QRP POTA Activation During the CQ World Wide Contest
by Joshua (KO4AWH)
I had an opportunity to activate Fort Yargo State Park (K-2177) during the CQ WW DX contest.
Fort Yargo is my local park, about 30 minutes away. The park features a great playground for the kids to play on and many tall trees which are perfect for deploying a wire antenna. There really is not much more I could ask for in a POTA location. Even the noise floor is very low, about S0, so I typically turn on the pre-amp which brings it up to S2-S3 on my Discovery TX-500.
This was very much a last minute plan. I knew the contest was going on which may present some difficulty activating QRP. I knew I would not be calling CQ on 20m where I normally activate and hunting stations could be difficult but likely doable.
There was a bit of rain at the house in the morning, then a promise of drizzle the rest of the day. Not too sure what I would find at the park, but hopefully the rain would hold off and I could get the activation in using the TX-500 without too much worry about it getting wet. I threw in a picnic blanket with a water barrier that promised a bit of protection from the rain if needed it.
I have a go-box setup with my TX-500 and IC-705, as well as several antennas, an ATU, and all cabling and power needed to run FT8 either on my Raspberry PI4 with the TX-500, or on my iPad through the IC-705.
I was taking my wife’s vehicle as she had the car seats needed for the 3 kiddos that were coming along. So, I had to be sure I had everything I needed. There are quite a few additional radio items I keep in the back of my car that I would not have available. But everything should be in the go-box, right?
After a bit of mist and some rain on the drive over, I planned to setup the TX-500 knowing it would get a bit wet. I tossed the throw line in the tree and pulled up my Tufteln EFHW QRP cut for 20m. In retrospect I probably should have pulled up the EFRW for a bit more band agility.
I tuned around for a few minutes.
Yup, there was not a single free place across 20 meters where I could start calling CQ in the clear. In fact, the stations I listened to for more than a few seconds had someone else start calling right on top of them. 20 meters was indeed crazy.
I’ve recently discovered QRP FT8, which I’ve been working with my Icom IC-705. I run with an end-fed sloper that runs out of my 2nd floor shack window using a 49:1 unun and a length of RG-58. I’m also using an Emtech ZM-2 tuner between the antenna and the radio when needed.
The set up works really nicely, except for the way FT8 heats up and overtaxes the radio after a while. Searching around a bit, I’ve found just the right solution for that issue. The AC Infinity MULTIFAN S1 USB-powered table fan.
It’s basically just a 3-inch square fan like you’d find in a computer or some other electronic devices, with rubber “feet” attached. It can stand upright or lay flat depending on your need. it’s stated purpose is to cool or ventilate routers, game consoles, audio equipment, etc.
The AC Infinity MULTIFAN S1 includes a speed control switch and an inline USB socket to daisy-chain other devices. One caveat with the inline socket: because it’s placed in the line between the fan and the speed control switch, the switch must be set to high speed else the socket won’t have adequate power for the attached device.
All I do is plug the fan into a USB socket and place it at the rear of the radio, sans battery, to keep it cool. I have it set up to blow onto the radio. Obviously I need to power the radio with an external source when the battery isn’t attached. I’ve not tried to use the fan with the battery attached, but I don’t think it would help much. The ventilation slots next to the battery compartment don’t seem wide enough to let much air in. Continue reading How Joe keeps his Icom IC-705 cool during long FT8 sessions→
Because I receive so many tips from readers here on QRPer, I wanted way to share them in a concise newsletter format. To that end, welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links to interesting stories and tips making waves in the world of radio!
IC-705 Firmware Update
Many thanks to Uli Zehndbauer who notes that Icom recently released a new firmware update for the IC-705.
Here are the details/notes about this firmware version from Icom:
Changes from Version 1.27
– Displays the Receiving (or Transmitting) route icon (RF or TM: Terminal mode) on the RX History Log and QSO Log
– Displays the Receiving (or Transmitting) route icon (RF or TM: Terminal mode) to the chunk information in the QSO audio file
– Displays the Receiving route icon (TM: Terminal mode) to the following screens;
RX HISTORY screen
GPS POSITION (RX) screen
QSO audio, PLAY FILES screen
QSO audio, FILE INFORMATION screen
– Improves the WLAN access point list so that you can delete the connected or saved access points
– Improves the CI-V command 1F 01 (DV transmit call sign) so you can set only the “UR” call sign without the other call signs.
In the past two weeks I’ve received a number of video links from QRPer readers who are featuring CW activations in their YouTube videos.
