Tag Archives: Chameleon CHA MPAS Lite

SOTA in the Clouds: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and MPAS Lite for brilliant QRP fun on Craggy Dome!

Although I live in the mountains of North Carolina and am surrounded by SOTA summits, it’s much easier for me to activate a park rather than a summit.

Parks can be quite easy: find the park on a map, drive through their main entrance, find a good picnic table to set up, and next thing you know you’re on the air! Of course, wildlife management areas and game lands can be more tricky, but typically you can drive to the activation site.

Summits–speaking as someone who activates in North Carolina–take much more planning. If it’s a new-to-me summit, I typically need to:

  1. find the GPS coordinates of the true summit
  2. map out the drive to the trail head
  3. read through previous activation notes (if they exist) to find out
    • what type of antenna/gear I might pack
    • and any notes I might need to find the trail or bushwhack to the true summit (quite often published, well-worn trails don’t lead to the actual summit)
  4. look up the trail map and make sure I have a paper and/or electronic copy
  5. pack all needed gear for the hike, activation, and emergencies
  6. sort out the time it will take to travel to the site, hike the full trail to the summit, activate, and return home

If you ask most any SOTA activator, they’ll tell you that the planning is part of the fun.

It really is.

One summit I’ve had on my activation list for ages is Craggy Dome (W4C/CM-007). Out of the higher summits in this region, it’s one of the easier ones for me to reach from the QTH. In fact, as with Lane Pinnacle, I could simply hike from my house directly to the summit (although one way to Craggy might take the better part of a day). The trailhead is about a 50 minute drive, and the hike about 30 minutes.

SOTA notes and All Trails indicated that Craggy Dome’s trail isn’t always easy to follow and that it’s steep and slippery.

Craggy has been activated loads of times, though, so I wasn’t concerned at all.

Living here and knowing how much brush there was on the manway to the summit, I knew that Craggy would be a pretty easy summit if I could activate it after the parkway re-opened for the spring and before the mountain “greened-up”; about a five week window.

Meeting Bruce

My schedule opened up for an activation of Craggy Dome on the morning of April 21, 2022 and I was very much looking forward to it.

I wouldn’t be alone on this hike either. Bruce (KO4ZRN), a newly-minted ham, contacted me and asked if he could join me on a hike and simply be an observer during a SOTA activation.

Fortunately, timing worked for him to join me on this particular SOTA activation. Continue reading SOTA in the Clouds: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and MPAS Lite for brilliant QRP fun on Craggy Dome!

A quick roadside activation with the Elecraft KX2 and CHA MPAS Lite

There are days when I leave the QTH and have no idea if I have enough time to fit in a park or summit activation. Because of this, I always keep a radio field kit in the car.

On Monday, January 31, 2022 I had an appointment-packed day ahead of me, but I was hopeful I might be able to squeeze in a quick activation of some sort.

Specifically, I had a new-to-me super easy, drive-up SOTA site in mind: Peach Knob (W4C/CM-097). In fact, it’s a bit odd that I hadn’t activated this site before. It must be the most accessible summit (to me) in the area.

After a 2:00 appointment in downtown Asheville, I drove 15 minutes to the summit of Peach Knob where I discovered 1.) there was almost no space to park and 2.) what little space there was was taken up with crews working on a cluster of communications towers. In situations like this, the last thing I want to do is get in the way; that sort of activator persistence could lead to “no trespassing” signs in the future.

The site also reminded me that what I love about SOTA is the hike to the summit. Sites like this one are wedged between private property and city property–I just feel like I’m in the way, arousing neighborhood suspicions, and just doing the activation for the points. I’m not a points guy (though I’ll do a happy dance when I accumulate 1000 for ‘Mountain Goat’ status sometime within a decade at this rate).

Moving forward, I think I’ll skip drive up sites like this one; at least for HF activations.

At this point, I pretty much abandoned the idea of a field activation as I’d taken up the wee bit of free time in my schedule just checking out Peach Knob.

Next, I popped by Vlado’s (N3CZ) QTH to drop off some parts so he could finish the repair of my Elecraft KX1.  While chatting with him, I received a message from our grocery store noting that our 4:00 curbside pickup would be delayed. This opened up a one hour window where I could perform an activation! Woo hoo! Continue reading A quick roadside activation with the Elecraft KX2 and CHA MPAS Lite

POTA RaDAR Run Activation #4: A “wham bam” activation at Johns River Game Land

On January 26, 2022, I fit in multiple park activations in one day as a RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio) run. My hope was to activate four or five sites between 14:00 – 21:30 UTC.

Here are the field reports and videos of my first three activations:

The next park in my run (#4) was either going to be my last activation, or second to last depending on my available time.

After visiting with my buddy, Hamilton, at his ceramics studio in Morganton (read about that in the previous report) I looked at the time and decided I could fit in a very quick activation of Johns River Game Land (#4) en route to Tuttle Educational State Forest (#5).

I made up my mind en route that I’d use my fastest-to-deploy combo: the Elecraft KX2 and Chameleon CHA MPAS Lite.

I really wanted to be in and out of the site within a 20 minute window. That’s actually very doable as long as I could rack up at least ten contacts in 10-15 minutes. Some days, propagation can make that a tall order, though!

Johns River Game Land (K-6916)

Johns River actually has a number of access points and, frankly, none of them are exactly “bucolic.” Other than the river itself which is beautiful and the main access point for the river which is well-maintained, most of the game land parking areas are filled with litter.

I chose a parking area for this activation which has, in the past, looked like a dumping ground. I was pleased when I pulled into the parking lot this time to find it much cleaner (no old refrigerators or sofas dumped at the far end of the lot) but then again the snow on the ground was likely hiding quite a bit of litter! My philosophy is to always leave a site cleaner than I found it, but Johns River often has so much littler, I could spend a week picking up trash.

After doing a very short intro for my activation video, I set up the Elecraft KX2 and MPAS Lite antenna in a matter of two minutes.

Gear:

On the air

I started calling CQ POTA (with my fingers crossed!) on 40 meters and was very pleased that chasers were out and about!

I worked my ten contact in 9 minutes and then went QRT! Woot!  Here’s the log sheet:

In this short activation, there was actually a P2P with Max (WG4Z) who was just up the road at Tuttle Educational State Forest. We were definitely working each other via ground wave.

The contacts were flowing so well, that I wanted to stay on the air a bit longer, but I knew to fit in Tuttle and a hike, I really needed keep moving. As soon as I worked my ten, I hopped off the radio.

While I like putting more contacts in the log–especially when they’re flowing so freely–it was actually kind of fun to validate this activation in somewhat of a “sprint.”

QSO Map

Here’s what 5 watts and the MPAS Lite yielded in nine minutes on the air:

Activation video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation. This must be one of the shortest activation videos I’ve ever made:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Thank you

Thank you so much for reading this short report and coming along with me on this RaDAR run! I’ll be posting Park #5–Tuttle Educational State Forest–soon where I catch up with Max (WG4Z) and we work park-to-park once again.

As always, I’d 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 truly appreciate the support.

These are crazy times we’re living in these days (at time of posting). I wish all of you good health, safety, and peace–especially our good friends in Ukraine.

Let’s all treat each other with kindness and respect this week as we remember that all we’ve got on this old planet is each other.

I hope you get some time to play radio this week!

72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

Summits On The Air: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and Chameleon CHA MPAS Lite on Bearwallow Mountain!

So far this winter has been a challenge in terms of activating summits. For me, at least.

Between my busy schedule, family life, and the weather, it’s been difficult to make the stars align. Activating a summit, in general, requires much more time than activating a park. At least, where I live.

Summits tend to be much less accessible and time-consuming than, say, a state or national park. Besides getting to the summit trailhead and hiking it, there can be quite a bit more research in advance including reading previous activator notes and mapping out the true summit location.

SOTA (Summits On The Air) activators (depending on their location) often have extra incentive to do activations during the winter because many of us can accumulate “bonus points” for summits above a certain height during the winter months.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a numbers guy and honestly couldn’t tell you, for example, how many parks I’ve activated this year. But it would be awfully fun to eventually achieve “Mountain Goat” status in the SOTA program. It requires 1000 (!!!) points. Many of the summits where I live range from 1 to 10 points each. Each summit can only count once per year, so if I activate Mount Mitchell (our highest summit) the 10 points only count once in 2022 toward Mountain Goat status. The program is designed to encourage activators to activate a wide variety of unique summits each year. It’s a brilliant motivator.

I will be happy if I achieve Mountain Goat status in 5 years. I simply don’t have the free time to hit summits as often as I’d like. It is a really cool goal though.

Now where was I–? Continue reading Summits On The Air: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and Chameleon CHA MPAS Lite on Bearwallow Mountain!

Field Report: Pairing the Discovery TX-500, Elecraft T1, and CHA MPAS Lite

You might recall that I’ve been testing a new backpack that I plan to use primarily for SOTA activations. It’s the Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC.

I’ve now taken it on a few activations, but the very first outing was on Monday, December 7, 2021.

That afternoon, my daughters attended an afternoon art class that was only four miles from our QTH as the crow flies, but took 45+ minutes to drive. Gotta love the mountains!

I had no complaints whatsoever about the drive, though, because it was within five minutes of the Zebulon Vance Historic Birthplace; one of my favorite local POTA spots!

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)

After dropping off the girls, I drove to Vance and was happy to see that no one was occupying their one picnic shelter. Even though the Vance site is relatively spacious and they’ve numerous trees along the periphery of the property, it’s a historic/archaeological site and as a rule of thumb I only set up at picnic areas in parks like these.

It was a breezy day and temps were hovering around 44F/7C. These are ideal conditions in my world.

I grabbed the Discovery TX-500 for this activation. I had been using it quite a bit in the shack, but realized I hadn’t taken it to the field in a few weeks. I decided to pair it with the Chameleon MPAS Lite vertical antenna since I had already loaded the Lite in my pack, using the pack’s built-in antenna port. Continue reading Field Report: Pairing the Discovery TX-500, Elecraft T1, and CHA MPAS Lite

Phillip calls the white CHA MPAS Lite color a “Canadian-Winter Edition”

Many thanks to Phillip Novak (VE3OMI) who writes:

[…]A random note on the Chameleon MPAS lite that I purchased a month ago through DX Engineering; I was surprised to find that the matching unit I received was white – it’s always pictured as black on the Chameleon shop page.

Note the black matching unit to the right of the counterpoise winder.

I was a bit disappointed at first; the “stealthiness” of the black colour was something I was hoping for. It also had me wondering if perhaps I’d somehow gotten a test-unit.

[…]I was curious about the colour change and shot Chameleon a note.

Here’s what they came back with:

“Phillip, due to the black Delrin being much more in demand and causing supply chain issues, we opted to switch to the less commonly used white material. The two colors have the same specifications, and should perform identically, besides the color. The issue being more noticeable for some was anticipated, but could not be helped if we were to continue production. Hit it with some flat spray paint?”

I will add that I do like this antenna a lot and the build quality is excellent. I’ve also come around on the colour; I like to think of the white version as a Canadian-Winter Edition.

[A]ll the best,
-p
ve3omi

It does look like an antenna ready for deployment with the Arctic Forces! 🙂

Thank you for sharing this, Phillip. I had seen a few photos of the white matching unit but assumed it was a different size or configuration than the one I have. This explains it. 

I’m not sure if I’d have a preference for one or the other, frankly. If it was being used in a semi-permanent stealthy installation and in an area without snow, I’m sure painting it flat black or wrapping it with a dark color fabric/tape would help. 

POTA Activation: In the Presence of a North Carolina Icon!

Dear QRPer readers:

As you likely know, my activation reports typically run a few weeks behind.  Although I’ve got several in the pipeline, I pushed the following report to the front of the line. 

You might brew a cuppa’ coffee or tea for this one. 

Here’s wishing you and yours very Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

73,

Thomas (K4SWL)


A Special Holiday Activation

As mentioned in my previous activation report, we’ve spent the past week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina; specifically, Hatteras Island.

It’s been amazing.

If you’re not familiar, the Outer Banks (OBX) is a 200-mile (320 km) long string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia that separates the Pamlico Sound,  Albemarle Sound, and Currituck Sound from the Atlantic Ocean.

No trip to the Outer Banks would be complete without visiting North Carolina’s most iconic structure: the Cape Hatteras Light Station in Buxton, NC.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

On Thursday (December 16, 2021–last week) the weather was stunning, so my family took a few long walks on the beach, explored Hatteras Island, and spent the afternoon at the Cape Hatteras Light Station which is located within the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

The Cape Hatteras lighthouse is a North Carolina icon and arguably one of the most recognizable lighthouses in North America due to its height, its age, and the black/white helical daymark paint scheme. Continue reading POTA Activation: In the Presence of a North Carolina Icon!

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

Field Report: POTA Roadside activation with a view!

On Monday, October, 18, 2021, I finished a few errands in Asheville, NC and realized I had just enough time to squeeze in an afternoon activation. The weather was beautiful, the fall air felt amazing, and although I had no clue what propagation was like, I needed some field radio therapy!

Blue Ridge Parkway to the rescue!

I’ve mentioned in previous videos that pretty much anytime I drive into Asheville I pass by the Blue Ridge Parkway. Over the years, I’ve discovered numerous POTA (Parks On The Air) spots scattered along “America’s Favorite Drive.”

It’s fall, so we’ve autumn leaf colors and loads of tourists in the region–especially on the BRP.

Even so, I’ve one favorite overlook that is often overlooked by tourist!

It’s a little unofficial turn-out on the parkway that offers up spectacular views. I believe the reason tourists pass by it is because it’s located just beyond one of the most popular overlooks in the area: the Tanbark Ridge Overview. Tourists stop at Tanbark to enjoy the views not knowing that a mere +/-200 meters away, there’s one they could enjoy all on their own. Continue reading Field Report: POTA Roadside activation with a view!

SOTA Plan B: An aborted activation followed by an amazing (although gusty) alternative!

On the morning of Thursday, September 23, 2021, I had one thing on my mind: SOTA!

It had been well over a month since my last SOTA activation and I was eager to hike to a summit and play radio.

It had been raining for a few days but overnight, a front moved into the area that swept out all of the clouds. We were finally feeling proper fall weather.

It was gorgeous outside and I made up my mind I’d fit in a summit activation.

I was visiting my parents in Hickory, NC, so I knew I’d have to drive a bit to activate a unique (to me) summit. On top of that, I knew I’d be alone and trails would be very muddy after days of rain. I decided to stick with an easy hike, so picked Flat Top Mountain (W4C/EM-026) off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I announced my activation via the SOTA website and drove about one hour to the trailhead of Flat Top Mountain.

Aborted!

As I drove up US321 to Blowing Rock I noticed that clouds were hangin over the mountains. In the foothills, it was blissful: clear skies, sunshine, dry air, and quite cool. As I drove up the Blue Ridge escarpment, it started getting a little gusty outside–I realized that the mountains were still on the edge of the cold front. Continue reading SOTA Plan B: An aborted activation followed by an amazing (although gusty) alternative!