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Reviews Categories | QRP Radios (5 watts or less) | Wilderness NorCal40 Help

Reviews Summary for Wilderness NorCal40
Wilderness NorCal40 Reviews: 28 Average rating: 4.9/5 MSRP: $129.00
Description: 40M QRP CW rig covering 40kHz. Superhet w/ Xtal filter & RIT.
Product is not in production.
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K6WHP Rating: 5/5 Nov 26, 2017 18:34 Send this review to a friend
Product is no longer in produciton (sort of)  Time owned: more than 12 months
Firstly, a "me too" review of this kit. Bob Dyer's efforts to keep this kit alive after the NorCal club passed it on have been nothing short of stupendous! I cannot say enough nice things about Bob and his kit. A while ago, I stumbled on one at a venerable SoCal swap meet and picked it up. Although in great shape, I went through it and checked everything out and -- to work QRPp -- the power out was calibrated to 995 Milliwatts. Operating it was an absolute pleasure and it was amazing the "DX" one can roll up with less than one watt.

Anyway, that said, I purchased a kit from Bob back in December 2015 and was saving it for my retirement (commenced this past October). It is to be put on 30 meters.

Sadly, Bob seems to have pulled the plug on Wilderness Radio and it is no more. However, for those so inclined, with Wayne Burdick's kind permission and -- presumably -- Bob's assent, Chuck Adams, k7qo, and the QRP-Tech crowd have started a project to honor the 25th anniversary of the kit. The central focus point for info on this project can be found on Chuck's website:
"NorCal40A 25th Anniversary 2018 by Chuck Adams, K7QO"
"NorCal40A PCB Build by Chuck Adams, K7QO"

He provides links to the various salient fragments of information on the project as well as links to his YouTube instructional videos.

Also note that he offers a method though a company in China where you can purchase 10 (TEN!) PCBs for this rig for about $6 shipped to your door! (That is, about 55 cents per board.)

The whole thing is pretty seat-of-the-pants and it is recommended that you join his group at:

The lads there will provide elmering and guidance and help you scrounge parts. In face, there are a number of participants who are giving their excess boards away so it may not be necessary for you to lay out the $6 for the 10 boards.

Hurry up and don;t miss out on building a piece of QRP history!

You will have to scrounge the parts on your own but
KG4NVV Rating: 5/5 Nov 30, 2015 09:57 Send this review to a friend
Superb QRP 40 M CW Rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
The Wilderness Norcal40A CW transceiver is an excellent, proven design. Mine holds frequency very well and has a very sensitive receiver that rivals my IC-7200, on 40 meters, anyway. The assembly instructions are excellent and all steps are well written and described. Be sure to carefully read the assembly manual and understand in general terms how the rig works before, or at least while, building it. Here's why!

I built this rig several years ago and when I first turned on the receiver, I could hear no signals. I could hear a faint hiss in the background but no CW signals were coming in, and, yes, the band was open! I inspected and reinspected my work, checked voltages, etc. Everything looked A-OK. So I set it aside for a while, thinking that I would need an oscilloscope and other fancy test equipment to figure out what was wrong. Finally, I decided to inspect it one more time and, this time, I read the manual. If you read the manual, you'll find that the circuit has an adjustable AGC (automatic gain control). I didn't realize it was adjustable and had its own circuit board mounted potentiometer to control it. I decided to turn the pot all the way to the opposite direction and hear what happened. Well, lo and behold, CW signals started coming through and everything was fine! The rig had been working perfectly the whole time. The moral of the story is: read and understand the directions / manual before you build the kit!

All in all, a great kit and a highly enjoyable build experience.
K4EQ Rating: 5/5 Jul 13, 2012 06:58 Send this review to a friend
Great QRP Rig!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Starting with the HW-8 way back when, I've built several QRP rigs through the years but for some reason never bought the NC-40A. Finally, last month I sent for one and received it promptly. I won't repeat all the raves from other reviews except to say it's a slick little radio. I had a couple of questions along the way, emailed QRP Bob, and got quick, helpful replies.

When I went to align it, I couldn't get it to transmit. Finally, I sent it to Bob for repair. To my surprise he said it worked perfectly. Huh? Then it dawned on me. The key jack is for a straight key which has a mono plug. I was trying to key it with one of my paddles (stereo plug). This despite clear written instructions to the contrary. I was relieved that everything was okay and embarrassed at my not remembering what I'd already read.

My biggest surprise of all was when I opened the box with my returned radio. There was a check from Bob with a refund of my repair money. Since there was no actual repair, he carefully aligned the radio and sent it back to me with no charge other than postage. That was a shocking but pleasant surprise.

If you want an excellent, time-tested, and fun QRP radio, the NC-40A is the way to go. And I guarantee you won't get any better service than you get from QRP Bob. Join the fun today!
WM8E Rating: 5/5 Jan 9, 2012 08:29 Send this review to a friend
Tough As Nails  Time owned: more than 12 months
I just bought my second Norcal 40A. The first one purchased 3 years ago sits in my (unheated most of the time) log cabin. They do not seem to be affected by high humidity or freezing temps.I own several QRP rigs some the high dollar ones all good, but for the money spent and features received the Norcal is hard to beat.I am going to explore a internal mini speaker to reduce the number count of items required when backpacking. Other than that the mods offered by Bob fit the bill perfectly.Bob is also great to deal with.
W4MY Rating: 5/5 Oct 31, 2011 12:07 Send this review to a friend
Real Radio  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
This is a great radio, kit is easy to build knowing the basics. Its small, but not that small. A small tip on your soldering iron and good quality thin solder works very well. Don't worry about winding the inductors, the explanation in the manual on how to do it is the best I've read so far. I substituted a 3 turn 10K pot for R17 (from Mouser) and turned out to be a good decision. About 10KHz per revolution, perfect! I didn't install the KC-1 so keeping track of the freq is not so bad with 3 turns. RX noise floor is quiet and sigs just "pop out" Having fun with it.
IN3ACV Rating: 5/5 Dec 29, 2009 11:58 Send this review to a friend
Norcal it's super !!!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
Performance of the receiver is even better than I remember, which was fantastic.
It's amazing radio.

73 de in3acv
WA7SPY Rating: 5/5 Oct 8, 2008 18:21 Send this review to a friend
Great little sounding rig!  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I give the Wilderness Nor Cal 40A a 5 rating. The kit went together without a hitch and was very easy to align. The radio came to life the first time it was powered on with the published 2 watts power output. It has great filtering and a very pleasant side tone. The receiver is very sensitive. I get good on the air audio reports. The instructions are very straight forward and easy to follow. If you can read and understand the English language you will have no problems putting this kit together and getting it on the air. I ordered my Nor Cal 40A with the KC1 optional Frequency Keyer. The assembly manual for the KC1 is also very straight forward and easy to follow. The manual tells you exactly how to wire up and install the KC1 into the Nor Cal 40 A. The KC1 works very well and it is nice to be able to push a button and tell where the rig is tuned to on the band. Bob at Wilderness Radio is very prompt in answering questions and updates on order status. I would recommend this rig to anyone who wants a small portable 40 meter QRP rig that has good performance.
K6VIN Rating: 5/5 Jun 12, 2007 12:08 Send this review to a friend
Coolest by far!  Time owned: 3 to 6 months
I've owner lots of radios of all descriptions, and have built many, many kits. This radio, however, is far and away the all around coolest radio I've ever built or owned!

I can't imagine that you'll find a higher quality kit. The parts, board, doucmentation, case -- all of the best quality. Some other reviewers have said you might not want this for a first try at kit building, and I guess I agree. One issue for me, because I have big thick fingers, was the placement of one toroid coil and one transformer -- I managed, but it took some patience: always bring patience to your kit building! But, that said, given the performance and features you end up with, this is not a very difficult or complicated rig to build. Especially given the immediate and personal assistance available via email with QRPBob.

The performance of the radio (plus the KC-1) is just spectacular. I use it at home, have taken it camping & bacpacking, even brought it to work and used it in the park at lunchtime. The RX is very hot and very selective. The TX is at 2.5 watts, super clean signal, and very stable VFO. The KC-1 freq counter/keyer is a wonderful addition. Mostly I work straight key, but have used the keyer a number of times and it is great. The freq counter is very helpful for finding people on skeds especially.

Sometimes I just look at this rig and marvel -- I like simple, elegant equipment, and the Wilderness NorCal40 is all of the things I could ask for -- simple, flexible, a great performer, inexpensive, fun to build, fun to operate...

Thanks to all the dozens of people that brought this design to this point, and to QRPBob for making it available in this form!!
WA2DTW Rating: 5/5 Dec 25, 2006 14:04 Send this review to a friend
Incredible little rig  Time owned: 0 to 3 months
I built it unadorned and unmodified, covering about 40kc of the 40 meter band centered on 7040. Its simplicity is refreshing. The receiver is hot. There is an RF gain, and RIT also. I use a straight key. (some prefer the digital readout and the built in keyer option, but the transceiver works perfectly well as is). The other rigs in the shack, particularly the FT817 and the TS2000 glare jealously as this little rig makes contacts with its 1-2 watts. In this segment of the 40 meter band, the receiver probably exceeds the FT817 in sensitivity and selectivity. And its current draw is negligible compared with the FT817.
The rig worked immediately after I finished building it, but QRP Bob was there to help me with a minor issue (intermittently defective audio op amp IC). He is very helpful, supportive and responsive.
This is a fun rig both to build and to operate.
KB9BVN Rating: 5/5 Apr 20, 2006 09:54 Send this review to a friend
Excellent Rig  Time owned: more than 12 months
I bought mine in the summer of 1998 and finally got around to building it and getting it on the air over Labor Day weekend 1998. It was the first kit rig I ever built and it worked flawlessly out of the box. I highly suggest you buy the keyer and freq counter with it. I get just a hair under 2w out of mine with a fully charged gel cell. I live in central Indiana and use a 40m half wave attic dipole. I have been able to work both coasts, several Caribbean stations, and my best DX with this rig is Hawaii....about 5K miles away. This rig is what got me interested in CW operations. I was a Technician (license in 1988) that had gotten out of the hobby for a number of years, but this rig got me back into radio and showed me the real fun of QRP.

I still have this rig and I take it camping and to the parks for my local version of great.
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