First up is Steve (K9NUD) who has started a new channel featuring his CW activations primarily using a cootie/sideswiper. Steve is doing something I wish I had the time to do which is add CW closed captions to his videos. This makes it easy to follow along. Check out this video:
Jonathan (KM4CFT) recently noted in the comments of my YouTube channel that he made a video of his third ever CW POTA activation. I had to check it out and am glad I did. You get a very good idea of what it’s like on the air as a CW newbie. In other words: not that bad at all! Incidentally, when I looked up Jonathan on QRZ, I discovered we have a mutual friend in Zach (KM4BLG).
Keep up the great work, Jonathan!
Chris (KD2YDN) sent me a link to the following video on his new YouTube channel. In the video I actually get to hear what my signal sounded like during his SOTA/POTA activation. He certainly captured some amazing morning scenery and a gorgeous sunrise from Westkill Mountain:
I think you should consider checking out these videos and subscribing!
The ARRL Handbook 100th Edition
The ARRL has announced pre-orders for their new ARRL Handbook. I feel like everyone should have a copy of the Handbook. It’s simply chock-full of useful information–much of which is simply timeless. I still reference the 1994 handbook my buddy Mike (K8RAT) gave me shortly after I got my license in 1997. I feel like it’s important to have reference material like this in paper.
As a side note, I’ve been to a number of shortwave radio broadcast transmitting stations and at each one of them I’ve seen the ARRL Handbook on the Chief Engineer’s shelf. Lots of great radio principles inside.
The book is $80 on pre-order. That’s a lot for a book, but it’s also a LOT of book!
Here’s the announcement from the ARRL:
We have arrived at a milestone. The 100th edition of The ARRL Handbook for Radio Communications is here: Handbook 100. How do you celebrate the most widely used one-stop reference and guide to radio technology principles and practices? By continuing to fill the pages of another edition with the progress and achievement of radio amateurs. Handbook 100 is written for everyone with a desire to advance the pursuit of wireless technology. Here is your guide to radio experimentation, discovery, and innovation.
Each chapter is filled with the most up-to-date knowledge representative of the wide and ever-expanding range of interests among radio amateurs. There are practical, hands-on projects for all skill levels — from simple accessories and small power supplies to legal-limit amplifiers and high-gain antennas.
Radio electronics theory and principles
Circuit design and equipment
Signal transmission and propagation
Digital modulation and protocols
Antennas and transmission lines
Updated with new projects and content, including:
An all-new chapter on radio propagation covering a wide range of bands and modes
New and updated sections on electronic circuit simulation
New cavity filter and high-power HF filter projects
New coverage on digital protocols and modes
New material on RFI from low-voltage lighting and other sources
Revised sections covering new RF exposure limits
New content on portable station equipment, antennas, power, and assembly
New material on ferrite uses and types
New section on how to use portable SDR to locate sources of RFI …and more.
I enjoy reading the posts on the QRPer. The size comparison photos recently posted got me thinking. I had taken a photo several months back of a X5105, 817, RS918 (McHF), G90 and a 705, basically to do the same thing (size comparison).
I have attached them for your amusement [click to enlarge]:
Thanks for sharing these, Ken. To me, it’s interesting to see the comparison between the FT-817 and the G90. When I owned a G90 I didn’t have an 817 at the time for comparison. It reminds me just how long/deep that G90 was! Also interesting to see that the mcHF clone is a wee bit wider than the IC-705. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you for sharing this, Don! That’s a clever use for that book lamp. I’ve often thought that all field radios ought to have a logging lamp on them like the KX1. This is a nice and inexpensive workaround!
Turns out, if you go to Canada for nearly two months, when you return home you’re going to have about two months worth of catch up.
It’s all explained in one of Einstein’s theories. If memory serves, Einstein stated:
“One cannot simply ignore stuff for two months and expect no repercussions. Time lost must be accounted for due to the principles of the conservation of energy. Plus…what in creation were you thinking?”
When we returned from Canada in early August I had some pretty big plans about the parks and (especially) summits I would hit here in North Carolina. But after returning, I quickly realized I had so much work to do around the house and a number of DIY jobs I’d postponed at our investment property. They all immediately took priority.
Indeed, in the one month span after returning from Canada, I only performed three park and no summit activations. There was a three week period of time without activations of any sort. I simply didn’t have the time to fit anymore in my schedule. This all gave me a serious case of activation withdrawal.
If you’ve been following my field reports, you’ve no doubt noticed that I never do multi-hour activations at one site unless I happen to be camping at a POTA park.
I’m asked about this fairly regularly (why I don’t do longer activations to achieve Kilo awards, etc.) but the truth is I make POTA/SOTA fit in my busy family schedule. This often equates to short (30-60 minute) activation windows.
Then quite often, I’m on the road or doing errands in town and realize I have a short opening for an activation, so I squeeze it into the day. This is why I always have a fully self-contained field radio kit in my car. At a moment’s notice, I can set up a station, and play radio.
In a way, I find this style of quick activation fun, too. “Can I seriously validate a park during this short window of time–?”
These activations remind me of that scene in A Christmas Story where the father gets a small thrill out of timing himself as he changes a flat tire on the side of the road. I totally get that.
Except with me it’s deploying antennas instead of managing lug nuts.
Friday, September 2, 2022 was a big day for me. On the way back from visiting my folks that morning, I spent a couple of hours at the Shelby Hamfest.
The Shelby Hamfest typically has the largest outdoor tailgate market in all of North Carolina and likely one of the larger ones in the southeast US. I had no items on my wish list, I just wanted to see what was there.
This was the first hamfest I’d attended in a little over a year. It was a lot of fun and I got to meet a number of friends and readers/subscribers.
Driving home after the Shelby Hamfest that early afternoon, I realized I was passing dangerously close to the Clear Creek access of South Mountains State Park.
I had a couple of errands to run back home before the post office closed at 17:00 that day, but in my head I believe I had just enough time for a quick activation. The total amount of detour driving would only be about 15 minutes; I’d just need to keep the activation (including most set up and pack up) under 45 minutes or so.
At the last minute, I took a right turn and headed to the park!
Fortunately, the one lonely picnic table at the Clear Creek access was unoccupied.
I grabbed my IC-705 kit and a new antenna!
The MM0OPX QRP End-Fed Half-Wave (EFHW)
A few weeks prior, Colin (MM0OPX) reached out to me and asked if I would consider testing a new high-quality, highly-efficient QRP EFHW he’d designed.
Of course, there’s nothing new about an EFHW–it’s one of the most popular field antenna designs on the planet–but Colin’s goal was to make one with the lowest insertion loss possible in a compact, lightweight (50g), and durable format.
I say he succeeded.
In fact, this activation was actually the second one where I used Colin’s QRP EFHW. The previous day, I paired it with a then very Beta version of the Penntek TR-45L at Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861).
In short, the antenna made for a wildly successful QRP activation. Here’s the QSO Map (you’ll need to click and enlarge to see the number of contacts):
The Penntek TR-45L was still quite new at the time and even though I got John’s (WA3RNC) blessing, I didn’t post the activation video and mini overview on YouTube. Keep in mind the TR-45L was still in Beta so not all features had been finalized.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve now invested in a Pro account with Vimeo that allows me to post completely ad-free videos that my Patreon supporters can enjoy and even download. I recently discovered that YouTube unfortunately inserts ads even though I have monetization turned off. I pay for Vimeo’s bandwidth and server space, so I also can control the ad experience completely (basically eliminating any possibility of ads!).
My Patreon supporters are the ones making it possible for me to pay the annual $420 fee to Vimeo and I am incredibly grateful, so I pass along the benefit to them.
Many thanks to QRPer.com reader, Charles, who recently sent me the following question:
Thomas, I’ve watched a number of your videos and read your activation reports. I’m studying for both my Technician and General class license right now and hope to pass both in one session later this month. I’m also learning CW.
I consider myself an audiophile and appreciate good audio fidelity. I know that amateur radio modes are narrow and by their very nature have less audio fidelity than commercial broadcast modes.
I’ve already obtained a Kenwood TS-590G for the shack. It was practically given to me by a friend. I’m very pleased with its audio fidelity especially when I connect it to an external speaker.
Next year, I plan to buy a dedicated QRP field radio. Out of the radios you’ve owned, what are your favorites in terms of audio fidelity. Also, what are your least favorites?
What a great question, Charles!
Being an audiophile, I’m sure you understand that this is a very subjective area: one person’s idea of good audio might not match that of someone else’s.
I can only speak to how I evaluate a transceiver’s audio.
What makes for good audio?
A lot goes into what I would call “good audio” in an amateur radio transceiver.
To me, “good audio” means the radio
produces clear accurate sound,
has stable AGC (Auto Gain Control),
has audio properties that benefit amateur radio modes like CW and SSB,
has enough audio amplification to be heard in noisy field conditions,
and has little to no internally-generated noises leaking into the audio amplification chain. (In other words, a low noise floor.)
In contrast, radios with poor audio
have a high noise floor or produce audio hash making it difficult to hear weak signals,
have speakers that become distorted at higher volume levels,
have poor AGC characteristics which lead to pumping,
and are simply fatiguing to listen to during extended on-air sessions (like long activations or contests).
I would add that a good receiver front end is an important part of audio because it keeps imaging and overloading at bay, thus producing a less cluttered and noisy audio experience.
My field audio favorites
I’ll keep this discussion limited to QRP field portable radios. There are numerous 100 watt desktop radios with excellent audio because those models aren’t trying to limit their current consumption like field radios typically do. They can use more amperage to benefit audio amplification and push a much larger speaker.
In addition, I’ll limit the scope to field radios with built-in speakers. There are some great CW-only radios out there that lack an internal speaker but have great audio (thinking of the Penntek TR-35 and the Elecraft KX1, for example); choice of earphones or headphones can have a dramatic effect on audio. That’s a different discussion altogether!
Best audio: My top three picks
The following are three of my favorite portable field radios in terms of audio quality. I limited myself to three simply because all of the radios I use regularly in the field have what I would consider good and acceptable audio.
The following are simply stand-outs, in my opinion:
Many thanks to Scott (VO1DR) who shares the following guest post:
Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the IC-705
By Scott Schillereff (VO1DR)
St. John’s, NL, Canada
Since getting my novice ticket in 1970 (WB9CXN) under the watchful direction of Charles “Rock” Rockey, W9SCH (SK), I have been a dyed-in-the-cloth homebrewer and QRPer. My one and only commercial rig before this year was a Ten Tec PM-3 I bought with paper-route money in 1971 (still have it). Fast-forward to today. I now live in Newfoundland, and Europe is as close as Georgia. I continue to build my station components and antennas. A recent sea-change though – I inherited some money and decided to splash out on a for-life rig that would serve well in the shack and on the road (RV or hiking). After researching options, I settled on the ICOM IC-705. A fantastic performer; a receiver like I’ve never heard before; more bells and whistles than I could dream of, and a form-factor like a….. delicate, expensive brick!
The 705 is not a sleek, trail-friendly radio. It’s on the heavy side and, well…awkward to pick up! But, man, what a radio! So, my first step was to buy a Windcamp ARK-705 exoskeleton. This protects the rig on all sides and gives you something to grab onto. I don’t mind the weight and size; I want this rig to be working in 25 years.
My operating interests are home use, mobile in my 25 ft motor home, and portable on day hikes. I’m new to POTA and SOTA but maybe that’s next, thanks to you, Thomas!
Many thanks to Scott (KK4Z) who shares the following project from his blog KK4Z.com:
Paddle Mount for the IC-705
I kinda like the idea of being able to mount your paddle to your radio when operating portable. You can use the weight of the radio to help prevent the paddles from moving around and it frees your off hand for other tasks. We see examples of this with the Elecraft KX series of radios and there are some adapters for radios such as the Yaesu Ft-817/818.
I really like my IC-705. It is probably my best radio for POTA/potable operation. I think the only time I would leave it home is if weight became a problem or I needed to exercise one of my other radios. Recently, Begali came out with a mount to attach their Adventure paddle to the IC-705. It is a sweet set-up; however, the approx. $400 USD price tag got me looking for other alternatives. I have nothing against Begali, I own three of their paddles, and they are superb instruments. I think I wanted to tinker, and this gave me a good excuse.
For paddles, I have a set of Larry’s (N0SA) SOTA paddles. I love these paddles. When I go on an activation/Portable Operation, I bring these and my Begali Travelers. If I was going to do a SOTA activation, I would just bring Larry’s Paddles. Next was a trip to Tractor Supply Company (TSC) for a sheet of 16 ga. Steel. That set me back $16. I cut it to 3″ by 3 1/2″ using a cutoff wheel on my grinder.
I already have a stand I made out of 1″ x 1″ angle aluminum so I cut this to fit behind it.
The blue on the metal is Dykem Blue which is a layout fluid. In creating this project, I am only using hand tools. Power tools consisted of a grinder with a cut-off wheel. a hand drill, and my trusty Dremel tool. Here is a picture of me giving the mount a rough finish with a file. Continue reading Scott Builds a clever Icom IC-705 Paddle Mount→