Tag Archives: MM0OPX QRP EFHW

One Watt, Low-Profile QRP: A Labor Day POTA Activation at Lake James State Park

I realize that I’m fortunate, in many ways, that I perform POTA activations at times when parks are relatively quiet: weekdays, mostly, and during that 9-5 window when many are at work. On the flip side, I’m also activating when there are fewer hunters out there.

The upshot, for me, is that I rarely have any competition for picnic tables or activation spots at state and national parks. In general, as you’ll see in my activation videos, the park is quiet and sometimes I literally have the place to myself.

I actually take this for granted until I activate on a busy weekend or a holiday. Something like…

Labor Day!

While traveling back to the QTH on Monday, September 4, 2023, I decided to pop by Lake James State Park (K-2739) for a quick POTA activation.

Lake James State Park spans about 3,743 acres and is divided into two areas: the Catawba River Access and Paddy’s Creek Area.

Typically, I play radio at the smaller Catawba River area because there are so many excellent picnic sites with loads of trees.

The Paddy’s Creek area is much larger and (big bonus) has many more trails.

Paddy’s Creek also has a large beach and swimming/boating area with a huge parking lot and large covered picnic shelter (that is often occupied or reserved).

On Labor Day, the weather was gorgeous and, as you might imagine, the park was packed!

So why did I choose Paddy’s Creek on such a busy day?

I might have mentioned in a previous video that we recently purchased a used Volvo C40 Recharge EV (Electric Vehicle). While I normally charge it up at home, I’m trying to familiarize myself with charging on the go as well.

I’d read that Lake James has two (free!) convenience chargers at the Paddy’s Creek area. I drove to the site mainly to see where the were located. On such a busy day, I didn’t assume either of the chargers would be available–my plan was to find them, then head to the Catawba River access.

But turns out, the only available parking spot I could find at the Paddy’s Creek lot was one EV charging spot right there at the beach access and shelter! What!?! That’s an omen, I told myself, so I pulled into the spot, plugged in, and by golly, the car started charging.

I’m still new at this stuff, so it’s all a bit of magic to me. Forgive my excitement.

But where to activate?

The park was teeming with people all out enjoying the weather, the water, and the food and drinks. Truth is, I love seeing parks being enjoyed on this scale. Continue reading One Watt, Low-Profile QRP: A Labor Day POTA Activation at Lake James State Park

QRP POTA: Breaking in an Elecraft KX1 and setting up message memories in the field

If you’ve been reading QRPer.com for long, you’ll no doubt have gathered that I’m [understatement alert] a big fan of the Elecraft KX1.

A couple months ago, a good friend and supporter of this site/channel, reached out to me because he planned to sell his pristine Elecraft KX1. He’s in the process of downsizing his radio inventory in preparation of a move.

He wanted me to have first dibs at his KX1 and I couldn’t refuse. I knew it would be a great unit and I wanted two fully-functioning KX1s.

You might ask, “But wait Thomas, don’t you have three KX1s???

Yes, this is true.

With this latest addition, I have now have two fully-functioning KX1s (a 3 and a 4 band version) and one other in need of repair. After I make the repair, I plan to give this radio to a friend (one who doesn’t read QRPer regularly) so will be back to two KX1s.

Since Elecraft has discontinued the KX1, they’ve become difficult to find on the market and when they do appear, they often demand a very high price.

That said, if you’ve been looking for a KX1, you will eventually find one. All of my friends who’ve wanted one have put out word and found willing sellers in due time. Elecraft sold quite a few of these back in the day, so there are units floating around out there.

Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)

On Sunday, August 27, 2023, I had an opening to play a little radio and fit in a hike at Tuttle Educational State Forest.

At the time, I needed a little radio therapy and outdoor break: my mom had been admitted to the hospital the previous day (they released her a few days later and at time of posting she’s doing much better).

Tuttle was only a 30 minute drive from the hospital and, as I suspected, I was the only visitor there that Sunday–educational forests aren’t nearly as busy as other NC state parks.

After a nice 3-ish mile hike, I grabbed my radio backpack from the car and started recording an activation video.

My goal was to test this new KX1 and to set up CW message memories.

First, though, I needed to deploy an antenna. I chose my MM0OPX EFHW because it was in my pack from a previous activation. This antenna has never let me down. Continue reading QRP POTA: Breaking in an Elecraft KX1 and setting up message memories in the field

Getting To Know You Series: The Icom IC-705 – My thoughts, notes, and a POTA activation!

I’m very fortunate in that over the past few years I’ve accumulated a number of QRP radios that I use in rotation when I do park and summit activations.

I’m often asked for advice on choosing radios, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, I feel like the decision is a very personal one–everything is based on an operator’s own particular preferences.

I’ve written formal reviews about most of the field radios in my collection over the years. In those reviews, I try to take a wide angle view of a radio–I try to see how it might appeal to a number of types of operators: field operators, DXers, summit activators, contesters, rag-chewers, casual operators, SWLs, travelers, outdoor adventurers, mobile operators, etc. I highlight the pros and cons, but I don’t focus on my own particular take because, again, my style of operating might not match that of readers. I try to present the full picture as clearly as I can and let the reader decide.

On that note, I thought it might be fun to take a radio out for a field activation and spend a bit of time explaining why I enjoy using that particular radio and why it’s a part of my permanent field radio collection. Instead of taking that wide-angle view of a radio like I do in magazine reviews, I share my own personal thoughts based on long-term experience.

Getting To Know You

Each new video in the Getting To Know You series will highlight one of the field radios from my field radio collection.  I’ll spend time in each video explaining what I personally appreciate about each radio, then we’ll do a park or summit activation with the radio.

I’ll release these every few weeks or so–when the notion strikes me.  They will not be on a regular schedule, but I hope to include each of my radios in this series over the the next year.

The Icom IC-705

The second radio in the Getting To Know You series is my Icom IC-705.

From the moment I first unboxed my Icom IC-705, I’ve been incredibly pleased with it. It’s a proper 21st century radio. Not only does it have a very wide frequency range, multimode operation, and an incredibly deep feature set, but it also sports proper wireless connectivity.

The IC-705 has become one of the most popular QRP rigs on the market despite it’s nearly $1,400 US price tag.

I originally purchased and reviewed the Icom IC-705 in 2020 (click here to read my review).

In the activation video (below) I’ll tell you about how I acquired my IC-705, why I think it’s so unique, and why I’ve no intention of ever selling it. Then, we’ll perform a POTA activation.

Keep in mind that my perspective will primarily focus on HF operating even though the IC-705 also sports multimode VHF and UHF.

South Mountains State Park (K-2753)

While driving back to the QTH on July 6, 2023, I stopped by the Clear Creek Access of South Mountains State Park–it was the perfect location to play radio on a hot and very humid day.

South Mountains’ only picnic table is located under the shade of a large oak tree. Continue reading Getting To Know You Series: The Icom IC-705 – My thoughts, notes, and a POTA activation!

Postcard Field Report: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and MM0OPX EFHW to face dubious propagation

Welcome to another Postcard Field Report!

I’m still in Dayton after Hamvention weekend, but didn’t want to skip my field report and activation video, so a hope you enjoy the slightly shorter report below:

Zebulon Vance Historic Birthplace (K-6856)

On Tuesday, April 25, 2023, I once again stopped by my weekly POTA spot, the Vance Birthplace.  By mid-May, I will no longer be passing by this excellent little POTA site on a weekly basis, so my activations here will be much less frequent. A shame because I do love this site and its staff!

For this particular activation, I’d planned to test my almost perfectly trimmed QRPguys Tunable EFHW antenna, but I left it at home. Not a problem, actually, because after this activation, I discovered it’s not as resonant as I’d like on the 20, 15, and 10 meter bands, so I may tinker with the toroid windings a bit–perhaps removing one.

Instead, I deployed my MM0OPX EFHW which I thought was actually a great choice considering propagation had been incredibly unstable the previous few days.

Since I also had my Elecraft KX2, I knew I could use its built-in ATU to move to non-resonant bands like 17 and 30 meters.

