With a plan to take short hikes at local state parks this summer, my attention got drawn to the Elecraft AX1. While there’s no substitute for deploying the most amount of resonant wire when going portable, I self-justified my AX1 purchase by turning it into a health benefit. Hiking will provide cardio for this 75 year old body and few quick #POTA deployments along the way brings it all together.
Before I continue, the AX1 is definitely not the compromise antenna for every QRPer. Like all of Elecraft’s gear, the price may a bit difficult to swallow for some. Regarding price, QRPGUYS sells the DS-1 which is an AX1 clone in kit form. As I remember, the DS-1 is about a third of the AX1 price.
Tom K4SWL pointed out that Elecraft was having a “sale” during the month of February in one of his blog posts on QRPer.com. As a side note, if you want to experience the very best web site for everything QRP, be sure to visit QRPer.com. Anyway, as Tom mentioned the sale included the antenna/counterpoise, bipod and tripod mount. Normally the AX1 bipod and tripod mount are, you guessed it… sold separately.
So with the sale in mind I ordered the set. As of this post I have not had a chance to deploy the bipod or tripod antenna mount in a portable setting. But I wanted to try the AX1 out during cold weather #POTA activations, so I scouted Amazing and found a handheld antenna window mount for a very reasonable price.
Amazon listed the TW-MB-WCM Window Mount for handheld antennas. It appeared to be well made and was terminated in a BNC. No adapters needed for the KX3, one less thing to remember. Since the mount was designed for handheld antennas, there was no provision for a counterpoise, but that was a 5 minute fix.
So you may ask, why the hell would I want a window mount for the AX1? Well, there are times when I have nothing to do between appointments. Instead doing nothing during the winter months, I can leverage the window mount paired with the car desk I recently purchased from Amazon. Now doing quick #POTA deployments with a setup time of around 5 minutes is a snap.
The first window mount deployment was over at Avalon Park in Stony Brook New York. Stony Brook is a beautiful setting over on the north shore of Long Island. Stony Brook is a place of upscale shops, restaurants, museums and beautiful landscapes. Unlike almost all Town, County and State parks on Long Island, Avalon is free to use.
Avalon park is a setting that just happens to have water on both sides of a very narrow street.
A parking spot happened to be free right between the two bodies of water. Thinking that the AX1 can probably use all the help it can get, a signal bouncing off the water can’t hurt!
With about 15 minutes to setup and operate, I quickly got the window mount out of the bag and realized there was no way to jury rig the counterpoise,
At is point I am wondering if the KX3 ATU will make this antenna resonant enough to try out with the missing counterpoise. While it was not a good idea, I thought what the hell, I’m here, just try it.
Setting the KX3 to around 5 watts, I hit the ATU and was surprised to see that the antenna was quickly at 1:1. Sometimes I think the KX3 ATU would bring the impedance of wet paper to 50 OHMS. I got on 20 meters and started calling CQ. Touching the KX3 while calling CQ did temporarily altered the SWR reading so hands off while transmitting! After a handful of 20 meter calls, there were no takers so I quickly switched to 17 meters.
In a rush, without thinking, I hit the ATU again and heard LA5ZO calling CQ. Here goes nothing, I answered his call and as it turned out, we had a short exchange. Getting a 539 from Norway was ridiculous but then he sent that he was using a YAGI and 500 watts. Coincidentally, he must have been beaming USA too! Then the imagination takes over and I’m now thinking yeah, he’s probably on top of a mountain looking down at some Fjord. There’s no other way he’d ever hear me. A window mounted 26 inch compromise antenna, no way!
In terms of getting a handle on the performance of the AX1 at Avalon Park, there was nothing to conclude. I had the antenna switch in the wrong position and the counterpoise was MIA. Let’s just say, working LA5ZO proved nothing about the AX1. I’ll just chalk up the whole experience to a fluke and/or a touch of AX1 magic. After all, Wayne Burdick, N6KR, and Eric Swartz, WA6HHQ have been making QRP magic for years! Future AX1 deployments will tell the rest of the story.