Building a CW Station in a Small RV - Advice Needed

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by KF9VV, Jan 16, 2020.

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  1. KF9VV

    KF9VV Ham Member QRZ Page

    I figure the best place to start is to set context.

    I am a CW guy. I am active as a rag chewer and light duty contester. Emphasis is on rag chewing. Rag chewing goes well with a big signal.

    At home, I run a IC-7410 and a ladder line fed 110' doublet up 35' and use a Johnson Matchbox. I also am running a W6LVP receiving loop. I am very happy with how that station is performing; it hears and transmits well. My primary bands in order are 40, 80, 30 and 20.

    I spend three to four months per year traveling in a small RV, specifically a Winnebago Travato. Rather than watch TV, I like to spend evenings and rainy days on the air from the RV.

    The last two seasons, I have been using a 40 Meter QCX with either an inverted v chucked in the trees or a Buddistick vertical mounted at least 12' above ground with an elevated radial. The set up has been hit or miss. Three Watts is weak sauce for rag chewing. Far too many QSOs end with SRI, QSB BAD, 73 DE... But, there have been some magical days too. When propagation and the site are aligned, that little station has been a hoot.

    Having more than one band, a better antenna and adding power are the obvious paths to improvement. And, each is potentially a place to make some stupid mistakes. Where I need some help is in making the best choices once. I do not want to do this all at once. I am thinking start with replacing the QCX, then move on to antenna.

    So, starting with radio.

    My basic wants are good keyer, decent CW filtering, internal SWR bridge, small size, as much power as possible, rugged, and 80 - 10M is fine. I am not real worried about internal tuners, as given the narrowness of the CW bands, there are all kinds of ways for me to do resonant antennas. Plus, I do have an old MFJ tuner I can pack if needed. I want to keep this year's expense well below $1,000.

    I do not care to pack a QRP radio and an external amplifier. Too much stuff. I also am not interested in a SDR + computer solution. I have one of those at home, and it is too much stuff to deal with in having to unpack before operating. That rig is getting sold soon.

    There are a range of products that could work, Yaesu FT-891, Ten Tec Eagle, Kenwood TS-480, ICOM 706, and maybe even an older radio like a Yaesu FT-890. Finding the right radio will take me a long way down this path.

    OK, enough of my rambling.

    What am I missing, and what radio do you suggest for this application?

  2. K7TRF

    K7TRF Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    You've listed some good choices. Personally I'd probably choose one of the following for an RV/portable CW station (in no particular order):

    - Kenwood TS-590SG
    - Icom 7300
    - Ten Tec Eagle

    They're all reasonably small and tick the features you listed and the one you implied... good CW performance including filtering. I also like the TS-480SAT (or HX) for CW use but it's really not all that small with its two piece design.
  3. KC3RN

    KC3RN Ham Member QRZ Page

    You might want to consider the Yaesu FT-450D. Good CW performance, very reasonable size, fairly feature-rich. Can usually be found on the used market at under $500.
    N8AFT likes this.
  4. N3PM

    N3PM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I like the idea of a "two piece radio". Had an Alinco DX70 set up that way in my 5th wheel, way back. If I did it again, I'd look at an FT891.
    Mike N3PM
  5. K5DH

    K5DH Ham Member QRZ Page

    Icom 7000 should be on the list.
  6. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Elecraft K2/100. REALLY good CW rig, small, has built in CW keyer, filtering, QSK, and much more. Used K2/100s go for well under $1k.

    Very low power consumption on receive, ability to function well below 12 volts and ability to cut out the amp when conditions are good means battery operation is practical.

    73 de Jim, N2EY
  7. KM4DYX

    KM4DYX XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    How are you going to power the QRO rig? I guess at an RV park you're good to go. I was thinking about when you are off grid, if you ever are.
  8. N8AFT

    N8AFT Subscriber QRZ Page

    Universal has one traded in for $540. it's a 450D so I imagine it sports the on board ant tuner.
    I'd stay FAR away from IC 706 due to the unobtainium RF output transistors that are all too age related failure prone!
    I fixed an 1-1/4 pipe floor bracket to a 2x6 plank big enuff to park the car/RV tire on and a 33' tubing vert fits in or over the 12 inch pipe I use an FT-857 and LDG tuner with it. 4:1 UnUn and four odd sized radials to tack to the sod.
    Big Antennas Give Big results! Buy the tubing from DXE in Akron cheap...
  9. N8AFT

    N8AFT Subscriber QRZ Page

    Most RV's have at least one 12v deep cycle battery in them to power the fridge and lights when there's no shore pwr available.
  10. KM4DYX

    KM4DYX XML Subscriber QRZ Page


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