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:

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

What’s In My Pack – Radio Chest Harness edition

I regularly utilize a Coaxsher chest pack for SAR, and sometimes for recreational use (front-country and backcountry skiing, mountaineering, peak-bagging, etc.) and I wanted to give a walk-through of what I carry in it. Perhaps you’ll find some of these ideas useful for your use, whatever that
may be.

@Ham Radio Crash Course recently did a video review ( comparing the Coaxsher RCP-1 chest harness to a similar Abree model. I primarily use the slightly smaller Coaxsher RP-1 Scout ( which is a bit smaller and more comfortable to wear. It still carries everything I need.

Coaxsher RP-1 Scout:
Coaxsher RCP-1 Pro:
Similar Abbree chest harness:

Other Gear:
Wouxun KG-UV9T Plus:
Smiley Antenna (great amateur radio antennas too!):
Kenwood SMC-34 Speaker-Mic:
Compass – Suunto MC-2:
Signal Mirror:
Mini Duct Tape rolls:
Trauma Shears (Madison Supply):
Medical Gloves:
Headlamp – Zebralight: My favorite model – (Many others available with different battery types (AA, CR123, 18650), beam styles, colors, etc.)
Ivy-X Wipes:
Rite in the Rain Notepad:

So let me know what else you would add to your chest pack that I might have missed.

Thanks for watching.

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

Desert DX – Whale Peak Overnight

The respite of a peaceful night on a desert summit was a much needed break from a hectic work week. To sweeten the deal, I knew "Radio Runner", Chris ( would be on a summit, and propagation conditions were looking good for a potential Summit-to-Summit contact. So we packed up the gear, met up with a friend, and set out for the desert. Hope you enjoy coming along for the journey.

If you have any questions about the gear I use, post in the comments below. You can also find a bunch of my favorites in my amazon store: Amazon gives me a few pennies on the dollar for purchases through that link, but it doesn’t cost you any more.

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

Valentines Day SOTA with the YL

Beautiful weather in the mountains of Anza Borrego were too tempting to pass up, so Johnnie and I headed out to a beautiful part of the park with a fun SOTA summit. A little hiking, SOTA, and rock climbing made for a fun day. Hope you enjoy coming along for the adventure.

I have to say, I’m a pretty lucky guy to have a better half who loves the outdoors as much as I do, and is willing to spend a little extra time on a summit a summit while I play radio.

QRPVer Radio –
QCX Mini Kit –

If you’re interested in my gear and projects, I am constantly adding items to my Amazon store which makes it easy to find the goodies that I like to use. I do make a few pennies on each purchase through these links for sending traffic to Amazon, but there’s no extra cost to you.

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

Snow in SoCal for Winter Field Day

When old man winter brings you the gift of snow, you take advantage of it. In SoCal, it doesn’t last long, so you might as well.

Although the radio operating wasn’t anything to write home about, the adventure and beauty of the SoCal mountains certainly was. Hope you enjoy joining me for the adventure.


I’ve amassed some of my favorite gear in an Amazon store for those who may be interested. Amazon gives me a small kick-back on any purchases through the store.

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

VHF Contest/SOTA Wrap-up

For the January VHF contest, I decided to have some fun from a SOTA summit. I set up as a 3-band station and operated for about 5.5 hours. Lots of activity on the bands, and many contacts. Enjoy the show!

#MNHR Playlist: -coming soon-

I will certainly be making build videos for the 6m yagi and the Extended Double Zepp. The 2m/70cm yagi already has a build video:

I created an Amazon store with a bunch of the goodies I use to build antennas and play radio. Check it out:

Amazon gives me a small kick-back from any purchases through that link.

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

Optimizing a Windows tablet for Portable FT8

Here’s a run-through of how I optimize my low-power Windows tablet for portable FT8 use. These little low-power computers struggle with difficult tasks, but with the right settings you can make them work well enough for portable FT8 use.

This tablet is a HP Pro 608 G1 purchased in December 2020 for about $80 on eBay. Here’s how I set it up for portable use on FT8.

Here’s the summary:
00:00 Intro
00:45 Uninstall all unnecessary applications.
– Search: "Add or remove Programs." Uninstall what’s not needed.
01:15 Disable unnecessary Startup Applications
– Search: "Startup Apps." Uncheck anything that’s not absolutely needed.
01:45 Turn off Tablet Mode
– Settings – System – Tablet mode
– "When I sign in" – "Use desktop mode"
02:42 Touch Keyboard
– Settings – Devices – Typing
– Touch Keyboard
– "Play key sounds as I type" OFF
– "Show the touch keyboard when not in tablet mode and there’s no keyboard attached" ON
03:03 Turn off Notifications
– System – Notifications and Actions
– "Get notifications from apps and other senders" OFF
03:23 Optimize for Performance
– Search: "Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows"
– Select "Adjust for best performance"
03:59 Power Performance Settings
– Click "Battery" icon in system tray
– Use higher settings for better performance at a battery cost
04:34 On Screen Keyboard Shortcut
– Search "On-Screen Keyboard"
– Right click, pin to Task Bar.

WSJT-X Website:
Dimension 4 Time Sync:

What other settings would you tweak to optimize performance? Let me know in the comments below.

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

My solution to portable FT8 (it’s NOT a Raspberry Pi)

I finally found a portable FT8 solution that I’m satisfied with, and it doesn’t involve a Raspberry Pi. Pi computers are great, but they require a separate power supply and the use of your phone as a VNC viewer to control the computer. Phone screens are tiny, and controls are difficult.

So rather than using a Pi and a phone or tablet, I thought, why not just use a small windows tablet? So I did.

I found a slew of Windows 10 capable laptops on eBay for various prices. I settled on the HP Pro Tablet 608 G1 Tablet which can now be had for about $80-90 in good, refurbished condition. I picked up one of those and paired it up with a cover and stylus.

From when I used a FT-817, I have a WolphiLink adapter that acts as an audio and VOX keying circuit. Unfortunately, these were recently discontinued. The manual with schematic are on the website and a creative ham could likely build a similar device.

Wolphi-Link interface

For audio output from the tablet, I have found that a USB-C audio output adaptor works best:

How do YOU operate digital modes including FT8 in the field? Tell us in the comments below.

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

Will it can-tenna?

What happens if you tack-weld together 45 empty beer cans and set it up as a 20m quarter wave ground-mounted vertical antenna? Today we find out.

In the spirit of #WillItAntenna night for #MNHR, I committed to the hard work of emptying 45 cans of craft beer over a couple of weeks to provide the necessary material required for this antenna. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it. I may be a few pounds heavier and slower going up mountains, but it was all worth it for the DX Brewmander.

But will it actually work? Watch and find out.

If you liked this and want to see more similar videos, here’s the "Will It Antenna?" Monday Night Ham Radio playlist:

I get many questions about my gear, so I’ve put together an Amazon store with some of my favorites.
Amazon gives me a few pennies on the dollar for each sale made through that link which helps support my building and experimenting.

#MNHR #HamHarder

K6ARK Portable Radio Youtube

2m SOTA – Every which way but Digital

2m activations can be a blast. There are so many ways to make contacts with 2m, and on this summit I used a bunch of them. The result? Plenty of contacts in the log and a heck of a lot of fun. Give some other 2m modes some love on your next activation.

0:00 Let’s get to the summit
1:26 Station Tour
2:20 FM Simplex
6:26 CW and Sideband
8:11 Working Satellites
16:11 Time to head back down

K5ATA Goodgame Ham Radio and Outdoors channel

Since I get so many questions, I share my favorite gear from Amazon in my new Amazon store. Antenna building supplies, masts, batteries, you name it. Check it all out here:

Ham Radio YouTuber Swag from Jason, KC5HWB: