Jonathan takes the Yaesu FT-818ND on an inaugural POTA activation!

Many thanks to Jonathan (KM4CFT) who shares the following guest field report and video:

Chatfield State Park (K-1212)

January 20, 2022

by Jonathan Kayne (KM4CFT)

The honorable Yaesu FT-817/818. You all know it and love it. I had been wanting to get myself one for a while but after just buying myself a shiny new ICOM IC-705, I had been planning on getting myself an 818 in the spring to play around with. December came and I find out that Yaesu was going to discontinue the 818, so I went and bit the bullet and bought one from Ham Radio Outlet.

I had been getting into CW for portable operations lately after wanting to learn CW for a while and my friend Zach Thompson (KM4BLG) had pushed me to learn it. I learned it over the course of two months through an app called “Morse Machine” and listening to Thomas’s YouTube videos while working so as to get used to the exchanges and pick up words. Then I activated and all the rest is history! (If you want to see my 3rd time activating see this video here.)

Why is this important? Because the FT-818ND does not have a narrow 500 Hz filter for CW operation by default, and since I consider myself to be still a newbie I wanted to install a Collins Filter before I take my new 818 into the field. Since these filters are hard to obtain, I went with the build your own route. The method I used has been outlined in this blog and I have made a video of it here.

Now that I had my radio all ready to go with a filter, side rails, and Windcamp Battery, I wanted to get it in the field as soon as possible. Unfortunately due to a snow storm, the temperature in the Denver area was quite cold.

I can handle myself pretty well in the cold if I put on enough layers, but my fingers are another story. I have found that I cannot write properly unless my fingertips are exposed. The solution: do the activation in the car!

I drove myself to my favorite park: Chatfield State Park (K-1212). This is my go-to park since it’s extremely close to my QTH in Highlands Ranch. In fact, it’s close enough that I often can travel there by bicycle to get some exercise in while I do my POTA activation!

Once I got there, I placed my FT-818 on the dashboard and deployed my usual antenna. The antenna is a K6ARK end fed half wave and 26 AWG polystealth wire. I have the antenna cut for 20 meters and I carry a link that makes it work on 40 meters as well when I feel like I want to work that band. I use a 26 foot Goture Goldite Crappie pole as my mast and it is held up using a guy system I designed and 3D Printed. I fix the EFHW wire to my pole through a loop that I form a lark’s head knot and fix to the small bit of string that is on the end of the mast.

I then raise up my mast up and ran the EFHW in a sloper configuration. Since there was snow on the ground I put my Unun in a small Ziploc baggie to keep it dry:

Finally, I ran my coax from the antenna to my car and into my radio. I like to use a 25 foot length of coax because the antenna system can use it as a counterpoise.

Now, its time to get on the air!

I wanted to try out something new for this activation. Often there are times when you are at a park or summit that is outside of cellular service, and there becomes a need to spot yourself. If you are on CW or digital that is pretty easy since the Reverse Beacon Network or PSKreporter and spot you to the POTA or SOTA network. If you want to do SSB, then that can be a challenge.

One of the solutions is to use APRS! If you have a cheap Baofeng radio and an adapter cable you can simply connect your phone to the radio through the cable and use an app like APRSdroid to send messages. There exists a network called “APSPOT” that allows you to spot yourself to the POTA or SOTA network.

All you need to do is send a message to APSPOT with the following message to spot yourself to the POTA network:

! pota park MHz mode comment

Once I found myself a clear frequency I sent out a QRL? A few times and attempted to send a spot through the POTA network but to no avail! I presume that the issue was that I was sending from the car and the signal wasn’t making it to a digipeater. No worries though! The whole point of that exercise was to work out any kinks while I was still in cell range so that I could access the POTA app as a backup.

I sent out my spot and there I went, calling CQ! After a few tries I was able to get 15 contacts on 5 watts.

At the end of those 15 QSOs, I heard a SOTA station calling CQ about 500 Hz below so I decided to QSY to let that station have the frequency. I also wanted to try out SSB on the 818!

So my experience with the FT-818ND?

I found that the CW keyer was very enjoyable to utilize. As a newer CW operator I have discovered that a decent electronic keyer has a huge impact on how cleanly I can send code. I feel like good keyers should be “tolerant” of my timing with the paddle. In my small amount of radios I have found that my IC-705, IC-706MKII, QCX mini, and now the Yaesu FT-818nd have extremely tolerant keyers.

An example of a radio that lacks this tolerance is the Xiegu X6100 and I presume their other radios suffer from this too. It is possible to send cleanly on a low tolerance keyer, but I find it lowers the “fun factor” a lot. I think buyers should definitely consider this when buying a radio for CW operations.

In the middle of my SSB activation, I noticed it was starting to snow, so I took it as my cue to QRT and head home for the day.

In the end, I had 27 QSOs: 15 on CW and 12 on SSB.

All in all, an incredibly successful activation! The FT-818ND was a joy to use and I can see why so many people love this radio. Paired with a Collins filter it is extremely capable and the CW keyer works amazingly well. It’s a shame that Yaesu had to discontinue this product but it makes me have hope for the future QRP portable radio they produce in the future!

Activation Video

Click here to view on YouTube.


9 thoughts on “Jonathan takes the Yaesu FT-818ND on an inaugural POTA activation!”

  1. We manage 8 camp host couples on 13 USFS campgrounds in the Salida, CO District area so we appreciate well how the weather can affect your hunting and activations. We are lucky to only have to be there May through October, but on the shoulder season, we still get four seasons of weather, sometimes daily!!! I hope to be more diligent about getting days off this summer for POTA activations in the San Isabel National Forest where there are some very cool places to operate! Cheers, Operator Davey 😉

  2. Nice writeup and congratulations on the successful CW activation!

    I agree with your statement about the keyer in the 818 being forgiving. I also find the sidetone very pleasing and easy to listen to, which helps with sending and reduces fatigue.

    All part of the je ne sais quoi of the FT-818 that makes it a better radio in practice than it might appear on paper.

  3. Jonathan, an excellent video and activation. Your cw speed was great for those just starting to do pota. Good examples of copying and the very understanding hunters. I use the lark’s head knot a lot. I’m sure the captioning will be helpful as well.

    I hope to catch you on the air soon.

    Max – WG4Z

  4. Great Report Jonathan! I read the report and watched the video.

    I need to dust off my FT-817 (not ND)…. It has the 300hz Collins filter in it, and a nifty bHi filter too. I’d recommend both.

    Working POTA from the comfort of the car, is smart. Here in Boise, it’s too cold to play radio at a park bench.

    I’d also recommend making a “Shotgun” station (desk) for your passenger seat. It makes operating so much easier.

    Additionally, spotting via APRS is new to me… thanks for the lesson.

    72 and great work! de W7UDT (dit dit)

  5. Jonathan, thank you for your report. I recently obtained a 818ND. I was told it had a 250hz filter in it, though not a 500hz. So we’ll see. I am wondering where you purchased your new battery? Again thanks and thanks to Thomas for allowing his blog to help us all.

    Fr Richard

    1. Hi Richard,
      I got my battery from eBay. If you look up “WindCamp Battery” you should be able to find one.

  6. Great job Jonathan! I too operate POTA from the car, but sit in passenger’s seat in front. Little more elbow room. I keep the IC-703 or FT-857D on dash, battery on floor, paddle on left leg and steno pad on right. External keyer on dash.

    I love using the Logikit CMOS-4 keyer. Have auto-spacing off. FYI in case you want to look at some this is super-duper or Thomas K4SWL and John AE5X use a nice compact keyer.

    Hope to work you on the air.

    72 Kevin N2TO

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