Tag Archives: Elecraft KX2

Rand’s “Shotgun!” Mobile QRP Station

Many thanks to Rand (W7UDT) who shares the following guest post:


 ‘Shotgun!’ My Mobile QRP Station…

by Rand (W7UDT)

I’ll confess, at our overly stylish home, sadly, I don’t have a shack… my XYL has “concerns.”  So, in an attempt to keep my operating license and man card active, I happily practice portable QRP field operations at my QTH and afield.

This time of year however, with winter bearing down on us, I choose to deploy via my ‘Shotgun!’ mobile QRP station.  Simply, a quarter inch sheet of birch plywood, cut and finished nicely to fit suspended from the grab bar and headrest of my Jeep Wrangler’s passenger seat.  Ergo, ‘Shotgun!’

Grab, hang, stow and go!

It’s not a new idea, but I must say, it has become a very good solution to the chilly problem of posterior frostbite and hypothermia.

I’ll elaborate…

Continue reading Rand’s “Shotgun!” Mobile QRP Station

Field Report: QRP SOTA and POTA on Big Cedar and Black Mountain in North Georgia

As I mentioned in a previous post, I attended the W4G SOTA Fall Campout in October and it was nothing short of amazing.

It was so great to spend an extended weekend camping, hiking, and hopping on the air with other SOTA activators.

I especially enjoyed getting to know Joshua (KO4AWH)–the fellow behind Tufteln products— over that weekend. He needed a campsite and since my buddy Monty had to pull out of the trip due family activities, I was happy to share the tent site with him.  It actually worked out quite well since we could then pair up and car pool to our SOTA and POTA activations.

What follows is a field report for two SOTA activations Joshua and I did back-to-back on Friday, October 14, 2022.

The trail head for both of these summits was only a few miles from our campsite at Lake Winfield Scott.

Gear:

Note that I used the same gear during both SOTA activations all packed in my Spec-Ops Brand SOTA backpack.

Black Mountain and Big Cedar essentially share the same trailhead at the Woody Gap Recreational Area parking lot on Highway 60.

We were on site early enough to grab a parking space. Keep in mind that it was Friday during leaf season, so there were quite a few hikers on the trails that day! In fact, by midday, the parking lot was overflowing with cars.

Almost by flip of coin, we decided to hit Big Cedar Mountain first. Turns out, Joshua had actually hiked to this summit in the past and even met a SOTA activator en route (and I believe this might have been his inspiration to try Summits On The Air!).

Big Cedar Mountain (W4G/NG-023)

The 1.1 mile hike to the summit of Big Cedar Mountain was brilliant and the views were absolutely stunning. Continue reading Field Report: QRP SOTA and POTA on Big Cedar and Black Mountain in North Georgia

Spring Flashback: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and Chameleon MPAS Lite at New River State Park

This year, it’s been a challenge for me to keep up with field reports that accompany my activation videos.  It’s been a very busy year with a fair amount of travel, DIY projects, and family activities.

I recently realized that I have a number of activation videos from much earlier this year–videos I skipped over in order to post some of my Canadian field reports while I was still in Canada (at one point, I was over 2 months behind posting field reports and activation videos!).

I’ve often said that even if only a handful of people enjoyed my reports and activation videos, I’d still post them. I feel like they could even play a small part in someone’s path to doing field radio or learning CW, it’s wort it.

Plus, I occasionally like looking back at them myself.

In a sense, these reports are my travelogues and they bring back memories of some beautiful spots where I’ve played radio, gone camping, and enjoyed time with my family.

So why don’t you join me as we travel back a few months to…

Springtime

Photo by K4TLI

In late April 2022, I took my family on a camping trip to New River State Park here in North Carolina. You might remember this post and a couple field reports from that trip.

In short, it was an amazing trip and I got to play radio quite a bit!

Each day, I played radio from the morning into the evening. The camp site was actually ideal for playing radio. Until…

Saturday morning (April 30) I woke up, made some coffee at the picnic table, then fired up my radio. It was then I learned that one of the new RVs that joined the campground Friday evening brought some sort of RFI-spewing device with them.

