Tag Archives: AX1

Activating Plaines d’Abraham in Old Québec with the KX2 and AX1 combo

When we spend the summer in the province of Québec, we always set aside at least one day to hang out in Old Québec. This portion of the city of Québec is simply stunning: it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and the birthplace of French North America.

No other place in North America reminds me more of the years we lived in Europe than Old Québec.

We’ve been to Old Québec a countless number of times over the past two decades; we enjoy checking out the architecture, the window boxes full of flowers, and the numerous museums.

Old Québec is, of course, quite touristy–especially if you visit on a weekend. It can be incredibly busy and also challenging to find parking especially if, like us, you have a cargo box on top of your car (many parking decks have strict height restrictions).

On Tuesday, July 26, 2022, we decided to make a trip into Old Québec to visit some of our favorite book shops, small businesses, enjoy a lunch together, and soak in some of the amazing weather.

My wife encouraged me to find a nice POTA site and–wow–is one spoiled for choice! There are no fewer than 10 POTA parks in/around Old Québec. Check out the POTA map–each yellow dot is a park:

I know Québec City well enough to know that some of these parks wouldn’t be terribly easy to activate since they’re historic buildings and sites–I think it could be done, but you might need to seek permission in advance. I think it would be incredibly fun to set up a multi-park rove on foot; in fact, I’ve put that on my bucket list for a future trip!

The park I was eager to activate is the largest in central Québec City: The Plains of Abraham. It’s a beautiful and open urban park that overlooks the the St-Lawrence river. It’s Québec City’s version of Central Park.

Plaines d’Abraham (VE-1019)

I was very fortunate: after we dodged a little road construction, I found parallel parking on Ave Winfred-Laurier next to the Parc Jeanne d’Arc.

Continue reading Activating Plaines d’Abraham in Old Québec with the KX2 and AX1 combo

Poor Propagation: Can the Elecraft AX1 handle band conditions during this urban POTA activation?

Typically, when I do field activations while on vacation, I squeeze them in and around our family activities and travels. This is quite easy to do because our family enjoys a good hike and we love our parks.

On July 4, 2022 (Independence Day in the US!) my wife and daughters had their own activities planned for the day which opened up nearly a full day–at least a good 5-6 hour window–for me to do park activations solo.

Château Frontenac in Old Québec

I had numerous park choices in/around Québec City–an area rich with POTA sites.

I thought that I could either spend the day hitting one park further afield or hit multiple parks clustered together.

I chose the latter, so I started researching the POTA Map for Québec City.

In truth, pretty much any of the parks in Québec City could have been pieced together for a multiple park run. In fact, there are a number cluster in the city center and in Old Québec, but I was keen to explore a little cluster of parks I noted in the Saint-Foy area west of Québec City:

The map below shows just how close these four parks are to each other. Very doable!

These parks were so close to each other, I considered parking in the middle and simply walking to each site, but after reviewing the distance between the potential activation sites at each parks more carefully, I realized I wouldn’t have the time to activate all four parks if I walked it.

It was this activation that reminded me how brilliant it would be to own a folding bike like by buddy Jim (N4JAW) uses on each of his nearly daily POTA activations. With a bicycle, I think I could have actually activated these more quickly than I could with a car because there’d be no need to find a parking spaces at each site.

The Plan

I decided I’d try to hit my four parks in this order:

The only park I’d visited in advance was Parc Cartier-Roberval so I knew I’d need a little time to find activation sites, etc. at the other three. If the activations took longer than expected to validate with 10 stations logged, I might have to skip the final park.

Interestingly, three of these four parks were ATNOs (All-Time New Ones) thus had never been activated for POTA. Continue reading Poor Propagation: Can the Elecraft AX1 handle band conditions during this urban POTA activation?

“The Elecraft AX1 antenna is just a dummy load!” Really? Let’s test that!

Like a lot of QRPers, I love a good challenge.

Maybe it’s just in the nature of those of us who love QRP.

We get a small thrill out of seeing what we can accomplish with less.

AX1 Doubts?

On the morning of February 7, 2022, I received an email from a subscriber in South Carolina who had placed an order for a new Elecraft KX2 and an AX1 antenna package.  He picked this particular combination because he wanted the most simple and easy-to-set-up field radio system for impromptu CW POTA activations and a little random QRP fun.

He mentioned that, at his age, mobility is a bit of an issue and even though he knew a wire antenna would be more effective, deploying it while walking on uneven ground just wasn’t in the cards. The AX1 was a much more manageable and packable system. Plus, as he said, “I’m not going out to work DX. I just want to play and have fun.

Only a week after placing his order, he was having buyer’s remorse which prompted his message.

He explained that he had exchanged emails with a friend in his radio club who told him he’d made a foolish mistake and that the AX1 was completely ineffective as an antenna and would only lead to disappointment. His friend said [direct quote here], “I owned [an AX1] for a month and was never able to make a single contact. It is really good at being a dummy load and nothing more! This thing shouldn’t be marketed as an antenna. It doesn’t work.

I pointed out that I’ve used the AX1 numerous times in the field and have yet to be disappointed.

Before I used the AX1, I too, was very skeptical but after actually using it (instead of simply theorizing about it) I found it’s one of my most valuable antennas for a quick and fruitful activation. I pointed him to this playlist that includes all of my AX1 activations on YouTube. In all of these activation, I’ve limited myself to 5 watts as well even though the antenna can handle a full 10 or 15 watts from the KX2 or KX3.

I told him I’d been planning to pair the AX1 with my Mountain Topper MTR-3B and, it turned out, that very day a small window of opportunity opened in the afternoon. I told him we could both see how the AX1 might perform with three watts of power, especially since he’d planned to use 10 watts with his KX2.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, my motto is less theory, more practice!

We’d put the “dummy load theory” to the test! Continue reading “The Elecraft AX1 antenna is just a dummy load!” Really? Let’s test that!

Pairing the Xiegu X6100 with the Elecraft AX1 antenna…will it work?

If you’ve been reading QRPer for long, you’ll note that I’ve become quite a fan of the uber-compact Elecraft AX1 antenna.

Not only has the AX1 never let me down, but it can even outperform my other antennas in terms of snagging contacts during an activation. Yes, it can even work some DX as well.

Normally, I pair the AX1 antenna with my Elecraft KX2 (above) or KX3 (below).

I’ve even paired the AX1 directly to my Icom IC-705 using a homebrew simple capacity hat (thanks again for that idea LY2H!)

The AX1 needs a little help from an antenna tuner (ATU) to get a match across the 40, 20, and 17 meter bands. Of course, I could always mount the AX1 on a tripod and attach an in-line ATU, but I love the simplicity and speed of setup when paired directly to a transceiver that sports an internal ATU.  To be clear, the Icom IC-705 has no internal ATU, but I was able to get away with using a capacity hat to match impedance on 20 meters.

The new Xiegu X6100 (above) has an internal ATU–a good one at that! As soon as I took delivery of this loaner unit from Radioddity, I plotted hooking it up to my AX1 to see how it might shake out in the field!

The X6100 lacks only one thing that the KX2, KX3, and IC-705 have: a good, accessible grounding point on the chassis.  The AX1 needs a counterpoise to operate efficiently. Continue reading Pairing the Xiegu X6100 with the Elecraft AX1 antenna…will it work?

Field Report: Beautiful weather and three parks on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Last week, my family hopped in the car and took an eight hour drive to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

We’ve had such a busy 2021 that we decided to take a full week prior to Christmas and fit in some proper vacation and family time.

We love going to the coast off-season to avoid big crowds. Turns out, we chose well, too: it’s as is we have the whole of the Outer Banks to ourselves. Other than a couple days with some “invigorating” weather (which we actually enjoy) it’s been absolutely spectacular.

The view from our cottage

While radio plays an important role in any travels, my family time always takes priority. The good thing about activating parks is that radio and family time often go very well together!

On Friday, December 17, 2021, my daughter Geneva (K4TLI) and I decided to spend the day together while my wife and other daughter worked on an art project at our rental cottage. We had a few loose plans, but mainly wanted to fit in a nice beach walk, possibly discover some new scenic spots, and enjoy a take-out lunch together.

She very much liked the idea of fitting in a bit of POTA, so we hit the field with two sites in mind.

The plan

My Subaru is still in the body shop getting repaired after a bear decided to open the doors and make himself at home, so we have a Toyota Camry rental car on this trip. It’s been a great vehicle for sure, but its trunk space is limited and we packed quite a lot of food knowing local restaurants would be closed this time of year.

We all limited our luggage and I limited the amount of radios and gear I took. I could write an entire article about my holiday radio and antenna selection process (seriously, I put too much thought into it) but in a nutshell I limited myself to two radios and two antennas.

Here’s what I chose for this trip: Continue reading Field Report: Beautiful weather and three parks on the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Killing time by squeezing in a quick activation on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I love where I live.

When my wife and I made the difficult decision to move back to the US in 2003, we had a wide variety of options of where to live.  There was no doubt in our minds, though, that we would end up settling down somewhere in the Asheville, NC area.

We’re both from western North Carolina and had both–at different times–lived or worked in Asheville. It’s a beautiful area with a good arts scene and loads of outdoor activities.

These days, as I’m involved with both Parks On The Air and Summits On The Air, it’s an especially appealing place to live. We’ve a number of accessible POTA/WWFF entities and loads of summits to activate.

Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378)

Any time I drive into Asheville, I pass by the Blue Ridge Parkway.

