2020 Portable Activities
2020-06-20 The past few days I've been completely remaking my DIY magnetic loop. Now, instead of the main loop being made of RG-8 sized coax, it is made from 1/2' copper tubing. And the driven loop is made from 1/4" copper tubing rather than RG-8x coax. And the wire between the variable capacitor and the SO-239 coax connectors where the main loop attaches is now 12 gauge solid copper instead of about 18 or 20 gauge. The combined changes make it a very good performing antenna with clean, sharp SWR dips and near 1:1 on all bands between 40 and 15 meters.
What's that got to do with portable operations? Well, after making three contacts with it sitting on the floor in the middle of my ham shack, today, I took it outside. Sitting in the shade of our garage beneath a big hickory tree with my x5105, I made three contacts with the loop. All CW, two on 40 meters and one on 20 meters. Got respectable signal reports from all three. And, sitting in my little folding backpacking chair with the radio beside my on my little folding backpacking table, the view wasn't bad either! All I needed was a glass of cold iced tea!
I learned something too. A magnetic loop is very very narrow banded so finding the minimum SWR point can be tricky, especially if the SWR protection cuts the power. But I discovered if I reduce the power to 1 watt it is easy to tune the loop as you avoid the SWR kick-back problem. The result is the only fluctuation you see on the SWR indicator is from adjusting the antenna itself.
2020-06-16 Well, back outside to feed the mosquitoes again this afternoon. I decided to set up two portable antennas, my 35' end fed with 9:1 unun and the DIY vertical (this time with the QRPGuys loading coils. I was all ready to go my about 2:00pm. Bands were dead! Almost no signs of any life on either 40 or 20. I even checked out 30, 17, 15 and ten. I was so concerned that I came inside and fired up my IC-7300 on the MFJ EFHW and G5RV. Nothing!
Finally, about 3:30 I heard a guy calling CQ at 7.027. He was 599 So I responded and he heard me, giving me 559 also. He was in Arkansas, about 500 miles south. We had a niche 15 minute chat then signals started dropping. I was using the vertical.
Nothing workable on either 40 or 20 until again, suddenly at about 4:00pm, another station popped up. He was 579. I can see them pop up thanks to the waterfall on the G90 which shows a good portion of the band. He also responded and gave me 569. He was about 200 miles south.
By then The mosquitoes were showing up in mass and were so hungry they acted like I had no bug spray on - but I did! So I took everything down and came inside. Oh, by the way I tried to compare the 35' and vertical. My results are far from scientific but today, the vertical seemed to do the best.
2020-06-14 Today, after church I once again took my xiegu G90 to the back yard table. Again I put up my 19' push up carbon fiber fishing pole but this time I strung up my DIY vertical. The SKCC WES was under way so thought I might get a few "easy" contacts. Well nothing is easy right now with propagation being what it is but I got a couple, including one 1637 miles west in Washington State. After lunch, just before taking it all down to go on a hike with my wife I had one more with a station in Indiana. So another relatively brief but fun back yard portable outing!
2020-06-13 Today in the mail I received the FRUITEAM Potable Camp Table Picnic Folding Beach Table for Camping Hiking … table I ordered on Amazon. It was a bit lower and smaller than I envisioned but is as advertised. As my wife said, it's really cute! I have been looking for something really portable to use with my portable radios. Is this it? Not sure but time will tell. as the pictures show I couldn't wait to "test" it so grabbed my REI collapsible camp chair and set it and the table on the front porch. Then I set up my QRPGuys portable EFHW 40-10 meter antenna as an inverted vee using a 19' push up carbon fiber fishing pole as a mast and connected it to my xiegu G90 with a 25' RG-58 coax.
The bands have not been very impressive the past few days mid day and early afternoon and today was no exception. But I did manage to get one SSB contact on 20 meters with a POTA station and one CW contact with a station in North Carolina working in the SKCC Weekend Sprint. Both at 20 watts. Propagation was bad with a really strange and loud background noise "moving through" 20 meters making it nearly intolerable. And QSB was very deep and slow on 40 meters. But we made document-able contacts. It was a fun hour or so anyway!
2020-06-06 This morning I joined my son at our RC Plane Flying Field. I don't fly any more due to an eye situation but it is always fun to be with him. The photo is of him immediately following his second successful flight with that plane.
What's that got to do with portable ham radio operating? Well I took my x5105 QRP rig and my Wolf River Coils portable vertical along and set it up in our crew shed. Forgot to take any pictures!
So, while he had five flights with four planes I made five contacts! One in the KY QSO Party, two in the Corona virus Stay Home event and one SKCC. Three of those were SSB and one was CW. One was to Florida, 1296 miles,
It was a beautiful day, in a beautiful setting, with good company and some good QRP contacts! Great fun for both of us!
2020-05-23 My wife and I downed our McDonald's drive-through breakfasts on a bench overlooking the shore of Lake Geneva and went for an enjoyable walk on the lake shore and around town. What a beautiful Wisconsin Spring morning.
Then we went to a nearby Goodwill thrift store for a little post-lock down shopping spree! For the first time ever, I think, I came home with "the find" and my wife found nothing! My find? A Red Rock Outdoor Gear - Assault Pack. It shows no wear other than a bit of fading on the top outer pocket Velcro. It seemed like the perfect size for carrying my portable ham radio gear into the outdoors.
So after we go home I loaded my new pack with my Xiegu G90, my miady 6Ah battery, coax and other cables, note pad, and Wolf River Coils Mini coil and radials. Grabbed my shipping tube containing the WRC 17' whip and tripod with PVC leg extensions, and took the 50' walk around the house to the back patio table! Fifteen minutes or so later I was all set up. And shortly after, I heard W7AIA calling CQ from 1703 miles west in Vancouver, WA on 20 meters SSB. To my surprise, he heard me when I called, and gave me a 55 signal report. He was operating a special event station for the 90-year anniversary of the Clark County Amateur Radio Club and the 40-year anniversary of the major eruption of Mt Saint Helens.
After lunch twenty meters, 30 meters and 40 meters were all very hard going with generally weak signals, heavy QSB and considerable band noise but I managed to add to my log K5H, special event station in Purvis, MS on 20 meters and W9TPI activating a POTA park in Indiana on 40 meters. Than I was chased inside by threatening rain and thunder storms, which amounted to almost nothing. I decided to add my 29ft end fed wire to the mix. Unfortunately that was only shortly before the wind started blowing so I never got past checking to be sure the G90 tuner would handle it. It took me 20 minutes to pack up and get inside.
It was a fun "outing" and proved once again that my portable gear works. Even better with my "new" pack!
2020-05-02 Another perfect day here! We're almost afraid to enjoy these days for fear it will scare them away! :-) I think it actually hit about 75 degrees. So, since i got all my chores done this morning (small roof repair and changed the oil in the lawn mower) about 1pm i grabbed the xiegu g90 and qrpguys 29' ef antenna and headed to the back yard. The only substantive difference in my setup from yesterday was that I put the umbrella in the table to spare my tender flesh from the sun!
Over three hours I had eight QSOs, or better stated, logged eight contacts. All but two were on 20 meters and with stations in the west and northwest who were doing the "7 QSO Party." Five of those were CW, the other oee SSB. Oregon, Montanna, Washington State and New Mexico, ranging from 1024 to 1716 miles. The other two were on 40 meters CW, one in the New Hampshire QSP Party and the other was with an SKCC station in North Carolina.
As yesterday, I came away very pleases with the G90, 29 ft end fed antenna and my inexpensive Miady 6Ah battery. And I was proud of my DIY mini paddle as well. It is by far the most convenient paddle I've used for portable. I see now why people lament the passing of the pico paddle made by Palm Radio. Those tiny keys are not a novelty, they are nearly a necessity! Neither 40 meters nor 20 meters seemed quite as good as yesterday. Overall QSB was pretty noticeable. At the same time, 20 meters was extremely busy with the "7 QSO Party" stations. I had difficulty breaking the packs. Often before I had even finished sending my call the target guy was already answering someone else. Many were operating at 30 WPM or so so my 17 WPM was probably a bother. At the same time, if I stuck around I often got noticed. Signal reports were meaningless, all 599, even when it clearly was not a 599. No matter, it was a lot of fun. The past two days give me confidence that my setup, even the 20' antenna, would do great on a POTA activation or something similar. Of course, depending on propagation!
2020-05-01 Today was way too beautiful here in SE Wisconsin to stay inside. So I took my xiegu g90 go kit, qrpguys 29' ef antenna and battery and set up in the back yard to do a little Hunting. In about 45 minutes on the air I landed three POTA stations, one CW on 20 and the other two SSB on 40. Got a couple non-POTA ones too! The last station, N7CW was in Arizona, 1400 miles. The G90 was a pleasure to operate. It's just a bit more "trouble" to set up than the x5105 and weighs a bit more but is an excellent portable rig.
It's hard to capture a portable antenna in pictures. If you look carefully in the center picture a green wire slopes upward from left to right. It is Sotabeams light antenna wire, about 26 gauge or so. I suspended the end using the line in my arborists throw line, weight and bag. A simple loop tied in the line and a stick attach the antenna so it is easily removed when done. My favorite antenna is the QRPGuys EFHW set up as an inverted vee but this 29 ft end fed with a 9:1 unun is a really good antenna as well and extremely flexible, usable on all bands and very easy to set up. The G90 tuner tunes it easily for all bands. I have a 17' counterpoise that I simply string out on the ground and then feed it with a 25 ft RG-174 coax.
2020-04-26 After "attending" Online Church this morning and getting the meatloaf in the oven, I grabbed my X5105 Portable kit including my QRPGuys based EFHW antenna and 14-1/2 foot fiberglass fishing pole, AND my newly completed portable "mini paddle" and headed for the back yard. It's 60 degrees and bright sun, way to nice to stay inside.
Rather than using guy lines with the mast I simply stuck it through the umbrella hole in the patio table, making quick work of setting up, about ten minutes. The Florida QSO Party is under way so in 45 minutes I made six contacts, all CW on 20 meters with Florida stations ranging from 800 to 1100 miles. Great time in the warm, sunny late morning enjoying QRP radio!
2020-04-18 Today was in the upper 50s but windy here in SE Wisconsin. I took my x5105 and qrpguys efhw out to do BYOTA (Back Yard On The Air). Made One 20 meter SSB contact, 950 miles to Saskatchewan and 4 CW contacts, one on 20 meters with a station in Hawaii, 4167 miles! My setup was almost identical to the other day, based on the QRPguys EFHW with a 59.5 ft radiator set up as an inverted vee using my 14.5 ft fishing pole. I again used a 25 ft RG-174 Coax to connect the antenna to the rig. It is really fun to play with a super simple setup.
2020-04-14 Yesterday wasn't nice but I set up in the yard anyway using my x5105 and Wolf River Coils TIA vertical with the 17 ft whip and mini coil. It was in the 40s and blustery so I wasn't out long. Didn't make any contacts but did hone my setup skills with the antenna and found one essential item missing from my kit, a coax adapter! That is why it is important to set these things up at home several times. Miles away from home my outing would have been aborted thanks to that silly little adapter!
2020-04-12 took the G90 and Sotabeams Link Inv Vee out to the back yard this afternoon and made two 40 meter contacts in 20 minutes on the air. All worked well. The link inverted vee is a bit more complicated to set up than an EFHW but not bad at all.
2020-04-11 Took the x5105 go-kit to the backyard this afternoon. Thanks to the several contests going on I made four 40 meter and one 20 meter QSOs within about 40 minutes! All were CW. The 20 meter one was with a station in California, 1740 miles west of my QTH here in southeast Wisconsin. All gave me a 559 or better signal report. Used my modified clipboard-attached DIY straight key.
My antenna was based on the QRPguys EFHW with a 59.5 ft radiator set up as an inverted vee using my 14.5 ft fishing pole.
Total time outside, including antenna setup, was about an hour. Contests are a good thing if you want to make QRP contacts!
2020-04-08 The itch for portable operating continues. So yesterday I built up another EFHW 40-10 meter portable antenna with an extra QRPGuys kit I had by accident. My plan is to have it dedicated to portable use. So today, to make sure it works OK, I set it up in the back yard using my 14.5' foot collapsible fiberglass fishing pole. It has a very good SWR on both 40 and 20, my primary bands of interest. I used a 25 ft, RG-174 coax feedline. Conditions don't seem great but I had three QSOs, one with a POTA station in Utah on 20 meters, just over 1200 miles. Another with a station in Missouri on 40 meters, just under 500 miles. and the third was also on 40 meters with a station in West Virginia, just over 400 miles. All three CW. So it works and is ready for "the big time!"
2020-04-02 Back Yard Portable. As I mentioned on my Thoughts on Operating Portable page, I wanted to take the G90 out portable. Whereas the x5105 is sort of perfectly designed physically to use portable, the G90 is not so much. It's long, slender design with the control head on the end makes it kind of hard to set up on rocks or a chair so you can see the screen and operate the controls. So I made a mounting bracket that holds the detached head at an angle. This was my first time to actually try it somewhere other than on my desk.
The G90 does not have an internal battery so I used my miady 5Ah LIFEPO4 battery. I was only out there about an hour but it held the voltage steady at about 12.8v. Since I had been carefully trimming my SOTABEAMS link inverted vee all morning I used it. The apex was at about 18 feet. The SWR was "perfect" on 40, 20 and 30 meters. Very few signals were on 20 meters but 40 was almost busy. I worked SKCC stations on 40 as well as two POTA statiions, one SSB. And I worked one station on 30 meters. All that in about 45 minutes.
- Having the G90 control head detached worked very well. The angle could be a little greater, but it is much better than when attached to the radio. I'm no longer "afraid" of using the G90 portable.
- The SOTABEAMS link inverted vee performed very well. When I use it from within the shack, having to change the links to change bands seems like a real inconvenience. But when the antenna is "right there" it doesn't seem like much of an inconvenience at all. A couple things that I think help with that are the light weight bungee cords that I tie off the ends with and the fairly flexible fiberglass fishing pole I use for the mast. I didn't need to lower the mast to change bands, jut pull the wire down and plug or unplug the links.
- I used 25 ft of RG-174 for my feedline. It's is very light weight and flexible and seems to work well. I have no way to compare it with RG-58 or RG8x in terms of overall performance but i'm happy to accept whatever losses there might be in exchange for the ease of use of the RG-174.
- I used the DIY straight key attached with Velcro to my clipboard as shown in the picture below. It isn't quite as easy to use as my WWII Speed-x key but is much lighter and having it attached to the clipboard worked well. I took my portable paddle but never used it.
- I logged the calls using VLS Logger on my phone. That worked quite well.
- Back Yard portable is a fun activity!
2020-03-25 Back Yard Portable. I took my x5105 and 29ft end fed antenna out to the back yard. It was kind of chilly but I toughed it out and made two contacts. Somehow operating outside, even if in your own back yard is fun! And it helps you figure out some of the issues. I used my 17 ft collapsible fishing pole to support the far end of the antenna and wedged the DIY wire winder with the 9:1 UNUN in the rocks behind our house.