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Author Topic: help me pick a commercial qrp backpack/portable rig  (Read 4547 times)
NEVBEN
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Posts: 184




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« on: March 13, 2019, 01:04:00 PM »

I've built a few QRP kits, but I think I want a more practical transceiver for operating.  I'm not knocking kits, but nothing I've built so far has good selectivity, any filters, or more than 1W.

I'm looking for something that I can operate CW and SSB out of my house and portable (4x4 and backpack).  At home there's a wire at 30'.  In the field I use trees or a 30' push-up pole.  At home, I'd be using it to check into a couple of SSB nets on 80m.  I don't ragchew, just check in.  In the field, I'm interested in SOTA, DX, experimenting with different antenna and propagation.  Need 20m, 40m, 80m and I'd really like 30m too.  In the field I use a resonant wire.  At home I'd use an external auto tuner.

A KX2 or KX3 would be nice, but the prices I'm getting are about double other viable options and used prices look higher than new! (but usually come with accessories).  I'm not sure what I'd get for the money matters much to me.  K2 would be great too, but with the necessary SSB option and a mic it would be still double the cost of a Yaesu and I'd still need a battery for another hundred dollars.

FT-818ND - much less $ than Elecraft, but probably not as nice for CW

Ten Tec Argonaut VI - great for CW, getting hard to find, used should cost even less than an FT-818.  I know about the missing bands, but think it has what I need.

IC-703 - another one getting hard to find.

Mountain Topper?  They look great for backpacking for CW, although fewer models have 80m and I'd need something different for the SSB nets.  The LD-11 seems in a different class.

Any others?
« Last Edit: March 13, 2019, 01:09:05 PM by NEVBEN » Logged
N9AOP
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Posts: 1154




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« Reply #1 on: March 13, 2019, 03:47:29 PM »

You never said what you wanted to spend.
Art
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NEVBEN
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Posts: 184




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« Reply #2 on: March 13, 2019, 04:43:47 PM »

Not more than necessary to get what I want.  I could spend $300 to $1200, but I don't want to spend more than necessary.  A loaded KX2 would certainly do all I want, but it would be well over a thousand dollars.  I do believe a FT-818ND or used Argonaut VI would also suit me for much less, $600 and under, but there's some trade-offs.  The Yaesu is not as good as the others for CW and the Ten Tec is hard to find and doesn't have an internal battery.  What I'm hoping is that someone points out a reason I haven't thought of why I must bite the bullet, or why I don't have to spend that much at all to get what I want, or a choice not on my list that I haven't thought or heard of.

A new K2 is too expensive, but used K2's are easier to find than Argonauts or used KX2's at any discount.  For a used K2 with SSB option and a mic I'd still probably pay more than I would for a new FT-818ND.  It would probably be a little nicer in the shack, but the Yaesu might be better in the field.  With no personal experience with any of these radios, I'm hoping someone with some can advise me.
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N8AUC
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Posts: 589




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« Reply #3 on: March 13, 2019, 05:09:40 PM »

I have an FT-817 (pre-ND). CW was kind of rough until I added the 500Hz CW filter.
Zero beat tuning is a bit tricky, so I'm building a visual zero beat indicator from a kit I bought from QRP guys.

I also have an FT-857D, and it has a better receiver. Plus it has a built in visual indicator for zero beat.
Turning the output power down to 5W, and bingo....it's a QRP rig.
I used that last year for Field Day with the power turned down to 20W, and it worked great!

I've seen guys pick up a deal on a used FT-857D at hamfests for around $500. But that is without the CW filter.
The CW filter is an absolute must if you're going to do stuff like Field Day.

Just some ideas for you to consider.

73 de N8AUC
Eric
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K5TED
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Posts: 229




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« Reply #4 on: March 13, 2019, 07:41:07 PM »

find a used SG-2020 for around $300
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KF5OIX
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« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2019, 07:55:52 PM »

You did mention SOTA, but I'm not sure how far you plan to go hiking. I was in your position a couple of weeks ago. I almost purchased a FT-818 myself. I know it was not well received last year when it was announced, but i think the original price was in the neighborhood of $800. At the current price of $599 with a 3 year warranty, it's a good deal in my opinion. I still see people asking $500 or so for used FT-817's.

My budget was pretty much capped at $1000. I also wanted a Jackite pole, Portable zero guards and a pack, a Bioenno battery and charger, a LNR end fed trail ready antenna, and probably a LDG tuner. I was looking at close to $1200. Additionally, I'm looking at SSB which would be marginal at 6 watts.

I already have an FT-891, so I decided to start out using it. I bought it last year for $579, I think they're going for $629 new now. With the FT-818 i was looking at the Bioenno 4.5 amp battery, but I had to step up to the 12 amp for the FT-891. I'm looking at a little more weight, but I mostly camp in Texas state parks, so I don't have to walk far from my Jeep. If I do hike I don't think I would go much more than a mile or so. Should be doable. I can use 25 watts or if I want to try QRP I could go down to 10 for SSB.

I think the FT-891 would make a better base radio than most of the others you mentioned. It doesn't have VHF or UHF as does the FT-818, but you can always take a handheld. There's a couple of threads on here about the FT-891 vs. some of the radios you mentioned. It helped me decide. Whatever you decide it sounds like good times. Enjoy!

Scott
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NEVBEN
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Posts: 184




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« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2019, 10:09:44 PM »

Yes.  I have the Jackite pole already, and the LNR end-fed.  Those are good choices for sure.

I was indeed looking at the FT-891 and also the FT-857.  These are heavier rigs for backpacking but not too heavy for portable operations.  They are not strictly QRP, but my interest with respect to this rig is not the principle of QRP, but the practicality of it for portable ops.  Now the 891 and 857 specs indicate they need 13.8V +/- 15% which means the battery supply is out of spec below 11.7V.  I'm pretty sure they would probably operate at a lower voltage than that, but doubtfully as low as the 8.0V operating voltage of the FT-817/818.  That means without running the alternator or enough solar panels to supply a few amps, a battery booster like the MFJ 4416 might be necessary to keep the voltage up.

I looked up the SG-2020 which I had not heard of before.  It looks fantastic.  I searched for one for sale and only came up with an expired ad so far, asking $525.  I'll definitely keep an eye out should one of those come up.

At this point, the Elecraft has kind of lost it's shine to me.  Although I'm sure they're wonderful radios, the cost of them and the accessories is too high for something I want to take into a harsh environment.  Fitting one into a Pelican case or something is just going to add even more expense.  So while I may admire them as an ultimate solution, I'll probably be content with something less glamorous.  At this point, the FT-818 is probably closer in line with my needs.  It may not be the best for CW and it may be a little weak for SSB, but to do better I'll have to find something more elusive like the Ten Tec, a deeply discounted used K2 w/SSB, or the SG.
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AD5X
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Posts: 1622




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« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2019, 04:31:16 AM »

Take a look at my review of the Xiegu X5105 in the latest QST. I really liked the radio, other than the key-click issue discussed in the review. Hopefully this will be fixed in a future firmware upgrade. I know there has been at least one firmware upgrade since I had the review unit.

Phil - AD5X
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N6MST
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Posts: 106




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« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2019, 09:08:25 AM »

Get a MicroBITX for home and an MTR for portable. Under $500 and you can use the rest to buy or build better antennas or other station accessories. Or beer.
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NEVBEN
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Posts: 184




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« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2019, 05:12:49 PM »

What I noticed about the MicroBITX and the X5105 is the poor semi-QSK.  It's true they're slightly less costly than an FT-818ND, but none of those rigs are particularly good for CW and among the three, I'd probably pick the Yaesu.  Where the Ten Tec and Elecraft, even the SG-2020 are clearly superior is with CW.  I'm going to keep looking for one of those at an affordable price.  But thanks for the suggestion on alternatives.
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G4AON
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Posts: 1382




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« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2019, 01:52:14 AM »

You get a top notch rig with a KX3, I bought one off a SOTA friend who bought a KX2 for more pocket size SOTA.

I only use my KX3 for holiday operations overseas and as a /P transverter driver at home. The KX3 is pretty much on par with my K3 and an order of magnitude better than anything of a similar size.

Given the number of folks with mobile phones costing close to $1000, a KX3 is cheap!

73 Dave
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KF7DS
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Posts: 313




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« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2019, 01:33:19 PM »

You get a top notch rig with a KX3, I bought one off a SOTA friend who bought a KX2 for more pocket size SOTA.

I only use my KX3 for holiday operations overseas and as a /P transverter driver at home. The KX3 is pretty much on par with my K3 and an order of magnitude better than anything of a similar size.

Given the number of folks with mobile phones costing close to $1000, a KX3 is cheap!

73 Dave

i could not agree with you more. The 15w output of the kx3 is going to give SUBSTANTIALLY better success than the max out of 5w of the FT-818.

I was in your shoes last year and purchased an FT-891. It can be dialed down to 5w but also pump it up when condx suck, which has been the case for a while.

Given current condx for the next several years, I am afraid that on SSB with 5w you will be pis___g in the wind
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VR2AX
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« Reply #12 on: March 25, 2019, 03:46:53 AM »

This is based on having owned (and built) a KX3, currently own a FT818, and have owned FT817/ND.

KX3 is an amazingly cool radio. Mine however didn’t produce 15 watts. On battery it was only 5 watts. My wife did approve of it.

FT818 is a Swiss knife and does a decent 5 watts on battery. Wife approves of it also.

I would trust the FT818 more if used in rain or rough conditions. But the RX on the KX3 is superior.
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W3TTT
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Posts: 308




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« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2019, 04:28:21 PM »

For backpacking or portable, I use a QCX 40 from QRP Labs.  It comes as a kit ($49) or built ($88)  It's five watts out and loaded with features.  An enclosure is available for $30.  So, for about $80 you have a fine CW single band rig.  https://www.qrp-labs.com/
Add antenna, battery, key and away you go!  Also, check out http://www.sotawatch.org/spots.php
73, Joe
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K7LZR
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Posts: 134




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« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2019, 08:23:31 PM »

FT-817nd or FT-818. Nothing else come close in terms of versatility.
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