Recently, I was in in touch with Jim (WA7VFQ) who was trying to decide which radio to take on a vacation to the North Carolina coast. He replied with details about the field kit he put together for the trip which will require air travel. Jim writes:
It wasn’t until yesterday that I decided to take my Icom IC-705 over my Elecraft KX3 [on vacation]. I had new foam for the case and last night I did my “foam plucking” and I’m pleased with the outcome. I had a couple of Icom decals and since it wasn’t the Elecraft, one of them wound up on the exterior. Some guy on the internet was touting the Tom Bihn Travel Trays; we have 4 on them, 3 large and one small. All are headed to NC with us. One of them will carry my extra radio gear.
A few week ago, my buddy Ara (N6ARA) sent me a prototype of his new ultra-portable CW key, the TinyPaddle Jack (TPJ).
You might recall, Ara introduced the original TinyPaddle late last year. His motivation for the original TinyPaddle was to have a super minimalist paddle that could be stored away as a spare in your kit for those times when you either forget or have an issue with your primary paddle in the field.
Turns out, there was a lot of pent-up demand for a product like the TinyPaddle. At $15 for the kit or $20 fully assembled, the TinyPaddle is a serious bargain. Ara and his father have been quite busy producing these.
Enter the TinyPaddle Jack (TPJ)
Whereas the TinyPaddle is designed around being the most simple/minimalist backup paddle solution–basically a wee paddle with a male 3.5mm connector that plugs directly into a rig’s paddle jack–the TPJ takes it one step further.
The TPJ is essentially the TinyPaddle with a female 3.5mm plug encased in a 3D-printed holder and protective cover.
The design is clever. The case that protects it while stored away in one’s field pack, pulls apart and is re-joined to make a very usable paddle holder.
There are actually quite a few purchase options, so Ara created this short video that describes the different components/options and how to use them:
I’ve been using the TPJ with my MTR-3B and new SW-3B. As I mentioned in my field report with the TinyPaddle, the action of this paddle is actually very precise–it almost feels like a capacitive touch paddle.
I find that the holder definitely adds to the ergonomics of the paddle (although it can actually be used without a holder, too).
Ara also created a small adjustment tool that will allow you to tweak the paddle spacing if needed. Keep in mind, this is a very simple paddle design (there are no springs or magnets) and isn’t really meant to be a primarily paddle. I do feel, however, that it will hold up quite well over time. The spacing of the contacts is so fine, I believe the stress on the paddle levers is minimal .
I plan to keep a pair with my new MTR-3B field kit (above) and use it as the primary paddle for that radio. I will plan to buy a second one for the SW-3B a well.
I personally think Ara could charge $40+ for these and they’d still be a bargain. I know him well enough to know that his motivation is in the fun of designing these products and making them accessible to other field radio operators. Case in point: I’ve been pricing quality 3.5mm patch cables recently and I find his $5 cable to be an excellent price; even more competitive than cables I’ve seen on Amazon and eBay.
In addition, Ara even freely distributes the 3D printer files so you have the option to print your own paddle holder!
It’s obvious to me that these products are his contribution to the community that pays for itself enough so that he can continue to innovate. His designs are so clever, I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next!
I love this pack, Scott! I’ve never owned a proper waxed canvas bag, but I’ve heard so many good comments about them in terms of comfort and longevity. Like Red Oxx, the Filson brand is well known for quality products.
I like how you mounted your N0SA SOTA paddles to the clipboard so that they can be easily pivoted for transport.
I also like those POTA/QRP cheat sheets. I have those in my KX1 kit, but none of the others. I need to make some with QRP calling frequencies and the 60M channels (which I always forget in the field). Thank you for the tip!
Cutting an exercise mat to make a padded seat for the field is incredibly practical. That would also serve to pad the back of the pack and, as you point out, make sitting on wet ground much more comfortable!
KK4Z’s Discovery TX-500 Pack List
At my request, Scott very kindly provided links to the gear in his field kit:
Also you can get from a camping store a POTA party shelter for about $50 .
Great for a cheap portable ham shack . Keeps out of the sun and weather .
Room for a table, chair and cooler. What more do you need?
Have fun !
Thanks so much for the tip, Don!
It’s ironic you send this now as I’ve been looking at an inexpensive pop-up shade tent to protect my radios from the snow, sun and sand when doing portable operations. This $12 model(Amazon affiliate link) has been in my Amazon cart for about a week:
It’s made to protect a sun-bather’s head from the sun or protect a small pet. I think my gear could easily fit inside on a tabletop or ground and there’s even a small ceiling window (designed so people can look at their phones while sun bathing?!?) that I think would work brilliantly as a spot to place an LED light to illuminate the inside of the tent.
While I don’t think I’d use this a lot, it would be awfully handy when there’s no shelter from direct sunlight. It should keep a radio from over heating.
Also, recently I was operating outdoors with blowing snow–temps were well below freezing, but when snow landed on the transceiver, the chassis was warm enough to melt it. It started to get downright wet on top. A small pop-up like this would have come in handy.
Readers: Do you use pop-up shade products? Feel free to comment with your experience and share models you’ve used.