K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

More Gain, More Power – 2m S2S Madness

The Arizona Summit-to-Summit 10 Point Madness event provides a great opportunity to push the limits of 2m simplex and see what’s possible over long distances. Although I didn’t set any new personal records on this trip, some great contacts were made and plenty of fun was had.

The yagi is a homebrew design made from U-channel aluminum, steel hardware, and arrow shaft elements. The matching network is made from parallel 1/4 wavelength sections of 75 ohm coax to transform the 28 ohm yagi impedance up to 50 ohms. Those coax sections are wound a few times through a toroid as a common mode choke.

The boom is about 8 ft in length when extended and folds down to 32 inches. total weight of the antenna is about 2 lbs, and the pool cleaning pole mast adds another 2 lb or so.

MMANA GAL file: coming soon

Links to Parts:
– Mast:
– Arrow Shafts:
– Threaded Arrow Inserts:
– 3/8" U-channel aluminum:
– 1/2" U-channel aluminum:

– Nylon Threaded Rod:
– Aluminum Threaded Rod:
… more durable alternative
– Stainless Steel Threaded Rod:
– Aluminum Hex Nut:
– Nylon Washers:

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

Alpine Summits and SOTA – Thunderbolt and Picture Puzzle Peaks

n August, I set out with 3 friends from the SAR team to spend 4 days in the hills, building and refreshing our mountain skills and visiting some amazing summits. Afternoon thundershowers limited us to only two summits, but they were fantastic.
First on the list was Thunderbolt Peak at 14,003′. It has an incredible summit with a technical summit block. The next day, we summited Picture Puzzle Peak, a first for me, and a SOTA summit which had never seen an activation.
The team was great, the trip was awesome, and I can’t wait to be back in the mountains.

Cooking and water:
Aquamira Water Treatement:
Squeeze Water Filter: (for smaller volumes/on-the-go)
Meat Shredz:
Canned Salmon:
Dried Oyster Mushrooms:
Freeze Dried Broccoli:
Soup Vegetables: (good for mixing with other meals for flavor)
Camp Gear:
Outdoor Research Bivy:
Aricxi Tarp:
Bear Canister:

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

Free-Solo SOTA with the Mountain Rescue Team

Every year, the Mountain Rescue Team embarks on trips to the Sierra Nevada to train on technical terrain at high elevations. Each year, I organize a trip that I call Car-to-Car hell. It involves daily climbs up big mountains with overnight car-camping in between. This year, we climbed Laurel Mountain, 11,812′, via the NE gulley (aka Mendenhall Couloir). It’s a 3,000+ foot vertical "easy" 5th class climb. Most would want a rope for protection, but there aren’t many options to place gear, so most just free-solo the route, as we did.
It was a beautiful climb with a bonus SOTA activation at the top. So here’s the story. Hope you enjoy coming along for the climb.

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

Propagation Event of a Lifetime, or an Internet Link by Happenstance?

On July 24, 2021, around 1830 UTC, some potentially incredible 2m simplex contacts were made between a station in New Hampshire and about 20 stations in Southern California. Those contacts may have been part of some kind of incredible propagation event. Or they may have been the result of happenstance, via a set of internet linked transceivers at each end of the continent. Check out the video and let me know what YOU think made these contacts possible.

Big thanks to the @SoCal Simplex Archive for allowing me to share his recording as part of my video. Please check out the links below for more of the audio.

First call from NE1B:
First NE1B QSO:
W2CAZ/M CQ call:
Beginning of about 30 minutes of QSOs with NE1B:
Transmission with apparent packet loss:

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

Antenna Showdown – New Packable Yagi vs Vertical in the 6m Sprint

Every year, the Central States VHF Society hosts a series of Sprint Sprint contests – one of which is a 50 MHz event. It’s a 4 hour contest with a point for each contact, and a multiplier of the number of 4-character grids worked. So I figured, I should probably operate from a SOTA summit for this event.

