I know Mike well enough to trust his evaluation, so I purchased an Anker Soundcore Mini quite literally as I was formatting his article for QRPer.com.
It arrived via Amazon, but I had such a busy week, I didn’t get a chance to truly test it until this weekend when I hooked it up to my Elecraft K2 in the shack. I feel like the K2 has a very decent speaker, but the Anker is even better.
This afternoon, I did a POTA activation at K-6856 and, to properly test the Anker Soundcore Mini, I paired it with my Elecraft KX3.
While the KX3 is one of the finest field radios on the market, its built-in speaker isn’t its strong suit. The audio is pretty anemic (especially if you’re K4SWL and do real-time, real-life activation videos–!) 🙂 Truth be told, it’s one of the reasons I don’t take the KX3 to the field more often. I’d rather not do a separate audio recording (line-out) then harmonize it in post-production.
I used the Anker Soundcore Mini for the full activation and it worked beautifully. I love the audio, the size, the run time (something like 14 hours per charge, supposedly), and the overall build quality. I’ve never been disappointed with Anker products and I feel like this one is a great value at $24.99 via Amazon (affiliate link!).
Thanks so much for the suggestion, Mike!
FYI: the field report and video of this activation will be posted in three weeks or so!
If you have read my previous activation reports, you may remember that the temperature was more often than not below 0° C / 32° F. I am tired of the winter. So I was very pleased when the weather forecast indicated 18° C / 64° F on a Saturday.
In one of my previous posts (How I found the best antenna for my SOTA/POTA activations) I have outlined, that I like using the 30-meter band for being reliable on short and medium distances – in my case, Central Europe. However, I wanted to try an activation with an antenna that is more appropriate for DX. The wire winder for my 30-meter antenna had plenty of space left, so I decided using a commercial 12/17-meter band wire antenna that I have discussed briefly in the report linked at the beginning of this paragraph.
The day before, I built a 20-meter end-fed with parts that I found in my basement and a tiny 1:49 transformer from K6ARK. I added a short coil, so the feed point wouldn’t be at or too close to the ground when using my 10 m / 33 ft fiberglass mast. I know it needs some polish.
The Limburg is a conical summit about a 30-minutes drive from my home. It can be activated for a couple of programs like SOTA (DM/BW-110), POTA (DA-0203), WWFF and COTA.
The Limburg is, or better was, a volcano; technically, a volcanic vent of the Swabian Volcano, a volcanic area of 50 km / 31 mi radius with over 350 volcano vents. Seventeen million years ago, it produced massive gas and dust explosions. Be careful when ramming your antenna groundspike into the ground ;-). So it became a steep summit, elevated around 200 m / 650 ft over its surrounding area.
Earliest traces of population around the summit date to 3000–1800 BC.
After a rainy and windy Friday, the weather was expected to improve a bit the next day. The temperature was still forecasted with around 0 °C / 32 °F, but no rain was expected. So, my friend Jochen (DG1PSI) and I thought we could operate outside. We have chosen a summit called Bernhardus. The summit is next to “Kaltes Feld” on the opposite side of the valley, where I was a some days before. With an 1.2 km / 0.75 mi trail and an ascent of 124 m / 440 ft, it is not the hardest summit around.
We had an appointment for 10 o’clock. The parking lot was still empty at the time, but the weather seemed a bit more difficult than expected. We have asked some other members of our local ham radio club if they want to join us. But surprisingly, no one wanted to get up early on a Saturday morning, hike and operate a radio in freezing temperatures.
As mentioned, the summit was near “Kaltes Feld”, on the opposite side of the valley. You can see the SOTA activation zone of “Kaltes Feld” on the left, the glider airfield in the middle and some miles in the background another SOTA summit called “Stuifen”.
The peak was easy to reach and invites enjoying the beautiful view.
I wasn’t sure if I should write a report about this activation. It was “average” at best. But I thought it might be worth to share that not all activations are perfect, with stunning views in an enjoyable environment.
