2022-03-03 For weeks I've been planning to do an activation of k-0060 Saguaro National Park outside Tucson, AZ while on a few-day family gathering in Tucson. BUT, not unhappily, I ended up activating k-4429 Coronado National Forest instead! It was so convenient to the place where we were staying it was clearly the better choice. And since the primary purpose of the trip was to be together with our family, more than an hour or so for radio was uncalled for. It was a fun, successful activation on February 28 with eleven contacts, one a double p2p. One other was also a p2p and one was with a station in the Azores. Six were SSB, the balance CW. All were on 20 meters in late morning. My setup was my IC705 at 10 watts, powered by a 4.5Ah bioenno external battery. The antenna was my DIY 9 ft foldable vertical.
Thankfully I had the foresight to bring along two CW keys, my DIY paddle and my recently acquired N6ARA TinyPaddle. That first evening I dropped my DIY paddle which shifted the paddles so it sent dahs constantly. Having no tools of any kind I couldn't fix it on the spot. Lesson learned? Bring a few basic tools! The TinyPaddle saved the day! But then it became erratic toward the end of my activation.
I was concerned about clearing TSA with my stuff prior to the trip. But turns out there were no problems. In Chicago they asked no questions at all, everything just went through without a pause. Yesterday in Tucson they sent the radio through separately (no questions) and opened my bag. They noted the three tent pegs but weren't concerned. The most fascination was with my collapsible fishing pole! But that was more personal interest than safety concern. Did mean I had to wrestle with my bag getting it zippered shut again! Too many poorly packed dirty clothes! They didn't even notice the 17" folded brass vertical or the three 18" aluminum tripod legs.
Conclusions: Take a few hand tools on a distant activation. Don't be hesitant to use a free standing vertical antenna. Have some simple backup things, like CW keys and antennas. They add little weight and bulk but may well save the day. My power options were the radios rechargeable internal battery and a small 4.5Ah Bioenna battery. I had a wallwart to recharge the icom battery and a small charger for the Bioenna. I didn't really need either as my total power-up time was only about an hour and a half but I felt that was worth the weight and bulk. Finally, be flexible. As I said above my entire pre-planning was aimed toward k-0060 Saguaro National Park. But after arriving and getting a grip on the entire three day plan and the geography, clearly k-4429 Coronado National Forest was a much more suitable option due to both the schedule and location. And it achieved my primary radio objective, to activate a park during the family trip to Arizona!
2022-02-21 As I continue to work toward the final kit for our trip to Arizona I decided, and since it got into the mid 30s today, I decided to play with my K6ARK EFHW antenna. It weighs a whopping 2 oz as pictured below on its winder and from previous experience with EFHW antennas I know is a workhorse. So I set it up as an inverted vee using my 15 ft fiberglass fishing pole for center support. The mail box handle supported the far end (its a national holiday!). The driven end simply attaches to the coax connector so I just bungeed the coax to our porch rail. My 33 ft RG316 coax ran into the house where it connected to my ic705 sitting in our bay window. My N6ARA TinyPaddle rounded out the radio and antenna setup. Since I was just hunting, I used my Android phone to log using VLS Logger. That along with the POTA app on the phone worked well at hunting speed. I wouldn't use it if I were activating.
I fired up at 20:02 UTC and shut down at 21:20 UTC with eleven contacts. Four were CW, one on 20m and three on 40 meters. the other seven were SSB, three on 40 and four on 20 meters. All were in the 400 to 900 mile range. So, what does all this mean. Primarily, it means I have way too many options! Secondarily, it means a reasonable option would be to go on the trip with this EFHW and NOT take the 9 ft vertical. That will save about three pounds in my carry on bag. And with this EFHW and along with the K6ARK 29' random wire gives me two good multiband antennas, both of which are easy to setup and perform pretty well. Everything fits in my ICOM LC192 backpack along with the IC705, 6Ah battery (to provide 10w) a couple keys, mic, coax and a few other bits and pieces. The only thing that will need to go in my carry on bag is the fiberglass mast and guy ropes.
2022-02-18 Had a QSO yesterday with AB9CA from Saguaro National Park. That's the second time. But this time I looked up his QRZ page and saw his setup, which was helpful as I plan to be there in a little over a week. It looks like an interesting place to activate.
I'm now pretty settled on my own setup: ic705 with mic, DIY CW paddle and N6ARA TinyPaddle, K6ARK EFHW, 30ft RG-316 coax, NanoVNA, 4.5Ah Bioenno battery and power cord, wallwart and charging cable for internal battery. That will be in my small radio bag. In my regular carryon bag I'll have my 15ft collapsible fiberglass pole with guy ropes, 9ft foldable vertical with tripod, K6ARK 29ft random wire antenna and Elecraft T1 tuner as well as a 25ft coax. I'll include a small camping chair and table.
In my regular carryon bag, in addition to clothes I'll have my 15ft collapsible fiberglass pole with guy ropes, 9ft foldable vertical with tripod, K6ARK 29ft random wire antenna and Elecraft T1 tuner as well as a 25ft coax. I'll include a small camping chair and table. That arrangement gives me the bare essentials in one bag which will definitely be with me on the plane and extra items in my larger carry on in the event it has to be checked.
The challenge will be if my bag gets lost should I have to check it! Without either the pole or the vertical, I'm dead in the water as you can't put things over or into the few trees! in the park. :-(
2022-02-08 I'm still vacillating on the kit I'll take to Arizona for activating this park. My two choices are really based on whether to take the IC-705 or x5105 radio. Everything else falls in line once I decide that. Antenna wise I've about settled on my K6ARK 29' with 9:1 unun and the K6ARK efhw. They are light weight, very small and seem to work as well as my other wire antennas. For a mast I'll take my 15' collapsible fiberglass fishing pole. It also is light and fits into a carry on roller bag.
2022-02-07 I recently saw a video about the N6ARA TinyPaddle and had to have one! It today. I immediately put it to work and had a number of QSOs with it. It is now a "permanent resident" of my POTA kit. It is small, well tiny, easy to hold and has a wonderful keying feel. I'll have a backup key in my pack but this will likely be the primary one.
When I'm doing a POTA activation, especially in the cold weather, I sit in the car with my logging clipboard on my lap and holding the paddle in my left hand. The CWMorseUSA paddle has worked pretty well but I think this will work even better. That is my primary mission for it right now.
Just for fun I tried plugging it directly into my IC-705. It does work with two "issues." The main one is that the 705 has little dust cover flaps that you pull up to expose the jack. That flap is really in the way for the key. The second is that the key simply has a small phone plug so there is nothing to keep it properly oriented. If you aren't careful it gets tilted making keying somewhat difficult. But it does work.
It works a little better in my Xiegu x5105 but still is not ideal. It would work in a pinch and I like the idea.
2022-01-11 Our son, John, who lives in Minnesota has organized a family gathering at a condo in Tucson, AZ Feb 27 through March 3. He along with his wife, Jeri our other son, Charles and his daughter Millie and our daughter Anna Marie and her husband Doug and my Sharon and I will be the participants. We are very excited.
John likes to put together a picture board for trips he planned. One of the pictures had a sign for Saguaro National Park which happens to be POTA k-0060. When I realized that I began thinking about activating the park. So today, I began planning. With nearly 2000 QSOs and 100 activations under my belt I have a pretty good idea what I need and what to expect as far as gear. But there are some different issues to think through, particularly related to antennas. The biggest difference is that almost all of my activations to date have been within walking distance of my car. Only one, on a multi-day wilderness canoe trip, was not. But I'm looking forward to the challenge!
2022-01-28 I'm zeroing in on the radio and antenna kit for the trip to Tucson, AZ the end of February for activating Saguaro National Park. I'm sure I'll make some changes before then but the gear in the photo to the right will likely be the core of the final package.
At the top is the bag I'll be carrying everything in. The three items immediately below the bag are 1) 10 meter (33 ft) of RG316 coax, 2) the K6ARK 29 ft end fed with a 17 ft counterpoise and 9:1 unun (green wire), 3) the KM4ACK 40 meter EFHW with alligator clip links for 30 and 17 meters (orange winder).
In the center is the ICOM IC-705 transceiver. I have the 3800 mAhr battery on the back. Immediately below the IC-705 is a 5v wallwart and micro usb cable for charging the IC-705.
To the left of the radio is a short RG174 patch cable, Elecraft T1 antenna tuner and extra battery. The T1 tunes the 29' antenna on almost all bands which makes it a very flexible antenna.
Across the bottom are my logging clipboard, pencil and CWMORSe US paddle and cable. On the left is a 15 ft length of 1/8 inch bungee cord which is very useful for tying off the antenna to almost anything! Not pictured is the microphone.
Finally, on the right side is my 15 ft carbon mast (fishing pole). It will support the EFHW as an inverted VEE or the 29' end fed as a sloper. Not pictured is my pre-bundled tree cord guy rope kit so I can erect the mast using just three tent pegs.
I've used nearly this identical kit multiple times at the two state parks about 12 miles from our house with very good success. So I'm pretty confident in it. Total weight, minus the mast is about 7 lbs.
2022-01-27 Due to the complexity of taking my 9 ft foldable vertical on our trip to AZ, I think I'll just take the K6ARK 29 ft end fed wire and my KM4ACK 40 meter EFHW wire. Both are solid performing antennas, pack up quite small and can be set up using my 15 ft collapsible fiberglass mast. That gives me two antenna options. Those with either the x5105 or IC705 gives me a solid QRP station for either CW or SSB. And everything will fit easily into my carry-on bag along with personal items. I'll plan to support the mast with the three short guy ropes and tent stakes. And both have been proven at my two nearby parks with a combined total of 180 activation QSOs at both 5 and 10 watts.
2022-01-19 I am vacillating on several equipment options as I plan for this trip. As to antennas, I think I've settled on taking both my 9' vertical with the WRC tripod and 18" legs, and my K6ARK 9:1 unun with 29' element. They will fit nicely into my carry on bag. For antenna supports (you can't throw lines into trees or cactus!) I have a 15' collapsible fishing pole and short guy lines and tent pegs that I've used many times. That is light weight and small and will fit into my carry on bag. That will work well with the 29' end fed. The 9' vertical is free standing on the WRC tripod.
As to radios, I'm considering two options. Option 1, ICOM IC705 with Elecraft T1 tuner. Option 2, Xiegu X5105. Both setups have internal or attached batteries batteries and can handle either antenna. Both are 5 watts, though the IC705 will produce 10 watts with an external battery.
The final consideration is how to pack/transport everything. The antennas and supports will fit into my carry on roller bag and still leave plenty of space for my clothes and personal items. If I take the X5105, I've got a quite small semi hard sided case that I use a lot. It will handle the radio, key, mike, feedline, small external batter, etc.. and is easy to carry. If I take the IC705 I have two options.
Option 1, the ICOM LC192 backpack. It has space for the radio, external battery, key, mic, feedline and more. What I like about it is that you simply unzip the radio compartment, connect the antenna and key to external jacks, fire up and go. It is also free standing and works well on the ground beside a lawn chair, on a picnic table or park bench or whatever. It also makes it really easy to carry everything on a short or longer walk if needed. It's downside is that it is larger than is sometimes needed, a bit heavier than my other option.
Option 2, is a small thrift store bag that will fit the radio, a small external battery, key, mic, antenna tuner, the K6ARK end fed antenna, feedline, etc. It really works very well. It is a bit less "carriable" and requires unpacking and connecting up the radio. It also does not provide anyplace to set the radio while operating. It might even fit into my carryon roller bag along with everything else. It has a lot going for it.
I don't think I'll need to worry about charging either radio as I won't have but a couple hours to use one, but another advantage of the IC705 is that it would recharge off a small 5 volt wall wart saving the need for a 12 volt charger which would be required for the X5105. So those are the things I'm mulling over.
2022-01-12a The temperature got up to 39 today after nearly a week of near zero at night and teens in the daytime. So I had to try out my "new" Wolf river Coils tripod with my DIY 18" legs. The antenna I intend it for is the 9' foldable whip I got off Amazon sitting atop a DIY loading coil with taps for 15m, 17m, 20m, 30, 40 nd 60 meters. I have over 300 contacts with the antenna over the months, mostly on activations. So I know it works. My concern was how the tripod would do in supporting it.
My conclusion is that it works very well. It was easy to set up, was pretty stable and the on air results were great, 32 QSOs in an hour on 20m CW at 10 watts. This will definitely be in my bag for Arizona!
I ended up sticking with the PVC pipe extensions as shown in the photo at right. They extend the 12" legs from Wolf River Coils to 18" which will fit in my suitcase and seem to provide adequate stability for the tripod.
Using that setup connected to my IC705 in the car with a 30' RG316 coax I got those 32 contacts. And everything will fit in the luggage just fine.
On another note, I exchanged emails with two hams who have activated the park just a few days ago and got some good input. So I feel like I can go prepared.
2022-01-12 The radio for this trip will be my ICOM IC705. I will probably take it in the ICOM LC192 backpack. Contents will likely be a IC-BP307 3150 Ah extra battery pack, a 4.5Ah bioenno external battery, CWMORSE US paddle, microphone, Elecraft T! tuner, and NanoVNA antenna analyzer. Other bits and pieces will be a clipboard with log sheets (I log on paper), several mechanical pencils, some small marker cones and a 30' length of RG316 coax. There is space for a small QRPGuys 9:1 unun and a 29' radiator and 17' counterpoise and a few other antenna related items. My goal will be to have everything I need in that bag other than my antenna supports, whatever those turns out to be.
For antenna's I'm currently thinking of two. One may be my DIY 9' bottom loaded vertical. I've used it quite a bit for activations and have been happy with its performance. The main issue for this trip is how to support it. It has its own 12" ground spike made from 3/8" aluminum rod which works very well. For an alternative I'm considering using the tripod from my Wolf River Coils TIA. It would be relatively light weight and would fit into a small suitcase.
I have both the 12" and 24" legs for my WRC tripod. Playing with it last evening it was clear that the 12" ones were too short for stability for my brass 9' whip. This morning I cut three pieces of PVC pipe 12" long with a screw at six inches so when I slide them onto the 12" legs the result is 18" legs. That is much more stable. I don't want to use the 24" ones as they won't fit in my suitcase! I think I'll buy some 3/8" aluminum rods, cut them to 18" and thread one end resulting in three 18" solid legs. The PVC approach is a bit unstable if it tips.
For my second antenna I'm considering taking a QRPGuys 9:1 unun with either a 35' or 29' radiator and 17' counterpoise. That's small, light and works well. I've done many activations with that antenna. The primary consideration there is support. I don't want to depend on trees so am considering a 15' fiberglass fishing pole. It collapses small enough to fit into a small suitcase. The question is how to support that mast? Likely I'll plan to use short guy lines with tent pegs.
Over the next few days, weather permitting, I'll be testing out all the above options. It's exciting to do the preparations!