This activation video is a long one because I had quite a lot of time to play radio and, frankly, it was nice taking things at a casual pace.

After deploying the antenna (twice!) I set up the radio, connected my Begali Traveler, and hopped on the air! Continue reading Postcard Field Report: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 and MM0OPX EFHW to face dubious propagation

Postcard Field Report: Pairing my new-to-me Palm Pico with the TX-500 at K-6856!

I finally snagged one.

In the world of lightweight, super-compact QRP radio kits, there is one key that is, essentially, a legend: the venerable Palm Pico.

The Palm Pico has a stellar reputation because it’s super lightweight, can retract into its housing to protect it in transport, and can be directly attached to various radios with a specific mounting assembly or via Velcro or magnets.

The Palm Pico has been out of production for some time now and, they’re so highly desired, they often fetch the original purchase price or even higher on the used market. Truth is, so few Pico owners are willing to sell that very few of these keys ever enter the used market.

I was very lucky, indeed, when a long-time Patreon supporter reached out and offered to sell me her Palm Pico and Palm Mini paddles along with a KX2 mounting assembly. She had noticed how my eyes lit up when Josh (KI6NAZ) showed me his Palm Pico paddle on an HRCC Livestream in February.

The price she offered was amazingly low. She told me that she favored some of the other keys in her collection and wanted to give me the opportunity to own them. They were like-new with all original boxes and accessories.

How could I resist? I’m so grateful.

I really look forward to using the Palm Pico and Palm Mini this year. I’m especially eager to hook up the Palm Pico directly to the KX2 with its custom mounting bracket.

I decided to take my Palm Pico on a maiden POTA activation at the Vance Birthplace on April 18, 2023.

Postcard Field Report

I’ve got a load of videos in the pipeline and to keep from falling behind publishing them, you’re going to see more of my slightly shorter “Postcard Field Reports” for the next couple of weeks during my travels.

These postcard reports contain all of the core information, just less wordy.  (In theory!)

Zebulon Vance Historic Birthplace (K-6856)

I arrived at the Vance Birthplace and checked in quickly with the park staff. There were no picnic shelter reservations that day but there was a family with children eating a picnic lunch when I arrived. Continue reading Postcard Field Report: Pairing my new-to-me Palm Pico with the TX-500 at K-6856!

POTA Field Report: Testing my CP Gear Tactical Aircrew/Pubs Bag with FT-817ND and Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame

Last year, during a Black Friday sale, I took a calculated risk and purchased a bag I hoped would accommodate my Yaesu FT-817ND that has been outfitted with an Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame.

CP Gear Tactical Aircrew/Pubs Bag

Rod (VA3ON) first introduced me to CP Gear Tactical–a  military pack manufacturer based in New Brunswick, Canada.

I’d had their their Aircrew/Pubs Bag with Padded Tablet Pocket on my wish list since the Ham Radio Workbench podcast episode where we talked about backpacks and pouches. CP Gear Tactical manufactures a wide variety of gear primarily for the Canadian military market. Everything is made either in Canada or the US (or both).

I contacted CP Gear Tactical shortly after outfitting my FT-817 with the TPA-817 pack frame. I measured the frame carefully and asked if the interior padded pocket (which is actually designed to hold a tablet–might fit my radio.

I never heard back from them. I could have called them, but on Black Friday, when it was on sale for 20% off and free shipping, I decided to throw caution to the wind and simply purchase it. My total price in USD was something like $62 shipped.

As soon as I opened the CP Gear pack, the first thing I did was check to see if the FT-817 with pack frame would fit in the interior pocket.

Much to my surprise, it fit it perfectly!

Indeed, it’s as if the pocket were specifically designed to accommodate the FT-817ND/TPA-817 combo.

Even the middle Velcro strap fits precisely in the middle of the radio between the pack frame side extensions. The strap holds the rig securely; once, I accidentally fumbled while holding the bag and even though it was upside down, the FT-817 remained securely inside. The strap held it in place.

