Tag Archives: FT8

N2YCH: January POTA Travel in Frozen Alaska!

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


Conrad’s January Alaska Activation

By: Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

Why would you go to Alaska in January?” is what everyone asked me.

I’ve wanted to see the Northern Lights for as long as I can remember. The best time to see the aurora borealis is between late August to late April in Fairbanks, Alaska. Days are short in January, sunrise is at 10:24am local time and sunset is at 3:38pm. It’s twilight before the sun comes up and after it sets so it’s not pitch dark, but it’s mostly dark for about 19 hours a day in Fairbanks at this time of year. Once I began researching, I learned that peak viewing times for the aurora are between 10p and 2a local time even with the extended darkness. Check aurorasaurus.org for more information.

So, the answer to the question is, “The odds are better to catch the Northern Lights in the winter.”

Cold weather and snow doesn’t bother me having lived in Syracuse, New York for ten years. I have experience with winter weather and driving. Fairbanks is one of the best places in the state to see the aurora since it is directly below the “Aurora Oval” and it has over 100 days a year when the aurora is visible. Except for January 12th through the 15th, 2024, when the sky had 98% cloud cover and it was snowing. Aurora viewing was not happening during my visit.

However, this trip was not a total loss by any means. There are things to see and do here, including activating parks! I activated three parks in three days, Denali National Park (K-0022), Chena River State Recreation Area (K-7228) and Creamer’s Field Wildlife Refuge (K-9697). I’ve heard stories from hams in Alaska that propagation can be spotty, that there can be total radio blackouts from solar flares and that bands we don’t usually worry about in the lower 48, like 20 meters, can be useless at times. I packed enough equipment and antennas to activate on any band from 40 meters to 6 meters, up to 100 watts using my Elecraft KX3 with the Elecraft KXPA100 amplifier. On the first day at Denali, I used the amp for the entire activation, but I realized at the end of the day that Thomas, K4SWL, who runs “QRPer.com” wouldn’t be too happy with a field report from “QROer.com” Conrad, N2YCH. To remedy that, I activated my second park using just my KX3, no amp. At K-7228, my first 11 QSO’s were QRP and the park was officially activated using only QRP power. I activated my third park QRO, read on and I’ll explain why.

[Thomas here: For the record, readers, I gave Conrad a Special Use Permit to mention QRO on QRPer! Ha ha! Of course there’s no problem going QRO from time to time!]

Back to propagation, I emailed one of the most active POTA activators in the area prior to my trip to get a sense of what to expect. I highly recommend doing this for anyone planning to travel somewhere and activate. Look at the POTA pages for the parks you want to activate and you’ll surely see a repeat activator with a Kilo award or many visits to those parks. They know the parks the best and also what to expect for propagation. They also share your passion for POTA and are usually very happy to help. The advice I received was that it would be difficult to make contacts on 20 meters and that watching the MUF (maximum usable frequency) charts would serve me well. (Check out hf.dxview.org) The activator said 10 meters would probably be the best band during daylight hours. He was exactly right. Even with QRO power, 20 meter reception in Alaska was noisy and my signal did not get out very far on FT8 watching the pskreporter.com spot map. I moved to 10 meters and quickly had a steady pile up. I stayed on the air until I depleted a 9ah and a 3ah battery I brought. What fun!

Okay, so for the QRP activation, I was at a trailhead parking area out near the Chena Hot Springs resort. Before the activation, I stopped and did the tour of the Aurora Ice Museum and took a dip in the natural hot springs. I do recommend the hot springs if you ever go to Fairbanks. It was -10F degrees when I was there, quite an experience.

Chena Hot Springs

I intentionally wanted to delay my activation from early morning to closer to sunset to see if operating during the evening gray line passing over would help improve the number of contacts I could get. The short answer is that it was worse…way worse. I went back to activating closer to sunrise on my third day and had similar results as I did the first day, much better. Sunrise wins.

The map above shows my initial ten QRP QSO’s from K-7228.

What really continues to amaze me is just how far my signal can reach with the portable equipment I was using. I brought the Buddipole so I could configure it as a vertical or a dipole. I tried it as a vertical on 20 meters on my first day and as I said, the reception was poor. The beauty of the Buddipole is that I could quickly reconfigure it to a 10 meter dipole. With the tripod, it’s roughly 10’ off the ground. There was no wind to speak of, so I didn’t need to guy it. If there was, I would have used a bungee cord to secure it to the car bumper or side mirror.

