Discussion in 'QRP Corner' started by KK4NSF, Nov 11, 2016.
Just pound one of your trekking poles in with a rock.
Ok, I thought I would chime in here with what my answer has been to the OP's question - although I have focused more on portability than strictly lightest weight. Other self imposed requirements were for multiband operation (I wanted at least 20 & 40m to cover different propagation conditions), and I wanted the kit to be completely self sustaining - that is, absolutely nothing else was needed and I wasn't limited to one battery pack of operating time. Here's what I came up with and use - as with most things in this hobby it's not the "best" or "perfect", it's what works for me (and my budget and my tolerance for weight).
First off there's a small multicompartment cordura bag with shoulder strap. Shown next to a pen for size comparison. Picked this up a few years back for something like $10, didn't know what I would use it for but it looked handy. As it happens, it fits this set of gear perfectly and provides just the right amount of padding and protection to the radio.
Inside of this, I pack the following:
EK1C triband (20-30-40m) CW-only transceiver
BNC patch cord
QRP Guys EFHW tuner
EFHW elements for radiator and counterpoise, 20G speaker wire on kite winders. The full 40m appropriate lengths are on each winder, but they're cut and joined by bullet connectors at the correct mid CW band lengths for 20 and 30m. Each bullet connector join is also linked by a thin cordage patch, so the entire line stays mechanically joined when electrically disconnected. This is handy for ease of band changes. I am aware some people wouldn't cut the wire at all and claim the wound coil portion "doesn't count" towards electrical length. I won't argue about the effect of a big coil left on the end of your line, but I will say I found empirically this worked better.
50' of cheap, strong poly braid line - for tying a weight to and slinging over a tree branch etc then use to pull up the radiating element.
10 cell AA battery pack, loaded with 2500mAh NiMH batteries.
BNC to binding post adaptor - for expedient dipole antenna with salvaged wires in case something fails on EFHW wires or tuner
Cheap straight key and its wire to plug.
Log book and pen
Two ~8' lengths of thin poly string - usually used at ends of radiator and/or counterpoise to connect off to attachment points
Two tent pegs. For the radiator one of these (plus string above) is usually the far end attachment for an Inv-V style setup.
Some other short assorted string. Mostly used for loosely attaching radiator to a hoist pole if that's used in place of line over a tree branch.
Earphones. Noise supressing ones and if you look closely you may notice a small torroid wound on the line. On 40m I sometimes find the earphone wires directly pick up my TX RF and produce a nasty rasp. This supresses that.
7 W folding solar panel
4-place NiMH AA cell charger with input matching the solar panel
120 VAC to USB adapter and USB to mini-USB patch. The AA charger can be charged off of this instead of solar if sunlight isn't available and 120 VAC is.
Ideally, I would also carry 2x dummy AA cells; in the event my AA cells fail, use these plus 8 alkaline AA to operate.
Entire package with bag is 1.7 lbs. Not super light but well protected, easy to carry, and as I said, fully self contained. If I go to a buddy's off grid cabin for two weeks I can operate for two weeks on nothing but what I have.
When space permits and convenience is desired, I carry along a 28' Jackite pole and a couple of bungee cords. Faster, easier, and usually higher antenna raise than line lobbed over a tree limb. I also can bring a 3.7 AH SLA battery with its own dedicated 2.5W solar panel and power bus which keeps the panel on the battery even when in use. That's nice if I never want to have to interrupt operation to recharge AA cells, but mostly it's not worth the weight. Another addition I could do would be 4 more NiMH AA cells to keep in the charger and pre-charge, meaning less downtime to do a 10 battery charge cycle.
I usually run the wires out such that for 40m it's Inv-V. To operate 20 or 30 m I slide the radiating wire back towards radio until I can reach the correct bullet junction and undo it, then pull the throw line to bring the wire back up and re-attach to the tent peg end. So for 20 or 30m it's a sloper. The counterpoise is easier, just walk to bullet junction and undo. Since the junctions are still cordage linked, they're still tied off at ends. With the jackite pole it's even easier. I just drop the pole sections, undo or do the bullet connector, and back up without fiddling with either radio or far end tether points - band switch takes maybe 90 seconds.
I've also used tuned dipoles and no tuner with this setup but frankly found the weight of 30' of coax plus the 3 dipole arm sets was bulkier and heavier than the EFHW and tuner, and I didn't notice much difference in performance. My major limitation with this setup as described isn't any of the equipment (although I wish the EK1C had tighter filtering) - it's my pretty crap CW skill. That at least might improve with time and practice. In any case, this setup has made quite a few contacts for me even sometimes with pretty low tree branch hoist points.
For small and portable, I carry my KX1 (which has the tuner, paddles), my bnc to binding posts adapter, my radiating element / counterpoise, some nylon mason's twine and a water bottle... a small pad/pen. That's it. I use the water bottle (1/2 filled with water.. I likely drank the first half) to toss the mason's twine over a branch.. then pull my end-fed antenna up. Find a spot to sit and have fun. The batteries are internal, but I may carry an additional alkaline battery pack.. but usually I don't need it if I'm only intending on operating a few hours.
Xiegu X5105 - high capacity battery, built in tuner, resonant dipole. Fits in a small messenger bag.
Works well for me.
Wowzers! I started this thread two years ago, and it's still going strong. I think that it's longevity is due to all of the brilliant ideas, and PRPassion that the folks posting here have shown. There is no group within the entire Amateur Radio Community that is as ethusiastic, friendly, knowledgeable, and generally fun to talk to as the QRP people.
Lots of neat photos here too!
I'm finding a lot of good info here, so thanks to each of you. I am finding I have a strong interest in QRP and having just completed Level 1 of CW Academy (last week) and having scored my first 2 (real) CW QSO's and... doing a QRP (turned my FT-857D down to 5w) test at calling CQ from the RV in Lake Conroe, TX, I heard myself clearly on 40m on both a Utah WebSDR and a Washington DC WebSDR. This was using a 41' 14ga THHN EF (random) wire, attached to a Nelson Antennas 9:1 unun (I will make my own from here on out) with 65' of RG8X. The unun was attached to a fiberglass pole attached to the RV's ladder and was located at roof level, the wire then ran up the pole about 10', then was strung to the front of the RV and attached to a 1/8" paracord, then a few feet later over the top of a small (really cheap) camera tripod (about 2' high) sitting on the top of the roof at the very front of our 40' Fifth Wheel. This antenna seemed to tune quite well (using a LDG AT-11MP) on 80 - 10 and worked well doing QRO SSB, FT8 and CQ. But when I turned the power down to QRP.... THAT was exciting!
So... I will be ordering a QRP Labs QCX and building my first QRP rig. I plan to mount it in a case, get (preferably make) a small Iambic paddle. And build a small tuner (not sure if I want it in a separate case, or in the case with the QCX). This will form the beginning of my QRP Portable Operation Station. Again, thanks for sharing your great ideas and experience as I embark on this exciting and rewarding journey.
73, de KG5WXW