The bag has loads of room inside. In fact, you can very easily transform it into a fully self-contained field radio kit.

I actually give a small tour of this pack in my activation video below, so if you’d like to see some of the exterior pockets, I would encourage you to check it out!

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)

On Tuesday, April 11, 2023, I once again popped by the Vance Birthplace for a leisurely POTA activation–I thought this activation, in particular, would be a good one to test my new Aircrew/Pubs bag! Continue reading POTA Field Report: Testing my CP Gear Tactical Aircrew/Pubs Bag with FT-817ND and Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame

QRPp POTA: How many hunters can I possibly log with only 100 milliwatts–?

As I walked out the door on the morning of Tuesday, March 21, 2023, I grabbed my Elecraft KX2, MM0OPX 40 meter end-fed half-wave, and a key I hadn’t yet taken to the field: my Bamakey TP-III!

I had a full day of errands, appointments, and carting my daughters to/from school, but I also had a good 90 minute window to play radio!

As I’ve mentioned previously, the Vance Birthplace (K-6856) is incredibly convenient this particular school term. I pass by it twice a week, and I feel incredibly fortunate because it’s a wonderful POTA site with POTA-friendly staff. They all know me quite well there at this point.

The Vance site is a small park and the only negative (from the point of view of a POTA activator) is if you have poor timing, you might arrive only to find that a large school group has taken over the site. This is especially a concern on weekdays during school hours–in other words, the time I usually activate Vance.

I pulled into the Vance site that morning and there were no vehicles there other than park staff. A good sign so far!

The only appropriate spot to activate at Vance (if you operate a portable HF station) is in or near the picnic shelter. The rest of the site is where visitors wonder through the old homestead and take guided tours.

I never set up my station in the middle of park activities or in a viewshed.

At the end of the day, we represent all Parks On The Air activators and the amateur radio community at large when we’re in public spaces. The last thing we want to do is detract from others’ park experience.

Before pulling any gear out of the car, I walked into the visitor center and asked the park staff for permission to set up in the picnic shelter. I always do this because if a school or tour group is scheduled to visit the site that day, they almost always need the picnic shelter and have it reserved.

Fortunately, no one had scheduled the picnic shelter, so the park ranger told me, “It’s all yours! Have fun!

Proper POTA Flea Power!

I like shaking up each new activation in some small way so that it’s not a carbon copy of any previous activation.

Since, like most POTA activators, I visit the same local parks the bulk of the time, it adds a little extra challenge and fun to try different gear combinations, experiment with new antennas, or even (as in this case) try different power settings–! Continue reading QRPp POTA: How many hunters can I possibly log with only 100 milliwatts–?

QRPp: Activate a park with ⅒ of a watt–? I had to at least try!

In my last published field report, you might recall that I successfully activated a park using 500 milliwatts or ½ of a watt. I was so surprised by the results of using this QRPp power level I immediately made plans to push the power level even lower during my next activation.

Let’s face it, I was drunk with a lack of power!

QRPp

After my last field report, there were quite a few questions about the term QRPp and what it means. To be honest, I’m not sure if there’s an “official” definition, but here’s what is widely accepted as QRP power categories:

  • QRP: 5 watts to 1 watt (for some contest 10 watts = SSB QRP)
  • QRPp: Less than 1 watt to 100 mw
  • QRPpp: Less than 100mw

I don’t own a field radio that allows me to lower the output power to QRPpp levels. In fact, few of my radios actually allow me to lower power below one watt.

 

My Elecraft radios, however, do allow me to lower power output to as low as 0.1 watts or 100 milliwatts.

The plan

On Wednesday, December 7, 2022, my travel schedule shifted and it opened up the entire afternoon to play radio.

A rarity indeed!

It was very rainy and foggy that day and I didn’t have my ENO rain fly with me, so I decided to visit a park with a good picnic shelter to keep me, an my gear, nice and dry.

Fort Dobbs State Historic Site (K-6839)

I had four park options with covered picnic shelters within a 45 minute drive. I decided that I would try to activate Fort Dobbs State Historic (since it had been a couple months since I’d visited) and Lake Norman State Park would be my back-up plan.

