Recommend Paddle for POTA/Portable?

Discussion in 'Straight Keys - CW Enthusiasts' started by N8EU, Mar 2, 2021.

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  1. N8EU

    N8EU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Admin, if this isn't in the correct forum, please move it.
    I've searched this topic and haven't found my specific question addressed, so here goes...

    I do a lot of POTA and portable operating, almost all of it CW at 4w QRP. My rigs, Xiegu G90 and Elecraft K-1, have internal keyers. But, I've never used a keyer or paddles. As my CW speed is edging into the 20s I'm being more challenged to keep up with my straight key, especially while balancing the key on my knee.

    I'm looking for recommendations for a paddle to learn on, one that will weigh about 1 pound or less, to carry with me on my activations.

    Keying quality (ease and consistency), feel, weight, and size are my primary considerations. I don't mind paying for quality, but I'd like to keep it around 200.00 or so. If possible, I'd like to avoid purchasing a series of economy paddles that don't fit the bill. I'd rather pay once and cry once.

    The key needs to be durable rather than delicate, as it will probably be exposed to the elements from time to time, and also, it's likely to get dropped a time or two.

    I'd like to hear what other POTA or portable operators are using, and what they are happy with. This paddle is not going to sit on a desk top, so it needs to be smaller than a Bencher, but I don't want a micro-mini or something too small to work well.

    Photos would be welcome, and I would entertain offers, as well.

    I'm not interested in a 3D printed paddle, nor any of the ones that look like they were kluged together in a basement out of paper clips and a hacksaw blade.

    Many thanks.....
  2. W7HV

    W7HV Ham Member QRZ Page

    I've used a number of paddles for portable and mobile ops over the years. The way I look at it, I'm just closing two contacts with the finger pieces moving maybe 0.5mm using very little force, much less than what a straight key can be subjected to. There is nothing mechanically or demanding in that. Most recently I'm using a Palm Paddle from DE and a Galbraith from New Zealand. Both are very light and need to be attached to something, and both work as good as anything, IMO. I also have mini GF4ZPY paddles and a Schurr Einbau Wabbler, but prefer to use the two I mentioned for portable ops.

    N8EU likes this.
  3. KG7WGX

    KG7WGX XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    This one weighs around a pound and is considered by many to be the "gold standard" for portable paddles -

    Unfortunately, it is around $300 at present exchange rates.

    The paddle is essentially a metal brick when folded. I carry mine in a small stuff sack to keep it clean, but I don't worry about bending anything when packing it.
    N8EU likes this.
  4. W6MK

    W6MK Ham Member QRZ Page

    Elecraft sells paddles designed to be attached to the chassis of some of their rigs, the KX2 and KX3.

    These paddles are made by American Morse which also has many kinds of good-quality, relatively
    inexpensive paddles, and bases for them, especially suitable for portable operation. Look at the website.
    N8EU likes this.
  5. KG7WGX

    KG7WGX XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have a GHD GM-701, too. Here's a link -

    These paddles are very small and easy to pack, as can be seen in the photos. They have nothing elaborate going on inside the case, either - no magnets or ball bearings. Spacing and force are difficult to adjust but stay set once adjusted.

    The case has no mounting holes, but it could be attached to something with 2-sided tape if you didn't want to hold it in one hand while using it.

    I use mine with a Mountaintopper and a 26 gauge wire antenna for an extremely light package.
    N8EU likes this.
  6. N3PM

    N3PM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I use this American Morse with a leg strap. 817 boat paddles.jpg
    Mike N3PM
    N8EU likes this.
  7. KD5TXX

    KD5TXX XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I use that paddle in my truck. I have also used it in the field. It's a good paddle.

    Attached Files:

  8. AG6QR

    AG6QR Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    The paddle in my icon is a Begali Expedition, which is a luxury item, but outside of your stated budget both in terms of weight and money.

    But I also have an American Morse Equipment Porta-Paddle, as others have posted, and I prefer it for very portable operations. I usually keep mine mounted to the Porta-paddle base that AME also sells. This weighs about 1 1/3 pounds, a wee bit over your weight budget, but it works very well and stays nice and stable. I've also used the leg strap that N3PM shows, and it definitely saves on weight. Plus it doesn't require you to have a table.

    The two main drawbacks to the Porta-Paddle as compared to the Begali are:
    • The Porta-Paddle's contacts are brass, and subject to corrosion more easily, so require more frequent cleaning. Pulling a sheet of typing paper through them while pressing on them is enough to restore them.
    • The Porta-Paddle doesn't maintain its adjustments quite as precisely as the Begali. It requires an occasional tweaking of the screws, while the Begali has "set and forget" adjustments.
    But the Porta-Paddle, when clean and adjusted, is a fine paddle to use. And it's plenty sturdy for portable operations and being packed in with a bunch of other stuff.

    Recently, I got the American Morse Equipment "LowBoy" paddle, and it's my new favorite ultralight paddle. Warning: it has a different action and feel entirely. It works like two straight keys side-by-side. You push downward on the keys, instead of side-to-side as on a conventional paddle. It takes some getting used to, but the advantage is that it doesn't require a heavy base or a leg strap. Since you're only pushing downward, never sideways, it doesn't move around on a tabletop.
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  9. KF9VV

    KF9VV Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    N0SA SSP for me. Best small key I have found. Amazing quality.

    It is very light, and either needs to be held with your other hand or can be attached to something solid with Velcro.

    N8EU likes this.
  10. N8EU

    N8EU Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for the excellent suggestions. Please keep them coming. I've seen several that would fit the bill.

    Unfortunately, many of the keys suggested are no longer in production, or on indefinite back order. Must not be enough folks either working portable, POTA, SOTA, or thinking like me...

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