CQ TEST CQWW DX CW

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.

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.

Split Operation Up 2, Up 2

On HF radios operating split means you are transmitting on one frequency and receiving on another. This is beneficial when pileups become large and unruly. Often, hunters or people wanting to work a station (activator or DX) will step over themselves so much that the activator can no longer pick out call signs and the hunters are transmitting so much that no one can hear the activator. Running split keeps the activator’s transmit frequency clear and the activator can vary their receive frequency up and down a little to pick out individual calls.

When an activator decides to operate split they add something like “up 2” to their CQ or QRZ. What that means is they are transmitting on one frequency and receiving on another. Typically CW split is 2 kHz and SSB is 5 kHz. For example, if an activator is transmitting on 14.064 mHz and calls “up 2”, they are receiving on14.066 mHz. The activator can now vary his receive frequency a little to pick out call signs while all the hunters can listen to the one frequency the activator is transmitting on. The hunt is finding the frequency the activator is listening on. Smart activators will move up and down a little to reduce the pileup.

For activators, the split setup is a little different than for hunters. Activators may start out on simplex and then decide the pileup is more chaotic than they can handle. When an activator decides to split he is starting out with the transmit frequency. Hunters on the other hand start with the receive frequency which will be discussed later. For activators, I suggest the following for the FTDX10. Push the A/B button until VFO B is the same as VFO A. Press the split button and then use the Main tuning dial to set the receive frequency.

This will give you the “up 2”. The radio sets VFO B as the transmit frequency and VFO A as the receive frequency. This allows the main tuning dial to change the frequency of VFO A.

For hunters, it’s a little different. Hunters start out on the receive frequency. A hunter hears an activator on 14.064 calling for “2 up”. The easiest way is to dial in the receive frequency, touch the A/B button to equalize the VFOs, and then briefly press the Split button. Use the MPVD (outer) tuning ring to adjust the transmit frequency. Be careful not to hit or bump the main tuning dial. You can also use the Quick Split Option. To use it, set the receive frequency in VFO A and press and hold the Split Button. This will add (or subtract) the offset programmed in the radio. To change the offset, press the function button and go to the Operation Setting menu and then to the General Tab. Scroll down to the Quick Split Freq. Typical offsets are 2 kHz for CW and 5kHz for SSB. The offset can still be adjusted by the MPVD.

Now let’s talk about Icom and in this case the IC-7300. The Icom does not offer a built-in split offset like the Yaesu. As an activator, you start your activation on one frequency 14.064. When it is time to go to split operation.

Press and hold the Split button until VFO B equalizes with VFO A.

This sets up VFO B as the transmitting frequency. Turning the main tuning dial will change the frequency for VFO A, the receive frequency.

For hunters. Set the receive frequency 14.064 and then Push and hold the Split button until the VFO’s equalize. To set the transmit frequency (up 2) push and hold the XFC button under the Multi-Function Knob and using the main tuning dial, set the transmit Frequency. Every time you wish to alter the transmit frequency you have to push the XFC button.

Icom does have a Split Lock function which locks the receive frequency. To enable it, go to menu > Funtion > Split > Split Lock and turn it on.

While in Split Mode if you push and hold the Speech/Lock for one second, you will lock the main tuning dial so you cannot change the receive frequency. You can still alter the transmit frequency by pushing the XFC button and turning the main tuning dial. You will see a little key by the hertz numbers

That’s the basic how-to for split operation. It can be a little confusing. Shown here are the FTDX10 and the Icom IC-7300. Different models from each manufacturer should be similar. Which one is better, that depends. I think in general, when it comes to split operation, it’s a toss-up. I like things from both manufacturers. In general, I find the ergonomics of the IC-7300 better than the FTDX10 however, for split operation, the FTDX10 may be a little easier.

Quibbles and Bits

I was hoping to get the FTDX10 out in the wild this weekend; however, that did not happen. I thought I was going to get an Echolink Conference Room going but that didn’t work out either. The software they use to create the room is archaic with little or no knowledge base on how to start it up. I guess this sacred knowledge is handed down from father to son. I spent a good part of the weekend trying to figure it out. It’s probably a simple setting or something right in front of my nose. I was frustrated enough to start reaching for the Holy Hand Granade of Antioch.

Today I thought I would get the FTDX10 going on WinLink and FLDIGI. This was a little easier. I already used the FTDX10 with FT8 using the instruction found in the manual. To get things going on the radio, I did the following:
Go to RADIO SETTINGS and then MODE PSK/DATA
Set DATA MOD SOURCE to REAR
Set REAR SELECT to USB
Set RPTT to RTS
Go to OPERATION SETTING and then to GENERAL
Set CAT RATE to 38400
Set CAT RTS to ON
In Winlink
Select FT-991/A for the radio
Select USB DIGITAL
Select the proper COM PORT
RTS is CHECKED
BAUD is 38400
PTT PORT (OPTIONAL) SET TO FT-991/A
For FLDIGI
Use FTDX10 for the radio in FLRIG
Use DATA-U in FLDIGI
BAUD is 38400

Today’s FTDX10 quibble is the QMB or Quick Memory Bank. It’s clunky to use. Here Icom is clearly the winner. With my Icom’s which includes the 705, 7300, 7610, and 9700, the QMB, or as Icom calls it Memory Pad is one push to add a frequency to the memory. In addition, the Memory Pad is viewable and can be edited. Neither of these is available for the Yaesu. I use the Memory Pad on the Icoms a lot. Here is an image of the Memory Pad on my 7610.

I use this feature a lot. Yaesu, if you are listening…

Another quibble I have is the main tuning dial sticks out too far from the radio. The extra length turns it into a bump magnet. I think they could lob a 1/4 inch or so off of the dial, and it would still be very usable. I have had my Yaesu on my hobby workbench to set it up the way I like it. It puts the radio to my left side which means I use my left hand to work the controls. I am ambidextrous, with the radio on my left side it is a little easier to use. YMMV. When I take it out to the field, I am going to try it on my left side to see how it works. Generally, I have been enjoying the Yaesu. The crystal roofing filters really make the radio a delight.

Should you be selling your other radios to buy this one? Maybe, maybe not. I am keeping my IC-7300. I think it is a better EmComm radio than the FTDX10. Like others have said, the bells and whistles of the FTDX10 really benefit the CW crowd and really, only those ops who DX/Contest where there is a high density of signals. The Yaesu may also benefit POTA activators who put out enough signal to create large pile-ups or hunters trying to work the weak ones.

Look What Followed Me Home

Yesterday, I drove to HRO in Atlanta and picked up a Yaesu FTDX10. No, this does not replace my Icom IC-7300 which I still consider to be the best all around HF field radio out there. I bought the FTDX10 for a couple of reasons. It has been a while since I owned a Yaesu radio and I thought I would try this one out. I do tend to gravitate towards Icoms and will probably get to a couple of those reasons in this post.

Its purpose as a part of my stable of radios is going to be a field radio. Just like I have 2 QRP field radios, I now have 2 QRO field radios. This radio brings a few things to the table that the IC-7300 doesn’t and also has a few niggles absent in the Icom. In the field, I primarily operate CW and FT8. This radio has several features that enhance CW operation over the IC-7300 that are found on the IC-7610. I feel that I have an IC-7610 radio in an IC-7300 size (not totally true, but you get the idea).

Size wise, the FTDX10 and the IC-7300 are fairly close in size with the FTDX10 being about an inch wider.

The FTDX10 also weighs about 4 pounds more. Weight and size differences this small are insignificant when considering how I plan to use the radios. Mostly, it will be portable operations either operating out of my truck or my camper. I might have to lug the radios maybe 15 feet. I carry the IC-7300 in a Dewalt Tough System 2.0 medium box and plan to do the same with the Yaesu.

Setup – Display/Power. There are lots of options on the Yaesu. I would say that this is not a beginners radio. While the manual is pretty good, you still have to have some idea of what you are doing. One of the niggles I have is receive current. When I first turned on the radio, it was drawing over 2 amps in receive. The Icom only draws a little over 0.8 amps, less that half of the Yaesu. I changed the following settings to bring it down to 1.78 amps:
LED Dimmer 7
Dimmer 10
Color 5
Max HF RF Power 50 watts.
The last 2 didin’t help with the amp draw but they were set at the same time as the others. I normally don’t operate past 50 watts in the field.

Setup – SSB. I don’t plan on operating SSB in the field, but then again, you never know. I tried to setup SSB according to the manual and found I didn’t get the expected results. I had to fiddle with the settings in order to stay within the prescribed parameters. Here are the setting I used:
Mic Gain – 65
Processor Level – 71
AMC – 41
Of course MMMV. This was using the hand mic. I really like the hand mic with its controls. It has a mute button to mute the receiver as well as up/down buttons and 4 “P” buttons which perform the following:
P1 – Main Dial Lock
P2 – QMB Quick Memory Bnak
P3 – VFO A/VFO B
P4 – VFO/Memory
I may keep the microphone connected just for the convenience of the buttons. I did not set all of the parametric settings. That will be another endeavour.

Setup – CW. This is where the FTDX10 really shines. It has APF, Audio Peak Filter Zin/Spot (same as the 7610). A really nice feature is the high cut and low cut filters, which help to isolate the incoming desired signal. My initial CW settings are based upon 700 Hz sidetone:
Low Cut – 600
High Cut – 800
CW Out – 50
CW BK-IN – Full
Keyer Type – B
Ratio – 3.3
Like the Icoms, you can set the the keyer BK-IN to off, you can use the radio as a practice oscillator. One thing the FTDX10 has over the IC-7300 is it can decode CW. Often your ears are better filters, but I can see the decoder maybe helping with difficult callsigns or your brain is not firing on all cylinders that day.

Setup – FT8. Here I was surprised. My last Yaesu radio was a FTDX3000 and the computer interface was tedious at best. You had to make the radio use digital modes. It was one of the reasons I shied away from Yaesu. Icom has been doing this better since the IC-7100. However, Yaesu has learned. Now setting up for digital modes and computer logging is a breeze. Once you setup the software for FT8, on the radio you do the following:
Set Mode to USB and PRESET (both must be on or blue color)
Set Roofing Filter to 3K
That’s it. I made about 5 quick contacts on FT8 to include europe. I also set up ACLog to work with the Yaesu. Easy Peezy.

External Antenna Tuner. This has been another sore spot with me. Using an LDG tuner with an Icom is plug and play. One cable and I can tune using the radios tune button and the tuner is powered by the radio. The Yaesu on the other hand, has never been an easy fix. It seems that to use an external tuner, you had to do something extra or something different. When I bought the FTDX10, I bought an adapter cable for my LDG Z-11 Pro. It was still more fiddly than I liked.

What’s next? I am seting this up for field work. I ordered a Mat-30 antenna tuner for the radio which is supposed to work like the LDG tuner does for the Icom. Push the tuner button on the radio and it matches the antenna. I also ordred the 300 Hz filter and a pair of Portable Zero side rails. I don’t put my radios in Pelican type cases. Those cases take up too much space and in reality, the radios do not need that much protection. The side rails prevent the knobs and buttons from hitting the wall of Dewalt box while in transit and allow me to set the radio up on end which I seem to do alot while setting up and breaking down.

Where does the FTDX10 fit? I think this radio will get its most use when I am either camping with shore power or in a cabin. In general I try to go camping at least once a month where there is power available. The IC-7300 will get used in areas where I am operating under battery power. I have been an Emergency Communications Specialist for my church for 25 years and if I were to deploy to a disaster again, I would take the IC-7300. The FTDX10 is not a radio you can learn about over an hour or two. I will take a while to learn all the goodness it contains. On my POTA activations, you will still see both radios along with my QRP radios. Tnx for stopping by de Scott

My Field Radios

Taking a little break from activations and hunting, I thought I would showcase my field radios as it stands today. I recently culled the herd and this is what I ended up with. The power draw was measured using a Watts Up inline meter, something like this: https://tinyurl.com/yc6yfvsd. Not lab quality, but certainly enough for this article.

