I have used four different radios for my Parks and Summit activation’s.
By far the majority have been done with either of my two KD1JV rigs the MTR and ATS4. Both these rigs run on little power and their compact size makes them quite portable. Batteries are external and if required the ATU is also external. This does make set up a little more time consuming but does provide other advantages such as rig cannot be turn on by accident in the pack, and an external ATU allows the active part of the antenna to be placed a little bit further away from the operator.
A holiday to VK8 saw me take the FT817, this is a robust performer, plenty of bands, internal batteries, but no internal ATU. I used the 817 on this trip for a number of reasons, firstly the wide band choice as I only have 5 bands max in the ATS4, but more importantly was the battery issue. With the restrictions on carrying batteries in planes the 817 allowed me to use a set of rechargeable Ni-Zn batteries plus supplement with some AA dry cells from the local supermarket. On this trip I would be only activating parks and in VK there are very few CW parks chasers so the 817 would also allow phone operations.
In mid-2016 Elecraft announce their KX2 this radio is a smaller brother to the KX3, with a few less features and bands, see the KX2 FAQ for a detailed comparison
For me the pro’s and con’s of the purchase were; SDR radio, all the bands I normally use portable, all in one package with ATU, Internal Battery, Internal Mic, and SSB. On the Con’s the main factor was the cost in Oz Dollars, plus the risk of being taxed as the radio price was over the local tax threshold.
Clearly I purchased one, the first problem I struck was the battery, with Elecraft having trouble finding a carrier that would deliver a Li-ion battery to my part of VK3, however with some persistence from the team at Elecraft it arrived with the battery installed into the battery compartment rather than loose.
I have had the KX2 for around 6 months, and used it on most activation’s since then. Mainly using CW, but worked a few P2P and S2S using the internal mic. The KX2 is a good radio, is it a good sota radio for what I do? Well for me it has a couple of short comings;
Battery, the battery compartment is big enough for the supplied battery pack, but I cannot find a matching size pack here in VK, and a protected 18650 battery holder will not fit. This impacts air travel and the ability to source a battery pack to replace the supplied one when it fails
There is an external power connector but this is not switched, the radio will operate from which supply is higher, so the operator will need to pay attention or end up with two flat batteries when using an external battery.
Could be more field ready, I also purchased the Cover for the KXPD socket, End Plates and Cover from Side KX, these are great products, but for a radio which was clearly built for field use it could have come with these or at least offer these from Elecraft to allow people to combine postage. I would love if the radio had a few less openings for ingress of moisture, dust, ants etc.
OK the pluses, it a good radio, does everything it says it will do and the internal mic is great for the CW operator who does not want to make too many phone QSO’s. Its small enough to use as a hand held.
I have also attached a base for a palm paddle on the right hand end. To do this I used the existing thread screw hole at the front a drilled and tapped a second hole. This is the same end as the Finals and may not suit all, to date I have not had any problems with over heating running my standard 4.8W.
I have not conducted any detailed testing of battery performance, but I find I typically use 450mAh (CW with Pre-Amp and ATU on), and the supplied battery has a usable capacity of 2100 mAh, so this gives me around four hours of activating time per charge.
So in closing YMMV so make up your own mind, I would love the battery compartment to allow greater flexibility to fit 18650 or similar batteries. As for future activation’s, the KX2 will go on most Park only activation’s as we don’t have enough CW parks chasers to make CW only park activation’s viable. But for the SOTA trips particularly where it has a long walk were weight and size is important the ATS or MTR will be the rig of choice