Attempting HF QRP operation in NE VT

Howdy! This post is one that’s been in the drafts list for a hot minute, but I took a trip to NE VT to visit a partner and on valentine’s day we went out in the woods behind her place to radio for a couple hours. After a hike that seemed much longer up hill than down we arrived a higher spot with a clearing that would allow me to set the Superantenna up. I wanted to test my new Yaesu VX-6R with a Mobilinkd TNC3+ for APRS operation. I was hoping to make some contacts with Canadian stations since I was less than 1.5 miles from the border on the hike, but alas I don’t have something set up right.

To add a bit of fun the shoulder strap on the Superantenna bag failed as seen in the photo below as we hiked up. Unfortunately that meant we had to hand carry the unit up and back down.

Radio equipment and a glove sitting on top of a snow bank in woods with deciduous trees and brush in the background.
QRP station set up in the woods of Northern VT
A Lab599 TX-500 radio sitting on top of an ammo can with a Kestrel portable weather station reading 26.3F. The radio is connected to a duplexer which is laying on the snow.
HF radio set up for 20m in 15-20F weather depending on the cloud cover.

After getting the setup ready to rock I tried some phone operations on 20m SSB, but was ultimately not able to make any contacts despite being able to hear a number of other stations. There was a contest going on so it was hard to reach other stations. I haven’t been having a lot of luck with the Superantenna lately apart from using for SWL. I kept the 4.5AH Bioenno battery wrapped in a warm shirt within my black Chrome bag to keep it as warm as possible rather than leaving it in the ammo can. I just ran the power cable out of the top of my bag and left it rolled up when we found the spot to set up. The only ill effect the cold seemed to have on the TX-500 was that the LCD screen was a touch slow to respond to changes, but I was able to tune to stations without issues. I was surprised not to see a bunch of frequency drift despite the weather.

A Yaesu VX-6R and Mobilinkd TNC3+ sitting on top of a bag on a snow bank with some RF fittings and cables visible in the background.
Yaesu VX6R and Mobilinkd TNC3 on duplexer for APRS.

I used the VX-6R with the Mobinlind TNC3+ in conjuction with a duplexer going to the Superantenna with a 2m load coil set up.

A Superantenna is set up with a 2m coil installed on a tripod. Trees and brush are visible in the background.

Superantenna and Chameleon Mil Whip 2 set up for 20m and 2m operation

In conclusion I made no contacts whatsoever and it was cold as hell, but it was a fun hike/bushwack and my winter gear held up very well against the cold. I’d like to try this again someday, but with the trail friendly 10/20/40m endfed. I also have more experimentation left to go to get my Mobilinkd TNC3+ working properly to do APRS. As a note it wasn’t nearly as difficult to deal with the Superantenna ground plane wires as I thought it might be. The main problem I had was that I’d wound them in a way that allowed them to get tangled up and deploying them was difficult. Rolling them back up wasn’t too difficult even when the sun was behind cloud cover.

Camping in the Tillamook State Forest (1/21-23/2022)

It’s been a while and this will be a big post! My partner and I were able to go camping over the weekend, and if you’ve read any of my blog posts you won’t be surprised that I took the opportunity to practice some comms and off grid operating. I wanted to work HF, do some shortwave listening, and see if I could do any UHF/VHF communications. Additionally I wanted to run off of the 100AH battery box for a couple days to see how well it held up under constant use. This is also the first camping trip I brought the speaker stand antenna mast setup on.

On the way out I ran APRS with the Kenwood TM-D710G and the COMET-NCG CA-2X4SR antenna that mounts on the hood of the 4Runner. I noticed that on the way out that I had APRS coverage nearly the whole way out.

The first night we arrived late so I did a bit of SWL. I mostly got Radio Havana Cuba, Radio Nikkei, a distant station broadcasting in Mandarin, and Radio New Zealand International.

The next day I set the antenna up following a fun walk in the woods below the camp site. Most of my work on HF was done using the usual Endfedz Trail friendly 10/20/40m antenna. I strung it between the 4Runner and my portable antenna mast. I also added a 6m end fed dipole to the setup to see if I could reach Kevin, K7AJK from my camp site on the Lab599 TX-500. We had no luck. I wasn’t actually able to make any voice contacts on 20m with this setup even running at 10W, but there was a contest on the band so it was both congested and I suspect folks were running at fairly high power levels to make contacts. As you’ll be able to see from photographs I did a little hack with a stick I found to push the antenna higher off the ground on the truck side. It was especially helpful in preventing the hatch back from striking the antenna.

View of an antenna mast guyed to the ground and a line with an antenna running to a SUV in the background
Guyed antenna mast with two antennas added
View of an SUV with a piece of wood lashed to the roof rack holding some paracord off of the top of the vehicle.
Found piece of wood used to push the antenna higher off of the roof of the 4Runner
An antenna tied to paracord running from the upper-right corner of the photo to a mast several feet away on the edge of a hill. The transformer for the antenna is visible with feed line hanging down. Forest in the background.
The Trail Friendly Endfedz is strung along some paracord to prevent damage to the antenna if the mast blew over.

After a few hours of having no success running phone I decided to switch to packet. Moving the radio into the vehicle reduced the SWR and allowed me to run the entire setup from the 100AH battery since I had used the 4.5AH battery quite a bit for SWL already. I had also been simultaneously been running my 2m rig and APRSDroid on the tablet connected via Bluetooth to the mobile radio with a Mobilinkd TNC3+. I was able to send a number of text messages back and forth between friends using SMSGTE, which was nice given the complete lack of cell service. At this point I was still using the antenna on the truck.

A Raspberry Pi connected with a Lab599 TX-500 radio via two cables sitting in the back of a 4Runner.
Lab599 TX-500 connected to the off grid Raspberry Pi
A tablet sitting on a metal camping table running the JS8Call application.
Tablet running JS8Call
A toolbox with power connections running from it sitting in the front seat of a vehicle.
100AH battery box connected to the Kenwood TM-D710GA in the vehicle, the Lab599 TX-500, and some lighting.

After quite some time operating on digital I decided to test some configuration changes I made to js8cli to increase the accuracy of maidenhead coordinates I was submitting to APRS-IS via Internet-connected stations running JS8Call. I had some pretty good luck as my position was accurately reported.

A photograph of the screen of a tablet showing the JS8Call application running. A callsign, timestamp, and 10-digit maidenhead coordinate are displayed prominently in the photo along with a screen showing contacts with other stations.
JS8Call screen shot showing a 5-level maidenhead position set via js8cli running an daemon mode
A screenshot of the website showing a Google satellite map with a rectangular marker for K7JLX placed in a clearing.
My position as displayed on

Apart from all the fun I had on HF, and walking around the forest with my HT (where I was reliably digipeated at 5w) I also figured I’d try to see if I could hit some of the repeaters in the Portland area, so I swapped the vertical antenna on the vehicle for my collapsable J-pole and speaker stand antenna mast. Much to my surprise I was actually able to get into the repeaters in the Portland area at 5w, but it was a bit sketchy as sometimes they wouldn’t key up. Apart form that I could get a bunch of APRS stations and digipeaters as well as some folks on the 2m calling frequency. I actually ended up having much better luck on 2m than on HF this time around.

The head unit of a Kenwood TM-D710GA radio placed on the dash of a vehicle.
Kenwood TM-D710GA on the dash of the 4Runner
A 4Runner with an antenna mast tied to the front bumper and connected to the vehicle with feedline. There's a camping table and chairs to one side and in the background are trees, a valley and a mountain on the other side of the valley.
The 4Runner antenna hood antenna swapped for an elevated J-Pole on the speaker stand mast.
Close-up of paracord tying the the antenna mast to steel tubing on an offroading bumper.
Using paracord to lash the antenna to the bumper of the truck

As you might have noticed from the pictures above I ended up moving the antenna because winds were getting higher and I was afraid the antenna might move side-to-side on the bumper’s tubing. I ended up shifting it toward the driver’s side where I could secure it to both the tube running horizontally and to the spot where the tube split, meaning the mast wouldn’t shift from side to size because it was secured with the paracord on both axes. since the antenna mount on the vehicle uses the same connector as most of my coax and the J-pole I was able to just connect the J-pole directly to the existing cabling in the 4Runner. Easy!

For the entire trip apart from doing some SWL with the TX-599 on its 4.5AH battery away from the truck and by the fire ring I ran all the lighting and radios from the 100AH battery box. We charged the tablet, my partner’s phone, and my phone from the battery box as well. We only drew down to 96% in two days. One day had a lot of heavy radio usage as well so that’s all a good sign.

Yellow witch's butter growing from the top of a tree stump with diamond cut patterns.

Some witch’s butter we found on a stump near our camp site

Working portable from WY

Hello all, after leaving my last post in draft for a few months and not finishing it I figured I’d move right along and write another one! I had already set up my superantenna last night to do some SWL, but because the space weather is so good I decided to set up the Par EndFedz EFT-10/20/40 antenna to do some work on 20m. For today I used the arborist’s weight to hang the far end of the antenna in a tree in the back yard and connected the transformer end to the deck. The antenna was an estimated 20′ off the ground, and was oriented diagonally SE to NW across the yard. I had intended to run the antenna north to south but was unable to because the antenna was too long to be stretched from the deck to the right tree. I ended up moving it to another tree diagonally across the yard.

I made a partial contact with a Canadian ham out of Victoria, BC that suggested the solution to someone interfering with him was to “invoke the 2nd amendment” and solve the problem with a gun. Following that gem of a first partial contact of the day I decided to get off phone at that point and start operating JS8Call on 20m.

I connected the Raspberry Pi to the battery and Lab599 TX-500 and fired it all up. One of the first things I noticed was that the system clock was wrong. After using “timedatectl status” I saw that my hardware clock was right but on boot it failed to update the system clock. At that point I did it manually (“sudo hwclock –hctosys”). Since I had connected the Pi to the wifi at the house the previous night to run updates I was able to set my tablet up in the kitchen and leave the radio outside while I operated as there wasn’t enough cable to bring the radio inside. The family was around inside and it was considerably warmer in the house than it was outside so I could make QSOs and still talk with everyone that was inside. That’s one of the nice things about using keyboards and a slower mode like JS8Call – you can still talk with people while messages are being sent and received.

I made a few contacts but had a nice long QSO with W7SUA in AZ. Apart from that I was getting two way communications with stations over 1,800 miles away though they were generally automated requests for signal reports and locations.

Radio, Raspberry Pi, and a 4.5Ah Bioenno battery pack connected on a deck railing.
Radio set up with Rasbperry Pi connected.
Samsung Android tablet set up on a table showing a VNC session that's running JS8Call.
Tablet in the kitchen operating the radio while it’s outside.
Side view of the transformer end of the EFHW antenna connected to the deck with orange paracord and a coax cable.
Transformer end of trail-friend EFHW attached to the deck
Long view of the EFHW antenna connecting to a tree across a back yard.
View of the antenna running from the deck to the tree.
Image of showing contacts from my station to others througout the US. screenshot showing stations that could hear mine throughout the day.

Operating while camping on Mt. Hood 7/31/2021

Hello all, it’s about time I wrote a post about my camping trip my partner and I took a couple weeks ago. I took my trusty Lab599 TX-500 kit, a couple 20W GoalZero Nomad solar panels, headset, and table/chair combo up camping with our “new” 4×4. I wanted to do some HF QRP and some handheld UHF/VHF operation while I was out. I brought some of the same portable furniture that I used at the beach last post since it worked out so well.

The view was pretty sweet for this one. The smoke from the wildfires made everything a bit more hazy but pretty great none-the-less.

View of a heavily forested valley from a high vantage point. In the foreground a radio is sitting on a gray metal camping table.
View while operating

While operating HF I made a number of contacts, and the solar panels kept the 4.5Ah Bioenno LiFePO4 battery built into the HF QRP radio kit charged the whole day. The first HF contact I made was with Stefan, AF6SA who was working POTA in Eldorado Natoinal Forest (K-4455). His signal was 5/6 on at about 450 miles away on 20m. I also made a contact with VA3AAA, Stanley in Ontario, Canada. I was pretty excited to reach Ontario with a low power radio. That contact was also logged on 20m. I also made a contact with the K0GQ radio club in MO on 20m. All of these contacts were made between 5 and 10w using the Trail-friendly EndFedz EFT-10/20/40 antenna strung between a couple trees about 50′ apart and about 25′ above the ground.

I switched radios and bands to see if I could get into some of the repeaters in the Portland area (I could) with my Yaesu FT3DR and a Signal Stick antenna. I ended up on 2m and caught two hams on 146.520Mhz doing a SOTA activation: K7AHR and K7IW. I think they were on Lookout Mountain, but I can’t remember and didn’t properly log it. I was running 5W for those contacts.

Tour of the radio setup at the camp site

Operating naked on the beach!

Howdy and welcome back! I spent the day at Rooster Rock, a clothing-optional beach on the banks of the Sandy River in Oregon. Since I burn easily I got a cheap tent from Target to get very sandy and to keep me and my gear safe from the sun! As a bonus this specific tent actually has a pass through for cables in the front corner to the left of the door which is pretty great for running solar panel connectors and feed line. I didn’t have any successful contacts, but that’s not surprising given the difficulties I had tuning the Superantenna. I couldn’t manage to get a decent SWR on the QRP radio. The real point of the post is about portable shelter options that can keep you out an entire day even when you’re literally naked. This was able to keep me and the gear cool enough to keep going. Folding a corner of the tent up allowed the interior mesh to breathe away from the sun. In the picture below you can see through the door that the rain fly has been lifted.

A tent on a beach with some small trees and brush in the background. Two small solar panels rest next to the tent. An antenna is set up behind the tent in the brush.

We weren’t able to get the best spot but at least we got something out of the way on a path and had enough space to set the tent up. I had enough clear space to keep the solar panels going all day as well. They kept the battery kept everything charged and running. I tried to see if I could make any UHF/VHF contacts but I was in a gorge so I had very limited luck. I’m sure you’re just as shocked as I am. I then tuned the Superantenna as best I could for 20m and tried to make some contacts but I wasn’t getting out. I heard a bunch of stations on the east coast and in the midwest including participating in a New England radio event or QSO party for the 4th of July weekend. I wasn’t able to get out to anyone though. In addition to those stations I could also hear but not reach Paolo IK5SRF in Tuscany, Italy. Paolo had quite the pileup going.

Interior view of a tent front the door showing a small folding table, three-legged folding camp chair and equipment resting against the walls of the tent. Through the mesh you can see the river.

A view of the radio setup, the table, and chair. This three-legged chair is actually pretty comfortable.

A view of the top of a metal folding table with a radio, water bottle, sunscreen, a pen, and notepad. Brush and beach sand is visible through a mesh panel.

My conspicuously-empty log book with only notes and the radio.

At the end of the day breaking the tent down was pretty easy. We were able to tear down the entire site and radio station in about an hour, have it loaded into the beach wagon and off we were. Much of that time was as usual rolling feed line so it’s not a pain to unroll later.

At last! A long distance QRP phone contact!

Good news everyone! I finally made a long-distance contact running QRP (10w) on SSB. I was able to complete a QSO with N8II in Jefferson County, WV on 20m during a WV QSO party from the top of Mt. Tabor. The distance between our stations was about 2,290 miles. I had been attempting to contact the station all day on and off since about 16:30 Pacific time. I was able to reach a couple stations in the Portland, OR area and one of them suggested that my portable antenna might be hung too low (at about 20′) and doing NVIS instead of getting out so I re-hung both ends of the antenna an additional 6′ higher and tried again. I had attempted to enlist K7AJK’s help to test my station’s audio to see if I was having RF feedback, but it seems he was in one of my antenna’s nulls. The next set of attempts I was able to nearly complete a QSO with N8II, but failed to get my full call and location across. I hit pause on attempting contact for a few minutes to attempt some other frequencies and 40m. After coming back and making another attempt I was finally able to make the contact with a bit of difficulty, but there you have it!

A map of the US showing contact pins WA, CA, AZ, NM, MI, and SC. showing stations that heard mine (yellow = 20m, blue = 40m)

As a side note I did some JS8Call work on 20m and 40m as well. The furthest signal report was about 2,000 miles away! Not bad for a portable QRP station.

Lessons learned:

  • A few extra feet of antenna elevation can make all the difference!
  • Minimal power can go a long way.
  • If you want to use a headset with a radio make sure you bring a PTT.
  • Two 20w solar panels did a good job of powering the entire setup until the sun got low enough that trees covered them. I barely used the battery in 5 hours of operation.
  • Don’t position your station under the feed line. It might cause RF feedback.
  • Bring extra water. I didn’t have enough for 5 hours.

Sunday funday in the Tilamook State Forest

This is just a quick post about some light operating I did out in the forest today while getting some target practice in since I’m not really a sports person. The weather was fairly cold, between 35 and 40 degrees F with alternating rain and snow. This post is mostly about what running QRP in decent conditions can do. I set my Lab599 TX-500 up with my Superantenna / Chameleon Mil Whip 2.0 antenna combo and my offgrid Raspberry Pi and access point this morning to see how far I got out from the outdoor “range” we were at. I powered the whole setup with my Bioenno 40Ah LiFePO4 battery and threw my GoalZero Nomad 20 folding solar panel on just to take some of the load from the battery as it’s just a standard practice I engage in.

Map showing connections from my station to others in the continental US and AK.
Screenshot of my signal reports from
Map showing distance between my station in OR and an east coast US station.
Map showing distance between my station and KC1GTU. Generated by

The idea was that I was going to try to run JS8Call at QRP on 20m for a few hours. The power levels I ran were 1w, 5w, and 7.5w (for a couple minutes) throughout the day. I generally settled on 5w as I was heard from the southwest, south, along the east coast, midwest, and AK. Bumping the power to 7.5w didn’t really yield any additional responses to my heartbeats so I reduced power to 5w and stayed there for most of the day. My furthest contact via heartbeat and “QTH?” commands was KC1GTU at FN41 (about 2,250NM away at 5w).

Setup photos:

Collage of photos showing my antenna on the left. On the top right is a table covered by a tarp extended from the open hatch back of a Prius to two poles covering a table with a center support extended up from the table top. Various firearms are sitting on the table. On the bottom right is a view inside the open back of the vehicle with disorganized cases, and a radio setup with a tablet.
Very messy setup

Lessons learned:

  • Make sure you set your grid locator correctly in JS8Call. Anyone seeing my station would see me at CN85qm, about 45 miles away from where I really was at CN85hs. (Update: JS8CLI solves this problem.)
  • I could probably run this setup for a whole day on my 12Ah Bioenno LiFePO4 battery.
  • The Lab599 TX-500 continues to prove itself to be a great rig off grid!
  • Don’t bring too much gear even if you’re in a car.
  • The gear performed well below 40F.