There are a number of easy parkway access points on the north, east, south and west sides of Asheville. I typically pass by the eastern access point of the BRP on Tunnel Road. Both the Blue Ridge Parkway Headquarters and the Folk Art Center are within spitting distance and both have picnic tables making setup and deployment quite easy for POTA/WWFF ops!

On Monday, November 29th, 2021, I found that I had a good 30-45 minutes to kill before heading home after running errands in town. My car was empty, as I was hoping our collision shop would ask me to finally bring the Subaru in for repair. They were waiting for one critical component to arrive.

Side note: Bears in cars

As I mentioned in a previous post, in late October, a bear opened all four doors of our car and proceeded to check inside for food. He wasn’t exactly “surgical” in his investigation and was likely frustrated when he realized there was no food to be found inside (never store food in your car in bear country).

He scratched up and punctured a lot of interior panels and ripped out many of the seals around the doors and windows. The damage would have been primarily superficial had he/she decided not to dig into the headliner. Continue reading Killing time by squeezing in a quick activation on the Blue Ridge Parkway

QRP & Tea: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 & AX1 under shelter at Tuttle Educational State Forest

Sometimes field activations can be relaxed and laid-back. Other times they can be absolute mayhem!

Having explored the whole mayhem style activation the previous day, I was seeking a more chilled-out field activation on Thursday, November 4, 2021.

It was pouring rain, but I had a respectable three hour window to fit in a park activation while visiting my parents in the foothills of the NC mountains.

I had such an enjoyable experience pairing my Elecraft KX2 and AX1 antenna under a shelter at Tuttle Educational State Forest during a previous rainy day activation, I decided to revisit the same site.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

I knew I would likely be the only visitor at Tuttle that day; it was pretty cold and very wet.

Knowing rangers might not expect visitors on a day like this (keeping in mind this type of park caters to educational groups and are otherwise relatively quiet) I made a courtesy call to the park headquarters. I asked the ranger for permission to use their main shelter for an activation.

As expected, he said, “It’s all yours!” Continue reading QRP & Tea: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 & AX1 under shelter at Tuttle Educational State Forest

POTA Field Report: Coffee & QRP at Tuttle Educational State Forest

Thursday, October 28, 2021 was a wet, rainy day but I wanted to do a POTA activation on the way back to the QTH after having visited my parents for a couple nights.

I didn’t have a lot of radio gear with me on that trip, but I had the right gear: my Elecraft KX2 transceiver and AX1 antenna. If I could activate a park under a covered picnic shelter, I knew I would stay dry while playing radio.

There are only two parks within a reasonable detour that have covered picnic shelters: Lake James State Park and Tuttle Educational State Forest.

Lake James was the shortest detour, but they tend to be busier than Tuttle and last time I was there? Yeah, the picnic shelter was occupied.

On the other hand, I was nearly certain that I would have the picnic shelter all to myself at Tuttle. It would be a slightly longer detour, but worth it. Continue reading POTA Field Report: Coffee & QRP at Tuttle Educational State Forest

QRPer Notes: NT0Z’s Stealth Antennas, Matt’s Super QSO App, The Communicator, and Andy tests the AX1

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!


Stealth Antennas

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend listening to the latest Ham Radio Workbench podcast which features guest host, Kirk Kleinschmidt (NT0Z).

Kirk has an amazing background in publishing and writing and so many tips and suggestions for those who are trying to play radio in a stealthy way.

Check out the podcast, but you might also consider taking a look at Kirk’s book, “Stealth Amateur Radio.”  It can be purchased from his website as a digital book for much less than a paper copy. Continue reading QRPer Notes: NT0Z’s Stealth Antennas, Matt’s Super QSO App, The Communicator, and Andy tests the AX1

POTA Field Report: Dodging the rain at Lake James State Park

On Thursday, October 7, 2021, I was driving back to the QTH and had a hankering to do an activation. There was only one problem…

Rain.

Lots of rain…

As I was driving on Interstate 40 west-bound, I passed through bands of rain producing torrential downpours; the kind that brings interstate traffic to a crawl. Weather-wise, this is not typically when I would contemplate a park activation. I did a quick mental inventory of what I had in the car. Turns out I had the Icom IC-705 and the Elecraft KX2.

I also had the Elecraft AX1 portable antenna. Having used the KX2/AX1 pairing under picnic shelters with success, it was a no-brainer what I’d use at Lake James.

Most North Carolina state parks have covered picnic shelters that are first-come, first-serve or can be reserved (at no small expense) for group gatherings. There’s a really nice large picnic shelter at the Catawba River access of Lake James State Park–in fact, I took shelter there earlier this year during an activation.

No matter how bad the rain, I knew I could play radio under the shelter with my KX2/AX1 pair. Continue reading POTA Field Report: Dodging the rain at Lake James State Park