First QRP setup. What do you recommend?

Discussion in 'QRP Corner' started by K7NNR, Apr 15, 2021.

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  1. K7NNR

    K7NNR Ham Member QRZ Page

    I am looking at getting my first QRP rig and thinking about the FT-818. Unless you can change my mind.
    What accessories do you recommend I get right away for my first outing with it?

    My list so far is below but I am open to suggestions and deletions.
    Alkaline battery case
    RT systems software
    Nifty guide for reference
    LDG Z-817
    Right angle BNC adapter
    10 foot coax with bnc connectors
    G0CIQ, K1CWB and WW2PT like this.
  2. WW2PT

    WW2PT Ham Member QRZ Page

    I got started in QRP (and amateur radio in general) by building a Heathkit HW-9 with matching tuner and SWR bridge. If I were to do it over today, I would build a station around a few QCXmini kits, a nice key, and an Emtech ZM-2 ATU (or Elecraft T1, if you prefer an auto-tuner).
    W5ESE likes this.
  3. VK3YE

    VK3YE Ham Member QRZ Page

    FT818's a good choice.

    Don't bother with the alkaline battery case. Use an external battery with higher capacity (say 3 to 7 AH).

    A manual L-match and end-fed wire is a good setup. An auto ATU makes no improve to the signal and just costs dollars.

    Getting the antenna up high is important. Take an extendable pole if you can't get something high up into a tree.

    Don't bother with the MFJ-1899T. Again costs money and inferior to a proper antenna. But if you really do want to go
    HF pedestrian mobile then some tips and ideas on antennas are here:

    A write up on portable QRP here:

    Or a quick video on what I usually take here:

    W4KYR, KI5WW and KG7VLX like this.
  4. KB6ODH

    KB6ODH Ham Member QRZ Page

    There will be many opinions. I offer mine.

    Last year I was considering buying what you propose but instead I got the Elecraft KX2 Shack in a Pack with their AX-1 40M base loaded whip for fun. You can get it with a built in tuner that tunes anything, in my experience. It is 80M-10M only but it will do FM, AM, SSB and the data modes. No 160 or 6M or higher. The 818 will (and so will the KX3) so that could be a tipping point for you. It wasn't for me. The KX2 will do 10 watts on everything but 10M and with an external 15 volt supply, 12 Watts on 80-40-20, which is where I mostly work.

    I usually use an EFHW antenna and have made it to Japan on 12 watts and work contests successfully and have satisfying QSOs so however you go, you will have a lot of fun.

    The whip is interesting. I have had S9 reports on it from northern Washington state from central CA and have routinely talked to LA stations on 40. Almost made it to Florida with it one day. However, some days nothing. You might consider adding some sort of long wire antenna to your setup.
    US7IGN likes this.
  5. KA2RRK

    KA2RRK Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Such as a 5/2 longwire fed with 4:1 balun one quarter wave in from either end. A single band antenna but with
    Alil bit of gain a tude.

  6. US7IGN

    US7IGN Ham Member QRZ Page

    Avoid surrogates. At low power, the antenna should be as efficient as possible. Take a coil of wire and make dipoles for the desired bands. The RG-174 cable is quite cheap. And you don't need a tuner. I would not take 818 now. If the budget is small, then QSX, if more - KX2 or DDC SDR like
    KI5ONL likes this.
  7. KI4POT

    KI4POT Ham Member QRZ Page

    Most of what I done for the last 15 years is QRP portable. In fact, I've only been running a proper base station at home for about a month now. I started out with the 818's predecessor and migrated to a KX2 last year.

    The 818 is a capable radio. I would avoid the 1899T antenna though. If you want an easy to use whip, get one or two of MFJ's monoband whips. They're more efficient and simpler to use. I used the 1820T version to make DX contacts with my 817nd, so I know they work. I routinely use the 1820T and 1815T on my KX2.

    The LDG tuner is a good one. Another one that works well is QRPKits' SOTA EFHW tuner. It's a manual tuner, but very small. I used to secure it to the back of the radio with velcro (pics in this thread:

    QRPGuys offer a similar manual EFHW tuner kit for less money, but it doesn't have the nice aluminum shell.

    Also consider the Wolf River Coils antennas. They are a great option with the 818, my buddy uses at "Take-It-Along Mini" to great effect. I'd go that route and ditch the LDG tuner personally.

    I routinely used the AA tray in my 817nd, but filled it with rechargeable NiMH batteries. However, because those batteries are a hair thicker, you'll need to remove the center divider of the tray (end snips work well for this). Then, you put the tray in the radio empty, then add/remove the batteries. Don't try to remove the tray while the batteries are installed or you'll scrape them on the body and cause shorts. The 817nd would transmit full power with AAs if you manually increased output power (defaults to a lower level with AAs), but I believe the 818 will NOT transmit on full power with AAs at all. Get a small LifePo battery from Bioenno. A 3ah one will be small and light, yet run the radio at full power.

    If you have the funds, I personally find the KX2 a better radio for portable QRP, especially with the built-in ATU, but getting it with the ATU and internal battery will be roughly 2x the cost of the 818, so it's not a cheap option.

    W1VKE and KG7VLX like this.
  8. KU3X

    KU3X Ham Member QRZ Page

    The FT818 is a great little radio. Don't expect to get much operating time off of a set of internal Alkaline batteries. Also, the little MFJ multi band telescopic whip will yield very low performance. You will get very discouraged post haste.
    If you want to play low power from 1.8 mhz to 440 mhz, yes.....the 818 would be a good choice.
    First you will need a better external battery, maybe a 12 volt 7 ah gel cell of a 6000 mah 3 cell lipo like I use from time to time. Next you need a better antenna. A simple dipole will do the trick. Now you will maximize operating time as well as much better ERP.

    As mentioned above, the Elecraft KX2, which is my go to QRP Portable Radio, is a radio that you should consider. The internal battery is much better than the one in the 818 and you can also get an optional internal ATU with the KX2. Performance is also much better. Hands down it's a much better radio if the high bands are not needed. I also have a KX3 but the internal batteries suck. They are no better than the ones used in the FT817 / 818.

    It would be a good idea for you to get in touch with a friend or maybe a club member that operates QRP so you can get a better understanding of what
    QRP is all about. Lots of people see the little multi band multi feature FT818 and have no idea what QRP is all about. Then they get very discouraged and sell everything.

    Good luck with whatever choice you make.
    Barry, KU3X/QRP

    Last edited: Apr 15, 2021
    WW2PT likes this.
  9. KI4POT

    KI4POT Ham Member QRZ Page

    QRP is fine as long as you have the right expectations. Don't go in thinking you're going to bust big pile-ups or accumulate hundreds of calls via SSB in a single session. It's going to be challenging work, but that will make you a more effective operator. Go in with the right attitude and you'll have fun even if you're not filling out multiple log sheets. Also, if you're operating portable, and why else do QRP, you'll get invaluable experience setting up stations, tweaking antennas, and generally learning how it all works vs setting up a station once and running it for years without change.

    K1BQY, F8WBD, N8SMG and 4 others like this.
  10. K7WFM

    K7WFM Ham Member QRZ Page

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