Why a watertight case?
I like to have a watertight case option for pretty much any QRP radio I take on SOTA (Summits On The Air) activations.
It’s reassuring to know that if I stumble and fall on my pack, the case will prevent me from crushing the radio. In addition, a good case keeps my radio dry if I get caught in heavy rains or (even more likely) slip on a rock and fall in a river/creek. In fact, many of these watertight cases will float with the KH1 inside so if it goes overboard while kayak mobile, it’ll be easy to retrieve. (For the record: I don’t want to test this theory.)
With one exception, all of the cases I explore here cost somewhere between $25-$40. I consider this cheap insurance for a $500-1100 radio.
I searched a few manufacturer’s websites and tried to find interior dimensions that would accommodate the KH1 and all protrusions: 1.4”H x 2.4”W x 5.6”L (3.5×6.1x14cm).
I primarily searched two watertight case manufactures: Pelican and Nanuk. I trust products from both of these companies and both offer compact watertight cases. There are more manufacturers out there, but but both of these companies offer quality products. Pelican cases are even made here in the USA. Many Nanuk models are made in Canada, but not their Nano series included here.
In the end, I was searching for two case sizes:
- A compact case to only hold the KH1 “Edgewood” package: the KH1 with paddle attached, Cover/Logging Tray, Whip Antenna, and 13′ Counterpoise. There also needed to be enough room for a pair of earphones.
- A slightly larger case that would accommodate the KH1 “Edgewood” package along with earphones, a throw line, throw weight (or rock sack), and a simple random wire antenna.
The idea with the second, slightly larger, case is that it would give me the option to use a wire antenna during an activation and would be fully self-contained (meaning, everything needed for the activation included).
I took a total of eight cases to a local park and spread them out on a picnic table for this test. This made the process of comparing the cases quite easy. I actually made a video of this whole process–you’ll find the video further below in this post.
Here are the cases I tested in the order you find them in the video (any Amazon links here are affiliate and support QRPer.com):
- Pelican M40
- Nanuk Nano 320
- Pelican 1060
- Nanuk Nano 330
- Evergreen 56
- Pelican 1050
- Pelican M50
- Pelican Ruck R40
Hint: many of these cases are available in multiple colors–prices can vary greatly based on the color. A red case might cost as must as 30% less than a black case, for example. Always check the pricing of color options, but make sure you don’t accidentally select a different size case in the process (this is easy to do).
Again, you’ll see a lot of detail in the video below, but let’s look at each of these cases with my notes:
The M40 was my preferred case because it had the smallest exterior dimensions of any of the other cases that might fit the KH1. It also didn’t have any of the rubber bumpers found on the Nanuk Nano cases which I feel bulk them up unnecessarily.
As you can see in the photo above, the M40 accommodates the KH1 perfectly, but the telescoping whip (which wasn’t included in the spec sheet dimensions) is a millimeter or two too long when attached to the KH1 whip clips. This is the thing about watertight cases compared with, say, a padded nylon pack: they are unforgiving. It either fits or it doesn’t!
Fortunately, when the whip is removed from the clips and placed diagonally across the case, it fits perfectly.
I also wanted the Nanuk Nano 320 to work but unfortunately, it simply couldn’t accommodate the KH1 whip.
Unlike the M40, the 320 lacked enough depth to accommodate the whip even when placed diagonally across the case.
I do think the Nanuk 320 will fit some of my smallest QRP transceivers (MTR-3B, for example) but I don’t think there’d be enough room in the case to fit an antenna, throw line, battery, and earphones as well.
I returned the Nanuk Nano 320.
I knew the venerable Pelican 1060 case–a favorite in the QRP community–would accommodate the KH1.
This yellow 1060 case came with Ruby (my KX1), but I own another that now houses my MTR-3B SOTA kit (see photo at top of post).
The Nanuk Nano 330 easily accommodates the KH1, with a little bit of room to spare.
If you like Nanuk’s latching mechanism and the silicon/rubber organization net inside, this might be your choice watertight case. I don’t believe the interior is quite spacious enough to hold a throw line and wire antenna too, though.
The Evergreen 56 is roughly the same size of the Pelican 1060, so it will easily accommodate the KH1 and extras.
Evergreen uses a rotating round latch to prevent the case from opening up accidentally. They even include a small plastic key to lock the round latch on the front. I feel this is unnecessary, so I actually tuck away the key elsewhere.
As with the Nanuk cases, the Evergreen has a silicon/rubber hammock inside to help with organization. The Evergreen 56 will easily accommodate the KH1 and I’m sure you could squeeze an antenna and throw line/rock sack inside too. With the interior rubberized padding removed, it’ll hold much more. You’ve seen this case before in one of my QCX-Mini field reports and videos.
The Pelican 1050 is a great choice for holding the KH1, throw line, throw weight, earphones, and wire antenna.
Its capacity is similar to the 1060 overall, but it’s a shorter, deeper case.
This is one of my preferred options for the larger KH1 field kit. It’s also one of the more affordable “larger” compact cases!
As I mentioned in the video, Amazon accidentally sent me the M50 when I initially ordered the M40. They gave me a return code if I decided to send it back, but instead, I’ve decided to keep it as it easily accommodates the KH1 and extras. In fact, I believe this may also be a great case for my KX1, KX2, and other field radios.
It’s very similar in size to the Pelican 1060, but a little deeper.
Certainly a great option!
I really wanted the Pelican R40 Ruck Case to work because I’ve always liked this particular case series for its internal organization.
The R40 features a lift-out tray with Molle-like attachment points and a silicon hammock/net in the lid.
Sadly, the case simply isn’t deep enough to accommodate the KH1 with the interior tray in place (see above).
It quite easily fits with the KH1 (with room to spare) when the tray is removed, but I feel like the other options above are better fits, are less bulky, and can be purchased at a much better price than the R40. I do believe the larger Pelican R60 might work, but it’s quite a large case and beyond what I need for the KH1. I returned the R40.
In this video, I demonstrate how all of these cases compare and how they might work with the Elecraft KH1:
I really like the Pelican M40 even though I have to remove the whip to store it inside. At the end of the day, this is really no inconvenience because I have to remove the whip from the KH1 side clips to put this radio on the air anyway. The M40 perfectly accommodates the full KH1 “Edgewood” package and earbuds. The Nanuk Nano 330 also works well, but I personally prefer the less bulky Pelican line.
For the larger kit that can accommodate the KH1, earbuds, throw line, throw weight/sack, and a random wire antenna, I like the Pelican 1050, Pelican 1060, and Pelican M50 best. They’re all great options.
Thank you for geeking out with me!
I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a bit of a pack, case, and organization geek. I loved making this video and report and hope it can help others who are looking for a good watertight case for the KH1 or other radios.
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.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me!
Cheers & 72,