VO1DR’s Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the Icom IC-705

Many thanks to Scott (VO1DR) who shares the following guest post:


Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the IC-705

By Scott Schillereff (VO1DR)

St. John’s, NL, Canada     

Since getting my novice ticket in 1970 (WB9CXN) under the watchful direction of Charles “Rock”  Rockey, W9SCH (SK), I have been a dyed-in-the-cloth homebrewer and QRPer.  My one and only commercial rig before this year was a Ten Tec PM-3 I bought with paper-route money in 1971 (still have it).  Fast-forward to today.  I now live in Newfoundland, and Europe is as close as Georgia.  I continue to build my station components and antennas.  A recent sea-change though – I inherited some money and decided to splash out on a for-life rig that would serve well in the shack and on the road (RV or hiking).  After researching options, I settled on the ICOM IC-705.  A fantastic performer; a receiver like I’ve never heard before; more bells and whistles than I could dream of, and a form-factor like a….. delicate, expensive brick!

The 705 is not a sleek, trail-friendly radio.  It’s on the heavy side and, well…awkward to pick up!  But, man, what a radio!  So, my first step was to buy a Windcamp ARK-705 exoskeleton.  This protects the rig on all sides and gives you something to grab onto.  I don’t mind the weight and size; I want this rig to be working in 25 years.

My operating interests are home use, mobile in my 25 ft motor home, and portable on day hikes.  I’m new to POTA and SOTA but maybe that’s next, thanks to you, Thomas!

I’m genetically wired not to buy the luxury ICOM backpack; I prefer to build my own and integrate with my hiking gear.  With that in mind, I would like to share my field package system to move the 705 around safely with little risk of damage.  Also some other homebrew portable gear.

Figure 1 – Full load-out unpacked.  Clockwise from upper left: plastic 30-cal. Ammo box; IC-705 on blue stuff sack (spare one I had on hand, a bit big); log book (Dollar store); random wire antenna system; 705 mic (fits in little nylon drawstring bag); green and orange 50 ft throw lines; anchor stake (7” aluminum gutter nail); brown and black throw bags (home-made); clear plastic “bits” box; 67 ft 40-20-15-10 m EFHW antenna with matching unit and 14 ft RG-174 coax on ND6T paint-stick reel; US Army surplus bag; solar panel system to charge 705 battery in field.

The random wire antenna system is homebrew, based on the QRP Guys 40-10 m Un-Un product.  I used 2-mix for the large toroids, made the winding frame into a larger X shape, reinforced the tie-off hole with an epoxied washer, and added a switch between the counterpoise terminal to ground (Bal-Unbal).  I use 41 ft of #22 speaker wire for the antenna, and 35 ft of counterpoise wire. (Lots of debate on CP length.  This CP is ~0.26 λ at 40 m.  I want use my nanoVNA to see if and how different lengths affect random wire tuning.)

The orange reel is made from a paint stir-stick cut in half and some bits of wood and screws (detailed instructions on ND6T blog; Don has a lot of good practical radio advice and ideas there!)  These reels are pennies to make, lightweight and you can resize to fit your needs.  I use from #22 to #18 stranded wire for strength and durability; could use finer wire for less bulk; could make knobs smaller too.

Figure 2 – Plastic 30-cal ammo box from Princess Auto here in Canada (~US$8) (should be similar from Harbour Freight).  This is the heart of the system.  The 705 with exoskeleton nestles perfectly in the bottom of this!  This box is light, sturdy and waterproof, with a handle.  Perfect secondary protection for the rig.  This is where this whole packaging idea started.  As a bonus, the 705 rests at a nice angle on top of the open box; a great operating position if ground is muddy or wet.

Figure 3 – IC-705 with Windcamp ARK-705 exoskeleton.  Note, I installed a right-angle BNC antenna connector (left side) with RG-2 support bracket.  I removed the SO-239 socket that came with it (who uses SO-239 connectors for QRP!?).  For some crazy reason, the Windcamp RG-2 bracket does not fit with the Windcamp ARK-705 (grrrr! A classic case of left hand/right hand.  C’mon Windcamp – talk to each other!!).  However, you can make it fit by releasing a pair of screws on the back corner aluminum strut and rotating it a bit, then tightening up the screws.  Not noticeable when done.

Figure 4  – Army surplus “Sustainment bag”.  This has Molle II straps on back, but I just added a black shoulder strap instead.  Very durable bag and likely once was waterproof.

Figure 5  – My “Bits Box”.  This is a plastic box that screws came in.  Has a hinged top lid perfect to get at things, and flat enough to poke down on side of bag.

Figure 6 – The bits.  Top row: small carabiner clip (for inverted vee antenna setup or tie-downs); ND6T RF probe; spare jumper cable.  Middle row: black “Ranger band” cut from bike inner tube; 2 ft BNC RG-174 coax jumper; ear buds.  Lower row: 6.5 ft “pigtail” counterpoise for EFHW antenna; VO1DR Mint Tin Paddle.

Figure 7 – VO1DR Mint Tin Paddle.  Built into small metal souvenir mint tin, with sliding metal cover.  Typical Newfoundland coastal scenery on NW Atlantic.  Next stop, Ireland!

Figure 8 – Guts of the Mint Tin Paddle.  Blue clothes peg arm pivots on #4-40 flathead screw epoxied to base of tin, and rests on low-friction plastic sheet where arm exits tin.  Paddle actuates two momentary-contact microswitches epoxied to rare earth magnets.  I originally hoped that the magnets would hold the switches strongly enough that I could just move them into the correct position and they would stay.  Didn’t work – I had to epoxy them down too.  I added the tiny red switch (bottom right) to provide continuous key-down for tuning or testing.  Cord enters upper right inside a short length of 1/8” silicon tubing that is snug-fit into a hole in the tin (I didn’t have a tiny grommet).

Figure 9  – My rendition of ND6T RF probe.  This is the tip of a red plastic ball point pen with #12 house wire as the probe tip.  Rectifying components are inside and all potted in epoxy.  When holding the copper foil (wrapped around outside), the LED glows when the tip contacts RF (proportional to power).  Very handy little doodad to show where QRP RF is present.  See ND6T blog for details.

Figure 10 – My fancy throw line system.  2 x 50 ft nylon cordage (5-strand narrow paracord; one size down from the normal 7-strand 550 cordage).  The brown throw bag is a nylon jewelry bag I reinforced with extra stitching and tapered.  I made the black mini-bag from a wrap-around handle off a luggage strap (end tapered and sewn; eyelets added).  Just add gravel, tie on line and heave away!  The aluminum gutter nail is very light and strong for an anchor stake, if needed (good for tent stakes too).

Figure 11  – A Double Sheet Bend knot is a secure way to join two lines of unequal diameters (here, an antenna wire with a guy line).  Easy to tie and undo, and does away with bulky end insulators (got this from Wes Hayward, W7ZOI, web site).  At QRP levels or for ultra-light applications, this works fine. “The more you know, the less you carry”.

Figure 12 – My stripped-down solar panel system, Goal Zero Guide 10 Plus (with excess material cut away).  This is an old system; there are lighter, less bulky alternatives.  The 7W panel produces 5V USB output; a charging port for a 4xAA NiMH battery pack; and a 12V DC output.  I plug the 5V output directly into the 705 charger socket and it continually charges the 705 battery.  With judicious power use, I can operate more or less all day with solar top up.  I haven’t tried the 12V output yet.  The AA battery pack has a flashlight and its own 5V USB output to charge cell phones.  It will also charge the 705 battery.  Always good to have redundant power sources.

Packing it all up

Below are steps I use to pack it all up.

Step 1 – Place throw lines and bags at bottom right side of bag.  These provide cushioning (and may be wet or dirty, so best at bottom).

Step 2 – Put 705 in stuff sack (extra protection from dust, rain, debris) and nestle face up in bottom of ammo box.  This is a great little nest for your pride and joy.

Step 3 – Lay in random wire antenna system.  Knobs down to nestle in stuff sack and provide a flatter surface above.  Slot the log book in.  You could add a pencil in here too.

Step 4 – Lay in EFHW system on orange reel, and mic in its nylon bag.  Ammo box closes snugly without crushing things and no rattling.  You may have other antenna systems.  Experiment with arrangement.

Step 5 – Place ammo box in bag, wide end to left, so narrow end rests on throw lines at bottom.

Step 6 – Slip in solar panel (bottom of photo) and Bits Box and anchor spike (top of photo).  Best to keep spike outside of the ammo box, since it may be muddy or wet.

Step 7 – Cinch down top flap and square things up.

Fully packed bag from side.

Fully packed bag from back.  You could connect this to another pack with the Molle straps, but I prefer the bag on its own.

Conclusion

An IC-705 is a large investment and it makes sense to protect it.  You could use a Pelican case or similar, but to me that’s clunky and bulky when walking.  The system here is compact, protects the radio well, and contains two antenna systems, supplementary solar power, and all the bits for CW or SSB operation.  Is it light?  No; total weight all in is 4.3 kg (9 lb 7 oz), but wow! The radio makes up for the effort of humping this around!  (Think of it this way – you could pay to go to a gym and lift weights, or you could carry this package around for free, and have a 5-star radio to play with! 😊).

The bag cost me ~US$20, the ammo box ~US$8, the stuff sack and little nylon bags were just on hand.  So for about $30, I’m able to carry my “baby” around without worrying.  And I had fun developing this.

Hope this set up provides some ideas for protecting and travelling with your special radio!73, Scott  VO1DR

14 thoughts on “VO1DR’s Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the Icom IC-705”

  1. Great story!!

    But..i do also very often portable. I can say (for me) the 705 ist just to big and to heavy. I had the 705 as well. Also a cage for this.
    But again..puhh..so heavy.
    If you add also tools i´s getting more heavy.

    Try the same tour with a QCX or a KX2 🙂

    But tnx for the nice and good story! Like it!

  2. Nicely done. Efficiently put together while keeping effectiveness and portability. I am going to steal some ideas

  3. Yes- it is on the heavy side- as the author (Scott) points out. ‘A chacun son droit’, as they say. You won’t be humping it up a 14K peak, but from vehicle to picnic table, it’s all there. An informative (love the exoskeleton!) and comprehensive article.

    I’ve been doing a number of POTA activations lately. I’m not even getting as far as a picnic table most of the time. I use a custom countertop for the passenger side seat in my truck. As such, weight is irrelevant. I usually bring the Begali ‘Expedition’ paddles, and they tip the scales at almost 3 pounds. (They’re protected in a Pelican case when I’m on the road. That was prompted by a earlier mishap with another brand of paddles.)

    I’d done a number of SOTA adventures a while back. In those instances, the total station weight was 1 pound. The setup worked very well. Anyway- there’s a wealth of choices and preferences out there. Scott- thanks for your article, and there’s some great ‘food for thought’ there! -K1SWL

  4. Every day is a learning day, great to see how others invent/use their gear. Necessity is the mother of invention – I’ve just bought an e-bike and looking to pack enough so the timing of this is great. Thanks for sharing

    73 de M0AZE Mike

  5. That plastic ammo box is great for projects. I used one for a power box -it contains a 30ah lifepo4 battery, a solar charger, and has space to store all my power adapters, wires, and other things. I did add a waterproof connector so that I can connect a solar panel while it’s closed and not compromise it’s water resistance.

    However, I would consider this box rain resistant, but not particularly weatherproof. It has a rubber gasket, but the other pelican-type boxes they sell can actually maintain a pressure (hence the pressure relief valve). I use the latter for radios, but they are significantly heavier than these thin plastic “ammo boxes.” My battery is already waterproof, so I won’t be too worried if it ever takes a dunk.

  6. Love the ammo box idea – relatively inexpensive, durable, I keep essentials in one in the car.

    I’d been looking into the Amazon-branded hard cases, and while they are quite durable they are on the heavy side. My go-to lately has been from Harbor Freight, the Apache brand of hard cases. I have my X6100 go-kit in one right now and the medium size carries plenty for my “Go Kit Plus” for my KX2. Pretty cheap compared with a Pelican, rubber gasket, and lighter weight than the comparable Amazon.

    Always good to see such a variety of ideas here!

  7. Great article! I don’t use an IC-705 but you have quite a few good ideas there. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Hola, he comprado FT818ND para desempeño móvil a bordo de una bicicleta 😉, (/M) antena vertical multibanda en modos digitales y CW felicitaciones 73 tu de LU4ECN sk

  9. Gracias por compartir esta excelente experiencia y en forma tan detallada, mis sinceras felicitaciones amigo!!! 73 y buenos DX, Manuel. LU7FHD

  10. If you think the RC-2 is a bad fit for the ARK-705, remember that there is an RC-1, and it’s still being sold. For that you pretty much have to take that corner piece off completely

    Other things that don’t fit: the ARK won’t fit in the ICOM backpack. Hats off to the guy at HRO who saved me from making that mistake.

    de K3XS

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