ARRL International DX Contest 2013

Like last year, the condx seemed to go down a bit on Sunday compared to Saturday. This year seemed a little worse than last - hard to say though. One thing that was down this year was BIC time - only about 18.5 hours compared to 24 hours last year. I did pick up a couple extra mults compared to last year, but QSOs and points were down slightly. But this was with 25% less operating time, so either condx were actually better this year, or the station was better. I'm voting for the second. The weekend before the contest I put up a full-sized 40m ground plane, with the feedpoint up about 12' or so. This antenna consistently beat the 80m doublet into Europe on 40m, so it got a good bit of use. Also, on Saturday, during the contest, I put up a trapped EFHW for 10/15/30.

This antenna has generated a number of questions, so in case anyone else is curious, here's a little more info. The Cushcraft R-series of electrical half-wave antennas has always gotten mixed reviews, but I think overall they are a good idea. But I didn't want to shell out the money to try one in case they really were dummy loads. So, I figured why not build what I wanted? Since the R-series are effectively half-wave antennas, they have a high input impedance - this is corrected for with the large base-mounted matchbox that comes with the antenna. A similar arrangement exists for the Par End-Fedz 10/20/40. It is a half-wave on 40 that has a broad-band matching transformer used at the base; in the Par literature, they even mention that this matcher may be used for single-band antennas by simply replacing the wire with one appropriately sized for the band of interest. The 10/20/40 resonances all stem from the fact that these bands are harmonically related. My idea was to build an R-3(-ish) antenna with a trapped half-wave element to allow operation on 10/15/30m. 10 and 15 because those are the bands I need to pay attention to for my 5BDXCC, and because my antennas from 20m on down seem to work OK as is...and, I was anxious to get back to the contest and didn't want to bother with tuning the new antenna's low band up to 20m.

In March 2012, QST published an article by W6NBC titled "Better Coax Traps", wherein the author presented an alternative method of coax trap construction that was free-form, rather than using PVC or some other form on which to wind the traps. This looked like an easy method, so that's what I did, using the VE6YP trap calculator. I used RG-174 to build coax traps, and was aiming for a frequency just below the targeted bands. Not having a way to measure the trap resonance, I just put an antenna together and checked SWR - generally the SWR was OK after trimming the 10m section to lowest SWR, but could be better. I will likely trim the antenna closer to resonance on all bands, and also am planning on trying some different traps. Before doing too much with the traps though, I'd like to buy or build a dipmeter so I'll have a reasonable way to check the traps' resonant frequency. Oh, I also fed the antenna through a Par End Fedz 10/20/40 matchbox, as I had one laying around, not in use. There are a number of plans for a similar matchbox on the internet...Google is your friend!

I hung the antenna up as a vertical, with the feedpoint up about 10 feet or so. How did it work? At first, on 10 meters, when the band was just opening, the 80m doublet sounded better than the wire vertical. But, within a half hour or so, the band settled down, and the the vertical was actually better to Europe about 95% of the time, and the advantage was usually at least two s-units - at times, the advantage was 4 or 5 s-units. Performance like that makes the antenna a keeper - I do hope to do a little more tweaking on the antenna before next fall.

For the contest itself, I operated about six hours less, and got a couple more mults, and otherwise, my score was down only slightly compared to last year. The bands seemed a little worse, but with the new antennas, it was pretty hard to tell.

Here's the band breakdown:

Band QSOs Mults
80:   30   26
40:   85   47
20:   91   51
15:   87   44
10:   58   35

Tot: 351  203 Total Score = 213,150

Down a little less than 5%, with only 75% of the operating time - I'll take it!

KX3 at 5 watts, 80m doublet at 45', 40m Ground plane fed at 12', and 10/15/30m trapped EFHW, hung vertically.


The Four State QRP Group (representing MO, AR, NE, and OK) sells a number of neat QRP kits including the K8IQY MagicBox, a T/R controller that lets you connect a QRP transmitter, receiver, antenna, and key and gives back full- or semi-QSK, RX muting, and sidetone. It provides an easy way to interface all sorts of little transmitter and receiver projects so that they can be easily used on the air. The Four State website goes into greater detail.

I got my kit from someone on QRP-L who decided not to build it, and found that the kit was well documented and went together easily and quickly. I tested it and made a QSO using a Tuna Tin 2 I'd built up Manhattan style. The board is designed such that no enclosure is needed and uses PCB-mount jacks for all connections, so it was easy to try without an enclosure. Which was great, because for a lot of us, finishing the project by mounting in an enclosure is the hardest part. It certainly is for me, and I had a bare MagicBox for months.

 I left it at work, thinking I'd be able to get one of our shop guys to help me with it, but that never happened. I finally conned NA4SO into helping me drill the holes, but we did run into a problem with the drilling template. It was a little off, although I thought I'd confirmed it was OK (measure twice, cut once!). Not too bad though, and the easiest solution was to pull the BNC jacks off the board and use panel-mount jacks.

 I set mine up with a power LED, a semi/full QSK switch, spot switch, and tune pushbutton. The only problem with any of this was with the spot switch - the early kits were supplied with a "bleed-through" resistor that was too large a value - I paralleled a 100 Ohm trimpot with this resistor and now the spot function works as it should...with the added benefit of being adjustable...this could even be routed to a pot for front-panel control if desired.

Right now, I'm using my old Drake R4 for an RX, but eventually hope to build something up from scratch.  All-in-all, I think it's a great kit and well worth looking at if you need to interface QRP "seperates".

A Case for the KX3

Not an argument extolling the virtues of the radio - it does that pretty well by itself.  Instead, a physical case for carrying the KX3.

I still haven't taken my KX3 out in the field to speak of...although I did carry it to NA4SO's shack last week, and apparently while in my pack, something banged into the RIT knob and cracked it.  I only had the rig in a thin neoprene shell, and there were a couple of heavy crimpers in the pack, one of which I'm guessing banged into the KX3 - glad it didn't hit the clear bezel!

So, I'm trying to get back to deciding what case would be best.  I'm looking for something that protects well, but I don't need - or want - a bunch of extra compartments for carrying "stuff".  I just want good protection for the radio itself, and for that package to be as small as possible for SOTA hikes.

Here are some possibles:

 This case is being used by W7GJ.  I think it would be great for carrying the KX3 along with more stuff...but that's not what I'm really looking for.  This bag doesn't look ideal for using in conjunction with a backpack, which is what I need.  Although, I've had a number of LowePro bags over the years and always like them, so I'd say this is definitely worth considering if you have the need for this type of case.

Here is a better candidate for my needs, and one I'm giving serious consideration.  It has a better form factor, and while having some extra compartments, the bag isn't grossly over-sized.  I learned about this one from G4ILO, who apparently learned about it from N6KR himself, so it's got to be a good candidate.

Obviously something like this Pelikan would offer great protection, but it's far from petite, and the case alone weighs in at 2.5 pounds, so it's not exactly backpack friendly.  But I'm still looking at the weight vs. protection tradeoff and may go for it.

If anyone has any good ideas, let me know via email at the address listed on