Tag Archives: Tom Bihn HLT2

“The Elecraft AX1 antenna is just a dummy load!” Really? Let’s test that!

Like a lot of QRPers, I love a good challenge.

Maybe it’s just in the nature of those of us who love QRP.

We get a small thrill out of seeing what we can accomplish with less.

AX1 Doubts?

On the morning of February 7, 2022, I received an email from a subscriber in South Carolina who had placed an order for a new Elecraft KX2 and an AX1 antenna package.  He picked this particular combination because he wanted the most simple and easy-to-set-up field radio system for impromptu CW POTA activations and a little random QRP fun.

He mentioned that, at his age, mobility is a bit of an issue and even though he knew a wire antenna would be more effective, deploying it while walking on uneven ground just wasn’t in the cards. The AX1 was a much more manageable and packable system. Plus, as he said, “I’m not going out to work DX. I just want to play and have fun.

Only a week after placing his order, he was having buyer’s remorse which prompted his message.

He explained that he had exchanged emails with a friend in his radio club who told him he’d made a foolish mistake and that the AX1 was completely ineffective as an antenna and would only lead to disappointment. His friend said [direct quote here], “I owned [an AX1] for a month and was never able to make a single contact. It is really good at being a dummy load and nothing more! This thing shouldn’t be marketed as an antenna. It doesn’t work.

I pointed out that I’ve used the AX1 numerous times in the field and have yet to be disappointed.

Before I used the AX1, I too, was very skeptical but after actually using it (instead of simply theorizing about it) I found it’s one of my most valuable antennas for a quick and fruitful activation. I pointed him to this playlist that includes all of my AX1 activations on YouTube. In all of these activation, I’ve limited myself to 5 watts as well even though the antenna can handle a full 10 or 15 watts from the KX2 or KX3.

I told him I’d been planning to pair the AX1 with my Mountain Topper MTR-3B and, it turned out, that very day a small window of opportunity opened in the afternoon. I told him we could both see how the AX1 might perform with three watts of power, especially since he’d planned to use 10 watts with his KX2.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, my motto is less theory, more practice!

We’d put the “dummy load theory” to the test! Continue reading “The Elecraft AX1 antenna is just a dummy load!” Really? Let’s test that!

SOTA: Breaking in the Venus SW-3B on Dogback Mountain & taking in Wisemans’ View!

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.

Back on January 26, 2022–during my POTA RaDAR run–I tried to activate Dogback Mountain, but the forest service road was too icy in all of the wrong places. I made it to within three miles of the summit but stopped and performed an activation of Pisgah Game Land and Pisgah Forest instead.

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).

I walked up the short path to the true summit and was absolutely gobsmacked by the views of Linville Gorge, Table Rock, and Hawksbill Mountain. Continue reading SOTA: Breaking in the Venus SW-3B on Dogback Mountain & taking in Wisemans’ View!

Amazing Fun with 3 Watts: Pairing the MTR-3B, T1, Speaker Wire, and a 9V LiFePo4 battery at South Mountains

I’ve been spending more time with my Mountain Topper MTR-3B (“Tuppence”) recently and have been thoroughly enjoying this little radio’s companionship.

Since I made a dedicated ultra-compact field kit for the MTR-3B, it has also been even easier to toss it in my backpack and take it on little field adventures. The field kit is truly a grab-and-go and even includes a throw line and weight.

On Friday, January 28, 2022, after a total of six individual park activations during the previous two days (a POTA RaDAR run and my first 2020 Antenna Challenge activation) driving back to the QTH I thought, “surely I can skip doing an activation today.

That quickly turned into, “Wait a minute…I’ve got enough time to fit in both an activation and a hike!

So I made a quick detour off of I-40 to visit the Clear Creek access of South Mountains State Park.

South Mountains State Park (K-2753)

I pulled into an empty parking area; not really a surprise on an early Friday afternoon. In addition, I figured many were out grabbing bread and milk since winter weather was in the forecast.

I decided to do my activation first, then pack up and take the full kit on a hike. Continue reading Amazing Fun with 3 Watts: Pairing the MTR-3B, T1, Speaker Wire, and a 9V LiFePo4 battery at South Mountains

POTA RaDAR Run Final Activation: Testing the new MTR-3B field kit at Tuttle Educational State Forest

On January 26, 2022, I 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.

Here are the field reports and videos of my first four activations:

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!

“Them’s QRP pickles!”

Max continued to activate Tuttle from his truck while I set up my station. Continue reading POTA RaDAR Run Final Activation: Testing the new MTR-3B field kit at Tuttle Educational State Forest

The Venus SW-3B’s maiden SOTA activation this morning!

I’ve got my new Venus SW-3B all dressed up and ready for a SOTA activation this morning (February 10, 2022); that is, if all goes well. Haven’t quite decided what summit yet, but it’ll have to be one I can hit fairly easily during my travels today.

I’ll plan to do 20 meters primarily, because I’m taking my PackTenna 20M EFHW. I also have a 30M EFHW–a separate antenna that I might also give a go.  We’ll see how busy things are.

I’m either going to find a summit with a good hike, or do a drive up summit, then hike later at park. Either way: my goal is some radio and hiking today.

I’ll plan to make a video of this activation if all goes well. To record the SW-3B audio, I’ll be using a small Sony digital audio recorder I found at a thrift store for $20 a few months ago. I don’t have time to give it a proper shake-out before I go; in fact, I don’t have AAA batteries to load in it for a test so plan to pick some up en route.

New radio, new pack, new thrift store audio recorder that’s never been powered up…

What could possibly go wrong, right?

Right!

The SW-3B fits very comfortably in this Tom Bihn HLT2 I bought for the SW-3B and my KX1 to share. (You might recall I have an HLT2 for my MTR-3B as well.)

It’s really packed out at the moment, though, because I’m using a bulky battery and haven’t optimized any of the components & accessories yet. I’ve a much smaller battery solution in the works.

If you’ve nothing else better to do today, check out the POTA and SOTA spots likely sometime between 1600-1900 UTC. With any luck, I’ll be on the air and you’ll then know what an SW-3B sounds like.

David’s field radio kit makes use of Tom Bihn packs and pouches

Being the hopeless pack geek I am, when David (AG7SM) shared photos of his many Tom Bihn bags and how he packed for a recent radio outing, I asked if he’d mind if I shared them here on QRPer.com. He very kindly agreed!

The comments below are my own, but I’ve put David’s descriptions in each image caption:

Brain Bag

The Tom Bihn Brain Bag.

I’ve often considered grabbing a Tom Bihn Brain Bag in the past for one-bag travel, but frankly it’s a little roomier than I needed so overlooked it. I never thought about using it for field radio, but it makes so much sense

“The writing implements and log I’ve stuffed into the Brain Bag.”

I have used a Tom Bihn Synapse 25 for both one-bag travel and as a field radio bag.  It also has side pockets for field notes/logbooks and pens/pencils, but I think the Brain Bag accommodates them even better. Continue reading David’s field radio kit makes use of Tom Bihn packs and pouches

My new MTR-3B Ultra-Compact Field Kit built in a Tom Bihn HLT2

I’m a bit obsessed with field radio kits (understatement alert).

If you don’t believe me, check out this episode of the Ham Radio Workbench podcast where they graciously allowed me to geek out about radio packs for a good two hours.

I should also note that I write, in detail, about my packing philosophy in this Anatomy of a Field Radio kit series.

There’s no cure for my pack obsession. I’m constantly in a state of assembling and testing the most efficient kits I can conjure up.

Since I rotate a fair amount of radios in my activations, the majority of my kits are modular; meaning, components like antennas, ATU’s, batteries, log/pen, and cables are packed in their own small pouches/pack. Before embarking on an activation, I simply assemble the components in a backpack along with the radio/s I might use that day. Over the years, I’ve developed a certain workflow with this process that ensures I don’t forget components or pack the wrong ones.

But by far, my favorite type of kit are those that are fully self-contained–proper grab-and-go kits that have everything I need inside to, for example, activate a summit.

Self-Contained Kits

Fully self-contained kits are reserved for the radios I use in the field most because, frankly, they’re stingy resource hogs: they  don’t share components with my other radios or kits. Continue reading My new MTR-3B Ultra-Compact Field Kit built in a Tom Bihn HLT2