Tag Archives: QRP

SOTA Report: New QCX-Mini, new Packtenna EFHW, and pileup insanity on Mount Mitchell

Do you know what it’s like when you have a new radio and you can’t wait to take it to the field?

Yeah, me too!

Even before I received my QCX-Mini in October 2021, I already knew where I’d take this pocket-sized, single-band QRP CW transceiver for its first field activation: Mount Mitchell (W4C/CM-001).

Mitchell is the highest summit east of the Mississippi river and only about 6 miles from my QTH as the crow flies.  I had yet to activate Mitchell this year for SOTA although I have activated it for POTA/WWFF several times. As I’ve probably mentioned in the past, Mount Mitchell park is my “happy place.” Our family loves this site and we visit it frequently to hike in the spruce-fir forest.

On the morning of Wednesday, November 3, 2021, I realized I had enough room in my schedule to swing by Mount Mitchell for an activation, so I quickly assembled my SOTA pack around the QCX-Mini. Continue reading SOTA Report: New QCX-Mini, new Packtenna EFHW, and pileup insanity on Mount Mitchell

Putting the KM4ACK End-Fed Half-Wave on the air at Table Rock!

Lately, I’ve been in the mood to build kits.

I say “lately” but in truth I’m always tinkering with something in the shack.

The radio room/office at my QTH is pretty small, though, and I don’t have a dedicated, full-time workbench. I’ve been mentally re-arranging the room and trying to sort out a way to make space for one because it would be so nice to have a spot where my soldering iron could remain hooked up at all times.

For the moment, when I work on kits I use our dining room table so I try to stick with one or two session kits as opposed to the multi-day variety.

KM4ACK EFHW

KM4ACK Image

A number of readers and subscribers have asked me to check out the KM4ACK 49:1 End-Fed Half-Wave antenna kit.  This kit is produced by Jason (KM4ACK) and purchasing his kits supports his excellent YouTube channel.

I have a lot of field antennas, so I don’t really need another EFHW, but then again I like having a dedicated resonant wire antenna with each of my radios and, (hey hey!) it’s a great excuse to build a kit!

KM4ACK Image

I purchased the KM4ACK kit and received it within a week. Building the antenna was incredibly straight-forward. Jason packaged the components in small bags so finding parts was easy. I really appreciate kits that aren’t one large “bag-o-parts.” Continue reading Putting the KM4ACK End-Fed Half-Wave on the air at Table Rock!

POTA Field Report: Coffee & QRP at Tuttle Educational State Forest

Thursday, October 28, 2021 was a wet, rainy day but I wanted to do a POTA activation on the way back to the QTH after having visited my parents for a couple nights.

I didn’t have a lot of radio gear with me on that trip, but I had the right gear: my Elecraft KX2 transceiver and AX1 antenna. If I could activate a park under a covered picnic shelter, I knew I would stay dry while playing radio.

There are only two parks within a reasonable detour that have covered picnic shelters: Lake James State Park and Tuttle Educational State Forest.

Lake James was the shortest detour, but they tend to be busier than Tuttle and last time I was there? Yeah, the picnic shelter was occupied.

On the other hand, I was nearly certain that I would have the picnic shelter all to myself at Tuttle. It would be a slightly longer detour, but worth it. Continue reading POTA Field Report: Coffee & QRP at Tuttle Educational State Forest

My Motto? Less theory, more practice!

I don’t often read comments in ham radio forums and discussion groups. 

Recently, however, I was trying to dig up information on a field antenna design and the search results lead me to two articles and discussions on two of the most popular ham radio sites on the internet. 

I read through the comments and (you might have guessed) was really disappointed with the number trolls who seemed to thrive in that fertile environment. It blows my mind that discussions like these seem completely unmoderated. I assume it’s a conscious decision since we seem to live in a society that rewards drama and division–I assume this leads to more site traffic and thus more revenue.

It’s a shame. It would be incredibly discouraging to a new ham who is reading the same article and comments looking for ideas. Gives one the impression the hobby is full of (I’ll keep my language clean here) schmucks.

But I digress…

What was perhaps equally discouraging were all of the comments from those who were trying to explain to the authors how the antenna design in their article simply wouldn’t work.  Even when the author posted positive results/data from having used the antenna. 

While not all of the naysayers were being rude–and sometimes in their roundabout way I’m sure they felt they were being helpful–I can’t help but feel sorry for them.

The naysayers, that is.

Why? These are people who are afraid to experiment. Continue reading My Motto? Less theory, more practice!

POTA Field Report: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 with a stolen doublet at Table Rock Fish Hatchery!

Someone asked me recently which activity I prefer more: Summits on the Air (SOTA) or Parks On The Air (POTA)?

Truth is, I like both.

I like SOTA because I love hiking and playing radio on the summits of some pretty impressive mountains.  I’m often treated to amazing views and the DX can be spectacular. I love the sense of accomplishment when the activation goes well and I’m back home later feeling a bit tired from a long hike. Good stuff!

I like POTA because it’s incredibly accessible (thus fits in my tight schedule easily). Many of the parks have great hiking trails, and there’s almost always a picnic table available making set up so much easier.  Here in western North Carolina it’s almost a given that park picnic tables are surrounded by large trees and have a reasonable amount of space, thus POTA sites can be ideal for antenna experimentation.

I don’t typically experiment with antennas during SOTA because after hiking 2-3 hours to a summit, I feel pretty invested in the activation and the last thing I want to do is roll the dice with my antenna.  With POTA, I can bring a few extra supplies or “plan B” antennas if something goes sideways.  Plus, unlike parks, summits are often lacking in tall trees so I stick with shorter wire antennas and self-supporting verticals.

On the morning of October 20, 2021, I decided that I wanted to try a new antenna or an antenna I hadn’t used in quite some time. My intention was to dig out my Wolf River Coils TIA vertical, but when I reached into my antenna bag, I pulled out a nondescript Shure microphone pouch. I scratched my head for a moment…

For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what this was, so I opened it up and discovered a doublet inside! Not just any doublet, either–based on the use of a 35mm film canister in the antenna’s construction, I knew it had to be a creation of my buddy Eric (WD8RIF).

Then my memory kicked in. Continue reading POTA Field Report: Pairing the Elecraft KX2 with a stolen doublet at Table Rock Fish Hatchery!

Field Report: POTA Roadside activation with a view!

On Monday, October, 18, 2021, I finished a few errands in Asheville, NC and realized I had just enough time to squeeze in an afternoon activation. The weather was beautiful, the fall air felt amazing, and although I had no clue what propagation was like, I needed some field radio therapy!

Blue Ridge Parkway to the rescue!

I’ve mentioned in previous videos that pretty much anytime I drive into Asheville I pass by the Blue Ridge Parkway. Over the years, I’ve discovered numerous POTA (Parks On The Air) spots scattered along “America’s Favorite Drive.”

It’s fall, so we’ve autumn leaf colors and loads of tourists in the region–especially on the BRP.

Even so, I’ve one favorite overlook that is often overlooked by tourist!

It’s a little unofficial turn-out on the parkway that offers up spectacular views. I believe the reason tourists pass by it is because it’s located just beyond one of the most popular overlooks in the area: the Tanbark Ridge Overview. Tourists stop at Tanbark to enjoy the views not knowing that a mere +/-200 meters away, there’s one they could enjoy all on their own. Continue reading Field Report: POTA Roadside activation with a view!

This turned out to be an expensive week!

Yesterday, it was pouring rain but I had a hankering for some radio therapy, so I popped by Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861) knowing that they have a large covered shelter where I could set up the Elecraft KX1 and AX1 antenna and play POTA.

It being a rainy, cool day, I was the only visitor at the park.

As I walked into the shelter and sorted out which table might serve best as my field shack, a random thought popped up in my head: OM, this has been an expensive week for you!

Ignoring the fact that we did some repairs to the ActivationMobile (our Subaru),  and the fact we just committed to a pretty pricey arborist quote for tree work at the QTH (those guys do earn their keep), I also spent some of my hobby money. On what, you ask? Continue reading This turned out to be an expensive week!

Which should you purchase: the Xiegu X5105 or the Elecraft KX2?

This year I’ve been trying to make dedicated posts and videos to address questions I’m asked most often by QRPer.com readers and my YouTube channel subscribers. The idea is to have a link I can send in a reply instead of trying to give a comprehensive answer in an email.

One question that’s been surfacing a lot lately is a variation of:

“Which should I buy, Thomas? The Xiegu X5105 or the Elecraft KX2?”

I’m sure the reason I’ve been getting this question is because I reviewed and purchased the Xiegu X5105 earlier this year and have used it on a number of activations.

I’ve owned the Elecraft KX2 since 2016 so have a lot of experience with this little field radio as well.

Why the choice between these two particular models? Continue reading Which should you purchase: the Xiegu X5105 or the Elecraft KX2?

New N0SA paddles and Elecraft AX1 showing off during an impromptu POTA activation

On Monday, October 4, 2021, I was set to have a lunch with my good friend, Taiyo, who happened to be in town from Japan. We decided to grab some take-out and meet at a picnic area halfway between my QTH and where he would be staying during his visit. Turns out, the Vance Birthplace (K-6856) fit the bill perfectly–especially since rain showers were in the forecast all day and Vance has a covered picnic area.

I didn’t have an activation in mind that Monday because my focus was on spending time with a friend I hadn’t seen in years, but I brought the KX2 field kit with the AX1 antenna…you know...just in case.

Radio time!

After running a number of errands in town and grabbing some take-out lunch from Whole Foods market, I still ended up arriving at Vance about an hour early, so I pulled the KX2 and AX1 out of the car.

I thought this might be a good opportunity to attempt to prove (once again) that antennas like the AX1 are super fun and portable, but you can’t expect large aperture antenna results. Continue reading New N0SA paddles and Elecraft AX1 showing off during an impromptu POTA activation

POTA Field Report: Pairing the Xiegu X5105 & MFJ-1984LP on the Blue Ridge Parkway

On Monday, September 27, 2021, I had just enough time to stop by the Blue Ridge Parkway on my way back from Asheville, NC and fit in a short activation.

I had my Xiegu X5105 along for the ride and decided to pair it with the MFJ-1984LP EFHW since I knew propagation was going to be rough.

That day, Earth was being pounded by CMEs and, frankly, I didn’t know how pleasant it would be on the air.

I picked one of my favorite spots along the Blue Ridge Parkway: a grassy hill I’ve used numerous times in the past. I love this particular site because it’s incredibly rare that anyone else parks or walks there, so I can set up larger wire antennas and not have to worry about others walking into the radiator or tripping over the counterpoise.

Even though I always try to set up my antennas and gear away from foot traffic, it’s always a concern so I try to maintain a certain level of situational awareness during the activation. Continue reading POTA Field Report: Pairing the Xiegu X5105 & MFJ-1984LP on the Blue Ridge Parkway