Yesterday I took my sons with me to camp at a local State Park that we hadn’t been to before.
Frontenac State Park (POTA K-2484) is approximately 1 hour south of my QTH in a sparsely populated area along the St. Croix river which forms the boundary between Minnesota and Wisconsin.
It is a beautiful park that is atop a forested rise that sits above farmlands and the river on the east.
We reserved the group camp site and invited a couple of friends and their kids to come along, and I – of course – brought my radio gear in the hopes of doing a second successful POTA activation.
Arriving in the afternoon, and with it being November in Minnesota, the sun sets quickly and earlier with each passing week. The weather was getting colder and the wind was quite gusty, making the cool fall temperature feel much colder than it was. We set about getting tents setup and getting some dinner, and waited for our friends to arrive. While we waited, I got things setup.
New to me for this activation was a N0SA SOTA Paddle – an ultra-miniature paddle that is produced in very small lots by N0SA. This thing is tiny, but it is superbly constructed and a solid performer.
I called CQ once in order to get RBN to spot me and hoping to get the https://www.pota.app spots to pick up RBN and get me on the list (I scheduled a spot window before leaving). I was picked up in Arizona and California on 20m.
Immediately I had K7GT in Oregon come back and that kicked off a 20 minute back and forth. Allan was most patient with me as my fingers became increasingly numb and my fist became increasingly bad. Being a new CW operator meant that I also had to have him repeat things sometimes.
In the end, I had to call it quits as even with some thin gloves on I couldn’t reliably work the paddle any longer. The wind was gusting to 20+ mph (32kph or so) and with lower temps it was cutting straight through the wool.
I packed up the radios after a single contact and settled down by the fire with friends and my sons and enjoyed the warmth provided by both. We slept that night serenaded by the local coyotes while the raccoons scratched around the picnic table next to us looking for any crumbs left behind from dinner.
While I would have greatly enjoyed completing an activation of this park, I had to pack up early this morning to return home – something that I had known before I left the day before.
All in all this was another learning experience as all endeavors are; first of all I need to come up with a solid fall/winter POTA plan to deal with the cold and remain on the air, and secondly that even though it didn’t go as planned the experience was worth it nevertheless. I had logged a great contact with K7GT and had a good time with my boys.
Brewer 3D Design(hyperlink), a seller on Etsy.com, has created a few accessories for this rugged and capable radio including screen covers and caps for the connectors. They recently added a battery pack for the radio that makes using it in the field that much more convenient.
From their posting:
While the world waits patiently for the OEM battery pack from Lab599, I decided to build my own based on their initial renderings.
Brewer 3D Designs
So what did I get in the mail today?
I received a well designed, 3D printed (in ABS) battery pack that mounts via the included hardware directly to the back of the radio.
Also in the box is a 3D printed radio stand that tilts the radio back into a comfortable operating position, and a hang tag that lists a serial number (mine is 0006 which I assume means that this is the 6th one sold) and thank you note from the seller, and two (spare I assume) magnetic connectors that align to the connections on the back of the radio.
The specs as noted by the seller are:
4000 mAh capacity
Li-Ion polymer cells (PL-605060-2C)
5.5mmx2.1mm charging jack
Mounting the battery pack requires the removal of the 4 rubberized feet on the back of the radio which exposes 4 tapped holes which are there for future accessories. Installation is simple – use the 4 included screws to attach the battery pack to the radio via the now exposed holes. Make sure that you align the connections properly. They are magnetic so you will feel a slight attraction as they line up.
Note that no instructions are provided with the radio, but mounting and operation is quite straightforward. For the switch, one direction enables power to the radio while the other allows for charging. HINT: sliding the switch towards the center of the pack powers the radio. Towards the outside is for charging.
Also note that installing the battery pack makes the built-in tilt legs non-operable – they are blocked by the battery pack. That is what the included stand is for.
Measuring the pack with my cheap calipers, I get the following measurements:
17.1mm thick (top to bottom), compared to 21mm for the radio itself
79.5mm wide, compared to 90.5mm for the radio
197mm long, compared to 205mm for the radio (not including the connections in the measurement)
Attaching the pack almost doubles the thickness of the radio itself, but doesn’t add any additional width or length.
The print resolution seems to be quite fine, with all layers uniform and no visible separation or flaws that would affect durability or longevity. The lines and edges are smooth. All parts mate up uniformly and without gaps.
The case is held together with screws that are connected to threaded inserts in the ABS – no direct screw to plastic contact. Nicely done!
3 strings: 3 18650 batteries or polymer lithium batteries in series
Polymer battery rated voltage: 10.8V
Rated voltage of 18650 or 3.7V lithium battery: 11.1V
Maximum discharge current limit: 10A
Maximum working current: 5-8A
Upon full charge the battery bank should have about 12.6 volts.
KB7MBD at Brewer 3D Design has created an extremely well thought-out design and has implemented it quite well. The design is a good balance between utility and matching of the TX-500’s aesthetics. I haven’t had enough time yet to determine how the battery holds up, however I am convinced that the capacity (about what I normally carry outside) combined with the convenience will mean that this is a power pack that I can use for multiple POTA activations. Further testing will be required which I guess means more time playing radio.
I also need more time to determine if the BMS is RF quiet or not – I don’t foresee any issues there but is always a concern with anything electrical that is attached to our radios.
At the end of the day, it is exactly what it is advertised to be; namely a rechargeable battery pack that fits the TX-500 like an OEM accessory.
The pack can be purchased via their Etsy site, though availability determines whether it shows up in their listings or not. Also for anyone outside of the US, at the time of this writing the seller offers a “kit” version that doesn’t include the battery cells themselves.
Expect a follow up after some field time!
UPDATE – 2022/03/11
After posting this I started to receive multiple inquiries about the availability of this product in the vendor’s store. I should point out that I have no affiliation with the vendor, and therefore have no visibility into whether it is available or not at any given time.
My working assumption is that like many vendors on Etsy, items only appear as they are available and ready for purchase.
There is contact information there which you can use to reach out and verify availability.
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