Leaving the Shack and operating somewhere outside can be fun – Often it gives you a better chance of hearing something distant thanks to the low noise-floor and extra space for decent/resonant aerials. I was quite late getting into “/P” myself – it wasn’t until around 7 years after I got licenced that I began to gather a “portable” kit together.
Despite the obvious requirements of a radio, aerial and a power-source – it’s amazing what else you find yourself needing!
At my disposal are an Elecraft KX3 HF/6m transceiver plus a Yaesu FT-857D for QRO and excursions onto VHF/UHF.
This first picture shows a typical /P arrangement with the FT-857D, Bencher paddle key, logbook, battery, kit-bag and band-pass filter. Notice the headphones – very useful when it’s windy or for when there are many callers!
Power, depending upon radio in use, is via 7Ah, 12Ah or 32Ah lead-acid batteries. The 857 is sometimes combined with an LDG YT-100 auto-ATU. Aerial-wise, I often use a linked-dipole for 40m/30m/20m/17m. A length of 300-ohm balanced feeder is also used if I wish to string-up a frequency-agile Doublet. I have recently added a reel of 4x 10m counterpoise wires if I fancy trying a 40m/30m 1/4-wave vertical.
I often enjoy a bit of QRP – the Elecraft KX3 provides for some enjoyment (ionospheric conditions permitting!) and the excellent receive filtering makes it simple to zero-in on wanted signals.
A Really Useful Box – 21L capacity, for transporting most of my /P kit when I’m in the car – it also serves as a radio stand when I operate from the passenger seat during the winter: The box sits on the driver seat allowing the radio to be at a more natural operating height.
FT-857D HF/VHF/UHF Transceiver
All bands, all modes etc – It offers “digivox” so I can use PSK/RTTY/JT on my laptop using a simple 3.5mm to 6pin mini-DIN lead (no PTT faffing). I intend to add the Collins narrow CW filter for 2018’s /P season. There’s also an LDG YT-100 auto-ATU.
Elecraft KX3 HF/6m Transceiver
For my QRP outings and when I just want to leave the home QTH on a whim – it saves me having to lug the larger FT-857, batteries etc around as well as having to de-rig it from the Shack. Inside are the auto-ATU and the roofing-filter.
7Ah, 12Ah or 32Ah Lead-Acid Batteries
Power comes from either (or both) of these – I get around 2-3 hours of SSB operating @ 100-watts with the 7Ah “brick” before significant voltage-drop occurs. The KX3, being QRP, runs all day! For the first time in 2 years, I recently managed to flatten the 12AH after a busy 4.5 hours of use with the 857. The newer 32Ah battery is for longer operating days with the FT-857.
10m Telescopic Fishing Poles : Standard and “Travel” aka: DX-Wire/SOTAbeams
It’s 115cm closed and a few cm short of 10m when extended – The dipole centre can sit on top of the 2nd section making the apex of my 40m Inverted-V around 9m up. It’s also possible to run a 40m 1/4wave vertical up the side with a little winding on the lower sections.
Also works great as a simple “end-fed” vertical with a few radials. This particular one came from SOTAbeams (just over £30). I’ve also got one of their 10m “travel” poles (originally from DX-Wire). I use 1m lengths of “steel corner” aka: angle-iron to support the pole in the ground which can be purchased from B&Q here.
Kit-Bag of Assorted Gubbins
This bag contained a modem/networking kit and it makes a great way to transport my “consumables”. There are little pockets for a dipole centre, insulators plus a zipped pouch for cable-ties and coax adapters. A further compartment houses my ground-pegs and yellow support cords.
I would say that this bag is “just right” for what I use – but it’s been filled with other random bits for those occasions when you try something new or a fellow operator needs to borrow something – These /P Kit Bags from Ham Goodies will probably replace it when the zip finally gives out!
There’s a set of PowerPole leads with both spade and croc-clips which connect the FT-857 and/or KX3 to my small 7/12Ah SLABs or a larger leisure battery.
Anderson PowerPoles are a great connector as they prevent you from connecting the polarity incorrectly. The plastic shells are common, and you can buy metal crimp/solder contacts in various ratings.
For operating comfort and convenience, I have a Yellowstone Executive Camping Chair (£12 Amazon) and a Regatta Matano Table (£23 Amazon) with my previous bike/QRP kit consisting of a folding chair (£6, CPC) plus a low-level table (£10, CPC) – A snug fit into the panniers, but was better than sitting on the ground! For the car, a 21-litre Really Useful Box is used to carry other bits and pieces, such as hammer, coax, 40m filter etc. This setup is shown in the picture below…
Keeping the sun off me, and perhaps acting as a shelter if I should ever get caught in the rain – The DD Solo Tarp (2.8×1.5m) comes highly recommended.
I use some cheap interlocking poles and the 4 supplied guy-lines plus pegs to secure it in this arrangement. The tarp can also be configured in a variety of other ways thanks to the numerous holes/loops.
Lately, I’ve been securing one of the shorter sides to my open hatchback and supporting the other ends with the metal poles: This makes a nice operating environment as I’m close to the car, in the shade and I don’t have to keep adjusting it to keep the sun off me (and the equipment)!
A home-made transportation and operating enclosure for the FT-857D, ATU and battery – this has its own page – here…
This was picked-up recently from Maplin as it was on special offer at just £19.99 (reduced from £37) – they have a habit of offering their flight-cases at a reduced price. It comfortably takes the FT-857D, LDG YT-100 ATU (under the radio body) plus the MH-31, DC cable and a 7Ah SLAB. I can use the lid as a wind-break and simply attach the display and prop the radio+tuner onto the lip of the case and start operating. There’s plenty of clearance at the back of the radio to get plugs connected.
The case fits into my pannier but I can’t get the buckle to close (doh!) – So this is for when I’m in the car and don’t want everything rattling around too much. In the backpack would then be the dipole wires, coax runs, logbook and consumables.
Karrimor Urban 30 Backpack
I originally wanted to get a Regatta Axten 20L backpack but the local Blacks store told me that it was “online only”, so I went elsewhere (I’m quite impatient) and picked this little backpack up from my local “Sports Direct” store in town – It enables me to take the Porta-Pack in a “walkabout” fashion, so good for a walk up a hill when I don’t want to lug the panniers. The backpack will take the radio, tuner, 7Ah battery plus a length of RG58 coax and some dipole wires – The fishing-pole is carried separately.
40m Bandpass Filter
An essential item for multi-station operating. Purchased in April 2016, 3 of us Essex Hams split the cost of filters for 40m, 30m, 20m and 17m – see my blog post “We Have Filters!” for details.
This style of headset is great not only for ease of transport but they are comfortable for long-term use. Sure, they don’t attenuate as much sound as closed-ear headphones but at least they don’t annoy you after 30 minutes use! The ones shown below came from Maplin, but CPC also do a couple for under £5. Of particular note is the impedance which doesn’t allow any AF noise or electronic gurgles from the radio to be heard. For the 857, I made up a short cable with a resistor+capacitor inside the 3.5mm shell – A phono socket is used for the PTT footswitch. The KX3 has its own internal bias, so they just plug into the side of the radio.
SO-239 Aerial Socket
A small bracket on the rear of the pannier rack allows me to connect a mobile VHF/UHF aerial.
This is the typical setup for a /P adventure:
- Linked Dipole for 40/30/20/17m … plus Inverted-V wires for 40m and 20m – also workable on 15m SSB
- 2m Slim-Jim made from 450-ohm ladder-line
I use 2 runs of RG-58 coax (12m each) and, depending upon location, either use a screw-in base or tie my 10m fishing-pole to a fence/post. It often has only the 40m wires but, when adding the 20m set (at right-angles), it becomes a self-supporting HF+VHF arrangement. Sometimes I feed the 40m wires with 17m of 300-ohm ribbon to give me a more “all round” HF Doublet when using the YT-100 Auto-ATU – For this, I have a home-brew 1:1 Choke/Balun.
My main /P site is the village green at Chignal St James – This is a 2 mile cycle from the home QTH and is divides my JO01FS square with JO01ES to the West. WAB Square is still TL60. The site is about 55m ASL, so about 10m higher than the home QTH and quite respectable for VHF operating although I’ve yet to take anything “large” for 6m/2m on the bike. Galleywood Common is also a popular place – Great if you’ve got a car full of goodies as the area is a bit of a trek outside of Chelmsford but is very accessible as it’s 500yrds from the A12. Location details are: JO01FQ and WAB TL70 – this was used for GB1STG St George’s Day and the GB1JSS June Summer Solstice.
FT-817ND – Previous /P Kit
I no longer own the FT-817 so the following is here for information purposes only… The flight-case was purchased from Maplin for £24.99, order code N78GG. There is also a larger version: N79GG.
Recently, I found my old camcorder bag so I decided to see just what I could fit inside it! Using my Fake-One-Seven MDF test block – I was able to get the radio+mic, 7Ah battery, FT-60 handheld and a set of 40m dipole wires. This sort of bag would be great for an FT-817 or KX3. It’s just right for a radio, battery and some wires. Makes for a great padded /P setup!
Aerials are usually resonant and comprise of 40m+20m wires to form a self-supporting Inverted-V. If I’m cycling then I often use the bike to support my 9m telescopic fibreglass pole. Another option is the “Earth Anchor”, which you can get from various camping websites, Amazon and even Maplin. These screw into the ground and are great for keeping poles still while you get the wires and ground pegs fixed – It makes balancing an aerial a simple 1-man job.
Here are some useful items which I carry when /P :
- Pen, pencil and notebook – This is what I term Post-It-Note-Logging
- Velcro Cable-Ties – These are brilliant, and the ones I have come in various interesting colours which makes finding stray wires really easy.
- 5x Vango yellow-tipped 18cm metal tent-pegs
- Various pre-cut wires for making-up a dipole or inverted-V – wound on off-cuts of 2×1″ softwood that I had in plentiful supply. These have a simple “V” cut at each end and were painted in some cheap white emulsion – They are essentially kite-winders but don’t actually cost anything. As I’m particularly fussy, I have colour-coded my wires with solder-tags and PVC tape… In this example, 20m is blue and 40m is red.
For local VHF/UHF work I attach 2m Slim-Jim around 4m up the fishing-pole – it’s made from 450-ohm ladder-line and is easily transportable, simple to make and cost almost nothing.