Fort Dobbs is a small park, so I called in advanced and asked for permission to do the activation and also asked if their picnic shelter was reserved.

The rangers there know me, so the phone call was pretty quick–no need to explain POTA nor my motivations. They told me that on rainy/foggy December days they have so few guests that I was welcome to use the picnic shelter or even the entire park if I wished (perhaps an ideal time to erect a Rhombic antenna–okay, just kidding!).

The Dobbs park rangers an volunteers are the best!

Setting up

On the way to the site, I decided that I would deploy my MM0OPX end-fed half-wave I’d cut for 40 meters.

I needed to make the most of my 100 milliwatts, so I figured the MM0OPX EFHW would be the best antenna for the job. Continue reading QRPp: Activate a park with ⅒ of a watt–? I had to at least try!

Field Report: How I evaluate a new POTA site plus serious QRP fun with my new-to-me Elecraft KX1

On Friday, October 7, 2022, I had a couple of errands to run in/around Morganton, NC. Of course, I always have POTA in mind so squeezed in an activation at nearby Tuttle Educational State Forest that morning.  That activation took longer than expected due to swapping out antennas and radios, but it was a success and quite fun.

After Tuttle, I knew I could fit in one more activation if I made it quick, so I set my sights on Table Rock Fish Hatchery (K-8012), but first I had a couple of errands to run in Morganton!

I visited my friend Hamilton at his ceramics studio, popped by another store to pick up a couple of items, then (on Hamilton’s advice) grabbed lunch at the The Grind Café.

I must say that Hamilton was spot-on. My wrap was delicious!

Just what I needed to fuel another POTA activation, right? Right!

After lunch, I drove to Table Rock Fish Hatchery. The weather was ideal and the leaves were beginning to show color.

At our home in the mountains, we were almost at peak leaf color, but the fish hatchery site is much lower in elevation. The weather was simply ideal.

On days like this, driving to a site is half the fun. Continue reading Field Report: How I evaluate a new POTA site plus serious QRP fun with my new-to-me Elecraft KX1

POTA Plan C: Swapping antennas and rigs at Tuttle Educational State Forest

After the success of my previous day’s activation at Fort Dobbs State Historic Site, I decided to take the Icom IC-703 Plus out for yet another activation.

As I mentioned in the previous post, the IC-703 has not gotten a lot of outdoor time this year because I’ve had issues with the electronic keyer locking up when using the radio with end-fed antennas.

Of course, there are a number of ways to mitigate or radiate the RF that could be coming back to the radio, so at Fort Dobbs, the previous day, I used a simple common mode choke. It seemed to do the trick.

I was curious if using a common mode choke might be the only solution needed to solve this problem, or if I’d need to perform a mod to my IC-703.

I was ready to test the IC-703 again.

I had a fair amount of antenna options in the trunk of my car, so on the way to Tuttle Educational State Forest (on Friday, October 7, 2022), I considered a few options to shake things up a bit.

Since I was feeling comfortable that the common mode choke was taking care of things, I decided to push the limit a bit and deploy an end-fed random wire antenna. I didn’t have any of my mini portable 9:1 random wire antennas in the car (PackTenna, Tufteln, etc.), but I did have another solution: the Chameleon MPAS Lite.

The cool thing about the CHA MPAS Lite is that while it’s primarily designed to be a vertical antenna with counterpoise, it can be reconfigured and deployed a number of ways including as a simple end-fed random wire antenna.

After giving it some thought, I decided it might be fun to deploy it as an inverted V random wire. In fact, here’s a diagram from the MPAS Lite manual of exactly what I planned to do.

I’d be using the MPAS Lite counterpoise as the radiator, so I wouldn’t have the optional second counterpoise as seen in the illustration above. That’s okay, though, because I was feeding the antenna with Chameleon’s 50′ RG-58C/U cable with in-line choke; the shield of the coax would act as the antenna counterpoise.

This is the same coax cable I used the previous day. Continue reading POTA Plan C: Swapping antennas and rigs at Tuttle Educational State Forest