POTA Activation K-3726 Kolomoki Mounds State Park

This past weekend, I got the opportunity to visit Kolomoki Mounds State Park in SW Georgia. It’s about 180 miles away and I can get there and back on one tank of gas. I like this park, it is a little out of the way and it is nice and quiet. Cell service/Internet is almost non-existent. What not to like, right!. This time I got a drive-thru campsite that was well-shaded.

Because of the trees, I had to mount my antenna to the truck instead of the camper. However, the shaded provided kept the camper cool and I only had to use the A/C intermittently. This was the first time I had to use the A/C and it will quickly freeze you out if turned up too high.

The setup was pretty normal, I used my K4SWL antenna which is a 28′ random wire with a 17′ counterpoise. It has a homemade 9:1 UnUn and a 1:1 current balun. The tuner is an LDG RT-100. I love this antenna. It is easy to put up and take down, and it performs very well. I include the stats a little later.

Inside everything is pretty much the same except this time the radio is my new Yaesu FT-710. This will be its first real workout. I plan on using FT8 with a little CW if the bands’ permit. As it turns out, the bands were not in that good of shape. I ended up running the FT-710 at 45 watts. On Saturday a G2 magnetic storm hit and wiped out the bands. Saturday during the day was rather slow. Here is a look at 20 and 30 meters. Normally the whole waterfall from east to west is orange.

The radio got a good workout. I went QRV on Friday at 1400 hrs eastern and ran until 0200 hrs eastern Saturday morning, then again at 0730 hrs Saturday morning until about 2330 hrs eastern Saturday night. Operation was a pretty steady diet of FT-8 at 45 watts. The FT710 didn’t even get warm. It’s one of the reasons I like to bring a big radio — I can run them pretty hard without them skipping a beat.

First impression of the FT-710? I like it. I feel it compares favorably with the IC-7300. Each one has its pluses and minuses but in the end, either one will work for my intended uses for them. What are my intended uses? These radios are my field radios. I use them mainly when I am doing outdoor/portable activities such as camping or public service. I look at amateur radio from two different perspectives. First, is amateur radio for fun doing things like POTA, SOTA, or the like as well as some public service events like bike rides, parades, etc. My second perspective is from Emergency Communications. I am quite involved with EmComm at the local/state/region/national level and participate regularly in training events as well as provide training. I have in the past deployed to several disasters as an EmComm Specialist. So, when I look at radios, it is from the point of view of whether can I use them for both of my endeavors. Radios like the FT-710 or the IC-7300 fill that bill nicely. EmComm is one of the reasons I like POTA and camping, It gives me a fun way to practice my craft and ensure my equipment is in good working order. The only way to get to know your gear is to get out and use it.

How’d I do? Not too bad, over the weekend I made 571 FT-8 contacts 46 States, and 19 countries. My best operating times were at night after the earth turned my location away from the sun. You can see that in the map below where I don’t have any contacts from the Pacific which were still sunlit. I had intended to operate a little QRP CW, but the propagation gods had different plans. I was glad to have a big radio with more power. Every time I go out, I learn something new, either about my gear or about myself. Each trip is a nice weekend in a park but also a training exercise to prepare me to deploy if need be.

Here is a video of the activation.

POTA Activation K-1037 Cheaha State Park

Yesterday (04/29/23), I was able to get away and do a day POTA activation. It’s a little harder for me as the nearest POTA parks are 45-60 minutes distant and none are in my normal paths of travel. Cheaha State Park in Alabama is one of the closest and I consider it my home park. Being the highest point in Alabama, it does have some spectacular views. I often set up just below the summit to get away from all the communications towers there.

Normally for a day activation, I bring one of my smaller low-power radios such as my IC-705. However, I recently added the FT-710 to the stable and I wanted to get it outdoors. Along with the radio, I built a new antenna configuration using my Frankentenna and a desk for the truck. Info about the antenna can be found here https://kk4z.com/2023/04/07/frankentenna-stealth-mode/ and the desk info can be found here https://kk4z.com/2023/04/07/necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention/ The setup looks like this:

As you can see the battery fits nicely under the seat. For this activation, I ran FT-8. I wanted to give the FT-710 a good workout similar to the workouts I give the IC-7300. Next weekend will be the FT-710’s first camping trip and that will also be FT-8. Working from inside the truck, all screens were easy to read. I had plenty of room for the radios, computer, etc.

Running the GPS for time sync and running FT-8 on the computer gave me about 2 hours of operating time. I do have batteries to extend the computer operating time but my time at the park was limited. During that time I made 64 contacts from 23 states and Canada. I usually get a couple from Europe, but band conditions were so-so and Europe didn’t happen. Here is a QSO map of teh activation.

Since this was a new antenna configuration, I included a PSKReporter map. As you can see the antenna did fairly well.

How about the FT-710? It is a likable radio. I feel it is on par with eh IC-7300. They both exhibit many of the same qualities. I would have no qualms about taking either to the field. In the next couple of months, the FT-710 will be used more to firm up what I like and dislike about it. Right now, I feel it is a keeper but, if I had to choose between the FT-710 and the IC-7300; in other words, if I could only have one, it would be the IC-7300. That would be more for personal preference rather than performance. Some of my preferences I have outlined in prior videos. As I said, if you are a Yaesu man or woman, get the FT-710. If you are an Icom man or woman, get the IC-7300. I don’t think you can go wrong with either one.

Here is a short video of the activation. 73 — Scott

A Foot in Both Camps

I like to keep a foot in both camps. The Icom and Yaesu Camps. When you blog or YouTube and voice an opinion, You should be as straightforward as possible. It’s hard to be objective when you use one radio (or brand) for years, and the other for a couple of weeks. On many levels, it does no one justice. That’s where I found myself a while back.

To be fair, I have used radios from both brands over the years. From the Yaesu camp, I had an FT-817, FT-950, and FTDX3000. From Icom I had an IC-706MKIIG, IC-7000, and IC-746 Pro. Over the last 7 years until now, I have an IC-7300 and an IC-7610. I found myself making comments about the FTDX10 while not actually having one. I decided right then, that to be fair, I needed to own one and not just for a couple of weeks. In October of last year, I bought my FTDX10 and put it to work. First as a field radio and then as a home shack radio. I make sure it gets regular exercise along with my IC-7610. I recently purchased a Yaesu FT-710. I want to try it as a field radio. My initial impressions are pretty good but time will tell. Over the next couple of months, I will be taking it to the field as my primary radio.

How do they stack up? In my opinion, the FT-710 competes and compares with the IC-7300. I would go so far as to say that they are fairly even in actual use. In other words, if you are married to the Yaesu system, then get the FT-710, if you are married to the Icom system, get the IC-7300.

While it is not fair to compare the IC-7300 with the FTDX10, it is also not fair to compare the FTDX10 with the IC-7610. Me, I use the IC-7610 for all my heavy lifting. It is my main shack radio. The FTDX10 I like to use for causal CW and for things like POTA. Each has its pluses and minuses. A while back, I did a comparison between the FTDX10 and the IC-7300, during the CQWW CW contest. Using the same antenna, every signal I heard with the FTDX10, I heard with the IC-7300.

Where does everybody fit in? Like I said earlier, I feel the FT-710 and the IC-7300 are rather comparable. Time will tell as I get more acquainted with the FT-710. The FTDX10, in my opinion, is better than the IC-7300 but not as good as the IC-7610 when looking at the whole picture. The IC-7610 is probably more in line with the FTDX101D.

So far, I like all 4 radios. I don’t plan on selling any of them soon. I like that I can speak from experience when talking about the differences or similarities of the radios. Over the next couple of months, the FT-710 is going to get a workout. I will probably have two trips in May and one trip in June and I plan on using it for Field Day.

After a day with the FT-710

I gave the 710 a bit of a workout yesterday. Mainly ran CW and FT8. I did find some differences between it and the 7300. To some, the differences may be small, but to others, not so small. My initial ranking putting the 710 behind the 7300 still stands. The 7300 is a bit easier to use and for all practical purposes, they hear about the same.

Using FT8, the 710 would sometimes do funny things to WSJT-X software. It would change the mode to FT4 when I changed bands. Also when changing bands, the software would lag behind the radio before it would change. It may be a polling issue. I do have the latest revision of the software.

Below is a video of some of the differences I found between using the 710 and 7300. You will have to excuse the gaffs, sometimes it gets a little confusing when switching between two different manufacturers. I don’t edit the videos, this is me doing the things I do. I got the 710 packed up and ready to go on my next adventure. This will be the first field test of the radio.

Happy Birthday to me and FT-710 Day 2

For my birthday, my wife bought me a JackTite 31′ pushup pole. I’ve had my Mfj-1910 pole for about 15 years and bought it used for $25. On my last outing, the joints were starting to slip. This time I went with JackTite. It’s a 31′ pole instead of a 33′ but it has a sturdier tip.

The MFJ is above and the JackTite is below. Overall they are about the same size.

The only mod I did was add some Gorilla Tape where the pole rubbed against my trailer hitch flagpole holder. Hoisting up a 12ga insulated antenna wire the tip does have a little sag but not near as much as the MFJ.

I normally tape the wire to the pole at the top three sections using a little electrical tape. 3M Super 88 is my go-to. The joints are tight and secure and the JackTite has a sturdier construction than the MFJ. I will take it out on my next camping trip. I’ll keep the MFJ as a spare.

Update on the FT-710. Yesterday, I spent the day setting up the radio. I’m not much of a tweaker once I get things set up, I get on the radio to operate and make contacts. If you look at military or commercial HF rigs, there is very little to tweak. I think I am close to where I like it. One very frustrating issue was getting the radio to operate FT8. I got everything to work except the audio on transmit. The software would key the radio, but no sound. I turned on the monitor and could hear it through the speakers, but the radio would not transmit it. so zero watts out. I worked on this for a couple of hours. Finally, I checked to see if there was a firmware update and there was. Duh, I know! The update fixed the issue, but really! The radio should have never left the factory like that. With the popularity of digital modes, that should have been a priority. Come on Yaesu!

On a good note, my first contact on FT8 was Turkey. First (or second) impressions. My intended use for this radio is a field radio and as such, it will work fine. My other radio is my trusted IC-7300. I’ve had the Icom for 7 years now and know it quite well. My field box is set up in such a way that to swap the radios out for a trip, all I have to do is swap the radio and the microphone and I am good to go. I pretty much bring the same things every time I go out. I am involved in EmComm and it pays to know your gear.

Where does the FT-710 fit in? I always thought that comparing the IC-7300 to the FTDX10 was unfair, but a lot of people did, and that should tell you how people think about the radio. I don’t think anybody will be comparing the FT-710 to the IC-7610. Today, I would place the FT-710 slightly behind the IC-7300. They are both good radios and if you are married to one manufacturer, then by all means stick with that brand. I have 2 Icoms and now I have 2 Yaesu’s, The FT-710 and IC-7300 will be my field radios. Currently, I do not have any intention of selling either one. Like the FTDX10, the FT-710 will be a long-term review. I wouldn’t worry about the Rob Sherwood numbers too much; it would be rare that the FT-710 would need that kind of filtering horsepower. The IC-7300 will hear everything the FT-710 will hear. I am looking forward to bringing the FT-710 on my next trip. 73 — Scott

A New Kid in Town

When I started doing portable operations like POTA, my intention was to do a lot of day activations, so I started collecting small QRP radios. Fortune befell me, and I was able to acquire a small camper that allows me to go camping for a weekend about once a month. My paradigm shifted and I found that when I go camping, I usually bring a bigger radio such as my IC-7300. It makes sense since I don’t have to pack it anywhere. I still do the occasional day activity, but those are far fewer than I originally planned. I decided to sell a couple of my QRP radios namely mt TX-500 and my TR-45L. Thanks to Thomas K4SWL, I sold the TX-500 in about 2 minutes. The TR-45L is still for sale, but I may hang onto it as it is a fun radio. My other QRP radio is an IC-705.

I just finished a long-term review of the FTDX10. My reviews are a little different, I do them from the perspective of operating from the field. Besides POTA, I am a regional coordinator for EmComm with my church. I like doing long-term reviews as I get a good feel for the radio and through a good bit of use, it brings out the good and the bad. Shortly after selling my TX-500, I decided I wanted another “big” radio for the field. I tried the FTDX10 but found it was a better shack radio than a field radio. This time I went with the Yaesu FT-710. I almost bought another IC-7300, but after playing around with the FT-710 at HRO Atlanta, I thought I would give it a whirl. I primarily operate CW and Digital with a little SSB thrown for nets. I operate what I call QROp or low power (20-35 watts. Starting today, it will mostly be the Yaesu I bring to the field.

It has been said that Yaesu’s are a thinking man’s radio. In other words, there are many, many things you can tinker and play with on the radio. You will not be seeing much of that here. Once I set up a radio,I make very few changes to it. I’m on the radio to operate and not think about it.

Today, I am home getting the radio its initial setup. Here are some of my first-day thoughts. My comparison will be with the IC-7300 which is a direct competitor to the 710.

They are pretty close in size with the 7300 a little taller.

**Noise Floor** The 710 has a noise floor of -126 dBm and the 7300’s noise floor is -133 dBm (Rob Sherwood).  The lower the number the better it hears and in this case by a factor of 8. I Icom hears better.  To use wide-open SDR radios like the 7300 and the 710, the attenuator and RF are your friends.
**External Tuner** I don’t know why Yaesu makes it so hard to use a tuner.  I have an old LDG Z-11 Pro that I have had for at least 15 years, it works with every Icom radio out there.  I tried a Mat-30 tuner and it has issues that I don’t care for.  You can see my comments on one of my FTDX10 reviews.  There is a workaround.  Change the mode to AM and key the mike.  The carrier is enough to let the tuner do its job.  The Icom has a separate transmit button, but I have to hook the mic up to the Yaesu to make it work  (I normally don’t hook the mic up in the field with the Icom.
**Ergonomics** I’m going to call it a draw. Most functions that I use regularly seem to take about the same amount of button/screen presses. Both screens are the same size. The one exception is filtering.  The Icom has a dedicated knob and ring to adjust the filter passband.  The Yaesu uses a knob and then you have to go through a menu system. I also prefer the RIT/XMIT on the Icom over the Clarifier on the Yaesu. The Icom has separate buttons for each function and uses a different knob than the main tuning dial to adjust it. Handiness. The 710’s controls favor a right-hander. 
**QMB/MemoPad** Same thing, different brand.  Icom wins here because the MemoPad can be viewed and edited.  I use this function quite a bit.  I can delete one channel or all at once.
**Filtering** On paper the Yaesu wins, in use, it’s pretty much a draw.  The Icom’s filter controls allow for more adjustment and are quicker to use.  You also have more flexibility in setting your default filters.  If you look at my FTDX10/IC-7300 comparison during a contest, everything I could hear with the FTDX10, I could hear with the 7300.
**Split** I don’t use this a whole lot, but I find the Yaesu more intuitive.
**VMI** VFO Mode Indicator.  Yaesu loves their acronyms.  I actually kind of like this. It gives a great visual on the status of the VFOs.  Operating in the field often has a lot of distractions. Being able to see those bars on each side of the Main Tuning Dial is an asset. 
**Auto CW** The 710 allows you to send CW while in SSB mode without having to change over to CW.  One of the nets I check into allows for CW check-ins during the SSB net.  With the 7300 I have to either set up a separate memory channel or use the Memopad because I have to offset the CW frequency by about 600 Hz so they can hear me.  Good job Yaesu.
**AESS** I like the idea of a forward facing speaker and in the shack it seems to work really well.  However, in the field, I tend to wear headphones. Most campers, camp to get away from noise.  
**Power Consumption** It’s a wash with a slight edge going to the 7300. One amp vs. 0.85 for the 7300.

Overall, I like the radio.  Nothing in the above is really a deal breaker.  I am going to spend today, setting up the radio and getting it ready for the field.  I will operate from the shack this weekend for the Support Your Parks on the Air Weekend.  One last little niggle.  Portable Zero has not made rails yet for the 710 and RT Systems has not made software. The software makes programming frequencies into memory easy and having rails protects all the things that stick out. I am sure in the near future we will see them.

Georgia Parks on the Air at FD Roosevelt SP K-2173

Friday evening, Mary K4SEZ and I traveled to FD Roosevelt State Park for a weekend in a very nice cabin. The cabin is located on Pine Mountain with some exceptional views. As you can guess, I brought some radios with me. I went QRV right before 1800 hrs. local to make sure all my equipment worked prior to the contest. Besides, the contest I had a regional HF net that I needed to check into Saturday morning. The contest starts at 0800 hrs local Saturday and the net was also at 0800 and lasted about 20 minutes.

Friday night was amazing! Twenty and forty meters was wide open. Using FT8, I made 223 contacts between 1800 hrs Friday and 0300 hrs Saturday morning. I worked stations as far west as Japan and Australia and as far east as Rwanda, Ukraine, and European Russia. Unfortunately, the rest of the weekend was not near as exciting. Between 0800 hrs Saturday morning and 1230 hrs Sunday, I made an additional 477 contacts. The bands were up and down and the pace was a little slower. I worked 48 States and 34 countries when it was all said and done. Sunday morning had an opening on 10 meters and I made 19 contacts many into Europe. In total, I had 700 contacts.

My antenna was my tried and true homebrew 28.5-foot random wire antenna which I named my K4SWL antenna as the original idea from Tom.  It uses one 17-foot counterpoise.  On this trip, the wire I used was 14 ga (I think), coated Flexweave I got from The Wireman many years ago.  I was using some 20-something gauge I got from SOTABeams but because I use this antenna a lot, I worried about the thin wire breaking.  I use a 9:1 UnUn with a 1:1 current BalUn to help with matching.  The antenna is matched by an LDG RT/RC 100 matching unit.  This is fairly new to and so far I like it. The tuning circuit out by the antenna helps keep stray RF out of the shack. It was also quite windy here Friday night and Saturday.  The antenna held up well.  The only issues I had were some of the sections on my MFJ push-up pole would collapse affecting the tuning.  This pole is probably nearly 20 years old and should be replaced.

The radio was “The Rock” my IC-7300. I ran FT8 the whole time at 35-45 watts and the temperature gauge on the radio never moved past cool. Now that the FTDX10 has found a home in the shack, it’s nice to have my old friend back in the field with me.

The cabin is located on the ridge line of Pine Mountain, elevation ~1250′ ASL. Besides great views, it also gave my antenna a large aperture which may account for the many DX contacts I made.

I mainly worked FT8 as I also had to listen to a couple of conferences on the Internet and didn’t want to disturb my wife when she was doing things other than radio. We had a nice weekend away and of course, being able to bring radios is a huge bonus. When I get back home and settled, I may send the log to the GA POTA people. I don’t really contest anymore but they might find it useful for cross-checking.

Here is a YouTube Video of the activation.

Where’s Sheldon?

Sheldon is the name I gave my FTDX10. Like Sheldon Cooper from the comedy series “Big Bang Theory”, the radio is smart but at times awkward. I bought the radio back in October 2022 to compare it with the the IC-7300 as a field radio. I used the radio at home and in the field for the past 6 months. It gave me a pretty good opportunity to put it through its paces and here are some conclusions about my overall feelings for the radio.

I wish to start by saying, I do kind of like the radio. Even though there are a lot of things I don’t like about the radio, at the end of the day, well, I kind of like it. When evaluating the radio, at times I felt like I was trying to pound a square peg in a round hole. Once I realized that, I felt I was being unfair to the radio so, in the next couple of paragraphs, I will try to right a wrong.

What the radio is not. The radio is not a field radio. It draws too much power, it is awkward to use, it is too heavy and a little too big. The ergonomics leave a little bit to be desired. My QRO field radio remains the IC-7300 and it is still the radio I recommend to people just getting started in amateur radio. After 6 months, the FTDX10 will go to the field no more.

What the radio is. I recently redid my radio desk and decided to fit the FTDX10 in the mix. At home, it is a different radio. I have it set to the left side of my desk and that improved the ergonomics. I guess I am saying that the FTDX10 is a left handed radio. I am using it as a backup radio for my IC-7610. However, I find myself drawn to it when operating CW. I have the 300 Hz roofing filter installed and on CW, it is a joy to use. One of the things I didn’t like was the Mat-30 tuner I bought for it. At home, I have a 270′ OCF dipole that tunes rather easily, so I use the radio’s internal tuner. I’ve never had much luck using external tuners with Yaesu radios, in this instance, Icoms are so much better.

Conclusion. I had originally thought I was going to sell the FTDX10. But since putting it in its proper place, in the home shack, on the left side, I believe I am going to keep it. I really enjoy using it for CW and It does make a great backup radio. I do not have it hooked up to the amplifier, so it is a 100 watt radio. The Sheldon experiment was a success. It showed some of the radio’s shortcomings, but it also showed its strong points. 73’s Scott

Why I’m keeping my IC-7300

I know there’s been a lot of hoopla over the new Yaesu Radios. I am sure they are fine radios and do a great job. These will be fine radios for those invested in the Yaesu environment.

I have owned Yaesus in the past, the last being the FTDX-3000. However, I always seem to gravitate back to Icom. I am not necessarily an Icom fan boy, just that currently, Icom suits me better.

I was tempted to buy the new FT-710. I looked at it long and hard. I schemed about how I was going to buy one. Part of my justification was looking at the specs where I discovered something…

The IC-7300 hears better. The noise floor for the IC-7300 is -133 dBm vs -127 dBm for the FT-710. Rob Sherwood defines noise floor as “Noise floor measures how weak a signal one can hear.” I can work signals on my IC-7300 and IC-7610 with an S0 (zero) on the meter. I’m working a station and the meter is not moving when receiving.

I hear comments about the FT-710 being quieter. It could be possible that Yaesu has a 6 dBm high pass filter creating an artificial noise floor above the actual one? This is just my opinion based on what I see in the specs. That may be why the Icom hears better and the Yaesu is quieter. Ah, but the FT-710 has better close in dynamic range. This is true. The FT-710 has about a 10 db better close in dynamic range then the IC-7300. The question becomes, do you really need it? From Rob Sherwood “What do you need in the way of close-in dynamic range? You want a number of at least 70 dB for SSB, and at least 80 dB for CW. A 10 dB safety factor would be nice, so that means you would prefer 80 dB for SSB and 90 dB for CW.” Unless you’re a hard core contester or chasing DX, the answer might be maybe not. Rob Sherwood put an IC-7300 through its paces during an ARRL 160 meter CW contest. His comment was “I have zero complaints about using it in a CW contest.” This contest would be a good test for any receiver. Like Rob I have no issues with my Icom the way I use it.

Am I telling you not to get a FT-710? Of course not. It’s a fine radio in its own right. Like I said, I was tempted. But, if you already own an IC-7300, the extra expense of buying a FT-710 and/or selling your IC-7300 may not be worth the effort. I’ve owned my IC-7300 since 2017 and can make it dance and sing. I would have to relearn the Yaesu menu architecture and it may take me a while to get the same results as the Icom. I have 4 Icoms with the same/simular menu system so for me it’s a no brainer to keep the Icom. I believe either radio is well suited for the task it was designed to do. I am not really saying the Icom is better than the Yaesu, what I am saying is that the Icom is better suited to me. YMMV. 73 Scott.