Tag Archives: Elecraft KX3

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:

Field Radio Kit Gallery: N1KDO’s Elecraft KX3 Field Kit

Many thanks to Jeff (N1KDO) who shares the following article about his portable field radio kit which will be featured on our Field Kit Gallery pageIf you would like to share your field kit with the QRPer community, read this post. Jeff writes:


N1KDO KX3 Field Kit

I like to take my KX3 with me on occasional travel adventures.

The complete field kit (click image to enlarge).

What’s in the kit? Well, that depends, but it is usually this stuff…

Clockwise from top center:

Readers: Check out Jeff’s webpage for more detail about components in his field kits!

Check out US7IGN’s “PFR-5” QRP Radio!

My good friend, Wlod (US7IGN), sent me the following message recently and has kindly allowed me to share it here on QRPer:

Hi Thomas,

I was going to write to you too. I saw your posts on QRPer.com about QRP field kits and decided to share my collection of QRP radios, which I keep now. One of them is my homemade one.

I called it PFR-5 because it has 5 bands, unlike original PFR-3, which was taken as a basis.

The rest are my friends’ radios that I’m temporarily storing. Tulip/Tulipan SDR from SP3OSJ, ELECRAFT KX3, and copy of Mountain Topper and original PFR-3.

I did not compare them, because this needs to be done outside the city where there is no noise and you can evaluate their RX performance, which I cannot do now for obvious reason.

Have a good day!


73 de US7IGN!

Thant’s brilliant, Wlod! I think you may have the only PFR-5 in the world! Ha ha! I love how you marked it as the “Ukrainian Edition” and gave it that brilliant image on the front face.

Thanks for sharing with us, OM! I dream of the day you can take these radios to the field and give them a proper comparison. 

Getting To Know You Series: The Elecraft KX3–My thoughts, notes, and one extreme QRPp contact!

I’m very fortunate in that in the past few years I’ve accumulated a number of QRP radios that I use in rotation when I do park and summit activations.

I’m often asked for advice on choosing radios, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, I feel like the decision is a very personal one–everything is based on an operator’s own particular preferences.

Over the years, I’ve written formal reviews about most of the field radios in my collection. In those reviews, I try to take a wide angle view of a radio–to see how it might appeal to a number of types of operators. I highlight the pros and cons, but I don’t focus on my own particular take because, again, my style of operating might not match that of readers. I try to present the full picture as clearly as I can and let the reader decide.

The Getting To Know You series gives me an opportunity to highlight one radio at a time and showcase what I love about it and why it’s a part of my permanent radio collection. After we spend a bit of time talking about the radio, we’ll do a park or summit activation with it!

The Elecraft KX3

I was originally introduced to the Elecraft KX3 at the 2011 Dayton Hamvention–over a decade ago at time of posting!

I was commissioned to write a review of the KX3 for the Monitoring Times Magazine and Elecraft was kind enough to lend me a brand new KX3.

At the time, there was nothing like the KX3 on the market and I felt like I’d just received a radio from the future.

The KX3 offered 160-6 meter general coverage with an optional 2 meter module, ATU, internal AA battery compartment, and roofing filters. The controls were top mounted and current draw in receive was as little as 150 mA. At the time, there was no other radio on the market that could compare with the KX3’s field prowess.

But it wasn’t just its field design that was impressive.

In fact, when Rob Sherwood tested the KX3, it placed at the top of his list which is sorted by Third-Order Dynamic Range Narrow Spaced.

This field radio sported a bullet-proof front end and true contest chops, displacing $10,000+ high-end rigs.

Today, the KX3 (at time of posting) is still number 12 on Rob’s list. An impressive feat!

Herein lies the danger of doing reviews…

I didn’t have the KX3 in my grubby little hands for more than a few hours when I decided I had to buy one. I sold some gear to free up money and I bought the KX3 Elecraft sent me on loan for the full price.

I’ve taken this KX3 on numerous activations and on international travels. It’s a brilliant QRP companion.

These days, it’s in the shack more than in the field because I keep it hooked up to my KXPA100 amplifier. I feel like the KX3/KXPA100 combo is like having a poor man’s K3. As a huge bonus, the KX3 takes up little space on my table and the KXPA100 sits on a shelf–the overall footprint is much smaller than a K3 or K3s. It’s like having a remote head on my desk and works perfectly for my limited space shack.

The KX3 is a stellar, benchmark field radio, so it was great fun to feature it in this video.

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)

For this Getting To Know You report and video, I decided to activate one of my favorite local parks on September 12, 2023: the Vance Birthplace. Continue reading Getting To Know You Series: The Elecraft KX3–My thoughts, notes, and one extreme QRPp contact!

Business Travel & POTA: It’s as simple as One … Two … Three!

by Vince (VE6LK)

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

The backstory

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.

