by William Eric McFadden

The K1 Travel Kit is a small but complete low-power, CW-only, HF station in a rugged and weather-resistant LowePro Nova 1 camera bag. The K1 Travel Kit is designed for transport by bicycle or foot.

The K1 Travel Kit is currently under development. Photos may not represent the current state of the station. This page will change as various ideas are tested and accepted or rejected.

Quick Jump:  

The Rig
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Elecraft K1 -- click to enlarge The heart of the K1 Travel Kit is an Elecraft K1 CW-only, low-power transceiver equipped with the KFL1-4 four-band module providing coverage of 40, 30, 20, and 15m; the KAT1 internal automatic antenna tuner module; and the KNB1 noise blanker module.

This four-band K1's frequency coverage (40, 30, 20, 15m), high performance receiver, generous feature-mix, small size, low weight, and battery-friendly design make it a good field-radio for a CW operator.

Portable Power
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Talentcell 12v LiPO battery The K1 can operate over a voltage range of 8.5vdc to 15vdc. My K1 is not equipped with the KBT1 internal battery option so I must power my K1 with an external power source.

The K1 Travel Kit includes a Talentcell 12v 3000mAh lithium ion battery pack (link). While this small, lightweight, and inexpensive LiPO battery is called by its manufacturer a "12 volt battery", the battery, which is made up of three 3.7v LiPO cells connected in series, is actually an 11.1v battery. However, 11 volts is more than enough to keep the K1 happy and the battery should have sufficient capacity to power the K1 for several hours in the field. As a bonus, the Talentcell battery also includes a USB port which can be used to power or charge a smartphone or tablet, if needed, even while the battery is powering the K1.

Portable Antennas
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antenna & sundries -- click to enlarge The K1 Travel Kit includes a proven 28½' end-fed wire and three 17' counterpoise wires. This is the same antenna I've used successfully with my KX3 for hundreds of National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) and Parks on the Air (POTA) activations. I feed this antenna, without feedline, through a BNC-to-dual-banana adapter or, sometimes, a 4:1 impedance transformer. The KAT1 autotuner in the K1 can easily find a match for this antenna on all four bands.

To hang the 28½' wire in a tree, I carry a 100-yard spool of dental floss and a couple of large fishing weights. When I don't want to fuss with throwing a line through trees, I use an inexpensive Gotura Red Fox 7.2m carbon-fiber telescoping fishing pole that I strap to an existing post or place in a homebrew spike and deploy the 28½' wire either as a sloper or as an inverted-vee. (I have removed the top three sections from the Red Fox because they're really too whippy to support a wire.) The Red Fox and spike do not fit in the LowePro Nova 1 bag; they need to be carried separately.

The CW Key
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The K1 has a perfectly adequate built-in memory keyer so I don't need to carry an external memory keyer with the K1 Travel Kit.

Whiterook MK-33 -- click to enlarge To key the K1, I use a very lightweight Whiterook MK-33 single-lever paddle (photo | link) to which I've added an internal switch which allows me to use the key as a keyer paddle or as a manual sideswiper/cootie key.

A sideswiper/cootie key is my key of choice, even when I'm operating in the field, but the ability to use the modified MK-33 as a keyer paddle means I retain the ability to program the K1's memory keyer while in the field—a memory keyer programmed to call "CQ" is a marvelous and useful thing when one is running a frequency while performing a Parks on the Air activation or participating in a QRP field contest.

Miscellaneous
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Using Acrobat Reader and an available duplex color printer, I printed the K1 Owner's Manual in half-size "booklet" form. This booklet fits nicely in the outside rear pocket of the Nova 1 bag.

The K1 has a built-in speaker but I prefer to copy CW through stereo headphones. I carry a pair of iHip-brand ($5 at Big Lots) shoestring-lead earbuds in the K1 Travel Kit which sound good and might be rugged enough to last more than a few outings.

The Carrying Case
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The carrying case is a repurposed LowePro Nova 1 camera bag, one that I had previously used to carry an SLR camera but have since outgrown. This well-padded and rugged bag accommodates the K1 transceiver, the battery, the key, earbuds, antenna, unun or balun, cables, manual, and other items. While not fully waterproof, the bag should provide sufficient protection for the K1 while in transport from all but the heaviest rain.

Human-Powered Transport
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I built the K1 Travel Kit to encourage me to engage in human-powered-transport field operations, in particular, for the annual Adventure Radio Society Flight of the Bumblebees event.

Biking

When I still used the LowePro Nova 1 as a camera bag, I had built an easy-to-mount, easy-to-remove, rear-rack-fixture for my bicycle to allow me to safely carry the camera bag. This same fixture now allows me to safely carry the K1 Travel Kit on the bicycle. A pannier hanging on the other side of the bicycle is used to carry a clipboard with copy-paper and logsheets, the Goture Red Fox pole and stake, and a towel to sit on.

Hiking

The shoulder strap on the LowePro Nova 1 allows easy transport of the K1 Travel Kit while traveling by foot. A backpack can be used to carry additional items such as a clipboard with paper and logsheets, the Red Fox pole and stake, and a towel to sit on.