Where’s KK4Z?

In addition to fun things like camping and portable amateur radio operating, I do a lot of emergency communications (EmComm) work. Over the past year and half, I have been setting up a communications network for my church over a large area (about half the state of Georgia). It is now up and running fairly well and I have enough trained net control operators to turn this function over to them. I still have more EmComm work to do but now it is at the local level. I also perform EmComm duties at the regional and national level; however, that is less taxing.

Over the past couple of months I had taken a hiatus from everyday amateur radio operation with the exception of winter field day with my local club. to be honest, I needed the break. One activity I enjoy is Parks on the Air (POTA) with CW being my primary mode. I used to visit the POTA Facebook page but I was finding the crowd becoming a bit churly. I guess that’s a function of growth and POTA is rapidly growing. Fortunately, the CW side of POTA is still rather civil and my cure was to avoid Facebook. I should have avoided it all along. So after giving myself a POTA rest, I am starting to venture out into POTA land, this time sans Facebook.

My gear hasn’t changed. At home, my primary HF radio is still the IC-7610 and has been with me for 5 years now. I had thought of maybe trying a Yaesu FTDX101 but after reading some reviews where they tried the FTDX101 but went back to the IC-7610, I’ll keep mine. A common theme is the ergonomics.

I still have my FTDX10 and I compare it to the IC-7300. It is part of my long term test. Like the FTDX101, the 10 suffers from poor ergonomics. At times, it gets in the way of itself. I know everyone is using Sherwood Engineering’s test data to tout how great the FTDX10 is; however, running the FTDX10 next to the IC-7300, the IC-7300 can and does work any station the FTDX10 can, even under contest conditions. In fact, the IC-7300 has a lower noise floor by a factor of 4. I admit that the FTDX10 does sound better, but overall performance still goes to the IC-7300. At this point in the game, I am not ready to sell either one, but if one had to go, it would be the FTDX10. Both these radios are used as field radios.

While testing the above 2 radios, I have been neglecting my QRP radios. Typically, when I go camping, I bring the bigger radios. I have room in the truck/camper, so why not. At most, I have to carry them 15-20 feet. My little radios have been languishing in the dark, unused and unloved. This year, I plan to break them out more. At this time, I have 3: IC-705, TX599 and TR-45L. Of the three, the IC-705 is the favorite. It’s just a good radio, with great performance. Nothing can touch it in it’s price range. If the trend continues, bringing big radios out to the field, one or two of the little ones will go.

I hope to hear your out there. Few things are better than spending a day or even half a day in a park, on a nice day, with a radio. 73’s Scott

Winter Field Day

This year the West Georgia Amateur Radio Society (WGARS) decided to hold winter field day at Little Tallapoosa Park in Carroll County, GA. I would call the event semi-serious. I don’t think any of us are real hard-core contesters, but some of us watch the numbers. The majority of our members operate using SSB and I was the only one operating CW. The plan was for me to get as many bands as I could for multipliers. That meant I had to be able to swap bands fairly quickly in order to advantage of changing band conditions. We had five stations set up, 4 of which had bandpass filters. Because I didn’t have any bandpass filters I was located about 100 yards away from the main group.

Gear. I brought the FTDX10 with me to see how it would do in a semi-contest environment. It fed a Mat Tuner, Mat-30 tuner, and then to my 29-foot random wire antenna. This has become my favorite antenna. I logged with N3FJP WFD software and used a K1EL keyer. The computer and radio were powered by a Honda EU-2200 generator (we ran alternate power). This generator is very quiet and is very fuel efficient. The rest of my camper was fed with shore power at the campsite. I kept warm with a little ceramic heater.

Operation. This year I tried something new. Not only did I use the N3FJP software for logging but I also used it to send CW, in other words, I did everything from the keyboard. I was a little apprehensive, aren’t we all when it comes to something new? But I found it worked quite well. Band conditions, on the other hand, were not that good. They were up and down with a lot of fade. By being able to jump around I was able to work 100 contacts on 5 different bands. I was hoping for more, but there weren’t a whole lot of stations out there to work. I thought it might have been my station, but looking at the QSO Map, I was getting out okay.

Cold weather may have kept some CW ops at home. It gets harder to work a key or paddle when your hands are cold.

