For awhile I’ve been looking for a small ham HF transceiver that I can bring with me on hikes or while camping. Some features I was looking for include:
- Good battery life
- Light weight/small size
- Can transmit and receive on both 80M and 40M, for NVIS use.
- SSB capability, since I don’t know code (maybe someday).
- Reasonable cost.
I really wanted the Youkits TJ5A to meet my needs, but unfortunately it doesn’t do 80M. There are a lot of QRP rigs for under $1,000 but most of them are for CW. MFJ makes the 94xx series (9417 for 17M, 9420 for 20M, and the 9440 for 40M, etc.) but from what I’ve read they aren’t suitable for digital modes due to too much drift.
So, the two leading contenders for my use were the Yaesu FT-817ND and FT-857D. Both of them not only support HF ops, but also 2M and 70cm, and are all-mode. E.g, I’ll be able to try out 2M SSB, whereas most VHF radios are FM-only.
I would up getting an FT-817ND at the Delaware Ham Radio Outlet. I chose it over the 857D because it is tiny and has less current draw. Along with the radio I got an LDG Z-817H tuner, which is rated for up to 50W, in case I ever get an amp for the rig.
In the picture above I put my Victorinox Farmer Swiss Army Knife on top of the rig for scale. It’s 3.5” long.
The rig can be powered via 8 AA cells in an internal bay, a rechargeable battery pack that goes in the same bay, or an external DC power source.
The DC power cord that ships with the FT-817ND has a plug that connects into the radio and bares wires on the other end. I’m currently using one of these adapters from Powerwerx to connect the rig to my power supply. Quicksilver Radio sells a replacement cord with Power Poles already installed on the ends, which I’ll get if I can’t install the APPs to my satisfaction.
Since the FT-817ND is all-mode capable on all bands, that means you can use SSB on 2M or 70cm. The vast majority of 2M/70cm rigs are FM-only, but the 817 opens up the possibility of not just SSB but digital modes like PSK-31 and MT63, for which you normally have the rig set to SSB. In a SHTF/WROL situation, this has the potential for increasing COMSEC, since most folks won’t be looking for it, nor be capable of decyphering your signals.
After I’ve had the chance to use the rig for awhile I’ll post a more in-depth article about it.