I took the family on a multi-day camping trip at New River State Park in April 2022. During that trip, I made an activation of New River each day and also fit in a quick SOTA activation (click here to read an overview). I didn’t film all of my on-the-air because some of that radio time was spent sitting around chatting with my family and even some neighbors at the campground.
Since I have a busy family life, I always look for opportunities to fit a little field radio time into my schedule.
My policy is to always keep a radio field kit in my car or truck so I can take advantage of any last minute opportunities.
On the morning of Wednesday, April 20, 2022, I was scheduled to take my car in for warranty/recall servicing at the dealership. I decided in advance that if the service could be completed in two hours or less, I’d relax in their waiting room with my MacBook, drink a cup or two coffee, and attempt to make a dent in my email backlog.
If the service was going to take longer than 2 hours, I decided that I’d use one of their loaner/courtesy cars and activate a nearby park.
The dealership is about 45 minutes from my QTH and I’ve activated most of the parks nearby it, save one: Holmes Educational State Forest. I’ve been wanting to activate this park for ages, but my travels these days simply don’t take me in the direction of the park very often; it’s a good 75 minute drive from my QTH.
Uncertain how long the dealership would need my car, I grabbed my SOTA backpack that had a full field kit inside based on the Penntek TR-35 transceiver.
Why the TR-35? Because I was testing new firmware that added a huge upgrade: two CW message memories!
Suffice it to say, I was itching to see how well the new message memories work during a proper activation.
Front of the line
Since this upgrade was just made public, I thought those of you who either own the TR-35 or are plotting to purchase the TR-35, might want to see it in action. For this reason, I pushed this video and field report ahead of all of the others in my pipeline.
The really weird part about publishing this video so quickly is that one of my next field reports and videos will actually feature the first time I took the TR-35 to the field about 3-4 weeks ago! Back then, CW message memory keying wasn’t even on the table.
I arrived at the dealership around 9:00 AM (local) and the first thing I asked was, “So how long do you think this will take?” The representative looked at the work to be performed and said, “Three or four hours, likely. If you’re in a rush, maybe two hours.”
I decided I wasn’t in a rush because I’d much rather be playing radio at a new-to-me park than sitting in a waiting room.
I asked if I could borrow one of their courtesy cars and he replied, “We assumed you might want one Mr. Witherspoon, so we already reserved one for you.”
My hope was that these little Li-Ion cells might power my Elecraft KX1 long enough to complete a field activation.
The KX1 is a marvel of QRP engineering, in my humble opinion, and it was the first super portable transceiver I owned that could be powered by internal batteries.
When the KX1 was first introduced, Elecraft recommended using non-rechargeable Advanced Lithium AA cells from Energizer and Duracell. These batteries sported a rather flat discharge curve and could power the KX1 for quite a while. Of course, the downside is they’re single-use and expensive. Six of those cells would often set me back nearly $9 or $10. Before I started doing POTA and SOTA, I kept a set of advanced lithium cells in my KX1 for casual, impromptu QRP in the field.
Doing frequent field activations–which tend to have much more transmitting time than casual Qs–it’s just not sustainable to purchase these cells, so I tend to power the KX1 with an external battery.
I couldn’t resist the thought that I could use USB rechargeable batteries in the KX1, so I forked out $60 (mild gasp!) for a set of eight AA batteries (these are purchased in packages of 4).
The cool thing about the Pale Blue batteries is that they can be directly charged from any 5V USB power source. Each battery sports a Micro USB port and its own internal battery/charge management system.
I was well aware these batteries would not power the KX1 for hours at a time, but I was hoping they could for at least 30-45 minutes.
The (tr)uSDX has been a much-anticipated QRP transceiver for those of us who love playing radio in the field.
What’s not to love? It sports:
Up to 5 watts output power
CW, SSB, FM, and AM modes
A built-in microphone
Five bands: 80, 60, 40, 30, and 20 meters
A super compact and lightweight form factor
An open-source hardware and software design
Super low current consumption in receive
A super low price of roughly $89 US in kit form and $143 US factory assembled (via AliExpress, but there are numerous other group buys and retailers)
Frankly speaking, this sort of feature set in such an affordable package is truly a game-changer. Back when I was first licensed in 1997, I could have never imagined a day when a general coverage QRP transceiver could be purchased for under $150 US. The price is almost unbelievable.
My initial impressions
On Wednesday, March 30, 2022, I took the (tr)uSDX to the field to attempt a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation. I had only taken delivery of the (tr)uSDX about 15 hours beforehand and had only had it powered up for a total of 30 minutes the previous day. Most of that time, in fact, was checking the power output at various voltage settings into a dummy load. I did make one totally random SSB POTA contact shortly after hooking the radio up to my QTH antenna.
Wow, Steve! I would love to be in Switzerland right about now. I’ve got a bucket list item to journey there someday (in summer months) and activate at least 10 summits. Having lived in Grenoble, the Alps always feel a bit like home.
I love how compact your setup is and obviously the K6ARK EFHW is doing the trick if you’re making contacts State side with QRP and during a contest competing with the big guns!
Hmmm…I’m now thinking I might grab a second Maxpedition Fatty Pouch. I just checked and Maxpedition still has the “buy one, get one free” deal on their website. The link above goes to Amazon (hence the affiliate link which my site auto-converts) because pricing is typically best there, but I believe you get an even better deal at present going directly to the source; especially if one could use two pouches!
Thanks again, Steve, for sharing your field kit photos and notes!
Many thanks to Steve (MW0SAW) who shares the following video of DL1DN making a very enthusiastic contact with VK5MAZ–Germany to Australia–QRP SSB pedestrian mobile:
What an amazing accomplishment! I think I felt as excited as David did in his video. The reception of VK5MAZ was simply phenomenal, too!
David (DL1DN) mentions at the end of his video that he had been in touch with Manuel (DL2MAN) who is the designer of the incredibly affordable uSDR transceiver project. David had featured a Chinese clone version of the uSDR in some of his previous videos. These days, it’s difficult to know if you’re ordering a clone or the original item because often the clone so closely mimics the original.
As I understand it, the uSDR is completely open source and, at least at time of posting, there is no comprehensive kit version available. However, all of the information needed for gathering parts and building the uSDR are public and free.
Manuel (DL2MAN) made the uSDR project open source with the condition that it cannot be used for commercial purposes (in other words, produced by another party and sold as a product). Of course, it was very quickly cloned by manufacturers in China and is now available on eBay.
David shared a link to Manuel’s recent video speaking about the differences between the two units:
You’ll note that I try to steer clear of clones on QRPer.com. I do this mainly because I like supporting the original developers and designers of radios and kits when possible. I feel like by doing this, I’m supporting the innovators in our community as opposed to taking money away from them.
On that note, I’m in the market for an M0NKA mcHF transceiver!