Tag Archives: Field Radio Kits

André’s All-Season Yaesu FT-891 Go-Box

Many thanks to André (PY2KGB/VE2ZDX) who writes:


Hi Thomas!

I’m writing to share my idea for a cheap and easy to build go box. It’s not for a QRP rig, but the concept can be applied for the ft818, for example. Check out this YouTube video:

I’ve been operating under snow with this box, in “ninja” style.

Because if I wait for it to stop snowing here I’ll do nothing for 3 months, hehe!

Photos:

Continue reading André’s All-Season Yaesu FT-891 Go-Box

Allen’s 22.5 ounce, super affordable, QCX field kit

Many thanks to Allen (N4NN) who writes:

Hello Thomas,

Enjoyed your last video with the QCX-mini as it reminded me of my first portable setup.

Last August, I celebrated my fifth year as a ham and at 74 I’m still able to do some backpacking. This was my first attempt at taking a radio along. The QCX-original was the only model at the time and sold for $49 + shipping. The case is a dollar store pencil box with the radio mounted on stand-offs.

I changed the antenna you see to K6ARK EFHW setup with counterpoise. No coax. I used the on-board key. The throw line was arbor line much like yours and my weight was the tent peg pouch filled with rocks from the camp site. This was my food bag hanging setup. Under $100 for everything.

Before I used it much I discovered POTA from you and purchased a KX2. Haven’t camped much lately but I have activated 70 of Georgia’s 203 parks and having a ball!

[I should note that a] few years back when I made the kit, prices were lower so it may be more difficult to hit that $100 mark. For example, a QCX-mini (no case) runs $57.79 and the QRPGuys EFHW kit is now $30. Adam’s (K6ARK) EFHW kit I changed to is only $20. The “water resistant “ pencil case is still $1! I was more interested in weight rather than cost and as shown the weight is 22.5 ounces.

Thanks Thomas and wish you and yours a Merry Christmas and peace and good health in the coming year.

Allen

72
Allen
N4NN

I love it, Allen! Pure QRP fun on a shoestring budget. Not bad at all! You make a good point here that many kits can be built into a waterproof (or in your case a water resistant) case. I’ve often wanted to do this myself and may very well one day! 

Thank you for sharing!

Photos of Mike’s uber-organized Icom IC-705 field kit

Many thanks to Mike (2E1BFH) who shares the following photos of a new field kit he’s built around the Icom IC-705:


 


Continue reading Photos of Mike’s uber-organized Icom IC-705 field kit

A tour and deep-dive of my SOTA/POTA Backpack (Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC)

As many of you know, I’m a bit of a backpack geek (okay, that’s an understatement).

If you don’t believe me, listen to the Ham Radio Workbench episode where they invited me to take a deep dive into my world of packs, bags, and organization. It’s not for the faint of heart or the short of time. (It was seriously fun, though!)

You would think being a pack geek that I would produce more videos showing a breakdown of what’s in my packs and how I organize them. The irony is I watch numerous videos on YouTube of how others pack out their various field and travel kits.

In truth, I have done this before, of course–once showing how I pack out my GoRuck GR1 for field radio and travel and another time showing how I pack out my TX-500 field kit in a Red Oxx Micro Manager. I plan to do more.

I’ve had several requests to do a video about my main SOTA pack which is designed around the Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC tactical backpack (see above). I think the reason why I haven’t made a video and post yet about this pack is because I knew it would be quite detailed and, frankly, take a lot of time to detail.

That said, here we go!

Designed to be modular

This particular pack is not set up to be a fully self-contained field backpack for just one radio. Quite the opposite: I use its main compartment to hold a wide variety of modular field kits I’ve put together.

What do I mean by “modular”–?

As I prepare my pack to hit the field, I decide which radio I plan to take; typically that radio is in a pouch, bag, or case of its own that contains radio-specific connectors and accessories.

Mini Mini Arborist Throw Line Kit in a Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray

I put the radio in the main compartment, then I add a battery kit, logging kit, an antenna kit, arborist throw line, and an accessories kit that contains a key, cables, adapters, etc. Continue reading A tour and deep-dive of my SOTA/POTA Backpack (Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack EDC)

The New Penntek TR-45L: A Video Tour/Overview, then a full POTA activation!

Yesterday, John (WA3RNC) opened orders for his long-awaited Penntek TR-45L 5 band, CW-only, QRP transceiver.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve had the pleasure of helping John beta test this radio for the past month. In that time, I’ve gotten to know the radio from the inside out and have even taken it on a few POTA activations. In fact, with John’s permission, I just posted my first TR-45L activation video for Patreon supporters yesterday. The radio was using an early firmware version in that video.

TR-45L Video Tour and Overview

Yesterday, after an early morning appointment, my schedule opened up; a rarity in my world.

I then got the idea to take the TR-45L out to a park, do a full video overview of its features, then put it on the air in a POTA activation.

Hazel loved this idea too.

So I packed the TR-45L, a log book, my throw line, and two 28′ lengths of wire. Hazel jumped in the car before I could invite her.

I’ve used a wide variety of antennas on the TR-45L over the past weeks, but I hadn’t yet performed a park activation only using two lengths of wire and relying on the TR-45L’s optional Z-Match manual antenna tuner. This would make for a great real-life test!

Quick note about video timeline

Side note for those of you who follow my field reports and activation videos

I pushed this video to the front of the line since the TR-45L just hit the market. I wanted to give potential buyers an opportunity to see and hear this radio in real world conditions thinking it might help them with their purchase decision.

I’m currently about 7 weeks behind publishing my activation videos. Much of this has to do with my travel schedule, free time to write up the reports, and availability of bandwidth to do the video uploads (I’ve mentioned that the Internet service at the QTH is almost dial-up speed).

I was able to publish this video within one day using a new (limited bandwidth) 4G mobile hotspot.  Patreon supporters have made it possible for me to subscribe to this hotspot service and I am most grateful. Thank you!

So that I can publish this report quickly (this AM), I’m not going to produce a long-format article like I typically do. Instead, this is one of those rare times when the video will have much more information about the radio and the activation than my report.  I’ve linked to and embedded the video below.

Now back to the activation…

Continue reading The New Penntek TR-45L: A Video Tour/Overview, then a full POTA activation!

Arborist throw lines: Ideal lengths, weights, and packs for field radio

Many thanks to Barry (WD4MSM) who writes:

Thomas,

I thoroughly enjoy the website and movies!

Could you answer one question?

How much arborist throw line do you take into the field? 150’ – 100’ – less?

Thanks for taking the time to answer.

Barry WD4MSM

Great question, Barry!

I basically have four variations of throw line kits.

You’ve asked about line lengths, but I’m also asked frequently about the throw weight sizes and throw line bags as well.

First, let’s take a look at my kit variations, then I’ll share my thoughts on throw line lengths, weights, and bags. Note that many of these products are Amazon so there are affiliate links:

Throw Line with folding cube

One is my original Weaver throw line kit made up of two parts:

The line length is 150 feet (45.72 meters).

I tend to use this throw line when I’m doing a POTA activation very close to my vehicle. It’s lightweight, but a bit bulky to take on a long hike.

Compact Arborist Throw Line Kit

This kit is identical to my large folding cube kit above, but the throw weight is 12 oz and I store it in a small Weaver stuff sack.

Continue reading Arborist throw lines: Ideal lengths, weights, and packs for field radio

John’s trip and POTA field reports from Nova Scotia

Many thanks to John (VE3IPS) who shares the following guest post:


Nova Scotia POTA After-Action Report

by John VE3IPS

We had planned a vacation trip out to Nova Scotia to get our lobster fix. As I always do, I prep my radio with local repeaters, look up local radio clubs, museums and check the POTA and SOTA map for locations to operate from.

I noticed that several park locations had not been activated. Thus I had an opportunity to be first activator and to get some much needed Nova Scotia parks in the Hunters logs. I printed the map and noted the park identifiers. I decided to just activate the parks that were never activated. I could have worked more parks but you have sights to see and can’t be behind the mic all the time. My antenna was prepped to be rapidly deployed in a few minutes and torn down accordingly.

I also was able to attend the Halifax ARC Hamfest on June 4, 2022.

So a vacation with ham radio elements to keep me excited with some objectives in mind.

We did visit Peggy’s Cove, Burnt Coat Head to watch the tides in the Bay of Fundy, local wineries, Lunenburg (a movie shoot was underway), the Halifax Citadel and of course eat lobster every day. I spent over $200 in gas as we did a lot of driving around (gas is just over $8 a gallon CAD), retail tax at 15% and prices for food and restaurants up by 30%. Nova Scotia is a bit more expensive than other cities.

I decided to bring my Icom 705 with a LifePO4 battery to offer 10 watts instead of the FT-891 or FT-818. Why? Because it offered a voice memory for calling CQ Parks, built in SWR meter and better IF filters over the FT-818. I wanted to cover the Marine and VHF/UHF repeaters as well and that ruled out the FT-891.

Due to the Kleenex box form factor I ended up using a Lowe Pro Omni Trekker camera bag to use as a carry on. This included a Nikon V1 camera and Binoculars.