I am a relatively new ham and completed my first exam in mid-2019. It took me a while to get my head around all the things that the new hobby is offering. My first successful portable activation was in May 2021 on the SOTA summit Michelsberg (DM/BW-855) – here is a picture of my most recent activation some weeks ago:
This first activation was in the middle of the Corona pandemic. The good thing during the Corona time was certainly the possibility to work from home. Before Corona, I did commute roughly 65 km / 40 mi (oneway), which took me in total 2–3 hours daily. During the first two years, I was in the office two times. In the third year, I was there more often, maybe once every two months.
Two weeks ago, my employer announced a “return-to-office” policy, so the “sweet life” was coming to an end.
After the first disappointment, I thought that this may offer me the chance to work portable at new locations. The next SOTA summit is around 20 km / 12 mi away, but a POTA park begins 2 km / 1.2 mi from the office at the pin in the map below. The park is basically all the green wood in the center of the map.
That comes in very handy, as POTA, with the possibility to operate next to my car, does make it easier than hiking in suit and tie to a SOTA summit.
The Nature Park Schönbuch, POTA DA-0008, located southwest of Stuttgart, is a wooded area of 156 km² / 38,000 acres. In 1972 in became the first nature park of the federal State of Baden-Wuerttemberg. The park is an important recreational area for the region.
Right at the beginning of the park, when coming from my office, there is a parking place and next to it a clearing with a fireplace. I thought that this would be a perfect spot for my activities. Weather was cold and windy on my first “return to office” day, I did not expect too many people to be there.
After working and reading the article about the 2023 QSO Today Virtual Ham Expo, I decided to leave the office early at around 4pm and started my activation.
The parking place at the park was pretty empty, just one old car with four lads in it and doing whatever lads are doing in the woods. I have a 16-year-old son and have given up trying to understand what boys at that age are doing.
The spot was OK, but not as perfect as I had thought. It was in a trough surrounded by large trees. In addition, it was wet, cold and windy.
Due to the wind, I have decided against the 10 meter / 33 ft pole and used the PAC-12 again.
The actual activation did not go as smoothly as my previous one. It might have been due to the time, and afternoon during the week, or the topographical conditions. With a small foldable seat and a tiny desk made of a trunk and a brick, I operated for 40 minutes.
In total, I made 16 QSOs; 10 on the 30-meter band and 6 QSOs on 20 meters.
Although I made a successful activation of the Nature Park Schoenbuch, DA-0008, I think I need to change my plans. Being in the office and therefore close to this park more often in the future, I will be more picky in terms of weather and location. The park has way more to offer than a wet and cold meadow in the middle of the woods. I will look for better weather and locations, such as the following – I just need to find those places.
The search for the best portable speaker for ham radio.
Welcome to the end of my exhausting search for what maybe the best speaker for portable ham radio.
My list of requirements was short: it had to be small, amplified, and have an internal battery.
But most importantly, it had to have a AUX input.
The last requirement shortened the list very quickly. Most speakers today that have any quality of build are lacking in the old fashion AUX connection.
I tried a minimum of six speaker and even tried making one of my own. Rich sound quality was not most important factor to me. Let’s face it: we are not listening to the Beatles.
Now we are going to focus in the two that made the cut. On the bigger side was the JBL Charge 4. Rugged? Yes. Battery life? Great. Size and weight? OK. Take it from the car to the picnic table ok? Yes. Throwing in the pack for a SOTA or a long hike? Not the best choice.
Thank you for sharing this, Mike. I’m often asked about the portable speaker I use in the field. It’s a Sony SRS-XB12, but the only good source of them is eBay because they’ve been discontinued for so long.
This Anker speaker seems to be the same size and sport the same features of the Sony, at a slightly lower cost. I’ve also had very good luck with Anker products in the past (I’ve had some of their ear buds and several of their battery banks). In fact, I’ve just ordered this speaker because the battery life is also much better than that of my Sony speakers. I’ll plan to take this to the field and include it in my activation videos–I’ve give the Sony speakers to my daughters.
POTA and I had a very one-side relationship so far.
Roughly a year ago I tried to activate a park, but although I spotted myself, I had not been able to make a single QSO. In April last year, I tried it again, with the same result. Luckily, I was on a SOTA summit and spotting me on SOTA brought me enough QSOs to make it a successful activation for both, POTA and SOTA. So I decided to disregard POTA and my only POTA activity was watching Thomas (K4SWL) nice videos on YouTube.
