Update (one hour after publishing this post): It appears they’ve already sold out again. Sorry! I’m sure more will be produced in the near future.
Last night, during a recording of the Ham Radio Workbench podcast, George (KJ6VU) noted that he had just replenished stock of the Packtenna 20/40 End-Fed Half-Wave.
This particular antenna has a tuned 20 meter radiator and an additional 33′ of antenna wire finished off with strain loops and gold banana connectors. To operate on 40 meters, simply plug in the additional wire and connect the strain relief loops to the supplied S-Hook clip.
These antennas are made in batches and sell out very quickly (indeed, during the show recording George sold nearly half his stock). This morning, there are still a few left.
I mention this since I know a number of readers have been waiting for this particular linked EFHW to be in stock again.
We need to do a little time-travel in this short field report…
In 2022, I accumulated so many activation videos that I have a small backlog and some that got lost in the shuffle. The following activation report is one that I meant to post in November, but it got lost in the shuffle.
So let’s time-travel…
On October 20, 2022, I pulled into Tuttle Educational State Forest to enjoy quick a POTA activation with my Penntek TR-45L.
I remember now that I wanted to hold off publishing this video until John (WA3RNC) at Penntek had time to ship the bulk of the radios from his first production run of fifty units. Demand has been very high for this sweet rig and for good reason: it performs brilliantly, is fun to use, sports amazing audio, and (with its Apolloesque design) strikes the right nostalgia chord for many of us.
Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)
I had a very short window to do this activation–a maximum of 45 minutes or so. You see, I still had a good 1.5 hour drive back to the QTH and needed to pop by the post office to pick up parcels before they closed at 17:00 local.
I had planned to pair the TR-45L with my PackTenna random wire antenna and use the 45L’s Z-Match tuner, but I discovered I’d packed the PackTenna 20M EFHW instead.
You see, I did something I’d never suggest others do: in a moment of boredom, I casually cruised the classifieds listings found on QTH.com.
One of the very first listings was for a TEN-TEC R4020 CW QRP transceiver. The price, if memory serves, was $120 (+/- $10) shipped.
Without even thinking, I sent a message to the seller:
“I’ll buy it if it’s still available!“
He responded noting I was the first to reply to the ad, so it was mine if I wanted it.
I did, of course.
The R4020 arrived that same week, I opened the box, applied power to confirmed it powered up, then placed it on the top shelf in my shack.
At the time, I had a mountain of review and evaluations in process along with several articles in the pipeline for TSM and one for RadCom, and simply didn’t have time to properly explore the R4020. I thought it might be fun saving it as a little reward for meeting my deadlines.
Then, frankly, I just forgot about the R4020. This spring was a very busy time for me family-wise, then I spent the summer in Canada, and most of this fall has been all about catching up after having spent the summer in Canada. Funny how that works!
Fast-forward to November 11th, 2022 when I was packing a field radio kit to take on an overnight trip and I noticed the R4020 on the top shelf! My reward, finally–!
I quickly packed the R4020 in my Spec-Ops Order Pouch along with a 3Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 battery and a power cable.
South Mountains State Park (K-2753)
On Saturday, November 12, 2022, I jumped in the car and headed to South Mountains State Park with the R4020.
This past year, I’ve mostly set up at South Mountain’s Clear Creek Access on the west side of the park, but this time I decided to make my way to the equestrian picnic area near the main entrance and ranger station.
On Monday, September 12, 2022, I had one primary objective in mind: to test the Eton Elite Satellite portable shortwave radio.
Many of you know that besides being a QRPer, I’m also an SWL or shortwave listener. Over on my other blog, the SWLing Post, we post news, information, guest posts, and reviews covering the diverse world of shortwave radio and international broadcasting.
Occasionally, I evaluate new receivers and the Eton Elite Satellit is the latest shortwave portable from the Eton Corporation. It was meant to be their flagship, benchmark portable but unfortunately early production units were plagued with a bit of internally-generated noise. On September 12, I was trying to sort out just how much this internal QRM affected the radio’s performance.
South Mountains State Park (K-2753)
I wanted to go to a known RF-quiet area to check the Elite Satellit and the South Mountains State Park Clear Creek Access was an easy detour during my errands that day.
First thing I did after arriving on site was to put the Elite Satellit through some basic paces (AM/SSB, Mediumwave, Shortwave, FM, AIR, etc.). I also compared it with the Tecsun PL-990 portable.
I made a long list of notes and observations to send to Eton that afternoon.
After I finished the tests, I checked my watch and–woo hoo!–I had just enough time to squeeze in a short activation. I only had a 45 minute window, so this activation needed to be a very quick one.
I had a number of antennas in my pack, but chose the excellent PackTenna Mini End-Fed Half Wave that I cut for 20 meters. This is one of my go-to SOTA antennas since it’s compact, rugged, efficient, and easy to deploy even if your only option is a short tree or telescoping mast as is often the case on a summit.
I felt like 20 meters would be a worthy band for the time of day and recent propagation trends as well. Hopefully, it would be productive enough to provide the 10 needed contacts to validate the activation. If I needed, I could use it on 30 meters with either its internal ATU or (more likely) the Elecraft T1 that was also along for the ride.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m starting to sort out the gear I’ll take on a long road trip this summer. I still haven’t quite decided which radio will accompany my Elecraft KX2, but the lab599 Discovery TX-500 is on my very short list.
I pulled the TX-500 yesterday to do a firmware update and found my logbook for an activation I made on February 16, 2022. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember writing the field report for that activation.
I checked my YouTube channel and, sure enough, buried at the bottom of my video list was the activation video marked as “unlisted.”
That bit of time between mid-February and mid-March was crazy for me. I was in isolation for a week (thanks Covid) and had a very hectic family schedule. I accumulated a small backlog of videos then and this one was lost simply lost in the shuffle.
Here’s the report and video from that activation:
Clear Creek Trail
It was Wednesday, February 16, 2022, and I was driving to my parents’ house to help them with a few projects. I had enough time to make a little detour to the Clear Creek Access of South Mountains State Park (K02753) and had two things in mind: a good hike and trailside activation.
The weather? Man oh man was it was fickle.
On the interstate, I got caught in a proper downpour and traffic slowed to a crawl.
I thought about throwing in the towel then, but I made a promise to myself that I would continue driving to the park if it wasn’t raining when I approached the park exit on the interstate.
When I take a new radio to the field, I often don’t know what to expect until I arrive at the site and put it on the air. It’s one thing to use a radio in the shack, and quite another to use it in the field.
Earlier this year, I purchased a Venus SW-3B, three band QRP transceiver after much poking and prodding from readers and subscribers. I actually contacted Dale (BA4TB) at Venus and asked for a loaner to do a review, but he had no units set aside for loans, so instead offered me a coupon code. I was hesitant to purchase yet another QRP radio–which is why I asked for a loaner–but his coupon discounted the radio enough I could even afford to splurge for expedited shipping. He made money and I didn’t have to worry about loan periods, etc. It turned out to be a win/win.
I knew I wanted the SW-3B’s maiden voyage to be a SOTA summit, but I had to wait for a good weather window.
On Thursday, February 10, 2022, I got that opportunity!
Dogback Mountain (W4C/EM-066)
I learned about Dogback Mountain from my buddy Dave (W4JL) who activated it earlier this year. He told me it was a drive-up summit and was high enough to even rack up winter bonus points.
The road had no ice on it February 10, although it was very muddy and slippery in spots. Made for a very enjoyable drive in the Subaru, although post-activation you would have never guessed I’d washed the car the day before!
I arrived on site and parked the car at a pull-off that was well within the activation zone of the summit. Dave was right: this summit was very accessible (well, as long as your vehicle has a bit of clearance–this isn’t a road for sports cars or low sedans).
The next park in my run (#5) was Tuttle Educational State Forest and it was the final park in this modest RaDAR run!
I packed up the gear at Johns River Game Land in a matter of three minutes, popped it all in the car, then drove 8 minutes to nearby Tuttle Educational State Forest which, at this point, almost feels like a home away from home.
Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861)
As I pulled into the Tuttle parking lot, I found my buddy Max (W4GZ) activating the park from his truck. It was no surprise finding Max here since I had just worked him Park-To-Park (P2P) from Johns River next door.
Max delivered some precious cargo: some more of his mom’s homemade QRP pickles!
As mentioned in my last field report, on January 26, 2022, I decided to fit in multiple park activations in one day as a RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio) run. My hope was to activate four or five sites between 14:00 – 21:30 UTC.
The first activation at Lake James State Park went so well, it started me out a little ahead of schedule.
After packing up my gear at Lake James, I began a 40 minute drive to the second site–Dogback Mountain–where I hoped to do a POTA two-fer along with a Summits On The Air activation.
The drive was beautiful. Only twenty minutes into the trip, I came to the forest service road that lead to Dogback Mountain. For a six mile drive, Google Maps was telling me it would take about 20 minutes, so I knew the dirt road would require slow driving.
The road was actually in pretty good shape, but there are rocky and rough spots that pretty much require good vehicle ground clearance. My Subaru had no issues at all–in fact, I love driving on back roads like this!
Three or four miles into the forest service road I reached an impasse.
While there hadn’t been snow in the area for at least a week, the north slope portions of the road were quite icy. The thaw and night time freezing pretty much meant that there was no snow to navigate–only ice, and I’m not a big fan of ice.
I already passed through two sections of ice where I could still manage a little traction on the side of the road (at least half the car had traction). At one point, though, I saw a large section of icy road ahead, so I parked the car to investigate what it looked like over the crest of the hill.
It was so icy, I struggled to find a spot to walk on to peek over the hill and almost slipped once. That hill was pretty steep and I could see no spots for the car to get traction. Remembering what my wife said that morning (“Don’t do anything crazy, okay?“) and knowing that the worst thing for my RaDAR run would be getting stuck in a spot recovery vehicles might struggle with, I chose the option of forgoing the summit activation.
Frankly, if the summit activation was the only thing on the schedule that day, I would have likely parked, then hiked 3 miles to the summit along the forest service road. But my RaDAR run left no time for this.
Fortunately, where I parked was firmly in the two-fer zone of Pisgah National Forest and Pisgah Game Land!
Pisgah National Forest (K-4510) and Pisgah Game Land (K-6937)
When I head out the door to activate a summit, if it involves a long hike, I reach for one of my super compact QRP transceivers like the Mountain Topper MTR-3B, Elecraft KX1, or KX2. If you’re carrying your entire station and all of your hiking provisions in your backpack, it’s best to keep the load as light and compact as possible.
I purchased the single-band QRP Labs QCX-Mini last year specifically with Summits On The Air (SOTA) in mind. My QCX-Mini is built for 20 meters which tends to be my most productive SOTA band.
The QCX Mini has a rugged, utilitarian feel: basic controls, two line backlit LCD display, and a sturdy aluminum enclosure. It’s super compact.
One of the first things I did was build a dedicated field kit around the QCX-Mini. Everything–save my throw line–fits in my Spec-Ops Op Orders pouch:
One of the newest products in this kit is my high viz 2mm x 50M Marlow throw line. I learned about this throw line from Mike (W4MAF)–thank you, Mike! It is much less bulky than standard poly throw line and fits in my Tom Bihn small travel tray. We’ll see how well it works tomorrow. First impressions from having used it at the QTH once was very positive.
Again, with any luck I’ll have this kit in the field tomorrow on a summit. If you’ve nothing better to do, look for me on the SOTA Watch spots page!