POTA Field Report: Testing my CP Gear Tactical Aircrew/Pubs Bag with FT-817ND and Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame

Last year, during a Black Friday sale, I took a calculated risk and purchased a bag I hoped would accommodate my Yaesu FT-817ND that has been outfitted with an Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame.

CP Gear Tactical Aircrew/Pubs Bag

Rod (VA3ON) first introduced me to CP Gear Tactical–a  military pack manufacturer based in New Brunswick, Canada.

I’d had their their Aircrew/Pubs Bag with Padded Tablet Pocket on my wish list since the Ham Radio Workbench podcast episode where we talked about backpacks and pouches. CP Gear Tactical manufactures a wide variety of gear primarily for the Canadian military market. Everything is made either in Canada or the US (or both).

I contacted CP Gear Tactical shortly after outfitting my FT-817 with the TPA-817 pack frame. I measured the frame carefully and asked if the interior padded pocket (which is actually designed to hold a tablet–might fit my radio.

I never heard back from them. I could have called them, but on Black Friday, when it was on sale for 20% off and free shipping, I decided to throw caution to the wind and simply purchase it. My total price in USD was something like $62 shipped.

As soon as I opened the CP Gear pack, the first thing I did was check to see if the FT-817 with pack frame would fit in the interior pocket.

Much to my surprise, it fit it perfectly!

Indeed, it’s as if the pocket were specifically designed to accommodate the FT-817ND/TPA-817 combo.

Even the middle Velcro strap fits precisely in the middle of the radio between the pack frame side extensions. The strap holds the rig securely; once, I accidentally fumbled while holding the bag and even though it was upside down, the FT-817 remained securely inside. The strap held it in place.

The bag has loads of room inside. In fact, you can very easily transform it into a fully self-contained field radio kit.

I actually give a small tour of this pack in my activation video below, so if you’d like to see some of the exterior pockets, I would encourage you to check it out!

Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856)

On Tuesday, April 11, 2023, I once again popped by the Vance Birthplace for a leisurely POTA activation–I thought this activation, in particular, would be a good one to test my new Aircrew/Pubs bag!

As I’ve mentioned before, Vance is a wonderful park for doing POTA as long as you have access to the picnic shelter.

The picnic shelter is really the only meeting space on site (save in the visitor’s center) so if a group is touring the site, the picnic shelter is likely reserved. I always check with the park staff before setting up in the shelter; there have been occasions that the shelter was unoccupied when I arrived, but a school group had it reserved 30 minutes later. By checking in advance, I save myself the trouble of packing up all of my kit when the school bus arrives!

There are a few picnic tables next to the visitor’s center, but it’s not an ideal spot to play POTA because you’ll get QRM/RFI from lighting and electronics in the visitor’s center.

Of course, you could always operate mobile from the parking lot, but I tend to do portable activations if I can.

Setting up

I devote a good portion of the activation video to talking through how I like to set up at Vance. Specifically, I talk about the reasons why I don’t use my Marlow 2mm throw line with an 8oz weight when deploying an antenna in the branch-dense trees next to the picnic shelter. Basically, using an 8oz weight in trees with dense foliage can lead to a line and weight getting stuck.

For this activation, I used my larger diameter Weaver poly line and a 12oz weight. It made the deployment process a breeze! It’s all about using the right tool for the job.

Initially, I planned to use my Tufteln 9:1 random wire antenna, but I quickly realized I lacked the adapter needed to connect my feed line to my T1 ATU. Instead, I simply deployed my resonant MM0OPX 40M EFHW.

Problem solved!

I connected the FT-817ND to my Bioenno 3Ah battery and was ready to hop on the air!


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On The Air

I started calling CQ POTA on 40 meters and, fortunately, the band was in decent shape!

I worked my first ten contacts in eleven minutes, validating the activation in short order.

I continued logging stations on 20 meters for the next twelve minutes. The pace slowed down, but there were still many hunters to be logged.

Next, I QSYed to the 40 meter band where I worked an additional ten stations in nine minutes.

All in all, I logged 26 stations with my 5 watts and was quite pleased with the results!


Here’s what this activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map.

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Aircrew bag? Very pleased!

I’m so pleased with the CP Gear Tactical Aircrew bag. It’s as if it was made for the FT-817/818 in a TPA-817 pack frame. I do plan to make a couple of modifications that will allow me to pass power,  feedline cables, and a counterpoise through the bottom of the padded inner pocket. I might do this with large grommets, or simply cut and sew a pass-through.

I must give a shout out to Gaston (KT1RUN) who has actually commissioned a pack manufacturer in Arizona to custom design a field pack for the Armoloq TPA-817 pack frame. Gaston has completely adopted the Armoloq pack frame system–you should check out his YouTube channel.  Many of Gaston’s followers have purchased and pre-ordered his custom packs–I believe the price is in excess of $200 US. I’m not at all surprised by that pricing–building packs with high-quality materials in the US or Canada is expensive. Especially in lower quantities.

I think Gaston’s pack is amazing, but it actually doesn’t suit my particular needs based on how I deploy my gear, so I never invested in it. The Aircrew bag actually works slightly better for me because I wanted something larger that could even potentially hold my Surface Go tablet.

Just to experiment, I plan to make a rapid-deployment kit with this pack later in the year. First, I need to sort out the vertical antenna I plan to use with the FT-817ND (mounting to the empty socket on the pack frame top). A Hamstick would work, but I’d like something more compact. I might even swap out the existing bulkhead and replace it with a BNC for the Elecraft AX2. (even though the FT-817 has a top-mounted BNC already). Decisions, decisions!

Thank you!

Thank you for joining me on this activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them. Although it takes a few hours to produce each of these reports, I truly enjoy writing and sharing these with you. I’m also so pleased other guest contributors share their field reports here on QRPer.com. I love seeing how others play radio outdoors!

Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me! Have a wonderful week!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

7 thoughts on “POTA Field Report: Testing my CP Gear Tactical Aircrew/Pubs Bag with FT-817ND and Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame”

  1. It’s always nice to hear my call in your radio – especially when it was a P2P contact! Thank you for the shout-out to my YouTube channel

  2. Nice bag, nice park and nice activation Thomas!
    I am at a loss though. Why is it called a pub bag?

    Fraser MM0EFI

    1. I assume this must be a nickname for some of the required publications CAF pilots must carry for each flight. This pack is pretty much custom-designed for that single application.

  3. Well, once again, I read another post and spend more money 🙂

    I’ve been going back and forth on the Armoloq frame with a dedicated field kit for the 818 but after reading this, they are both arriving tomorrow. Having full HF/VHF/UHF options with a fairly bulletproof radio in a small pack like this has its appeal, I have to say.

    I share your curiosity about a good antenna for this platform. The included VHF antenna is fine but what to do with HF? If we’re going for minimal footprint / no wires in trees, I’m wondering about something like the Buddistick on a small tripod or with a clamp mount and a short coax run. It’s quite tall for mounting directly on the frame just from a stability perspective, but it collapses / breaks down into a size that I think would fit into the pack.

    With no tuner I wonder how much wiggle room there is for something like the AX-1 or 2, adjusting the vertical length and counterpoise to work.

    I have both antenna so when the frame and pack arrive I’ll start playing around with the possibilities.

  4. Hello Thomas,

    very interesting bag, is it possible that a Xiegu G90 fit in the interior pocket?

    vy 73 de Stefan, DB6SM

    1. I no longer have a G90 to check. Based on how the FT-818/817 fits, I think the G90 might be a wee bit too long. The G90 is almost two inches longer than the FT-818.
      It might fit, but I’m not sure if the Velcro strap would go across the face to hold it in place.

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