Spring Sprint Website:

Show Chapters:
0:00 Headed up the peak
1:42 Antenna intro
4:00 Telescopic Pole and Extended Double Zepp setup
6:19 Yagi Assembly and Setup
15:05 Contest Begins
21:32 Wrap-up

Not fully satisfied with the size of my 3-element 6m yagi, I constructed a larger one… much larger, actually. It consists of a 4-section 5 meter folding aluminum C-channel boom, and arrow shaft elements. Spread out on the boom are 5 elements which give a theoretical free-space gain of about 8.5 dBd. At 12 ft above ground, with sloping terrain all around on a summit, I expected pretty solid performance. And that’s what I got.

For the contest, I set up two antennas: the yagi, and an extended double zepp – a high-performing wire omnidirectional vertical antenna. I had each connected to an Icom IC-7300 with a coax switch to quickly change antennas. It was awesome switching back and forth to compare signal strengths on each antenna from the same source. The yagi crushed the vertical for longer-range contacts, but closer stations were much more mixed, likely due to signal polarization.

Check out my Amazon store with lots of my favorite portable radio gear:

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

18 lbs of water and a sub-2 lb radio. What more do you need?

Toss in some food, a bit of sleeping kit, and that’s about it. Villager Peak, W6/CT-096, is a remote 5,760′ summit with the nearest trailhead about 7 miles away at 900′ elevation.

I had activated Villager Peak before for SOTA, but a nearby summit, guarded by a steep descent and climb from the Villager peak ridge, remained unactivated. My goal for this trip was to activate that summit.

Hope you enjoy coming along for the adventure.

Interested in the gear I use? I have organized a bunch of it into an Amazon store:


K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

LIVE from a SOTA Summit #YTHF21

I’ll be operating and streaming live from a local SOTA summit during the YouTuber’s Hamfest. Hope to get you all in the log, and I’ll also do my best to watch the chat for any questions about SOTA.

Please join in on the fun – I’ll be working 20 and 40m which should cover much of the US.

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

VOACAP Propagation Prediction for Maximum DX #YTHF21

Trying to those last few states, grid squares, or DXCC entities? Want to make a contact with a particular station half-way around the world? VOACAP is an incredible tool to help plan your contact and maximize your chance of success.

As part of the YouTuber’s Hamfest – 2021, I’ll be spending 30 minutes presenting what I’ve learned about VOACAP and how to use it to maximize your odds of that elusive DX contact.

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

Tiny Magnetic Loop – Big DX

I took the homebrew QRP 1 m diameter small transmitting loop out to a local summit for some fun and was surprised with some fantastic propagation, on 40 meter nonetheless. This was one of my first DX contacts on the band, and with a small compromise antenna and QRP power, nonetheless.

Small transmitting loop antennas are relatively simple and fun to build. Here’s a little helpful info to get you on the right path to building.

Also check out @Amateur Radio VK3YE’s videos here on YouTube – he has done lots of work with small transmitting loops.

Here’s the hardware I use to make the larger part of the loop. Pretty simple bar-stock aluminum folded out straight and then bent into a circle. Works great!
1/16" x 1/2" Flat Aluminum Bar:
Mini project box:
6-32 x 1/2" Stainless Screws:
6-32 Nylock Nuts:
#6 Flat Washer:

Feeding and matching a loop takes a bit of trial and error, and some specific electrical components – primarily variable and potentially also switched capacitors that can handle very high voltage and currents. Study up before you build to optimize your design.

If there’s interest, I can create some videos that go more into my strategy for building and matching these types of antennas. It’s a fun build!

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

Off-grid Solar Charging on a SOTA Adventure

A local SOTA activation offered a great opportunity to test out a newly purchased solar panel while having a little fun. Spoiler alert: I’m impressed. This panel is sold. It packs small, puts out lots of power, and is decently light. And the icing on the cake is that the price is reasonable.

Here’s the panel I’m using:

It’s made by a company called "Topsolar," undoubtedly produced in China, but the quality seems solid and the features are great. The panel has a full-voltage output, USB, and most interestingly, a 14.4 V output that should work well charging LiFePO4 cells directly through a balancing BMS.

The Powerfilm solar panels are the cream of the crop, but I’m just not sure I’m willing to shell out 5x the price of this panel for one of them. So this was my pick, based on a bunch of digging through options online in the $2/watt range.

As a bonus on top of testing some new gear, the activation was a blast, with about 85 contacts in the log.

Topsolar folding panels on Amazon
100W Solar Panel:
60W Solar Panel:
30W Solar Panel: