Many thanks to Scott (VO1DR) who shares the following guest post:
Cheap and Bomb-Proof Field Package for the IC-705
By Scott Schillereff (VO1DR)
St. John’s, NL, Canada
Since getting my novice ticket in 1970 (WB9CXN) under the watchful direction of Charles “Rock” Rockey, W9SCH (SK), I have been a dyed-in-the-cloth homebrewer and QRPer. My one and only commercial rig before this year was a Ten Tec PM-3 I bought with paper-route money in 1971 (still have it). Fast-forward to today. I now live in Newfoundland, and Europe is as close as Georgia. I continue to build my station components and antennas. A recent sea-change though – I inherited some money and decided to splash out on a for-life rig that would serve well in the shack and on the road (RV or hiking). After researching options, I settled on the ICOM IC-705. A fantastic performer; a receiver like I’ve never heard before; more bells and whistles than I could dream of, and a form-factor like a….. delicate, expensive brick!
The 705 is not a sleek, trail-friendly radio. It’s on the heavy side and, well…awkward to pick up! But, man, what a radio! So, my first step was to buy a Windcamp ARK-705 exoskeleton. This protects the rig on all sides and gives you something to grab onto. I don’t mind the weight and size; I want this rig to be working in 25 years.
My operating interests are home use, mobile in my 25 ft motor home, and portable on day hikes. I’m new to POTA and SOTA but maybe that’s next, thanks to you, Thomas!
Many thanks to Barry (KU3X) for sharing the following guest post originally posted on his website:
ATU-10 from Banggood.com
by Barry (KU3X)
There are times I find myself in need of an ATU. One example is when I use my half wave end fed 40. I can not always erect this antenna in the clear. I did purchase the LDG Z100 Plus 705 with interfacing cable. The unit does as advertised but I am not impressed with its performance. My biggest complaint is, when interfaced and the IC-705 tells the LDG to tune and it does not know the antenna is matched and resonant, the LDG adds capacitance and inductance which actually raises the SWR. It’s too dumb to go into bypass. I resolved this by not using the interface cable. Now I only tell the LDG to tune where needed. Most of the time I turn the LDG off by toggling between bypass and tune using the button of the front of the unit.
Size matters to me and the LDG ATU is too big. Another downside is it uses SO-239 connectors instead of BNC connectors. Everything I have relating to QRP operating uses all BNC connectors, including my home brew two position antenna switch. I do want to get my hands on an Elecraft T1 ATU but Elecraft can’t get the parts from the manufactures to make them. So the hunt was on for a small ATU with internal batteries and BNC’s instead of the dreaded SO-239 connectors. Here is what I came up with.
I ordered the above pictured ATU-10 from Banggood.com. I have also seen them posted on Amazon.com. They can be found on eBay as well. I did not provide a link for ebay because some ebay adds are dated. There is a very good demo posted on YouTube. Here is an overview of the ATU-10 [PDF].
My ATU-10 arrived 11 June 2022. Here are my findings:
The package contained an Allen wrench and a USB cable for charging the battery as well as for updating the firmware. The package DID NOT include the interface cable for the Icom 705 nor did it included any paperwork…….no manual! My battery showed about half charged and firmware version 1.4 was installed. If you forget to charge the battery and go on site with a dead battery, you can supply power to the ATU-10 via the USB charging cable. You may have to give it a few minutes for the batteries to take a little charge, but from that point on just leave keep the ATU-10 connected to the USB cable.
The needed interface cable is nothing more than a stereo audio cable with 1/8″ male plugs on both ends. But, the ATU works without the interface cable, it’s just not controllable from the radio. As for the matching, I can say it works as good as or as bad as my LDG Z-100 Plus. Where ever the LDG provided a match, so did the ATU-10. On 80 meters where the LDG did not do so well, neither did the ATU-10.
I first tried the ATU-10 without the interface cable. I just sent a carrier from the radio and the tuner went into the tune mode. It’s that simple. It takes anywhere from 2 to 5 seconds to find a reasonable match.
To use the ATU-10 with the interface cable, there is the setup procedure. Hook up all of the cables, including the interface cable to the IC-705. Now turn the ATU-10 on. Once booted, turn on the IC-705. Go into the, “Function” screen and tap the, “tuner” icon. You are ready to go. You do not have to change modes to have the ATU-10 go into the tune mode. In any mode on the radio, like SSB, just key the mic and the tuner will tune. Give it a second or two and you are ready to go. Change bands and key the mic, same results. I lost communication between the radio and the ATU-10 when I went to 80 meters. I have no idea why? I just turned the radio off, then back on and everything was reset…ready to go.
When I received my ATU-10, I noticed all of the hardware was not that tight. I retightened each nut and Allen screw.
Size…the ATU-10 is small enough to carry in your shirt pocket ( 5″ x 2-3/4″ x 1″ )
Antenna connections… BNC. All of my cables used when I set up portable use BNC connectors.
Power source ….the ATU-10 has two internal rechargeable batteries so no external power source is needed. Since the ATU-10 uses latching relays, the only power that is needed is for the display. The display has a time out timer and the ATU will turn off after 30 minutes on non use. The ATU will last you for months on end before needing to be recharged.
Display… the display shows SWR, power out and the state of charge for the internal batteries. It also shows what firmware is installed. The display will fall asleep after 5 minutes of non use. If power is applied, the display will wake up. The entire ATU will turn off after 30 minutes of non use.
Bypass mode (simply turn the ATU-10 off)
Construction…..the ATU-10 is built inside of a solid metal enclosure.
Loss of communication….more than once communication was lost between the radio and the tuner. Easy fix by turning the radio off and then back on but this is very inconvenient.
No manual…..not even a little sheet of paper showing the specs. Whatever you need to know can be found on this site: ATU-10 info at GitHub.
For the price, it think this is a great buy. It does exactly what I want it to do and provides a reasonable match to make the radio happy. You can use the ATU-10 with any radio at power level of 10 watts or less. It’s a perfect size for backpackers. I don’t think the interfacing between the radio and the ATU-10 is all that importable. I myself choose not to use the interface cable. Since the tuner will go into a tune mode if the SWR is too high, that’s all that is really needed.
Many thanks to John (VE3IPS) who shares the following guest post:
Nova Scotia POTA After-Action Report
by John VE3IPS
We had planned a vacation trip out to Nova Scotia to get our lobster fix. As I always do, I prep my radio with local repeaters, look up local radio clubs, museums and check the POTA and SOTA map for locations to operate from.
I noticed that several park locations had not been activated. Thus I had an opportunity to be first activator and to get some much needed Nova Scotia parks in the Hunters logs. I printed the map and noted the park identifiers. I decided to just activate the parks that were never activated. I could have worked more parks but you have sights to see and can’t be behind the mic all the time. My antenna was prepped to be rapidly deployed in a few minutes and torn down accordingly.
I also was able to attend the Halifax ARC Hamfest on June 4, 2022.
So a vacation with ham radio elements to keep me excited with some objectives in mind.
We did visit Peggy’s Cove, Burnt Coat Head to watch the tides in the Bay of Fundy, local wineries, Lunenburg (a movie shoot was underway), the Halifax Citadel and of course eat lobster every day. I spent over $200 in gas as we did a lot of driving around (gas is just over $8 a gallon CAD), retail tax at 15% and prices for food and restaurants up by 30%. Nova Scotia is a bit more expensive than other cities.
I decided to bring my Icom 705 with a LifePO4 battery to offer 10 watts instead of the FT-891 or FT-818. Why? Because it offered a voice memory for calling CQ Parks, built in SWR meter and better IF filters over the FT-818. I wanted to cover the Marine and VHF/UHF repeaters as well and that ruled out the FT-891.
Due to the Kleenex box form factor I ended up using a Lowe Pro Omni Trekker camera bag to use as a carry on. This included a Nikon V1 camera and Binoculars.
Recently, I was in in touch with Jim (WA7VFQ) who was trying to decide which radio to take on a vacation to the North Carolina coast. He replied with details about the field kit he put together for the trip which will require air travel. Jim writes:
It wasn’t until yesterday that I decided to take my Icom IC-705 over my Elecraft KX3 [on vacation]. I had new foam for the case and last night I did my “foam plucking” and I’m pleased with the outcome. I had a couple of Icom decals and since it wasn’t the Elecraft, one of them wound up on the exterior. Some guy on the internet was touting the Tom Bihn Travel Trays; we have 4 on them, 3 large and one small. All are headed to NC with us. One of them will carry my extra radio gear.
Let there be no doubt that your speaker wire antenna is awesome! I have been licensed for 46 years but was inactive during much of that time. I finally pulled the trigger, largely on your reviews, on a new Icom IC-705, AH-705 and PowerWerx PS.
I live in a very HOA restricted area so antennas were my bane. I built your speaker wire antenna not expecting much, and for the first few days I got nada. The bands were terrible and the antenna was looped around my lanai.
On Friday I had an inspiration. I made a throw line, moved an unused bird feeder anchor post and got the antenna about 40 feet up into a tree. The wire is invisible from the street, and we have more latitude in the backyard. My wife likes it so much she wants me to just leave it there, and make another for POTA/SOTA.
Does it work? Oh my goodness… Last night I nailed 9K2BM in Kuwait on 20m SSB, and this morning the JAs were melting the face off my IC-705.
This antenna is a wonder. As is the 705, after a week of learning how to optimize the settings.
Joe, at HRO in Winter Springs warned me that the 705 had a learning curve, and I foolishly said ‘yeah, sure.’ I do this (computer science/IT/data science) for a living. Don’t worry about me.’ Wrong! A huge learning curve, but I’m getting there.
Enclosed are a few detailed pictures of the system I’m using to protect my Icom IC-705 in the wild.
I wanted a system that would protect the radio from shock and vibration when I dropped it in use, or tripped over a cable, as well as when in transit.
Some research lead me to Sorbothane, a commercial vibration damping material available in small lots on eBay, and to a Sorbothane applications engineer. The engineer recommended that a good way to protect electronics is to use a “box-in-a-box” concept where the equipment resides in an inner box with vibration dampers between the inner box an outer box.
So I started with the bottom 4.5 inches of a Harbor Freight ammo box, and added four 1/4 inch thick, 1 inch by 1 inch Sorbothane pads to the bottom and two long sides.
Then I added an aluminum plate to the inside side surfaces of the pads, and lined the plates with neoprene (see the drawing above). The neoprene adds a bit of additional padding, but primarily lets the 705 slide into “the inner box” while putting a little bit of pressure on the pads. The manufacturer recommends a slight loading pressure on the pads for proper damping.
The radio is fastened into the box with an adjustable depth 1/4-20 threaded locking knob, positioned to put a little force on the back wall vibration pads when tightened down.
The cover is made of aluminum angle stock and Lexan, and provides good protection for the front of the radio when not in use.
This “shock box” solves a lot of problems for me.
1) I can leave the cage on when operating, using dongles out the front for things I want to change like the antenna, mic, battery power, headphones or paddles. Leaving the radio in the box avoids field handling errors, to which I am prone.
2) If the internal battery needs to be changed in the field the radio comes out quickly by removing the single 1/4-20 knob and screw. But the battery can be charged in the case with a USB or power plug dongle, again avoiding handling.
3) The depth of the box protects the entire periphery of the radio front, much like the handles do for the sides of a cage, and the radio remains enclosed/covered on all sides except the front. I’ve used it in snow and rain without issues when the wind isn’t bad.
4) Impact protection is really high other than for a direct frontal panel hit within the box. The plastic box takes the first hit, deforming a bit and transferring the rest of the energy to the vibration damped inner box. Not worried about dropping the radio anymore.
5) The use of Sorbothane’s “box-in-a box” with vibration pads concept leaves a channel surrounding the radio to promote air flow and heat dissipation. For me this is much better than using the radio in a box cushioned with foam, which blocks air flow and can trap moisture.
6) The box provides a handle, which the 705 really does need in the field.
7) The footprint of the Harbor Freight box is just about a hand and glove fit in the bottom of most serious packs, making it easy to carry when backpacking.
On the downside, it’s a bit ugly, but it’s cheap, maybe $40 US to build. Other than wanting a gasket to provide better weather and dust proofing when closed, I’m happy with it.
A bit ugly? Scott, I think it looks great!
I feel like shock absorption is one of the things lacking in many of the IC-705 cage solutions out there. I always feel like when a metal/aluminum frame is paired with a hard plastic chassis, in a field drop the plastic will be the weak point.
This adds to the bulk of the IC-705 (in terms of overall size) but likely doesn’t add a lot of extra weight. In your manpack/chest pack situation, this is a great bit of engineered insurance for your $1300+ rig!
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Brooks (KO4QCC), a newly-minted ham radio operator who asked to tag along on one of my POTA field activations.
Brooks, it turns out, lives within spitting distance of a number of parks I regularly activate here in western North Carolina. He mentioned he was interested in observing an activation to learn a bit about deploying a field radio kit and, of course, to learn what it’s like to be on the air.
Brooks was also plotting the purchase of his first field radio kit and was very interested in the Icom IC-705 and MFJ-1988LP End-Fed Half-Wave (EFHW) antenna.
Of course, I welcomed him to join me but since we both have busy family lives–and my schedule especially took some twists and turns in March–it took a few weeks before our schedules aligned.
I asked Brooks if he would consider actually doing the activation himself instead of simply observing or tag-teaming it. I’m a big believer in hands-on radio time.
Brooks loved the idea!
On Sunday, March 27, 2022, a window of opportunity opened in our schedules and we agreed to meet at Tuttle Educational State Forest (K-4861). I packed my:
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really a “YouTuber” so I’m not actually inclined to capture every moment on video, but it struck me that others may appreciate experiencing (vicariously) what it’s like to do a park activation for the first time.
Prior to meeting, I asked Brooks if it would be okay if I made a video of his activation adding that there was absolutely no pressure to do so–just a thought. I’ll be the first to admit that if I were in his shoes, I’m not sure if I’d want a camera capturing my first activation jitters for all to see.
Brooks loved the idea–as he, too, saw value in this sort of video–so I brought my camera along for the ride.
Here’s a MOLLE-related [piece of field kit] you may not have seen yet.
My summer 2022 QRP /PM rig is built around a Condor chest plate – not really a pack although there is a plate carrier compartment that thinner things store in easily enough. And I often have a small accessory pouch in the chest plate.
The key ingredient is the IC-705 adapter plate, made from scrap 0.06 inch thick aluminum scrap.
The four tines that fit the chest plate MOLLE webbing are spaced per the MOOLE/PALS standard of every 1 1/2 inches, but the tines themselves are 3/4 inch wide rather than 1 inch to make them easier to insert in the chest plate.
The plate is attached to the 705 with M4 by 10 socket head screws. I first used a single quick disconnect 1/4-20 photographer’s knob, and it worked, but eventually would loosen enough that the radio would start to swivel.
The orange strap that retains the adapter plate at the top of the chest plate is riveted to the adapter plate with plastic POM rivets. The chest plate is a Condor MCR3, about 26 bucks on eBay.
The radio goes in and out of the chest plate in less than a minute, and the adapter plate can be removed in a minute or two. The radio is very stable and easy to operate.
As a bonus, the loops also hold a Buddistick mast section, then a Versatee with a Buddistick.
With the antenna in front, I can change bands and adjust the whip and coil while standing. The antenna also goes in and out of the chest plate quickly.
I’m finding it’s great fun to listen and operate on the way to and from my operating destination. Definitely the easiest /PM set I’ve had. Every control and jack, and the battery, is easily accessed with the radio attached to the plate.
It’s like the 705 was intended to be used this way!
72, keep up the great work.
Absolutely fantastic pedestrian mobile setup, Scott! I love how the custom IC-705 mounting plate makes such a stable surface for the IC-705 to be suspended as you operate. As you say, you also have very easy access to all of the station components. Brilliant!
Thank you for sharing your design notes and photos!
Because I receive so many tips from readers here on QRPer, I wanted way to share them in a concise newsletter format. To that end, welcome to QRPer Notes, a collection of links to interesting stories and tips making waves in the world of radio!
QSO Today Ham Radio Expo, March 12-13, 2020
Many thanks to Vince (VE6LK) who reminds us:
QSO Today Ham Expo is THIS WEEKEND starting on Friday evening MT and early bird tickets are only $10 until the event opens Friday evening. Drop by through the weekend and find me in the Ham Radio Workbench Lounge in between presentations of course. Your entry fee gets you 30 days of video replay for those presentations you can’t see live.
Thank you for sharing this, Barry! Funny enough, I’ve never thought to check current without the battery attached, but that makes sense. This would give us data knowing the radio isn’t using more current to recharge the battery pack at the same time.
Typically, the lower the voltage, the higher the current drain and vice-versa. Also, I believe you’re correct in that there would be some extra consumption with the voltage booster in play.
Thanks for sharing this!
DX Commander channel (temporarily?) removed from YouTube
A number of friends and readers have reached out to note that the DX Commander YouTube channel hosted by Callum (M0MCX) has been completely removed from YouTube.
Callum’s channel is incredibly popular and this removal has everyone scratching their heads, so it’s no surprise there’s wild speculation floating around out there. Don’t fall into that rabbit hole.
I fully suspect that this is simply an error on Google/YouTube’s part and that his original channel will eventually be reinstated.
Many thanks to Dave (N9EWO) who notes that Ray Novak with Icom America recently announced price increases we’ve already started seeing in 2022. Dave shares the following video from DX Engineering queued up to the point where Ray makes the announcement:
Of course, this price increase likely applies to the entire Icom range, not just the IC-705 and probably applies internationally since all Icom products are produced at the same facilities. It appears the increase is roughly 5 to 6 %.
A few Discovery TX-500s in stock
Speaking of Ham Radio Outlet, I received a message from Owen (KB2QQM) with HRO who notes:
If you know anyone that wants a TX-500 we have 4 ready to ship.
Just a heads up. I’m enjoying your videos of POTA and the website.
Thank you for the heads-up, Owen. As I post the link this morning, I see that HRO may already have sold these units (that was fast!). If interested in one of these units, you may wish to call HRO and confirm if you’re interested.
POTA this morning!
As a side note, Hazel and I are hitting the trail in a few minutes and plan to activate both Pisgah Forest (K-4510) and Pisgah Game Lands (K-6937) as a two-fer.
We’ll be taking the new Xiegu X6100.
It may be too late by the time you read this (it’s 12:30 UTC, January 6, 2022 now), but readers have asked me to announce when I might be doing part of an activation in SSB and since I was making a QRPer Notes post, I thought I’d add this.
I plan to include some SSB time this morning,if I can get spotted. The area where I plan to set up has no Internet coverage whatsoever–it’s in a very deep valley–but I hope to send a text via my Garmin In-Reach Mini to have friends spot me.
Listen for me in/around 7188 kHz (+/- 5 kHz depending on available frequencies) around 14:15 UTC (+/- 30 minutes). I’ll start the activation on 40 meters CW.