Tag Archives: Guest Posts

Guest Field Report: K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report

Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:


K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report

K3STL and K3ES at the entrance to K-0621.

by Brian (K3ES)

K3ES Perspective

Saturday November 19 dawned clear and cold in northwest Pennsylvania, but the truth is that I was up well before dawn.  The third Saturday of each month, I try to make the 2 hour drive south to help with Skyview Radio Society’s monthly Volunteer Examiner (VE) testing session for new or upgrading licensees.  Clear skies (which matched the forecast) meant that road conditions would not be a problem.  So, shortly after 5 am I pointed the truck south.

One of the creature comforts I appreciate about our VE session is meeting for breakfast before the test.  It was obvious on arrival at the restaurant that the VEs would greatly outnumber the test candidates, but many hands make light work.  Coffee and an omelet definitely helped fuel the effort.  Since the test sessions normally last less than 2 hours (and that held true this time), three of us VEs had made plans for post-test session POTA.

Before launching into the field report, let me acknowledge that K3STL’s photography was instrumental in providing a report with visual appeal.  Personally, I almost always forget to take the pictures.

POTA Plan

John “Tall Guy” K3STL, Steve K3FAZ, and Brian K3ES in the parking lot at K-0621.

The plan for the day was to attempt activation of two POTA sites, Beechwood Farms State Conservation Area (K-0620) in suburban Pittsburgh, and Todd Sanctuary State Conservation Area (K-0621) about 20 miles further to the northeast.  John “Tall Guy” – K3STL and Brian – K3ES would do a short activation of K-0620, then meet Steve – K3FAZ at K-0621 for the rest of the afternoon.

Knowing it would be a cold day for mid-November (temperatures peaked for the day just barely above freezing), each of us made plans to adjust for operating from our vehicles. That meant that we would be doing parking lot activations at both locations. While we each normally activate with slightly different operating styles that are suited to outdoor POTA operations, some tweaks made it possible to have wind and weather protection for this outing.  In hindsight, it was a perfect choice.

Operating Methods

K3FAZ works an SSB contact.

K3FAZ operated his treasured Kenwood TS-50 using SSB mode with an EFHW antenna in a tree.  Rather than setting up with a table and chair, Steve configured his station to fit in the front seat of his SUV. Continue reading Guest Field Report: K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report

Scott takes the Radio Flyer on a maiden voyage

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


The Maiden Voyage of the Radio Flyer

by Scott (KK4Z)

Radio Flyer Logo (PRNewsFoto/Radio Flyer, Inc.)

When I was young, it was a simpler time. All you needed was a pen knife, cap gun, your dog, and a Radio Flyer red wagon to put your stuff in. The world was your oyster and adventure was right around the corner. Even though I am much older now, and my horizons have expanded; adventure is still right around the corner. It was fitting that my new camper is also a Flyer. I thought it fitting to name my camper the Radio Flyer, big boy’s red wagon.

For my first adventure, I chose to go to the Stephen C. Foster State Park located within the Okefenokee Swamp. It’s about a 6-hour drive from my home QTH. Getting off of the interstate at Valdosta; it’s about a 45-mile drive down a highway that is largely uninhabited. For a man who likes his solitude, I felt alone. I pulled into Fargo, GA for gas, and then it was another 18 miles of desolation to the park. The first gate was entering the refuge. Then another lonely stretch to the park entrance.

The park was quiet with several different species of Owl providing commentary. The park never got noisy while I was there. I liked it. The campsite was rustic and nice. In short order I was set up and ready to go.

One of the things I like about the camper is its simplicity. The interior is open and spacious. there is enough room for me and my gear plus I can sit comfortably. The AC and heater work well. The galley is all I need. I added a microwave that fits on the storage shelf. Continue reading Scott takes the Radio Flyer on a maiden voyage

Rand’s “Shotgun!” Mobile QRP Station

Many thanks to Rand (W7UDT) who shares the following guest post:


 ‘Shotgun!’ My Mobile QRP Station…

by Rand (W7UDT)

I’ll confess, at our overly stylish home, sadly, I don’t have a shack… my XYL has “concerns.”  So, in an attempt to keep my operating license and man card active, I happily practice portable QRP field operations at my QTH and afield.

