My first attempt at NPOTA

The ARRL is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service by doing a year long event called “National Parks On The Air” or NPOTA.
It’s where operators go to National Parks and “activate” them by making contacts from the NPS site/unit. Chasers that make contact with the activators will get points which encourages more operation.

From my point of view it looks like the ARRL got the NPOTA idea by combing SOTA (Summits On The Air) with POTA (Parks On The Air). SOTA is very popular with portable operators but POTA is not as known. The POTA website hasn’t been updated in a long time but locally there is a group that are trying their best to keep POTA alive and well. Hopefully with NPOTA, it will get more people in POTA and hopefully it will improve.

I wanted to give NPOTA a try because there are a couple places locally that I can activate. It also seems that NPOTA is quite active on social media with their Facebook Group. I figured a dual SOTA/NPOTA would be perfect. Be able to do what I know and give NPOTA a try at the same time.

Short Notice Activation


Like usual, I decided the day of that I am going to do a dual activation. The weather forecast for the next week included cold, rain and snow. I figured this was my only shot but there was strong winds. I thought I could fight it and decided to activate Bare Mountain (SOTA W1/CR-014) in Hadley/Amherst Massachusetts as it’s close by and is on the National Scenic Trail (TR06).

Due to my past SOTA activations, I knew it’s best to spread the word so that I’m certain that my activation will count. I posted SOTAwatch, ARRL’s NPOTA upcoming activations page and numerous facebook groups. I am set!

Fighting The Wind


As I started my hike, the wind started to get worse and worse. There would be moments of calm followed by this huge gust of wind. I was worried that I wouldn’t even get my antenna up but it wasn’t stopping me. The hike wasn’t bad at all really. I was proud because I didn’t have to stop to catch my breath at all. Not sure if it was because I’m hiking more or that I am used to doing these hikes on snow and ice covered trails.

Setting up against the wind did prove to be a pain. The end insulators on my homebrew G5RV acted as a kite and cause some funny moments of me trying to secure the wire ends. Even the twin lead took to the wind.

Finally On The Air


The true reason why I did the activation was that I just purchased a new battery from Bioennopower through . I wanted to test it out.

I found a nice quiet frequency on the upper portion of 20m and sent out a self spot on the SOTA cluster. Some operators get grumpy when someone self spots but this isn’t the CQWW contest. It’s some guy running low power and is portable on top a windy mountain.

After a few CQ’s some of the SOTA regulars come onto frequency and made contact. It was great to hear them because it confirms that I can at least get into the west coast since they were out of Washington state and Oregon. However I wanted those NPOTA pileups I hear so much about.

Thankfully someone from the SOTA group spotted me on the AR cluster. You can tell because it’s like someone opened up the flood gates. Calls were pouring in which put a huge smile on my face. I love pileups.

Murphy’s Law

Since I was very excited because of the pileup, something had to go wrong. After 6 or so contacts, the pileup was silenced. I was hearing nothing. Due to the wind I had earbuds in my ears which blocked out the sound of my antenna falling. I scrambled to get everything back up and running. I picked up the antenna, added more straps/cord and got back on the air. During my first contact back on the air, the antenna mast collapsed. Once again I am scrambling to put it back up and making sure to tighten each telescoping section as best I can.  I didn’t even have a chance to make it back to the radio when a big steady gust of wind came and pulled the BNC connector off the ladder line.

At this point I had enough contacts for a SOTA activation. I decided it was best to packup and leave. I didn’t even last 15 minutes on the air and I didn’t even make it to 0:00z or even to the other bands. It was getting dark and didn’t want to deal with it.

NPOTA Nut Jobs

Since I had to cut it short, I wasn’t able to get on 40m that I stated I was going to be on. In the SOTA world, it’s common for an activation to be cut short for weather reasons. However it doesn’t fly with some of the NPOTA chasers.

I attempted to post on the NPOTA facebook group that I had to go QRT due to the wind. However it didn’t stop people messaging me on Facebook and E-Mailing me. They were chastising me because I wasn’t on the air long enough and were upset because they were waiting for me on 40m and didn’t make enough contacts on 20m.

There was also a lot of poor operating during my short time on the air. There were at least 3 operators who didn’t seem to listen. I am not even sure if they heard me because they kept calling and calling even though I was in mid Q with someone else. I was also hearing other operators yelling at them to “Shut Up”.

I was very upset by the comments and poor operating at first until I realized that a good portion of these chasers probably never did a true portable setup before. A lot of the NPOTA activators are doing these activations from the comfort of their own vehicles and RV’s. They have the comfort to stay on for hours at time. I think the SOTA crowd is more understandable because they know what it’s like to be portable on top of a mountain. SOTA ops tend to make as many contacts as possible and get moving. However there is no excuse

Thoughts about NPOTA

I love the idea behind NPOTA. I hope it encourages more portable operating with POTA and SOTA after the event is over. But with what I see on the NPOTA Facebook group and my own personal experiences, there needs to be improvement.

Honestly I don’t think I will be publicly advertising that I am doing NPOTA activations in the future. The attitudes of some of the operators was just outright rude. Both on and off the air. You can’t “Turn the big knob” in this situation.

These are just my opinions, I very well could be wrong.

Thanks for reading,




Portable Operations – What I Carry

I guess I should post up something that isn’t about contesting. I am often asked about my portable setup so I figured just to post it up here to show all.

This setup works for me but it might not work for you. I attempt to pack as small and minimal as possible when it comes to portable. I know some who pack everything including the kitchen sink so opinions will vary.

Here is my portable setup


That’s basically it. Here is a break down of the above picture

Elecraft KX3 – This is the most important part. When I was getting into portable operations, I wanted a radio that wouldn’t waste energy. The KX3 was just released and it met everything that was on my list. It can use AA batteries, the antenna match option works wonderfully, it has multiple modes and nice sized screen. I will admit it was expensive but I felt if I use it 50 times, it would be worth the cost. If the KX3 is not an option than an Yaesu FT-817 will do or those CW QRP kits like KD1JV’s MTR/Sprint radios.

G5RV Jr Antenna – Some people question as to why I went with a G5RV jr antenna and the answer is simple as that I had one laying around so why not use it. When stored properly, it doesn’t really take up much room. I had great luck with it so I kept using it.  However the one I had wasn’t suited for portable use. It was breaking apart and used solid core wire for the 450ohm “ladder” line.


I ended up making a smaller one. I made custom end insulators that act as winders. I also used polystealth wire and a BNC port. The new antenna is much smaller and is somewhat easier to deploy.

Here is the radio with the G5RV jr working some DX while portable in Vermont.

EARCHI end fed antenna – This is my other antenna that I use if I want to be very quick or the local environment prevents me from using the G5RV. It’s just 31 feet (around 15m) of wire that is hooked up to a 9:1 UnUn. Even though I much prefer the G5RV, the end fed works okay.


Here is the Endfed on the beach in South Carolina. Salt water works wonders. Setup was less than 5 mintues and it didn’t take up much room in the car.

Jackite Telescoping Kite Pole (Mast) – For a long time I would tie rope to rocks and throw them over tree branches. In some locations there were no trees which made it much more difficult. Even though a portable mast is bulky for me, I think it’s necessary. I ended up going with Jackite’s 31′ Fiberglass pole because it was 31′.  It is designed for windsocks/kites but hams use it for antenna supports. It made portable communications much easier.


Should have added something for scale. My only complain is the caps can easily come off which sucks when you’re in the middle of the woods when it happens. Little bit of electrical tape does the trip.

Logbook – I use two logbooks during operations. One is just a regular notebook that can fit in my bag and the other is the voice recorder on my phone. That way I can make youtube videos and also go back if I messed up my paper log. The notebook is just full of scribbles. Soon as I get home I enter them into the proper logging software or website.

Foam Pad – I carry a foam pad that gardeners would kneel on. It provides some cushion and ground isolation. It’s a must have and fits nicely in my bag

Misc Antenna Items – I usually carry a roll of RG-58 with BNC ends, tent stakes, small spool of nylon high vis mason rope and bungee/tie down cords. I avoid using any type of nail or screw. I do not want to disturb the environment. I say the stretch/bungee cords is what I use the most to secure the mast to trees and/or benches.

Dedicated Bookbag – When I was at costco I saw some bookbags on sale for $15USD and couldn’t resist. I dedicated it to portable operations since I usually don’t plan my operations.  When I get home after each portable operation, I make sure to organize my backpack and have it ready for the next time. I leave almost everything in the bag so I can almost grab and go since I decide to go out usually at the last second.

Future Plans

I’ve been trying to learn CW for a long time now. I am getting better but once I am confident that I can do CW without any kind of assistance, I will go out with a smaller rig and different antenna. I want a smaller light weight pack. I would also like to find ways to go without a mast but there are times where the area is unknown.

Thanks for reading,

SOTA Activation Report: Bare Mountain, Amherst MA (W1/CR-014)

The KX3 isn’t getting much use as I would like. So far I only used it one other time this year while camping in Vermont. I need to get out more so I took advantage of mild day and decided to go out and activate a local mountain. I decided on Bare Mountain located on the Amherst, South Hadley and Granby border here in Western Mass.


Mt Holyoke Range State park had two SOTA summits on the property. I’ve chosen Bare over Mt. Norwottuck because it’s a faster hike even though it’s more rocky. It allowed me to get up the mountain with time to spare to setup the antennas

Bare mountain is approx 1018ft (309m) height in elevation

The Hike

Since I haven’t done any hiking in a long time, the hike up was not great. I was huffing and puffing. The last time I did Bare Mountain, it was covered with snow and ice. I can tell I am out of shape because I felt I hiked up much faster in the wintertime even with the trying to navigate through ice. I really need to get out. I managed to make the


View of the CT river from my operating position.


APRS Track of my activation. I used the Internet Gateway along with my phone to let people know I am at least moving around.

Getting on the air.

Soon as stopped huffing and puffing, I was up and running within a few minutes. I currently use an Elecraft KX3 with the internal Antenna Match, internal batteries and for the antenna I use a G5RV jr supported by a 31ft fiberglass pole. The antenna is setup in an invert V configurations. I secured the ends of the antennas to near-by trees using bungee cords.  The mast was also secured to a smaller tree with elastic cord as well. It allows for a quick setup and everything breaks down to fit into my pack with the exception of the mast that I use as a walking stick.


Once the stations was setup, I found what I thought was a clear frequency and posted it up on SOTAwatch. Sure enough, soon as I sent the spot, someone came on frequency. My QRP signal was not going to compete with a DX station constantly going “Ooooola, OOooooooola”. After a couple more frequencies, I found a nice spot and went on the air.

Here is a video I made of my SOTA experiance.

Contacts Made

Time Freq Callsign Sent Rcvd Notes
23:48 14.307 K4MF 59 56 FL
23:49 14.307 KC5CW 59 57.TX
23:50 14.307 NG6R 59 43 CA
23:50 14.307 K1MAZ 59 59 MA
23:50 14.307 KK1W 59 59 MA
23:51 14.307 KK4ASA 59 59 MA
23:52 14.307 K5IIK 59 59 AR
23:52 14.307 K5IIK 59 59 AR
23:55 7.198 KF7MQZ 59 59 NY
23:57 7.198 K2JB 59 59 NC
23:57 7.198 WW1X 59 57 GA

Since it’s 0:00z, it’s considered a new day so people get to work me again for an additonal point. However I won’t get credit for it since technically I already activated it the day before even though it was only a couple of minutes.

Time Freq Callsign Sent Rcvd Notes
00:01 7.198 KK1W 59 55 MA
00:01 7.198 WW1X 59 57 GA
00:02 7.198 K2JB 57 59 NC
00:02 7.198 K1MAZ 55 55 MA
00:03 14.307 KC5CW 59 44 TX
00:04 14.307 K4MF 59 57 FL
00:04 14.307 NG6R 59 32 CA
00:05 14.307 KG5EIU 57 33 TX
00:10 146.520 N1FTP 59 58 MA
00:11 146.520 N1TA 59 59 MA
00:15 146.520 N1IVT 59 59 MA
00:16 146.520 N1FDC 59 59 MA

Not too bad. This was all using AA’s in the KX3 so the power was around 5W. I started getting battery low alarms towards the end of my activation. I’ve since “blew up” my lipo pack so if I keep doing activations, I will get my hands on a battery pack so I can run up to a whopping 12 watts.

Hike Down


View of Hadley, Amherst and UMASS from the summit

There was twilight on top of the summit made me think I can navigate down the mountain before it gets too dark. I was very wrong due to the thick amount of trees that blocked out any possible light. I was almost pitch black with the exception of the street lights at the base of the mountain. However I knew this was possible and packed flashlights and headlamps that made the hike enjoyable. I also used my cheapie HT to talk to locals on the repeater that made the hike feel much faster.

Overall thoughts

I always to learn from anything I do. I’ve learned that I need to get out more (doi!) but I also see the importance of a “Go Bag”. I often don’t plan my SOTA adventures until the last second. Because of other vacations and other portable operations, all my gear was spread around in different places. I’m going to purchase a dedicated pack just for summits on the air. I’m not going to make the typical whacker go-box. I like to pack minimal so it will be just what I need to get on the air. I don’t need the kitchen sink. Funny thing is that I tend to make more QSO’s with the less gear I bring. However self spotting on SOTAwatch does make things a lot easier. I still want to try a SOTA activation without advertising it. I had an excellent time like usual.

Thanks for reading. Hope you like the youtube video.

– Jeff NT1K

My Mountain Topper Radio project

After doing some portable operations with the KX3, I felt that having something smaller and lighter would allow my pack to get smaller and smaller. The only problem is that there is nothing smaller than the KX3 that is comparable unless you get a CW only rig. I decided to get the MTR (Mountain Topper Radio) that was developed by Steve Weber (KD1JV). It’s a 2.5-5W QRP CW rig that gives you the options for two bands.

The problem is that the MTR kits are produced and sold in small quantities with high demand.  I’ve learned that Steve developed a version 2 of the MTR (3 bands) and had a pre-sale. Even though he gave out the wrong URL, people managed to figure out the correct URL and sold out within hours. I found out a tad too late and ended up having my money refunded.

I was a little bummed out. I was very excited that I might get this kit. I’ve never worked with surface mount devices and the CW only aspect of the rig would sort of force me to actually learn CW. After making my disappointment known, a local ham mentioned that he had an unbuilt kit from the orginal run that he might be willing to sell to me. Making fun of him didn’t help but I think the fact that I might learn CW might have compelled him to sell me his kit.

What did I just do?

Once I got my hands on the kit and took it home I inspected it (what ham doesn’t when they get a new toy?). That’s when I saw the components I’ll be dealing with. Very tiny resistors, capacitors and IC’s. The toroids were tiny and were not wounded.  Everything is so… small. I have built ham radio related kits before but they were all through hole meaning that the parts like the resistors and IC’s had legs and pins the fit into the holes. They were large enough to where I can easily work with them.

