Getting To Know You: The Yaesu FT-817/818 Series Portable QRP Transceivers

I’m very fortunate in that in the past few years I’ve acquired a number of QRP radios that I use in rotation when I do park and summit activations.

I’m often asked for advice on choosing radios, and as I’ve mentioned in the past, I feel like the decision is a very personal one–everything is based on an operator’s own particular preferences.

I’ve written formal reviews about most of the field radios in my collection. In those reviews, I try to take a wide angle view of a radio–to see how it might appeal to a number of types of operators. I highlight the pros and cons, but I don’t focus on my own particular take because, again, my style of operating might not match that of readers. I try to present the full picture as clearly as I can and let the reader decide.

The Getting To Know You series gives me an opportunity to highlight one radio at a time and showcase what I love about it and why it’s a part of my permanent radio collection. After we spend a bit of time talking about the radio, we’ll do a park or summit activation with it!

The Yaesu FT-817 and FT-818 Series

As I mention in my “Getting To Know You” video below, my very first dedicated QRP field radio was the original Yaesu FT-817 (non-ND version), so it has a special place in my heart.

At the time, I was living in the UK and travelling extensively throughout Europe with my UK call (M0CYI).

The FT-817 hit the market and it blew my mind. Up to that point, there were no general coverage QRP radios on the market that small, that comprehensive, and that even sported VHF/UHF multi-mode coverage. It even had a small internal battery pack! What?!

I was an early adopter of this radio and travelled with it extensively–indeed, in all of the years I lived in the UK and Europe, the FT-817 was my only amateur radio transceiver.

Fast-forward to 2023–some 23 years later–and I still have an 817. Actually, I have two 817ND’s and one 818ND (although, I plan to sell one of my 817NDs soon–I don’t need three!).

I find the 817/818 to be an incredibly robust and capable field radio. It’s also a brilliant value–few radios offer you the capabilities of the FT-817/818 for under $700.

My FT-817ND in an Armoloq TPA-817 Frame.

Yaesu discontinued the FT-818ND almost exactly one year ago. Retailers no longer have new stock, but there are loads of them on the used market. Keep in mind that the FT-817/818 was a cash cow for Yaesu for over two decades–the used price remains fair because there’s just so much supply out there. I routinely see 817ND and 818ND models selling for between $375-700 depending on how they’re configured and what’s included.

If you’re looking for a comprehensive article about the Yaesu FT-817/818 series, I would encourage you to check out this piece I originally wrote for The Spectrum Monitor magazine.

Time to activate!

Vance Birthplace (K-6856)

On Thursday, November 16, 2023, I decided to take my Yaesu FT-818ND to the Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace to film my Getting To Know You video and activate.

I paired my 818ND with the Chelegance MC-750 vertical which is a breeze to set up. The great thing about the MC-750 is that you can extend the whip portion of the antenna so that it’s resonant on any band 40M and above; this is perfect for radios like the 817/818 that lack an internal ATU.

I configured the MC-750 for 20 meters and turned on the FT-818! Time to hit the air!


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On The Air

I started calling CQ POTA on 20 meters and was met with a pile-up.

I worked my first 10 contacts in eight minutes.

I continued working stations but also quickly realized that my time was somewhat limited.

All in all, I worked 21 stations in 25 minutes on the air before calling QRT and leaving a pile-up hanging. My apologies to any hunters.


Here’s what this five watt 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.

What fun!

I always enjoy taking the FT-818ND to the field. It’s such a well-rounded radio.

I’m impressed, so far, with the WINDCAMP 3000mAh LIPO battery as well. So far, it’s taken me through two activations spaced nearly six months apart!

Thank you

Thank you for joining me!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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 brilliant weekend!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

13 thoughts on “Getting To Know You: The Yaesu FT-817/818 Series Portable QRP Transceivers”

  1. I purchased my FT-817 back in January of 2001, just after they became available in Canada.

    It has served me well for over two decades and it is still going strong with the original PA transistors. The ergonomics were never great (especially for those of us with large hands) but it is a very solid little radio for portable operation and with all-mode and VHF/UHF capabilities, it is a real “QRP Swiss Army Knife”. If you are a CW operator buying used, make sure to get one that has either the optional 500 Hz or 300 HZ IF filter installed as Yaesu has also discontinued those too, making them as scarce as “Hen’s teeth”. A narrow filter is a must for CW operation IMHO.


    Michael VE3WMB

    P.S. I also installed the WindCamp 3 Ah internal LIPO battery in mine and it is a worthwhile addition.

  2. I think the 817 rarely gets the credit it deserves for making the full featured QRP radio market, and building the portable QRP movement.

    Excerpt for the IC705, it is still untouched in frequency agility, both on receive and transmit, a great satellite uplink, all band HF coverage, rugged, and capable enough for a few hours on internal batteries.

    Like you I travelled around Europe with a very early 817, practically in disbelief. Well before the KXs came along, we were sticking ATXs on the BNC socket and using them as handhelds from great spots, up thru “70 cms.” We’re lucky to have had it for the last 2 decades, and it’s great to see it come up here ! 🙂

  3. Makes me think I don’t take any of my 817s out in the field often enough!
    I had the same “wow” moment when I first saw the FT-817 and bought my first one promptly. My collection has also grown to three, but one of them lives permanently on the shelf above my electronic bench as a test instrument. Three is not too many!

    1. Bob

      From what I recall, the ND version added 60m and a more robust RF power amp. Lots of folks with the non-ND versions managed to pop their finals. I am not sure if there ever was a consensus on what exactly caused the PA failures, possibly too high an external DC voltage ? There was a 3rd party kit that attached via the ground screw and dropped the voltage to 10v and converted the power connection to Anderson Powerpoles, which supposedly protected the rig. If I was looking for a used one I would go for an ND model.

    2. GROK, the new facility at Elon’s X, gave me the answer in a fraction of a second:
      The “ND” in Yaesu FT-817ND stands for “New Display.” The Yaesu FT-817ND is an update to the original Yaesu FT-817, with the primary improvement being the new high-contrast display that enhances visibility in various lighting conditions.

  4. Is it me, or does anyone else hear the song from “The King and I” every time you see the headline for this series of posts?

  5. Like Thomas, I have quite a large collection of QRP radios, OK I’m a QRP addict, but my excuse is that they all have good “use cases”.

    My original 817 was what got me into portable ops, a flash back to the fun I had with an FT290 as a newly licensed teenager! The 817 has always been a keeper and used whilst travelling, camping, POTA, the odd SOTA and lots of mobile QRP. It really is a universal radio.

    And yes, I too bought a FT818; no regrets. It now sports all the accessories I had for the 817, rails, speech processor, wolphilink, key…..

    If you only have one radio, the 817/818 is the one, closely followed by the KX2 (which I also adore!).

    Richard MM0RGM

  6. It has been a while since I used my FT817 in the field, but yes it is a great radio. I did marry the LDG Z817 auto tuner with it and the Collins 300 Hz IF filter. I now have a IC705 so dont use the FT817 much, but still like the radio.

    I have been using the MC750 vertical and it is a very good antenna. Can put up quickly and performs better than some short verticals.

    73, ron, n9ee

  7. FT818ND / FT-857 compare: 2.62 lb difference
    I will (always) be a Yaesu fan, own 2- FT-100 D units with nice wide screens for easy viewing. Some observations that may help.
    Just wanted to mention that there is (only a 2.62 lb increase in weight between FT818ND and FT-857) with 100 watt all band all mode capability if ever needed, DSP w/ 60, 120 or 240 hz bw for CW built in , Mic 4 stage equalizer for crisp low power or not audio penetration & quantitative digital power adjust, no battery chassis (wasted space) so you can externally add (any light weight lithium LIFE battery with more current capacity) and then more stay power if needed and remote head capability. Put the rig in your backpack and carry the ( remote head) around while backpacking and even work the 10 meter FM repeaters. Pricing difference is in the noise.
    Rich / NJ6F

  8. This is a fantastic web site, well written, very interesting and informative articles, well done to everyone involved.
    You also make me poorer as I’ve just purchased a Chelegance antenna and the Stick 280 antenna analyser that you recommended.
    Just what my KX1, K1, MTR3b/4B and SW-3B needed.
    Still battling with the CW, but I will get there!!!
    Thanks to wonderful web sites like this.
    Happy Holidays to you all.

  9. Thomas, great article as always. I recently purchased my 4th or 5th FT-817 (not the ND this time) and sold my FT-891. I look at them as awesome shortwave receivers that also happens to transmits 5 watts. I’m looking forward to what Yaesu offers as the replacement for the FT818.

  10. Hi Thomas,
    I’m on a waiting list for K2 and hope to see it in one of the next videos of “getting to know you “ series.
    Thanks for the great content!
    Victor, PA8MM

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