Tag Archives: Elecraft KX3

POTA Activations in Canavese: Monti Pelati and Laghi di Meugliano

Many thanks to Christian (IX1CKN) who shares the following field report:


POTA Activations in Canavese: Monti Pelati and Laghi di Meugliano

by Christian (IX1CKN)

My Canavese connections, tied to the fact that my mom is from San Giorgio Canavese, have been strong since I was a child. Yet, at the ripe age of 50, I realized there are corners of that Piedmont area I hadn’t explored.

I discovered two such places this afternoon, activating POTA with Andrea (IW0HK), a significant motivator for seeking out new references. The first was the Monti Pelati and Torre Cives Natura 2000 (IT-0178), in the municipality of Vidracco (though the protected area also includes parts of Baldissero Canavese and Castellamonte).

This interesting site, reachable within 20 km of Ivrea, is where IW0HK and I met, coming from opposite directions. A short walk from the parking area leads to the summit, where Torre Cives stands, with a panoramic viewpoint facing east along the way.

Upon reaching the parking area with informative signs about the reserve.

Overall, not too many trees, altitude (around 570 meters), and a 360-degree view, an optimal situation for HF (High Frequency) operations.

At the “peak,” we set up the HF station with Elecraft KX3 (8 watts), using a quarter-wave vertical on the ground (also on 40 meters, with the appropriate coil), and followed 144 MHz with Quansheng UV-K5.

No need to dwell on the propagation conditions this weekend (with Aurora seen in southern Florida, and around Rome in Italy!). In shortwave, given the sun’s antics, the situation wasn’t promising at all.

However, Andrea and I decided to overcome this fear. Hamradio is, above all, about experimentation and activity. So, instead of worrying about how many would respond before leaving home, we decided to go, turn on, call, and tally them up.

In 34 minutes on-site, we logged 16 QSOs. Nine on 20 meters, 4 on 40 meters (the coil seems to be working, although you can’t expect miracles compensating for a significant lack of physical length in the element): 1 on 15 meters, and 2 on FM 144 MHz.

As you can see from the map, the responders were mainly POTA friends: Spanish, Polish, and English stations. I won’t list the calls, but you could guess them. However, local stations also responded, even on HF, which is always pleasing. With some, it was natural to try 2 meters as well, getting solid signals.

So, satisfaction despite the complicated propagation, whether for the validity of the activation or for discovering a new place.

Ritual photos with the tower, and off to the second reference.

We’re talking about IT-1634, Laghi di Meugliano and Alice. We’re still within a twenty-kilometer radius of Ivrea (in the Turin province). This time, the municipality is Valchiusa (in Valchiusella), and the lake basin sits at 720 meters above sea level. Now, don’t let the fact that we’re about 200 meters higher than the previous reserve fool you. For HF operations, we immediately encountered a less favorable situation because the lake is of morainic origin, nestled in a sort of basin with trees all around.

We chose not to set up right at its edge (it was quite crowded being a Sunday), but – also fearing the rain (which was forecasted) – in a pine-like area near the restaurant that serves the lake.

The quarter-wave antenna, planted on the ground, perhaps wasn’t in the most unobstructed condition possible, but at least we could take advantage of the shelter of the trees and a convenient table/bench.

Here, besides the propagation conditions, maybe the timing didn’t help much either, as we started the activation at 15:30 UTC. Probably, it’s a time when anyone, in half of Europe, on a Sunday afternoon that’s easy to imagine being warm in a good part of the continent, isn’t at home. Anyway, we replicated the pattern of the previous activation, starting on 20 meters with the calls…

In this case, the activation lasted for 32 minutes. The overall result is 15 contacts. Ten ended up logged on 20 meters (including the always active I1JQJ Mauro), two on 40, and three on VHF 144 MHz. Regarding this last band, I would like to highlight both the QSO with Daniele IU1LCI, for a total of 47 km from his QTH, and the one with Beppe I1WKN and Fabrizio IZ1DNQ, who were mobile returning from a SOTA in Valle d’Aosta (ironically, I had contacted them before descending into Piedmont) and stopped near Ivrea to try the contact.

Once again, both Andrea and I, as we returned to the car to head home (and witnessed, among other scenes that only POTA can provide to a hamradio enthusiast, the movement of a flock of sheep), were filled with happiness at the sight of a new place.

Above all, though, as we reviewed the log, the activation remains an opportunity where some ham spirit close to the roots prevails, which warms the heart to keep seeing. Wanting to exaggerate, on the way back to the Ivrea toll booth, there was still the Bellavista hill with its woods and marshes (which is reference IT-1635), but time had truly run out, so that’s for next one.

SOTA, POTA, and a Total Solar Eclipse Adventure: Conrad and Peter Pack It In!

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


QRP POTA & SOTA on Killington Peak, Vermont

By Conrad Trautmann (N2YCH)

Peter (K1PCN) and I decided to travel from Connecticut to Vermont to view the solar eclipse that occurred on April 8, 2024.