FTDX10. Part of my ongoing review of this radio. You really can’t get a feel for a radio or any piece of kit unless you use it over a period of time. My other radios are feeling the pain of neglect. How did it do? Not bad really. I made an effort to try the CW decoder. There were times were I really needed it due to QSB (fading). Sometimes the band would drop as I was getting the exchange. The decoder often picked up what I missed. It is not a replacement for your ears and mind. But it did help and made me a little more efficient. My hearing is not that good. The decoder is sensitive to CW speed. It does best when it is close to the sender’s speed. I set the outer dial (MVLP) to CW speed for this purpose. While I normally set the function knob to RF power, because band conditions were so variable, I set it to level (waterfall level) which allowed me to adjust the waterfall as needed. The radio performed well and I appreciate the roofing filters. I had one issue and that was I would tune across the band and about every 10 KC the waterfall would go dark and I would have to retune the antenna system. That became rather annoying. There is an example of what was going on in the activation video below. Very quickly, I got a response from one of my subscribers stating that it was the tuner and not the radio. This morning, I broke out the radio and tested it with the Mat-30 to make sure I still had the problem here at home (I did). I then swapped the Mat-30 for my old LDG Z-11 Pro and viola! The problem disappeared. You can see the results in the second video.

I think my club as a whole had a good time. It is fun to get and socialize, plus throw in a little operating. When testing a radio, or any piece of kit, You can’t really do it justice over a couple of days. I’ve had the radio for a couple of months, and as I work through the issues, I find that sometimes we don’t know each other that well yet. It’s still early in the dance. I will say that I am warming up to the radio more than I thought but I still say that if I had to choose between it and the 7300, the 7300 would still be my choice. However, that gap is getting narrower. If Yaesu would make a few software upgrades…

POTA Activation K-2167 Black Rock Mountain State Park

Friday morning had me all set for my next adventure. This time it was a 3-hour drive to Black Rock Mountain State Park. It was my first time at this park and I wasn’t disappointed. The park is located on Black Rock Mountain. The overlook near the visitors center gave an altitude of 3446 ft above sea level (ASL). My campsite was a little lower at 3220 ft asl according to my GPS-enabled phone.

This was the second flight of the Radio Flyer. This was going to be a cold weekend (at least for here in Georgia). Friday night/Saturday morning was going to be in the high 20s and a Saturday night/Sunday morning was going to be in the low 20s. This will be the Radio Flyers’ first campout in sub-freezing weather. The Radio Flyer has a 2″ receiver hitch on its rear so this time I mounted the antenna to the camper and not the truck. This reduced the amount of loose cable on the ground for me to trip over.

I brought two radios with me, Apollo (TR-45L) and Sheldon (FTDX10), and their associated antenna tuners. The antenna was my homebrew random wire antenna. I was only planning on operating for part of the weekend. My original thought was a “me and the key” weekend, running QRP CW. The TR-45L is a new radio to me and I was eager to try it out. However, the propagation gods were not in my favor. QRP netted me 3 CW contacts and when tuning the bands I heard very little traffic. After a fashion, I turned off the TR-45L and switched to the FTDX10 and FT8. I started at 25 watts and increased power until I was getting some QSOs. I ended up running between 35 to 45 watts. I ran Friday night and Saturday morning netting about 200 Qs.

In the picture above, you can see the QSB on 20 meters. It was like that on all bands. Up and down, now you hear it, now you don’t. While I made a good amount of contacts, I saw far fewer DX than I usually do.

I plan these trips 3-4 months in advance to ensure I get a campsite so propagation on these weekends, is a crap shoot. I typically bring a QRP radio as a backup on these trips as I can use one of my big radios for both QRP and QRO. I like to use the QRP radios, for short activations near home, where I may be setting up in the cab of my truck.

All in all, it was a good trip. The Radio Flyer is now qualified for cold weather operations. I ran a small 500-watt electric heater from Amazon, and it did just fine https://tinyurl.com/8c2cyheb. Next trip I will try for another me and the key weekend. Stay warm and 73 – Scott

You can see my YouTube video here:

A Tale of Two Radios

Ever since I was a young lad, I was interested in Amateur Radio. I bought books and read and got a few kits and bits from Radio Shack. My electronics mecca at the time. I had no help from my parents. It was a wonder my father didn’t burn down our house with the way he wired things. I felt sorry for the person who bought the house after my father left it.