I am not prepared for surface mount work. My soldering iron is this $10 Radio Shack 35W fixed iron. I knew it was not ideal for SMT as I have tried and failed using that iron. I need to learn how to solder surface mount and I need the proper gear to do it with. I’ve learned over the years that working with the correct tools makes the job much easier.

New Tools In The Shack

I’ve learned the hard way many times over that having the proper tools can make things a lot easier. I feel that I have everything needed for the job except for a soldering iron. I looking at the sub $40 Chinese type irons but I stopped myself from purchasing one. I wanted an iron that can last me for many years so I ended up purchasing a Hakko 888D soldering iron. At around $100 I felt that it was worth the purchase.

The Build. Day One!

Soon as I got the iron in, I went straight to work. Following the assembly guide I started with the IC’s and the MCU. I felt that you are starting with the hardest part of the job by soldering small SMT IC chips with small leads and small gaps. I avoided installing the MCU and DDS chips until the other ICs were installed.  Once all the IC’s were installed, I used a jewelers loop and checked my connections. The MCU was crooked a bit and thought it was still good so I kept chugging along. I installed the resistors on the bottom of the board and called it a night.


My working area. You’ll see the board with solder, tweezers, assembly manual, solder, 10X  Jewelers loop, desk lamp with magnifying glass and my new soldering iron. When I purchased the soldering iron, I also purchased different sized and shaped tips.

The Build. Day Two

Next day I got back from work and installed everything else.  It wasn’t really bad as I thought. The soldering Iron was tight in some places but it appeared everything went quite well.


Here is a close up of my soldering. It could be better but I would say not too bad considering I’ve never done SMT work before.

Power On Time.

I didn’t want to wire up the power, headphones or anything else because I was going to design a case but in order to make sure it worked. I needed to wire it up.  Soon as I hooked up the battery… Nothing!  It did’t lite up, It didn’t beep. The only thing I notice was a slight noise in the headphones. Sounded like the noise of when you turn something on.

What Went Wrong?

As panic starts to set in, I was worried that I now have a nice new expensive brick  on my hands. All that time, energy and money spent on the kit and tools needed seemed be wasted. Out came the jewelers loop and soldering iron. I double checked every connection. Then I took out the multimeter and followed the troubleshooting guide in the manual and started checking voltages coming out of the regulators. Everything was checking out. The only thing I see is that the MCU was a little bit crooked.

I tried re-soldering the MCU but it proved to be very difficult. I used solder wick and suction tools that did not help, the chip would not move for me. For me the only choice was to remove the MCU. But how? After some internet searching I decided to use enameled wire and snake it under the chip where the leads meet the chip. I then touched the soldering iron to the leads and slowly pulled the chip off.


Using that method allowed to me to remove the chip, but in the process I damaged the MCU. The above images is not representative of my soldering work. It was more of a panic move and I just wanted to get the chip off without damaging the pads or board. The pads were in great shape and I’m just lucky nothing else happened.

Dealing With Steve Weber

Well it’s obvious the chip will need to be replaced. There are two options available. Beg steve for a new chip or purchase the MCU and flash it using a MSP Launchpad. I almost went the latter because Steve just released V2 and I am sure he was busy dealing with that and life in general but I decided to e-mail him anyways.

Dealing with Steve was a pleasure. I know these radios is not his full time job but he replied within a reasonable time and he was willing to send out a pre-programmed chip for my version of the MTR. Since I was having him sending me stuff, I purchased a case because the price he was asking was more than fair.

Attempt #2

Now that I have the new MCU, I promptly installed it. This time I quadruple check to make sure the chip was aligned properly before soldering. It went much better.


When I applied power I jumped for Joy as I saw the LED come to life and the sounds of CW in my headphone. I did some initial testing and then installed the last toroid.

It’s… ALIVE!!! ALIVE!!!  

Now that it turns on, it’s time to make the adjustments needed for proper operation. Thankfully I have Acquired the test gear I needed over the years from mostly local hams looking to clean their shack. I have a decent frequency counter, oscilloscope and a station monitor.

The manual found on the Yahoo Groups page provided step by step installation and tuning. It made things a lot easier.


First thing I did was adjusted the reference oscillator frequency to match exactly 10MHz. This was very easy. Just pushing a button until I see 10Mhz on the counter. There are reference points on the board to where you can easily measure things.


Adjusting the LO to find the center of the passband. This was a little tricky because I didn’t fully understand the manual and process. In the tuning mode the MCU sends out a tone and I adjusted it by watching the signal peaking on my scope while counting the steps between the peaks. I then went backwards only half of the steps. Hopefully it was done correctly. For me, this was the hardest part of tuning.


Here I am adjusting the receivers filters. With the station monitor I injected a signal into the MTR through the antenna port and adjust the band capacitors until the signal was at it’s loudest. I did the same thing on the other band. This was quite easy.

Last thing I did was hooked it up to a dummy load and checked for output wattage. Using a variable power supply and a DMM hooked in-line, I’ve sent out a tuning signal and adjusted the power supply until the DMM read 9Vdc with a TX load. I was seeing approx 2.5W which is within spec.

Time to get one the air

Now that it’s built and tested, It’s time to get on the air and see what I can (not) do.


Heh, it’s smaller than my paddle.  What’s great about CW is that you don’t have to call CQ over and over again hoping someone would come back to give you a signal report. Just call CQ a couple times and head over to the Reverse Beacon Network where you can see almost in real time where your signal is being heard. There are receivers all over the world scanning the bands for signals.


Here are my results using just a crappy 9V battery. I am pleased to see that not only are stations hearing my signal, but they are on the frequencies that the MTR is tuned to. While I was testing the worst thing happened… Someone replied. I tried very much to work the person. I know the call was a K2 something but that’s all I could make out.

Final Thoughts

This was my first actual kit that I built, It’s also the first time that I ever worked with tiny surface mount devices and even though I messed up the MCU, it was really fun to build. Soldering SMD seems to be a nightmare but after the first couple of parts, it felt real easy and it felt that I was working much quicker compared to through hole parts. This project is also a big kick in the ass to learn CW because I want to use this rig. I’m all about packing very lite when it comes to SOTA and even though I love the KX3, I feel it would be more of an adventure using the MTR. We’ll see.

Thanks for reading!

– Jeff




SOTA Activation Report – Peaked Moutain (W1/CR-006)

I had some time to myself on Saturday (6/14) which is rare so I decided to play a little radio on top of a mountain/hill. I found that when it comes to doing SOTA that ends up being a last minute effort to get my stuff ready. This time I wanted to do a summit that I have never done before. I decided to go to Peaked Mountain located in Hampden/Monson MA.  I notified SOTAwatch and local SOTA/Ham facebook groups that I will be out. I find that letting many people know that you’re going to be activating will increase your chances of a successful activation.

The Hike

Expecting the unknown for both the hike and summit I over packed which is better than not packing that one item you’ll end up needing. The mountain is closer to my QTH then I originally thought which was great. The hike also wasn’t bad. The trails were (now) clearly marked and was able to make it to the summit in 20min or so. My only concern was the rain.


Welded Sign/Box near the summit

The Setup

Due to the overcast I didn’t have much time to really enjoy the view. I wanted to get on the air as fast as possible in case it was going to rain. However I have a new G5RV jr that I home brewed to replace the crappy G5RV that I was using. I also took along the  vertical end fed (EARCHI) as I’ve never used it for SOTA. I wanted to put both up.