My bad experience with POTA was probably due to two factors:
I only had an intermediate license previously, which limited me on HF to the 10, 15 and 80 meter bands and
POTA was no as popular in Europe and Germany in particular as it was and is in the US. While SOTA and the Flora & Fauna program already had a very active community in Europe for years, POTA had a hen and egg problem.
However, with the increasing popularity of portable operations, POTA has also gained some traction in Europe. I have the feeling that every time I take a look at the spots on the POTA website, I see more European stations.
Things here in Germany have changed for the better, too. POTA got a German website (parksontheair.de) and a community called “Draussenfunker.de” (“Outdoor ham”) with website + Discord that became very active with those pursuing outdoor activities in general and POTA in particular. Lately, local POTA coordinators have been named, who started to add new parks to the program.
I thought suggesting a recreation area close to my home would be a good idea. A few days later I had the brand new POTA park DA-0410 30 minutes away. The park has a size of 6.3 km² / 1,567 acres and a peak elevation of 780 m / 2559 ft, which is also the SOTA summit Kaltes Feld (DM/BW-659).
My plan was to operate from the clearing on the top plateau, where there is also a mountain hut with restaurant. The 2 km / 1.25 mi trail was not very difficult with an incline of just 105 m / 344ft as the parking area is already at an elevated level.
Although the park extends to the proximity of the parking area at the Hornberg gliding airfield, I wanted to be in the SOTA activation zone due to my bad experiences with POTA activations. The gliding site was founded nearly 100 years ago. After the First World War, the Allies largely banned motor flight sports in Germany, so gliding airfields, such as this one, popped up across Germany. Continue reading Guest Field Report: Germany has a new POTA activator!→
Many thanks to Thomas (DM1TBE) for the following field report:
Shivering with 18 WPM on the ruins of the medieval Hohenstaufen Castle
by Thomas (DM1TBE)
It had been two weeks since my last field activation and my bad conscience grew, so a friend and I scheduled an activation, even with expected temperatures at -2 °C / 28 °F. The choice fell on the summit Hohenstaufen (DM/BW-102).
The Hohenstaufen is one of the two SOTA summits that I can see from home in Southern Germany and one of the so-called group Drei Kaiserberge – the middle one does not qualify for SOTA, unfortunately.
A Little Bit of History
On top of the summit are still ruins from the medieval Hohenstaufen Castle. The castle was built around 1050 and used until 1525, when it was looted and burned down during the German Peasants’ War. The summit has been populated since at least the 8th century.
The castle (picture from 1470 above), was the seat of the Hohenstaufen dynasty to whom belonged several Kings and three Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, which, at its greatest extent, included the area of Germany, Switzerland and parts of France, Austria, Italy, Czech, Belgium, Netherlands, Slovakia – or easier: almost all of Central Europe.
There is not much left of the castle nowadays, but you can still spot parts of the foundations and walls.
Due to the positive experiences during the last two activations, I decided to go with an end-fed half-wave antenna for the 30 meter band along with my Elecraft KX3, a 4Ah LiFePo4 battery, a 10 m / 33 ft fibreglass pole and the BaMaKeY TP-III (a 70 g / 2.5 oz light magnetic paddle). The paddle is too light for me to use, so I usually attach the magnetic base of the paddle to a metallic clamp on a clipboard. Although I studied computer science, I prefer pen and paper for logging. Part of the fun is the guessing of the logged call signs after an activation.
How two Scottish SOTA activations encouraged me to upgrade my German license
by Thomas (DM1TBE / M0KEU)
I just wanted to tell someone this story. Not sure if you want to hear it, but I will tell you anyway
During June last year, my boss asked me if I could step in for an ill colleague and visit a business partner in Frankfurt and Edinburgh. As a SOTA activator, I first checked the map and have happily spotted a summit within walking distance of the hotel in Edinburgh.
