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Author Topic: "Carry-on" QRP Kit  (Read 4307 times)
KC9IMT
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« on: July 12, 2006, 08:52:32 AM »

Hey everyone,

Work for me starts here in a few weeks and I want to stay on the air once I start traveling the country...  When traveling, I'm going to try to limit myself to a carry-on bag for the 4 days I'll be out of town, but there is a lot of downtime in the evenings and I'd like to stay on the air.

I think I've pretty much settled on the FT-817ND as my rig with the power cable mentioned in a previous thread...  This is where I'd like help.  I'm looking for opinions about what I can do for an antenna (I'm thinking the ATAS-25), a very, very small paddle to do CW and a very, very small tuner.

I really need all this stuff to fit inside a carry-on suitcase along with clothes, etc.  I'm not worried about everything not fitting in the suitcase, because traveling last year for work, I had tons of room left ... even when I left town for more than 4 days.  I'd just like the stuff to be as small as possible.

Thanks in advance for helping me build my QRP kit!

73 de W9BKO,
--
-Chris
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W3JJH
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« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2006, 11:45:52 AM »

It's bigger than the radio, but I've found that the MFJ-971 is an excellent tuner to use with my 817.  The dual-needle SWR meter can be set up for 6 W full-scale.  It also has a built-in balun.

The Elecraft AT-1 is the other hot ticket in tuners for the 817.  With the 817 interface it's a bit more than twice the price of the MFJ, but it works quite well--and it's tiny.

I've found that a pair of 24-ft wires connected to the tuner's balanced output terminals will load nicely on 40, 30, and 20m with one wire run along the ground as a counterpoise and the other as a sloper tied off to a tree or balcony.

The MFJ-4103 power supply weighs 10 oz and can deliver enough current to run an FT-817.

If you travel with a laptop, consider buying or building an interface so that you can operate PSK31.
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N6PEH
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« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2006, 05:01:06 PM »

I think I would pick a radio with a built in tuner, seems like a lot less hassle.  Also, I wouldn't go too small on the paddles, might think about a straight key too.  The antenna will be the deciding factor of how long you do this while traveling.  A little antenna works very little and a big antenna works very big.
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NS6Y_
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« Reply #3 on: July 12, 2006, 07:26:32 PM »

Elecraft KX1 or K1, with built in ATU and batteries, should work fine. The KX1 should actually work best since it's smallest, and will work a week of casual operating on a set of lithium cells.

Myself I've gone around and around and around on which is the best QRP rig and the Elecrafts always beat the others hands down for the amount of features, bands, and incredible support both from Elecraft and from the users group.

If you're really set on the 817 at least save yourself a shirt's storage space and get the Elecraft T1 tuner for it, although I think you'll find an 817 outfit with all you need can get bulky.

When all's said and done, which would you like falling on your head when it's time to get your carryon out of the overhead compartment?
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NI0C
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« Reply #4 on: July 12, 2006, 08:22:04 PM »

I've carried a KX1 and accessories in a Pelican case in my daypack or suitcase.  I also carried a copy of my amateur license to show in case there were questions at airport security checkpints.  A powdered mix Gatorade container worked well for carrying small gage antenna wire, insulators and rope.

73,
Chuck  NI0C
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M3SSZ
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« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2006, 12:15:52 AM »

What about the Miracle QPak tuner to use with the 817? It looks as small as Elecrafts unit & doesn't need a battery as far as I can tell.

For another option I spoke to a guy last night who was using an 817 with an MFJ902 travel tuner.

If anyones used a QPak i'd love to hear some opinions on it! I've settled on buying an 817, but want to buy a tuner at the same time & can't decide which...

Swizz...M3SSZ
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W2RDD
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« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2006, 06:18:31 AM »

Nice small radio a fully-loaded FT-817. For store bought, the MFJ-971 is a good, small tuner with fairly accurate swr/pwr meter. The "no-counterpoise" antenna is now available in a qrp version with attached PL-239. About 50 feet long and 10-40 meter coverage. See Bell-Imel Group for that. I have a Pelican case that conforms to most overhead storage regulations. Not sure but think you could get your FT-817 and the MFJ tuner in it. The antenna, bubblepack-wrapped power supply, and the rest could go in a below-decks stored suitcase. Good travelling.
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NS6Y_
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« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2006, 10:31:05 AM »

I'd still avoid other tuners than the Elecraft T1, especially any MFJ product - if you buy one you'll find out why.

Yes the T1 uses a battery - I think the calculation is if you use it daily, you'll use up a 9V battery in a year. The battery issue is a nonissue. And the interface cable is NICE.
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N9IJ
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« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2006, 02:21:11 AM »

I have used the 817 with a Z-11 tuner and was pleased with the operation. I usually throw up a doublet made of 300 ohm twin lead with twin lead as a feed line with the tuner and 4:1 balun. I also have an MP-1 from Superantennas. I am considering pruchase of the T-1 tuner from Elcraft to be mounted in the 817 battery compartment. I have carried the whole set up, including modified laptop supply, in a pistol carrier from Walmart.
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N9IJ
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« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2006, 02:21:55 AM »

Oh yeah, definately recommend the Palm Paddles for keying the rig.
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KC9IMT
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« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2006, 09:11:26 AM »

I guess I'm thinking more of just a carry-on suitcase and a briefcase.  I know I'll have room in the briefcase for at least the radio.  Thanks for all the suggestions!!!

Any antenna recommendations other than the ATAS-25?  I'm not sure about whether it will fit in the carry-on or not...  Perhaps a Par End Fedz?
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AA4PB
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« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2006, 11:04:25 AM »

http://www.buddipole.com/minibuddipole.html
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W2RDD
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« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2006, 03:55:17 PM »

My only experience with an auto-tuner was an SGC number and it was a disaster. I am very pleased with the MFJ-971. Works beautifully, so well that I bought another to keep at another QTH and it works just as well. I haven't put more than 80 watts to it. Generally 20 watts. Most eHam reviews of it are pretty complimentary.

I don't love MFJ but I don't hate them, either. I still say the 971 is worth considering as a travel-tuner.
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N6PEH
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« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2006, 05:02:17 PM »

Elecraft stuff is really great except for you have to put it together and then get it to work.  It's a good choice if you have a portable soldering station you can take with you and are not in a hurry to get on the air.
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NS6Y_
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« Reply #14 on: July 14, 2006, 11:58:20 PM »

The T1 can be ordered built, and as far as that goes, there's quite a cottage industry of kit-builders who will build your Elecraft for you.

So Nyah!

In fact I recommend ordering the T1 built unless you just really like building stuff. I built mine, but for about $40 you can sneak out of the work.
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