Here you can see the G5RV mounted to the Jack Kite 31′ fiberglass pole. I used an eyebolt that is connected to the center insulator and slid it down the mast. I might place some tape at that spot to keep the eyebolt from wearing out the fiberglass tube. Also pictured is the end fed that is attached to the tip of the pole.


Another photo showing my mini G5RV. I made custom insulators using plexiglass that doubles as winders


Here is a photo showing my old G5RV next to my new one.


Here is a shot of the antenna with both antennas attached.
Setup took less than 10Min with most of my time spent untangling wires.

Getting On The Air

After sending out a spot to SOTAwatch and my local SOTA group I was on the air. However no one is coming back. Usually I get people within minutes coming back to my crys of CQ. After about 10min or so, Jim (KK1W) came back to my crys and made my first contact. Other people started to trickle in.  After AJ5C and N4LA I heard a couple DX contacts from Romania and England but was un-able to establish contact


My setup with the KX3, Wouxun for VHF and my 9:1 match for the endfed

I tried switching around bands and antennas to make my contacts. I knew I could make contact with KB1RJC and KB1RJD if I went onto 40M and sure enough they were on and waiting (thank you). They made my 4th and 5th contact.

My Seat with Antenna in the background

After making a couple more local contacts, I called it a day. I have 7 contacts so I can consider the summit to be officially activated. The sun started to come out and the skys started to clear up a bit and was able to enjoy the view from the mountain top



Views from the top of Peaked Mountain.

Overall Experiences 


I’d say this was the hardest HF activation I’ve done to date. It was not the hike because that was very nice and easy. It was hard because I am not sure if it was my antennas, location, band conditions or a combination of all three that was making it difficult for communicating. There were also many hikers up on the mountain and I ended having to explain “what that is” many times over which took me away from the radio. Even though I love explaining what my setup is to non-hams, I just wasn’t in the mood but I didn’t want to come off as rude. I love the location and mountain and this location is now on my list of summits to activate next year.

Thanks for reading,

Jeff – NT1K


Portable Antennas: The EARCHI End Fed

In the search for the “Wonder Antenna” that is small, portable and easy to setup, I’ve decided to build an Endfed antenna using a 9:1 match. This antenna has been made popular by the Emergency Amateur Radio Club of Hawaii (EARCHI). It consists of 30ft of wire fed into a 9:1 UnUn (Unbalanced to Unbalanced).

Plans for the Antenna are available from EARCHI’s website 

I’ve been wanting to make the antenna for quite a while but I’m lazy when it comes to ordering things online.  During the spring of 2013 I went to a regional hamfest located in New Hampshire hoping to find the T106-2 toroid that was called out for in the plans. I saw a bunch of red toroids and decided to purchase them hoping it was the correct mix and size.

I ended up with what appears to be a T130-2 toroid. It’s a little bit bigger than the T1o6 but uses the same mix.

The Build

It wasn’t that bad… If you follow the instructions the build only takes about 15 minutes or so. I mounted everything inside of a plastic tooling container. Instead of using a chassis mount SO-239 I went with a small length of RG-58 coax with a BNC at one end. The reason I did that was because there is always a strong chance that I’ll forget the coax and could at least use the pig tail connected to the radio.



The plan is to get this into even a smaller container.

Let’s hook it up to the Analyzer.

Before attaching it to my radio, I wanted to hook it up to the analyzer just to make sure I have the correct toroid being used. When it comes to buying toroids at hamfests, you could be taking a gamble unless it’s clearly marked. I might have purchased a different type even though it’s red in color.


What I’ve done is hooked up a bunch of resistors to the output and ground of the unit. The resistors should add up to 450ohms. Since it’s a 9:1 balun (or unun in the end use),  9 goes into 450 50 times which we should see 50ohms on the otherside if all is correct.


With the 450 ohm load. The analyzer is see approximately 50ohms across the HF bands allocated for Amateur Radio. However on 6M the SWR and impedance is quite high. However this is most ideal situation. That’s not going to happen when the wire is hooked up as it will not have a 450ohm resistance.

Here is a video I made testing the EARCHI with the MiniVNA PRO

What about the counterpoise or the other half of the antenna?

If you look at the design, you will see that the “ground” is hooked up to the shield of the coax, so it would be suggested that you run some length of coax between the match box and your radio.

Testing the antenna in the real world

One could sit there and talk all day about using the antenna. Let’s see what it can do

I tested this right outside on my deck using a 31 foot fiberglass pole.  The wire is 30ft of #18 Poly-stealth.
The antenna only took around a minute or two to raise. I wasn’t really planning on making a video or even using the antenna that day so the batteries on the KX3 were not charged nor did I have it hooked up to an external source. I was using 3watts to conserve battery.

I went onto 15m and within minutes I managed to make a DX contact with LY10NATO which is a special event station in Lithuania. Not bad considering my conditions. The bands must have been in good shape. I then went to 20 and made contact with W1AW/4, an ARRL Centennial station in Tennessee.

I know it’s not proper to judge an antenna based solely on contacts but it just proves  that it works. If you need a QRP antenna that is portable and can get you on the air quickly then I would suggest the EARCHI to anyone. It’s easy to build and if you don’t have the time you can purchase one from EARCHI. It’s not a “Wonder Antenna” by any means but it’s hard to beat consider the cost and ease of use. Also having a decent match (tuner) helps.

Edit (4/3/2014): Someone on Youtube asked about SWR reading with the EARCHI. I decided to hook up the antenna to the KX3 with the internal ATU option using a couple configurations and here are the results. Please keep in mind the ATU in the KX3 has a wide ratio and could match a lot of wire. Doesn’t make the antenna any more efficient but it makes it work.

KX3 With KXAT3, EARCHI Antenna with around 30ft of #18 Poly Stealth and around 20ft’ RG 58 coax

Band Ratio
160m 18:1
75M 1.1:1
40M 1.0:1
20M 1.1:1
17m 1.1:1
15m 1.1:1
12m 1.2:1
10m 1.0:1
6m 1.0:1

KX3 With KXAT3, EARCHI Antenna with around 30ft of #18 Poly Stealth and around 1ft’ RG 58 coax

Band Ratio
160m 17:1
75M 4:1
40M 3:1
20M 1.1:1
17m 1.0:1
15m 1.0:1
12m 1.0:1
10m 1.0:1
6m 1.1:1

You’ll see that adding a length of Coax will help you out in the lower frequencies. Please note that results will vary depending on your equipment.

Let’s hook up the analyzer using the EARCHI w/ approx 30ft of #18 wire and approx 20ft of RG58 Coax


Thanks for reading!


SOTA Activation – Feb 22 2014 – Bare Mtn. (W1/CR-014)

Since it was a warm weekend than normal, I decided to take advantage of it and hike up Bare Mountain in Granby/Amherst area in Massachusetts and do a SOTA Activation.



Elecraft KX3 Ready to go with Spare Batteries

Since this was a spur of moment thought, I didn’t have time to properly prepare my equipment. However usually when I come home from an activation, I take the time to repack my bag and make sure all the basics are included because I know I’ll be grabbing it with short notice. I could consider it my “Go-Kit” as it’s an entire HF station  with antenna that fits into a small backpack.

Need More Batteries

For this trip I didn’t even charge the battery from the last activation. Since I’m using a 3 cell (3S) 2200mAh RC/ battery with each cell being 3.7v, The battery pack will be fully charged at around 11.1v to around 12.6v. The KX3 Folds back TX power from 10w to 5W when the voltage dips below 11. This does not give me much room to play with. I am able to do an activation at 10W without much issue. If the TX power folds back, it’s usually at the end of my activation so my last contacts would be at true QRP levels. I could purchase a LiPo or LiFePo4 battery that has the proper voltage but that could end up costing me quite a bit of money compared to the cheaper RC batteries used in Quadcoptors and similar. The other option is purchase a 4 cell battery which could gives a 14.8 to 16.8v. It’s a little too much for the KX3 but you could step down the voltage using a couple diodes inline until the voltage drops below a certain point. The downside to that is the diodes will heat up. I’ll stick with the 3 cell for now but I should buy more and alternate them. At $10 a battery, you really can’t complain.

Before the Hike

Even though it’s short notice, there is some preparation that is needed before you leave. Besides making sure you have everything and double checking, it’s strongly suggested that you submit an activation notice (alert) to Even more so if you’re a CW operator. That way people will expect you. You wouldn’t want to spend all this time hiking and  setting up gear to make zero contacts. Since SOTA is gaining more popularity, it means there are more chasers and activators participating. There will always be someone listening out for you as long as you tell them when and where you’ll be. Cell/Data service at the summit is a huge advantage as you’re allowed to Self spot on the SOTA Cluster. CW ops have it even easier because if you send an alert through SOTAWatch, when you start calling CQ the skimmers will pickup your signal and automatically spot you on the SOTA Cluster. That’s pretty darn neat. I know people that have been involved with SOTA for a long time and they’ve told me stories of how they failed to make the minimum of 4 contacts. I have yet to have one of those activations and I hope it never will happen.

The Hike

The hike up wasn’t bad and the use of crampons helped since there were icy spots in the snow. After some huffing and puffing I made it to the summit with some time to spare.However all the time was used tring to untangle my mess of the mini G5RV that I use. It wasn’t designed for portable use and it uses #14 THHN wire. I took along tent stakes but ended up tying off the ends to near-by trees because the ground was frozen. I “Secured” the mast using bungie cord to a tree branch. It held up quite well



Mini G5RV in a inverted V configuration. Mounted to a Jackite pole

Once everything was setup and checked, Out came the logbook and sent a spot over It didn’t take long for the traffic to come. There were times where I had pileups to work me which is real fun.



Operating conditions. Notice the lack of seat.

The following operators worked me from the summit, if you worked me and  you either see your callsign wrong or not there, please contact me. I had a real hard time trying to write down calls correctly and It’s possible that I messed up your call. I try to check each contact against’s DB. It’s even better when the profile mentions SOTA as it makes me feel better the call is correct.

(20 METERS – Start 16:34Z)

  • N4EX
  • W0MNA
  • K1MAZ  (SOTA Jerks)
  • G4OBK
  • W7RV
  • W5ODS
  • KU4GC
  • K5WI
  • KD8NBB
  • DJ5AV
  • AA7DK
  • NS7P
  • WA2USA/4 (In Florida)
  • N7AMA
  • KB9VZU
  • EA7HX
  • G4UXH
  • G0VWP
  • G0RQL
  • G6TUH
  • K8SSS
  • KK1W (SOTA Jerk)
  • KC9TTR
  • W5RST

(12 Meters – Start 16:55)

  • W5RST
  • AD5A
  • KK1W
  • W0KEU

(15 Meters – Start 17:03)

  • G6TUH
  • M0MDA
  • EA2DT
  • M6ARE ??
  • G4UXH

(40 Meters – Start 17:13)

  • KB1RJC
  • KB1RJD
  • VE3JCW
  • N2ICE ??
  • N7UN
  • KK1W

(10 Meters – Start 17:30)

  • W7RV
  • G6TUH

(Contacts with other SOTA Summits)

  • W7IMC (W7I/SR-138 Idaho)
  • KI4SVM (W4C/WM-039) (NC QSO Party)

Over 45 contacts were made, I also chased some DX I heard while scanning around the bands and chasing other SOTA activations. I’m glad to make a  couple Summit to Summit contacts which to me is more thrilling as we’re both on summits with less than ideal operating conditions.


There were a lot of other hikers up at the summit and some came over to talk and were amazed that I was contacting Spain and England considering what I had.



View  from the other side of the Summit. You can see UMASS, Amherst and Hampshire college from this view

I could have stayed longer but Kneeling in the snow wasn’t helping me out. I need to find an easier way to be more comfortable during the winter activations. Thinking about using a kneeboard that I can attach my radio to that also has a clock. The hike down was a lot harder than the hike up. I kept sliding and had to use my antenna mast as a walking stick at times.


Notice someone made little snowmen along the trail

Lessons Learned

Besides having extra batteries, I think some kind of seat or something that would allow me operate more comfortable. I was either standing  or kneeling down in the snow which was more damaging to me than the hike. It was extremely difficult to log contacts while holding the microphone.

Thanks for reading!


SOTA Activation – Jan 18th – Mt Tom (W1/MB-006)

It’s a new year! For those who are into activating summits, this means we can go back out and activate our easy and close-by summits that will count for points.  A known SOTA activator in the region (Doug, W1DMH) was going to be in the area activating a couple summits which caught the interest of a couple other hams in the area..  It was reported that it was going to be a rain/sleet/snow mix for the entire day so I was under the impression that I wasn’t going to be out. While out running errands, I’ve noticed it was clear enough so I ran home, got my gear and went to Mt. Tom.

It’s been awhile since I activated any kind of summit. I would also say it  was the last time I really ever “exercised”. The hike up was not easy. I had to stop a few times to catch my breath and I ended up taking baby steps to  the summit.

SOTA 1/18/14 - Mt Tom

Once I got to the top of the mountain, I was able to catch my breath but then I had to setup shop. Visibility at the summit was poor due to weather. Due to other activators in the area were already on the air, I had no time to walk around to see what was up.

Setting Up

After seeing a lot of activators using some sort of monopole to support their antenna, I jumped on  the band wagon and purchased a fiberglass kite pole during the holidays

Jack Kite Pole

I ended up going with the 31′ Jack Kite Pole.  I wouldn’t say that it’s the best choice for activities like SOTA. Soon as I got it out of the box, the threaded cap came off. It happened more than once which caused all the sections to fall out. I’ve also read reports of the top sections breaking under light loads. To be fair, it was designed to be use with kites. To combat the issues, I’ve removed the top two sections and made a sheath using left over outdoor canvas that I used for my Elk antenna. The sheath has a shoulder strap that allowed me to carry the pole w/o much issue.



Here is the kite pole with antenna mounted to the top.

In past activations that included the same exact spot, I’ve used a Mini G5RV by throwing rocks with a rope attached into the trees. The trees on some of these summits are not that tall and could only manage to get the antenna 6ft off the ground. It worked but I could have done better if it were higher. This time with the kite pole, things went much faster even though I had some issues  with getting the wire  snagged  in nearby tree branches.


I try to stay as minimal as possible. Even more so if  know the layout of the mountain/hill. What you see in the above photo is what I took up. I packed the KX3, microphone, battery, 90 degree BNC adapter, antenna, kitepole, mason line (rope), elastic cord, tape and 2m HT. Due to the massive amount of RF that is already present on top of the mountain, doing a VHF activation is out of the question. I’ve heard other people up there trying to do VHF and they always had trouble receiving.

Getting On The Air

Once the antenna is up, getting on the air is quite easy. However getting spotted or spotting yourself (which is allowed using SOTAwatch) could be difficult depending on conditions and which mode you’re using. I lucked out because I had cell service and was able to spot myself. Since this was last second, I didn’t have the time to give advanced warning of the activation.


