by William Eric McFadden

The FT-817 Mini Travel Kit is a small but complete low-power HF station in a rugged and weather-resistant LowePro Nova 3 camera bag. The FT-817 Mini Travel Kit is designed for transport by bicycle or foot.

The FT-817 Mini Travel Kit is currently under development. Photos may not represent the current state of the station. This page will change as various ideas are tested and accepted or rejected.

Quick Jump:  

The Rig
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Yaesu FT-817ND The heart of the FT-817 Mini Travel Kit is a Yaesu FT-817ND low-power, transceiver equipped with Portable Zero 817 Escort rails, a W4RT 500Hz CW filter, and an N0WL Powerpole adapter.

The tiny FT-817ND's all-band (160m-70cm) coverage, all-mode (CW/SSB/AM/FM/data) capability, excellent receiver, truly generous feature-mix, small size, and low weight make the FT-817ND an excellent field-radio.


Portable Power
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The FT-817ND can operate over a voltage range of 8vdc to 16vdc. In order to have the option of the full 5w-output, I do not keep an internal battery installed in my FT-817ND and I power it with an external 4.5Ah Bioenno LiFePO4 battery (link).

Portable Antennas
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The The FT-817ND lacks an internal antenna tuner and the FT-817 Mini Travel Kit has two configurations:

  • FT-817 Mini Travel Kit, configuration 1 Version 1 includes an LDG Z-11 automatic antenna tuner and the proven 28½' end-fed wire vertical with three 17' counterpoise wires. This is the same antenna I've used successfully with my Elecraft KX3 for hundreds of National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) and Parks on the Air (POTA) activations. I feed this antenna, without feedline, through an LDG 4:1 unun and the LDG Z-11 ATU easily finds a match for this antenna on all the bands of interest.


  • FT-817 Mini Travel Kit, configuration 2 Version 2 replaces the LDG Z-11 ATU, LDG 4:1 unun, and 28½' end-fed wire vertical with a 40m homebrew end-fed halfwave (EFHW) antenna and 20' of RG-58 feedline. This configuration of the kit is lighter than than the other configuration and is used when I anticipate the need to bicycle up steep, long hill climbs or on aggressively-bumpy roads.


To hang the 28½' wire or the 40m EFHW antenna in a tree, I carry a 100-yard spool of dental floss and a couple of large fishing weights. When I don't want to fuss with throwing a line through trees, I use an inexpensive Goture Red Fox 7.2m carbon-fiber telescoping fishing pole that I strap to my bicycle or to an existing post and deploy the antenna as either as a sloper or as an inverted-vee. (I have removed the top three sections from the Red Fox because they're really too whippy to support a wire.) The Red Fox does not fit in the LowePro Nova 3 bag; it need to be carried separately.

The CW Key & Keyer
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The FT-817ND has a built-in keyer but this keyer lacks memories, so I carry the tiny HamGadgets Ultra Pico Keyer (link) with the FT-817ND Mini Travel Kit.

For my CW key, I use a lovely American Morse Equipment Mini-B (link) single-lever paddle.

Miscellaneous
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The FT-817ND has an excellent built-in speaker but for occasions when I want to make little noise, I carry a pair of Radio ear-buds.

The Carrying Case
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FT-817 Mini Travel Kit The carrying case is a re-purposed LowePro Nova 3 camera bag.

I had purchased this Nova 3 to carry my DSLR camera and used it for this purpose for many years. When I decided to build the FT-817 Mini Travel Kit, I purchased a new-old-stock Nova 3 on eBay for my camera and re-purposed the old Nova 3 to carry the FT-817ND.


Human-Powered Transport
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I built the FT-817 Mini Travel Kit to encourage me to engage in human-powered-transport field operations on roads or under conditions where I might have concerns about carrying my perhaps more delicate Elecraft K1 or KX3.

Biking

To carry the Nova 3 on my bicycle's rear rack, I've added a pair of "Gravel Kirk" pannier-hooks from Universal Pannier (link) to the rear of the Nova 3.

The aforementioned Goture Red Fox 7.2m carbon-fiber telescoping fishing pole straps nicely to the bicycle's top-tube for transport.

Hiking

The removable shoulder strap on the LowePro Nova 3 allows easy transport of the FT-817 Mini Travel Kit while traveling by foot. A backpack can be used to carry additional items such as a clipboard with paper and logsheets, the Red Fox pole and stake, and a towel to sit on.