Tag Archives: Elecraft KX2

A stealthy and challenging activation at Parc de l’Île-Lebel

Sometimes, I like going a little stealth.

Stealthy field activations, for me, aren’t about activating where I shouldn’t (in fact, by definition, activations can only take place on public lands) it’s just fun!

As I’ve mentioned before, when I choose to be a bit stealthy, it’s strategic. I consider one of the privileges of doing POTA and SOTA activations is that I’m often the first ham others encounter out in the wild. It gives activators like me a chance to be a ham radio ambassador. I like giving our wonderful past time a proper introduction and even enticing others to join in on the fun.

That said, there are times when my on-the-air time is very limited and I want fewer interruptions. That’s when being a bit stealthy can help me get in/out quickly.

It simply attracts less attention.

I tend to be less conspicuous in a park when I’m in a busy area with lots of people and activity. I don’t want my operation to get in the way of others’ enjoyment of a park. I don’t want someone to trip on or get tangled up in my wire antenna while tossing a frisbee, for example.

Also, when it’s super busy and I’m pressed for time, I’d rather get the activation done and then move on.

Parc de l’Île-Lebel (VE-0967)

On Sunday, June 19, 2022, our family was traveling from Ottawa, Ontario to our final destination of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Québec where we’d spend the next six weeks. Continue reading A stealthy and challenging activation at Parc de l’Île-Lebel

En Route to Canada: An impromptu POTA activation at Swatara State Park

If you’ve been following my field reports and activation videos, you’ll note that I’m almost two months behind posting them at present.

Much of this is due to the fact that I made numerous activations during a camping trip at New River State Park with my family in April and many more activations during a camping trip with WD8RIF and KD8KNC in West Virginia in May.

May was an extremely busy month for me family-wise and I was fitting in Canadian Basic Exam prep during any free time I had because my goal was to write the Canadian Basic exam within the first few days of arriving in Canada.

(Read this previous post for more detail.)

Looking at my field report back log, I’ve got a few more reports from both the NC and WV camping trips, but I’ve decided to put them on hold for a bit so that I can post more recent ones. Plus, it might be fun posting late spring field reports this fall!

One of the things I love about writing these field reports is re-living the activation.

Objectif Québec

We began our road trip to Canada on the morning of June 15, 2022.

Our first stop would be Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, the second stop Ottawa, Ontario (for three nights), and then our final destination of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Québec. All in all, we’d log 1,306 miles/2,102 km not including side trips.

Although I sort of fantasize about all of the amazing parks I could activate during our travels north, in reality this road trip was all about reaching the destination in fairly short order to save on hotel expenses en route.

The first leg of the trip equated to a good 10 hours on the road including stops to refuel, stretch our legs, and grab a bite to eat.

That first day, I’d completely written off the idea of performing a POTA activation assuming we’d arrive in Pine Grove, PA too late and too tired.

Turns out, though, we got an earlier start than we had anticipated, so arrived in Pine Grove around 16:00 local.  That afternoon, everyone was eager to take a stroll or hike to shake off all of those hours of sitting in the car.

I checked my POTA Map and then cross-referenced it with  my All Trails app to find the closest park with proper hiking trails. Turns out Swatara State Park met both criteria and was a mere 8 minutes from our hotel. Woo hoo!

Honestly: Swatara couldn’t have been more convenient for us.

Swatara State Park (K-1426)

Swatara had multiple access points along the highway, so we simply picked one and drove to the end to find a trailhead and picnic table under the trees. It was ideal. Continue reading En Route to Canada: An impromptu POTA activation at Swatara State Park

Updates: Canada activations, Ham Radio Workbench, contraband, field reports, travels, and an activation later today

Greetings everyone! I’m behind on email and comments at present so I thought I might share a few updates quickly in a post:

VY2SW Activations

We are absolutely loving our travels here in Canada and I’m giving the new Canadian call sign (VY2SW) a proper workout.

To date, I believe I’ve activated 11 parks (1 in Ontario, 10 in Québec) during our extended family vacation. Instead of hitting the same parks over and over, I’m trying to activate new parks during each outing because it’s giving us an opportunity to explore some really amazing spots that we might not otherwise discover.