I’ve no clue what it was. If I were to venture a guess, I’d say it was likely something used in electronic warfare. It was intense.

At the campsite that morning, I couldn’t copy a single signal that wasn’t S9+ on my meter. The noise level was S8 or S9.

I decided that I’d need to move to a different part of the park to play radio after breakfast and our family’s morning hike.

Fortunately, there was a large picnic shelter within a short drive of our campsite.

I had the whole place to myself! Continue reading Spring Flashback: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and Chameleon MPAS Lite at New River State Park

Rich’s Triple Activation Day!

Many thanks to Rich (KQ9L) for sharing the following field report:


Triple Activation Day

by Rich (KQ9L)

I decided to build on the momentum and lessons learned from my last two POTA outings and yesterday [October 29, 2022] completed x3 Activations in one day— a first for me. I wrote a brief description of the day and I hope you enjoy reading about the activations.


Well the weather has been pretty good here in Chicago and Old Man Winter hasn’t made it around to these parts yet and being on a POTA kick lately, I decided see if I could complete several activations in one day. Previously I had completed x2 in one day, but felt that after all that I learned from my last couple activations, I should practice what I learned and go for three.

In my area, there are several POTA sites, but one area to the south of me seemed to be the best location to accomplish my goal. The area has a unique geographic feature and historically interesting landmark which added to the lure of the area. The region centers around the Illinois and Michigan Canal.

Here is a quick history lesson courtesy of Wikipedia:

The Illinois and Michigan canal was build in 1848 and served as a connection between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Running 96 miles, it connects Bridgeport in Chicago to LaSalle-Peru. Why was this important? This connect helped establish Chicago as the transportation hub of the US and linked by water the East coast to the Mississippi River and from there the Gulf of Mexico. Before the railroad era in the US, this water way dominated transportation.

Pretty cool!

Along the canal are numerous little hamlets and one in particular, Morris, Illinois had x3 State Parks all within about a 5 mile radius. Perfect!

First stop was Gebhard Woods State Part (K-0995). The park is only 30 acres, but affords activities for hikers, fisherman, campers and picnickers. There is even an eBike rental facility so the park has broad appeal to many people, including hams!

I arrived pretty much right after sunrise and was greeted by fog and a thin layer of frost on the grass and picnic tables. Though beautiful this frost and fog, did not make for a fun activation. Temps were in the upper 30’s F, but with the fog the air felt damp and overall much cooler.

I hurriedly set up my PackTenna 9:1 antenna on my collapsible mast and leaned it up against a nearby tree. I had a separate counterpoise and feed line with a choke built into it…more on this later.

Continue reading Rich’s Triple Activation Day!

Rich activates the very POTA-friendly Santa Fe Prairie State Nature Preserve (K-7839)

Many thanks to Rich (KQ9L) for sharing the following field report:


Activating K-7839 with lessons learned from my last portable POTA activation

by Rich (KQ9L)

Here in Chicago, we have been blessed with unseasonably warm weather these past two days. I decided to build on my last successful POTA activation and apply some of the lessons I learned from that activation while working this one.

Close to my home is Park K-7839, the Santa Fe Prairie State Nature Preserve (K-7839) in Cook County, IL.

The preserve was established in 1997 and is staffed and maintained solely by volunteers. The park’s mission is to preserve a section of land for people to observe and admire the natural Illinois Prairie Landscape before it was altered by man.


The park itself is a thin sliver of land west of Chicago and is boarded by the Des Plaines River to the south and the rail yard / industrial park on the other there sides. If you look carefully in the second picture below, you can see some Sante Fe trains in the distance.

The park is easy to reach by car and right off the main park road are several picnic tables which I’m sure a ham in a wheel chair can easily access.

There are a number of features of the park which facilitate a POTA activation.

For example, in the picnic area, a Boy Scout Eagle Scout project resulted in the building of a 22ft flagpole. The flags are long gone, but the sturdy pole has been made available to hams for the hoisting of antennas. There are pulleys and easy tie down points to erect and inverted vee antenna.

To the east most section of the park is a lookout deck and at the east and west of the deck are trees with pulleys and lines permanently mounted. I’ve been told by the staff that the distance between the trees is a perfect fit for a 20m dipole. Continue reading Rich activates the very POTA-friendly Santa Fe Prairie State Nature Preserve (K-7839)

W4G SOTA Fall Campout Recap

As I noted last week, I participated in the W4G SOTA campout at Lake Winfield-Scott Campground in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest in north Georgia.

In short? It was amazing!

I thought I’d share a few photos and memories…

Campsite and friends

These SOTA campouts typically involve an announcement via the W4 SOTA group then we all make individual reservations at the chosen campground. Since we’re not reserving the whole campground as a block, we tend to share our individual camping sites with others who might not have been able to reserve a spot.

At Lake Windfield Scott campground, the SOTA group did reserve one large group campsite, but only a couple months ago it was canceled by the park service due to a trail maintenance group that needed it.

Typically, I camp with my friend Monty, but he had other family plans that weekend.

When I found out my buddy Joshua (KO4AWH)–the fellow behind Tufteln products–needed a spot to pitch his tent, I offered up my site.

As you can see in the photo above, both of our tents fit on the tent pad with absolutely no extra room to spare. 🙂

It was such a pleasure getting to know Joshua. What a kindred spirit and super nice fellow.

KO4AWH (left) and K4SWL (right) on the summit of Black Mountain.

We ended up doing all of our SOTA activations together as you will see in upcoming activation videos and field reports.

Joshua is as pack and organization obsessed as I am. A proper pack nerd! I really enjoyed checking out his bags, cases and all of the brilliant accessories that are a part of his field kits.

He brought both an IC-705 and TX-500 along for the ride. He logs in the field using the HAMRS app (same one I do) but on an iPad Mini (see photo above) and I must admit that the size of the iPad mini is nearly ideal–much better than a phone for logging.

He also used the SDR-Control app to connect wirelessly with his IC-705 and operate digital modes.

Summits

We activated a total of three summits during the weekend (Big Cedar, Black Mountain, and Yonah Mountain). It would have been easy to activate six or more if that was the goal–the area is chock full of accessible summits.

Continue reading W4G SOTA Fall Campout Recap

Rich packs the KX2 field kit for air travel and a POTA activation!

Many thanks to Rich (KQ9L) for sharing the following field report:


Field Report and Lessons from Torrey Pines State Beach (K-3580)

by Rich (KQ9L)

As you can tell from my call sign, I am a W9er, but recently had the opportunity to travel to California and specifically to the San Diego area. I thought it would be fun to try to activate a park near my hotel. I consulted the POTA website and found one park which was within 5 miles of my hotel, perfect!

While planning for the trip, I carefully chose and packed my gear to minimize added weight and bulk of my carry-on luggage. Because on this requirement, I chose my Elecraft KX2 with built in battery, my KXPD3 paddles, a K6ARK end-fed half-wave and the telescoping fishing pole from the PackTenna portable mast system.

Everything fit perfectly into a Lowepro CS40 case and Tom Bihn HLT. I did not bring the tripod from the PackTenna system to cut down on weight and bulk.


The hardest part of traveling with this setup was the fishing pole as I could not fit it diagonally in my carry-on legal luggage and I ended up having it sticking out the top of my soft side Patagonia MLC carryon backpack / travel luggage.

I received a few odd looks from passengers and airline personal but to my relief I did not get hassled for the odd looking thing sticking out of my luggage. To minimize the space my luggage occupied in the overhead storage, I simply pulled the pole out of the luggage and stowed it in the bottom of the overhead bin. Easy! Everything made it safely to my destination and no the got destroyed.

This morning [October 15, 2022] I decided to go out early to activate Torrey Pines K-3580 which is just north of San Diego.

I ran into a problem which I guess I should’ve anticipated. Being from the central time zone and normally a 5 AM riser, I found myself ready to go by 3 AM Pacific time. I dillydallied for a few hours and watched a few of your YouTube videos to get me psyched up and ready for the activation.

I got out to the site right at sunrise and set up without much difficulty. I found the vegetation to be conducive to setting up the fishing pole by leaning it up against some of the shrubbery. Continue reading Rich packs the KX2 field kit for air travel and a POTA activation!

Photos: Comparing sizes of the Mountain Topper MTR-4B, MTR-3B, and Elecraft KX1

After sharing a few photos by request comparing the size of the  Mountain Topper MTR-3B, MTR-4B, and Elecraft KX2 yesterday, I took a few pmore photos by request comparing those same radios with the Elecraft KX1.

I decided to simply post these on QRPer.com in case they could also be of help to someone else:

Mountain Topper MTR-3B v Elecraft KX1

Mountain Topper MTR-4B v Elecraft KX1

Elecraft KX1 v KX2

Photos: Comparing sizes of the Mountain Topper MTR-4B, MTR-3B, and Elecraft KX2

A reader/subscriber just asked for photos comparing the size of the  Mountain Topper MTR-3B and MTR-4B. I know they were also curious how the MTR-4B might compare in size with the Elecraft KX2. Of course, one can look up the actual sizes, but sometimes a photo adds more context.

I decided to simply post these on QRPer.com in case they could also be of help to someone else:

Mountain Topper MTR-4B vs MTR-3B

Mountain Topper MTR-4B vs Elecraft KX2

What are my favorite QRP field radios in terms of audio quality–?

Many thanks to QRPer.com reader, Charles, who recently sent me the following question:

Thomas, I’ve watched a number of your videos and read your activation reports. I’m studying for both my Technician and General class license right now and hope to pass both in one session later this month. I’m also learning CW.

I consider myself an audiophile and appreciate good audio fidelity. I know that amateur radio modes are narrow and by their very nature have less audio fidelity than commercial broadcast modes. 

I’ve already obtained a Kenwood TS-590G for the shack. It was practically given to me by a friend. I’m very pleased with its audio fidelity especially when I connect it to an external speaker.

Next year, I plan to buy a dedicated QRP field radio. Out of the radios you’ve owned, what are your favorites in terms of audio fidelity. Also, what are your least favorites?

Thank you.

What a great question, Charles!

Being an audiophile, I’m sure you understand that this is a very subjective area: one person’s idea of good audio might not match that of someone else’s.

I can only speak to how I evaluate a transceiver’s audio.

What makes for good audio?

A lot goes into what I would call “good audio” in an amateur radio transceiver.

To me, “good audio” means the radio

  • produces clear accurate sound,
  • has stable AGC (Auto Gain Control),
  • has audio properties that benefit amateur radio modes like CW and SSB,
  • has enough audio amplification to be heard in noisy field conditions,
  • and has little to no internally-generated noises leaking into the audio amplification chain. (In other words, a low noise floor.)

In contrast, radios with poor audio

  • sound noisy/harsh,
  • have a high noise floor or produce audio hash making it difficult to hear weak signals,
  • have speakers that become distorted at higher volume levels,
  • have poor AGC characteristics which lead to pumping,
  • and are simply fatiguing to listen to during extended on-air sessions (like long activations or contests).

I would add that a good receiver front end is an important part of audio because it keeps imaging and overloading at bay, thus producing a less cluttered and noisy audio experience.

My field audio favorites

I’ll keep this discussion limited to QRP field portable radios. There are numerous 100 watt desktop radios with excellent audio because those models aren’t trying to limit their current consumption like field radios typically do. They can use more amperage to benefit audio amplification and push a much larger speaker.

In addition, I’ll limit the scope to field radios with built-in speakers. There are some great CW-only radios out there that lack an internal speaker but have great audio (thinking of the Penntek TR-35 and the Elecraft KX1, for example); choice of earphones or headphones can have a dramatic effect on audio. That’s a different discussion altogether!

Best audio: My top three picks

The following are three of my favorite portable field radios in terms of audio quality. I limited myself to three simply because all of the radios I use regularly in the field have what I would consider good and acceptable audio.

The following are simply stand-outs, in my opinion:

Continue reading What are my favorite QRP field radios in terms of audio quality–?