As always there are lots of links within the article. Click one! Click them all! Learn all the things! 🙂
For those of us that work from home there are good and not-so-good things about it. One of the not-so-good things is that I’m not getting out somewhere every day like I used to, thus I embrace corporate travel as it represents a mini-escape from the day-to-day activities that would normally happen. It also gives me an opportunity to operate in the field and away from the comfort of sites nearby my home.
In late September I was in the Edmonton Alberta area for work and, as always, I brought along a set of gear to play radio. Where I’d normally drive up and park my F-350 within the boundaries of the park and operate from the cab of the truck, this time I was in a rental vehicle so I had to be well-equipped for the unknowns. I also didn’t pre-plan my stops like I normally would, I just wanted to roll up and do my best to make it work.
Not really pre-planning an activation is a stark contrast to how I normally roll as I usually pore over maps and satellite views on multiple websites to visualize where the park entrance is and where I’ll set myself and what I may encounter for surroundings when I get there. I know exactly where I’m going and just about down to the parking space. I build a set of kit up to support that/those activation/s.
With the lovely autumn weather we were experiencing in Alberta, my plan was to activate after work opportunistically around Edmonton – something I’d not yet done despite many trips to the area – and set up and operate right around 0000z. This time is after my workday, so a nice mental break from the day’s activities before kicking back for the evening. I think to my self that I’ll roll into a site nearest to where I was working arriving just before midnight UTC (1800h local) and get set up and start calling once the clock ticked over into a new day. From there I would then head to the hotel (or home) and grab a bite to eat and close my day off on a high note.
The final boat-only accessible island is Minnie Island, located in the middle of Gardner Lake in the town of Salem, Connecticut. I DO have experience kayaking on a Lake, thanks to my uncle, who has two kayaks and has taken me out on Tillson Lake in New York’s Hudson Valley a number of times. Unlike the challenges the river posed, I felt like I could manage the lake on my own. I did need a kayak, though, which I didn’t own.
I had to do some kayak research then. In case you didn’t know this, different kayaks have different specifications on how much weight they can hold. I’m a big guy, six foot five inches tall. Add me, plus a backpack of radio equipment, and I needed to be sure I didn’t sink.
I started on eBay, looking for people selling used kayaks. There are all different kinds of kayaks. Some made for the ocean and dealing with waves and others for casual lake paddler. Some have rudders, some have small, sealed cockpits and some even have motors. I had no idea how serious you could get with all of the accessories and options. I was really looking for something simple.
After striking out on eBay, I found a fishing supply store at the end of the Connecticut River that also had kayaks you could rent. I visited their web site and was happy to see that they were having an end of season clearance sale, where they were selling their rentals. I visited their shop and after looking at my options, I ended up buying an Old Town Vapor 10 kayak. It came with a paddle and life jacket and it was 50% of the price new. A great bargain. The added benefit is now I own my own kayak…a friend suggested that now that I do, there might be IOTA activations in my future.
What sold me on the Vapor 10 was the open cockpit. No trying to squeeze myself in and plenty of room to bring a backpack with the radio equipment in-between my legs. Also, I was able to fit it into my Jeep Wrangler.
“What QRP HF transceiver would you or do you choose for air travel?”
I turned off the survey at 6:30 EDT today, with a total of 475 responses.
Here’s a pie chart showing the top 18 results in the survey. To see detail, you will need to click on the image below (or click this link) to enlarge it in a new window:
The top choice was the Elecraft KX2 which accounted for 22.9% of the votes.
It’s funny: I had assumed the Icom IC-705 might take first place in this survey. Then I realized that I own both the KX2 and IC-705 and, this summer, I chose the KX2 each time I traveled. Indeed, I can’t think of a time in recent memory that I didn’t take the KX2 with me during travels.
The reason I picked the KX2 each time is because it’s such a comprehensive HF radio with a superb built-in ATU and battery pack. There’s no field situation I can throw at it that it can’t handle. In fact, if a site doesn’t allow any antennas on the ground, I can even pair it with my AX1 or AX2 tabletop antennas.
I see why so many of you picked it as your first choice.
Your second choice was the Icom IC-705 which accounted for 14.3% of the votes.
The IC-705 has one very cool feature for travel: you can charge it with a common Micro USB charger!
No need to take a separate power supply, battery pack, or custom charger. Simply bring a Micro USB cable and plug it into the hotel USB charger, your phone’s charger, or even a Lithium power pack. If you’re happy with 5 watts of output power, you really need no other battery, power supply, or charger.
Of course, the IC-705 is compact, sports the entire HF band, VHF, and UHF and is multimode. It can also receive FM and AM broadcasts along with weather radio, and the AIR band.
You can even do D-Star natively and allow the GPS in the IC-705 to find the closest repeaters and load them to memory.
The IC-705 is a very savvy travel transceiver!
Your third choice was the Yaesu FT-817/818 which accounted for 9.9% of the votes.
At first, I was a little surprised the FT-817/818 would gather more votes than, say, the Elecraft KX3, but then again it’s actually a very compact radio. I remember when I used to travel Europe for a living, I would tuck my FT-817 into my carry-on and I hardly noticed it was there.
I’ve traveled pretty extensively with my KX3 so I see why it ranks so high on the list. Like its newer sibling, the KX2, it has an amazing internal ATU. You can also load the KX3 with AA cells for short on-the-air sessions or longer listening sessions.
Fifth on this list of travel radios is the Xiegu X6100 which accounted for 6.1% of the votes.
No doubt, what makes the X6100 so appealing is that, like the KX2, it’s a proper shack-in-a-box. Indeed, I would also add the X5105 to this same list.
The X6100 contains a high-capacity rechargeable internal battery pack and an excellent ATU. It’s an all-in-one radio solution that’s actually quite rugged and could easily handle the bumps and jolts of air travel.
There was another winner in this survey. It wasn’t any one model, but rather a whole class of HF transceivers: super compact portable transceivers. If lumped together as a category, these would have placed in the top five.
I’m talking about radios like the: Mountain Topper series, QCX-Mini, QMX, QDX, SW-3B, (tr)uSDX, TR-25, TR-35, and similar. These radios are so incredibly tiny that they can be packed away in a very compact pouch.
These pint-sized radios aren’t general coverage radios like the top 5 listed above, and many are CW-only. Still: if your goal is to hit the field a bit during your vacation, they’re incredibly effective.
This radio class also represents some of the most efficient and affordable transceivers on the market.
If you would like to see the actual number of votes for each of the 48 radios in this survey, click the link below to load the rest of the page:
Elecraft KX2: 109 votes
Icom IC-705: 69 votes
Yaesu FT-817 or FT-818: 47 votes
Elecraft KX3: 41 votes
Xiegu X6100: 29 votes
lab599 Discovery TX-500: 27 votes
Xiegu G90: 20 votes
(tr)uSDX: 15 votes
Elecraft K2: 11 votes
Penntek TR-35: 10 votes
FX-4C, FX-4CR or FX-4L: 9 votes
Venus SW-3B: 9 votes
Elecraft KX1: 8 votes
Mountain Topper MTR-3 series: 8 votes
QRP Labs QCX-Mini: 8 votes
The following received less than 7 votes
Mountain Topper MTR-4 series
QRP Labs QCX
QRP Labs QDX
uBITX transceiver (any model)
Hendricks PFR 3 series
YouKits or Ten-Tec Branded 2-4 band CW QRP Transceiver
Flex Radio Flex 1500
Expert Electronics SunSDR2 QRP
More QRP radio surveys on the way!
What did you think about these results? Was your choice in the top five? Feel free to comment!
Also, stay tuned as I have quite a few QRP radio survey questions in the works.
During the past couple of months, I stumbled upon two or three documentaries about the mountain Zugspitze and the surrounding area. One day I thought, what it is that is preventing me from activating the Zugspitze (DL/WS-001) for the SOTA-program? The answer was rather short: a 3-hour drive. So, I waited for a good opportunity and accepted the challenge on a sunny and warm Saturday in June.
The Zugspitze, with an elevation of 2,962 m / 9,718 ft, is the highest peak in Germany and I think it is fair to say that it is also one of Europe’s highest mountains. Located in the Bavarian Alps near the German-Austrian border, the Zugspitze offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding mountain ranges and picturesque landscapes. It is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, attracting hikers, climbers, skiers, and snowboarders throughout the year. The Zugspitze is accessible via cogwheel train, cable car, and hiking trails. At the platforms on the summit, visitors can enjoy a range of facilities, including observation platforms, restaurants, a simple accommodation option, which specifically caters to hikers, and the international border between Austria and Germany across the platforms.
The lake in front of the mountain is called Eibsee. With its crystal-clear, but ice-cold waters, the lake is a popular destination for swimming, boating, and other water activities during the summer months.
Surrounded by majestic mountains and dense forests, like in a fairy tale, the Eibsee offers a picturesque and tranquil setting.
I started early in the morning on a nice Saturday. I must admit that a 3-hour drive for a SOTA summit might sound a bit extreme, but this is a special mountain for me, I have never been even close to such a high altitude – except in a plane. If you have ever been in the Alps, you probably remember the typical residential buildings that you see all around.
I arrived late in the morning at a parking place that is next to the cable car station.
Before going to the summit, I wanted to walk around the lake Eibsee. The hike around the lake is 7 km / 4.4 mi but took it longer than expected. The tour provides numerous opportunities to make incredible pictures.
Sunday, May 21, 2023, was the final day of Hamvention.
I traveled to Hamvention with my buddies Eric (WD8RIF) and his son Miles (KD8KNC). We decided in advance that instead of attending Hamvention that Sunday (after having spent all day Friday and Saturday there) we’d opt for a relaxing day playing POTA near Dayton/Xenia.
We weren’t, in fact, the only ones who skipped Hamvention that Sunday–our friends Vince (VE6LK or AI7LK State-side) and Charlie (NJ7V) did as well, so we decided to play POTA together!
Both Charlie and Vince were leaving the Dayton area that afternoon, so they needed to finish up their activations by noon at the latest. We decided we could fit in two activations that morning before Charlie and Vince headed back, then Eric, Miles, and I would hit a third park in the afternoon. Actually, Miles never planned to hop on the air, but he was both our ride and valuable POTA support!
Charlie and Vince met us at our hotel around 9:00 AM and we drove to the first of two parks we’d activate together.
Cowan Lake State Park (K-1943)
The weather was beautiful that day, but the space weather, much less so. We knew in advance that it would be a struggle based on the propagation forecast and numerous reports from other activators.
Vince set up his Elecraft KX3-based station in the trunk/boot of his rental car.
Eric found a shady, level spot near the parking lot, strapped his 31′ Jackite telescoping fiberglass pole to his folding camp-chair, deployed his 28½’ wire vertical on the pole, set up his Elecraft KX3 on the camp-chair’s flip-up table, and was on the air at 1412 UTC. Eric began his operation with a lovely touch-paddle which he had unexpectedly been given as a gift from the builder, Brian Manley, K3ES.
Note that Eric carefully documents each and every one of his field activations and field contests on his website. His field reports date back to Field Day in 1995!
And as I am an opportunist, I made this decision at 23:25’ish z and I had not yet arrived at the park but the target was only a few minutes away! I would have until 23:59:59z to complete it if I were to be successful. “It’s time to break out the Elecraft AX1 antenna I bought at Hamvention last week“ I think to myself. It would be my first time using the antenna. I had pre-read the instructions and knew what had to be done in order to set it up.
The whole thing would unfold like a Formula 1 pit stop, albeit a wee bit slower <grin>.
“If you could only have one QRP radio for all of your ham radio activities, which one would it be?”
The responses started flowing in immediately and, once again, within the first day we had already accumulated over 400 votes.
I turned off the survey at 8:00 EDT on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, with a total of 618 responses. Due to my travel schedule this week, I didn’t leave the survey open for responses as long as I did for Survey #1.
Here’s a pie chart showing the top 14 results in the survey. To see detail, you will need to click on the image below (or click this link) to enlarge it in a new window:
The top choice was the Icom IC-705 which accounted for 28.8% of the 618 votes.
I’m not at all surprised the IC-705 was the most popular choice.
This survey focused on the one single QRP radio you’d pick to accommodate all of your ham radio activities, modes, etc. Frankly? The IC-705 does it all: HF/VHF/UHF multimode operation, DV voice (D-Star), built-in GPS, wireless connectivity for digital modes, built-in sound card, built-in Bluetooth and WiFi hotspot, built-in recording, broadcast band reception, high-performance receiver, color spectrum display and waterfall, and so much more. Heck, you can even charge its battery pack with a common Micro USB charger. Read my review if you want a more comprehensive view of the IC-705.
The only real con anyone mentioned was a lack of an ATU which, frankly, is something that’s so easy to remedy with an external ATU or by using resonant antennas.
Your second choice was the Elecraft KX2 which accounted for 20.1% of the votes.
The KX2 is such a versatile portable HF transceiver that it was the most popular choice in our first QRP radio survey. No doubt, those who chose the KX2 love playing radio in the field as their primary activity because it’s such an adept and versatile radio to take outdoors.
Your third choice was the Elecraft KX3 with 18.7% of the votes.
I actually thought the KX3 would take second place since it’s one of the highest-performance HF radios on the market and covers 160-6 meters with a 2 meter option. It’s an HF Swiss Army Knife of a radio.
In fact, during the first day of voting, the KX3 held the number two spot with as much as a 2% lead over the KX2, but as more votes rolled in, that lead narrowed and the KX2 displaced the KX3 for runner-up.
Your fourth choice was the Yaesu FT-817/818 which accounted for 10.5% of the votes.
It’s also the most affordable among these top contenders!
Like the IC-705, the FT-817/818 has multimode capabilities from 160-6 meters, VHF, and UHF. It also sports both SO-239 and BNC antenna ports which makes it very unique among QRP radios!
The lab599 Discovery TX-500 took fifth place with 3.9% of the votes among this set of distinguished radios.
Those who chose the TX-500 appreciate it for its 160-6 meter coverage, its unique form-factor and weight, overall performance, weather-proofing, and superb RX/TX current numbers for battery conservation. For those who like to play radio outdoors (sometimes in the rain) for hours at a time with a modest battery? Yeah, the TX-500 is made for that stuff!
(As is my usual, this article is full of hyperlinks – click on as many as you wish)
The days leading up to my first Hamvention trip were a bit scattered to say the least. While I was pretty sure I remembered everything and even documented most of my gear on Twitter, I would only discover that the bag I intended to carry my gear around in was too small once I arrived in VE3-land. The very next morning I was shopping in several big box stores trying to find the perfect bag only, hours later, to discover an Army Surplus Store across the street from my activation and after the activation concluded.
Anyways, the short summary on the shopping trip was that I figured out a way to get me through the trip without spending a fortune.
The day’s goals were to make a simple activation at a park near the family where we were visiting east of Toronto. Before travelling I scoped out POTA entities that were nearby and had not yet received a CW Activation thus putting me closer to my CW goal for the year.
I landed up at Lakefront West Park VE-1480 in Oshawa Ontario. A recreational trail winds along the waterfront of Lake Ontario about 100m away, and eight baseball diamonds are the central feature here. Given the lack of trees at the park, and that I do not have a small mast on this trip for my EFHW -although I may remedy that at Hamvention- I chose to deploy my Comet HFJ-350M with some simple ground radials. With the solar reports showing SFI 149, SSN 134, A 19 and K 2, I chose 20m as the band for the day. 5W on my KX3 into a ground mounted vertical with one each 66′ and 33′ radial wires would have to be enough.
I have the full Comet HFJ-350M kit including the bag to carry all the pieces in. I also have a ground stake from eBay that comes with a 90 degree SO-239 adapter allowing me to attach feedline on the side and the antenna on the top. Not including the ground radials, the whole kit rolls up reasonably small, about 3″ in diameter and 12″ long. Continue reading Lakefront QRP and Bags Galore!→
The last weekend was pretty nice and just like an invitation to operate outdoors. As I wrote in one of my previous posts, I often activate summits on the Swabian Alp, a high plateau, which falls with steep cliff-like edges and many SOTA summits to the northwest. If you approach it from the foothills where I live, the sharp edge is clearly visible.
On the way to the ascent, you came along old, picturesque villages. If you look closely, you can see the “Maibaum”.
The tradition of erecting a “Maibaum” (Maypole) is a long-standing custom in Germany, particularly in the southern regions. The Maibaum is a tall wooden pole that is decorated with colorful ribbons, wreaths, and symbols of the local community. It is usually erected on May Day or the night before and is a symbol of spring, fertility, and community spirit. In some regions, it is also accompanied by folk dances, music, and festivities.
It was my third activation of the summit Römerstein, and every time I used another transceiver.
My transceiver history
When I started with ham radio, I used an old Icom IC-706.
The lack of modern features such as DSP and filters, and the current consumption made it not the first choice for portable operators. I soon switched to an Icom IC-7300 at home and got used to a waterfall and spectrum display. After two activations with the 706 I bought a Xiegu G90.
During the time of my first activation of the Römerstein, I operated only in SSB. So, I was happy with the G90. The display was small, but way better than my old 706. I was satisfied and used the G90 until I started with CW. In CW, I prefer using headphones until today. The sound of the G90 was uncomfortable for me. The lowest volume was too loud, a lot of loud cracks annoyed me, and I was never happy with the filters. Continue reading A Triple activation and why I switched from a KX3 to Icom’s IC-705→
If you’re going to Hamvention, I hope to meet you there. When I’m not floating around, I’ll be hanging out at the Ham Radio Workbench/Halibut Electronics table: 3011.
I’m super excited about attending, but I’ve so much to prepare in advance. Every day between now and then is planned out to the max with family activities and projects.
That, and being an introvert (this might surprise some of you), I have to mentally prepare myself for hanging out with 30+ thousand other human beings. I’ll need ten days for that alone. If I appear tired at Hamvention or FDIM, you’ll know why! Ha ha!
Postcard Field Report
I’ve got a load of videos in the pipeline and to keep from falling behind publishing them, you’re going to see more of my slightly shorter “Postcard Field Reports” for the next couple of weeks during my travels.
These postcard reports contain all of the core information, just less wordy. (In theory!)
Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)
On Wednesday, April 5, 2023, I had a bit of time in the early afternoon to do a POTA activation. Tuttle Educational State Forest was low-hanging fruit as my errands that day took me within a stone’s throw of the park.
I arrived a bit before noon and took some time to record a Hike and Talk video (which will be published in the next couple of weeks).