Continue reading John’s trip and POTA field reports from Nova Scotia

Dale’s solution for enhanced CW field ergonomics

Many thanks to Dale (N3HXZ) who shares the following guest post:


Ergonomics of Operating CW in the Field

by Dale (N3HXZ)

About a year ago I started getting active in Parks On The Air (POTA) and Summits On The Air (SOTA). I had always been an avid hiker and backpacker, and though I am getting up there in years (recently retired!) these amateur radio opportunities were just the medicine I needed to rekindle my passion for the outdoors and amateur radio.

Thanks to Thomas (K4SWL) and his blog post and videos I was able to quickly come up to speed on the basics and get out into the field for CW activations.  I quickly discovered that operating CW in the field is quite different from operating at home. The creature comforts of a good chair, a level and spacious operating table, and isolation from the weather makes for a great experience in the shack, but is not available in the field, especially if you are backpacking to your destination. My early activations were sitting on a rock, or the ground, and using only a clip board to mount my rig (Elecraft KX2), locate my CW paddle, and place a notepad to record QSO’s.

While simple, this operating setup poses problems. Attaining and maintaining a flat workspace is tough in the field in order to keep things from shifting or falling off the clipboard, especially if you are not firmly seated. There is not enough space to set your wrist in order to steady your CW operating, and the notebook pages can flap in the wind, or the wind can blow your logbook clear off the table while operating. I realized I needed to upgrade my mobile station! Continue reading Dale’s solution for enhanced CW field ergonomics

The Elecraft KX2 version of Scott’s chest plate/manpack

Many thanks to Scott (KA9P) who writes:

As a follow-up to my previous post: this chest pack is still a bit of a work in progress but has been tested and works as is. I didn’t want the non-IC-705 owners to feel left out 🙂

The Condor MCR-3 chest plate can be used with a Condor T & T pouch (30 bucks) for most QRP rigs with a KX format.

The Condor T & T pouch is a frequently reviewed favorite of hikers and hunters – YouTube videos abound. The key feature is the way the pouch opens from a chest plate, or just straps, to form a tray. I expect you could modify other clamshell pouches of other sizes with an adjustable cord to do the same thing. I haven’t seen other pouches built to do this, yet.

The “tray” section contains a number of MOLLE loops as well as some loop material. This makes it easy to fashion your own radio attachment system. I have been using some hook material fastened to the back of KX2 for now, but am working on something that locks in, rather than tempt fate. Continue reading The Elecraft KX2 version of Scott’s chest plate/manpack

Scott’s Icom IC-705 manpack built on a Condor MCR3 chest plate

Many thanks to Scott (KA9P) who writes:

Here’s a MOLLE-related [piece of field kit] you may not have seen yet.

My summer 2022 QRP /PM rig is built around a Condor chest plate – not really a pack although there is a plate carrier compartment that thinner things store in easily enough. And I often have a small accessory pouch in the chest plate.

The key ingredient is the IC-705 adapter plate, made from scrap 0.06 inch thick aluminum scrap.

The four tines that fit the chest plate MOLLE webbing are spaced per the MOOLE/PALS standard of every 1 1/2 inches, but the tines themselves are 3/4 inch wide rather than 1 inch to make them easier to insert in the chest plate.

 

The plate is attached to the 705 with M4 by 10 socket head screws. I first used a single quick disconnect 1/4-20 photographer’s knob, and it worked, but eventually would loosen enough that the radio would start to swivel.

The orange strap that retains the adapter plate at the top of the chest plate is riveted to the adapter plate with plastic POM rivets. The chest plate is a Condor MCR3, about 26 bucks on eBay.

The radio goes in and out of the chest plate in less than a minute, and the adapter plate can be removed in a minute or two. The radio is very stable and easy to operate.

As a bonus, the loops also hold a Buddistick mast section, then a Versatee with a Buddistick.

With the antenna in front, I can change bands and adjust the whip and coil while standing. The antenna also goes in and out of the chest plate quickly.

I’m finding it’s great fun to listen and operate on the way to and from my operating destination. Definitely the easiest /PM set I’ve had. Every control and jack, and the battery, is easily accessed with the radio attached to the plate.

It’s like the 705 was intended to be used this way!

72, keep up the great work.

Scott ka9p

Absolutely fantastic pedestrian mobile setup, Scott! I love how the custom IC-705 mounting plate makes such a stable surface for the IC-705 to be suspended as you operate. As you say, you also have very easy access to all of the station components.  Brilliant!

Thank you for sharing your design notes and photos!