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

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

POTA Activation K-3756 JL Lester WMA

I had a doctors appointment in the morning so that kind of scrambled my day. I decided to attempt a quick activation using my new IC-705 with the AH-705. Today was the best day to do it because we are supposed to get some real winter weather starting tomorrow. I’m not opposed to winter weather, I do not like driving around with a bunch of folks who are. And yes, true to southern tradition, people are at the stores buying milk, bread, and eggs. Can never to too sure.

The J. L. Lester Wildlife Management Area is located in Polk County, GA near Cedartown. It is 477 acres with hunting and fishing opportunities. Even though I wasn’t hunting or fishing, I am required to have either a hunting or fishing license, or a land pass. The land pass is $30 and the hunting or fishing license is $15 per year. I became a fisherman. I parked in a parking area near the eastern boundary. I was nice and quiet.

The setup was simple, the IC-705 running off of its own battery, N0SA paddles, AH-705 tuner and a Spark Plug EFHW with 65 feet of Buddipole antenna wire. The coax is RG-316. This is the first time I used the Spark Plug antenna. I hoisted the antenna wire about 20 feet up into a tree, and tied the Spark Plug off near my truck.

Here is the complete antenna set-up.

The setup in the truck was pretty simple. I used my center console desk and logged with paper. During the activation the AH-705 was on the passenger seat. Using the desk with the radio on it made it a little tipsy so for the photo, the AH-705 was a counter-balance. I will remedy this next time with a bungee cord. I had the earphones out; however, the IC-705 had enough volume for these not so good ears so the earphones were not needed.

I also discovered that I didn’t need the clock as the time on the IC-705 was easy to see.

How did everything play? Quite well actually, the AH-705 tuned the EFHW for the first time in less than 2 seconds. I was impressed. The AH-705 is more like a miniature AH-4. I have an AH-4 and it is a very capable tuner. I am looking forward to see how well the AH-705 compares to the AH-4.

One of the reasons I brought the IC-705 was for the keyer memories. I use keyer memories quite a bit. Using memories eases the QSO workflow. I started on 40 meters hoping to get 10 activations and if not maybe move to another band. However, I had a nice pileup going on for about 35-45 minutes and ended up with 21 QSO’s. As suddenly as it started, it stopped. I called CQ twice with no answer and then pulled the plug. the antenna and 5 watts were more than ample. Here is a map of the contacts.

Packing up was a breeze, all my Icom stuff fits into one case. The only things that are not included is the antenna and coax.

All in all it was a great activation. It lasted just long enough and no one was left behind. I can see where the the IC-705 is moving up the ranks as my POTA radio of choice. Because I am very familiar with the Icom architecture, using it is almost second nature.

As I was packing up Marty K4JMG stopped by to say hello before he started his activation at the same place. We chatted a while and swapped a few tales. Marty and I belong to the same ham radio club. It is always good to see him.

Thanks to all those who hunted me, I enjoyed the QSO’s. See you down the log.


Larry Naumann N0SA builds keys and paddles as a hobby. He recently released a new design in a small quantity and I was lucky enough to get one. Larry is a CW guy and also likes to build paddles and keys. His new one is called the SOTA paddle and is designed for POTA/SOTA.

As you can see, it is a rather small paddle weighing 2 oz. including the cable. This is an amazing paddle with exceptional fit and finish. All corners are rounded and all edges deburred. The metal appears to be passivated which should provide a long lasting, corrosion resistant finish. Paddle tension is magnetic and Larry uses good sized magnets. You can tell they are there. The action is on par with other more expensive paddles. The action can be adjusted with the included hex key which is held in place by one of the tension magnets. I recently did an activation with this paddle along with my Lab599 TX-500. It was a cold dreary, drizzly day and both the radio and paddle did just fine. When I got home, all I did was blow dry the paddles with some canned air. You can see the YouTube video here:

The paddles can be attached to something using 4, 4-40 tapped holes (two on the top and two on the bottom) or it can be held in the hand. Because of my somewhat large, meaty hands, when I use the paddles as held in my left hand, I sent the occasional stray dah.

After my last activation, I removed the paddle from the flight deck and then had to do something with the knurled 4-40 screw I used to secure the paddle to the flight deck. I moved the screw from the bottom of the paddle to one of the holes in the top and put the paddles back in the bag.

A couple of days later, I pulled the paddles out to play with them. Yeah , I know, they do kind of grow on you. I made a few contacts from home, and I noticed that there were not any stay dahs! I looked at the paddle in my hands; the screw changed the geometry of how I held the paddle. The screw was pushing my fat index finger away from the dah paddle. Problem solved.

These are great paddles and fun to use. I enjoy using them both at home and in the field. Will they replace my Begali Simplex on the desk? Probably not, but if Larry decides to make a desk set of paddles… I don’t know when or if Larry is going to make another batch, but if he does, don’t hesitate, because they go fast.