Many thanks to Tom (VA2NW) 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.
VA2NW’s Icom IC-705 Field Kit
by Tom (VA2NW)
I got my start in field radio with Summits on the Air (SOTA) a little over 12 years ago. With SOTA, size and weight are the main considerations when building out a field kit; you have to haul everything up a mountain after all.
These days, my focus has shifted to Parks on the Air (POTA). With POTA, activations I don’t need to include any hiking at all. With that in mind, I decided to build a field kit that focused on high quality gear to maximize performance and enjoyment while minimizing my impact on nature (i.e. no wires in trees, no spikes in the ground, etc).
The ideal use case for this kit is a rural POTA park or a low difficulty SOTA summit that involves zero to twenty minutes of hiking or walking for a medium length activation of one to three hours with a maximum setup and teardown time of ten minutes. This article showcases the various items in the field kit and provides some context on the decisions that were made about what I’ve included.
After buying and trying many QRP radios, I decided that I wanted an all band all mode QRP radio with a waterfall display, SWR sweep, tuning knob (Sorry KD1JV), CW filters, optional battery pack which can be removed or replaced easily in the field, full 5W output, reasonable power consumption, plenty of options for accessories, a large community, well written manuals, availability for purchase without a long backorder, and easy configuration with touch screen and/or intuitive menus.
The Icom IC-705 fit the bill.
Several of the Xiegu brand radios come close to meeting these requirements and are much more budget-friendly. However, I have encountered some issues with my Xiegu X6100 becoming too hot to touch in the first half hour of a normal CW activation, and that was concerning enough to me to take it out of contention for being my main portable transceiver.
For the key, I chose the CW Morse double lever paddles with steel base. The base does add weight to the kit, but this key fits my operating style perfectly. I key with my left hand and write with my right hand, so having a solid base that keeps the key from moving when in use helps me avoid having to hold the key with my non-keying hand. The paddles are good quality and won’t break the bank. I really like the feel of the hard stop when the paddles hit the contacts.
The paddles are easy to use with or without gloves which is a huge plus where I operate in Canada.
Antenna and feedline
Throughout the years, I’ve experimented with many different types of antennas from simple wire antennas to magnetic loops to yagis to verticals and more. I’ve gone on many group outings and have gotten to see a lot of options. I live in Canada, and I wanted something I can use all year round. As I realized in the field last November with my JPC-12 ground spike vertical, you can’t drive a ground spike into the ground when the ground is frozen. I’m a big fan of wire antennas; however, I’ve never found a support system that I liked. Tree branches can break easily, especially in the winter, damaging the trees. Additionally, not all locations have suitable trees.
Telescoping poles are an alternative but need some sort of support, usually with something in the ground. Magnetic loops don’t require anything in trees or in the ground, but dealing with the narrow bandwidth and constant re-tuning makes searching and pouncing quite a chore. An antenna that can cover the most activte POTA bands, 20m and 40m, is also important to me. My last requirement for an antenna is one that doesn’t require an external tuner; manual tuners require some fiddling and auto-tuners generally require some sort of power supply and coax jumper. In both cases, external tuners generally have some amount of insertion loss.
Those requirements led me to focus in on a tripod mounted vertical antenna. There are several options in this space including the SuperAntenna, Slidewinder, Wolf River Coils, JPC-12 with tripod, REZ Ranger 80, and others. I ultimately picked the REZ Ranger 80. The key features that led me to choosing the REZ Ranger 80 were the quality, the bands supported, the online reviews, and the availability to ship to Canada without backorder nor complicated ordering process. It’s built like a tank, can go all the way down to 80m, has glowing online reviews, was in-stock, and I could take care of the customs and import fees at time of purchase with DX Engineering. Continue reading Field Radio Kit Gallery: VA2NW’s Icom IC-705 Field Kit