New Equipment! Yaesu FT-891

It’s been a few weeks (or maybe more) now, but I’m catching up on my blog posts!  I sold my trusty and beloved FT-817 so I could get a non-QRP rig!  This isn’t about “life is too short for QRP.”  I’m not a believer of that statement.  I love the challenge and magic of QRP.  I’ve been pretty much solely QRP for quite a while.  Not because of a love of the challenge primarily, but because of the many other benefits. Nonetheless, I decided to get a 100-watt rig. But there’s more to it than just the power.

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HF Ham Radio on a Budget: QRP Labs, QRPGuys, CW Academy

When I started my amateur radio life as KK6VSI in August of 2015, I wish I could have had the information I’m about to lay out here.  Of course, most of the equipment didn’t yet exist.  So another way of looking at it is that my entry into amateur radio was perfectly timed for a modern Golden Age of Ham Radio.  Part of this Golden Age means you can get a QRP Labs QCX or BITX40, and a QRPGuys Antenna, plus a few other components, and you’re on the air!  Stick with me here, and we’ll get to the details.

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New Equipment – QRPGuys Portable Tri-Band Vertical Antenna

Even though I’m in the middle of figuring out the build of a shortened end-fed half-wave antenna, an improvement on my current EFHW setup, I’d had my eyes on various vertical antenna solutions for a while, even though they’re not as efficient as a full-size antenna. Recently, QRPGuys released a new vertical antenna kit for portable ops, and I couldn’t resist trying it out.

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LNR Precision MTR-3B Power Test

I’ve had the Mountain Topper for a couple of weeks now, after having wanted it for a long time. I’ve been really happy with it, and I’ve even already done three SOTA activations with it and lots of SOTA chasing from my back yard. One thing I noticed when doing my pre-purchase research is that not many people report on the power output (probably because it doesn’t matter that much). Well, I got curious! Here’s my extremely inaccurate and non-scientific report.

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New Equipment! LNR Precision Mountain Topper MTR-3B

I’ve been wanting to get a good CW-only lightweight rig since I started really getting into SOTA. Especially trying to do HF summit activations while trail running! I saw a good deal for this used Mountain Topper QRP transceiver, and I went out of my way to get it! I actually even sold my LDG Z-817 tuner to help provide the funds, making my home station temporarily non-functional.

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American Morse Equipment “DCP” Paddle

OK, so saying “DCP Paddle” is redundant.  “DCP” stands for “Dirt Cheap Paddle.” While this paddle is inexpensive compared to a lot of morse/CW paddles out there, I would definitely not call it “cheap.”  It is exquisitely designed and expertly machined by Doug W6AME of American Morse Equipment.  I don’t remember where I first heard about his paddles and keys, but I knew I had to have one as soon as I saw it.  The DCP is the least expensive paddle he makes (hence the name) but doesn’t lack quality.  I have a pretty tight budget for my ham activities and equipment, so I was holding off on getting one until I really needed it.

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Trail Running SOTA with Yaesu FT-817

I like running, hiking, summits, and ham radio. Well, lots of other things, too. But this is about those four things.  Since I started doing SOTA, I’ve wanted to try to put together an HF summit activation kit for use on trail runs.  I’ve done a a few SOTA activations while trail running, but it had always been with just a hand-held radio—usually my tiny Yaesu VX-2R with a 12-inch ultra-flexible whip antenna, or an MFJ “Long Ranger” telescoping antenna.

On most of my activations, I’ve used a SOTABeams “Band Hopper” with my FT-817.  It’s a resonant dipole for 40 and 20 meters, with a nice convenient bag, stakes, guy lines and 1:1 balun.  It’s a very nice antenna, easy to set up. But it’s a bit on the heavy side compared to an end-fed half-wave (EFHW) antenna. And not quite as easy to throw into a tree. Continue reading →