It breaks down and fits in the bag I bought with the Buddipole tripod and I tossed it into my checked bag on the plane. With the tripod and mast, it’s just a little too long for the carry-on bag. I could have brought a fiberglass push up mast and wire antennas in my carry-on, but I decided on the checked bag and brought the Buddipole to have as many options as possible. After all, I was traveling all the way to Alaska. Continue reading N2YCH: January POTA Travel in Frozen Alaska!

BG6LH Designs a Board for Integrated Yaesu FT-817/818 FT8 Operation

Many thanks to Cao (BG6LH) who writes:

Hi, Thomas!

I would like to share my QRP FT8 kit for Field Operation.

A long time ago, I was seeking the most lightweight QRP kits for FT8 field operation. My goal was to have just one radio, one antenna, one phone, without too many cables, boxes, etc.

Finally, I designed a PCB. It is a Bluetooth DIGI Adapter and can be mounted on the rear panel of my FT-818.

Just plug it to the DATA and ACC jacks. It can be powered by ACC jack’s 13.8V Pin.

It works well with FT8CN, an android FT8 app.

Now, my dream has come true!

My Antenna was a so-called GAWANT, designed by JF1QHZ, I guess it’s a simple Vertical EFHW. I built it with a 1.2 meter rod.

It’s working on 7~28MHz bands, not very efficient, but so small and portable.

For FT8 QRP POTA, field operation, all of these components can be put in a small bag, and deployed in minutes.

I shared my PCB design on Github. If anyone wants to modify it, you are welcome to do so!

https://github.com/BG6LH/FT-81x-BT-DIGI-Adaptor

Thank you for sharing this, Cao. This is absolutely amazing and an incredibly clever design! I suspect a lot of FT-818/817 enthusiasts will make this same build via your design!

Thank you for reaching out and for sharing your work with the QRP community! 

Field Report: Dave ventures into the fog to play FT8 POTA!

Many thanks to Dave (K1SWL) who shares the following field report:


October 6th POTA activation

by Dave (K1SWL)

I’m pretty much a died-in-the-wool CW guy. I’m not averse to dabbling in other modes, though. Friday, October 6, 2023, was such an occasion. I’d noted that there’d been little recent Digital activity in one of our area’s Parks. As if it needs more familiarity, it looms over I-91 only three miles from the Connecticut river. As a result, it’s been activated more than 75 times.

This was Mount Ascutney State Park in VT, and at 3144′, features a paved road to the summit. Off I went!

Finding a parking space at the summit lot wasn’t an issue. The top of the mountain was socked in above 2500 feet. Visibility was 30 to 50 feet, and sightseers were inexplicably scarce.

I normally use a 20M end-fed antenna and homebrew pneumatic launcher. The stunted trees at that elevation made that less practical. I used instead Hustler resonators for 10M and 20M atop the truck cab on a mag mount. I usually consider that setup a compromise, but at 2000 feet above average terrain (HAAT), it didn’t matter.

The operating position inside the truck is quite comfortable. A melamine-clad slab serves as the operating surface. (see above) The chain at the far end was a design ‘iteration’. I’d originally just supported that end on the passenger-side arm rest. I’d operated from the driver’s side, and one day got out, went around and absent-mindedly opened the passenger door. The whole station headed for the ground. I caught the rig but the Vibroplex Iambic paddles were a loss. A fabulous excuse for a Begali- and a hard protective case! When I’m operating from the truck, an IC-706MKIIg and 15-AH Bioenno battery does the honors. If gear needs to be carried any distance, the KX3 makes more sense. The station itself takes two minutes at most to set up.

So how’d it work out? A closeup of the WSJT-X screen (seee above) illustrates it. (The device is an MS Surface.) I was getting as many as 3 replies to my CQs at a time. I wound up ‘interleaving’ three contacts at a time. It got confusing! I need to look into ‘Fox/Hounds’ operation to speed things up for the future.

All in all- a great success. A total of 62 FT8 contacts in a little over 2 hours. 16 of these were on 10M at the start and the balance on 20M. The attached QSO Map (att. 4) shows the contact distribution- mainly eastern US with a few Europeans for good measure. Will I do it again? You bet!

