I have been slowly getting into QRP these days (low-power for
you beginners). Being an outdoorsy kind
of guy, it mixes well with my outings.
What has really surprised me lately though, is how well you can do with
some inexpensive equipment, and a simple antenna.
|The ILER 20 SSB QRP Kit|
Most of my portable setup is relatively inexpensive. For a radio, I am using a Xiegu X1M. I paid around $300 for the radio, which is
shipping in a newer version now (the platinum
model) from Import Communications
for $349. The Xiegu is a general coverage receiver
(100Khz-30MHz) with the ability to transmit 5 Watts SSB & CW on 80, 40, 20,
15, and 10. It will transmit on other
bands, but not cleanly without some external low-pass filters. It’s also far from a perfect rig, being in
the early stages of development. It
seems at times that the early adopters are actually beta-testing this rig for the
manufacturer. Most of the problems
though can be corrected through some self-alignment using the menus, and those
that cannot be corrected yet are all related to CW mode, which I am not
currently using. Even with the
shortcomings though, I have had a lot of fun with this li
ttle radio. I’m not here to necessarily recommend this
model to everyone, but the tinkerers among us, looking for a TINY rig with
these capabilities will enjoy the Xiegu.
There are other choices, which I’ll cover later, but first the rest of
For a tuner, I did a lot of reading and research. I wanted something light, small, inexpensive,
and with lots of positive reviews. The
Emtech ZM2 fit the bill perfectly. This
little tuner seems to be able to quickly tune up anything from my
wire-in-the-trees setup, to a 4-drawer file cabinet. It
handles up to about 15 Watts, and is available with either SO-239 or BNC
connectors, and in kit form ($65), or assembled ($90). Either model also has binding posts for
balanced input. Available from http://emtech.steadynet.com/zm2.shtml
For power, I’m currently running the radio off of the car. I have a nice coiled extension, and I just
plug in to the rear 12V jack in our Kia Soul.
I am planning on getting something more portable. The radio seems to be sensitive to
low-voltage and has issues with anything under about 11.5 volts, so I’ll
probably go with a 24V dual-battery setup with a regulator. For now, I’m happy just tailgating.
My antenna is a stiff piece of solid wire, about 7 feet long,
which is attached to about 50 feet of stranded 16 gauge wire. I raise the antenna vertically in a tree
using the water-bottle-and-cord method.
I tie the cord to the water bottle, which is about ⅔ full, and heave it
at the top of a sturdy tree, allowing it to fall down the other side, and draw
the cord up into the tree. I then pull
the cord back until the water bottle is at its highest point, attach the wire,
and let gravity raise the wire into the tree.
When finished you just untie the cord from the bottle and pull it all
back out from the antenna end. I usually
have a 10-20 foot counterpoise heading in an opposite direction from the ZM-2
tuner. This setup allowed me to tune up
on 10, 15, 20 Meters, as well as 17, and 12, but as I mentioned earlier, the
Xiegu needs some extra filtering there.
I have a small straight key, just for tuning up, a small
amplified speaker (the volume is a bit weak on the Xiegu for outdoor use),
stock microphone, and I usually keep the laptop nearby feeding off the WiFi
hotspot on my phone for QRZ lookups, and logging. Most of this fits into a foam lined case that
I picked up at a yard sale recently for $1.
How does it perform?
This was the way I setup the rig this past Saturday up in back parking
lot in West Hills Park, off of Highhold Drive, which is near the highest point
on Long Island (Jaynes Hill). The
Parking lot sits at about 360 feet above sea level (as determined by an app on
my phone, so I wouldn’t use that number for surveying). I worked stations in Denmark, Germany and the
UK on 15M, and another Denmark station on 20M.
Not bad for 5 Watts.
What options are there in QRP Sideband rigs? Well, for you big spenders, there are the
current popular models. The Yaesu
FT-817nd, the Elecraft KX3, and the TenTec Argonaut IV. The Yaesu can be had for $650 after rebate
right now, which is a pretty good deal.
The Elecraft and the TenTec are both around $1000, depending on
accessories. The Elecraft is a personal
favorite of mine. I hope to own one at
The Xiegu, as I mentioned is currently around $350. There are a couple of new options coming in
the next month or two that are similar in size and performance to the
Xiegu. The YouKits TJ-2B MK II
is due the end of this
month. The MK II is an updated version
combining the best bands of the two separate MK I models. The MK II will cover 60, 40, 20, 17, and 15
Meters with 5 Watts, and costs $329 assembled on a special pre-order deal, with
a free battery. I’m thinking that I might
have waited for one of these if I had known.
They usually offer a kit version with all SMD parts finished for $50-$75
LNR Precision, the company that currently owns the excellent
Par EndFedZ antenna line, is about to release it’s QRP sideband rig, the
LNR-FX4. This rig will transmit on 40,
30, 20, and 17 Meters with 5 Watts. It
looks TINY in the photos. LNR says that
it will sell for less than $500.
For those of you that like to say “I built this rig, and have
the burn scars to prove it!”, there are a few other options as well. Hendricks QRP kits
offers the BitX20A,
BitX17A, and Survivor 75 Rigs. Hendricks
radios are always highly regarded and sell for between $100 and $200 depending
in the UK
offers the MKARS80 SSB Transceiver. This kit is based on the same design that is
used in the BITX20 from Hendricks, but modified for 80 meter use. Covers from
3.5 to 3.8 Mhz with about 5 Watts output.
Ranging from a basic no-case kit for £55.00 shipped to the USA, to full
kit with connectors, knobs, and an undrilled case for £68.50 (Pounds)
Kits from China
, sells the KN-Q7a for $120 plus shipping ($45 more
assembled). 5 Watts output, available in
several 40 and 20 meter ranges.
in the UK, sells several
SSB and DSB (SSB compatible) kits in various level of difficulty. I like this guy's website, as he explains
each rig in depth. Check it out!
sells the ILER line of SSB
kits. These rigs have been reviewed
well, and are inexpensive, and expandable.
Available in a couple of frequency ranges in 40 and 20 meters, they sell
for €77.50 (Euros). This might be my
next project. Looks fairly simple,
There's also the SDR kits from Tony Parks
, although at 1 Watt output, they
would be more of a challenge. Tony is
selling them assembled too these days (when available) on his website
FiveDash.com, as well as a nice little enclosure.
These kits, as well as others can always be found at my Radio Kit
Guide directory at RadioKitGuide.com
There’s a guy who writes for AmateurRadio.com (Larry W2LJ) who
closes his posts with the line: QRP - When you care to send the very
Enjoy all. 73.