Most of my recent activations have either been camping with my little teardrop camper or in my truck for a day trip. The desire to trek to a destination is not as romantic as it used to be. Often my radio time is fitted in with my other responsibilities.

Before I go down my list of radios, I want mention that my modes of choice are CW and Digital with CW generally being my preferred mode. When band conditions are poor as they have been these past few months I use FT8. Some might say that FT8 is easy or point and click, but to be a successful FT8 operator does take some skill.

My first radio is my IC-7300. Because of band conditions these past few months, it was my radio of choice because it is a 100 watt radio. In the field, I normally operate in the 5-10 watt range, but when the bands are bad I am in the 25-35 watt (and sometimes more) range. I also want to note that over the past few months I was working on my N1CC award which is working 10 bands at 10 different parks. Most parks are a couple of hours drive away from me so I try to get my 10 bands over the course of a weekend. Because gas prices are elevated, returning to some parks may not be an option.

I’ve had this IC-7300 since 2017. It’s a great radio and a great field radio. I have 4 radios that share much of the same menu system so I do not have to relearn the radio everytime I take it out. The filtering is excellent. The noise floor is lower than many other radios by a factor of 4. I have worked stations were the meter is not moving indicating a less than S1 reading.

With Icoms, antenna tuner integration is a simple cable connection and will also power the tuner. The only mod to the radio is I added a set of Portable Zero 7300 Escort guards https://portablezero.com/icom706.html. The radio rides in a Dewalt Tough Sytem medium case with no additional padding https://tinyurl.com/2sw8u9ub. The guards protect the knobs from bumping into the sides of the case. They also make great handles. Power consumption for this radio at idle with nothing connected to it is 0.81 amps or 810 mAh. For a 100 watt radio, that’s pretty darn good. The paddle I use with this radio is a Begali Traveler Lite. I am a fan of Begali paddles.

The next radio is my current favorite QRP radio, the IC-705. This radio is brillant. Icom packed a bunch of goodness into a samll package with an idle amp draw of 220 mAh with the charger off and 360 mAh with the charger on. That’s right down there with many other QRP rigs.

My 705 travels with a 3D printed cover for the face inside a MTM Ammo Crate https://tinyurl.com/y4j6t4nu. These are great cases for small radios and their accessories. A nice feature for this radio is it and be linked/controlled via Bluetooth. I have run FT8 and logged on my iPad using an app called SDR Control https://roskosch.de/sdr-control/. Another brillant feature of the IC-705 is it can be recharged via USB. That means both my iPad and the IC-705 can use the same charger. Some complain that the IC-705 is too heavy. When you realize that you do not need an HT for VHF/UHF (plus you get 10 watts of power), no cabling needed to hook the radio up to a laptop and as a bonus can use an iPad, and, can be charged via USB, you may have an actual savings of weight. No, it doesn’t have a built-in tuner and that has never bothered me. I have the AH-705 tuner and it is amazing. I use it to tune random wire antennas and can tune them without a UnUn or Balun. I would say the AH-705 tuner is on par with an AH-4 or even an SG-237 albeit at lower power.

The paddles for the 705 are Begali Adventure Dual. Big performance in a small package. Like all Begali products, they must be tried to be appreciated. I also use the Begali stand for the 705, it does a good job preventing the paddle from moving without adding a lot of weight. The screwdriver is a Nite-ize KMT-11-R3 that I modified by narrowing the screwdriver blade. I also have the begali base so I can use the paddle with other radios.

The paddles are stored in a little 3D printed box which holds the paddles, the base and the screwdriver. To the left of the box is another steel base from American Morse Equipment. The Begali base is a little light but has magnets on the bottom to attach to the AME base. Together, they work perfectly.

Last but not least is my Lab599 TX-500. This is a great rig for many reasons. Lightweight, simple to use, weather resistant and draws less than 100 mAh idle. It includes a waterfall on the easy to read LCD display. The receiver specs are pretty decent and I have not had any issues using it. I normally pair it with Elecraft T-1 tuner and Bioenno 3Ah battery. For travel I use 3D printed covers.

The paddles I use for this radio are Larry’s N0SA SOTA paddles. These are great paddles but last I heard he is no longer making them.

What is nice about these paddles is they are easy to hold in the hand and can be mounted to a flight deck.

These are my current radios and the paddles I use with them. Is this list set in stone? Of course not, you never know what you might find just around the corner. However, I could be quite happy with these. They are all good perfromers that give me a lot of latitude when operating in the field. Now that my N1CC is complete, I can worry a little less about quantity and a little more about quality. Hope to hear you out there — 73 Scott.

ZN-Lite II Update

I’ve had these paddles for about a year now but I haven’t used them much. Here is a link to my original review: https://kk4z.com/2021/11/24/n3zn-zn-lite-ii/. The reason is rather complex. they are small but because of their design, they can’t be held in the hand like some other paddles. If you put them on a table with the included Lexan base, they are so light, you have to use both hands to operate them. To me, it was a conundrum. These are very well-built, precision paddles and as smooth as any well-made paddle out there. My original thought was to use them for POTA. I was a little discouraged with their functionality, and even offered to sell them at one point — but I didn’t.

Here lately, I have been pairing my paddles with my various radios. My Begali Signature with my IC-7610, Begali Traveler Light with my IC-7300, Begali Adventure with my IC-705, and my N0SA SOTA paddle with my TX-500. I have a Penntek TR-45L on order. It is a CW-only radio that has a nice retro look. I thought these paddles would be a great match for this radio. What I want for this radio is a set of paddles that can be operated with one hand. The TR-45L is a tabletop radio https://www.wa3rnc.com/store/penntek-tr-45l-qrp-transceiver. I envision its use at a park during a POTA activation. I decided what my ZN-Lite II paddles needed was a heavier base. I ordered from Amazon a 3″ diameter, 1/2″ thick piece of steel.

I drilled a hole to mount the paddle and 4 smaller holes to mount the rubber feet. The paddle hole is countersunk on the bottom so the screw head is below (or above) the surface of the base. That way it can be used without the feet.

The holes for the feet were drilled and tapped for 8-32 thread. I had to drill the hole all the way through because I didn’t have a bottom tap. Without a bottom tap, there would not have been enough threads in the hole if I didn’t drill all the way through. When I do these projects, I basically use hand tools and in this case, I used a cheap drill press I bought from Home Depot.

Here is a view of the base from the bottom.

Because the paddle mounting hole is offset from the center, I can mount the paddle two ways.

In the bottom picture, the base offers some protection for the paddles. Even though I can loosen the screw to move the paddles to where they face outboard, I found that I prefer the paddles facing inboard like the bottom picture. I feel it offers a little more stability. This mod allows me to use the paddles one-handed on most surfaces. The last step was painting. I put a coat of gray primer, followed by a coat of Nickel Metallic (Rustoleum), and finished off with a clear coat.

I didn’t go overboard with the painting. The main goal was to give the metal a little protection from corrosion. Basically one coat of each with a 15-30 minute wait time between coats. I chose the color because I thought it would complement the paddles. I think it did.

There you have it, a nice set of paddles ready for my next adventure. 73’s Scott

Paddle Mount for the IC-705

I kinda like the idea of being able to mount your paddle to your radio when operating portable. You can use the weight of the radio to help prevent the paddles from moving around and it frees your off hand for other tasks. We see examples of this with the Elecraft KX series of radios and there are some adapters for radios such as the Yaesu Ft-817/818.

I really like my IC-705. It is probably my best radio for POTA/potable operation. I think the only time I would leave it home is if weight became a problem or I needed to exercise one of my other radios. Recently, Begali came out with a mount to attach their Adventure paddle to the IC-705. It is a sweet set-up; however, the approx. $400 USD price tag got me looking for other alternatives. I have nothing against Begali, I own three of their paddles, and they are superb instruments. I think I wanted to tinker, and this gave me a good excuse.

For paddles, I have a set of Larry’s (N0SA) SOTA paddles. I love these paddles. When I go on an activation/Portable Operation, I bring these and my Begali Travelers. If I was going to do a SOTA activation, I would just bring Larry’s Paddles. Next was a trip to Tractor Supply Company (TSC) for a sheet of 16 ga. Steel. That set me back $16. I cut it to 3″ by 3 1/2″ using a cutoff wheel on my grinder.

I already have a stand I made out of 1″ x 1″ angle aluminum so I cut this to fit behind it.

The blue on the metal is Dykem Blue which is a layout fluid. In creating this project, I am only using hand tools. Power tools consisted of a grinder with a cut-off wheel. a hand drill, and my trusty Dremel tool. Here is a picture of me giving the mount a rough finish with a file.

My next step was to install the mount on the radio. I left the tail that will hold the paddles a little long to see where I wanted the paddles.

I am right handed so I mounted the paddle to the right of the radio. As a child, I broke my right wrist and lost a little range of movement so for me, I cannot use a paddle straight on. I found an angle of about 40 degrees to be about right. I also bent the mount down a bit to get the paddles close to level.

I turned one of the machine screw holes into a slot. That way I only have to remove one screw to install and remove the mount.

Next is a coat of primer, followed by a coat of flat black. I also added a clear coat to increase the durability of the finish.

Here is the finished product installed on the radio with the paddles.

The screws that hold the paddle to the mount are #4-40 x 1/4″. I am going to change the hex head bolts that hold the tilt stand/paddle mount to the radio with M4 x 10mm knurled head bolts so I can remove/install without tools. The mount itself weighs in at about 1 ounce.

This was a fun little project. The radio could move around on a smooth surface so something like a silicone mat would cure that, but on something like a wood picnic table it should be just fine. Except for the sheet metal this was built using whatever I had around the house. How does it play…

UPDATE

I got the final pieces in the mail. One thing I tried was to mount the paddles on the top of the mount. This also works very well and may even be better in some cases. The only button that the paddles get in the way of is the autotune button. It can still be reached fairly easily.

I also replaced the hex head bolts with knurled head bolts so I can install/uninstall the mount without tools. I got them in red, just in case I drop one. As you can see I only have to completely remove one bolt and loosen the other to remove the paddle mount. This allow the tilt stand to remain with the radio.

The bolts will tighten down with either one or both pieces; however, I only snug them down. That’s the completed project and overall I am pleased with the results. Next field trip is in a couple of weeks. 73 Scott

GA POTA Meetup and K-2171 Activation

This past Saturday (05-07) was the Georgia POTA Meetup. It was held at Don Carter State Park (K-2171). The park is about a 2 hour drive so I decided to take my new teardrop camper out on its inaugural run. I drove up on Friday. One of the reason for purchasing the camper was to extend my POTA activation range. The camper is made by NuCamp and so far I am pretty impressed with it. It pulls well behind my pickup truck and I only lose about 1/2 mile a gallon for gas. Set up was easy. Since I didn’t disconnect the trailer from the truck, I was set up and good to go in about 15 minutes. Here is a shot of the camper set up.

The camper next door told me some strong winds and possibly a storm were coming so I added some additional guying to the awning. There were no problems.

Friday was a rather chilly day and because of the winds I did not set out my folding chairs and table until Saturday. I brought two radios and a couple of antennas with me. Traveling QRP doesn’t take up a lot of space even if you bring a couple of each. I wasn’t sure I was going to make enough contacts on Friday since I started late but I gave it a go anyhow. The first radio up was my Xeigu X6100 and I hooked it up to Chameleon Micro on a spike with a Buddipole 12 foot fiberglass antenna and two aluminum extensions. I also ran a counterpoise. I was only able to make 5 contacts Friday evening, furthest being Colorado. Band conditions were not that good from this location. The Reverse Beacon Network (RBN) didn’t even pick me up. I did start outside.

I worked this way for a little while until the temperature dropped and I started seeing chiggers on the table. I move the operation inside. I wanted to see how well I could operate from inside the camper.

The answer was quite well. I bought a lap desk for this purpose and I was quite comfortable. For logging, I used the Hamrs App on my phone. This was the first time I did logging solely from my phone. Band conditions were still not very good, so I spent most of the time hunting P2P. It was fun, doing a search and pounce while operating CW QRPish (10 watts).

How does the X6100 play? First let me describe the environment. I was in a a RV camping area that was mostly full. There were a lot of big trailers loaded with all sorts of electronic devices, switching power supplies, and whatnot. I was also down in an RF “hole”. The X6100 is fun to use and the display is top notch. Most of the controls are fairly intuitive. I had no problems operating CW and did use the memories. It does have its nits. As others have said, the receiver does overload rather easily, and while I can still work stations, I felt I may have missed some because of the added noise. Along with that, the audio is also rather harsh. While at a park, I often wear ear buds to be respectful of my neighbors. The audio can become tiresome. Adjusting the RF Gain helps. The last real nit was the Digital Noise Reduction. It needs work. Turning it on even at the lowest setting is way too much. Hopefully they will fix this in future firmware updates. The digital filters on the other hand are very good, almost on par with Icom. I did run the radio with a Bioenno 3AH battery so I could have 10 watts. There is a lot to like about this radio. You get a lot of goodness for the money, and Xeigu so far has been good about updating the firmware. When I use this radio again, it will be in quieter RF environments. such as, less popular parks, National Forests, Wildlife management Area, and SOTA. It really is a fun radio to use.

Saturday morning, I walked over to the GA POTA meeting up. It was about a mile and gave me the opportunity to get a little exercise in. There were about about 20 or so people there and they had a couple of stations set up. They also had the special event callsign W4P. It was good to meet fellow POTA operators and have a chance to chat with them. They served hamburgers and hotdogs along with chips, soda and condiments. After a few hours of chatting and a couple of hamburgers, I decided to head back to the camper and see if I could complete my activation for the day.

When I got back I broke out the X6100 again and used it for a while. Not having a lot of luck, I switched over to my IC-705. Yes it is a much better radio and it is more refined, and it does cost twice as much. The X6100 is an excellent value at its price point. I set the 705 up with the AH-705 tuner. I really like the AH-705, as is very versatile, much like its big brother, the AH-4.

One nice thing about the Icom, is it works just like my other Icom radios. Easy to remember. The paddles du jour are my N0SA SOTA paddles. They are one of my favorites. With the better receiver and audio on the Icom, I made a few more contacts, but still not what I was expecting. QRP antennas can be light and small so it is nothing to bring a few along. I decided to swap out antennas. I took down my Chameleon/Buddipole antenna and put up my K4SWL 28 foot vertical with counterpoise. It is a homebrew antenna, but I got the idea from Thomas Witherspoon K4SWL. After putting this antenna up, I continued to slowly add contacts to my log. My method was simple. If I could hear them fairly well, I figured they could hear me, so I tried to work them. There were plenty of stations on the POTA spot page that I did not hear at all. By the end of the day, got enough contacts for an activation on Saturday. Here is a map:

Wrapping up and lessons learned. First, I had a lot of fun both at the meetup and at the campsite. I enjoyed taking up my camper for its first go. Everything worked except for the heater. I may have to bring it back to the dealer, but I had plenty of blankets. I am already planning a trip for next month.

Radios. If I am going to do a drive up POTA activation, my first choice will be the IC-705/AH-705. I like the X6100, its fun to use, and I imagine as time goes on it will get better. The X6100 will do well in quieter RF environments. I haven’t given up on it yet as I think there is still a lot of potential there.

Antennas. I had a surprise here. When weight is not a problem, I bring my my Frankentenna which is a mixture of Chameleon and Buddipole parts. On Saturday, when I switched from my Frankentenna to my K4SWL Random Wire antenna, it was on par and maybe even a little better than the former. The idea of carrying less on an activation has endeared itself to me. I can fit everything I need in a small 8 Liter Bucket Boss Bag https://tinyurl.com/3mwbk95r.

The important part is to get out and have fun. So pack those radios up, 10 watts or 100 watts SSB or CW, drive or walk, around the corner or around the world. I hope to work you and if I have, thanks for the contact. de KK4Z