Tag Archives: Go Kit

The Icom IC-705 is getting a rugged, weatherproof case

I love my Icom IC-705–just check out my review if you need proof–and I love taking it to the field.

It’s a very compact radio for being so incredibly feature-rich and I love the portability simply using the attached battery pack. Since I operate mostly 5 watts with all my rigs, I rarely bother bringing an extra battery with it in the field.

With that said, I worry about the IC-705 more than any other portable radio I take to the field.

For one thing, it’s a $1,300 US rig. That’s not chump change for most of us.

The IC-705 also has a large color touch screen display. In fact, it’s the only field portable radio I own with a touch screen display. The touch screen has a matte finish and is pressure-sensitive rather than capacitive like most tablets and smart phones. Many capacitive screens use something like Corning Gorilla Glass which is actually quite durable and resistant to scratching and puncturing. It’s not perfect by any means (I think we’ve all shattered or broken a capacitive screen) but they’re more durable than the pressure-sensitive screen on the IC-705.

The IC-705 chassis feels very solid and it seems to be sealed very well, but at the end of the day, the chassis is make of a durable plastic material which is prone to scratching and I have to assume easier to damage than, say, the FT-817ND’s metal chassis.

Ray Novak with Icom America is a friend and when I took delivery of the IC-705 I mentioned how I felt protective of it in the field, fearing I might damage it in my backpack or even tumbling off a rock during a SOTA activation. Ray basically said that, as with everything new, I’ll get used to it and become more comfortable in the field.

I’ve never completely gotten there, though, and I’ve had this radio for a good nine months now.

I’m a backpack guy, so when the IC-705 is packed for field action in one of my Red Oxx or GoRuck backpacks, I house the IC-705 in a $14 Ape Case Camera insert. It’s not perfect, but fits it well.

I mentioned in my review that I eventually wanted to find a better solution.

I’ve looked at a number of 3rd party “cages” and numerous readers and YouTube channel viewers have recommended the IC-705 Carry Cage by Peovi. From what I’ve seen, it looks to be the best of the bunch, but it doesn’t do a lot to protect the lower back portion of the radio–the part of the chassis that meets a surface. I feel like it’s not quite what I’d want, thus hard to justify $135 for it (Peovi, send me a loaner to try out if you wish to prove me wrong.)

Other aluminum and 3D printed cages seem to add too much bulk to the radio or obstruct some of the most common connection points on the sides (antenna, key, ATU control cable, speaker/mic, etc.).

The form factor of the IC-705 is otherwise fine, but its chassis design does make it a little more difficult to protect than, say the KX3 or FT-817/818.

I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the time I use the IC-705, it’s on POTA activations where it’s sitting on a picnic table. Although I’m a backpack guy, this is the perfect time to kit out a ruggedized, weatherproof case.

Which case?

I started looking at cases last week and, being transparent, I’m a bit of a snob about these things. I want a case that’s made by a reputable company to protect the ‘705–I’m not going to hunt for one at a Walmart or Canadian Tire.

I’ve owned a few Pelican cases over the years. All have been smaller ones like the Pelican 1060 I’ve used with my KX1s.  Pelican has a solid reputation and are certainly the best-known in this market and Pelican still makes all of their cases in the USA.

I’ve also been looking for a reason to try the case manufacturer, Nanuk. They design and manufacture all of their products in Canada and have a great reputation. Their pricing is the same or, at times, even slightly more competitive than Pelican for comparable cases.

Although I rarely care about the color, I decided I wanted a light grey or silver color for this case as opposed to black (my standard default), yellow, or another bright color.

In the Nanuk case line, their Nanuk 915 was probably the correct size to give the IC-705 enough padding, and allow space for all other accessories and items I’d need in the field.

In the Pelican line, I liked the Pelican 1400.

I was just about to pull trigger on the Nanuk 915 via the Nanuk website and decided it would make sense to also check pricing on Amazon.com for both units.

The Nanuk 915 was about $76 (affiliate link) with the pick foam insert–a great price–but only that price in the black color. The silver color was about $97.

I then checked the Pelican 1400. The black case with foam insert was $95, but the silver one was $79.95. Since I really wanted silver and since I had a slight preference for the 1400’s dimensions, I purchased the Silver Pelican 1400 (again, affiliate link).

Amazon offers free no-hassle returns, so once I receive the 1400 next week, I’ll carefully measure and double check everything before digging into the pick foam!

A case for advice…

I’ve never kitted out a larger Pelican case with radio gear. I would welcome any and all advise from those of you who have. Since it’s easy to remove pick foam, but impossible to put it back if done incorrectly, I really want to follow best practices.  Please comment!

Mark discovers an affordable IP67 rated protective case for the Yaesu FT-891

Many thanks to Mark Hirst who writes:

Thomas,

I got a new FT-891 recently and wanted a protective case for taking it out into the field.

A mixture of internet searches and Amazon algorithms turned up this very affordable case which closely matches the size of the radio, as the enclosed photograph shows.

It uses the familiar pick and pluck foam, although in two layers.

The base layer is a bit thin, so I might put a layer of rigid plastic over it to stop the feet of the radio pushing down to the outer case.

I prioritised the side wall thickness opposite from the carry handle, as the case is designed to sit on its side like a briefcase.

Via Amazon USA ($29.31)

Via Amazon UK (£20.99)

Mark

Wow, Mark! I do love the size of this case and the fact that it fits the FT-891 so perfectly.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about building out a case to hold one of my smaller QRP transceivers (the KX1, KX2, or MTR3B) in the field to be used when it’s raining. Perhaps this has been on my mind because I’ve been enjoying nearly 5 straight days of rain and fog! A case like this would be an affordable solution and I wouldn’t feel terribly bad about drilling through the case to mount antenna, key, mic, and headphone ports.

Thank you again for the tip!

Note that the Amazon affiliate links above support the QRPer at no cost to you. If you’d rather not use these links, simply search Amazon for “Max MAX004S.” Thank you!

The Elecraft KX1: Reunited and it feels so good.

The Elecraft KX1

A few weeks ago, I published a post about radios I’ve regretted selling or giving away.

Number one on that list was the Elecraft KX1.

Within a couple hours of posting that article, I had already purchased a KX1 I found on the QTH.com classifieds. It was, by any definition, an impulse purchase.

The seller, who lives about 2 hours from my QTH, described his KX1 as the full package: a complete 3 band (40/30/20M) KX1 with all of the items needed to get on the air (save batteries) in a Pelican 1060 Micro Case.

The KX1 I owned in the past was a four bander (80/40/30/20M) and I already double checked to make sure Elecraft still had a few of their 80/30 module kits available (they do!).  I do operate 80M in the field on occasion, but I really wanted the 80/30 module to get full use of the expanded HF receiver range which allows me to zero-beat broadcast stations and do a little SWLing while in the field.

The seller shipped the radio that same afternoon and I purchased it for $300 (plus shipping) based purely on his good word.

The KX1 package

I’ll admit, I was a bit nervous: I hadn’t asked all of the typical questions about dents/dings, if it smelled of cigarette smoke, and hadn’t even asked for photos. I just had a feeling it would all be good (but please, never follow my example here–I was drunk with excitement).

Here’s the photo I took after removing the Pelican case from the shipping box and opening it for the first time:

My jaw dropped.

The seller was right: everything I needed (and more!) was in the Pelican case with the KX1. Not only that, everything was labeled. An indication that the previous owner took pride in this little radio.

I don’t think the seller actually put this kit together. He bought it this way two years ago and I don’t think he ever even put it on the air based on his note to me. He sold the KX1 because he wasn’t using it.

I don’t know who the original owner was, but they did a fabulous job not only putting this field kit together, but also soldering/building the KX1. I hope the original owner reads this article sometime and steps forward.

You might note in the photo that there’s even a quick reference sheet, Morse Code reference sheet and QRP calling frequencies list attached to the Pelican’s lid inside. How clever!

I plan to replace the Morse Code sheet with a list of POTA and SOTA park/summit references and re-print the QRP calling frequencies sheet. But other than that, I’m leaving it all as-is. This might be the only time I’ve ever purchased a “package” transceiver and not modified it in some significant way.

Speaking of modifying: that 80/30 meter module? Glad I didn’t purchase one.

After putting the KX1 on a dummy load, I checked each band for output power. Band changes are made on the KX1 by pressing the “Band” button which cycles through the bands one-way. It started on 40 meters, then on to 30 meters, and 20 meters. All tested fine. Then I pressed the band button to return to 40 meters and the KX1 dived down to the 80 meter band!

Turns out, this is a four band KX1! Woo hoo! That saved me from having to purchase the $90 30/80M kit (although admittedly, I was looking forward to building it).

Photos

The only issue with the KX1 was that its paddles would only send “dit dah” from either side. I was able to fix this, though, by disassembling the paddles and fixing a short.

Although I’m currently in the process of testing the Icom IC-705, I’ve taken the KX1 along on a number of my park adventures and switched it out during band changes.

Indeed, my first two contacts were made using some nearly-depleted AA rechargeables on 30 meters: I worked a station in Iowa and one in Kansas with perhaps 1.5 watts of output power.

I’m super pleased to have the KX1 back in my field radio arsenal.

I name radios I plan to keep for the long-haul, so I dubbed this little KX1 “Ruby” after one of my favorite actresses, Barbara Stanwyck.

Look for Ruby and me on the air at a park or summit near you!

Scott’s Elecraft KX3 Go-Box

[Note: this article was originally posted on my shortwave radio blog, The SWLing Post.]

Many thanks to Scott (AK5SD) who shares the following photos and bill of materials for his custom Elecraft KX3 go-box:


IMG_0531 IMG_0534

IMG_0532 IMG_0535 IMG_0537 IMG_0536

Bill of materials

The panel was custom laser cut by Front Panel Express. I have the CAD
file and I’m willing to share it with anyone who wants to reproduce my effort.

Amazon.com
Case B&W Type 1000 Outdoor Case with SI Foam
You won’t use the foam, so you can buy the version without it if you can find it cheaper.

Battery Anker Astro Pro2 20000mAh Multi-Voltage (5V 12V 16V 19V)
Portable Charger External Battery Power Bank
Avoid look alike batteries and the next generation model from Anker. The newer Anker
battery is only capable of delivering 1.5A from the 12V supply. Two look alike batteries
I tried did not have the auto-off feature that the Anker does.

Vetco.net
ACC2 and I/Q Jacks 2 x 2.5mm Stereo Jack Panel Mount (PH-666J-B)
Phone, Key, and ACC1 3 x 3.5mm Stereo Jack Panel Mount (High Quality) (PH-504KB)
Mic Jack 1 x 3.5mm 4 Conductor Jack Panel Mount (PH-70-088B)
12V IN and CHG IN 2 x 2.1mm DC Power Panel Mount Jack (PH-2112)
12V OUT 1 x 2.5mm DC Power Panel Mount Jack (PH-2512)

You also need plugs and wire for interconnects. I bought some 2.5mm (CES-11-5502)
and 3.5mm (PH-44-468 for stereo, PH-44-470 for 4-conductor) audio cables with right
angle plugs and just cut them to use for the signal lines going to the KX3. I did the same
thing for the 2.5mm (PH-TC250) and 2.1mm (PH-TC210) power cables. A couple of
caveats are in order. The Phone, Key, and ACC1 interconnects require low profile
right angle connectors. The cables I listed above won’t work. Vetco part number
VUPN10338 will work. The power cables I’ve listed above use 24 gauge wire. This
is a little light, but the runs are small so I think it is OK. You can use higher gauge
cables if you can find a source.

USBfirewire.com
USB OUT USB 2.0 Right Angle Extension Cable (RR-AAR04P-20G)

Digikey.com
L Brackets 8 x Bracket Rt Ang Mount 4-40 Steel (612K-ND)
These L brackets are used to mount the KX3 to the panel and the panel to the case.
For mounting the KX3, I use a little piece of stick on felt on the bracket to protect the
KX3’s cabinet from damage. Replace the KX3’s screws with #4-40 Thread Size, 1/4”
Length Steel Pan Head Machine Screw, Black Oxide Finish (see below). For the panel
mounting, use #6-32 Thread Size, 3/16” Length self tapping sheet metal screw. You
may need to cut the tip off in order to not puncture the outside of the case.

RG316 BNC Male Angle to BNC Female SM Bulkhead Coaxial RF Pigtail Cable (6”)
This is not the original interconnect I used for connecting the KX3’s antenna output to
the panel. However, I think it is a better option for new designs. The caveat is that you
will need to verify the hole in the panel matches the bulkhead connector on this cable.
There will be a little loop in the cable when you are done, but that is fine.

Micrfasteners.com
Screws for Sound Card 2 x FMSP2510 – M 2.5 x .45 x 10mm
Screws for KX3 Bracket Mount 4 x MSPPK0404 – 4-40 x 1/4
Screws for Countersunk Panel Holes 8 x FMPPK0403 – 4-40 x 3/16
Screws for USB Connector *** 2 x FMPPK0406 – 4-40 x 3/8

I’m pretty sure these are the right length for the USB connector. I am doing it from memory.

Amazon.com or eBay.com
Soundmatters foxL DASH A Wireless Bluetooth Soundbar (OPTIONAL)

Sonoma Wire Works GJ2USB GuitarJack 2 USB Portable Audio Interface (OPTIONAL)
(Make sure you get the USB model, not the 30-pin model.)

This is optional if you want a built-in sound card interface for a waterfall display using iSDR. Make sure to eliminate the holes in the upper left corner of the panel if you are not installing. You will also need 2.5mm x 10mm screws to mount this to the bottom of the panel (see below).

bhi Compact In-Line Noise Eliminating Module (OPTIONAL)

In my opinion, the KX3’s noise reduction is totally ineffective for SSB communications. This external noise reducing DSP is one solution, albeit an expensive one, to that problem. It is only for SSB, not CW or digital modes. It is also available from GAP Antenna Products.

IMG_0530


Scott: you have done a beautiful job here and have spared no expense to make a wonderfully-engineered and rugged go-box. No doubt, you’re ready to take your KX3 to the field and enjoy world-class performance on a moment’s notice. 

Though I’ve never used them personally, I’ve noticed others who have taken advantage of the Front Panel Express engraving service–certainly makes for a polished and professional front panel.

Again, many thanks for not only sharing your photos, but also your bill of materials which will make it much easier for others to draw inspiration from your design!

AK5SD_QSL_Card

Speaking of designs, when I looked up Scott on QRZ.com, I noticed that he also sports a QSL card (above) designed by my good friend, Jeff Murray (K1NSS). Obviously, Scott is a man with good taste!