Tag Archives: Hazeltop (W4V/SH-004)

Dale Goes “SOTA-Lite” with the Elecraft KH1

Many thanks to Dale (N3HXZ) who shares the following field report:

SOTA-Lite with the KH1

by Dale (N3HXZ)

My KH1 Edgewood Package finally arrived in late February. As an owner of a KX2, I wondered why the heck I was buying the KH1. I am perfectly satisfied with the KX2 for my SOTA operations. However, the idea of shedding a few pounds in my pack got my attention, and the notion that I could set up and be on the air in a minute or so was also intriguing. I like to do several summits a day and this would be a time saver.

I decided to take Elecraft to task by convincing myself that I could do successful activations with just the Edgewood package.

The only exception to the package was to bring along the AXE1 extender so that I could operate 40 M.

I also wanted to prove to myself that I could carry all my gear with just a waist pack (Hence SOTA Lite!). A picture of my gear is shown below. I have an older AXE1 and it does not fit into the whip post of the KH1. I reverted to using the AX1/AXE1/Whip attached to the bnc jack. I include the 33’ counterpoise for 40M, a right angle jack for the ear buds (to not conflict with the log tray), a small first aid kit, deet, a spare keyer, a power bar, and a waist pack. The total equipment weighs in at 2.9lbs (excluding water!).

My traditional SOTA gear includes the KX2, the Chameleon MPAS-Lite Vertical antenna, a small portable pad to set the gear on, and a folding stool. Along with a backpack, the equipment comes in at 17 lbs. Hence the KH1 gear saves me 14 lbs! I decided to jettison the folding stool and operate in true pedestrian style (standing) with the KH1.

Traditional SOTA gear:

KH1 SOTA gear:

Jim (KJ3D) and I have done several activations together and he also purchased the KH1. Our first outing was a day trip on March 4th from our QTH’s in Pittsburgh to Maryland to activate Marsh Hill (W3/WE-001) and Dan’s Rock (W3/WE-002).

Jim operated on 17M and 20M, I operated on 15M and 40M. My favorite band for morning operations is 15M. If you hit it right, you can work both Europe and the West Coast at the same time. 11 AM was such a time and with the KH1 at 5 watts, I was able to reach east as far as Sweden and west as far as California. Not bad for a compact transceiver, 5 watts, and a compromised whip antenna!

I decided to also check out 40M with the AX1/AXE1 on the bnc post. It tuned up nicely and I worked a couple stations (including an S2S!). The QSO map of the contacts is shown below.

The first activation also gave me some real-time experience using the log tray. I was skeptical going in as to how effective this would be, especially in a pile-up. I also like to record RST signal reports so I can report a complete QSO. The log sheets are not set up for that, but you can jot down the signal reports in a lower line. I was recording about 4-5 QSO’s per sheet. With a pile up going on, I found it easier to just stuff the sheets in my pocket after they were used up rather than trying to insert them in the log tray behind the unused sheets.

Still, I applaud Elecraft for the log tray design; doing the best you can with the real estate space available in an all-inclusive compact transceiver unit.

My operating platform switched from a rectangular pad holding the KX2 gear on my lap while sitting in a stool to operating from my left hand while standing. The picture below captures my operating set-up. As a courtesy, I like to include the chaser’s name in my QSO. I have a sheet of ‘Frequent Chasers” in my hand as a quick reference!

Having completed an initial outing to work out the kinks of operating a new rig, we took a two-day trip to the Blue Ridge mountains on March 14th-15th and activated seven summits along Skyline Drive. I wanted to see if the KH1 and my slimmed down gear would meet the challenge. T

he summit hikes along Skyline Drive are not too rigorous; roughly 0.5 to 1 mile each way with elevation gains from 200 ft. to 600 ft. We operated North Marshall (W4V/SH-009), Hogback Mountain (W4V/SH-007), The Pinnacle (W4V/SH-005), Stony Man (W4V/SH-002), Hawksbill (W4V/SH-001), and Hazeltop (W4V/SH-004). Here is a pic of Jim operating atop North Marshall.

The KH1 performed flawlessly. We operated all the bands (40/30/20/17/15). Activations got easier as we got more familiar with operating the rig. I grew very accustomed to activating standing up; Jim preferred to sit on a rock or log. What surprised the both of us was the positive impact on our physical endurance from shedding 14 lbs of gear. This cannot be underestimated for rigorous summit hikes and for me is a key reason to buy the KH1.

Another key factor was eliminating the time needed to set up and tear down a more traditional SOTA set-up (transceiver, antenna, cables, etc.).

Finally, my fears about operating 5 watts with a compromised whip antenna have vanished. From my experience having 5 operating bands is more important than more power, or a larger antenna. Below is a composite of my two-day activation QSO’s which encompassed the 5 bands available with the KH1.

Finally, the article would not be complete without a view atop Dan’s Rock (W3/WE-002) just off I68 near Cumberland MD.

No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Aside from a beautiful view looking east, you have psychedelic paint covering the rocks! At first you think this is an affront to the natural beauty of the land, but after a while it kind of grows on you. 🙂

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