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Author Topic: Go-box preferences  (Read 32906 times)

Posts: 86

« on: November 11, 2011, 07:20:37 AM »

They're called many things: go-kits, go-boxes, rapid deployment kits. The purpose is to provide a transportable ham shack that can be used remotely.

Many hams build them out of a sense of readiness. When all else fails, they'll be there with their Gator case and 80 pounds of gear. Or, even if all else doesn't fail, some hams will just be there in the park or on the beach with their radios making QSOs.

There are scores of videos and webpages devoted to the go-kit. Some are elaborate, like KH7O's panel-mounted kit in a pelican case:, others are simple, practical and quite affordable, like KF7ETX's HT go bag:

Rolling rack cases stuffed with gear are pretty cool and it is certainly convenient to have the radios, tuners, Rig Runners, clocks, speakers, a computer and cute little light all pre-connected and ready to go once an antenna is deployed. But I can't help but think they are just too much for many applications. Not that they have too much gear -- heck, who among us would not love a Winnebago ham shack with at least a dozen radios -- but that they tend to be cumbersome. Hoisting them atop a table can strain a fella's back. And who knows if there's even a table to use in a truly austere environment.

I'm growing partial to a rolling suitcase-style box, like the Pelican 1510 carry-on with the adjustable dividers for more flexibility than the pluck-away foam. As a professional photographer (now a desk-jocky editor) I used this style of box for many years and never had a piece of equipment damaged while in the box. Sure, one has to connect the radios and tuners and cute little light every time it's deployed, but how long does that really take? And perhaps I only need to use the dual-bander and take up just a small part of a shared table, leaving the HF rig stowed. Also, I can use the gear in my home shack. Just unplug it, put it in the box and go. I don't see myself ever being deployed with only a minute to grab my gear and bail. Honestly, has that ever happened for emcomm volunteers going to offer assistance?

So, I ask you all the simple question: What is your preference? Do you like one of those self-contained, everything-already-connected monster rack boxes that seem to be the rage or a simple-yet-sturdy case that will hold your gear but not in a way that has to be preplanned by an architect or interior decorator? Or do you have some other system, like boat anchors hauled on a hand truck?

Why do you have your preference? Experience? Cool factor? Cost?

No wrong answers here, just fostering conversation.



Posts: 90


« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2011, 07:45:42 AM »

I prefer the Gator cases (or similar) from somewhere like Musician's Friend or Guitar Center. You don't have to buy a large one, they come in many sizes. Also, a single rack shelf will allow you to mount equipment top and bottom of the shelf.

My take is this, mount the rig, tuner, interfaces, in the box. Keep the power supply and bigger stuff separate. Why? Well, if you are operating off battery, why carry the power supply. At best, my ideal kit would be:

FT-857D HF / VHF / UHF rig
LDG AT-100ProII Autotuner
FT-8800 VHF / UHF rig
Signalink USB
LED Area Lights (get creative with this one)
Headsets (or just headphones) for the radios. Remember, SP OUT jacks are mono only, so wire the headphone accordingly.

I would have in a separate tote a 40/75M trapped dipole, along with a ladder line fed "ZEP". Also would have the LDG 4:1 balun to use with the ZEP.

For VHF / UHF antennas, I would have a short (3-1/2 - 4 foot) dual band fiberglass vertical, and a dual band mag mount.

3- 100foot lengths of RG-8X coax.

As for a laptop, I would have something fairly fast, with Win XPSP3, wireless network adapter, and loaded with Open Office, FLDigi, MMSSTV, EasyPAL, and maybe some other favorite software. (If you use WL2K, make sure you have clients loaded, and if you just have to spend $1000, put a pactor TNC in the box.) I would also have the programming software for the rigs, and the cables.

As for a printer, don't waste money on a fancy mobile printer. Go by Walmart when you get deployed, and buy the cheapest printer you can find. when you get to where you are going, install software and use the printer. When finished, dump the printer in the nearest recycle bin. Uninstall the software, that way you are ready for the next one.

One item that is a must is a 12V to 120V inverter. Small is the key here. The laptop probably only pulls 100W, so don't buy a 400W unit, as it will kill a battery pronto. You can always run the laptop on battery for a few minutes so you can use the printer.

Another item I would have is a two wheeler or small folding cart. Might be a little expensive, but worth it.

May be a little little more of an answer than you wanted, but that's my take.

de NA4IT

Posts: 376

« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2011, 08:41:22 AM »

Some people take Pelican cases and remove the foam, and punch holes in them to insert power and antenna leads. The drawback with this is that it's no longer waterproof, nor impact resistant, which was the original purpose of the case. Also one has to put the whole case on a table at the operating position, unless one wants to start unscrewing stuff.

I think the smoothest setup I've seen was an emcomm group which had several radios mounted to a metal rack. The rack was kept in a shipping case, but I think they always took it out of the padded case, or at least opened it, when they were using it. Also they didn't have to put it on a table - they just had long remote head wires. The remote head was mounted to a piece of angled wood, along with the mic. That way, the radios can be kept in a different room, and no desk space is wasted.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2011, 08:43:08 AM by LA9XSA » Logged

Posts: 86

« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2011, 09:24:45 AM »

I like this setup a lot:

I saw it at a recent ham fest with a stack three high.

They could be transported in a Pelican case, one radio or radio/tuner per unit and then pulled out of the case as needed.

Posts: 118

« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2011, 09:58:34 AM »

To my way of thinking there are 2 conflicting priorities in go-boxes.

Number 1 is maximum protection.   This is the case with individual components buried in foam for maximum cushioning.   You need to take the components out of the case and assemble them on site.

Number 2 is maximum convenience.   This is the preassembled, open the lid and operate box - this typically does not have good shock mounts and provides substantially reduced shock protection versus Number 1.  If you handle your equipment carefully, you might not need additional the additional protection.

So, which do you want - I prefer Number 1 as maximum protection is my priority.  I figure I don't operate a lot of different places for 5 minutes at each place, which would make max convenience a top priority - I go somewhere and setup and operate for quite a while at that location - therefore, the convenience of quick setup is less important than the loss of maximum protection.

Your mileage may vary


Posts: 86

« Reply #5 on: November 11, 2011, 10:08:13 AM »

I like that you call them conflicting priorities. That's the heart of the issue.

I tend to agree with you on the protection. Since I don't have much of a need for rapid deployment, as in grab the box and scoot right this minute, nor do I foresee much need in being able to be on the air in 5 minutes versus 18 minutes, I tend to like the padded cases.

I know a few guys who use their shack-in-a-box as both their home shack and go box. That's incredibly convenient but likely requires a room or space dedicated as a radio shack. My wife would kick me out of the house if a Gator box full of radios essentially became a piece of furniture. (My "shack" is just my corner of the family room. Above my desk I have a nice custom shelf that matches the decor and holds my radios. It's pretty clean and tidy and is pretty discreet.)

One solution for the protection is to use bushings as shock absorbers. It's not an end-all solution but could help a little.

Posts: 3160


« Reply #6 on: November 11, 2011, 04:48:11 PM »

I decided to go for convenience and move protection to the background.  After all, I don't plan on operating my gear in the rain so why spend extra?

Posts: 6252

« Reply #7 on: November 12, 2011, 07:42:15 AM »

 A 'go kit' is so much more than just a radio, an antenna and a power supply in a box.  A proper go kit also includes what you have to have to be self sufficient for a period of up to 48 hours, including drinking water, food, cooking and eating utensils, medications, first aid, changes of clothing, outerwear, (depending on the season) appropriate footwear, possibly a power source/recharging source for things other than your radio, and so on and so forth.  An extended go kit includes more provisions for longer field activations.  Some people have go kits that are so comprehensive that they're carried in several modules, each one taken or left depending on the circumstances of the emergency situation.

What you're really looking at, from your post and the replied you received is an emergency communication kit.  

Now, I'm not trying to be a know-it-all, and I know that you'll say I'm picking nits, but you have to know what you have and what you are talking about when you're involved with emergency communications, and what you're really talking about here is only one part--one SMALL part--of an entire go kit.  73!

« Last Edit: November 12, 2011, 08:03:31 AM by K1CJS » Logged

Posts: 65

« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2011, 12:55:38 PM »

Did your posting here address the question by KD0KVV at all? No. So WHAT exact make/ model is your bag/sack/box? That would have been an answer. With all due respect, your post as is, is non-contributory.

I have a MIL-Spec backpack and a Pelican 1510 (the IATA carry-on version). The backpack just came apart from slight use (I was not amused). The pack of choice for me for "daily" use when going with my manpack. The Pelican is going strong; naturally is heavier and only for hauls from A to B, containing all pertinent radio-gear.


Posts: 17420

« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2011, 08:49:57 PM »

I don't see the major trade-off as being protection vs. convenience, but flexibility vs. convenience
(though protection, operating space, and other factors enter into the equation as well.)

Our ARES group just built 3 such radio go-kits for VHF/UHF voice and digital communications.  I haven't
seen one yet, but I know they had to go to a larger size case (with wheels on it, I think) to handle the
equipment, battery, etc.  The idea is that any team member can set up one of the kits and have it
operational quickly.

My personal approach is that I have some of my older / spare equipment packaged up in duffel bags
or other such containers.  One has a 2m mobile rig with mag mount antenna, coax, power adaptors,
headphones, etc., that allows me to set up in someone else's vehicle, or at an operating site.  I also
have one with a dual band radio that will do cross-band repeat.  A separate kit contains an HF rig and
antennas.  The "long term" kit contains additional coax, adaptors, antennas, etc.)  Batteries are kept
separate, on a shelf where I rotate them through the chargers, with 3 sizes available.   Mast sections
are stored in 28' bundles, typically with an antenna strapped to each set.

This allows me to grab what I need, and to loan out a kit to another team without leaving me without
equipment.  I can set it up in a car, on a picnic table, or sitting in a corner of the fire hall taking notes
on a clipboard with the radio under my chair.  I can also carry it by hand or in a backpack up three
flights of stairs (even if it takes a couple of trips) or cross country when the road is washed out.

Yes, it takes longer to set up, but not all that long:  getting the antenna up and the feedline passed
in through a window is liable to be the limiting factor in either case.  If you have a lot of equipment
to be connected - such as a computer, TNC, etc., then there may be an advantage to having it all
pre-wired and ready to go.  If it is just a matter of plugging in the mic, antenna and battery, then
it isn't an advantage for me, because I do it all the time.  But a newcomer might not be quite
so practiced or knowledgeable. 

I also like the flexibility - I don't have to set up the HF and VHF stations at the same location, and
when I do I can spread them out to accommodate multiple operators when available.  Parts can be
swapped out easily.  Most of all, the cost and effort is low:  suitable backpacks, duffel bags and
other cases are available for a couple bucks at Goodwill stores (and some are even waterproof.)
Bubble wrap provides protection when needed.  (I traveled many miles with an HF rig in my
backpack simply wrapped in a towel.)  There is no construction required, just making sure you
have power cables for various power sources, and some antenna options.

So if you always use your equipment in the same location / situation, or have a lot of interconnections,
or relatively unskilled operators, or want to look like a real radio geek, a self-contained go-kit might
be a good option.  For maximum operating flexibility, I prefer a number of smaller, simpler kits that
I can choose among as the situation permits.

If you do build such a kit, I'd suggest considering the following options:

Weight / portability:  can a single person get it out of the car and up the stairs easily?  If you have a
big battery and/or an analog power supply you may need to be able to split it in two pieces.

Space required to operate:  How much room does it require on an operating desk?  or can it sit
on the floor?  Will it go under a table or chair?  (Ideally I'd design it so the operator could sit on the
case while in operation, to make maximum use of space in cramped quarters.)  Can you operate it
from the front seat of a car while someone else is driving?

Adaptability:  if one radio fails and you have a replacement available from a different manufacturer,
how easy is it to swap them out and get it back up and working?  Can you use other batteries that
may be available locally?

Flexibility:  If the unit contains more than one radio, how easy is it to have different operators using
each of them?  If you have HF, can you use it simultaneously with VHF/UHF?  How well does
it meet the expected communications needs at likely sites (shelters, fire stations, etc.) in your area?   

I have a number of antennas available.  Generally I have a rollup J-pole in my VHF bag, and ground
plane antennas with each mast bundle.  I've standardized on 3/4" PVC as the standard connector
on top of the fiberglass mast sections, and 1" PVC on the aluminum ones, as the pipe slips inside the
top easily.  My quads and yagis all fit on 3/4" pipe, and the ground planes can mount by running the
coax down through a pipe or T connector so its weight holds the antenna in place.  (I'm still working
on a good dual-band design.)  I also have some 440 ground planes with 2 radials that can hang from
a suction cup on the inside of a window, which has been handy in several situations.

For HF I've built a couple of dipole kits for 40 / 80 / 160m.  (160m has been critical for coverage
around the state at night for the last few years.)  One type allows all three bands simultaneously,
the other uses manual switching (with color-coded Anderson connectors.)  They are all designed
so they can be reconfigured easily in the field if needed.  Our group has tried dipoles made from
mobile whips with spectacularly poor results: the wire dipoles run rings around them, even when
draped over bushes or along a hedge.

Posts: 6252

« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2011, 01:51:50 AM »

Perhaps YOU didn't read my entire post either.  I said I wasn't trying to be a know it all, but there IS a reason I posted here.  If you're involved with a certified team, terminology IS important.  If the person in charge requests you to bring your go-kit for an activation and all you show up with is a radio, an antenna and a power source, you're going to have problems, and he/she is probably going to tell you to go home.

I was only trying to be helpful, but if you're going to take that attitude--in short, stuff it.  You'll find out the hard way.  I won't trouble you again.  Be kind enough to return that favor.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2011, 01:53:34 AM by K1CJS » Logged

Posts: 2243

« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2011, 10:48:28 AM »

The question was very specific, but I think
K1CJS makes a good point. Say something happens
(WX worsens) and you get stuck with just your go kit.

Which would you rather have then?
A bag of spare PL-259's, or a ham sandwhich
and a nice warm coat?

Posts: 38

« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2011, 12:55:31 PM »

I have been working for some time now to develop a Universal Radio Mounting System to help serve these purposes.
The goal is to allow rapid configuration and easily transition from a fixed home environment to an in the field deployment of radio gear with minimal time required to consider things aside from the operating requirements at the time.

This system is so simple and easy to make yourself and so far has been effective in several different situations for me and others.

The heart of the system is a mounting plate and carriers for the plate. Each radio,tuner.battery,power supply,etc is mounted to a plate and occupies 1 or 2 spaces on a carrier.
Each carrier is built in to a box of some kind and one strength of the system is that the box is relevant to however you want it to be. Pelican,Tackle Box,Rack Mount,Cooler,Trucker Slip Seat Box,Ammo Box it just does not matter,it is a Universal System.

This allows it to be modular and still use the gear loose when it is not needed to be deployed but almost instantly contained and packaged as needed without a lot of time or effort.

I realized that most of us have the intention of being ready to go but are not in a practical position to really be ready for a number of reasons.

As an example our ARES group needed to really try to be ready to mobilize but people where at a loss as to how to go about this. Many had 1 radio or set of gear and felt they could not build something portable without effecting their day to day setups.

So I adapted my system to be even more simple and inexpensive and in a few nights at meetings we got 20 or so members set up as I describe for under $15.00 per box.

I will try to follow up here with pics or a link to explain this concept better but so far it has really been handy and practical to make and use and I think almost anyone could put it together.

Again with my system the specific gear is not the point but being able to quickly use what is already at hand is the idea.

One big factor I have observed in an emergency or drill is that people are most effective with gear they already know and understand amd I have designed this with that in mid.Being able to get more use from our gear is what it is about.

I also agree that the battery power should be separate from the other gear as it will always be unwieldy and need not bog you down if battery is not really needed.

Posts: 227

« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2011, 04:47:38 PM »


 I would like to see your concept in more detail as I am thinking along a similar line.

I now have a "WX2NJ ARES Boombox" that I built about 8 years ago. Google on that and you can see the construction article that I used to build mine. It has a TMV7A, power supply, 23AH battery with some switching and accessories in a plastic toolbox. Advantage: its ready to go immediately. Disadvantage: too heavy with the battery in the same container as everything else. Too flexible in operation and charging for anyone else except me to use.
( make it simpler and anyone can figure it out.) It takes a lot of room on the operating desk when in daily use.

Now the gel-cell batteries are at replacement time and I need to either replace them or redesign my system.

I may rebuild this into Tac-Comm Carriers or a home-built similar concept made from plywood , such as was in QST a few years ago. Another concept is to put components on a standard pallet that fits into cases. I have been thinking about plastic or bamboo cutting boards as such a pallet.

So show us your concept.

73 de Walt N2IK

Posts: 8

« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2011, 10:46:59 AM »

Yahoo groups has a group just for this with lost of photos of jump kits.  


« Last Edit: December 03, 2011, 10:50:01 AM by KF7RLT » Logged
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