2.5 Watts and a wire!
Recently I have had the desire to get into HF. I talk to friends and they are always telling me about these far away places they have contacted. Some I have never heard of. The stories of DXpeditions and exotic locations. Also, with my 3D printing business I have been working on a line of parts that was mainly geared towards portable HF operation. Things like end insulators, center insulators and wire wrappers. I have been relying on others to test these things out for me. While this is all fine and dandy, I wanted to get out use the stuff and make some contacts for myself! I decided portable operation was going to fit my lifestyle at the moment, plus I love the outdoors!
After many many days of research I settled on picking up a Yaesu FT-817ND. It fit the bill as far as what I was looking for. It’s light weight, extremely portable and low power draw. Even has a internal battery. Along with that I picked up a LDG Electronics Z-817H auto tuner for the FT-817ND. It works off 4 AA batteries, it’s compact, and has one button tuning connected directly to the radio. It was like Christmas when it arrived at the house!
Then came the hard part. The antenna….. What antenna should I use? I looked at all kinds of designs from, band cut dipoles, loops, end fed, off center fed and more. All the research will really make you go cross eyed. I knew one thing though. For the first antenna, I want it to be extremely portable, quick to deploy and work relatively decent. after lots of research I came across The EARCHI End Fed antenna. The club in Hawaii use to sell this antenna and it got great reviews all over the internet. They no longer sale the antenna but they graciously publish the plans for it here. Great I can build that! I ordered some toroids and some wire and I was off to the races! I wound the toroid just as described and built a 9:1 UNUN. I think quickly printed a enclosure and got it all put together.
For the element I ended up using 14ga stranded THHN. I cut it to 36 feet (A little longer to allow for end insulator and tuning) after doing to some reading on Balun Designs Website. That paper can be found here. I got it all soldered up and thrown into a tree. I don’t have my external battery all setup yet so I thought I would hook everything up and spin the VFO a little and see if I could at least hear anything and maybe throw out my call. I got everything hooked up, turned on the radio and switched over to 20 meters. I hear that is a pretty decent band to work during the day. Hit the tune button. 1:1 SWR. Hey that’s pretty good! Turned the dial into the general SSB portion of the 20 meter ban and I hear a strong signal coming in S9+ calling CQ! Wait! Where is my mic! I didn’t unpack it from the box! Ran back in grabbed it got it plugged in and hear the guy calling CQ again. Signal still S9+! I throw out my call. KM4KTC/QRP. I listen and hear KM4KTC KK6NON 5-5 California! WOW! First QSO and contact is from North AL to Cali on 2.5 Watts! I was shocked! I switch to some different bands tuned up the antenna and listened to a few other stations. on 40 meters and others. I had other work to do, so down came the antenna and packed it all up.
The 2016 ARRL DX SSB CONTEST was starting later that day so I thought I would try some more later in the weekend. I didn’t get to do anything on Saturday. But Sunday was a gorgeous day and my wife wanted to take the kids to the park! Perfect! I knew there was some trees there and a couple of picnic tables. So off I went. Got everything setup and going.(No pictures I forgot) Still using the internal battery at 2.5 watts. I had received a txt from a friend earlier in the day that said 15 meters and 10 meters were wide open. Tuned up 15 meters turned the dial and hear CQ contest CQ contest CQ Contest. There is a pile up! I wait and listen a little more. I hear CR2X calling CQ again. S9+ I throw out my call! HE RESPONDS! I give my 5-9 AL He copies! I write everything down and pull out my phone to see where he is! AZORES ISLANDS! WOW I am shocked! I scroll on up the band and hear another station calling CQ. This time it was P40L in Aruba. I get a great report back and he mentions they are on 10 Meters also. So I hit the band button up to 10 Meters Tune up 1:1 SWR. Hey that’s great! and here them calling CQ right were he said they were. Throw out my call and get another response. Aruba on 10 meters!
By this time the kids were worn out and the wife was ready to head back to the house so I packed it up and went home. What a weekend. My first HF contacts were QRP portable with nothing but 2.5 watts and a wire. It was a really great weekend to step into HF. Although I couldn’t get through some of the pile ups and didn’t get a lot of calls in the log books, the ones I got were amazing to me. I kept hearing QRP is not the way you want to start HF. Maybe, it’s not for everyone. For me it’s a great experience and I can’t wait to do it again. I realize I am not always going to have the same outcome and that’s ok. I will still have fun and that is what the hobby is about.
Hope to see you in the logbook!