We got an early start on Sunday morning April 7th to drive to Rutland, Vermont where we stayed overnight. This positioned us well for a short drive the next morning to drive North towards Burlington, where we’d be under the path of totality.

Knowing we’d have some extra time on our hands on Sunday afternoon, Peter planned two park activations. Our first stop was Calvin Coolidge State Park (POTA US-5541 & SOTA W1/GM-002), which encompasses Killington Peak and is also a two-fer with the Appalachian Trail (US-4556). We also activated Gifford Woods State Park (US-3115), which isn’t too far from Killington.

For the trip up the mountain, we “walked-on” the K1 Gondola ski lift to get up most of the way.

From the top of the ski lift, we hiked another 360 feet, up 100 feet in elevation, in the snow, to get to the actual summit at approximately 4,230’ above sea level.

Photo of Peter and me on the summit

Our kits needed to be self-contained and not too heavy for the hike. Peter packed his Icom IC-705 along with a fiberglass mast and an end-fed half wave wire antenna to do a sideband activation. I brought my Elecraft KX-3, 3Ah Bioenno LifPo battery, and the Elecraft AX-1 antenna to do a digital activation. We both activated on 20 meters and were far enough apart that we didn’t interfere with one another. We also tried 17 meters.

Conrad, N2YCH’s equipment list

Peter, K1PCN’s Equipment List

After the hike up, we surveyed the area to see where the best spots would be for us to set up. Peter took one side of the summit while I set up on an exposed rock so I wouldn’t be sitting in the snow. Peter wore his ski pants…I, on the other hand, ended up with wet jeans by the end. I’ll re-think my attire the next time I do this. I got the radio equipment right but not the clothing selection. Priorities!

Conrad, N2YCH on the summit of Killington Peak in Vermont
Peter, K1PCN with EFHW antenna, which you can see if you look very closely
Peter, K1PCN and his radio and antenna

In addition to the HF radios, we both brought our VHF/UHF handhelds to make contact with each other as well as anyone who might be nearby. Peter brought a Baofeng UV-5R and I brought a Kenwood TH-D72. I was lucky enough to complete a QSO with someone who was mobile and driving along US Route 89, which at its closest point to Killington Peak is a solid 20 miles away. I verified that via email with the other ham after the fact. Continue reading SOTA, POTA, and a Total Solar Eclipse Adventure: Conrad and Peter Pack It In!

K3ES’ Eclipse Clean Sweep!

An Eclipse Clean Sweep

by Brian (K3ES)

Eclipse totality, as seen from US-8785, complete with corona.

My home QTH is located near Tionesta, PA, and the path of the 2024 eclipse put us near, but not in, the path for totality.  At home we would have more than 99.5% of the sun’s disc obscured.  I will confess that the distinction between 99.5% and totality was lost on me, but Becky was insistent that she wanted to be in the path of totality, because it gives a unique view when the sun’s disc is completely obscured by the moon.  At that point, only a halo of the sun’s corona remains visible.  Becky was right.  It was well worth the effort to get in the path of totality.

My contribution was to find a public area within the path of totality that would not be swarmed by traffic, cars, and people.

The Eclipse Plan

It turned out that we could be within the totality path by driving less than 20 miles from home.  We could also do this by driving away from population centers, rather than driving toward them.  Places like Erie, PA were expecting tens of thousands of people to visit.  I later heard stories of miles-long traffic jams, and hours of delay experienced by Erie pilgrims.  I hoped to, and thankfully managed to, avoid that fate.

After identifying that this section of PA State Game Land 086 was in the path for eclipse totality, a satellite view helped to identify open fields for viewing and activating.

I found that portions of Pennsylvania State Game Land 086 (coincidentally also POTA entity US-8785) lay within the totality zone.  Using a variety of on-line maps, I was able to find a parking area near the start of a gated Game Land road.

The road passed next to a series of small fields (satellite images are definitely helpful!).  Such fields are not uncommon at Game Lands, because it provides the opportunity for hunters to cross paths with rabbits and pheasants, both of which were out-of-season in April.  But, those same fields should have an unobstructed view of the sky.  So, we headed hopefully toward our selected parking lot, with plans to set up folding chairs (and a portable radio station) in one of the fields, as long as a parking space remained.

The POTA Plan

I had previously activated US-8785, making contacts on only the 40m band.  At that time, the goal had been a quick activation during a rove.  Lately, I have been working hard to accumulate contacts on 10 bands at multiple parks, inching my way closer to POTA’s N1CC award for making contacts on 10 bands from 10 different parks.

Prior to eclipse day, I had completed contacts on 10 bands from each of seven different parks.  While two or three of those contacts were made using VHF FM mode, my preferred method for achieving my goal at a park is to use CW mode and QRP power levels to make contacts on high frequency (HF) bands from 10m to 80m, and to also make CW QRP contacts on 160m (which is technically a medium frequency band).

The challenge with the 160m band (and the 80m band, to some extent) is that it generally works best after sunset.  Given that there would be an abnormal sunset occurring at 3:20 pm EDT, might it be possible to get a 160m contact during or near the period of totality?  That would be my quest.

So, I picked my equipment to give me the ability to rapidly move between bands.  I paired my KX3, with its excellent tuner and 160m to 6m coverage, with my VK160 homebrew 9:1 end-fed random wire (EFRW) antenna.  The story of VK160 design and construction and VK160 testing during Winter Field Day 2022 has previously been told in these pages (links provided), but suffice it to say that the radiating wire is 144 ft long.

If the crowds were sparse enough, I hoped to set it up as a shallow inverted V (I normally get a throw line up 30 to 40 ft, which is small in comparison to the antenna’s total length) along the wood line bordering the field.  I also brought two Bioenno LiFePO4 batteries that would normally be able to power my station for the large part of a day.  I chose battery redundancy, because there would be no opportunity for a re-do.

My operating plan was to make contacts on as many bands as possible.  I would start with 10m before the start of the eclipse, and work my way down in frequency, hopefully after making one or more contacts on each successive band.  I also needed to manage my time, so that I would get some time on each of the low bands – 60m, 80m, and 160m as the eclipse neared totality.  Since I already had contacts from a prior activation, I would not work 40m unless I had completed contacts on the other 9 bands.

Gear

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Eclipse Day

My cousin joined Becky and I for the outing to see the eclipse.  We all hoped that the afternoon would be memorable.  As we drove to our selected location, traffic was unexpectedly light, but the sky was overcast. There had been rain earlier in the morning, but the clouds seemed to be thinning as the day progressed, and we remained hopeful during the drive, particularly as glimpses of blue sky became apparent.

A final stretch on a dirt road brought us to the Game Land parking lot, a cleared patch of gravel, which was… empty!!!  It seemed that I had either planned well, or guessed right.  Either way, I was happy with the starting point!

We passed out the folding chairs from the back of the truck, shouldered our bags, and started the half-mile walk back the road to find our field.  We saw no vehicles and no people on the way in.  We did hear a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers drumming on branches near the side of the road, and we saw a Red-tailed Hawk and some Turkey Vultures soaring overhead.  It all made for an enjoyable walk, and the clouds continued to thin, with patches of blue emerging as the clouds continued their journey overhead.

Setting Up the Station

Here, I am preparing to throw a line to support the VK160.  I selected a tree somewhat distant from my planned operating location, so that apex would be located at about the midpoint of the radiating wire.
I used the K4SWL sling method of throwing the arborist line for this deployment.  While I am much more accurate using the “granny shot” throwing method, the sling method can get the line consistently higher.
I am deploying one of the three radial wires used with the VK160.  If you look closely, you can see the antenna feedpoint hanging behind me, level with my hat brim.  The cord holding the feedpoint can be seen just above my head.

When we arrived at the field, I scouted out a location for my antenna.  A tall tree at the woodline seemed to have a number of great branches high above the ground.  I broke out my arborist line, made my throw, and missed.  I repeated the process a couple more times, then snagged a light branch just a bit lower than I had hoped, but it would be sufficient.

Unwrapping the antenna (it takes a while to spool out 144 ft of wire) I found that it would stretch across the width of the field, and a bit further along one edge, so up it went in a bent inverted V.  A length of 550 cord secured it to a tree branch on the far side of the field, and a bit of light cord held the feed point to a tree branch near my chair.  This done, I connected and stretched out three counterpoise wires, connected the RG316 feed line, and started assembling the station.

On the Air

I am preparing for operation.  Station equipment is on the clipboard in my lap.  The antenna feedpoint can be seen at upper right.  The 15 ft RG316 feedline runs downward from the feedpoint, along the ground, and up to my operating position.
On the air with the KX3 set for 5 watts CW.
Working for a contact on 12m.
Continuing to work contacts as the light dims.  Chairs for Becky and my cousin are about 100 ft down the field from my operating position.
Between contacts I could quickly don my fashionable eclipse glasses to safely monitor progress, as the moon’s shadow progressed across the sun.

I was quickly ready to hit the air.  Having scheduled the activation in advance, I was not worried about cell service, but found that I had enough to verify my initial spot, as well as subsequent band changes.  As planned, I started on  the 10m band.  It took some time before my CQ call was returned.  After logging it, I called for a bit longer, then switched over to the 12m band, where things took a different turn. Continue reading K3ES’ Eclipse Clean Sweep!

SOTA: First activation of VE6/RA-174

As always there are lots of links within the article. Click one! Click them all! Learn all the things! 

You can see a full video of this activation on YouTube. Use it for CW practice as the footnotes follow the callsigns but only once I’ve gotten it correctly and have transmitted it back.

Our local club runs a repeater network with a dozen repeaters connected hub and spoke style on UHF links. It covers an area approximately 42,000 square kilometers (16,200 square miles) in Southern Alberta. I help to maintain that network and am constantly learning from the smart people that put it together and fix it when it goes awry.

On a Sunday afternoon, in mid-March, I discovered that our club’s VE6HRL repeater at Longview Alberta wasn’t passing audio back to the network, only carrier and some white noise. Local audio was passing along just fine, so the issue is either with the controller or the linking radio. A plan was struck for a service call and to activate this summit at the same time.

Given the repeater is located on Longview Hill, SOTA entity VE6/RA-174, and it is on private land, this summit cannot be activated unless we have reason to be there. Performing repeater maintenance gave us that reason, and so I enlisted the help of Canada’s first double GOAT, VE6VID, to come along with me as it’s a 2 person job to remove a repeater from the rack. We’d activate the summit after the work was complete.

So, on a Sunday morning late in March, the two of us set out in our respective 4x4s to crawl up the road to the summit. In the event you’ve disremembered, I’m in shape -round- and, as a result, my favourite type of SOTA to do is a drive-up. For our repeater sites that are on top of summits, we always bring along two vehicles in case one has mechanical difficulty or gets stuck in the snow. Yes, we have used snowmobiles to do service calls in the past!

The road on the north side of the hill runs up through small valley and does not catch much sun, so the recent snowpack proved to be a small nuisance as we crawled forward. That small nuisance became medium-grade once I got stuck due to lack of forward momentum. A couple of backside-puckering moments later I backed down the hill to take a run at it with more speed and more potty-mouth. Success and no digging with snow shovels was involved.

View from the summit looking West-by-southwest

We arrived at the summit and the view was breathtaking! There were only a few clouds in an otherwise vibrant blue sky, and with the 4″ of snow on the ground it was simply VERY BRIGHT OUT making both of us wish we had darker sunglasses! We entered the repeater building and performed some simple testing in situ and then I powered off the repeater and we removed the gear from the rack and put our tools away a half hour after we arrived. Now we can do SOTA!

The activation zone is quite large at this site and Malen drove a few hundred metres away to set up, providing needed separation between us. He set about to do his thing and I did the same. I brought out my crappie fishing rod/mast and propped it up along the barbed wire fence and set about putting out my VE6VID 66′ EFHW. The folding lawn chair would serve as a table, and a nearby metal cabinet that houses phone lines would hold my Contigo mug and two video cameras.

EFHW running parallel to the fence. The tower is straight in real life, but my camera was not!

With the antenna oriented to the west and sloping downwards and parallel to the very old barbed wire fencing (I call it Tetanus fencing given it’s age and your need for a booster shot if it should puncture your skin), I was uncertain how it would perform. As it turns out I had no cause for concern as I was able to make contacts without too much trouble. I trudged back up the hill to the now-placed lawn chair and finished my set-up.

My “desk” for the activation

I evaluated the bands by listening briefly on the FT8 frequency for 10, 15 and 20m. For me it’s a quick measure of how active the bands are, and dialing off a few kHz or so will reveal how noisy the conditions are. I settled on 20m. Aaand right about then, as if I needed another distraction besides the Canadian Rockies staring me in the face, my HamAlert went off on my phone; regrettably I was unable to hear my friend N4JAW at his activation. As it was too cold to handle my cellphone for typing and spotting, I set about getting spotted via SOTAmat and got on the air. Continue reading SOTA: First activation of VE6/RA-174

K3ES Travels: Ten Days of QRP with Compromised Antennas

Ocracoke, NC, home to this iconic lighthouse, was our destination for a week of relaxation.  Ten days of QRP operation was a happy consequence.

Ten Days of QRP with Compromised Antennas

by Brian (K3ES)

At the end of a hard (or even a not-so-hard) winter, Becky and I really enjoy the opportunity to spend a week at the beach with friends.  Even with the cooler and more unpredictable weather late in the off-season, it provides welcome relief from the cold and snow that we often get in northwest Pennsylvania.  This year we chose to visit Ocracoke Island, at the southern tip of the North Carolina Outer Banks.

While driving down and back, I fit in Parks on the Air (POTA) activations at parks in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.  Each of the activated parks was new to me, and  so were their states.  My time at the beach also included daily POTA hunting.  I knew that my radio activity would all be conducted using CW mode, and low power.  All of my contacts on this trip were made with 5 watts, except for a brief stint where I increased power to 10 watts to fight band noise during a longer QSO with my code buddy.  What I did not expect was that all of my contacts would be made using antenna configurations that were less efficient than normal.

At each of the activated parks, I paired my Elecraft KX2 with a brand new Elecraft AX1 vertical antenna.  While it proved very effective at making contacts, the 4 ft high AX1 vertical definitely compromises gain to achieve its tiny form factor for HF operations.  Once we moved into our rented house on the island, we knew that storms were expected.  In fact, gale warnings were issued for our area twice during our week-long stay.  Besides cutting off ferry service to the island, I feared that high winds would bring down any antenna mast that I might try to use.  So, I deployed my shortest wire antenna in a low configuration that I hoped would resist the wind, yet still enable some contacts.  I certainly did not expect it to perform like it had many times before when deployed in vertical or inverted V configurations, but proof would be in the contacts.  I will avoid suspense by saying that this installation was unaffected by the high winds that were predicted and received.

