POTA Field Report: Activating the BRP with my new-to-me Icom IC-703 Plus

When my buddy Don told me he was selling his Icom IC-703 Plus a few weeks ago, he caught me in a (multi-year long)  moment of weakness. I asked his price and followed up with a PayPal transaction without giving it a lot of thought. It was a bit of an impulse purchase, if I’m being completely honest, but he definitely gave me a “friends and family” discount.  (FYI: Don is the same enabler that made this purchase happen.)

I’m thinking the IC-703 Plus might be a good first HF rig for my daughter (K4TLI) and, of course, it’ll be fun to take it to the field from time to time.

Of course, the best way to get to know a radio, in my opinion, is to take it to the field. So that’s exactly what I did last week (January 13, 2021).

Blue Ridge Parkway K-3378

Against my better judgement, I decided to make a video of the activation. I mean, what could possibly go wrong operating a radio for the first time in the field? Right–?

I picked out an “easy” park for this activation: the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Although most of the parkway around Asheville, NC, is closed to vehicle traffic, the Folk Art Center is open year round and a very convenient spot for POTA.

Gear:

I paired the IC-703 Plus with my Chameleon MPAS 2.0 vertical antenna. I was curious how easily the IC-703’s internal ATU could match the MPAS 2.0: turns out, pretty darn well!

I started the activation on 40 meters phone (SSB).

Almost immediately, I logged a few contacts and that quickly built my confidence that even the default voice settings were working well on the IC-703 Plus.

I then moved to 40 meters CW and used the CW memory keyer to call CQ (I pre-programmed this before leaving the QTH that day).

Then I experienced a problem: when someone answered my call, my keyer didn’t work properly. For some reason, it was sending “dit dash” strings from both sides of the paddle. I’m not entirely sure what happened but assume there was either a radio glitch or a small short in my paddle cable. After fiddling with the IC-703 for a bit, I pulled out my Elecraft KX2 and finished the CW portion of my activation. (Always carry a spare radio, I say!)

Actually, I assumed since I was using the IC-703 for the first time, there could be hiccups as I did not do a full rig reset prior to putting it on the air–settings were essentially what they were when Don had the radio.

Here’s one of my real-time, real-life no edit videos of the entire activation, if you’re interested:

Back home, I connected my CW Morse paddles up to the IC-703 and it worked perfectly. Even though I checked the connections in the field, I must assume one of the plugs simply wasn’t fully-inserted. It hasn’t repeated this since.

Despite the CW snafu, I’m very pleased with the IC-703 Plus so far. I like the size for tabletop operating and it’s actually surprisingly lightweight.

If you own or have owned the IC-703, please comment!

13 thoughts on “POTA Field Report: Activating the BRP with my new-to-me Icom IC-703 Plus”

  1. Hi Tom, I have the original IC-703 (160 to 10m) which includes an inbuilt ATU. I use my 10 watt 703 for SOTA purposes. My choice of antenna for the IC-703 is an inverted V ZS6BKW dipole supported by a 7 metre telescopic pole.

    Thanks for sharing, great video.

    73, Andrew VK1AD

    1. That sounds like a winning combo, Andrew. The ‘703 seems like a great rig for SOTA. It’s surprisingly lightweight for its size, too.
      Thanks!
      Thomas

  2. I have the European version of the IC-703, which I believe is the same as the plus. Its internal ATU is very effective and I also like the good receiver in this qrp rig. For portable CW operation I am using a small straight key, so I can´t comment on the problem experienced.

    1. The internal ATU has been very impressive so far. It’s loaded both a random wire and the MPAS 2.0 rather well!
      Cheers,
      Thomas

  3. If by any chance your IC703 doesn’t have the 500HZ CW filter you can always install the Yaesu CW filter which is used in the FT8x7 series. I did. same IF fyi. 😉
    Just unsolder the small board, attach 3 wires and solder it in. Piece of cake.

    73
    Frank

    1. I didn’t know that! A little too late, though, as I believe the USPS has notified me my Icom filter is at the post office. 🙂 That’s okay because the info may help another ‘703 owner. Thanks, Frank!
      Thomas

  4. I found the internal ATU of the IC-703 to be a lot better than the one in a TS-480. It even allowed me to use a 20/15/10 m dipole on 12 m for some qrp qso´s during a sporadic e opening 🙂

  5. Hi Thomas, I love your posts and videos. I have a strange question: the obvious things notwithstanding, how would you compare the 703 to the 705? Cheers, Ernest

    1. Wow…challenging question to answer!

      So, yes, the obvious difference is that the IC-705 feels like a 21st century radio, whereas the IC-703 could have easily been from the previous century.

      In terms of HF in the field (my passion): the IC-703 is a capable, durable radio and even has a detachable faceplate. It’s bare-bones compared with the IC-705, even though the ‘703 Plus model features a built-in ATU and battery pack option. It doesn’t have full break-in QSK like the IC-705. It’s also a much larger and heavier package. Filtering is limited to one optional filter slot (that’s soldered in!).

      The IC-705 is incredibly flexible, more efficient, and has much better RX specs and filtering. It does digi modes natively (your PC reads it as an external sound card). Its battery pack is easily swappable. Plus, it does VHF and UHF multimode including D-star and has built in GPS and Bluetooth. The menus are much more intuitive on the ‘705.

      Both rigs will serve you well in the field and I like both for different reasons. 🙂

      Hope that answered your question some degree! 🙂

      Thomas

      1. That’s a perfect answer, Thomas, thanks. Let me add to the congrats from others on receiving a Good Operator notice. Cheers!

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