73- K1SWL

Field Radio Kit Gallery: KI7URL’s (tr)USDx Ultralight Portable Kit

Many thanks to Jim (KI7URL) 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. Jim writes:


(tr)USDx Ultralight Portable Kit

by Jim (KI7URL)

I like to take amateur radio with me wherever I go. In my backpack, I keep a Yaesu FT-60 (powered by 18650 batteries, but that is a different discussion). But I do not like to limit myself to VHF/UHF.

My wife, on the other hand, does not think my “go bag” should take up a significant portion of our suitcase when we travel. I did build a slimmed-down go kit with my Yaesu 891, but that was still north of 12 pounds (vetoed by Wife). Then, I made a go kit with my Yaesu 818, but that was still near the 10-pound zone (again, vetoed). I needed a slimmer package.

I turned to the likes of the QCX mini or other CW-only radios. The problem is that I still am far from proficient with my code, so relying only on CW was a bit more frustrating than I wanted it to be. The (tr)USDx, an open-source radio about the size of two stacked decks of cards, interested me in both price point and functionality. It has SSB, CW, and digital capabilities….on five different bands! Once it was in my hands, I had to build a kit around this new radio!

I want to keep my radio protected, so I started with a small dry box. On the inside, I printed a ‘redneck laminated’ (see also: packing taped) a quick setup guide for using the radio on digital modes if I ever have an in-field case of “the dumb.”

The radio is powered by a small RC battery. I chose this for size, weight, and availability (had it lying around from another project). When fully charged, it reads 12.6 volts. I added powerpole connectors to it because who does love powerpoles (be careful not to short the battery when adding power poles)? I have a small power adapter that goes from powerpoles to the 1.3mm connector so I can use my bench supply or other power sources without making another cable.

I have two antennas that I use (a K6ARK end fed and a QRP Guys No-Tune end fed with 26 gauge wire for 20m). But I like the QRP Guys one because I mostly do 20m and I think it was slightly lighter than the K6ARK antenna (don’t quote me on that though, I loaned the K6ARK one out and have not gotten it back). Plus, not having a tuner lightens my load as well!

Deployed for digital modes.

I have a retired smartphone in my kit that I use for some logging and some other ham-related apps, but mostly for FT8 using the FT8CN app. I also have WoAD on there and soon I hope I can get WinLink functionality with a small TNC as per this video by OH8STN. HF WinLink would be a good benefit with a lighter load than packing in a laptop or Raspberry Pi.

The kit weighs in at 2 pounds 6 ounces (just over a kilogram). This could be stripped down if I only did an SSB, Digital, or, gasp, a CW activation. But as it stands, the small form factor and low weight make the wife happy!

73,
Jim
KI7URL

Equipment:

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

Scott’s Georgia Parks On The Air weekend field report

Many thanks to Scott (KK4Z) who shares the following post from his blog KK4Z.com:


Georgia Parks on the Air at FD Roosevelt SP K-2173

Friday evening, Mary K4SEZ and I traveled to FD Roosevelt State Park for a weekend in a very nice cabin. The cabin is located on Pine Mountain with some exceptional views. As you can guess, I brought some radios with me. I went QRV right before 1800 hrs. local to make sure all my equipment worked prior to the contest. Besides, the contest I had a regional HF net that I needed to check into Saturday morning. The contest starts at 0800 hrs local Saturday and the net was also at 0800 and lasted about 20 minutes.

Friday night was amazing! Twenty and forty meters was wide open. Using FT8, I made 223 contacts between 1800 hrs Friday and 0300 hrs Saturday morning. I worked stations as far west as Japan and Australia and as far east as Rwanda, Ukraine, and European Russia. Unfortunately, the rest of the weekend was not near as exciting. Between 0800 hrs Saturday morning and 1230 hrs Sunday, I made an additional 477 contacts. The bands were up and down and the pace was a little slower. I worked 48 States and 34 countries when it was all said and done. Sunday morning had an opening on 10 meters and I made 19 contacts many into Europe. In total, I had 700 contacts.

