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Question for any QRP portable operators

Discussion in 'Ham Radio Discussions' started by WB3CII, Sep 26, 2012.

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  1. WB3CII

    WB3CII Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hey guys,
    I have a question for you mobile/portable type QRP operators. I have been thinking it would be neat to have a real portable qrp rig to take to the beach, camping, try the Summits on the Air etc. I like CW and have been looking at some of the small rigs from Elecraft, You Kit etc, but somehow they just dont make sense. By the time I buy an Elecraft KX1 or K1-4 or a You Kits HB1 I am going to be in at a minimum of $300 - $400 and only have a few bands and CW only. HRO has the Yaesu FT817ND for $649 and you get all the HF bands, 2 meters and 440 plus SSB and FM ???? I know $630 is a bit of a jump from $400 but it seems almost stupid not to go that route ??? Unless I am missing a big advantage of the "baby" rigs over the Yaesu ???

    I have no plans to operate QRP at home and I can always turn down my Kenwood if I really wanted to, so my question is strictly from a portable viewpoint.

    Any thoughts ? Any other suggestions or ideas on this type of operating also appreciated !

    Thanks and 73,
  2. N2EY

    N2EY Subscriber QRZ Page

    Couple of factors to consider:

    1) Does the FT-817ND come with a CW filter? If not, what's the total price of the rig and filter?

    2) Same question for an ATU to match field antennas?

    3) How good a performer are the various rigs?

    4) How much do size and weight matter? (When you have to carry the rig for miles, it's a different thing from carrying it a few feet from car to picnic table)

    5) How much does power drain matter? Rigs like the K-1 and KX-1 have incredibly low requirements, particularly on receive.

    6) How well does the rig work when the battery voltage starts dropping?

    7) How much does being able to build and fix the rig yourself matter?

    If you really want to do a comparison, check out the KX3 with ATU against the FT-817 with ATU and CW filter....

    73 de Jim, N2EY
  3. N4OGW

    N4OGW Ham Member QRZ Page

    Two advantages of say a KX1 over a 817:

    1) lighter weight (0.6 vs 2.6 pounds)
    2) much smaller current draw on receive (34 mA vs 370 mA)

    If "portable" means carrying all of your stuff on your back, then the KX1 is better. If portable means operating from your back yard
    or your car, then carrying the heavier batteries needed isn't a problem.

  4. WB2WIK

    WB2WIK Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    I have a KX1 and an FT-817ND.

    KX1 is great fun to use and mine has the "attached paddle" option (it's cheap), so that's one less thing to carry about. Its current drain on RX is so low that fresh batteries will last a very long time.

    The 817ND, OTOH, does eat up batteries faster but is a lot more versatile and also works HF-SSB (and digi modes) as well as VHF-UHF FM/repeaters, which can be very handy to have.

    For "backpacking," I'd grab the KX1. For operating from a picnic bench and not carrying stuff a lot, I'd grab the 817ND.

    Either way, of course the antenna(s) used really determines what you can work much more than the rig does!
  5. G8ADD

    G8ADD Ham Member QRZ Page

    The FT817 is in very widespread use amongst the SOTA fraternity, and at least a third of the SOTA activations employ CW. The rig has semi break in operation and a built in electronic keyer. If you put a set of high capacity NiCd cells in the battery box supplied as part of the outfit the rig is good for a couple of hours on SSB, longer on CW, and the "green wire mod" will let you charge the cells in the rig. Some people have fitted rechargeable lithium batteries inside which gives you more operating time, or it can be run off an external SLAB. A CW filter is expensive but is worthwhile if you are into CW.

    Many SOTA operators use a linked multiband dipole thus avoiding the use of a tuner, this can be strung between trees or other available supports, or a fibre-glass fishing pole is very light in weight and you can get some that collapse down to a couple of feet, there is a technique where the dipole as an inverted V acts as two of the support guys with a length of tent guy rope used as a third support. This can be set up in only a couple of minutes, but the disadvantage of the link dipole is that you may have to lower the fishing pole to change bands. For this reason I use a W3EDP antenna with a home-brew tuner.

    Some people claim that the display is too small, but if you press the C button in row 11 of the first menu, marked "DSP", it doubles the size of the frequency readout.

    WARNING: it has no reverse voltage protection!

    Its a great rig, I love it!


    Brian G8ADD
  6. KC2SIZ

    KC2SIZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    You might consider the Weber tribander:

    It's a kit. I've ordered one of these myself and hope to have time to build it in the coming months. Yes, it's CW only, but for $200 you get three bands of your choice, a built in keyer, a DDS VFO that should be extremely stable, RIT and AGC. It'll give you 5 watts out with a 13.8v power supply. For the money, I doubt that you can beat it.
  7. W1KU

    W1KU Ham Member QRZ Page

    If you want something super-portable, are happy with CW only, and aren't in a hurry, consider one of KD1JV's ATS rigs. See

    The kits aren't currently available, but they will occasionally come up for sale on the yahoo group for between $100 and $250. The older models seem to be going on the lower end these days. My personal favorite and the one I own is the ATS3b.1 which will do 15, 17, 20, 30, 40, and 80 all in two altoids tins (one for the rig, one for the band modules). Throw in a simple EFHW tuner, battery pack (1 9V will do if you don't need full 5W), paddle, and some wire for antennas, and the whole thing will fit in a small toiletry bag. The ATS4 is a big bigger but drops the separate band modules; I think it also loses one or two bands in the process.

    The RX quality is disturbingly good. The TX is what you make of it depending on tweaking the output filter coils and battery voltage, but 4 - 5 W at 12V is completely doable.
  8. KY5U

    KY5U Subscriber QRZ Page

    Just received my Ten Tec 4020 today. The rig plus field bag plus antenna for $257. Of course, I have to go out of town this weekend so won't get to use it....
  9. WB3CII

    WB3CII Ham Member QRZ Page

    Thanks for the replies so far guys. I like CW and would certainly love to build it, but when I look at it in a dollar to value deal, it seems like the 817 is the way to go. I will never be hiking miles away from the car but if I try the SOTA deal, less weight might make a difference. I guess I need to print out all of the different specs and make a decision :) I dont want to wait forever for a kit to be available either, I wanted to do something before winter.

    Keep the suggestions coming !! I will let you know what I decide.
  10. W0IS

    W0IS Ham Member QRZ Page

    I have an FT-817 and use it all the time for portable operation. I just make a dipole for the band(s) in question, so I don't worry about an antenna tuner. As others have noted, the main drawback is the current drain, which isn't an issue if you're near your car (either to use the car for power, or to haul batteries around). For backpacking, it could be a downside, though, depending on how much you want to operate, and how far you need to carry the rig and batteries. If I had to walk a couple of miles with it, I think it would be OK. But if I had to carry it 20 miles, I'd probably be looking at a more lightweight option.

    If you just want to dabble in portable operation and not spend much money in the process, one way to go would be one of the MFJ rigs. I'm not sure if they still have the MFJ-90xx series (9040 for 40 meters, 9020 for 20 meters, etc.) But the last time I checked, they were going for around $100 used. If you don't mind a little drift (keep one hand on the VFO at all times), they're pretty good for that kind of operating. Of course, you're stuck on one band.

    One other reason I like the 817 is that it has VHF and UHF. It's not the greatest rig on those bands, but it is fun to hand out contacts during VHF contests.
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