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Field Day with 4 AA Batteries

This year’s Field Day provided a chance to experiment with emergency communications. I used a tiny rig that fits in a 3 X 5 inch box and runs on 4 AA batteries. I set out to work 50 stations with this setup. I succeeded.

This box fits is a shirt pocket. It contains the MTR-3, earphones, adapters for power and antenna, the paddles, and an extension for the paddles. It does not contain an antenna or batteries.

For power I used 4 AA batteries in the Goal Zero Guide 12 power bank. It outputs 5 volts to a USB-A connector. I converted that to 10.3 volts with the Baofeng USB charging adapter.

I wanted to put this kit together for years. I was never able to find paddles that were small enough to fit. Then I found the N6ARA paddles. They are smaller than your little finger. They can plug directly into the key input. I used a short extension and held the paddles in my left hand and keyed with my right hand.

I put up an 88 foot doublet for the event and planned to operate 1B on the deck. Then it rained. I operated from the sun room as 1E on 40 and 20 meters. I made the 50 QSOs fairly quickly. I would guess my setup was putting out about 3 watts. The batteries would have been good for another 5 hours I think.

Then I switched to the (tr) uSDX rig running 5 watts. I wasn’t sure if it would stand up to Field Day traffic. It did wonderfully. I made another 50 QSOs with that tiny rig. I used a set of full sized paddles with three 18650 batteries for a full 12 volts.

Field Day provides a great opportunity to test emergency gear. These experiments satisfied me that pocket gear, with a modest antenna and a USB power bank will do quite well in a pinch.

Sweden from the River with QCX-Mini

Judy and I rode our bikes again today in Old Hill Village. We rode north from Needle Shop Brook and stopped at an outcropping right on the edge of the Pemigewasset River. I worked a station in Sweden.

It was a cool day, 17C and there was a stiff breeze from the north. When we started out it was sprinkling. But this spot was beautiful, and I tossed my half-wave wire over a low maple tree. It wasn’t tall enough to make a vertical, so I used the wire as a sloper. It pointed north which proved to be an advantage.

I was using the tiny QCX-mini on 20 meters. I tuned around a bit and heard an especially strong station, SM5ATP. As he finished up a QSO, I called him.

To my delight, Conny answered right away and asked me to go up two Khz. He was a strong 599 and gave me a 559. I was thrilled. When I told him I was running 3 watts to an end fed wire, he sent: “Amazing Jim… 3W.”

We chatted for a while and I told him I had ridden my bicycle to this spot. “Sounds healthy,” he replied. I promised to send some photos of my operating position by the river. Later I fetched a picture of Conny from his QRZ page.

What a thrill to ride in a wilderness area and make a contact on the other side of the ocean. Thanks Conny! You made the whole trip memorable.

Field Day – 200 QSOs with a Flashlight Battery

Field Day was an experiment this year. I ran my operation for nine hours using a 5V 18650 battery. I made 200 QSOs before calling it quits.

I operated on the deck with an MTR 4-B designed by KD1JV. The antenna was an 88 foot doublet up about 45 feet. I used the ZM-2 tuner. For power I used the Powerfilm Lightsaver. This is a 5 watt roll-up solar panel that charges a 3.7V 18650 battery rated at 3.2 Ahr. The battery inside the Powerfilm product is commonly used in flashlights. The combination of the rig and the power supply is crucial.

The MTR rigs will operate from 6 to 12 volts. The Powerfilm puts out 5V to a USB socket. The secret ingredient required to bring the USB voltage up to the operating voltage of the rig is a Baofeng USB charging dongle. This device takes a 5V input and outputs 10.3 volts… perfect for the MTR transceiver. With this voltage the MTR puts out a little less than 3 watts.

The Powerfilm Lightsaver is designed to charge cell phones for hikers and campers. It weighs only about 5 oz. and rolls up into a tiny package. Any USB 5V cell phone charging battery could be used with the Baofeng dongle.

This year my whole station operated on 5V. I used a Samsung tablet for logging.

In New Hampshire it was cloudy for most of Field Day, but fortunately the amorphous solar panel provides some charging even when it’s cloudy. I’m guessing that after 9 hours of operating the battery was down to about half capacity. The beauty of this system is that one could operate indefinitely with moderate sunshine.

I’ve been experimenting with this setup during hikes and bike rides for the last couple of months with a view to using it for Field Day. This year’s emergency exercise proves that it is viable for an extended grid-down power outage.

Early Spring on the Pemigewasset River

I took a bike ride for the first time this year. I rode along the Pemigewasset River and worked Wisconsin and Florida. It was a glorious day.

Starting out at Shaw Cove, the water is much higher than usual. Buds are just beginning to show. The trail is strewn with debris from spring flooding. Tree branches block parts of the trail, but I can ride around it all. I head north a bit more than a mile and stop under a huge pine tree.

I brought a half-wave end-fed for 20 meters. The wire is about 30 feet long. I tossed it over a pine branch and set up the KD1JV Mountain Topper. The view is spectacular.

I sit on the ground with the Mountain Topper in front of me.

I’m powering the rig with a Powerfilm LightSaver solar panel with built-in 18650 battery. I’m using a USB dongle to step up the voltage from 5v to 10V. It’s a perfect setup for the Mountain Topper which puts out about 3.5 watts with 10V. I can operate indefinitely as long as the sun is shining.

Right away I hear K0BXB from Wisconsin and call him. Martin gives me a 539. He is 559 to me. Soon I hear Bernie KB4JR in Florida calling CQ. He gives me a 559. He is running 500 watts and is strong to me. I tune down the band and hear Tom W2TMT from Florida calling CQ. Tom gives me a 559. He is a strong 599.

After operating for 20 minutes, I pack up for the ride back. Soon the black flies will be out and bike rides will be troublesome for a few weeks. I take one last snapshot of the sparkling river.

DX from Swain’s Field

Judy and I hiked up the range road behind Swain’s Farm this afternoon. What fantastic fall colors! I worked Trinidad and Texas with the KX3 and enjoyed one of the last warm days of the year.

I tossed a wire into a giant maple tree at the edge of one of the hay fields. I sat on the ground underneath a canopy of gold and set up the KX3.

I started on 17 meters and heard 9Z4Y Mark from Trinidad just finishing up a QSO. I called and he gave me a 559. Then I switched to 20 meters.

W5ZO in Texas had just signed with another station when I called him. Mike was strong to me and gave me a 559. He kept saying how surprised he was, because I was peaking at S8. We chatted for 15 minutes and then signed.

My view from under the maple tree was stunning with a view to the south and east toward the Belknap Range.

This may be the last warm day of the year. Next week the forecast is calling for cold temperatures in the 40s during the day.

QSO from the Pemi – Perfect Day

Some days are too perfect to pass up. Today was one of those. I took a quick afternoon bike ride along the Pemigewasset River and worked WA1ASU in Virginia.

It’s a gorgeous sunny day… about 72F. There’s enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes away. Late in the afternoon I took my bike down to the trail along the river. I rode north for about 20 minutes. I stopped at a sharp corner underneath a giant pine tree. It’s just in front of my bike pictured below. The tree must be 100 feet tall.

I tossed a line about 45 feet over a branch. I pulled up my wire and sat on the ground at the edge of the trail with the KX3 in front of me. It didn’t take long to find Hank, WA1ASU calling CQ on 20 meters. He was strong and answered me right away from Virginia. We chatted for almost 15 minutes while I took in the beautiful river view.

Hank was running 50 watts to a Kenwood rig. “Your KX3 is doing a FB job,” he sent before we closed.

It’s so great to get out and enjoy the beautiful spring weather. A quick QRP contact makes the day perfect.

Magic on the Pemigewasset River

It’s all magic. The perfect sunny day. The sparkling river. The trail. The QRP contacts with Manitoba and Pennsylvania.

I took a bike ride this afternoon up the old road along the Pemigewasset River. There’s a gate at the entrance to keep out cars and trucks… only horses, bicycles and walkers allowed.

I throw a water bottle over the branch of a huge pine tree and pull up a 30 foot wire. I sit down along the edge of the trail and hook up the KX3. The bands are pretty poor and I start out on 40 meters. Ron N4PGJ is calling CQ and I answer. We’ve worked a dozen times before and we chat for a few minutes.

Then I switch to 20 meters. Don VE4ESE is calling CQ from Manitoba. He’s strong to me and he gives me a 559. I tell him it’s a beautiful sunny day and I’m sitting by the river. He tells me he’s running an old TS-520 from 1975. He’s changed the finals only once since then. We sign and I take another snap shot downstream. It’s amazing.

The most beautiful place in the world. A gorgeous day, and a couple of quick contacts with the portable setup. It’s all magic. I ride back to the car with a big smile on my face.

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  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor