SOTA is great portable operating concept, and many activators like to pair it with another challenge — working DX from mountain tops, CW only, 23cm or low power. My thing is homebrew. A few years ago (2015) I started my line of homebrew QRP rigs, affectionately known as ‘summit prowlers’. These rigs reinvigorated my love of homebrewing and radio craft, and gave me some great activating moments on southern Australian summits in summer and winter.
Note that these rigs are all scratch built one-off muppet style rats nests for my use only, not kits or attempts to create a transceiver that others can reproduce. All are derived from openly accessible proven designs and can be reproduced in part or full by a moderately experienced maker. If you’d like to discuss any aspect of these radios post a comment on the appropriate page. Thanks for reading!
Summit Prowler I
I returned to scratch-building complete portable SSB QRP transceivers after many years with Summit Prowler I, a build of Drew Diamond VK3XU’s Twin Crystal Filter (TCF) transceiver, a 40m superhet with 8.867MHz IF and a 16MHz SuperVXO, with SA612 mixers and a 2N3866/IRF510 PA, with modifications. Shown above at Mt Strickland, Yarra Ranges, September 2016.
Summit Prowler II
Next came Summit Prowler II a Wilderness SST monobander for 30m CW. This little rig was designed by Wayne N6KR of Elecraft fame, and was very popular around the turn of last century. I added a K1EL keyer and an IRF510 QRP afterburner for 5 watts CW and made quite a few nice VK and ZL contacts. Pictured above at Mt Tabletop, Bogong High Plains, Feb 2017.
Summit Prowler III
The annual 160m and AM VK SOTA activation day in April 2017 provided the incentive I needed to finish off a project I’d been working on for a while, a small 160m AM/CW transceiver (Summit Prowler III). This rig combines a superhet receiver with 470kHz IF and three-pin MK484 AM detector, and another VK3XU designed 160m AM transmitter, using a 50 watt kit audio amplifier, crystal oscillator and BUZ90 class D PA for 30 watts of CW and AM. I activated Mt Gordon near Marysville with this rig and a 160m inverted-L antenna, working VK2s and 3s on nearby and distant summits and home stations.
Summit Prowler IV
Summit Prowler IV is a 6 band SSB CW rig (5 watts on 160 to 17m), my most versatile homebrew rig to date, with built-in keyer and a number of other ‘improvements’, I christened it with a pile of SSB and CW contacts at Mt Buffalo, Falls Creek and Mt Hotham in Victoria’s Alpine region in February 2018.
I’ve been impressed with how well this SA621 based simple superhet works. No IF gain, no RF amp, just Gilbert cell mixers and audio stages.
Summit Prowler V
Summit Prowler V is a hand-held 2 band SSB and CW rig (2 watts on 40 and 20m) with built-in push-button keyer. The concept picks up on the ‘walkie talkie’ form — hand-held, light, built in keying buttons and microphone, able to be cabled up to battery and antenna quickly, but without compromising on receiver quality.
I achieved the first two activations with this rig at Sugarloaf Peak near Buxton and Mt Strickland, Yarra Ranges in October 2018.
Thinking about how simple a phone/CW hand-held transceiver could be, without compromising too much on the receiver or CW operating experience. Thinking about going right back to analog basics with something like the Leon VK2DOB’s MDT, which does a few watts of double sideband, and could easily be made to do CW as well. No Arduino/si5351, so the keyer, break-in and control functions would all need to be done in hardware.