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.
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.
! 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.
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 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!