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Old 03-31-2019, 11:52 AM
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Default Let's talk Yaesu FT-817/818 for portable comms



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My ham focus is on emergency communications rather than talking to strangers in other countries, so I've been focused on the budget end by getting a bunch of Baofeng handhelds to disperse among family and group members. They've served me well so far, but I've also had my eye on some mobile HF comms.

So last week I bought a Yaesu FT-818ND. Haven't put it through the paces yet but I'm happy with what I see so far. I really like the small size; coupled with a small wire antenna, it's easily manpackable...much more so than any other radio with comparable capability than I've found. (But I'm new to ham so I certainly may have missed something.)

Prices are low at Ham Radio Outlet right now. $600 new...much cheaper than Amazon.
https://www.hamradio.com/detail.cfm?pid=H0-016097

Re: "comparable capability," I want to be able to transmit on all modes on all frequencies. Many radios are all freq, but the modes on each freq can be limited...no AM or SSB at 144MHz, for example.

Of course, the tradeoff for a compact size is low power...max 6W. And if you use the AA option, it automatically drops to 2.5W. Another slight inconvenience is that (buried in page 9 of the manual is says) you can't operate the radio while using the 120V battery charger. But you can operate and charge the battery at the same time if you use an external DC power source. That's not important while using it in the field, but it's a limitation for home use that I wasn't aware of when I bought it.

Anyway, I'm interested in what folks here have done to tailor their 817/818s to their unique kits. How do you carry it, ham-in-a-box builds, what's the best antenna for different situations in mobile use, anyone use an inline amplifier for more power at home, etc.?
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Old 03-31-2019, 03:36 PM
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Added a 300 Hz CW filter
Portable Zero rack
Sherpa bag

Carries everything but the external battery.

Good rig, but pretty low power for SSB. For CW (with the aftermarket filter) very nice indeed.
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Old 03-31-2019, 04:03 PM
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I like the Portable Zero and Sherpa combo. That's kind of what I'm leaning towards, but I think I want the option to mount the rack into an ammo can as well so I can switch it back and forth.

How easy is cord management while it's in the Sherpa?
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Old 04-01-2019, 09:25 AM
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the bag is used for carry only.


(edited)
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Old 04-01-2019, 10:36 AM
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I've got a 817 and a 891. Have to say even thought he 891 is larger it goes on almost every remote activation I'm on. The 817 has been on the shelf untouched for at least 8 months now.

I checked out the 818 but the few additional features don't warrant an upgrade. Not sure why Yaesu bothered. If they would have strived for more than just a facelift they could have had a real winner.

In general I like Yaesu products. They seem to have a good balance between functionality and not getting to complex with menus. The 818 isn't a bad radio. Just a bit over priced for it's features. It really needs a large battery capacity, could use DSP noise reduction, and a couple more watts output power.
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Old 04-01-2019, 10:50 AM
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Franklin - I was hoping you'd post here because you're so knowledgeable. What does your 891 kit look like when you go remote?
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Old 04-01-2019, 05:00 PM
hardcalibres hardcalibres is offline
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I have two FT817ND and one FT857D.

For mobile packable HF, the best antenna I have found is these Windcamp Gipsy dipoles. They literally pack down to small pocket sized. Like most dipoles, they repay the setup time invested with good performance.

http://www.windcamp-gear.com/en/prod...ArticleID=2235

When I am using VHF and UHF, I just use the Yaesu supplied wip antennas.

For hand helds, I have several ICOM ID51A and of course, a bunch of UV5Rs.
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Old 04-01-2019, 06:07 PM
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I like that a lot. For the mountains around here, I'm thinking of something like the Chameleon on a ground spike so I don't have to worry about trees, but this would be a good one for the times I know I'll have trees. Or if I just don't want to carry much weight because the Chameleon hardware is pretty heavy.
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Old 04-02-2019, 06:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Just Jeff View Post
Franklin - I was hoping you'd post here because you're so knowledgeable. What does your 891 kit look like when you go remote?
My outings vary and I'm often changing things to experiment but I'll give a typical day or overnight park activation. My playground is usually central PA which has a large number of 2000 to 3000 foots ridges that are part of the state forest system. These are listed as parks by POTA. I also own woodland that adjoins one of the large forests. I'll take the 891, a LiFePo battery, (Size depending on the duration of the trip and the rest of the load.) an end fed wire antenna with balun, a stainless collapsible vertical with loading coil. I'll often take one of the small MFJ travel tuners and small antenna analyzer. Recently added a Heil BM series lightweight headset. Also a small collection of connectors, short light cables, bank line, sinker for hauling up wire antennas, a multitool, etc.

I will test everything out in my yard before a trip but a common weekend at my house in the summer has a couple portable antennas in the yard and configurations under test. At home I use WSPR transmitters to make comparisons.

Central Pa has very few repeaters that are reachable from the forest areas and almost no one outside of a few towns is on VHF/UHF. So the only time I take an HT is if I'm close to our camp or near my brother's place. (He is also in the area and will monitor a radio if I ask him.)

I have an old surplus Swedish army pack that has a rectangular construction. I pack this as a "go" pack at home with everything I choose for the trip. It only fills about 1/3 of the pack so plenty of room for tarp, single cook pot, some food, camera, etc. The pack has a steel frame so gets too heavy for trip over two days. In those cases I change packs and usually drop the antenna tuner and analyzer. Often adding a solar panel. Short trips I run higher output powers. Longer trips without a generator I'll drop the output power to QRP levels. On a longer trip I might consider the 817 and only a wire antenna.
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Old 04-02-2019, 06:57 PM
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I'd never want to rely on 5 watts for emergency HF comms when 100 watts is available in a similarly portable package. I have 2 FT-857Ds, one of which goes with me on every camping trip, whether backpacking or otherwise. My 8400mah LiFePo4 battery has never let me down calling CQ for several hours each night on a weekend camping trip. I have a multiband dipole (10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 40) that takes up little space and not much weight that has allowed me to work 11 countries from the bottom of a canyon over one weekend trip.
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Old 04-02-2019, 08:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ctrout View Post
I'd never want to rely on 5 watts for emergency HF comms when 100 watts is available in a similarly portable package. I have 2 FT-857Ds, one of which goes with me on every camping trip, whether backpacking or otherwise. My 8400mah LiFePo4 battery has never let me down calling CQ for several hours each night on a weekend camping trip. I have a multiband dipole (10, 12, 15, 17, 20, 40) that takes up little space and not much weight that has allowed me to work 11 countries from the bottom of a canyon over one weekend trip.
When on battery My 857s are seldom turned up over 20 watts. Before LiFePo batts were available a 7 or 8 ah SLA and small solar panel would let me work the entire field day weekend.

That said, I do like the smaller self contained 817 for day trips. Add a netbook and a Signalink to have a very portable digital station. With some of the new modes you don't need much power to make contacts or move traffic over some decent distance.

When the conditions are good you can complete WAS over field day weekend with one of the 5 watt radios.
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Old 04-02-2019, 09:30 PM
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.

$650 in one shot is a bit more than I want to spend on comms I probably won't use much unless SHTF. Even most of my firearms now I buy parts as they go on sale & when assembled I don't have much more than $450 into them. I have a bunch of older Motorola talk abouts, a set of Midland GXT 1K's the Baofeng UV-5R & somewhere one of my dads old CB radio's from the 70's, which needs a new mic on it, & even then I'm not 100% sure it would work still, but I do believe they were built a bit more robust back then. Other than some non 2 way emergency radio's that's all I've got. I did find on amazon some lower priced HAM units as well as CB's (under $150) that I've been thinking about. I know no matter what I get I will have to get other stuff to make it work decent, better antennas etc. Not to mention if I do get a dedicated ham radio, I'd like to get my certification so I'd have to buy manuals & pay for the test. While I have no doubt that radio is a good radio & maybe even better for the price, for what I would get out of it, I don't think I'd be able to justify it for myself anyway.

.
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Old 04-03-2019, 07:59 PM
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DKR - Does the escort stick out far enough in the rear of the radio to protect a 90į antenna connector? I canít quite tell from the pictures online.
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Old 04-05-2019, 10:07 AM
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Quote:
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DKR - Does the escort stick out far enough in the rear of the radio to protect a 90į antenna connector? I canít quite tell from the pictures online.
No. It *does* protect the radio connector, but only just.
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Old 04-05-2019, 11:46 AM
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That'll work then. I'm thinking of making a hard plastic sleeve to fit around the bottom of the radio so I can leave the cords attached while I stick it in a pouch, so as long as the Escort will keep the sleeve's bottom panel from putting pressure on the right-angle cord, it should be fine. So I'll order the Escort today.

Also got the SOTA Beams PowerPole adapter for the external battery. A little spendy but the R&D is already done so I'll save some time, and time is money.... Neat little product.
https://www.sotabeams.co.uk/ft817-81...rpole-adapter/
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Old 04-15-2019, 01:48 PM
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I got the SOTA Beams adapter in...very simple install and should add to the convenience and durability of the radio. I made a quick video of the install.

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Old 04-28-2019, 09:31 AM
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I picked up a FT817nd and a LDG z817 tuner off of QRZ for $600 shipped a few months ago. It stays in a surplus MOLLE 3 day pack. I take it out every time I can get some time to play radio.

The Chameleon MPAS antenna system is pretty good. I have the 1.0 kit, they now have a brass 2.0 kit, wish i had waited a few months to grab the new one, but no harm no foul. Using the basic antenna, ground spike, and the supplied 65' radial, I've been able to work as far as Germany and Slovenia SSB with five watts. Absolutely amazing for just how portable it is. Got a surplus Russian mini Morse key that I've gotta wire up at work tonight to go with it.Weighs maybe 2 ounces.

Also picked up a 12AH Bioenno battery for it. This rig runs for a very very long time with a Bioenno battery. If you have the extra $150 to throw down for a Bioenno, I definitely recommend picking one up. They fully charge in about five hours, and can be ran down without fear of totally trashing the battery.

Not to get off topic, but it's definitely worth it to study and at least upgrade to General. I got my Tech back in 2005, and did some VHF/UHF stuff, but it gets boring really quickly. I don't want to chat on a repeater with some old man who's got nothing better to do than complain about his hemmerhoids. Making that first CW contact on 40 meters to France, just messing around to see if I could do it while still a tech a few months ago really pushed me over the edge. I was a general a month after that first HF contact. HF is a ton of fun, and your options are just about limitless, depending on what kinds of activities you're in to. I've barely scratched the surface myself.
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Old 04-28-2019, 03:32 PM
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I'm using a borrowed Chameleon MPAS at the moment. Made a few local-ish contacts with it during testing. Heard a guy in Texas clear as day...because he was pumping out 1100 watts for some reason. He couldn't hear me on 6W, at least not over the closer folks he was talking to. Mumble mumble good radio practice grumble....

For power, I got a multi-purpose item for now. It's a 10Ah lithium ion emergency car starter that's pretty ruggedized...rubber coated, water resistant, etc. It has an ED5 connector for the main source (which pushes up to 600A, according to the materials) and a USB outlet. So I got some extra ED5 connectors and installed PowerPoles at the other end, along with putting PowerPoles on several other types of connections. The 818's AC charger (because of the SOTA Beams adapter), some jumper cable clamps, etc. Videoed some of it but haven't decided if I'm gonna post it yet...not really happy with how the video came out. The new cables are great, though.

Forgot to post the Porbable Zero 817 Escort rails installation video here. At the end, it shows the Spider holding the Z817 tuner on top. Nice tight little package, and the rails are rock solid. Definitely a good purchase IMO, but they're a little spendy.



So the kit is coming together. I have a few ideas for the next steps, but this isn't a cheap hobby.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhatForrest View Post
I've been able to work as far as Germany and Slovenia SSB with five watts.
Did you do this on voice, or with the CW key you mentioned?

I do have General, btw. Took both tests the same day a few months ago.
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Old 05-01-2019, 04:34 AM
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5 watts SSB, on 20 meters. Germany from a 510' hill, and Slovenia at 20 feet ASL, next to a beach.
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Old 05-02-2019, 11:46 AM
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I started on an 817 also... I worked a lot of DX- and none of them believed that I was QRP.
I was manpackable-

radio with the portable zero rails
10ah lifepo
26' sotabeams HD mast
Sotabeams bandhopper dipoles.
Ear buds
Coax


Now I run an 891 with basically the same setup just adding in a solar panel to help with power and a 20ah lifepo. I've hiked 5 miles with this lightweight setup and around 5k elevation.


Keep in mind that 2m and 70cm you'll be as well off running an HT with a good antenna as the 817, and almost no one does SSB on those bands anymore, nor do they even have the equipment.

Also think about that if SHTF happens, you may want both HF and 2m at the same time. with the 817 you get one or the other and you have to switch back and forth between antennas modes and bands.
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