Many thanks to Anthony (K8ZT) who shares the following article about his portable field radio kit which will be featured on our Field Kit Gallery page. If you would like to share your field kit with the QRPer community, read this post.
K8ZT Elecraft KX3 Rapid Deployment, Expedition Go-Box
I have been active in portable Field Operations, portable contest operations and POTA for many years. I also like always to have the option of both multiple modes (CW, SSB & DIGI) and multiple bands for my portable operations. I am not a SOTA operator, and although weight is still an issue, this is definitely not a minimalist setup. My preferred method for go-boxes is the rapid deployment model. In this model, almost all interconnections of elements in the kit are already made, and the opening of the case and attachment of the antenna get me on the air in seconds. This model is not designed for airplane baggage handling or other rough transportation but works well in a backpack or carry-on.
Here is a photo (above) of operating FD from Delaware
The design I have used can work with other radios with similar footprints, including Elecraft KX2, Icom 705, Xeigu 5105 or 6100, etc. You could also substitute other similar tackle or tool boxes. I like working with plastic cases because they are lightweight and easily modified. I have put together a slideshow on my go-box with instructions and suggestions at tiny.cc/rapidkx3.
I used the Plano 135402 4-BY™ 3500 Stowaway® Rack System tacklebox.
A very similar box is the Harbor Freight- STOREHOUSE Toolbox Organizer with 4 Drawers.
Securing the KX3 to the box was easily accomplished by substituting two longer nylon thumbscrews for the two shorter manufacturer-supplied ones. These screws extend through the case and screw into KX3. Nylon was chosen to allow easy customized lengths. The BNC antenna extends out of the case.
In addition to using the tackle box for my go-box, I also got the four insertable clear plastic containers. With the radio installed, I still have room for one container in its original position.
I can load a lot of extra supplies in these containers. You can even set up each of the four for different types of operations.
The top of the tackle box is storage space for my LiFEPO4 battery and other items. The contents can change depending on the planned operation. Here, you can see the Mic for phone operations and a DigiRig Mobile External Sound Card Interface for FT8. If doing a contest-type operation, I usually use a headset with a mic, and you can see the push-to-talk foot switch in the box ( a source of cheap light foot switches is eBay Tattooing foot switches).
I have also run cabling from the radio’s connections (Mic, Key, Headphone & Serial port) into the top area to make connections easier. To facilitate multiple connections, each uses a 3.5 mm plug 90° (connection to radio) and a splitter with two 3.5mm sockets to connect accessories. I used a label maker to label each connector’s socket ends.
Note the quick reference diagram of the KX3 mounted in the lid of the go-box. This is something I do with all of the go-boxes I build. I use tiny bungee cords on larger go boxes to securely store manuals in lid space.
I like computer logging, especially for more extended contests or Field Day operations. I use the computer to interface with the radio for this operation. This also provides me with a computer to do digital modes. I have found laptops that work with 12-volt DC to extend the usable time when AC is unavailable. I have also found PC Power Banks with 20 V DC output that can run most laptops for 24+ hours in conjunction with the laptop’s internal battery. One accessory I find essential is a simple USB storage drive with the following:
- Installation file for any computer programs I will be using (Logging software, WSJT-X, JT-Alert, etc.)
- Elecraft KX3 Control Utility (to program macros, make setting changes, etc.)
- Rig computer software Drivers for all of my radios
- Firmware for all of my radios (just in case)
- PDFs of all user manuals for any equipment I am using. Although paper manuals do not require a computer, they are heavy, easily damaged and especially not computer-searchable for the exact item I need to diagnose my issue.
The other thing the USB drive can facilitate is the emergency use of a loaner computer, which would have none of the software I would need installed.
I use a variety of antennas with my kit, but my default is a random-length Endfed connected directly to KX3’s antenna jack with a BNC splitter. My support is a 7-meter fiberglass collapsible fishing pole. Here is a table with alternative random antenna lengths to try- link#1 and link #2
For additional information on this and other portable operations packing ideas, see my Portable Operations presentation slideshow tiny.cc/portop and video https://youtu.be/It3wlq7RoUo.