I had an FT-817ND for a few years, and it was my primary radio from 2005-2008; running it into a dipole worked really well, and QRP was a blast. After I got the IC-7000, the poor Yaesu sat around and did not get used much at all, so I sold it. A short time later, I realized that I really missed that radio - it was pure fun in a small package that didn't break the bank to buy. With the W4RT CW filter, it did very well on CW, too.
If I had it to do over again, the KX1 would be a consideration, mostly because it is even more portable. Not having VHF/UHF is not a big deal to me, as I have a VX-8DR for that.
"Once men get in the habit of helping themselves to the property of others they are not easily cured of it." - William Howard Taft
have and have owned dozens of qrp rigs
dating back to a much loved 509 Argonaut
for picnic table work i use either a FT-817nd or a IC 703
the 703 has the better receiver but its larger and need outboard power
for field work i use mono band CW only jobs like the Small Wonder DSW
or the NorCaL 20
sure the Elecraft radios are great
but the FT-817 does so much more
it has general coverage receive
right now im listening to KMOX on my FT-817nd
PFR-3 is a 3 bander with built in antenna tuner, CW only, but a really nice portable radio from qrpkits.com - I think they are about $230 now, new. 5w on all 3 bands, power supply voltage: 8 volts minimum, 12.5 volts maximum. 12 to 9 volts recommend.
FCC Section 97.313(a) “At all times, an amateur station must use the minimum transmitter power necessary to carry out the desired communications.”
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I had the FT-817, it was good but now I have the KX3, far superior, you can see the readout, more power and can do RTTY, PSK, without a computer plus it is just far easier to use
My first portable setup (in 1961) was a BC454 receiver and a homebrew one tube transmitter in a home made, wooden carry box with 66 ft of rolled up antenna wire and a J-38 key..
Today I use MFJ Cubs for 40 and 80M ($99 each) and a MFJ-9030 for 30M, powered by 6AH gel cells and rolled up dipoles to hang in trees on the campsites. I still have that J-38 to use on portable ops. Everything fits in a small gym bag.
The cub kits were fun and easy to build and I don't care for SSB, so they were perfect for me.
I just added a MFJ 9017 and worked a Russian station with it on my last camping trip.
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I do quite a bit of CW portable and have been banging on an Elecraft K1, 4 bander with ATU for many years. It is amazing how well it works. Excellent receiver with 3 filters, nice QSK, and very low power consumption on receive. Plus, it was fun to build. The 817 is a nice rig too, but I quickly ruled it out due to power drain and I was not all that interested in SSB or VHF. I've used both and much prefer the receiver in the K1 for CW, especially on a crowded band like 40, at night. The K1 handled those kind of conditions much better than my friends 817. My only complaint about the K1 is the crappy headphone jack. I've replaced mine 3 times. The internal switch that shuts off the speaker when phones are plugged in craps out. Yeah, it's annoying, but a cheap and quick fix so I don't consider it a big deal.
Would I make the same decision today? Yes, I think I would. For my type of portable operations the K1 more than meets my expectations. Of course, YMMV.
Well, there are other ways to use the FT817, too. Mine sits on the desk next to my computer. I sometimes use it on VHF/UHF, but mostly, I listen on HF with it. I rigged up something that lets me switch my outdoor antennas back to the home office, and I work mostly digital modes while cruising my email and QRZ.com. Just worked a CO4 on 10 PSK31. I've been working the world on JT65HF recently, too. Better antennas would help a lot, but mine work.
I have used the 817 portable many times - it fits well in a suitcase with a small tuner and power supply. I haven't tried it yet, but some of these laptop power supplies provide enough current to power the rig - you will need to add a couple diodes in series with the supply to bring the voltage down to a safe level, and be extra careful with polarity - it's hard to believe a $600 rig doesn't have a polarity protection diode. I'm tempted to wire in a full wave bridge rectifier so you can't hook up the DC incorrectly.
I have used MFJ's 1899 portable antenna. It's a kluge mechanically, and mine broke almost immediately. Don't rely on the BNC connector - get a BNC to UHF adapter and a right angle UHF, and lash them together so that the BNC can't wiggle around, or you will break the center pin off. But the little antenna work OK on 30 meters and up as long as you have a decent counterpoise for it and a tuner. I screw mine to the back of the tuner and attach a quarter wave wire as a counterpoise. That will make PSK contacts from inside many motel rooms. If you're outdoors, a good wire antenna up in a tree will be much better.
I often use the 817 as a portable receiver to hunt down noise and to monitor my signals on other bands.
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I love my FT-817. I mostly do 2m and 432 SSB with the ELK antenna but also some 6m on a small loop from time to time. There are a lot of guys who use this radio with transverters for microwave work. I have the TCXO option, I don't think most people really need it but I like the stability on the higher bands. I'm working on a compact loop for HF, hope to use it this winter. I want to get that dual filter board they make with the two Collins filters for SSB and CW. You have to remove the stock Murata filter soldered on the board and wire in the one filter while the other side plugs into the socket. One of these days, if my job holds out!