It wasn’t until years later that I took a more serious attempt at getting my ham radio license. I was in the U.S. Army as a member of the 101st Airborne Division stationed at Ft Campbell, KY. Being a member of a division that could move itself lock, stock, and barrel, in 30 days, kept us busy night and day. I decided I was going to build a radio in preparation for getting my license. I chose the Heathkit HW-8 as a fairly simple radio. Along with it, I got a Jensen Kits JT-6 Mean Little kit with enough tools for the project and a case to put the tools in when my workbench reverted to the dining room table.

Just as I finished up the kit and arranged for a friendly ham to help me with the alignment, I was placed on orders for Germany. It dashed my hopes of getting licensed and I ended up selling the radio to the guy that was going to help me. I never sent one dit or dah on it.

It wasn’t until quite a few years after I got out of the army that I finally got licensed. many years have passed and with that, many enjoyable minutes and hours enjoying the immense sphere of amateur radio. As I approach retirement, I have taken an interest in CW once again. It has become my favorite mode. I am no speed demon and my copy skills still need improvement, but as I lurch along, I am meeting new friends of all skill levels. At least in my old age, I can laugh at my guffaws.

A couple of months ago, John Dillon of Penntek Radios released the details of his new radio, the Penntek TR-45L. I already have enough QRP radios and for grins, I went to Tom’s K4SWL’s website where he was reporting about the beta test he was doing. When I saw the radio, a flood of memories came over me. I remember the fun I had building the radio and dreaming of getting on the air. I also remember being a little saddened, when I realized, I would not be using that radio and that licensing would still be a few years away. But HOLY COW did that Penntek bring back that same vibe as the HW-8! I knew I had to have one. I placed my order and then the wait…

It showed up a couple of days ago and it brought me back to the early 1980s when I had the HW-8. I felt very nostalgic. This radio is more complex than the HW-8, but it has that vibe, that Joe Friday, “Just the facts ma’am” attitude. Easy to use, simple controls that remind you of a bygone era. Before cell phones, the internet, and computers. In a recent blog, I spoke about naming radios. I call this one Apollo as it is reminiscent of the Apollo era when man first stepped on the moon. The computer on the Apollo Command Module had less computing power than a high school calculator. There certainly wasn’t a “Hey Siri” either.

This is a busy time of year. So far, I have been able to play with the radio for a short while and was able to make a couple of CW contacts on 20 meters. I do have a weekend activation planned and the TR-45L is going with me. A nice back-to-basics, just me and the key weekend. Shoot, I may do the full monte and paper log. Over the next couple of weeks, I hope I get to work you on the air. If not, then a very Merry Christmas to all. 73 de Scott

Naming Radios

Men in general, have a habit of naming things. All sorts of things, cars, body parts, you name it, we will cast our own nickname on it. I thought I would share some of the names I have given my radios. Typically, I don’t just throw a name on something. I am around it for a while, before I decide what I am going to call it. My poor dogs, when I first get them, I go through a plethora of names until I find one that fits. My latest dog, a boxer mix from the pound was named Hawkeye by them. I got him home. I had to get to know him.

He ended up being Andy but likes to be called pup-pup. Maybe his last owners called him that. He’s still very much a pup but is going to be a great dog.

I will start with my main radio which is an Icom IC-7610. It is my workhorse radio. It is probably the best radio I have ever owned. I have worked the world on it and it does everything I need it to do. I call it Zeus, the king of all my other radios. I believe there is not a radio out there that can do anything that Zeus cannot do. Any improvements over Zeus would be marginal.

Next up is another Icom, the IC-7300. I’ve had this radio the longest. It is simply called Peter, after the Apostle Peter. This radio is my rock. It can do everything my other radios can do. Not as well, but if I could only have one radio, the IC-7300 would be it. I’ve used it as a base, I take it to the field, run it off of batteries, voice, digital, CW, it does it all.

The last Icom in my stable is my IC-705 whom I call Jack. Jack with the AH-705 can do it all. Jack is short for Jack-of-all-trades. It does everything quite well. Because the user interface is similar to my other Icoms, it is easy to use. I think Icom has some of the best ergonomics out there for modern radios.

The next radio on the list is my Lab599, TX-500. This is a fun radio with a simple interface in a small package. What sets this radio apart is it is weatherproof. I have taken out on cold rainy days without issue. Its name is Baal (pronounced bale) which is the Canaanite god of weather. This one doesn’t see as much use as the others, but when bad weather is in the forecast…

The last radio in my current quiver is the FTDX10. My most recent radio and one I wanted to try over a long period to see how I like it and how it compares to my other radios. I named it Sheldon after the main character on The Big Bang Theory. Like Sheldon, the radio has its moments of brilliance, but along with that an awkwardness that can’t be ignored. I will continue to use the radio and try to keep the firmware updated. Yaesu could easily fix some of the issues so we shall see. One thing that I do like about the radio is the roofing filters including the 300hz one.

The last radio on my list is a Penntek TR-45L This radio was due to be delivered last Thursday but has now been postponed until Monday (thank you USPS). This radio is already named Apollo, after the Apollo moon missions back in the 1960’s. I was fortunate enough to be alive then and watched the actual landing on TV. This radio has a 1960’s vibe to it so Apollo it is. More about the TR-45L once I get my hands on it.

These are my radios. I like them all and I try to rotate them as I go to the field. The past couple of months though has had horrible band conditions during my trips so I tended to bring the bigger radios for more horsepower. That and I was working on my POTA N1CC award. When I was at a faraway park I wanted a little insurance working 10 different bands. Gas prices were killer back then so I wasn’t sure about a return trip. Upcoming trips should see a more normal rotation. 73 — Scott


This past weekend the CQWW DX CW contest was touted to be the biggest contest of its type. CW operators from all over the world participate mainly on the non-WARC bands of 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters. In the mid 90’s, when I was first licensed, I enjoyed CW. It was required. Tech + and novice required 5 words per minute (wpm), general and advanced required 13 wpm, and Extra required 20 wpm. When I upgraded from advanced to extra the code requirement was still 5 wpm. Back in the day before life took over I was pretty comfortable at about 18 wpm.

In my early years, I was drawn to contesting and DX’ing. Back then as it is today, these pursuits are the home of the serious CW ops. Code speeds are often in the 30-35 wpm range. Far above my meager 18 wpm. I did some contesting using SSB and was moderately successful. Here is an award from the CQWW DX SSB contest.

KM5AV was my Advanced License call sign. By the turn of the century, I had grown weary of the rude and impolite behavior of some of the operators on SSB. For many years, I turned my interests to EmComm and local ragchewing occasionally chasing a little DX. In 2003 I upgraded to extra and changed my call to KK4Z.

In 2021, I decided to get back into CW. The kids were grown, education is complete, and I am in a semi-retired state. I started practicing CW and got myself back up to 16 wpm. I was now looking for a venue to increase my skills. I discovered Parks on the Air (POTA). After a bout with paddle fright, I made my first CW contact in over 20 years with Steve K5SJC. Steve was and is very friendly and helpful. Since that time I have made almost 1,800 CW contacts.

After hovering in the 16-20 wpm range, I decided it was time to increase my speed. CW or Morse Code has some mental hurdles for some. Typically, they are at 10 wpm and 20 wpm. I am at the latter, with my goal being 25 wpm. I am using a combination of CWops (cwops.org) and Learn CW Online (lcwo.net) to help me increase my speed. POTA is on Facebook and one of their pages is POTA CW for new Ops https://www.facebook.com/groups/potacw. The admin for the page Jess W6LEN, recommended that we take advantage of the CQWW DX CW contest to help improve our skills. At least listen. What a brilliant idea! The contest is a challenge for us slow pokes. They run at about 30-35 wpm and do not QRS (slow down). I started listening, first for the format. The opening salvo was CQ TEST <Call Sign>. The response is your call sign and they reply with 5NN <CQ zone>, followed by you with 5NN <CQ zone. That’s it. The word test at speed is very melodic dah-dit-dididit-dah.

The hard part is picking out the call sign. I normally run at 16-20 wpm. First I tune around to find one of the slower guys (30 wpm). I then decode his call sign, one figure at a time until I get the whole thing. My decoder is between my ears. This can take time but it helps to acclimate to the new speed. I like to say that I dabble or putter about and try to make a few contacts. I’m not going to win any awards for most Q’s, but I am going to get better at receiving code. I started my sending at 20 wpm, but that sounded like I was standing still. So I upped it to 22 and then again to 25 wpm. My first goal was to work one station on each band. I then changed it to making 1,000 points. I made over 20 contacts in the course of several hours. It was slow and it was difficult. It showed me that I can copy code at 30+ wpm, not well, but well enough. Here is a map.

I was running 100 watts into a 270′ OCF dipole. Hawaii was on 10 meters.

Did I have fun? You bet I did. Just being able to pick out the call signs at that speed was a thrill. Going into the contest to dabble takes the expectation of having to do well and allows you to focus on improving your CW skills. will I do it again? You betcha!

FTDX10 vs IC-7300 CQWWDX CW Contest

I own both of these radios. I’ve had the FTDX10 for a couple of months and the IC-7300 for about 5-6 years. I am not getting rid of either one anytime soon as I wanted to do a long-term comparison of the two. If you go back through my blog you can see some of the differences. Up to now I have tried not to be subjective and to provide my actual findings as I compare the two. In this case, there will be some subjective opinions on my part, mainly due to my ears and internal filters (brain) are probably different than yours.

Setup. The antenna used was my 270′ OCF Dipole with the same coax used up to the tuners. I chose the 40 meters because there was a fair amount of activity on it. Both radios were setup basically the same. For the FTDX, I set the roofing filter to 500 hz and the Digital filter to 300hz. I set the DNR to 15. On the Icom, I set the BPF to 500 hz and the Digital filter to 300 hz. I set the DNR to 15 and then backed it off to 13 as it was slightly more aggressive the the FTDX.

The test was simple, I found a busy part of the 40 meter band with close in signals. I then swapped the antenna back and forth between the radios. I did occasionally kick in the optional 300 hz roofing filter on the FTDX.

What’s the Verdict?
To be honest, both radios performed well and either one will get the job done. I had no problem hearing a signal even with a stronger nearby station. Blocking was good on both. The FTDX was a little better at blocking and when I kicked in the 300 hz roofing filter, it did help quite a bit. However, the 300 hz filter adds $175 to the total.

As of today (11/25/22), the FTDX10 is selling for $1349.95 and the IC-7300 is going for $1149.95 at HRO. Interestingly the list price for the FTDX is $1699 and the IC-7300 is $1399. I think that is what I paid for my Icom back in 2016 or 2017. The Icom is holding its value fairly well.

What to do?
I suggest that if you have an IC-7300, hang onto it. I’m keeping mine. I don’t think it’s worth the hassle to swap them out. If you are a new guy to HF radio, I still recommend the IC-7300. It’s easier to use. Read through my blog to understand why I feel that way. If you are a CW Op, you may benefit from some of the bells and whistles the FTDX offers. If you are a DX chaser, the FTDX may offer you a slight advantage. I will admit that I like the FTDX10 for CW operation. I also like the IC-7300. My affair with the FTDX10 is far from over, When I am in my camper, I like a full-sized radio. I will continue to bring both to the field (one at a time) for some time to come.

Below is a link to a YouTube video showcasing both radios during the CQWWDX CW contest.

Hints and Kinks for the New Camper

The Radio Flyer is an excellent camper for me. I love the compactness as well as the space utilization. One of my jobs in the U.S. Army was as a crew chief on a Blackhawk Helicopter. It has a similar vibe. the other thing I like about it, is I only lose 0.5 to 1.5 miles per gallon when I tow it.

The first weekend in it was great. I learned a lot about the camper and worked on how best to use the space. Winter is upon us so operating the radios outside may not always be doable. Years of abuse working in the trades have left me with arthritis in my hands, making CW difficult when it is cold. In my last post, I tried a couple of different ways to operate inside the camper. while none were perfect, I got a couple of good ideas. This is what I ended up with.

I can sit comfortably in that chair for hours and there is enough room for my legs. The table is 16″ wide and 3′ long. It can easily hold my laptop, CW key, and full-sized radio. Not shown, but on the right, just behind the chair are 2-120v outlets. If I need to get up, I slide the table over to the wall on the left. I believe I can also sleep with it there.

Construction was simple. I have about $50 invested, $30 was for the legs. The table-top was a project panel from Lowes that cost less than $11. Everything else I had on hand. I cut a radius on the corners and routed the edges for comfort. To secure the legs to the table I used some Tee-nuts left over from a prior project.

The panel is only 5/8″ thick. The tees are about 1/2″ tall so the recess was rather shallow. After I put them in, I secured them with JB Weld. Not pretty, but adequate for the job and good enough for proof of concept. If I decide to redo this, I would use a thicker board and a Forstner Bit for the recess. That would have upped the cost, more than I thought appropriate for a first go.

I did both ends as I have two legs. that way I can also set it up as a table proper. I sanded it a little, put on a coat of stain, and a spray-on polyurethane clear coat. Nothing fancy. To store the table when I am not using it I put it between the bed and the camper wall.

The other kink has to do with my microwave. It sits nicely on the shelf; however, during the first tow, I went over some fair-sized bumps, which launched the microwave onto the floor. The netting that came with the camper did not hold it well enough. My cure was simple, I did two things. First I turned the hook that holds the net around to where the hook faces the microwave. This should increase the holding power. The second thing I did was I bought some metal bookends and slipped them under the microwave and behind the hooks. The height of the bookends and the weight of the microwave should keep it on the shelf.

The next flight of the Radio Flyer will be in a couple of weeks. Hopefully, everything will work as advertised. 73 — Scott

The Maiden Voyage of the Radio Flyer

Radio Flyer Logo (PRNewsFoto/Radio Flyer, Inc.)

When I was young, it was a simpler time. All you needed was a pen knife, cap gun, your dog, and a Radio Flyer red wagon to put your stuff in. The world was your oyster and adventure was right around the corner. Even though I am much older now, and my horizons have expanded; adventure is still right around the corner. It was fitting that my new camper is also a Flyer. I thought it fitting to name my camper the Radio Flyer, big boy’s red wagon.

For my first adventure, I chose to go to the Stephen C. Foster State Park located within the Okefenokee Swamp. It’s about a 6-hour drive from my home QTH. Getting off of the interstate at Valdosta; it’s about a 45-mile drive down a highway that is largely uninhabited. For a man who likes his solitude, I felt alone. I pulled into Fargo, GA for gas, and then it was another 18 miles of desolation to the park. The first gate was entering the refuge. Then another lonely stretch to the park entrance.

The park was quiet with several different species of Owl providing commentary. The park never got noisy while I was there. I liked it. The campsite was rustic and nice. In short order I was set up and ready to go.

One of the things I like about the camper is its simplicity. The interior is open and spacious. there is enough room for me and my gear plus I can sit comfortably. The AC and heater work well. The galley is all I need. I added a microwave that fits on the storage shelf.

My intentions were to operate CW and FT8 while out. However, the propagation gods were not with me and band conditions were rather poor. Often only one or two of the bands were open and even then they suffered from heavy QSB or fading. You could see it on the WSJT waterfall. Now you see it, now you don’t. I tried CW a couple of times but to no avail, so FT8 it was. Here is a shot of my screen at 40 meters. Normally, it would be wall-to-wall signals at the time the image was taken.

I tried a couple of different radio configurations inside the camper and the one that had the most promise was this:

I set up at the rear of the camper facing sideways. I was using a lap desk, leftover from my last camper. I was sitting in a canoe chair and balancing the desk on my legs. Not the best setup, but it gave me some ideas for next time. I was much more comfortable in this camper operating.

Station Setup. The antenna was my 29′ random wire antenna and 17′ counterpoise. It is fed with a homemade 9:1 UnUn and a 1:1 current balun. Here’s what the outside looked like.

Coax is RG-316. The radio was my Yaesu FTDX10 with a Mat-30 antenna tuner. I will comment more about the radio in a separate paragraph.

How did I do? I was on the radio pretty steady from 1800 hrs lcl Friday night, unitl about 2200 hrs lcl Saturday night. I would have worked a little later on Saturday, but the bands made it a struggle. I came out okay. I made 353 contacts from 45 states and 11 countries. Band break down as follows: 10m – 5, 12m – 2, 15m – 4, 20m – 130, 30m – 48, 40m – 151, 80m -13, and 160m – 6. I should have had more contacts on all of the bands, but conditions were not that good. I think the only reason I got the 6 on 160m, is people were trying to find propagation — any propagation.

FTDX Woes. I continue to find things I do not like about this radio. I plan on keeping this radio for a while to really give it a shakedown. You really can’t give a radio a good review if you only use it for a short while. I am keeping my IC-7300. On this trip, the biggest niggle I had was the main dial lock. It also locks the MPVD (outer ring) dial. Why is this bad? To use the clarifier, you have to use the MPVD. I recently wrote about split operation and some of you asked why not use the clarifier. The answer is you can but. The Yaesu main dial is large, too large in my opinion, and it is easy to bump it off frequency. This is important if the other station is running split. if you bump the main dial, you no longer hear the other station. You may not notice right away if something is wrong and you can miss your opportunity. If you are the station being worked and you bump your transmit frequency, no one can hear you. With the IC-7300, you can lock the main dial and still operate the RIT/DeltaTX (clarifier) with the multi-function knob.
Woe #2. You cannot easily operate FT8 on 60 meters. Yaesu programmed the 10 channels into memory and to get it to operate on 60 meters, you have to jump through some hoops, more than you should for a modern radio. The Icom will run 60 meters right from the WSJT app.
Woe #3. Using the Mat-30 tuner, the FTDX10 refuses to tune my antenna on 17 meters. I have 3 other portable tuners that work just fine on 17 meters including my 15-year-old LDG Z-11 Pro.
I don’t know, Yaesu, just misses the mark. I still kind of like the Yaesu, there seems to be a lot of almost, but not quite there. The reality is, whatever I can work on the Yaesu, I can work on the Icom. The Yaesu has a more refined receiver, but the Icom has a lower noise floor. For now, I am keeping the Yaesu, and I will continue to take it to the field and use it. I want to have a good feel for it before I decide which one to keep. Like I said, you really can’t do a good review over a short period of time. I really want to give the radio a good workout on CW, which I think will be its niche, if only the propagation gods will favor me. If one of you has an in with Yaesu, send them the link to my blog.

Below is a link to the accompanying YouTube video.

The Times They are a-changing

This week I decided to trade in my new camper for a newer camper. I consider the now old camper as my training wheels camper. I used it for 8 months and it gave me the opportunity to really see what I liked and didn’t like about this camper and campers in general. Here is a list of things I didn’t like about this camper.
1) The AC drained into a tub. The AC unit was basically a window unit and the condensation water instead of draining to the ground, drained into a tub. You had to turn on another fan to help evaporate the water. If you go over a good-sized bump, the water would spill out onto the beds below. This was their Boondock model (off-roadish) so bumps were to be expected. My new camper has a Dometic RV AC unit mounted to the roof and no water issues.
2) The heater did not work. The old camper had a separate heater unit which never worked. I didn’t use it until this fall because it was too warm by the first time I took the camper out. I took it for a service and they had to order new circuit boards. The parts are on back order with no delivery date. The new camper has a heater strip in the AC unit and works fine. Note: Even though I felt the old camper was a quality build, the AC and heater units, were rather cheap and their installation was not well thought out.
3) The old camper was not comfortable when operating my radios inside. When it gets dark out, cold, or rainy, I like to bring the radios inside. There was no way to sit comfortably inside the camper. It was designed for laying down. I tried several different methods and none worked well. I had to live with a good bit of discomfort and pain. Sleeping in the camper was fine though. The new camper should allow me to put a small folding chair inside. I have used this chair before and can sit in it for hours.
4) I mainly used the radios outside under the awning because, well it was outdoors and it was more comfortable. I do a lot of camping by myself so the issue came up with what to do with my radios when I had to go to the comfort station. Leaving them out was not an option. I have seen cars driving through the campsites making the loop two or three times in a short period. You could tell they were not campers. So, when I had to go, I had to put up my radios and computer/iPad and then set them back up when I got back.
5) The cabinets in the bed area were useless. They were too shallow and too far away from the doors. I never used them.
6) The water system. I used it maybe three times. I felt it was not worth the effort and just something else to break. I usually brought a jug of water with me.
7) The Cooler/Fridge was hard to get to. It resided in a cubby hole which meant every time you wanted something from inside, you had to pull it out and balance it on the edge of the trailer. Just a hassle.
8) The spare tire was mounted underneath the camper. This reduced the ground clearance which was not good for a Boondock camper.

It was the sum of the issues including the lack of comfort and security that edged me toward looking elsewhere. So when I was down at the dealer’s checking on the parts for my heater, I decided to trade it in for a new camper, which I believe will alleviate some of the issues I had with the old one. Here is a glimpse of the new sheriff in town. I’m taking her out this weekend for a shakedown cruise. I will give a detailed review in the next post. I wanted to separate the bad from the good so to speak.