My antenna was my tried and true homebrew 28.5-foot random wire antenna which I named my K4SWL antenna as the original idea from Tom.  It uses one 17-foot counterpoise.  On this trip, the wire I used was 14 ga (I think), coated Flexweave I got from The Wireman many years ago.  I was using some 20-something gauge I got from SOTABeams but because I use this antenna a lot, I worried about the thin wire breaking.  I use a 9:1 UnUn with a 1:1 current BalUn to help with matching.  The antenna is matched by an LDG RT/RC 100 matching unit.  This is fairly new to and so far I like it. The tuning circuit out by the antenna helps keep stray RF out of the shack. It was also quite windy here Friday night and Saturday.  The antenna held up well.  The only issues I had were some of the sections on my MFJ push-up pole would collapse affecting the tuning.  This pole is probably nearly 20 years old and should be replaced.

The radio was “The Rock” my IC-7300. I ran FT8 the whole time at 35-45 watts and the temperature gauge on the radio never moved past cool. Now that the FTDX10 has found a home in the shack, it’s nice to have my old friend back in the field with me.

The cabin is located on the ridge line of Pine Mountain, elevation ~1250′ ASL. Besides great views, it also gave my antenna a large aperture which may account for the many DX contacts I made.

I mainly worked FT8 as I also had to listen to a couple of conferences on the Internet and didn’t want to disturb my wife when she was doing things other than radio. We had a nice weekend away and of course, being able to bring radios is a huge bonus. When I get back home and settled, I may send the log to the GA POTA people. I don’t really contest anymore but they might find it useful for cross-checking.

Here is a YouTube Video of the activation.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Click here to read this post and much more at KK4Z.com!

From idea to kit: Adam introduces the Arduino Digital Modes HF QRP Transceiver (ADX-S) kit

Many thanks to Adam (BD6CR) who shares the following guest post about his latest project:


From Open Source Project ADX to Kit ADX-S

by Adam (BD6CR)

BD6CR @ CRKits.COM

Original Design: WB2CBA

Modification and Kitting: BD6CR

I knew Barb, WB2CBA from his uSDX design a few years ago and I introduced both DL2MAN and his designs in my blog. So, when I came across the ADX – Arduino Digital Xcvr a few months ago, I immediately ordered both the ADX (through hole) and the ADX UNO (surface mount) PCB samples.

I started building the ADX UNO and put it in a dental floss case and made a few contacts on park bench. However, the soldering is too much for my eyesight. So, I turned back to the ADX because I don’t need to solder any SMD parts, since both the M328P and SI5351 are module based. I could build the project in 3 hours and it worked the first time.

However, I felt unsatisfied with the strong BCI since the CD2003 radio receiver chip was connected as a direct conversion receiver. JE1RAV mentioned in his QP-7C modification project that he tried JA9TTT’s idea to build a superhet SSB receiver with the TA2003 or CD2003, so I tried and it worked very well. I have decided to name the new circuit as ADX-S, where S stands for Superhet.

I shared the great news with Barb and he encouraged me to carry the flag to make it a kit, since my design D4D was his first digital radio and he loved it.

You can refer to Barb’s page on ADX here.

My hardware modification can be outlined in this schematic. I have added an FL1, PFB455JR ceramic filter by Murata and a C25 coupling capacitor from CLK2 of SI5351 module. The RX audio comes from pin 11 instead of pin 4.

I modified it by cutting two traces on the ADX PCB and it looked ugly, so I redrew the PCB. Continue reading From idea to kit: Adam introduces the Arduino Digital Modes HF QRP Transceiver (ADX-S) kit

MINI Portable: Conrad’s POTA field report from Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


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

Guest Post: A QRP Labs QDX POTA Field Portable Report

(Photo: QRP Labs)

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


QRP-Labs QDX Field Report

K-1716, Silver Sands State Park, Milford, Connecticut

January 13, 2023

By: Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

A digital mode multiband transceiver for $69? Yes! QRP Labs has the QDX kit available for $69 US. Add $20 if you would like a very nice black anodized aluminum case to mount it in and if you want it assembled and tested add another $45. Visit the QRP Labs web site for all of the details (QDX 4-band 5W Digi transceiver (qrp-labs.com)

How well can a $69 digital transceiver work? Read on…

I ordered my QDX kit back in May 2022. It arrived in June, I assembled it and ran some tests at home. It worked well on FT8 into my home antennas. It interfaces nicely with WSJT-X and I liked the idea of using a low power transceiver to band hop on WSPR. My QDX is an early four band version, which does 20, 30, 40 & 80 meters. I set it to band hop on all four bands not remembering that my multiband offset center fed dipole is not resonant on 30 meters. Since the QDX does not have a tuner, it didn’t like the higher reflected power of a two minute long WSPR transmission into a bad load and smoke resulted. I was fortunate that the failure was isolated to the RF power amplifier transistors and replacing those got me running again. This was my own fault, not the transceiver. Now, it band hops on 20, 40 and 80 meters with no issues, I eliminated 30 meters from the hop schedule.

I share this important story at the beginning of my field report as a warning to anyone considering using a QDX to be very careful when connecting an antenna to it. Since the QDX does not have an internal antenna tuner, you either need a resonant antenna or must use an external tuner to provide a 50 ohm load with low SWR to the QDX. The QRP Labs groups.io site has a number of posts from users with different tuner suggestions.

Now comes the fun part. I visited Silver Sands State Park, K-1716, located on Long Island sound in Milford, CT on January 13, 2023 in the afternoon. While it was Friday the 13th, I had nothing but good luck. Knowing I would be running QRP power, I decided to use what I consider to be my best 20 meter antenna. It’s a modified version of a Buddipole, which I call my “no coil” Buddipole dipole. I use a Buddipole VersaTee mounted to a WILL-BURT Hurry Up mast, which is a push up mast that extends to about 25’ high. The dipole consists of two Buddipole 32” accessory arms, one for each side of the VersaTee and two MFJ 17’ telescoping whips, extended to just about 17.5’. This provides a very broad bandwidth and low SWR on 20 meters. See the screen shot of my antenna sweep from the RigExpert analyzer below.

Here’s a photo of the antenna in the air.

The temperature on this January day was a mild 55 degrees so I was able to set up my equipment in the back of my Jeep. Here’s everything I needed to do the activation. Since the antenna is resonant, I did not use a tuner.

My iPhone gives you an idea of just how big the QDX is, which is sitting just to the right of it. There are only three connections needed, the antenna cable, a 12V power cable and the USB cable. I was using my Bioenno 9ah battery for power. I brought the Bird Model 43 with a 25 watt element in it to monitor the output power and also to measure the reflected power, which barely even nudged the meter. It was effectively zero watts reflected. In the photo above, I was in a transmit cycle and you can see the power meter just a touch above 5 watts. On the computer, you can see a mini pile-up of six hunters in the queue. One thing to note about the QDX is that you can’t adjust the power by lowering the PWR slider in WSJT-X. It’s recommended to leave that at maximum. The way to adjust output power is to adjust the power supply voltage. In this case, the Bioenno had a full charge, so the radio was running full power.

I began the activation without spotting myself, just to see who’d hear me. Here’s a map of the pskreporter showing my spots.

I eventually spotted myself so hunters would know what park I was at. I was amazed that during my activation, I never ran dry or had to call CQ POTA, there was a steady stream of hunters the entire time. The QDX does a fine job receiving, here’s a screenshot of WSJT-X including the waterfall to show what it was receiving.

So, how did the $69 radio do? In a one hour and 17 minute activation, I completed 46 FT8 QSO’s. Here’s my coverage map.

I managed to complete three park to park QSO’s, too. One park called me and I called the other two who heard me and answered. I use JTAlert which helps me keep track of the order of who called. I always try to answer the hunters in the order they called me. I’ve set up a Directed CQ alert in JTAlert for anyone calling “CQ POTA” which helps me to see who else is at a park while I’m activating. If I’m able to contact them, I use the POTA spot list to include their park number in the SIG_INFO field of my log, which is N3FJP. N3FJP is handy to use since I start a new log for each activation and I’ve configured it to upload to LOTW and QRZ when I’m done for the day.

Another thing worth noting is that there is no speaker on the QDX. I’m one of those digital operators who actually listens to the cycles while I’m on the air. It provides a certain cadence to hear each cycle go by so you know what to be looking at or clicking on and when. With no sound coming out of the QDX, it forces you to find that cadence by looking at the computer screen. For me, it means watching the receive audio levels and the progress bar to see if I’m transmitting or receiving. The QDX does have a single red LED on the front panel that will flash during transmit cycles, which is also a helpful indicator.

I’d say the results shown here speak for themselves. I had a steady stream of hunters, I had just one or two QSO’s that needed a second RR73 to confirm and the coverage was as good as most activations I’ve done with more expensive radios and more power. Despite the self-inflicted hiccup I experienced at the beginning, I’d say that If you’re looking to try activating digital for Parks On The Air or even for your home, the QDX certainly works very well and provides a lot of value for the money.

Conrad packs the Elecraft KX3 and AX1 for a New York City POTA Rove

Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the following field report:


New York City Park Rove, December 30, 2022

Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH

After being bitten by the Parks On The Air (POTA) bug, I became an activator in early 2022. I was hooked. Digital, and specifically FT8 & FT4, is the mode I prefer. A lot of experimentation ensued until I was able to refine my POTA setup to an Icom IC-7300 powered by a Bioenno 20ah battery mounted in a four rack unit Gator case and a Buddipole dipole antenna on a push up mast.

As a radio broadcast engineer by trade, I was very focused on maximizing performance and coverage and after much refinement and trying different things, I feel like my POTA kit performs well. I’ve made contacts as far away as Indonesia, Japan and Israel using the POTA setup in a park… so mission accomplished.


The POTA kit above is not something I can easily take with me on a business trip however, especially by air, so I turned my sites to a Xiegu G90 and various end fed half wave antennas and fiberglass masts and more Buddipole parts to pack into my carry-on luggage. Now I could activate parks wherever I could fly to and I’ve completed successful activations in Wisconsin and Georgia.

Still, I needed to pack a second bag and check the luggage to do these trips. What I really wanted was something I could carry on the plane with me.

I knew I had to change my point of view on what I could achieve using a portable kit. A small radio and antenna wasn’t going to get me contacts in Indonesia, but I could transmit far enough to have someone hear me and get my ten contacts to activate a park. Researching my options online constantly brought me to videos and blog posts here on QRPer.com. Thomas loves his Elecraft KX2 and in a few field report videos he demonstrates an Elecraft AX1 antenna connected directly to the radio for some fast CW POTA activations. This setup was appealing because of the size and he always has a successful activation.

I researched the Elecraft options and the KX3 seemed like the right radio for my digital activations. It has a DATA mode, it can run split operation, it’s got a wideband filter setting and while Elecraft only recommends 5 watts for data modes, it can do up to 10 watts. I managed to find and purchase one gently used on eBay.

I installed the Pro Audio Engineering Kx32 aftermarket heat sink to be sure I protected the final output transistors from overheating and use a Signalink model USB SLUSBKX3 as a sound card interface to the computer. The Signalink can key the radio using the audio keying feature, but I chose to use the Elecraft KXUSB cable to use CAT control and let WSJT-X key it instead. It also allows WSJT-X to read and control the radio’s frequency for easy band changes. I have a Bioenno BLF-1209A 9Ah battery to run it rather than use the internal batteries and I haven’t come close to running the battery out on an activation yet.

Then I bought the Elecraft AX1 antenna with the 40 meter AXE1 optional antenna extender and the AXT1 tripod adapter. It is tiny. There’s really no other way to describe it. It’s a little, baby antenna. Fully extended, it is about four feet tall. I was highly skeptical of how this might perform given its size. I’m using a 25’ Buddipole RG-58 A/U 50 ohm MILSPEC-17 cable terminated to BNC connectors to get the antenna away from my computer because I’ve found that RF and USB do not play well together. I typically try to get the antenna situated in a nearby spot, with a little distance between it and the computer. I bought the Maxpedition Fatty Pocket Organizer Thomas suggested on QRPer.com and a little Amazon Basics Lightweight Mini Tripod.

The AX1, the adapter and tripod all fit in the organizer with room to spare and it fits into a backpack with the radio, battery, cables and my Lenovo Thinkpad 3 laptop. I’m also able to fit in the the Bioenno battery and laptop chargers. At the urging of my XYL, I also have a printed copy of my license in the backpack, too. I haven’t had to show it to anyone yet, but I’m ready, just in case. The backpack is a Mindshift model 18L, designed for photographers, but is easily adapted to contain all of the components I need for a portable activation. Here’s a photo…

So now I’ve got a completely self contained POTA kit in a backpack that can be carried aboard a plane. Continue reading Conrad packs the Elecraft KX3 and AX1 for a New York City POTA Rove