One of the things that we really like to do is to escape the everyday world and spend time camping with the family in the great outdoors. We purchased our first fifth wheel travel trailer back in the late 1990’s and have really enjoyed the times that we have been able to get away with the kids. While camping, we enjoy hiking, sitting around the campfire, making s’mores, playing board games, and other fun stuff like that. Within the last 6 months, I have added ham radio to the camping mix.
We tried out a new (for us) State Park in Arkansas this weekend located on the shore of Lake DeGray. See www.degray.com . We found the park to be very clean and well run. While there, we took a couple of short hikes and my son and I went to a demonstration by a Park Interpreter on how to make fire with sticks and a bow drill. Pretty cool, but you wouldn’t want to have to do it every night before dinner. Great technique to know in a survival situation though. My in-laws stayed at the Resort on the State Park property and said it was great. A nice room with a great view, and an on-site restaurant, among other amenities.
One of the highlights of the weekend for me was being able to test the KX3 in field conditions. The rig configuration for the weekend consisted of the KX3 running on internal batteries at 3 watts, the attached Elecraft iambic paddle, and a Par End Fedz 10/20/40 vertical. The base of the antenna was about 6 feet off the ground, so I must have thrown the bolt on a string about 40 feet over a limb. I set up to operate under a canopy at the park picnic table.
I sat down to operate Friday night after the kids went to bed about 10 pm local time, and was able to make a weak contact on 40 meters with my twitter friend Dan KB6NU in Ann Arbor, MI. Dan gave me a 229 report. I really appreciated Dan’s patience in making the contact happen, as I was struggling with noise on my end and my lack of CW skills.
I then had a solid 599 contact with Bill KB4SSB in Fort White Florida. This was a much easier contact and it was great to ragchew for a while at QRS with Bill on 7.112 CW.
I had charged the internal batteries and set the low battery indicator for 8.5 volts on Thursday before we left for the trip. I received my first low battery warning as I was wrapping up Friday night. I had started operating at 2:45 z and ended at 4:05 z. The next morning I threw out my call on 14.273 SSB to K4VV who was calling CQ in the VA QSO party. He came back to me right away. Not bad for 3 watts SSB. I had to shut down shortly thereafter, but cranked back up Sunday morning and made one CW contact in the VA QSO party with W4ML. And then the batteries gave up and the KX3 went to sleep.
All in all, it was a great weekend. I learned a few things about the KX3 and portable operations this weekend. I used the backlight on Friday night, and I suspect that uses quite a bit of power. I need to turn it off when operating on batteries. I had the opportunity to play with the filters on the KX3 and begin to use them to my advantage. I need to take my trusty short fishing rod and reel to launch my antenna string, as I’m getting too old and have too much shoulder pain to rely on my arm anymore. I have ordered a small power supply that will be great on trips like this where I am close to electricity. I also need to bite the bullet and purchase an external battery and charger soon. The internal batteries are good for what they are, but operating time is severely limited with them.
Thanks for reading my blog. I’d love to hear from you if you have any thoughts on QRP portable operations. If you are considering the pursuit of ham radio as I hobby, and looking for someone to help you get started, I’d be honored to give you my story and help you if I can. I’ve only been at this for a little more than a year – but ham radio is a great hobby with something for almost everyone to enjoy.