Gear

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Monocacy National Battlefield – US-0705

Monocacy National Battlefield, US-0705, is located near the junction of Interstates 70 and 270 at Frederick, MD.

Our trip south took us close enough for a visit to our 3-year old grandson and his parents.  Truth be told, any distance would have been close enough, so even though greater-Baltimore is slightly off the direct path, that was the destination for our first day of driving.  On the way to Baltimore, we also passed within a couple of miles of the Monocacy National Battlefield, near Frederick, MD.  So, we spent a couple of hours exploring interpretive displays at the Visitor Center, and of course, activating the park.

As a Civil War history buff, I knew of the Battle of Monocacy, but little about its details.  Briefly, in July of 1864 a small Union force faced off against a much larger Confederate Army led by Lieutenant General Jubal Early.  The Confederates were moving against Washington, DC in an attempt to take the pressure off of the defenders around the Confederate capital of Richmond, VA.  While the battle was a tactical defeat for the Union, it proved to be a strategic victory, because it delayed the Confederate advance for two crucial days.  In that time Washington’s defenses were strongly reinforced, so the Confederate Army withdrew back into the Shenandoah Valley without accomplishing its mission.  More on that later.

A picnic table near a wood line outside the visitor center made a perfect, unobtrusive location to activate US-0705.

For the activation, I set up my station at a picnic table.  A table top tripod supported the AX1 antenna, with a short piece of RG316 coaxial cable connecting it to the KX2.  I operated CW mode with 5 watts of power, and completed the activation with 11 contacts in less than 15 minutes.

The entire station, including table-top AX1, took up less than half of a picnic table.
Logging contacts…
Cannons overlooking the battlefield…
Map of contacts from US-0705.  Home QTH for one station is located at the south pole!

Operating from Ocracoke Island, NC

A week at Ocracoke…

We arrived on Ocracoke on the last ferry run to the island before a Gale Warning shut down service for two days.  We counted ourselves fortunate to be on the island, but gale force winds complicated deployment of antennas.  Except, that is, for the AX1. Continue reading K3ES Travels: Ten Days of QRP with Compromised Antennas

K3ES Field Report: Hiking with Molly and discovering a new two-fer activation site!

Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:


Molly is on the trail of a POTA activation.  Temperatures are in the 40s, but there is still snow on the ground.

A Hike and a 2-fer

by Brian (K3ES)

When you live in northwestern Pennsylvania, and a February day shows up with the sun shining, moderate temperatures, and nothing pressing on the calendar, it is time to go and enjoy the outdoors.

One of the best ways to do that is to take a hike with your dog.  Hopefully  your dog is like Molly, who doesn’t mind taking a break mid-hike for a Parks on the Air (POTA) activation.  So on Wednesday, February 21 we scheduled an activation and jumped in the truck for a drive to the trail head.  The hike to and from the activation site would be a nice change from the short walks we had been taking to the pond behind our house in the colder weather, and from activating while sitting in the truck.  And, to better share the joy with our POTA hunters, we would make this activation a 2-fer, giving them credit for both the North Country Trail National Scenic Trail (K-4239) and Pennsylvania State Game Land 024 (K-8725).

Molly is ready to go.  She is not at all amused by waiting for me to take pictures.

Since I had hiked the planned route before, both solo, with friends, and with Molly, I expected that the route would be familiar.  Some of it was, and some of it was brand new to us.  You see, the North Country Trail volunteers had been busy since we last hiked as far up the trail as we planned to go.  They had cleared and marked an entirely new route for one section  of the trail, bypassing an old favorite activation site!  So, we got to do some exploring, and we found a new favorite activation site.  Bonus!

Finding a New 2-fer Site

One of the things that I enjoy about POTA is planning my activation.

Since days long ago as a Boy Scout, I have enjoyed outdoor navigation.  Map and compass always fascinated me.  Things have gotten much easier with Global Positioning System (GPS), online maps, and online satellite imagery.  Still, I do most of my activation planning while sitting comfortably at home with a tablet or a computer.  For this trip, finding the newly marked trail (that had not yet been transferred to the online map) presented a bit of a challenge.  While I could follow the marked trail easily, I needed to be sure that I had entered Game Land property so that the 2-fer activation would be valid.

Thankfully, I had access to an app on my smart phone to help me solve this problem as we walked along the trail through the woods.  The On X Hunt app combines GPS, topographic maps, satellite imagery, and tax office databases to identify land ownership (even when the owner happens to be the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania).  Full functionality of this app is not free, but as the owner of a parcel of land, it is something I had elected to pay for.  Once it became clear that the newly marked trail would not quickly rejoin the prior route, I set up the app to record our track on the map.  After confirming that Molly and I had definitely crossed PA Game Land property line (there were no marking signs along the new trail), we went just a bit further, then found a promising spot to set up for the activation.

With a change to the K-4239 North Country Scenic Trail route, we found a new 2-fer site within K-8725, along the partially snow-covered Game Land road that carries this section of the Trail.

Setting Up to Activate

I chose to locate our station in the woods beside a Game Land road that provided the path for the North Country Trail in that particular area.  We set up on the inside of a bend flanked by trees with long overhanging branches.  I placed my chair in the woods on the inside of the bend, and tossed a throw line over a branch on the outside of the bend, then deployed my Packtenna EFRW with 71 ft wire as an inverted V across the road.  I used the throw line to hoist the middle of the radiating wire up about 30 ft, and secured both the feedpoint and the far end of the antenna to nearby trees, about 6 ft off the ground.

Even though I did not expect traffic on this road (shaded areas were still snow covered, and the snow showed tracks only from woodland creatures), I try to deploy my wire antennas high enough that they are not a hazard to others who may travel through.

Temperatures were rising, but with the high only expected to hit 50F, I brought a blanket to give Molly some additional insulation (though she is a rough, tough POTA dog, as a Boston Terrier, her coat is not particularly thick).  I laid out the blanket beside my operating position,  so that it could provide both top cover and insulation from the ground.

Molly is settled in for the activation.

I connected my RG316 coaxial cable to the antenna feedpoint, set up my camp chair next to Molly, set up the radio, and prepared my log book. In very short order, I was on the air, spotted by the Reverse Beacon Network, and logging contacts. Continue reading K3ES Field Report: Hiking with Molly and discovering a new two-fer activation site!

SSB Style: Mark pairs the Elecraft KX3 and AX1 for some challenging activations

Many thanks to by Mark (W2ITG) who shares the following field report:


Elecraft KX3/AX1 Field Report

by Mark (W2ITG)

I’m an avid POTA activator and wanted to try an experiment to see if I could complete an activation using just the Elecraft KX3 & AX1 on 40 & 20m SSB. I’ve seen others do it on CW but not on SSB. My CW learning is not going well by the way.

This was at K-1635 Washington Rock State Park 02-07-2024, with a beautiful view of the NYC skyline approximately 20 miles away.

My 1st attempt was a failure because I ran into SWR issues on 20m when I picked up the microphone & RF was getting into the audio as well. This was with the antenna mounted directly on the side of the radio using a 90 degree elbow connector, the AX1B bipod & an elevated radial connected to one of the case screws of the radio, unfortunately it didn’t work.

It’s a good thing I had brought along my Tuftln EFHW and telescopic carbon fiber fishing pole as well because it saved the day which allowed me to complete the activation. When activating make sure to have a backup plan, so far I have no incomplete activations.

Fast forward to 02-27-2024 I’m making another attempt but using a clamp mount, clamped on to the side of the picnic table, 25’ of ABR Industries RG-316 with built in CMC choke, the Elecraft AXT1 tripod adapter, and an elevated counterpoise.

I was much more successful, but barely. I did get my 10 contacts, 7 on 40m and 3 on 20m. This really took me by surprise as the AX1 is more of a compromise on 40 than it is on 20m.

Radio set up at a different picnic table.
This clamp mount was taken from one of my BuddiStick setups.
Notice the electric fence post in the background to elevate the counterpoise.
The QSO map, it took me an hour and a half to get these 10 contacts.

Using the AX1 was quite the challenge to say the least. It does prove that even with a very limited antenna you can make contacts. My guess as to why it didn’t work as well on 20m, is poor band conditions. Living in the very populated northeast is what I believe allowed me to make more contacts on 40m.

Would I recommend buying this antenna? Most definitely, just as long as you know what it’s limitations are. I will try another attempt, but by trying 2 elevated counterpoise wires instead of 1. This antenna can use all the help it can get.

Field Radio Kit Gallery: WN1C’s Elecraft KX3 Camera Bag Activation Kit 

Many thanks to Thomas (WN1C) 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, read this post


KX3 and Speaker Wire Camera Bag Activation Kit 

by Thomas (WN1C)

For the QRPer’s Field Radio Kit Gallery, this is my KX3 and speaker wire in a camera bag activation kit.

This kit is the continuation of the equipment I used for my Maine ATNO expedition and other activities on that return to my parents almost a year ago. Primarily, it’s a change in bags and an improvement of the audio connection options for more sustained activations. Writing up this kit for the gallery also will probably be an incentive for further change. With how loosely packed it is, there’s space for options! You can see this kit in action on my recent trail activation.

The bag packed and ready for an expedition, even if just a little ways away.

The outside is the discontinued Peak Design Everyday Messenger 15″ v1. I picked this up lightly used on my local craigslist with an eye for expanding the kit contents capabilities. In that endeavor, it has been successful, but concentrating on this configuration to start:

Open the top to reveal the gear packed between dividers!

There’s a certain pattern (that I might not keep following in future re-packings), but the arrangement internally is:

  • Outer pouches: coax, radials, headlamp as necessary
  • Lid flap padded pouch: infrequently used adapters and short cables
  • Left division: antenna(s), throw line and weight, headset, coax, banana cables
  • Mid-left division: logging pouch with paddles and notebook
  • Mid-right division: KX3 with cover and heatsink
  • Right division: power cables, hand microphone, lithium-ion battery banks, LiFePO4 battery pack
  • Flopping around on top: TH-350 HT
  • Front zipper pouch: additional notebooks, earbud headphones, pen, coax, ARRL VE badge

Of course, not all of this gets used at the same time. Different LiFePO4 options with Anderson Powerpole connectors can be substituted. For quick and lighter operating (or when wearing more hats), the headset can be left behind. Anyway, to the details!

Full contents spread out much wider than I usually have space for! Featuring the wooden floor I rarely operate over because apartment living.

So, what is all of this?

Bags

  • Peak Design Everyday Messenger 15″ v1 (discontinued, acquired second hand) with an additional bright red divider stolen from one of my Crumpler camera bags
  • Case Logic accessories pouch from who knows where (underneath the notebook)
  • One of WesSpur’s low cost throw line bags (don’t get it, it’s smelly plastic and falls apart, as shown in the picture)

Radios

  • Star of the show: Elecraft KX3 in the “KX3 Pack” configuration (KX3, KXAT3, KXBC3, MH3) with Side KX KX3 Combo panels and cover, plus an aftermarket heatsink
  • TYT TH-350 tri-band HT (144-222-430 MHz) with bundled SRH-17 tri-band whip

Getting RF Out

  • 2x 28′ (ish) speaker wire on BNC-F to binding posts/banana connector, in use for a while, though now beefed up with a bit of heat shrink and crimped spade lugs
  • 4x 17′ speaker wire shorted together on dual banana plug (radials)
  • 6′ RG-58 BNC-M to BNC-M with a random split ferrite on it from who knows where
  • 2x Pomona banana test leads for occasions of connecting more things together
  • 60′ Marlow Excel Throw Line 2mm (a K4SWL recommendation)
  • WesSpur 10 oz Throw Weight
  • Assorted S-Clip Plastic Carabiners for the speaker wire, throw line, and whatever else needs clipping together
  • CablesOnline 25′ RG-316 with BNC for spare feedline
  • 2 foot BNC RG-316 jumper
  • Adapters: BNC F-F coupler, BNC-M to dual Banana-F/Binding Post, Dual Banana-M to BNC-F, BNC tee, BNC to center Banana-F/Binding Post; all provide options of hacking some options together

Getting Signals In and Out

  • Koss SB-45 Communication Headset (cheaper relative of the popular Yamaha headset; it shows, mostly in the cable quality)
  • Bamatech Bamakey TP-III Rot (an excellent set of dual paddles that can also serve PTT duty) stored in an Altoids Peppermint tin
  • Cable Matters Retractable 3.5mm Audio Cable
  • Hosa YMM-261 Stereo Breakout to allow use of the SB-45 electret mic with another switch wired to a 3.5mm plug for PTT on the KX3 mic port rather than just VOX
  • Custom microswitch to 3.5mm PTT (not very good at its job) using this snap switch
  • Elecraft MH3 hand mic from the kit configuration
  • Old Apple earbuds, headphones only (TRS)

Power

  • Bioenno BLF-12045W 12V / 4.5Ah LiFePO4 pack (can be substituted with the 3Ah pack I also have)
  • Anderson PowerPole to barrel plug for KX3 power
  • Old (sometimes RF noisy) USB Type-A power banks, one with a built-in flashlight (souped up with a much nicer white LED)
  • Misc USB cables, A to Micro-B and C for charging from batteries

Documentation

Lunch break? Time for a rapid SOTA/POTA activation!

by Vince (VE6LK)

As always there are lots of links within the article. Click one! Click them all! Learn all the things! ? Also, it’s with thanks to the management at QRPer.com who give me this outlet for creative writing.

While on business travel in Northern Alberta recently, I found myself with a slow workday and a few hours owed from lunches not taken that week. A quick plan was hatched and out the door I went after ensuring that all at work was going to be fine without me for 2-3 hours. But before I get to that story…

While travelling to and from this site, I’ve made it a mission to activate as many ATNO [All-Time-New-Ones, ie. never-activated parks] as possible within POTA. I plan these 500km trips with some small side journeys to these parks or natural areas and to break up the otherwise long drive along the foothills of the Canadian Rockies up and down the Highway 22 (aka. Cowboy Trail) corridor. It’s truly a lovely drive and I don’t mind it in the least.

Now back to my late-day lunch break adventure…

With the nearest park to me (VE-3162, Whitecourt Mountain) already activated but only on phone, I figured I’d activate it on CW and do more QSOs than the other activator just for good measure. I can’t believe that a park this close to a townsite had only one activation before I got there to activate it.

If that isn’t enough, it’s also a SOTA entity [VE6/ST-102] with a broad and not-steep slope making the activation zone quite wide. On top of that I can do this two-fer as a drive-up! This worked in my favour as I parked my truck within the activation zone! This SOTA entity had been done a couple of times already so I knew that electrical noise would be my nemesis.

For those of you that may have disremembered, I’m in shape -round- and that shape doesn’t easily climb summits, so a drive-up is totally my kind of summit. But I had to get a move on as there were only two hours left on the Zulu timeclock.  At my hotel room I had more gear, but being nervous nelly that I am at times, I do not leave my KX3 in the room unless there’s a safe. Given that the KX3 gets lonely without companions, I ensure that it always has a battery, antenna and key along for the ride so they keep each other happy as can be 🙂 I had just enough of my portable kit with me to make this happen.

Continue reading Lunch break? Time for a rapid SOTA/POTA activation!

Field Radio Kit Gallery: K8ZT’s Elecraft KX3 Rapid Deployment Kit

Many thanks to Anthony (K8ZT) 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, read this post


K8ZT Elecraft KX3 Rapid Deployment, Expedition Go-Box

I have been active in portable Field Operations, portable contest operations and POTA for many years. I also like always to have the option of both multiple modes (CW, SSB & DIGI) and multiple bands for my portable operations. I am not a SOTA operator, and although weight is still an issue, this is definitely not a minimalist setup. My preferred method for go-boxes is the rapid deployment model. In this model, almost all interconnections of elements in the kit are already made, and the opening of the case and attachment of the antenna get me on the air in seconds. This model is not designed for airplane baggage handling or other rough transportation but works well in a backpack or carry-on.

Here is a photo (above) of operating FD from Delaware

The design I have used can work with other radios with similar footprints, including Elecraft KX2, Icom 705, Xeigu 5105 or 6100, etc. You could also substitute other similar tackle or tool boxes. I like working with plastic cases because they are lightweight and easily modified. I have put together a slideshow on my go-box with instructions and suggestions at tiny.cc/rapidkx3.

I used the Plano 135402 4-BY™ 3500 Stowaway® Rack System tacklebox.

A very similar box is the Harbor Freight- STOREHOUSE Toolbox Organizer with 4 Drawers.

Securing the KX3 to the box was easily accomplished by substituting two longer nylon thumbscrews for the two shorter manufacturer-supplied ones. These screws extend through the case and screw into KX3. Nylon was chosen to allow easy customized lengths. The BNC antenna extends out of the case.

In addition to using the tackle box for my go-box, I also got the four insertable clear plastic containers. With the radio installed, I still have room for one container in its original position.

I can load a lot of extra supplies in these containers. You can even set up each of the four for different types of operations.

The top of the tackle box is storage space for my LiFEPO4 battery and other items. The contents can change depending on the planned operation. Here, you can see the Mic for phone operations and a DigiRig Mobile External Sound Card Interface for FT8. If doing a contest-type operation, I usually use a headset with a mic, and you can see the push-to-talk foot switch in the box ( a source of cheap light foot switches is eBay Tattooing foot switches).

I have also run cabling from the radio’s connections (Mic, Key, Headphone & Serial port) into the top area to make connections easier. To facilitate multiple connections, each uses a 3.5 mm plug 90° (connection to radio) and a splitter with two 3.5mm sockets to connect accessories. I used a label maker to label each connector’s socket ends.

Note the quick reference diagram of the KX3 mounted in the lid of the go-box. This is something I do with all of the go-boxes I build. I use tiny bungee cords on larger go boxes to securely store manuals in lid space.

I like computer logging, especially for more extended contests or Field Day operations. I use the computer to interface with the radio for this operation. This also provides me with a computer to do digital modes. I have found laptops that work with 12-volt DC to extend the usable time when AC is unavailable. I have also found PC Power Banks with 20 V DC output that can run most laptops for 24+ hours in conjunction with the laptop’s internal battery. One accessory I find essential is a simple USB storage drive with the following:

  • Installation file for any computer programs I will be using (Logging software, WSJT-X, JT-Alert, etc.)
  • Elecraft KX3 Control Utility (to program macros, make setting changes, etc.)
  • Rig computer software Drivers for all of my radios
  • Firmware for all of my radios (just in case)
  • PDFs of all user manuals for any equipment I am using. Although paper manuals do not require a computer, they are heavy, easily damaged and especially not computer-searchable for the exact item I need to diagnose my issue.

The other thing the USB drive can facilitate is the emergency use of a loaner computer, which would have none of the software I would need installed.

I use a variety of antennas with my kit, but my default is a random-length Endfed connected directly to KX3’s antenna jack with a BNC splitter. My support is a 7-meter fiberglass collapsible fishing pole. Here is a table with alternative random antenna lengths to try- link#1 and  link #2

For additional information on this and other portable operations packing ideas, see my Portable Operations presentation slideshow tiny.cc/portop and video https://youtu.be/It3wlq7RoUo.

Equipment: