by William Eric McFadden

The FT-817 Travel Kit is a small but complete low-power HF station in a well-worn but rugged and weather-resistant LowePro Nova 5 camera bag.

The FT-817 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. (I've removed the FingerDimple FT-817 Kranker spinner-knob that can be seen in the photo because it extended beyond the Portable Zero 817 Escort rails, putting the rig's rotary encoder at risk in a drop.)

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 the radio with an external 4.5Ah Bioenno LiFePO4 battery (link).

Portable Antennas
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The The FT-817ND lacks an internal antenna tuner so the FT-817 Travel Kit includes an LDG Z-11 automatic antenna tuner QRP automatic antenna tuner and an LDG 4:1 Unun.

I carry two antennas in the FT-817 Travel Kit, and I choose which antenna to deploy based on what I find at the operating site:

  • the proven 28½' end-fed wire vertical with three 17' counterpoise wires, and
  • a 40m end-fed halfwave (EFHW) antenna.

The 28½' end-fed wire vertical with three 17' counterpoise wires is the same antenna I've used successfully with my Elecraft KX3 and K1 for hundreds of National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) and Parks on the Air (POTA) activations. This antenna is not resonant on any ham band and must be used with an antenna tuner. I feed this antenna, without feedline, through the LDG 4:1 unun and the LDG Z-11 ATU easily finds a good match on all the bands of interest.

The homebrew 40m EFHW antenna should provide for resonant, no-tuner operation on 40, 20, 15, and 10m. Currently, the antenna provides resonance only on 40 and 20m. It exhibits high SWR on 15 and 10m and the Z-11 ATU is required for use on these bands. I'm still tweaking this antenna and hope to find a radiator-length that will allow resonance on all four bands, 40, 20, 15, and 10m.

If I don't want to fuss with throwing a line through trees to hang my antenna, I use a 31' Jackite telescoping fiberglass mast or an MFJ-1910 33' telescoping fiberglass mast to support the 28½' end-fed wire as a vertical, or to support the 40m EFHW as a sloper or an inverted-vee. The fiberglass masts do not fit in the LowePro Nova 5 bag, of course.

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 Travel Kit.

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

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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 Shack ear-buds.

The Carrying Case
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The carrying case is a well-worn, retired LowePro Nova 5 camera bag.

I had purchased this LowePro Nova 5 I-don't-know-how-many years ago to carry my 35mm SLR film-cameras and used it for this purpose for many years. I now carry my current DSLR in a smaller LowePro Nova 3 bag, so the Nova 5 was available to carry the FT-817 Travel Kit.

The front-flap nylon clip had broken on this old camera bag, but I was able to make an easy repair using a Sea to Summit 25mm side release, two-pin, Field Repair Buckle (link).