Getting On The Air!

Having the ability to operate QRP at any time, from virtually anywhere is, IMHO the very best aspect of the Amateur Radio hobby. There are days when I take the XYL to appointments and some of those appointments give me time to get on the air quickly.

There are also days when I have time to run out and grab a couple of hours at a park or some other convenient location close to home. Smiths Point County Park, Union Avenue Town Dock, Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge and other locations are only a few minutes drive.

Having my gear ready to go provides that “operate any time” fun. Other than antennas, all my backpack usually contains is a notebook, pens, pencils, snacks, my Venus SW-3B three band transceiver, straight key or single lever paddle, headphones and my Elecraft T1 Tuner. My LifePO4 battery is always charged and along for the ride.

Which Radio?


Of course my Elecraft KX3 offers the most band coverage. For my Parks on the Air activations and Winter Field Day, the KX3 is the radio of choice because of its extra features like its on board tuner, adjustable bandwidth, memory keyer, roofing filter, etc.


The SW-3B transceiver is a fun rig that covers 40, 30 and 20 meters. It’s got a small footprint and its basic features are really all that’s needed for those “pop up” chances to operate CW. For a really small radio it has an adjustable RF gain which help reduce front end overload and reduces adjacent noise. The built in keyer works quite well for a rig around as small as a cigarette pack.

Which Antenna? 

The Good Ol Hamstick:

It seems to me after all the years of messing around with antennas, the fastest compromise antenna to setup is the good old Hamstick. I keep a Hamstick for 40, 30 and 20 meters with me at all times. Since 10 meters has recently come back to life I cheat and use the 20 meter Hamstick with the Elecraft T1 Tuner and SW-3B for 10 meters. I’d swear that Elecraft T1 tuner would bring the impedance of toilet paper close to 1:1!

Band Hopper:

The other antenna I’ve had great success with is the SOTA Beams Band Hopper III. The Band Hopper covers 40, 30 and 20 meters. Swapping bands is a matter of dropping the antenna some and then clipping or unclipping the alligator clips to change bands. The Band Hopper is lightweight and comes in a nylon sack with 3 lightweight stakes for an easy inverted V configuration.

Mounting the Band Hopper is pretty quick because I made a drive over stand from a length of wood, short lag bolts, a 12 x 2 inch section of threaded black pipe and a black pipe coupler fitting. I just lag bolted the coupler to the drive over stand. For transport I just unscrew the pipe from the stand. Simple and effective.

To get the Band Hopper up in the air, (or any other antenna) I use a 20 ft collapsible crappie pole inserted into the stand. The QRP Guys Tri-Band Vertical also works very well with the drive over stand and the crappie pole setup.

Wolf River Coil:

In several occasions I have used the Wolf River Coil TIA setup. I am not a big fan of this antenna because the radials can be a problem in tight spaces and the antenna can be difficult to achieve a low SWR without utilizing an analyze.

A Cheap Combination:

Another alternative I’ve used over the years with great results is by combining a cheap tripod with a trucker mirror mount, two 17 foot radials and the MFJ-1979 telescoping antenna. To keep the antenna from tipping over, I just hang a gallon plastic container filled with water from the center of the tripod with a short bungee cord.

There are a million ways to get out and bring your rigs portable! Whatever aspect of the Amateur Radio hobby you enjoy, just go out and DO IT!