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Author Topic: Looking for sources(websites) for QRP gear  (Read 796 times)
OREGONNEWBIE
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Posts: 5




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« on: November 08, 2003, 03:48:43 PM »

Next month I'm taking the Tech and Morse code tests.    I've already ordered the ARRL General Class book, and am planning to take that test within the next six months (before the question pool changes next summer).

Now, because of budgetary constraints I can't afford to spend money on multiple radios, antennas, and so forth.  Additionally, I am an avid backpacker and snowshoer and want to have the ability to set up a "mini-station" while camping in the backcountry.  So I have to buy ONE tranceiver that will work HF as well as the UHF/VHF bands, AND is lightweight, portable, and small enough that it won't take up too much room in my backpack.

So at this point, after having read many reviews and giving thought to my budget, my choice is the Yaesu FT-817 with either the Buddipole or the M-1 antenna.  While I realize working with a 5W tranceiver will be more challenging than with a 100W unit, the portability and price can't be beat, so far as I've seen at this point.  And besides, I plan to buy another tranceiver down the road for use as a base unit at home (looking seriously at the FT-897).

However--and this will no doubt reinforce how new to this hobby I am(chuckle)--I'm not real clear on what options exist for portable (read, backpackable) power sources.  I DO know that there are portable solar panels, as well as batteries known as "gel pacs" out there.  Where to find them, what their websites are,  how much they cost, etc. I don't know yet.  But I am looking.  If any of you more experienced folks can give me some pointers on operating "in the outback", or info on power supplies, I'm all ears.

Thanks in advance for helping a newbie!

Sincerely,

J.A. Mills
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G4GXL
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Posts: 56


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« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2003, 07:04:08 AM »

The FT817 is a great little radio but it does draw a lot of current (even on receive). It's an amazing package but may disappoint if you are on the trail for a couple of days.

If you are happy to work CW only on the HF bands (which would give you better DX results) then take a look at the new Elecraft KX1 or the older K1 ( www.elecraft.com ). Then add a VHF/UHF handheld for chatting.

I use an Elecraft K1 (internal betteries and tuner) and a Yaesu VX2-R when out portable. Total cost (in the UK at least) was about 10% less than a new FT817.

Have a look at the links on the QRP ARCI web site ( www.qrparci.org ) to find other low power (output and consumption) radios.

Good luck with the tests
73 Steve, G4GXL
www.g4gxl.com
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K7VO
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Posts: 1010




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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2003, 12:43:59 PM »

For what you describe I really, honestly feel the Yaesu FT-817 is the best choice.  The standard rechargable battery pack lasts a VERY short time, but with the long life pack from Maha you should get enough battery life to make it reasonably useful.  Just carry an extra battery pack Smiley  Yes, an external gel cell is an option, but it's something more to shlep along.
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AC7WL
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« Reply #3 on: November 16, 2003, 09:40:50 PM »

I second the FT-817 as your portable option.  I currently own one and have been very happy with it.  5W is not that tough depending on what sort of antenna you use.  I regularly check into various nets on 40m with an inverted vee dipole which is 67 feet long without trouble.  If 20 is open, 5W is fine.  A little extra power is sometimes helpful, and an amplifier can help out.  I rarely need more than 20 watts to have reliable QSO's when my 817 is setup as my base station.  You can also find various gel cells (use a 7ah one, which lasts a quite a while when portable, and I am referring to days...).  A tuner is helpful as well, the ZM-2 is a great little tuner which you can throw in the backpack while trekking around.  I use the Z-11 from LDG, which I hear is being discontinued but another one is on the way, the Z100, I think.  Furthermore, you get more modes than FM on 2m and 440, which is a great deal of fun.  Good luck.
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WB6BYU
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Posts: 13461




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« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2003, 05:15:29 PM »

For backpack work, take along a set of wire dipoles
to hang in the trees.  (Or from a rock face when you
are above timberline.)  The BuddiPole is great for
operating while in motion, but I find I tend to operate
more from campsites in the evening, when a full-sized
dipole, or a long wire over a tree - is practical and
gives better performance.

A couple other things you may want to consider:  the
combination of a small QRP rig and a 2m HT may be
cheaper than the FT817 and operate longer on the same
batteries.  Check out the SW-40+ series from Small
Wonder Labs: last I remember they were under $60 for
a very nice single-band CW transceiver kit.  There are
many other options out there as well - the QRP ARCI
website mentioned in the previous post should have a
good list of sources.

Also, consider a trip over to Rickreal for the Salem
Hamfair this February for a good selection of used
equipment.  The SwaptoberFest was last month in the
same place, and there were several QRP rigs including
the K1 and QRP+ for $300 or less, and a couple of the
monoband CW rigs for $50 or $100.  You might even find
a good deal on a base rig.  The Salem Hamfair is about
the biggest radio swapmeet in the Pacific NW, and
includes commercial exhibits as well.

If you can wait that long, the ARRL NW Division
Convention is held at Seaside in late May or early
June.  All the major manufacturers usually have displays
so  you can see (and maybe try out) their latest rigs.
The swapmeet isn't as big as Rickreal, but there usually
is something of interest.  They also have a long list
of seminars on various topics that may be of interest
as you get started.

Good luck!  And maybe I'll hear you on the bands...

- Dale WB6BYU
Yamhill, Oregon
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NY2LJ
Member

Posts: 4




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« Reply #5 on: December 07, 2003, 01:18:36 AM »

The Ft-817 is a wonderful radio, but at a price. It is a jack of all trades and will do all modes and HF/VHF/UHF. I own one and really enjoy using it. I was drawn to it by its small size and multiple band coverage. I have the optional W4RT filters and battery installed. Up until recently, I did not operate CW much and the SSB capability and smaller size are what got me to trade in my SG-2020.

The major complaints I have are as follows:

   POOR BATTERY LIFE. The current draw is astronomical compared to the competition. The internal pack will be depleted very quickly (even if you do all you can to conserve power). I have the W4RT pack. It's better, but still not very good. Plan on carrying and caring for external battery packs or disposable batteries and a holder for them.

   NO INTERNAL TUNER. I have a Z-11. It is a fine tuner. You will need a coax jumper, a power connector (and/or source) and either a one touch tune accesory or the time to press a bunch of buttons as that rare one slips away. I know, I have all this gear and while it's fine for a portable shack, it's a pain in the posterior to use under many circumstances.

   LACKLUSTER HF PERFORMANCE. The little rig does it all, but not very well at the HF bands. When conditions are right you can talk to Europe with an FT-817 and a Miracle Whip antenna. Conditions are seldom that right. CW performance is so-so and the relay is pretty loud for such a small rig.

The performance at VHF/UHF FM seems fine. I cannot say much about SSB or CW at these frequencies as I have little experience with this rig at this mode/frequency combination.

Think hard about what you're getting for the money. You will probably want or need some accessories and the price will climb. So will the weight. The interface is limited by the size and there are many menus. This is an issue for some operators.

I have recently returned (not that I was ever really there before) to CW QRP work. The options for rigs that perform very well and don't slurp batteries are much broader but you have to decide that CW is enough for you. Smaller, more compromised, easier to carry and erect antennas also will perform better for CW as the narrower bandwidth is usually more efficient than the wider SSB signal.

I usually pack an Elecraft KX1 for travelling and a VX-5R. All my FM VHF/UHF needs are met and the KX1 runs for a long time on six AA batteries and has a built in tuner. On longer trips when I'm not walking very far I pack a K2 instead of the KX1 and enjoy SSB as well.

The availability of really well designed and relatively easy to build kits from Elecraft, Small Wonder Labs, Oak Hills Research and Emtech is very good. At this point only Elecraft has internal automatic antenna tuners and battery options available. I own or have owned gear from all these vendors. They all live up to their advertising.

If you don't want to build (and that's perfectly OK) there are folks who will build an Elecraft for you for practically no more than the price of the kits. Elecraft is expensive enough, but their stuff is really very well made and supported.


The FT-817 is quite an accomplishment but if you really want superior HF performance you can do much better. I hope this helps.

CUL es 72,

Lonnie NY2LJ
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SM5JAB
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Posts: 11


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« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2004, 06:01:19 AM »

Think hard of what kind of backpacker you are. I use a KX1 now and one of SmallWonderLabs SW-30+ before that. The weight is paramount for me. When packing my rucksack full it weighs about 25 kilos. I can easily slip in the KX1 (it's complete with 7-, 10- and 14 MHz-bands and has an internal antenna tuner too, and batteries in one small box) but would really hesitate to use an FT-817 specially if also would have to carry extra batteries. Carrying extra kilos is a nono. I use awg #24 insulated wire for aerial. No feeder - it weighs! Up in the mountains I can't use 144 MHz anyway since there are no repeaters around (and probably no hams either).

Of course morse code is the way to go!
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WB6BYU
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Posts: 13461




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« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2004, 05:32:46 PM »

The Salem HamFair is coming up on 21 February in
Rickreal, Oregon (just West of Salem).  If you are
coming over to shop for rigs or otherwise just look
around, I'll be glad to meet you and provide advice,
commentary, etc. as appropriate.

Drop me a line if you are interested and we can arrange
to meet, or say "Hi" if you see my callsign badge
wandering by.

- Dale WB6BYU wb6byu@arrl.net
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