These would all be CW activations at QRP power and are part of my 200 CW activation contacts per month personal goal to improve my CW skills. (Spoiler alert: I hit the goal while writing this article!) See below for my kit list that made this possible.

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.

Continue reading Business Travel & POTA: It’s as simple as One … Two … Three!

Conrad’s Kayak POTA Activation on Minnie Island

Minnie Island K-1698 Kayak Activation

by Conrad (N2YCH)

9/1/2023

As many readers know, I am on a Parks on the Air (POTA) quest to activate all references in the state of Connecticut. There are 136 parks, and four of them are only accessible by boat. You may have seen my recent field report here on QRPer.com about activating three islands located in the Connecticut River. For those islands, I enlisted professional help from a boat captain with the navigation experience and proper tools (like radar and maps) to access those islands.

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.

Next stop, the Gardner Lake Boat Launch, which was about a 30 minute drive North. Continue reading Conrad’s Kayak POTA Activation on Minnie Island

Survey #3 Results: What QRP HF transceiver would you or do you choose for air travel?

This past week, I posted the third of several surveys on QRPer.com, this time asking:

“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.

Survey Results

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.

It also ships with a NiMH battery pack, and you can also buy a much longer-life and faster-charging Li-Ion pack.

The FT-817/818 is a rugged radio. You don’t have to worry about it being harmed in a pack and it lays pretty flat as well so it’s easy to protect and pad among your clothes.

The Elecraft KX3 took forth place with 8.6% of the votes.

The KX3 is one of the highest-performance field radios ever made and it is incredibly portable.

I added the Side KX panels to my KX3 many years ago. With those installed and using the Lexan cover, it’s a very rugged radio. Simply toss it on your flight bag and you’re good to go!

The KX3 is also a very efficient radio, so you could easily power it with, say, a $25 Talentcell USB battery pack–one that TSA wouldn’t blink at.

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.

Notable mention…

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.

Indeed, I have a complete dedicated POTA/SOTA station built around my Venus SW-3B (see photo above). It’s all contained in a small BROG headrest pouch that I could easily toss in a travel bag.

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.

Full Results…

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
    • Icom IC-703
    • Mountain Topper MTR-4 series
    • Xiegu X5105
    • QRP Labs QCX
    • QRP Labs QDX
    • uBITX transceiver (any model)
    • Xiegu G106
    • Elecraft K1
    • Pentek TR-45L
    • Hendricks PFR 3 series
    • YouKits or Ten-Tec Branded 2-4 band CW QRP Transceiver
    • Flex Radio Flex 1500
    • M0NKA mcHF
    • Penntek TR-25
    • Xiegu G1M
    • Hamqrpkits EGV+
    • Expert Electronics SunSDR2 QRP
    • Hermes-Lite 2
    • DSW-20
    • QRP-Labs QMX

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.

I’ve tagged all of these reviews so they’re easy to browse, just bookmark or note: QRP Radio Survey Series.

On Top of Germany: Activating the Highest Mountain with my KX3 and the PAC-12

by Thomas (DM1TBE)

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.

Although I am a photographic noob and make pictures with the camera default settings, I quite like the results – all picture of this blog post are taken by me. Continue reading On Top of Germany: Activating the Highest Mountain with my KX3 and the PAC-12

QRP POTA with Friends: Two Park Activations with VE6LK, NJ7V, WD8RIF, and KD8KNC!

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!

Vince and Charlie in the rear view mirror!

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)

Charlie (NJ7V) and Vince (VE6LK/AI7LK) ready to deploy their gear.

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.

He deployed his “low-slung” wire antenna (read more about that here) and hit the air.

Vince’s low-slung antenna

Eric described the POTA station he deployed in his field report on WD8RIF.com:

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

Eric’s station

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!

I found a spot to set up next to the lake under the shade of a large tree. I deployed my Tufteln no-transformer 28.5 foot end-fed random wire.  This antenna is simply two lengths of 28.5′ wire: one wire for the radiator and one for the counterpoise. The KX2’s internal ATU does all of the heavy lifting. Continue reading QRP POTA with Friends: Two Park Activations with VE6LK, NJ7V, WD8RIF, and KD8KNC!

Pit Stop Style Activation with Elecraft KX3 and AX1

(As is my usual, this article has a bunch of links – click on as many as you wish to receive the full experience)

by Vince (VE6LK)

In May of 2023 I embarked on a two week vacation to Hamilton Ontario, the city of Waterfalls. And I found myself with a spare 30 minutes so I decided to squeeze in an activation.

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>.

Battlefield House

I arrived at VE-5351, The Battle of Stoney Creek National Historic Site and began to scout a location. Pausing only long enough to snap a few photos, I parked and immediately got to work. Continue reading Pit Stop Style Activation with Elecraft KX3 and AX1