A minute or so after spotting, my first call was from Doug (W1DMH) who was on another summit nearby. This counts as a Summit to Summit (S2S) contact that gives both doug and myself extra points. I was hoping to work Jim (KK1W) and Frandy (N1FJ as NE1SJ) that were also on nearby summits but I sort of arrived late to the game and missed out on 2 additional S2S.

After the first contact, the rest came in one after another with the occasional pileup. It was very exciting and made it worth the trip up. Talking on SSB with stations all around the US is fun when you’re using low power. I can see why people find QRP to be very rewarding. I also made some DX contacts with stations in Canada, England and my furthest contact with GI4OUL in N. Ireland. Approx 3000mi only using 7W (428mi per watt)  is not bad.

Thanks to the following who worked me.

Call Time Band Mode Notes
W1DMH 17:43 14MHz SSB Thanks For S2S
N4EX 17:44 14MHz SSB Thanks!
AE4FZ 17:44 14MHz SSB
VE1WT 17:45 14MHz SSB
AJ5C 17:45 14MHz SSB Thanks!
K0LAF 17:45 14MHz SSB
W0MNA 17:45 14MHz SSB
WG8Y 17:46 14MHz SSB
NS7P 17:46 14MHz SSB
KI4SUM 17:47 14MHz SSB
W7RV 17:48 14MHz SSB
W4DOW 17:48 14MHz SSB
NE4TN 17:49 14MHz SSB
WA4WKL 17:49 14MHz SSB
W4SKC 17:50 14MHz SSB
VA6FUN 17:52 14MHz SSB 2000mi on 10W TY!
AD5A 17:52 14MHz SSB Thanks for TX!
W5ODS 17:52 14MHz SSB
K4WAI 17:53 14MHz SSB
G4UXH 17:54 14MHz SSB Thanks for DX!
N6KZ 17:55 14MHz SSB
AA7DK 17:56 14MHz SSB
WB9EAO 17:57 14MHz SSB
K9ICP 17:58 14MHz SSB
GI4ONL 18:00 14MHz SSB Thanks for DX!
KC4TAC 18:00 14MHz SSB
W7RV 18:14 24MHz SSB
W1MSW 18:15 24MHz SSB

After doing a few summits, some of the callsigns start to become familiar as they chased me on other summits in the past. It’s nice to hear them and it makes it real easy to pick them out on packed/noisy bands.

Lessons Learned

Even though I’ve done over 6 summits alone, I’m still learning things along the way. For example, my logbook.



It’s an envelope… Not an logbook. It works but not well. I need some better way to log contacts w/o using some big and bulky notepad.
The G5RV needs to replaced with a SOTA version. Right now the current G5RV is using #14 electrical wire and the ladder line is solid core. It’s bulky and tangles to easily.  I would like to still use the G5RV as it works well but I would like to use polystealth wire and a ladder line made from stranded cable that was thinner.

Thanks for reading!

Elecraft KX3 – What Did I Just Do?

I’ll be honest and say that I laughed when I saw the Yaesu FT-817 for the first time when it was released in 2001. “You’re not going to make any contact with that! It’s small and only 5 watts! No one is going to hear you!” I recall saying a lot. I like to note that I was brand new to amateur radio and had no HF experience. I thought it was silly to “talk” around the world with the same amount of power that my handheld VHF puts out. Well… 12 years later and they are still being produced and sold. I’ve seen the error of my ways and accept that QRP (low power) contacts are very possible. Now that I’ve been involved with HF for about 4 years now, I can see how rewarding QRP contacts are. Now that  I’m more involved with SOTA (summits on the air), doing a bunch of VHF SOTA activations and watching my peers on HF, I decided to purchase a portable HF rig.

I ended up going with the Elecraft KX3.

I could have went with the much cheaper FT-817 and other QRP Xceivers but the features and technology of the KX3 far surpass what the FT-817 had to offer. Well… at least in writing. I just wanted something NEW for a change. Even though the KX3 is expensive, I cheaped out as much as possible and got the kit version of the KX3 with no options or extra accessories.



Hopefully the postal carrier didn’t notice me peeking through the windows with the excited look on my face as he approached.

There are already dozens, if not hundreds of videos, blogs, forum posts of assembling the KX3. I am not going to go into detail here. However I would like to share some notes and tips if you were to get the kit. Most are common sense.

  • Spend time and make sure every nut, screw, standoff and part is in the kit! Use muffin tins or a tackle box to keep parts separate.
  • Do not be surprised if your missing something. They include an extra parts bag and hopefully it’s in there.
  • Read the assembly manual entirely before starting. Do not jump ahead!
  • It’s not a contest, take your time and confirm each step


Besides a screw driver and other basic hand tools. I strongly suggest in using tweezers or a “Jewelers Pickup Tool”



This tool helped me out as the tiny 2-56 screws were  a wee bit hard to handle.

The only issues I had were installing the plastic battery holders (which is noted in the manual) and having to deal with missing 4-40 screws. luckily I had anodized screws in my personal extra screw bin. Overall the assembly went okay and it took about 2 hours.  Is it worth the extra $100 for an assembled kit? All depends on how you value your time. Think of it costing $50/hr for assembly. Are you worth more than that?

First thoughts


After turning it on, one of the first things I did was to compare the receivers of the KX3 to my FT-950 using a switch and the G5RV antenna. Since I don’t have any type of equipment that will give accurate readings, I am basing my findings from what I’ve seen and heard. On SSB, it seemed to receive similar with the DSP turned on in the 950 (No DNR). It has similar S-Unit readings. However the KX3 felt like it dealt with adjacent signals better than the 950. On CW, it seemed the KX3 was better at receiving.

Should Have Purchased Options

Like usual, I was being cheap and purchased the KX3 as a kit without any options. For some people that would work just fine. If you have a spare microphone and resonate antennas at the frequencies you want then you might not have a need for options like the ATU (Automatic Antenna Tuner) or microphone. But here I am with no microphones and no resonate antennas. I could have purchased an Emtech ZM2 or Hendricks SOTA tuner and a used microphone online that would have done just fine, but I didn’t want to lug around more equipment and didn’t want to modify the microphone. I ended up purchasing the ATU  and Microphone from elecraft a short time later.

Issues with the KX3

I’ve held off writing this article for a long time because I had issues with my KX3. After assembly and before installing the ATU, I was hot to trot. I went on the air, started sending out CW to see what skimmers (bots) were picking up my signal. I couldn’t transmit at full power. Even with the KX3 powered using an External 5amp supply, I could not get past 7W. When using batteries, I saw 3watts max.  Putting blame on my antenna at first I didn’t think much of it. At this point I decided it was best to order the ATU as I would end up using compromised antennas like an end fed or random wire where needing a “tuner” (match) would be important.  When I received and installed the ATU, I noticed that I couldn’t tune correctly and it was still folding back power. After taking it out on it’s first SOTA activation, I knew something was wrong.

Dealing with Elecraft

I knew it had to be fixed. The first stop was the Elecraft KX3 Yahoo Group to see if anyone else had similar issue. None were found so after following the advice on Elecraft’s website, as requested, I contacted them VIA e-mail.

I’ve heard that Elecraft support was AMAZING!!  However I felt the opposite. Just to get a reply from Elecraft took me well over a week. I ended up finding e-mail addresses to some of the staff/support members for Elecraft and after contacting them, my issue was finally looked at. It felt like I had to be pushy and demanding to get stuff done which is not a part of who I am so it was uncomfortable. However I just spent a lot of money, for some it may be nothing but it was a lot of saving on my part  so I felt cheated a bit even though Elecraft did absolutely nothing wrong.

Once the RMA process started, it was fast and easy. Elecraft sent me a confirmation once the item was received but I didn’t hear anything else until the day it was shipping out almost a week later. Since I’ve never dealt with returning a radio before, I felt that I had no idea what was going on or even if the radio has been touched by service. When Elecraft got back to me, it was shown that the PA Driver chips were replaced. I wished for a little more detail into what could possibly caused the replacement as to avoid it from happening again.

Months later and with very LITTLE use, the plastic knobs started to crack. After contacting Elecraft, they moved quick and got the replacements I need. Even though it appears this was a common issue, I was a little more impressed with their service this time around.

Amplifier over 2M module 

When the KX3  first rolled out, a 2M module was incorporated into the design but wasn’t available. Due to the fact that I enjoy doing SOTA on VHF, I was excited that there was going to be a 2M option at some point. That means less equipment that I’d have to carry and something better than the Chinese radios that I’ve been using.  However I was very disappointed when they decided to design an amplifier for a radio that was designed to be a QRP portable rig. I get why they did it. Not many people really care about QRP SSB on 2m or 2M in general when it comes to portable operations. They would rather have something that would allow for 100W while mobile or at the home while taking advantage of a really good receiver. It turns the KX3 into a dual purpose rig. I would have rather seen the 2M module first.

Even though at times, it may seem I’m very critical of  Elecraft, It’s because I want them to succeed.  They make good products, they’re very interactive with the community and they’re based in the United States. I just want them to improve so they can be on the same production level as the “Big Three”. I honestly think it’s possible.

Final Thoughts


Using the KX3 on top of Mt. Tom, Holyoke MA

When I decided to purchase the KX3, I thought I would be taking up adventures  like climbing mountains, hiking, going to parks and testing the limits of QRP. It  didn’t really happen. Those times I got to get out and played radio, the KX3 performed very well. The very low current draw allowed me to use full power (approx 10W) using a Hobby battery (Turnigy 2200mAh 3S 20C Li-Po 11.1v) that lasted for at least an hour before turning back the wattage (to 5W) when the battery voltage dipped below the 11vdc threshold (time will vary depending on duty, temp and mode).  The radio is easy to pack and deploy. If there are trees tall enough in the area, I can hang a dipole and get on the air within 10-15 minutes.

Even though there are cheaper alternatives, I think I’ve  made a wise choice. If I ever decide to go portable, It’s there  and ready to go and it just works.


SOTA Pack consisting of KX3, G5RV Jr and End Fed

I would recommend this radio to others under certain circumstances. If you’re just getting into the hobby, I wouldn’t suggest it unless you have the money for radio and amplifier or you live in a restricted area where a base antenna setup is just not possible and would have to go portable/mobile. QRP is a rewarding challenge but frustration will set in when your in a pile up with a 5W signal and a compromised antenna.

Hopefully the 2M module doesn’t cost as much as the K3’s module.

Thanks for reading!

Antenna Reviews: Arrow Satellite II Vs. Elk Log Periodic

I was given two popular antennas to use for a decent amount of time. I figured to try them both out and share my feelings about each one. I was given the Arrow Satellite II from Arrow antennas and a dual band Log Periodic from Elk Antennas. We’ll look at each antenna individually and then compare them to each other.

Arrow Satellite II

Whenever someone mentions working amateur radio satellites (reapeaters in the sky), the Arrow Satellite II is almost always mentioned. It’s been mentioned so many times that I wanted one.  However like most hams, I’m cheap! If I feel that I can make the exact same antenna, I will try my best to do so. I tried looking for the plans for that antenna but couldn’t find them. I was bummed out until someone I knew (N1KXR) purchased a used one from another ham. This was the perfect time to  take the antenna and dissect it.

The first thing I did when I got the antenna was to assemble it and PLAY!  The actual assembly of the antenna was OK. The reason it’s called an ARROW antenna is because the elements are made from aluminum arrow shafts  that are used in archery. The great thing about using arrows is  that they are light and built to some strict specs.

I like that it’s light weight and that I can setup the antenna to either VHF or UHF or Both. The duplexer inside the handle is a big plus.  I don’t have a spectrum/network analyzer or lab equipment to give you the in-depth specs of the antenna (I just wish I knew) but it shows good SWR on  my bridge (meter) and it performs. The only thing I would do if this was mine is to use different color electrical tape (or paint markers) to identify the correct pairs of elements. I lined them up by height. I would also drill a hole in the handle (away from the duplexer) so I could mount  the antenna to a tripod better. As I found with the PVC Tape measure yagi, It gets heavy after holding it for awhile.

Let’s Reverse It!

I wanted to make this antenna almost exactly the same way it was purchased. From using arrows shafts all the way down to the micro-duplexer that is in the handle.  I didn’t want to drift far away from the original design so out came the 5ft vernier calipers and went to town remaking the entire antenna in CAD.

Arrow Yagi 3D Model

After putting all the dimensions back into CAD this is what I got. I would like to say it’s within .005″ and the antenna is possible to reproduce if you have access to a drill press, arbor press (can’t tell if the BNCs are pressed) and lathe (Or a good fixture for the drill press) as most of the work would be focused on the driven element/gamma match.

Is it worth making your own?

Even though I have access to some of the material, I wanted to look at as if I had nothing and had to go out and buy all the material. So I started calling around for quotes on material. The more and more I got into it, the price kept climbing and climbing.

Let’s start off with the Arrows. I wanted to use the same aluminum arrows just like the ones that are used on this antenna.  I went looking for the Arrows they used based on the dimensions I got from reverse engineering. While trying to find these arrows I learned a lot about all the different types of arrows used in archery.  When it comes to aluminum arrows, they use a 4 digit number system. The first two digits are the diameter of the shaft in 1/64″ increments and the last two digits are the wall thickness in 1/1000″.  I found out that they are using  1716 arrow and the only ones I can find are by Easton (Easton Blues/Jazz) and they are not cheap. Just the shafts would end up being $60-$70. That doesn’t include the 8-32 Inserts.

The tubing, square stock and bar stock for the boom and gamma match would add up to approx $30.

BNC connectors, Coax, plastic tubing, wire, screws and threaded rod would add up to approx $20.

So far we’re looking at least $100-$120 for the material and that doesn’t even include the micro duplexer. You can purchase the duplexer ready to go from Arrow Antennas for around $60 or you can make it yourself using the plans found on KI0AG’s Site that appears Arrow Antennas used as well.  If you don’t have the means or equipment to make/etch your own boards then it will still cost a decent amount of money.

For me, It’s not worth building.

The price of material would meet or exceed the cost of the antenna if you were to buy it from Arrow. This doesn’t include the splitboom, duplexer and labor involved. As much pride as I take in building my own, it’s not worth it. I can buy the antenna already made for less then it would take to manufacture. I tried things like using 1/4″ solid aluminum rod to reduce the materials costs but now you are spending more time in labor in drilling and tapping for a 8-32 screw. A lathe would really help in this situation.

How does it perform?

I can’t get too technical because I don’t have any of the testing gear or the know how to give you exact figures.  The following evaluation is just from my personal observations.

The way I received the antenna was in a tube with what appears to be the original plastic bag that separates the UHF and VHF Elements. Since this antenna is used, I am not sure how it comes from the factory. Assembling the Antenna is quite a challenge. The elements are NOT labeled! What I had to do was line up the elements by height and pair them together for both the VHF and UHF side of the beam. For me, most of the time assembling this antenna is spent finding out which element is which. This would be my only complaint about the antenna. However it can be fixed by doing a couple things. Buying multicolored electrical tape and put some tape on the elements and boom. You can also purchase or make your “Antenna” bag with pockets for each pair of elements.

Assembly is pretty much straight forward once you know what goes where, Just screw them together through the boom, hook up the BNC connector and you’re  ready to go. I’d suggest the first time you put it together to check SWR and adjust the gamma match for optimal SWR.

I spent some time tracking Sats, hitting repeaters that I can’t normally hit with a rubber duck and some back yard RDF. The antenna performs, I was able to pickup some satellites like the NOAA and some Ham Sats and it performs just like you would expect. There is nothing much more I can say performance wise other than it works.


  • Uses aluminum
  • Lightweight
  • Tuneable (Gamma Match)
  • Built in duplexor
  • Use either 144 or 440 or both.
  • Breaks down into a small area


  • Elements not marked
  • Arrows can break
  • Built in duplexor
  • Very bulky when assembled
  • Hard to transport

If you noticed I put duplexor in both the pros and cons. The reason is because it’s great that you just one connection to the radio but you will have loss at the duplexor. I would assume the loss isn’t much at all so I wouldn’t be to concerned.

When you assemble both the VHF and UHF side of the beam, it turns into quite a bulky object and would be harder to transport inside your car. Not saying it’s impossible but you would most likely have to break down one band of the antenna.

Overall a great antenna and would recommend it to anyone that is serious about portable sat work, RDF and low power operations (<10W)

Elk Log Periodic 

Whenever the Arrow antenna is mentioned, the Log Periodic by Elk Antennas is also mentioned and vice verse. The antenna is known as a log periodic which is a little bit similar to a Yagi.  Instead of one boom, It uses two booms which the elements that are attached to each boom are 180 degrees from the elements on the other boom. In a simple way I can put it is that it’s a bunch of dipoles of different lengths. When the signal enters the antenna, it will find the best pair of “Dipoles” for that frequency and the other pairs help direct the signal.

Lets reverse it!

Well I didn’t. I didn’t think it was worth it.

The antenna is made with some quality parts. The Booms are thick walled aluminum tubing. They are spaced part using plastic spacers and plastic bolts and it has tapped holes along the boom with #10 screws to hold the elements.  The boom is mounted/supported by two different grades of PVC tubing. The PVC used for mounting is schedual 40 and the other appears to be electrical conduit.  The elements are also aluminum tubing that appears to have been either wet or powder coated with vinyl caps to protect the ends. They also have pressed in threads (10-32). They are high end tent poles. Included is a Handle made from PVC tubing that has a foam grip fitted to one side. This handle allows for portable ops.

Is it worth making your own? 

I priced everything out as if you didn’t have any of this material laying around the house and you started from scratch.

  • 4Ft Aluminum tubing for the boom – $25
  • 12ft Aluminum tubing for the elements – $35
  • PVC for mounting – $10
  • Vinyl caps – $5
  • Stainless Screws/Nuts (Nylock) – $15
  • Plastic Screws/spacers – $10
  • SO-239 Chassis mount – $5

Total Materials cost – Approx $105

Just based on materials alone, It’s cheaper than if you were to purchase one.

For Me, It’s not worth building

Even though the materials are cheaper than what it’s being sold for, there is quite a bit of work that has to go into this antenna. One of the booms will have to be machined for a notch to allow the SO-239 connector to sit flush. There is also a LOT of drilling and tapping going on. That means you need a drillpress that is almost perfectly 90 degrees and fixtures/jigs available to drill nicely through round stock. If you don’t have the time or you highly value your time, I can see 4 or so hours in manufacturing and assembly. If you wanted to go all out and powder/wet paint the elements, then you are add more time and costs.

How does it perform? 

Once again, I don’t have the equipment to give you a proper assessment of the antenna. The following evaluation is just from my personal observations.

I got the antenna mostly un-assembled in a bag.  I am not sure how it comes from the factory as this is also a used antenna. Assembly is easy with this antenna. The elements and boom are marked with different colors. All you have to do is match up the colors and screw them to the booms (Yep, still calling it that), connect the coax and away you go!

I was able to receive some Sats, and hit some distant repeaters with my HT. I also mounted this to my simple TV rotor in my attic and used it with my FT-1900R.



I even did a night time SOTA activation with it. Worked quite well.


  • Easy to assemble
  • East to transport when assembled
  • Dual band
  • No duplexor
  • Easy to break down
  • Can be semi permanent install
  • Can accept up to 200w VHF and 100W UHF


  • Uses PVC 
  • Coax has to be positioned correctly to avoid SWR issues

Even though the antenna works and does a great job, The use of PVC just makes me feel that the build quality is… meh. It has a home-brew feel to it, that’s all. When hooking up the coax, you have to keep at least 8″ of the coax 90 degrees from the boom as suggested on their website. In order to get the most out of this antenna, you would have to make some sort of fixture to mount the coax correctly which could be a hassle depending on how you’re looking at it.


Dueling Antennas.

Cue the banjos and setup the octagon because we have a fight on our hands. Well… Not really. There is no winner and there is nothing that would make one WAY BETTER than the other. They both have their unique features and they both pretty much perform equally in my book. I like the Elk because it’s not as bulky and can handle more power but I like the Arrow because it doesn’t use Plumbers\Electrical PVC and it’s easy to adjust. If push came to shove and I had to make a choice, I would lean toward the Elk. If they redesigned the boom holder/mount using something other than PVC tubing then I would prefer the Elk over the Arrow.


I decided to make a carrying case for the elk. I used outdoor canvas and my sewing skills are absolutely horrible. But it’s better than the nylon tent bag that was being ripped up by the screws that are sticking out of the boom.  Now all the elements are organized and I have a pocket to put coax or a small handheld radio. The green tube in the background is what holds the arrow that was created by the owner of the Arrow.  It appears to be a pool stick bag with a PVC pipe. It’s long because at the time, it was one solid length of boom



Here is a photo of both the antennas un-assembled.  At the point of taking this photo, the Arrow still has a one piece boom. They both pretty much take up the space if the boom was split on the arrow.


Here is the duplexor that is located within the handle of the Arrow. Wasn’t going to cut the shrink wrap to show the circuit but it’s no secret. the plans are out on the internet.



Here are both antennas assembled. You can see that the Arrow is bulkier due to it’s cross polarization and it’s a bit longer than the Elk. But I will say that the arrow “Feels” lighter. I wouldn’t be holding either antenna for an extended amount of time.


Here is the “Split Boom” modification I did to the arrow antenna. This is available as an option from Arrow Antennas and I would suggest spending the extra money to have it done for you. What’s great is even though arrow sells a split boom model, they published the modification to make your one piece boom into a split. I followed the directions on the site except for the angle. I used a piece of 1/2″ plumbing copper pipe. I should have turned it down in the lathe as it was a really tight fit. Once I got the copper pipe a couple inches in the boom, I drilled a hole through the boom and tube and used aluminum pop rivets to secure the copper tube. Once I got the other end of the boom to slide on the copper pipe and meet the angle, I drilled a hole through copper tube using the hole for the first director element for the UHF side of the antenna. This way when you thread the arrows through the boom and tube, it will “Lock” the booms together. Nice move on arrows part.

Overall there is no clear winner. They both have their strengths and weeknesses. My personal preferance would be the elk even though I wouldn’t mind the arrow at all. Tasters choice I guess.

Thanks for reading!