Camping on the North Coast of the St. Lawrence in Bon Désir.

Before we leave La Belle Province, I’ve at least two SOTA summits in mind and 3-4 more parks, family time permitting. Indeed, as I mention below, I hope to activate another park sometime today.

Ham Radio Workbench Podcast

Once again the fine crew of the Ham Radio Workbench Podcast made the mistake of inviting me on another episode of the podcast.

In truth, it’s a proper honor to join them each time (don’t let them know I said that!). Seriously, they’re an amazing group of friends.

This episode was dedicated to our Field Day activities. For many of us, it was an unconventional Field Day and perhaps that’s what made the event so much fun.

John (W7DBO) was invited back to the show and it was great hearing how he integrated his whole family in his Field Day activities.

George had to operate from home, I operated from our condo/chalet here in Québec, and Vince from his very unique club setup in Alberta. Rob had a project that took priority on Field Day, and it’s worth listening to the podcast just to hear Smitty’s tale of life as a Field Day RVer (hint: not for the faint of heart).

Click here to listen to the full episode. 

I’m a big ole hypocrite

If you listened to the HRWB podcast, you’re already aware that I’ve proven once again that I’m a hypocrite.

How so?

Remember that post where I asked for your advice about choosing two radios to accompany me on our summer travels? Remember how I said that there was only room for one other radio besides the Elecraft KX2?

I did finally choose that one extra radio: the Discovery TX-500.

I chose the TX-500 because 1.) it would be a great “bad weather” radio, 2.) it could operate from my KX2 battery packs, 3.) it’s multimode and also covers 6 meters, and 4.) it has such a slim profile. I could easily the TX-500 in my Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack with the Elecraft KX2 and it didn’t make the pack feel any bulkier.

I came very close to choosing the IC-705, but it was just a bit too bulky for the way I had my pack configured.

Back to the hypocrite part…

The day before leaving North Carolina, I removed everything from our Subaru and gave it a deep cleaning.

When I pulled up the floor panel in the trunk/boot area to check the first aid kit, spare tire, and emergency gear I discovered that there was a fairly large unused area under there–a spot where I might be able to sneak a few extra radio supplies.

After a little finagling, I discovered that I could fit spare batteries, two folding PowerFilm panels, the Buddipole PowerMini 2, and two more radios: the MTR-3B field kit, and my Elecraft KX1.

This essentially amounted to contraband since I tend to be the guy who enforces “one bag per person” policy during our family travels.

I got some serious eye rolls from the family when they discovered the hidden radios after we reached our destination. I might not ever live this down.

If I had even a shred of dignity upon our arrival here in Canada, I can confirm it’s gone now.

Elecraft KX2 getting heavy use

Other than Field Day where I primarily used the TX-500, the Elecraft KX2 has been getting a heavy workout on this trip.

The reason why is because I’ve been activating a number of urban parks where an all-in one radio paired with a random wire or the AX1 vertical has been very useful.

Conditions have been very rough during some of these activations as well, so it’s nice to have both CW and SSB modes available and a full 5 watts (the KX1 and MTR-3B are CW-only hover around 3 watts). I’ve snagged some excellent QRP DX at times, but everything has been so unstable.

I didn’t bring the KX2 hand mic on this trip, so all of my SSB contacts have utilized the KX2’s built-in mic. It’s actually worked brilliantly!

Field Reports and Activation Videos

In the lead-up to Canada travels, I spent most of my spare time studying for the Canadian Basic exam and fell behind on field reports.

I’ve recorded a number of activations here in Canada and will likely post a couple of these out of chronological order while I’m still on this side of the border.

Uploading from our chalet hasn’t been possible–the upload speeds are about as dismal as they are at my QTH. Download isn’t too bad, though.

Hôtel Le Manoir, Baie-Comeau

While at the hotel in Baie-Comeau a few days ago, I uploaded at least four videos with their high-speed internet, so I’ll soon post a couple of them.

In short: the activations here have been amazingly fun. Some of the sites have been truly spectacular in terms of scenery and others are in urban settings taking me well outside my comfort zone.

In short: I’ve loved every minute of it!

Travels

Photo by K4TLI

We have had an amazing time here in Québec as always.

Our flavor of travel is the opposite of many: we tend to rent a home or apartment for a few weeks or couple of months and use it as a base for exploring the region. We do this as opposed to traveling long distances and only spending relatively short periods of time at multiple stops.

 

Activation today

I plan to activate a park while in Québec City today. I’ve no clue which one it’ll be yet, but I’ll announce it on the POTA site once I’ve got a plan together. If you have the time, look for me on the POTA spots page (as VY2SW) or via the RBN! I’d love to put you in the logs.

Here’s wishing all of you a week full of radio and fun!

72/73,

Thomas (VY2SW / K4SWL)

New River Gorge: Pairing the Tufteln 9:1 Random Wire with the Elecraft KX2

When Eric (WD8RIF) and I hatched our plan to do a mini POTA expedition in West Virginia, there was one site I wanted to activate more than any other: New River Gorge National Park.

More specifically, I wanted to activate the park by way of the scenic one-way road that starts near the New River Gorge Visitor’s Center and descends down to the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge (the “old” New River bridge).

Why? Because in December 2016 during the National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) program, I passed through West Virginia and activated some very rare parks on my way to a multi-day park run with Eric in Ohio. I fully intended to activate the New River at this very spot (underneath the “new” New River Bridge) after hearing how amazing the drive was from Eric.

Unfortunately, I happened to time my trip through West Virginia on a day when we received about an inch of snow. Even though (at the time) I was driving a Toyota minivan with nearly bald tires, the snow didn’t pose a problem at any other site, save this one. I had to change my plans and activate the New River in a spot where the access had less elevation change on a narrow snow-covered road. With my Subaru, this wouldn’t have been an obstacle in the slightest.

I was looking forward to going back to this site and was very pleased to see that Eric and his son, Miles, had already planned this trip in the draft itinerary!

New River Gorge National Park (K-0696)

On the morning of May 20, 2022, Eric, Miles, Theo the dog, and I left our campsite at Babcock State Forest and made our way to the New River Gorge Visitor’s center next to the New River Bridge.

If you’re ever in this area, I’d highly recommend checking out this visitor’s center as it has some well-designed exhibits detailing the impressive engineering that went into the construction of the New River Gorge Bridge.

There are also some fantastic views from the visitor’s center and from its short gorge overlook trail.

From the trail overlook at the visitor’s center we could see the spot where we planned to activate near the Tunney Hunsaker Bridge deep in the gorge (see photo above).

The drive into the gorge was quite scenic with a number of spots to park and take in the enormity of the New River bridge.At the bottom of the gorge, the view was pretty spectacular as well!

My partners in crime: Eric, Miles and “The Great Warg” (Theo the dog)

Tufteln 9:1 EFRW (End-Fed Random Wire) antenna

I mentioned in a previous post that long-time QRPer.com reader and supporter, Joshua (KO4AWH), runs an Etsy store with a wide range of products primarily designed for field operators.

Besides the Elecraft T1 protection case I mentioned previously, he also sent a couple of his QRP field antennas for testing and evaluation (to be clear: free of charge). Thanks, Joshua!

I decided to break in his EFRW QRP Antenna Long Wire at New River Gorge. Since Eric and I would be operating pretty close to one another, I wanted to use a random wire antenna that would give me a bit of frequency agility to hop around and avoid harmonically-related bands Eric might be using. This Tufteln antenna fit the bill! Continue reading New River Gorge: Pairing the Tufteln 9:1 Random Wire with the Elecraft KX2

Choosing a Field Radio: How to find the perfect transceiver for your outdoor radio activities!

The following article was originally published in the June 2022 issue of The Spectrum Monitor Magazine:


Choosing a Field Radio

by Thomas (K4SWL)

At least ninety percent of all of my radio operations happen in the field. Whether I’m in a park, on a summit activation, or I’m out camping, I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed “playing radio” outdoors. In fact, it was the joy of field radio––and the accompanying challenge of low-power operations––which launched my labor of love in the world of ham radio.

I’ve been running QRPer.com now for fourteen years, and during that time, the questions I’m asked most deal with selecting a field radio. Turns out, it’s an incredibly difficult question to answer, and we’ll touch on why that is before we dive into the reasons one radio might hold appeal over another for you.

Instead of offering up a list of field radios on the market, and reviewing each one—and, to be fair, there are so many these days—I’ll share with you a series of questions you might ask yourself before making a radio purchase, and follow up with a few bits of advice based on my own experience.These deceptively simple questions will help hone your decision-making. Finally, I’ll note a few of my favorite general coverage field radios and share what I love about each.

But, first…

Spoiler alert: It’s all about the operator, less about the specs

When searching for a new radio, we hams tend to take deep dives into feature and specification comparisons between various models of radios. We’ll reference Rob Sherwood’s superb receiver test data table, we’ll pour over user reviews, and we’ll download full radio manuals before we choose.

While this is valuable information—especially since radios can be quite a costly “investment”—I would argue that this process shouldn’t be your first step.

I’ve found that enjoyment of any particular radio—whether field radio or not—has everything to do with the operator and less to do with the radio’s actual performance.

A realistic assessment of yourself

The first step in choosing a field radio is to ask yourself a few questions, and answer them as honestly as you can. Here are some basic questions to get you started in your search of a field radio:

Question 1:  Where do I plan to operate?

If you plan to operate mostly at the QTH or indoors with only the occasional foray outdoors, you may want a field-capable radio that best suits you indoors—one with robust audio, a larger encoder, a larger display, and more front panel real estate.

On the other hand, if you plan to take your radio on backpacking adventures, then portability, battery efficiency and durability are king

Of course, most of us may be somewhere in between, having park activations or camping trips in mind, but overall size may be less important as we may be driving or taking only a short walk to the activation site. When your shack is a picnic table not too far from a parking lot or even an RV, you have a lot more options than when you have to hike up a mountain with your radio gear in tow.

Question 2:  What modes will I operate the most?

Are you a single mode operator? If your intention is to only use digital modes, then you’ll want a radio designed with easy digital mode operation in mind.

If you plan to focus on single sideband, power output may be more important and features like voice-memory keying.

If you plan to primarily operate CW, then the radio world is your oyster because it even opens the door to numerous inexpensive CW-only field radios.

If you plan to primarily operate CW,  I would strongly suggest going low power or QRP. I’ve often heard that 5 watts CW is roughly equivalent to 80 watts single sideband. I tend to agree with this. CW field operators hardly need more than 5 watts, in my experience.

And if, like most of us, you plan to operate a variety of modes, then you’ll want a radio that is multi-mode. Continue reading Choosing a Field Radio: How to find the perfect transceiver for your outdoor radio activities!

POTA activation with WD8RIF at Beury Mountain WMA in West Virginia!

Grist Mill at Babcock State Forest Headquarters

This year, instead of attending the 2022 Hamvention, my buddy Eric (WD8RIF) and I hatched another plan.

Eric and I–along with his son Miles (KD8KNC) and sometimes Mike (K8RAT)–attend Hamvention every year it’s held.  We’d planned to do the same this year especially with it being the first in-person Hamvention since 2019.

As Hamvention approached though, we both had a lot going on in our lives and decided to save a little money, a lot of travel time, and meet in West Virginia for several days of POTA activations and just hanging out. I explain a bit more about the decision in this previous post.

We camped three nights and performed activations together for four days. It was an absolute blast!

Setting up camp

On the afternoon of Thursday, May 19, 2022, we (Eric, Miles, Theo the dog, and I) met at Babcock State Park and set up our tents at the adjoining campsites we’d reserved.

Babcock would serve as our home base for the entire WV POTA expedition.

As a bonus, Babcock State Park (K-1798) is also a POTA entity, so we activated it in the late shift after dinner each evening.

As soon as the tents were deployed that afternoon, we all jumped into Mile’s Subaru with our radio gear and hit our first park!

Beury Mountain Wildlife Management Area (K-7036)

Beury Mountain WMA is so close to Babcock State Park, I have to assume they share a common boundary.

The drive to the site was very brief but as with many WMAs and Game Lands, the entry road isn’t paved and there are rough patches you might need to avoid. Of course, Mile’s Subaru was way over-engineered for this task! Continue reading POTA activation with WD8RIF at Beury Mountain WMA in West Virginia!

Fitting in some QRP SOTA & POTA on Mount Jefferson!

Looking back at last year (2021), if I had to pick out one of the easiest SOTA activations I made, Mount Jefferson would be near the top of the list. It’s a very accessible summit although not technically a “drive-up” summit because you will need to walk a short distance up a service road to the activation zone (AZ).

Mount Jefferson (W4C/EM-021) is located on and protected by the Mount Jefferson State Natural Area (K-3846), so when you activate Mount Jefferson for Summits On The Air, you can also claim the activation for Parks On The Air and World-Wide Flora and Fauna as long as you work at least 10 contacts.

What I love about POTA and SOTA “2-fer” sites like this is that you can set things up to be spotted in both systems (and often the WWFF system, too!) which increases your audience of hunters and chasers, thus increasing your odds of achieving a valid activation in all programs. It’s especially desirable if you’re a CW op and know you may potentially be in a spot with no mobile phone service for self-spotting; if, for some reason, RBN auto-spotting functionality is down with one program, the other serves as a backup.

Mount Jefferson is at least a two hour drive from my QTH, but it was easy pickings on April 29, 2022 because it happened to be within spitting distance of New River State Park where I was camping with my family.

Mount Jefferson (W4C/EM-021)

The drive to Mount Jefferson took all of 20 minutes which was a good thing because our family had other activities in store that day including some extended hikes!

Hazel (above) was so excited to to check out the sights and smells at this new-to-her park! Continue reading Fitting in some QRP SOTA & POTA on Mount Jefferson!

A casual and stealthy POTA activation at Le Domaine Maizerets

The weather in/around Québec City has been amazing lately; nice cool mornings and warm, clear days. I know this probably won’t last, so we’ve been taking advantage of it as much as possible (il faut en profiter, as francophones like to say).

Yesterday, we had a few errands to run in town: we needed to pick up some groceries, order a tarte au citron for my birthday (today!) from our favorite patisserie Pralines & Chocolat in Château-Richer, and yes, enjoy the great outdoors.

I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d be able to fit in an activation, but I tucked my KX2 radio pack in the car just in case. I didn’t take the camera because it was family time and if I managed an activation, I didn’t want to film it this time. That, and I have a huge backlog of activation videos I need to publish; I sidelined a lot of my field reports while studying for the Canadian Basic exam over the past month.

Le Domaine Maizerets (VE-5020)

We decided to hit one of our favorite little parks conveniently located on the east end of Québec City (Beauport): Le Domaine Maizerets.

We’ve been to this park a few times in the past to attend a Celtic festival and to meet with friends.

The grounds are beautiful and there are loads of foot paths.

An ATNO!

I checked to see if Le Domaine Maizerets was actually a park in the POTA system and I discovered that not only was it a POTA park, but it was an ATNO (All Time New One); meaning, it had never been activated before.

I was a bit surprised it had never been activated because this is a very popular park and even has free entry with free parking.

Keeping it Stealthy

I decided I wanted to stay fairly low-profile while doing this activation. I wasn’t worried about permissions (families, friends and groups meet here for all sorts of activities) but I wanted to see just how stealthy I could be while operating from a park bench in a city park. I don’t get this opportunity a lot because, back home, I’m usually operating from rural state/national parka and in remote game lands.

We found a couple of benches at the edge of the park that very conveniently had perfect antenna trees behind them.

While no one was watching, I deployed the PackTenna 9:1 random wire antenna; the jacket on its radiator is black and simply disappears with trees and flora in the background.

The wire is next to impossible to see from even 5 meters away

The more conspicuous parts of the antenna–the feed point and RG-316–were tucked away behind the park bench.

My high-visibility arborist throw line was hidden behind the tree and out of sight from those walking on the footpath.

From the footpath, you couldn’t see the antenna, coax, nor the throw line unless you were looking for it.

From behind the bench, you could though; in the very unlikely event someone would have walked behind us, it was pretty conspicuous (always avoid antenna tripping points). That and my family would have warned anyone coming near.

The Elecraft KX2 was a natural choice for this activation: it’s all-in-one and incredibly compact. I can also operate it and log  using the knee board Carolanne (N0RNM) kindly made for me last year.  No picnic table needed.

Operating CW with earphones is insanely stealthy. A CW op makes almost no noise whatsoever.

One of my daughters (K4TLI) was kind enough to log for me on my Microsoft Surface Go (using N3FJP’s AC Log).

 

Here’s what I looked like to anyone passing by:

Click to enlarge – Photo courtesy of K4TLI

My wife (K4MOI) and other daughter (K4GRL) were on the bench next to us sketching and painting. We looked like any other family at the park simply enjoying the amazing weather.

On the air

This was only my third activation here in Canada using my new Canadian callsign: VY2SW.

I’m still getting use to sending the new call; it flows well for me, but my muscle memory keeps kicking in and I find myself accidentally sending K4SWL. 🙂

Since I’m in Québec but have a Prince Edward Island callsign, I do intermittently add a /VE2 to the end of my call. It’s a fistful (VY2SW/VE2) so I don’t use it with every exchange or CQ.

Conditions lately have been absolutely in the dumps and yesterday was no exception.

When a propagation path opened, it was great, but conditions were very unstable with severe QSB.

I spent the better part of an hour hopping between 30, 40, and 20 meters to scrape together enough contacts for a valid park activation.

40 meters was absolutely dead due to flaring. I tried hunting a few CW and SSB stations there, but if I could hear them, they were barely audible.

20 and 30 meters served me better, but the QSB was so deep and frequent, I had to repeat my exchange on a number of occasions.  Some stations would call me with a 599+ signal and after my reply with signal report, they were then barely audible.

Still, I managed to snag my ten with a couple to spare. 🙂

Many thanks to all of you who waded through the ether to reach me on the other end.

QSO Map

It’s interesting looking at the QSO map post-activation. My best DX (EA4B) was easily the strongest station I worked with my 5 watts.

Click to enlarge the map:

This activation was so much fun.

Sure, contacts weren’t frequent but they were all meaningful and, frankly, none of us minded spending time outdoors on such a gorgeous day! It added an extra dimension keeping things very stealthy, too.

Thank you

Thanks for reading this field report. Now that my Canadian exam is in the books, I’ll have time to catch up on the numerous activation videos in the backlog!

Of course, I’d also 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 really appreciate the support which allows me to open up my work life to write more field reports and film more activation videos.

I hope you get a chance this week to play radio outdoors or chase/hint some park, island, or summit activators!

Until next time…73!

Cheers,

Thomas (VY2SW / K4SWL)

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!

Dale’s solution for enhanced CW field ergonomics

Many thanks to Dale (N3HXZ) who shares the following guest post:


Ergonomics of Operating CW in the Field

by Dale (N3HXZ)

About a year ago I started getting active in Parks On The Air (POTA) and Summits On The Air (SOTA). I had always been an avid hiker and backpacker, and though I am getting up there in years (recently retired!) these amateur radio opportunities were just the medicine I needed to rekindle my passion for the outdoors and amateur radio.

Thanks to Thomas (K4SWL) and his blog post and videos I was able to quickly come up to speed on the basics and get out into the field for CW activations.  I quickly discovered that operating CW in the field is quite different from operating at home. The creature comforts of a good chair, a level and spacious operating table, and isolation from the weather makes for a great experience in the shack, but is not available in the field, especially if you are backpacking to your destination. My early activations were sitting on a rock, or the ground, and using only a clip board to mount my rig (Elecraft KX2), locate my CW paddle, and place a notepad to record QSO’s.

While simple, this operating setup poses problems. Attaining and maintaining a flat workspace is tough in the field in order to keep things from shifting or falling off the clipboard, especially if you are not firmly seated. There is not enough space to set your wrist in order to steady your CW operating, and the notebook pages can flap in the wind, or the wind can blow your logbook clear off the table while operating. I realized I needed to upgrade my mobile station! Continue reading Dale’s solution for enhanced CW field ergonomics