A potentially justifiable impulse purchase…

So I made an impulse purchase last week.

Well, to be honest, it was a purchase I planned to make, but not until much later this year or early next year.

Except I didn’t.

Don’t judge me.

Confession time

Last Sunday, I hopped over to the QTH.com Classifieds to price out a nice 100 watt radio for a friend whose daughter is new to the hobby.

Normally, I use the search functionality at QTH.com and seek out classified ads for particular radio models. Since I wanted to offer him several examples, I decided to simply load all ads for that day and skim through the list.

The very first item that came up on the list was a Yaesu FT-817ND. I opened the ad and looked at the photo.

The owner was selling the radio along with everything that originally accompanied it–the box, antenna, manuals, the whole lot–plus side rails he’d purchased and installed. He described it as “like new” with only five hours of operating time on it. He said he was selling it because, “I just can’t do QRP.”

The price was $350 shipped.

I bought it.

My justification

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you might recall that it was only last year when I purchased an FT-817ND from my buddy Don. I did this after realizing I missed the FT-817 I originally owned shortly after it was introduced to the market in 2001. It didn’t help that I really wanted to build and try the FT-817 Buddy Board by Andy (G7UHN). [Andy: V4 is next on my bench..I promise!]

I honestly think I appreciate the FT-817/818 now even more than I did after it initially hit the market. I’ve been enjoying the FT-817ND in the field and have used it in a number of park and summit activations.

A recent activation at Island Mountain Educational State Forest with the ‘817ND

But that’s not why I purchased this one.

I’ve been wanting to get in on a bit of satellite action as, perhaps, a bit of a stepping stone into QRP EME (I mean, the antennas point upwards, right?) and also my ham daughters are both interested in satellites.

My future QRP full-duplex portable satellite system



Ages ago, I’d seen and read about hams who’d paired two FT-817s or FT-818s to create a full duplex portable satellite station.

My buddy Eric (WD8RIF) reminded me about this earlier in the year, too, and it stuck in my head because I really liked the idea.

Why? Besides all of the advantages of using a full duplex station, two FT-817s is still a very portable set-up. Hypothetically, I could use it for both satellites and HF during a park activation. Plus, two portable HF radios, right? Right! What’s not to love–?

Seriously: I see the system as quite a value when compared to other full duplex systems including pricier HTs.

As described

I had not done research about FT-817ND pricing before pulling the trigger–indeed, I still haven’t–but I felt $350 shipped was fair. I know I’ll get $350 of fun out of it!

After taking delivery and unboxing it, I expected it to show normal signs of wear, but the seller described it accurately: it was like new. In fact, it still had the protective film on the screen (yes, I pulled it off) and I could tell the microphone had never even been taken from the box. It was flawless and included every single original accessory mostly in the original bags.

I like the side rails, too: They prop up the radio at a perfect viewing angle. I have no idea who made these, but they’re nice.

Speaking of side rails…

Dual Escort?

I’ve been very pleased with the Portable Zero side rails and bail that came with my first Yaesu FT-817ND.

Using a dual FT-817ND system in the field, though, I’ll require either a bag to hold them, or a dual side rail system.

Turns out, Portable Zero makes side rails that hold and space two FT-817/818s perfectly.  I gulped a bit when I saw the price, though.

Still: they obviously make a great product and, for me, it’s an elegant solution. Before I bite the bullet, though, I might investigate homebrewing something or see if there are other options.

In fact, if you’ve seen other solutions–or have owned the Dual Escort yourself–please comment!

Or an affordable carry bag?

W9WSW’s Satellite Gear in this Amazon Basics DSLR bag (Photo swiped from W9WSW’s excellent site)

Another (and perhaps better?) option for portability might be this $28 camera bag from Amazon.com (affiliate link).

The bag would allow me to house both transceivers, a battery, cables, digital recorder and basically everything I’d need to operate full duplex portable in the field.

Another advantage of using the bag would be that I wouldn’t need to remove the side rails I already have on each FT-817ND (assuming the camera bag could accommodate them).  In addition, the bag might make for less dangling cables as I operate.

The fact that numerous satellite gurus like Sean (KX9X) use this same bag is a pretty strong recommendation.

Arrow heading my way

On the advice of Eric, and numerous other portable satellite ops, I ordered an Arrow 146/437-10BP Satellite Antenna.

I assume I’ll use the the BNC connectors on the front of the radio rather than the SO-239 connectors on the back.

SSB filtered!

The FT-817ND I purchased last year came with a 2kHz Inrad SSB filter. I replaced it with a 500 Hz Collins filter I purchased from Steve  (WG0AT)–thanks, Steve!

I opened the new FT-817ND yesterday morning and installed the SSB filter. It sounds great.

If I chased you in POTA or SOTA yesterday, and you logged me, it was with the new FT-817ND running 2.5 watts off of the included NiMH battery pack.

I gave the FT-817ND a thorough work-out and it seems everything functions as it should.

Any other dual FT-817/818 owners out there?

If you have any advice about mounting or packing dual FT-817/818s, I’m all ears.  Also, if you use the FT-817/818 with an Arrow antenna, I’m curious what you use in terms of cable assemblies.

I’m a complete newbie to the world of amateur satellites, so any tips or hints are most welcome.

This weekend, I’m going to the first hamfest I’ve attended in 19 months. Let’s hope I can resist other impulse purchases! For what it’s worth, I’ve zero buyer’s remorse about this purchase!

73 friends,

Thomas (K4SWL)

33 thoughts on “A potentially justifiable impulse purchase…”

  1. I have just recently sold my ft817nd. The only transceiver I have left is a Yaesu ft707s, the rare Japanese 10w version of the regular FT-707. I think I am going to sell this and get something modern, probably an IC 705 or an x5105.

    1. Both excellent choices, Stephen. The X5105 is a brilliant radio for the price but, of course, doesn’t pack the feature set or performance of the IC-705. Both are great field radios, though.

  2. I can understand that! Why have buyer’s remorse over any new radio? Especially a bargain like that!

    My 817 is having a new lease of life now I’ve started a little SOTA-ing, partly thanks to your inspiration, Thomas.

    BTW, there is a simple mod that allows you to have 2 filters in the 817. My 817 has it and is all the better for it.
    It is courtesy of Lutz, W4/DH7LK and is at http://radioaficion.com/mods/ft-817-mod-collins-filter-installation/

    Worth a look…

    1. Thank you, Chris! Yes, I have looked into this mod and also the SOTAbeams board. Now that I have no less than two FT-817s, maybe I could do both? 🙂 Ha ha!

      I’m glad your ‘817 has a new lease on life. It’s truly a gem of a rig.

      Thank you, OM!

  3. Hello Tom,

    WOW!! it is a BIG DEAL, and a real bargain, You are very lucky, I like it. A luck like this, is rather very rare.

    You should buy a sweepstake, you’;ll never know.
    All the very best Tom, I’m always looking for you on the air, Hi!

    72/73 Michel VE2TH, The QRP’er..

    1. Ha ha! You know I think part of the magic was not knowing at the time that it was a deal. 🙂

      Merci, OM!

  4. I won’t judge you either way and anxiously await your reports of satellite communication.

    I bought my 817ND in 2007 and just pulled it out again and started enjoying it. It’s got all of the W4RT mods including the One Big Punch power mic and a 500 Hz Collins filter. So someday when I do sell it somebody’s going to get quite a deal. But until then it will have a place of prominence along with all of my other QRP radios. It’s hard to beat a Shack In A Box, especially if you still have one from days gone by.

    Dave K8WPE

    1. There you go! Your ‘817 is kitted out properly! Hang on to it because it’ll serve you well.

      And thank you for not judging me! Ha ha!


  5. A bargain indeed. I just sold my 817ND to its now 3rd owner for $545 on ebay. It sold about 30 minutes after I listed it…

  6. So you are headed over to Waynesville this weekend?

    I sold my 857D and to cover the cost of my G90, WRC and accessories. I never was comfortable with the 857. Too many dual purpose buttons and nested menus.

    QRP on.

    1. Yes, I am! I’ll have a table with Vlado (N3CZ). Hope to sell or give away everything that’s been in my “sell it” box for well over a year. 🙂

      Look forward to seeing you there!

  7. Enjoy the radio its a swiss army knife no other radio can touch at its price point and the format of it works better than a 705 in a camera carry bag. My SOTA radio of choice as no display to worry about getting damaged

    1. That’s how I feel, too, John. Besides the new Discovery TX-500, I think the FT-817/818 is one of the toughest field radios on the market.

  8. Thomas:
    $350.00 is a very fortunate find for you. Had an FT-817 years ago and sold it, then I came across a likewise awesome deal and bought another one. It is now one of my favorite transceivers. Hope to see you at the Asheville hamfest this weekend.

    1. Excellent, Steve! And, yes, I plan to be at the Waynesville hamfest for sure. Should have a table with Vlado again. I’m *really* looking forward to a proper hamfest and am willing to bet it’ll be a busy one.

      See you soon!

  9. My second new to me 817 was purchased a few months back for a song. I don’t regret it for a minute! My original is still kicking right along and until I purchased the IC-705 was my only all band rig. Not one working QRO rig to be found here. I don’t plan on selling either but may to a friend who is a new ham if he heads in the QRP direction. Enjoy! K8DRT

    1. Hi, Ray,

      That’s actually another motivating factor about the “extra” FT-817 aside from satellite work. This is one I can lend out to a new ham who wants to give QRP operation a go. I’ve always thought it would be fun to set up a small transceiver library I could simply lend to people so they could test various radios before purchasing one of their own.


      1. I’ve loaned out one of my FT-817’s to fellow hams a number of times to help get on the air. I also purchased a few Beofeng UV5R’s to give or loan to new hams also.

        1. Brilliant! I’ve been doing this with my IC-703 Plus and IC-7156b Pro as well. I think of them as library books! 🙂

  10. I think your decision is right, with those 2 radios you can communicate on satellite portable either FM or Linear satellite.. I also often work in portable satellite communication, but while only using handy talky for FM, and for Linear Satellite I still work at the ham shack .. for my radio FT-818ND I have never used for Satellite but I will definitely try ..

    Best Regrads
    Galih de YC2VOC

    1. Brilliant, Galih! I’ve a lot to learn about satellite operation yet. Feel free to share your tips and tricks! 🙂

      Best & 73,

  11. That justification sounds perfectly reasonable. For $350? I would’ve bought that too!

    If you want to buy a few more because you need more simultaneous channels or because you want to cook a soup out of them, if you wake up in the morning with radios you’ve never seen before scattered around your bed or when Hazel keeps digging out radios you buried in the backyard you may wanna try calling Amateurs Anonymous: 1-800-2-MANY-RADIOS. They are there to help, also I heard they are a great source for surplus radios! 😀

    1. HA HA HA!!!

      You know, that’s a little like a dream I recently had. In in, Hazel even had a license! Yeah–that’s a little scary. She’s a much better SOTA op than me as she can climb 35% inclines without ever breaking a sweat. 🙂


  12. Nothing to be ashamed about with that great little rig. I owned an 817 way back before they were an ND . I experimented with all sorts of antennas with it’s portability. I bought a Yaesu Ft897 and got rid of that little 817 , I missed it terribly, I just bought a new one (FT818ND) this year because I’m getting old and it’s nice to grab that rig and head out to the picnic table or toss it in my rucksack and I have all that I need for radio, other than an antenna. It’s such a fun and rugged rig ( hey it’s been around for almost 20 years- that says a lot) sure I’d love to have one of those fancy new QRP rigs but these lil Yaesu’s are hard to beat.

  13. Hi Thomas,

    How does the 817 compare to the newer 818? Do you have any videos or posts about the 818? I have searched but so far I haven’t found any.

    With the newer rigs like the X6100, the Lab599 TX-500 and the 705 is the 817/818 still a good choice for SOTA/POTA?

    1. Hi, Marshall,

      I don’t own an FT-818ND, only the 817ND (two, actually). The differences between the two models are minimal. The FT-818 has 6 watts of output power as opposed to the 817’s 5 watts. There are a few other upgrades, but they’re so minimal, I doubt an HF field op would ever notice. A Yaesu contact told me that they had no intention of actually changing the model name, but the upgrades were just enough the FCC wanted it.

      It is still very much a viable choice for POTA/SOTA.

      The answer, though, is complicated enough that I really need to reply in a video. I’ll put this in my notes for a video soon.


      1. Thanks Thomas.

        I once had an 857D but I was never happy with it. The price of the 817ND/818ND is very good and I’m not sure if the extra cost of the other rigs justify the differences.

        I just want something that is fairly rugged and will allow me to get into the field with everything basically in my hands. It has to be SSB and an internal battery is desirable.

        So far there are 4 rigs in the running and I keep changing my mind about which one is at the top of the list. The radios are X5105, X6100, 817/818, and the Lab599 TX-500. Hoping to satisfy the itch sometime in mid to late summer. A used KX2 would be okay but the 705 is too expensive and too much overkill for me.

  14. I love my 817’s! The screen may be small but it just gets it done. The radio fits in the hand like a good book. I liken it to the iPhone. It just feels good to pick it up.

  15. How funny, I am going down the same path as you. I worked Sats and the original SkyLab way back when. I already had the 818nd, and had watched a few videos by KX9X using the dual 817/818 combo and was once again bitten . . . so, a second ft-817 is heading my way as well as an Arrow ant. I love the Portable Zero rails, and ordered a dual rail, although the bag may be the preferred way to go. I am looking at a Duplxer as well. Love the blog, hope to work you on the Sats will follow to see how you do with the dual FT-817/818’s and your journey into Sats. 73 de WI6NG

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