaged into a custom-designed 3d printed case is the core of the system.  It has been repackaged into a 3d printed case which cuts the weight of the radio by about 60% from the original aluminum and steel case, and shrinks it in thickness by about 50%.

The key is built-in to the rig – a capacitive touch design I adapted from the M0UKD design.

Brass cap nuts installed on the corner of the case provide the capacitive sense touch points for the left and right paddles.

A 9v form-factor rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a USB-C charge port powers the system.  The lower voltage reduces my transmit power to 2.5 or 3 watts, but also provides a bit more protection for the final amplifier transistors when my antenna setup is less than ideal.  It has sufficient capacity to run this power-efficient little rig for a few hours from a summit.

The antenna is a 40m End Fed Half-wave with a matching unit built from an FT50-43 size toroid directly onto an RCA connector and protected with heat shrink tubing.  28 ga PTFE insulated stranded copper wire forms the radiating element, and it’s stored on a down-sized 3d printed winder of my own design.

The primary components of the kit weigh in at just 4.8 oz (136 g), and the padded camera case adds another 1.8 oz (51 g).   Although the case isn’t particularly light, it provides excellent protection to the rig.

And because most of the summits I bring this rig to are void of trees, a compact telescopic pole is an essential addition.  The one I typically bring packs small and weighs in at just 5.5 oz (156 g) but provides about 10 ft of elevation above the ground.  The cap is leashed so I can’t lose it, and the tube is coated in heat shrink for protection when I cram it into the rocks for support.

In the end, it’s quite a capable kit for just 12.1 oz (343 g) of pack weight.

Check out my ‘Sierra Solitude’ video series as a prime example of a trip where this setup is perfect for my needs.


Readers, do yourself a favor and bookmark Adam’s YouTube channel which is chock-full of SOTA and ultralight radio goodness!