This time of year however, with winter bearing down on us, I choose to deploy via my ‘Shotgun!’ mobile QRP station.  Simply, a quarter inch sheet of birch plywood, cut and finished nicely to fit suspended from the grab bar and headrest of my Jeep Wrangler’s passenger seat.  Ergo, ‘Shotgun!’

Grab, hang, stow and go!

It’s not a new idea, but I must say, it has become a very good solution to the chilly problem of posterior frostbite and hypothermia.

I’ll elaborate…

Continue reading Rand’s “Shotgun!” Mobile QRP Station

Rich re-activates Santa Fe Prairie State Park with QRM-busting in mind

Many thanks to Rich (KQ9L) for sharing the following field report:



Field Report: Testing a horizontally-polarized antenna at a high QRM POTA site

by Rich (KQ9L)

I wanted to give a quick follow up report from Santa Fe Prairie State Park (K-7839).

As you may recall I wrote up my POTA activation from this park on Oct 23, 2022. I made 15 Q’s that day but deep down felt I could do better. The setting of the park is quite industrial and consequently the man made noise is bad. Reflecting back on this activation, I feel that the limited the number of QSO’s I made that day was due to this QRM.

I resolved to try again but this time my objective was to figure out a solution to mitigate the effects of the QRM on my QSO count. Thinking about the problem, I recalled than manmade noise typically is vertically polarized and therefore for my second attempt, I decided to test this and use a horizontal antenna.

As luck may have it, here in Chicago we continue to experiencing unseasonably warm weather and my work schedule wasn’t too busy on Thursday, November 3, 2022, so it seemed like a great chance to put my theory to the test.

For the antenna, I decided to use one which I have owned for awhile, but have never used. I had purchased a RadioWaves Double bazooka from an online retailer some time back when they were on sale and planned to set up it a flattop dipole.

If you recall from my description of the Santa Fe Prairie State Park, there is a scenic overlook which has a tree mounted pulley system perfectly spaced to mount a 20m dipole. Although this would be the first time I used the system, it turned out to be a well designed and intuitive hoisting solution to use.

The “pulley” is actually an eyelet with paracord running through the eyelet. The paracord is in a continuous loop just like rope on a flag pole. By employing a simple overhand knot I secured the end of the antenna to the paracord and hoisted the antenna up into the tree about 20ft. It literally took a few minutes and I was ready to go.

Antenna was fed with my RG-316 feedline with built in common mode choke. Since a dipole is a balanced antenna system, it really doesn’t need the choke, but it was the coax that I had packed with me and I figured it wouldn’t cause any harm or negatively affect my test. I was QRV by 3:20pm, and anxious to get on the air. Continue reading Rich re-activates Santa Fe Prairie State Park with QRM-busting in mind

Radio Field Craft: Rand explores the handy Prusik Knot

Many thanks to Rand (W7UDT) who shares the following guest post:


The Prusik Knot… strain relief for Wire Antennas and Coax.

By W7UDT, Randall ‘Rand’ Tom

The Prusik knot is a simple, yet effective means to provide needed strain relief to wire antennas and coax, while deployed. It’s comprised of a simple loop or length of suitable cordage (of smaller diameter than the shank, Coax or Wire, it secures).

The link below, is from our friends at Animated Knots…. It’s a brief video tutorial on how best to tie the Prusik knot. Having the Prusik in your ‘bag of tricks,’ will help make your next field deployment be a successful one.

https://www.animatedknots.com/Prusik-knot

As seen in the instructional video, the knot is comprised of a simple loop of cordage, sufficient in length for the task, which is fine, but, I would recommend NOT making a loop. Rather, keeping tag ends for easier anchoring. These tag ends should be at least 12” in length. This is called an open-ended Prusik. Either way, both have utility.

To do this, fold a 24” of cordage in half, to make a ‘bite.’ Lay the bite over the shank of the coax or wire, and feed the tag ends inside the bite loop. This forms a larks-head knot. Wrap two additional turns around and through, then dress and test the knot to form the Prusik. Simple. Anchor (tie) the tag ends at a point where strain relief is best positioned. Then adjust (slide) it to load.

After deployment, I would also recommend leaving the Prusik attached. It comes in handy, when coiling your feed lines or elements later for proper storage.

The Prusik allows it to slide along the wire or coax while free of tension, yet it holds fast under load. Much like a monkey’s fist hanging onto a vine. The tag ends, can then be affixed to suitable anchor where needed. The key here, is using a smaller diameter cordage, than the wire or coax itself.

The Prusik, along with similar ‘Friction Hitches’, can be used in any number of applications in Ham Radio. e.g. Anchoring coax, joining linked antenna elements, power cords, and adjustable guying. The list is long, wherever strain relief is needed.

I would encourage you to tie it, try it, test it, and judge for yourselves. As well, I would encourage you to check out other useful climbing friction hitches… YouTube is a great place to start. I hope you find this useful afield, and to hear you ‘On the Air!’

73! de W7UDT (dit dit)

W7UDT, ‘Rand’, lives and operates near Boise Idaho, with his lovely wife Stacy. Portable QRP operations, along with his Jeep and Harley are his ‘vices.’ Your comments and questions are welcomed. My email is [email protected].

Mark’s first POTA activation with the Penntek TR-45L

Many thanks to Mark (W8EWH) who shares the following field report:


An Afternoon POTA Activation with the PENNTEK TL-45L

by Mark (W8EWH)

I have a hard time resisting new QRP radios, and I have an equally hard time resisting getting outdoors when late October brings 70F (21C) temps to Michigan.  Days like these are especially sweet given we saw the first snow here last week (no accumulation – but still…). For me there was no better way to enjoy this unexpected weather gift than with an early afternoon POTA activation with my newest QRP radio, the PENNTEK TL-45L.

The TL-45L is the latest radio from WA3RNC, joining the TR-35 and TR-25 in his online store.  It’s a 5-band, 5-watt CW transceiver covering the 80, 40-, 30-, 20- and 17-meter bands.  That in and of itself is not particularly noteworthy.  But when you look at this radio, you’ll immediately see what makes it different.

The retro look for me is unlike anything I have seen in a modern QRP radio.  It frankly looks like it was removed from an Apollo Command Module.  From the front meter to every knob and switch, this radio just begs to be fiddled with.  And each knob and switch serve a function that means no longer needing to dig through menu after menu to find where the narrow filter is switched in because of nearby QRM, or so I can slow down when my CQ POTA is responded to by a slower CW call.

The speaker is located on the (left) side of the radio, a feature many smaller QRP radios don’t have, though headphones can be used via a front mounted jack.  The radio sounds great – I think the radio’s case provides a nice sound chamber.

The TR-45L comes with a couple of options, neither of which I chose to add to my order.  One is a built-in rechargeable battery (5200 mAh), and the other an antenna tuner.  I have plenty of batteries, and normally use resonant antennas.

With the Monday late morning temperature approaching 70 I packed the car with radio gear, and my wife, and we headed out to Island Lake State Recreation Area (POTA K-3315) to activate this park with the TR-45L for the first time.  My wife is not a ham but often comes with me to POTA activations.  While I set up, activate, and then pack up, she enjoys the outdoors with a magazine and crossword puzzle, and sometimes, like today, a light lunch.  Usually, once the activation is complete, we’ll go for a hike on park trails.

Island Lake is about a 20-minute drive from my house.  Its 4000 acres is a mix of open fields and hardwood forests surrounding Kent Lake and the Huron River.  Today it was warm enough that someone was using a paddle board on the lake.

I have found a set of picnic shelters on elevated ground overlooking Kent Lake as a great place from which to activate.  I worked North Pole Alaska from this location on 20M CW using my IC-705 with 10W into an EFHW last May.

Once at the shelter I set up my EFHW (KM4ACK kit) in a sloped configuration using a conveniently located mature tree and my throw line.  It was roughly in an East/West orientation. Over the preceding weekend, I added PowerPole connectors to the provided power cord, and programed both internal CW keyer memory slots.  These are activated using either dit or dah paddle when I toggle Play using the provided switch.   Of course, I did a little POTA hunting using the home antenna to familiarize myself with the TR-45L’s operation.  The learning curve is short with nothing hidden deep behind any menus.

With the radio and antenna ready to go, I set up HAMRS on my iPad, spotted myself on the POTA website, and started calling CQ POTA on 14.0615.  Over the course of the next 35 minutes, I worked a total of 30 stations on 20M and 40M (most on 20M) at which point I basically ran out of hunters.  Not bad for a weekday afternoon.  I packed up and went on a couple mile hike with my wife.

The TR-45L is an absolute joy to use.

I forgot to put it in CW Narrow mode at first, and when nearby QRM popped up, I was able to add this in with the throw if one switch. QRM gone.  (Note, this setting – wide vs. narrow filtering – must not be retained after the power is shut off or the battery is disconnected.)

It sounds wonderful.  I used the side speaker the whole time as my wife doesn’t seem to mind, although the random guy who wandered in with a laptop to get some work done on a warm fall day decided to find somewhere else to work.  There are front mounted jacks for headphones, paddles and a straight key.  Even a rear mounted jack for an external speaker.  The built-in speaker can be turned off and on via a toggle switch.  The two CW memory slots are easy to fill using your paddle.  The front meter can show power output or SWR based on toggle switch position, and you are alerted to high SWR via a front mounted red LED.

I waited a while to get this radio.  Recent supply chain issues caused unexpected delays, but it’s available for order now in factory-built form and most definitely worth the wait.  Kits will eventually be available.  Check out all the TR-45L details here.

Mark Yergin

W8EWH

Rich activates the very POTA-friendly Santa Fe Prairie State Nature Preserve (K-7839)

Many thanks to Rich (KQ9L) for sharing the following field report:


Activating K-7839 with lessons learned from my last portable POTA activation

by Rich (KQ9L)

Here in Chicago, we have been blessed with unseasonably warm weather these past two days. I decided to build on my last successful POTA activation and apply some of the lessons I learned from that activation while working this one.

Close to my home is Park K-7839, the Santa Fe Prairie State Nature Preserve (K-7839) in Cook County, IL.

The preserve was established in 1997 and is staffed and maintained solely by volunteers. The park’s mission is to preserve a section of land for people to observe and admire the natural Illinois Prairie Landscape before it was altered by man.


The park itself is a thin sliver of land west of Chicago and is boarded by the Des Plaines River to the south and the rail yard / industrial park on the other there sides. If you look carefully in the second picture below, you can see some Sante Fe trains in the distance.

The park is easy to reach by car and right off the main park road are several picnic tables which I’m sure a ham in a wheel chair can easily access.

There are a number of features of the park which facilitate a POTA activation.

For example, in the picnic area, a Boy Scout Eagle Scout project resulted in the building of a 22ft flagpole. The flags are long gone, but the sturdy pole has been made available to hams for the hoisting of antennas. There are pulleys and easy tie down points to erect and inverted vee antenna.

To the east most section of the park is a lookout deck and at the east and west of the deck are trees with pulleys and lines permanently mounted. I’ve been told by the staff that the distance between the trees is a perfect fit for a 20m dipole. Continue reading Rich activates the very POTA-friendly Santa Fe Prairie State Nature Preserve (K-7839)

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

Scott builds a base for his ZN-Lite II paddles

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


ZN-Lite II Update

by Scott (KK4Z)

I’ve had these paddles for about a year now but I haven’t used them much. Here is a link to my original review: https://kk4z.com/2021/11/24/n3zn-zn-lite-ii/. The reason is rather complex. they are small but because of their design, they can’t be held in the hand like some other paddles. If you put them on a table with the included Lexan base, they are so light, you have to use both hands to operate them. To me, it was a conundrum. These are very well-built, precision paddles and as smooth as any well-made paddle out there. My original thought was to use them for POTA. I was a little discouraged with their functionality, and even offered to sell them at one point — but I didn’t.

Here lately, I have been pairing my paddles with my various radios. My Begali Signature with my IC-7610, Begali Traveler Light with my IC-7300, Begali Adventure with my IC-705, and my N0SA SOTA paddle with my TX-500. I have a Penntek TR-45L on order. It is a CW-only radio that has a nice retro look. I thought these paddles would be a great match for this radio. What I want for this radio is a set of paddles that can be operated with one hand. The TR-45L is a tabletop radio https://www.wa3rnc.com/store/penntek-tr-45l-qrp-transceiver. I envision its use at a park during a POTA activation. I decided what my ZN-Lite II paddles needed was a heavier base. I ordered from Amazon a 3″ diameter, 1/2″ thick piece of steel.

I drilled a hole to mount the paddle and 4 smaller holes to mount the rubber feet. The paddle hole is countersunk on the bottom so the screw head is below (or above) the surface of the base. That way it can be used without the feet.

The holes for the feet were drilled and tapped for 8-32 thread. I had to drill the hole all the way through because I didn’t have a bottom tap. Without a bottom tap, there would not have been enough threads in the hole if I didn’t drill all the way through. When I do these projects, I basically use hand tools and in this case, I used a cheap drill press I bought from Home Depot.

Continue reading Scott builds a base for his ZN-Lite II paddles

Rich packs the KX2 field kit for air travel and a POTA activation!

Many thanks to Rich (KQ9L) for sharing the following field report:


Field Report and Lessons from Torrey Pines State Beach (K-3580)

by Rich (KQ9L)

As you can tell from my call sign, I am a W9er, but recently had the opportunity to travel to California and specifically to the San Diego area. I thought it would be fun to try to activate a park near my hotel. I consulted the POTA website and found one park which was within 5 miles of my hotel, perfect!

While planning for the trip, I carefully chose and packed my gear to minimize added weight and bulk of my carry-on luggage. Because on this requirement, I chose my Elecraft KX2 with built in battery, my KXPD3 paddles, a K6ARK end-fed half-wave and the telescoping fishing pole from the PackTenna portable mast system.

Everything fit perfectly into a Lowepro CS40 case and Tom Bihn HLT. I did not bring the tripod from the PackTenna system to cut down on weight and bulk.


The hardest part of traveling with this setup was the fishing pole as I could not fit it diagonally in my carry-on legal luggage and I ended up having it sticking out the top of my soft side Patagonia MLC carryon backpack / travel luggage.

I received a few odd looks from passengers and airline personal but to my relief I did not get hassled for the odd looking thing sticking out of my luggage. To minimize the space my luggage occupied in the overhead storage, I simply pulled the pole out of the luggage and stowed it in the bottom of the overhead bin. Easy! Everything made it safely to my destination and no the got destroyed.

This morning [October 15, 2022] I decided to go out early to activate Torrey Pines K-3580 which is just north of San Diego.

I ran into a problem which I guess I should’ve anticipated. Being from the central time zone and normally a 5 AM riser, I found myself ready to go by 3 AM Pacific time. I dillydallied for a few hours and watched a few of your YouTube videos to get me psyched up and ready for the activation.

I got out to the site right at sunrise and set up without much difficulty. I found the vegetation to be conducive to setting up the fishing pole by leaning it up against some of the shrubbery. Continue reading Rich packs the KX2 field kit for air travel and a POTA activation!