New to Operating QRP: NPOTA Activating and Gear

Discussion in 'QRP Corner' started by KD8EDC, Feb 2, 2016.

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  1. KD8EDC

    KD8EDC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hi gang,

    Here's a good one. Along with all of the other facets of amateur radio that I've become interested in, I have now become very interested in operating from the field. I'm planning to participate in the NPOTA program by activating a National Park very near us (LK04 if you're interested) during the late spring/early summer QRP. I would also be interested in doing some BOTA and SOTA work, as well as just getting out into nature and making some contacts. Hopefully, by the time I start my Morse skills will have improved steadily; I'll give both SSB and CW a shot. I've got some of the equipment I need, but I'm looking for recommendations. Let me list what I have and what I'm thinking about:

    1. Elecraft KX3 (10w) with Internal AutoTuner
    2. BNC to SO 239 cable
    3. Heil ProSet Headphone/Mic for the KX3
    4. ICOM-706MKIIG (for up to 100w)

    1. Pelican 1500 Case for Radio and Accessories
    2. LNR Precision EF-40/20 (will support up to 100w but still good for QRP work on 40/20)
    3. Jackite 31' Fiberglass telescoping pole, ladder mount and suitable pipe or PVC ground stake for the latter.
    4. Palm PicoPaddle or Begali Adventure
    5. RG-8x (would use LMR-400 Ultraflex but it's a bit unwieldy) coax.
    I'd love to get your experienced opinions on all of this, and specific recommendations on :

    1. Batteries ,battery types (V and Ah) and connection strategies (Power pole to KX3 etc) for powering 10w-100w for 6h operation or so.
    2. Any extras you might think that are essential.
    A final question: My 706 is currently mounted in my Subaru. While it's grounded properly using tinned copper braid, I only use it for VHF so I haven't gone thru the trouble of bonding the car (and it's leased, so that would be a problem in any case. Is it possible, in your experience, to leave the 706 mounted in the car when in a remote area, and run coax out of the car to the antenna without bonding the car body, or would it be best to remove the radio? No problem either way.

    Thanks and 73!

    Mark KD8EDC
    VK4HAT likes this.
  2. W7CJD

    W7CJD Ham Member QRZ Page

    I think you will love BOTA NPOTA and SOTA as well.

    Have you looked around QRP Corner?

    I prefer a neoprene slip case for hardware and a double or triple stripe ziploc-type freezer bag for little stuff in my backpack.

    The antenna has its own double or triple stripe gallon ziploc-type freezer bag.

    I have ordered a telescoping fishing pole at eBay sold configured much like a Tenkara fishing pole, in fact, I am considering adding a rubber "foot" much like that for a cane, and, using that as a walking stick while hiking, and, as an antenna support above treeline in the mountains nearby here.

    I do not try 100 watts in the field.

    I have 4-5 watts SSB in one transceiver with a LIPO battery and anticipate purchase of up to 10 watts transceiver for SSB (usually 5-8 watts) using a LiPo battery.

    In a campsite, I can use a SLAB.

    I have been looking at motorcycle batteries and I have made no decision.

    Amazon has some interesting 12 VDC SLAB-sized batteries. I have made no decision.

    If car camping, I like a Pelican case or an Otter case.

    The most vehicle grounding I have ever had to do was scrape paint above and under a NMO pickup truck cab antenna mount, and generous tinned copper braid length, allowing for movement, from a cyllinder bolt to the frame on an older metal body pickup truck, other than the hookup.

    I haven't put an amateur radio antenna on my Subaru Outback.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2016
  3. KD8EDC

    KD8EDC Ham Member QRZ Page

    Oh, and I do have a RigExpert AA-54 Antenna Analyzer to tune the antenna.
  4. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I've done two styles of portable operation: Operating within 50 yards of a car, or operating after hiking a half-hour or more down the trail.

    For operating near the car, I use a deep cycle group U-1 AGM battery. This gives 35 Ah of charge, and weighs about 25 pounds. I put mine in a battery box for protection. You can get the battery for around $65 and the box for around $10. I added a bit of wire and a fuse holder from my junk box to bring the power out to an Anderson Powerpole connector. This is simple, inexpensive, safe, simple to charge, and offers plenty of power for a day. It is also too heavy to carry far from a car. I let mine do dual-duty -- I use it as ballast for my antenna tripod, tying it to the bottom to stabilize the antenna from blowing over.

    There are other battery solutions, typically involving rechargeable lithium, but they don't work as well to weigh down an antenna. They're typically a bit more expensive. I don't have direct experience with them.

    I've also used smaller AGM lead-acid batteries, 5Ah or 9Ah. These work well enough for a short outing, and are simple, inexpensive and not too heavy (but not so light, either, considering the amount of charge they carry).

    For a long hike, far from the car, I use my KX3 with its internal AA batteries. Energizer lithium AA batteries offer good power for the weight carried, and it's easy enough to carry a spare set.
  5. AA4OO

    AA4OO XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Here's what I do.

    Use the KX3 with an appropriate length of insulated wire to use end-fed. Use kite string (for getting the wire up in a tree) with a slingshot or a throwing weight. A 9:1 balun to get the impedance to a manageable level, coax from the radio to the balun (BNC connectors). The coax will have common mode running on the shield and become your counterpoise which is fine for QRP power levels. Add some insulated wires for counterpoise at specific frequencies you want to operate at. I add a 17ft and 6.5ft counterpoise wire for 40m and 20m. The coax takes care of the others.

    I've used a small 3ah 12v battery will power the KX3 at 10w output for all day operation. The 12v 3ah batteries are cheap and not that heavy. The last couple of times I've operated portable I've just used the internal AA batteries in the KX3 with no external batteries and it's been sufficient for about 3 hours of operating with lots of qsos I'm limited to 5w output. Generally I find 5w sufficient for CW.

    Earbuds (noise cancelling if you can find them). A Pam Paddle (I use the Palm Single). And you're set.

    I just use a backpack to carry it in. No need for the Pelican case.

  6. K4YND

    K4YND Ham Member QRZ Page


    Nothing like being outside and working some QRP. I have a trail friendly LNR precision 40/20/10 end fed. The 40/20/10 got hung up on a branch. I yanked and now the SWR varies widely if you move the wire. This morning I ordered the Sotabeams 20/40 linked dipole. The linked dipole comes with its own coax and even tent stakes for inverted Vee setup. Total shipped was $70. I am going to Frostfest(Richmond) Sat and will look for a telescoping pole I can use off the car. I use 12 v 7.5 ah batteries. Since I am usually on a park picnic table, I’m not worried about the weight. If it is good weather and a nice operating surface, I use a K2. If it not so nice I use a K1. I use a pretty nice paddle, so I will be looking for a used paddle that I don't mind taking out in the elements.

    Elecraft should be shipping me a KX3 today. I was going to wait for my Bday, but they are increasing prices on 2/4,so I went a head and pulled the trigger a little early.

    As soon as the snow melts I will activate another NPOTA.
  7. KD8EDC

    KD8EDC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've read your blog, EXCELLENT job and fascinating journey into Morse/CW. I often wonder how it can be my favorite mode given that I'm SOOOOO not-so-good yet, but....there it is. I'll certainly consider your suggestions....and I've enjoyed your blog and vids tremendously. Among other keys, I have a Vibroplex Chrome Deluxe bug that I LOVE to play with, but I won't put on the air until my code sounds as good as it does with paddles......or close anyway.
  8. KD8EDC

    KD8EDC Ham Member QRZ Page

    I like your battery idea...I'll look into it for close-to-car operation!
  9. KD8EDC

    KD8EDC Ham Member QRZ Page

    You will love the KX3, if you haven't found that out already. The receiver is AWESOME, and the filters and tuner are top notch. I built mine from kit in about 3 hours, and about 1/2 hour for the PX3. Smart move getting it before the price increase. Sorry to hear about the LNR antenna. I may also look at the Sotabeams antenna you mentioned...never hurts to check things out. The 40/20 100w antenna is made of a bit sturdier wiring (and heavier) than the trail-friendly as you know, and I wonder how that would hold up.

    Looking into getting some slick-line as well.
  10. K4YND

    K4YND Ham Member QRZ Page

    The wife did not approve the $499 tiny tv (PX3).. I will have to wait on that one

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