Unfortunately, there were three issues to solve:
The UK does not accept my German “Klasse E” (CEPT novice/intermediate) license;
operating a radio on the summit requires written permission and
as the duration of the trip was planned with just 2 overnight stays, only hand luggage was possible.
At the Ham Radio in Friedrichshafen, I asked an RSGB representative if it is possible to get a British license as a German. Mark, M1MPA, explained to me how the process worked, so I started the online course provided by GM6DX. It was not too difficult, and I soon passed every mock exam. Roughly, two weeks before the trip, I passed the RSGB operated online exam and got my UK foundation license, so I could operate in Scotland as MM7TBE.
Regarding the issue with the permission to operate on the summit, I first chose to ignore and pretend being a stupid foreign tourist until I was told that it is really enforced, and my activation could be deleted. So, I asked the Ranger Service at Historic Environment Scotland for permission less than two weeks before my activation and received it just one day later with a comment that it is usually expected to ask one month in advance. Many thanks to the Ranger Service, next time I will come earlier – I promise!
The last issue was the size of the equipment.
There is no tree on top of the summit Arthur’s Seat GM/SS-272, and I had very little space left. So I went with a KX3 with an AX1 antenna and a FT2D for 2m FM.
Now the journey could begin.
On the first day, I was at a very high place in Frankfurt but unfortunately, it did not qualify for SOTA. That evening I arrived in Edinburgh.
The next day, late afternoon, the fun could start.
AX1 Test using American Radio Supply AM-801 Window Mount: POTA Activation at Stuart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge, K-0228
February 19, 2023
By: Conrad Trautmann (N2YCH)
If you’ve been reading the posts here on QRPer.com lately, you probably already know that the Elecraft AX1 has proven to be an excellent antenna for POTA activations for CW, SSB and Digital modes.
Personally, I used it for a New York City POTA rove I did at the end of 2022 and was able to activate four parks in one day all over Manhattan.
Recently, Alan, W2AEW contributed a story to QRPer.com detailing how he used a window bracket he constructed with an AX1 to do a CW park activation from his car. I’ve actually done a few digital activations from the car using the AX1, however, I used the tripod with the Elecraft tripod adapter and ran coax to it out the window and draped the counterpoise down the hood or trunk. This has worked well except for windy days where it would blow over. I was intrigued by the possibility of using the window mount and a number of the commenters to Alan’s post suggested sources for these types of mounts. I ended up ordering an AM-801 from American Radio Supply.
Since the AX1 depends on a counterpoise wire to operate properly, the first thing I did after receiving the AM-801 mount was to drill a hole in the base for a screw and a wing nut. The base is painted black, so I got my continuity meter out to double check that the screw was making a good ground, which it was. I had to bend the mount up slightly for the antenna to be vertical, since my Jeep windows don’t have much of an angle to them. I’m sure it would be just right for most cars.
Field Report :POTA Activation K-0228, Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, Great Meadows Unit
by Conrad (N2YCH)
January 21, 2023
Parks On the Air’s Support Your Parks weekend event for winter 2023 is the third full weekend in January and I found myself without my Jeep. I sold my ten-year-old Jeep Wrangler and my new Jeep wasn’t due to be delivered until the following week, leaving me without my “POTA activation vehicle”. I ended up borrowing my XYL’s MINI Countryman to activate K-0228, but let’s face it, a MINI is not a Jeep. It didn’t have all of my “stuff” in it. I needed to get creative about what to bring along with me that would fit easily in the MINI, yet work well enough to activate the park.
I started with my backpack kit which contains an Elecraft KX3, battery, Signalink and computer (for FT8 and logging).
It includes everything I need to transmit and it’s easy to toss in the car. I just needed to decide on what antenna to use. Since it’s winter here in Connecticut and pretty cold outside, this would be an “in-the-car” activation and without the Jeep, my antenna options were limited. I could have brought my Sotabeams Tac-Mini which could fly my PackTenna EFHW up about 20’. However, anchoring the mast would be a challenge in the cold weather. In the end, I decided to bring my Buddipole tripod and nested mast, which are compact and fit in a small bag which fit right in the passenger seat. Continue reading MINI Portable: Conrad’s POTA field report from Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge→