Trish's FT-817 QRP Page

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Trish's FT-817 Accessories

We've put a great deal of of time thinking about what we want to do with our portable QRP rig and into researching just what we need to achieve those goals.  Having gone to quite a bit of effort we wanted to be able to share what we've come up with and perhaps save others some time and perhaps money.

 

Batteries & Power

If you don't get anything else to go with your 817 I would highly recommend upgrading and/or supplementing your internal battery as the supplied battery is far to limited for all but the very shortest use. 

Internal Battery
For the internal battery I replaced the 1400mAh NiMH that came with my 817ND with W4RT's "One-Plug Power" 9.6v 2700mAh NiMH battery pack for its' self resetting fuse, thermal and over current protection, external charging option, and the fact that it disconnects itself from the radio when the external quick charge jack is used.

Rechargeable Lead-Acid Batteries
I am constantly searching for lighter, higher capacity portable external battery options but for now I've settled on a pair of 12v 5000mAh lead-acid batteries from Radio Shack, P/N 23-289B.  They are not the lightest of options but for the capacity verses weight trade off they are not a bad option.  I've carried one in a hip pouch for 10 hours of event communications without a problem.  Depending on the amount of transmit time and the selected transmit power level one of these coupled with the internal battery you should be set for a day hike.

Solar Panels
Before you even think about connecting a solar panel to your radio you must limit the output of the panel(s) to no more than 16vdc but ideally to 13.8vdc otherwise you WILL damage your radio.  To accomplish this we selected a commercially produced solar charge controller by Morningstar Corporation, their SunGuard series units rated at 4.5A @ 12vdc.

We've tried a couple of options for solar panels before we settled on our current solution.  The first option we tried was a low cost, somewhat portable briefcase sized ~10 watt set of panels by a company called Topray which we bought off of eBay.  In full sun they supply a total of 560ma which is enough to trickle charge your batteries or run the radio in receive mode.  On a budget this wasn't a bad option however they do not fit in a backpack and are not enough to transmit though anything adding power to the system helps.

The panels we next panels we tried were Connecticut Solar's 32.2w Backpack Folding Solar Panels which folded measure 12"x15", weight about 6lbs, and can supply 1.8Amps in full sun which is enough to run the 817 in any mode and charge just about any 12v battery option.  They are semi-rugged expedition class panels that amongst other things are suposedly rain proof.  We chose a little over kill in capacity to provide faster charging but more importantly the extra efficiency and capacity proves its worth on cloudy days or in the shade; lacking direct sun they will not put out full current however they typically do put out 300-800ma under these conditions which will at least trickle charge the batteries.  One note of caution however: The specifications of weight and dimension listed on CT Solar's website are not correct, they list this unit at 4.4lbs and 9x15" folded.

Unfortunately the folding Connecticut Solar panels did not hold up, rain was their downfall.  While the solar cells themselves are sealed there is a piece of particle/fiber board inside the blue fabric backing.  Starting from the first time these panels got rained on the partical board started acting like a sponge, adding a huge amount of weight and eventually warping so that they no longer folded flat when closing.  Even worse the sponge-like partical board held the water which started the contacts on the back of the panels corroding.  If your panels might get wet, we strongly recommend the product in the next paragrapgh.

After the CT Solar unit failed we started looking for another solution and found these gems from PowerFilm.  Flexible, rollable, water proof, and very light.  We settled on their model "R28" which is rated 28 watts, weighs 1.8 pounds, and unrolled measures 14.5" x 80".  We've measured as high as 1.6 Amps output in full sun.  This rolling panel has been wonderful and easily handles the wetest days Seattle can throw at it.

For a more in depth discussion of the 817's power requirements please review my "Portable/Emergency Power" page.

Portable Antenna Tuner

Elecraft's T1 QRP automatic antenna tuner kit with 817 interface cable  We had loads of fun building this kit.  The tuner has been in use for nearly eight years now and still performs perfectly.

Filters'n'Stuff

W4RT's "One-Plug Filter" SSB filter which is equivalent (any many say superior) to Yaesu's YF-122S optional 2.3-kHz SSB filter.

They also have their "One- Board Filter" which combines the CW & SSB filters in a single unit however we found its cost to be prohibitive considering we do not do very much CW work and how effective the DSP kit we installed is.

BHI's NEDSP1061 DSP marketed in the United States as the Hear-It DSP by W4RT Electronics.  This DSP module is so effect we've considered installing it the external speaker for our home station as well.  Since this unit does require more power to run we installed a bypass switch on the back of our 817 whcih turns off the DSP and bypasses it when conserving power is a concern.

Antennas

One of the first antennas we picked up for our 817 was a replacement for the deficent rubber duck that came with the radio.  We were looking for a triband antenna to cover 6m/2m/70cm, what we found was the Maldol AH-510R.  This antenna has served us very well since we got it and matches 1.3:1 in the 6m band with a counterpoise attached, 1.5:1 in the 2m band again with a counterpoise, and 2:1 on the 70cm band.  This antenna has a BNC connector at its base so it can be easily used with the front panel connector but will need an adapter for the rear.

We've tried a myriad of different "portal" HF antennas with the idea of being able to pack the antenna in a small area.  The dream was to find an antenna to cover 80-10 meters.  Before you consider a small HF antenna consider the band(s) you wish to operate and keep in mind the lower the frequency the less efficient and more narrow banded the antenna will be.  Also keep polarization in mind, our experience tends toward horizontal antennas being better.

That said the best ultra portable multiband HF antenna we've found so far is the ATX-MKII Walkabout.  G4ILO has a good write about it here.  Between the instructions that come with it and G4ILO's notes we've been able to get it to match in all bands it is designed for.  It is VERY narrow banded however below 20 meters.  A very useful idea we picked up while working with this antenna is to use a metal tape measure as the counter poise, that way all you have to do is look at your notes for the length you need and open the tape measure to the proper length.

Our pride and joy of portable HF antennas is the Buddipole system.  Its veratility is unmatched by any other concept we've been able to find and its really fun to work with if you're into antennas.