Tag Archives: Yaesu FT-817ND

New Year’s Day POTA: New VK3IL Pressure Paddle, New FT-817/818 Narrow Filter, and New TPA-817 Pack Frame!

I try to start each year by doing a POTA or SOTA activation on New Year’s Day.

POTA actually issues a certificate for completing an activation on New Year’s Day so there are typically loads of activators and hunters working the bands. It’s an ideal time to play radio.

This year, we had a number of family activities on New Year’s Day, but I made a little time to fit in an activation during the late afternoon at my most accessible spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway: the Southern Highland Folk Art Center.

As with my last activation, I suspected I would be operating in the dark, so I brought my LED lantern along for the ride.

Although not intentional, this New Year activation had a lot of new-to-me stuff involved!

New VK3IL Pressure Paddle

The prior evening–on New Year’s Eve–while my wife and daughters were watching a classic movie movie marathon, I used the time to heat up the soldering iron and work through a few kits and projects that had been sitting on my desk.

One of those projects was a Pressure Paddle designed by David (VK3IL).

Michael (G0POT) sent me the Pressure Paddle circuit board and heat shrink via Andy (G7UHN) several months prior. [Thank you so much, fellas!]

To my knowledge, the VK3IL Pressure Paddle isn’t available in complete kit package, but it’s quite easy to source everything yourself.

On his website, David provides the Gerber files you’ll need in order to purchase the circuit boards from your favorite manufacturer (I’m a huge fan of OshPark here in the States).

Next, you simply need to order the components. Here’s the list assuming you’re using DigiKey:

  • Quantity of 2: 732-7579-1-ND (CAP CER 10000PF 10V C0G/NP0 0805)
  • Quantity of 2: BSS806NH6327XTSA1CT-ND (MOSFET N-CH 20V 2.3A SOT23-3)
  • Quantity of 2: 311-470KCRCT-ND (RES 470K OHM 1% 1/8W 0805)
  • Quantity of 2: 1738-SEN0294-ND (RP-C18.3-ST THIN FILM PRESSURE S)
  • Quanity of 1: Three conductor wire with a (typically) 3.5mm plug (note that I had one of these in my junk drawer)

Keep in mind: the components are surface-mount. If you’re not used to working with SMD components (ahem…that would be me) I suggest buying a few spares of each in case you lose or damage one or more during the build.

It also helps to cover the finished board in heat shrink not only to protect the board and make it easier to grip, but most importantly (if you’re me) hide your electrically-sound yet unsightly surface mount soldering job.

The build might have taken me 20 minutes.

New FT-817ND Narrow CW Filter

Some time ago, I purchased a second FT-817ND with the idea of doing full-duplex satellite work. I later realized I could be taking the second FT-817ND out to the field more often if I simply had another narrow CW filter installed, so I built one.

This New Year’s Day activation was actually the first time I’d taken this particular FT-817ND and its new narrow filter out to the field!

New Armoloq TPA-817 Pack Frame

Earlier this year, I also decided that I wanted to outfit my 2nd Yaesu FT-817ND with an Armoloq TPA-817 pack frame. The idea was to experiment with building a rapid-deployment field kit around it.

This is actually one of the big projects I’m working on in 2023. I’ve yet to sort out the antenna mount I’d like to use with this frame based on how I plan to deploy it. Continue reading New Year’s Day POTA: New VK3IL Pressure Paddle, New FT-817/818 Narrow Filter, and New TPA-817 Pack Frame!

If Yaesu designed an FT-818 replacement…what would you like to see?

We hams can be quite opinionated when it comes to our radios.

After Yaesu announced last week that it was discontinuing production of the FT-818ND, hams across the globe expressed their opinions about this pint-sized rig.

It seemed to me that the majority who posted messages in email groups and on social media had high praise for the FT-817/818. Indeed, many of those same people purchased an FT-818ND the same day of the announcement. The rush of FT-818ND purchases wiped out new inventory at most US retailers overnight.

Not everyone had praise for the FT-817/818 series, though. Many felt the ‘818 was a relic of the past and irrelevant in 2023. Some even posted long “good riddance” rants about the FT-818.

Let’s face it…

Our love of radios is highly subjective

What one person loves, someone else might hate. This is especially the case in the incredibly diverse ham radio world where radios are used in different parts of the spectrum, with different modes, for different activities, and in different operating environments. Continue reading If Yaesu designed an FT-818 replacement…what would you like to see?

The enduring Yaesu FT-817 and FT-818 series transceivers

The following article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue of The Spectrum Monitor magazine:


The enduring Yaesu FT-817 and FT-818 series transceivers

by Thomas (K4SWL)

Last April, our family went on a camping trip at New River State Park in Ashe County, North Carolina; we had an absolutely brilliant time.

Naturally, as with any camping trip or extended travel, I’d put a lot of thought into choosing the portable transceiver and field kit to take along.

The great thing about camping at a state park is that I can “activate” that park via the “Parks On The Air” (POTA) or “Worldwide Flora and Fauna” (WWFF) programs pretty much anytime: early morning, late afternoon, or even in a late shift well into the night. Or, of course, all of the above.  Since my activation site is also where I’m eating and sleeping, my radio usually gets heavy use.

Before leaving on that April camping trip, I knew what radio I wanted to operate the bulk of the time: my Yaesu FT-817ND. For a lot of reasons which  I’ll delve into later, I think the FT-817ND (or its latest iteration, the FT-818ND) is an amazing QRP field radio.

Despite unstable propagation and a little campground QRM that moved in over the weekend––no doubt from a neighboring RV, chock full of noisy switching power supplies––I found the FT-817ND activation to be a most enjoyable experience. I posted a few field reports and activation videos from my New River activations on QRPer.com

The thing is, each time I publish a field report using the FT-817ND, I receive a string of questions from subscribers and readers. Questions such as…

  • Should I buy a new FT-818 or a used FT-817?
  • Why do you like the FT-817ND so much?
  • What’s the difference between the 817 and 818?
  • How does the FT-817/818 compare with _____ radio?

Most queries, however, are a version of this comment from reader David:

“We have such a wide array of QRP rigs available to us these days, I’m curious what brings you back to the Yaesu for activations? It’s bigger than our more modern radios, with no ATU and more current draw.   I’m just wondering if there is something that you find it does particularly well, or if it’s just ‘because I like to use it,’ which to me is an entirely valid reason, too! My 897 served me well, as does my 891; I’ve had Yaesu handhelds forever, so I’m certainly a fan. I don’t own an 817/8 but they have a devoted following so I just wanted to get your perspective on it.”

Or as another subscriber distilled the question:

“Why choose a legacy design like the 817/818 when newer QRP transceivers have better overall field specs and features?”

Of course, these types of questions are simple enough when it comes to asking, but when it comes to answering, much more complex.

Of course, as I said in my recent TSM article about choosing a field radio, one’s love of a particular radio is by definition quite subjective, and this certainly applies to my response…we all have our own personal preferences.  But behind these preferences are objective facts, such as product’s unique features, specifications, and form factor; let’s take a look at these.

Continue reading The enduring Yaesu FT-817 and FT-818 series transceivers

Yaesu FT-817ND: A morning QRP POTA activation at New River State Park

No better way to start a QRP day…

I took the family on a multi-day camping trip at New River State Park in April 2022.  During that trip, I made an activation of New River each day and also fit in a quick SOTA activation (click here to read an overview). I didn’t film all of my on-the-air because some of that radio time was spent sitting around chatting with my family and even some neighbors at the campground.

Since I’ve already posted a summary of that fine trip, and since I’m traveling today, I’ll keep this field report brief(er).

Morning POTA

One thing I love about POTA while camping is how effortless it is to do morning activations. You simply roll out of bed and get on the air. That easy.

The following field report was for an activation session on the morning of April 29, 2022.

I spent the early morning that day brewing a couple cups of coffee and catching up on my QRP Quarterly and QST, then I took Hazel on a short hike.

Back at the campsite, I served Hazel some breakfast and then she enjoyed her first of many morning naps. (I swear that dog is only awake a max of one hour per day–!). Continue reading Yaesu FT-817ND: A morning QRP POTA activation at New River State Park

Rough conditions but serious QRP POTA fun at New River State Park

The New River (Photo by K4TLI)

You might recall from my previous field report that I took the family on a camping trip at New River State Park in April 2022.  During that trip, I made an activation of New River each day and also fit in a very fun SOTA activation (click here to read an overview).

Note that anytime you’re performing an activation over multiple days at any one park, you can only have one activation per UTC day.

The following brief field report is essentially my “Part 2” from April 28, 2022. Since I’d already worked well over my ten contacts in the previous activation session that UTC day, all of these contacts were simply icing on the cake!

Keeping this one brief(er)

I’ve an insanely busy day today, what with exam study, errands, splitting firewood, and prep for our summer travels.

That said, I wanted to squeeze in an activation video and field report because the rest of the week is even crazier. Continue reading Rough conditions but serious QRP POTA fun at New River State Park

Solar POTA: Pairing the Buddipole PowerMini 2 with folding panels and the FT-817ND at New River State Park

Photo by K4TLI

I’m often asked if I ever charge my LiFePo4 batteries in the field via solar energy.

Truth is, I’m a big fan of solar, but I’m rarely in the field long enough to need to recharge my batteries via solar when performing SOTA and POTA field activations. It’s easier to charge them at home in advance (often via the solar system at our QTH).

In fact, one of my 3 Ah LiFePo4 Bioenno batteries can easily take me though 3-5 activations or possibly more, depending on the length of the activation and the rig I’m using.

Photo by K4TLI

For longer forays into the field, however, I love going solar.

Indeed, every few years, my family will stay in an off-grid cabin on Prince Edward Island (Canada) for up to 6 weeks at a time. Solar is the only practical way to stay on the air that length of time.

Of course, I also like having a solar option, when doing proper primitive/off-grid tent camping.

In the past, I’ve used a very simple portable solar charging system based on a variety of rigid and folding panels, a Micro M+ charge controller, and sealed lead acid batteries. The batteries are of course heavy, but they work brilliantly for fixed operations.

These days, I’m fully invested in LiFePo4 batteries and my Micro M+ charge controller is not really designed to pair with the BMS (battery management system) in my Bioenno packs.

Bioenno sells a number of affordable solar charge controllers, but most resemble units that are used in permanent installations.  I wanted something more portable and, ideally, something with Anderson PowerPole connections.

Late last year, I discovered the Buddipole PowerMini 2:

Photo by Buddipole

I contacted Buddipole with a few questions about the unit and to find out when they would be in stock again (at the time, they were on back-order and indeed they are at time posting this report).

Turns out, they were to be restocked the next day, so as soon as inventory was showing on the site, I ordered one. Continue reading Solar POTA: Pairing the Buddipole PowerMini 2 with folding panels and the FT-817ND at New River State Park

A little off-grid radio and offline camping!

If you were hunting POTA contacts last week, you might have seen my callsign pop up in the spots quite a few times at New River State Park (K-2748).

Morning reading along with a proper brew in my C.R.A.Q. coffee mug!

Our family decided to take a little break from everything–including the internet–and simply enjoy the great outdoors and a little camping in our small travel trailer (caravan).

Our ferocious guard dog protecting the camp site from hostile invaders. Note that she’s actually awake and alert. A rarity indeed!

It was amazing fun.

In terms of radios, I limited myself to two. While we had room for more, I decided in advance I wanted to spend some proper bonding time with my Yaesu FT-817ND.

I’m so glad I did.

I also brought the Elecraft KX2 but primarily planned to use it when operating off-site. This way, I could keep the FT-817ND system hooked up and ready for action at our camp site.

In fact, the KX2 remained in my SOTA pack for the duration of the trip as a grab-and-go. I had an absolute blast with it activating the summit of Mount Jefferson.

Solar power

This camping trip gave me an excuse to use a station accessory I purchased last year: my Buddipole Powermini 2.

The Powermini 2 is a very compact and capable charge controller with an input for solar panels, a battery, two DC outputs, and even a USB power output. A genius little device.

I’ve been asked a number of times why I don’t do solar charging in the field during my activations. There are a few reasons, actually:

  • First of all, my activations tend to be short in duration–perhaps 45 to 75 minutes. I could easily operate for a few hours on one battery charge with most of my QRP radios. In other words, I rarely need to recharge in the field.
  • Often, my field activation sites are shaded by choice. Since I like to hang wires in trees, those same trees would block sunlight from ever hitting my panels.
  • Finally, unless I’m testing a new radio, I tend to take the least amount of accessories necessary to complete the activation. This is especially the case with SOTA activations. Since I’m unlikely to use solar panels, I leave them in the car or at the QTH. I do, however, keep them packed and at-the-ready should the need arise.

I paired the Powermini 2 with PowerFilm Solar folding panels I purchased many moons ago at Hamvention (I’m guessing in 2012 or so–?). These were blemished units and I snagged them for a brilliant price. Looking back, I wish I would have purchased a few more.

They’re only 5 watts each, but I run them in parallel to feed the charge controller with the equivalent of 10 watts.

QRP gear is so efficient, these modest panels actually do a respectable job keeping the battery topped off. At New River State Park it helped that our picnic table was in full sunlight most of the day.

Sure, we had shore power at the site, but where’s the fun in that?

QRM

During the week, the site had low levels of RFI/QRM. That all changed during the weekend when new campers moved in along with their leaky switching power supplies and noisy inverters.

On Saturday, I found it too frustrating to try making contacts from the campsite–the noise floor was a steady S7 with peaks around S9 simply washing over all but the strongest signals. I regretted not packing my Chameleon loop antenna.

Instead of fighting the QRM, I abandoned it. I drove to a large isolated picnic shelter at New River and set up the KX2 and CHA MPAS Lite antenna.

The site was noise-free and I had amazing fun.

Videos

I made quite a few activation videos, so I’ll eventually post them with abbreviated field reports.

Frankly, I am still catching up from having been offline so long.

Thank you

Massive thanks to my good friend Eric (WD8RIF) who took care of QRPer.com while I was gone. He’s been moderating comments and making sure scheduled posts published properly. In fact, my friend Robert Gulley (K4PKM) was holding down the fort over on the SWLing Post too. I’m so thankful to both of them.

Also, many thanks to all of the hunters who worked me on multiple bands and in multiple modes. A special shot out to NE4TN who was a life saver and spotted me on several occasions when the connection between the POTA site and Reverse Beacon Network were down. Many thanks, OM!

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. Your support actually helps to make radio fun like this possible.

Here’s wishing everyone an amazing weekend!

Cheers & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

POTA RaDAR Run Activation #3: Table Rock Fish Hatchery

On January 26, 2022, I decided to fit in multiple park activations in one day as a RaDAR (Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio) run. My hope was to activate four or five sites between 14:00 – 21:30 UTC.

Here are the field reports and videos of my first two activations from this run:

The next park in my run (#3) was Table Rock Fish Hatchery, a good 40 minute drive from the spot where I operated at activation #2.

The drive to Table Rock was most pleasant and I stopped a couple times to take in views along the forest service road leading down the mountain.

I was pointing my finger and saying, “I’m going to activate your summit soon, Table Rock!”

I mentioned in a previous post that I made this RaDAR run unnecessarily more complicated by deploying a different antenna and radio combo at each site.

On the drive to the fish hatchery, I decided to use the PackTenna 9:1 UNUN random wire antenna and pair it with my Yaesu FT-817ND.

It had been a while since I used the FT-817ND in the field, so I was very much looking forward to putting it on the air! Continue reading POTA RaDAR Run Activation #3: Table Rock Fish Hatchery

POTA Field Report: Picnic table activation with the FT-817ND, CHA UCM, and MPAS Lite

The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the easiest POTA sites for me to activate when I’m at the QTH.

Pretty much anytime I head into Asheville from home, I’m going to cross the parkway. The BRP is such a refuge, I often take it to avoid hitting the Interstate or a busy highways. It takes longer, but it’s orders of magnitude more peaceful and pleasant than, say, Interstate 40.

On Monday, September 13, 2021, I had a small opening in my schedule in the afternoon and decided to  pop by the Folk Art Center for a quick picnic table activation since I was passing by.

The Folk Art Center is a site where I typically deploy smaller, lower-profile antennas to keep from interfering with others who are enjoying the park.  I try to keep my antennas very close to my operating spot and my counterpoises on the ground in a space where others aren’t likely to tread.

In the past, I’ve used the Wolf River Coils TIA, the Elecraft AX1, Chameleon MPAS Lite & MPAS 2.0, and once, a Packtenna 9:1 UNUN random wire. I avoid anything that slopes so that I don’t inadvertently “clothesline” unsuspecting vacationers!

On this trip, I had the Chameleon MPAS Lite vertical and a new toy: the Chameleon Universal Clamp Mount (CHA UCM).

Continue reading POTA Field Report: Picnic table activation with the FT-817ND, CHA UCM, and MPAS Lite

Activating Pilot Mountain State Park on a beautiful summer afternoon

After a successful SOTA and POTA activation at Hanging Rock State Park on Tuesday, July 13, 2021, I drove to nearby Pilot Mountain State Park. It was quite warm, but a beautiful day with no afternoon thunderstorms in sight.

I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play a little more radio. As the French say, “Il faut en profiter!

Although I’ve seen Pilot Mountain numerous times in my travels, I had never actually visited the park so this was a new-to-me park activation.

Pilot mountain is a landmark in the Yadkin river valley and has a fascinating back story.

Per Pilot Mountain State Park’s website:

“Pilot Mountain is a remnant of the ancient Sauratown Mountains. A quartzite monadnock, this rugged mountain rock has survived for millions of years while the elements have eroded surrounding peaks to a rolling plain.

Pilot Mountain is capped by two prominent pinnacles. Big Pinnacle, with walls of bare rock and a rounded top covered by vegetation, rises 1,400 feet above the valley floor, the knob jutting skyward more than 200 feet from its base. Big Pinnacle is connected to Little Pinnacle by a narrow saddle.

The mountain was mapped in 1751 by Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson, father of President Thomas Jefferson. Pilot Mountain became North Carolina’s 14th state park in 1968. The Pilot Mountain Preservation and Park Committee proposed the establishment of Pilot Mountain as a state park in order to protect it and the surrounding area from commercial development. The group secured options on the land and raised matching funds that made it possible to purchase with
federal grants.”

Pilot Mountain is a SOTA summit, but it has never been activated because it would require an experienced rock climber (assuming access is even allowed). The base of Big Pinnacle is 61 meters above the summit trail system, so well outside the 25 meter activation zone.

Pilot Mountain State Park (K-2750)

I only had my sights set on making a park activation out of Pilot Mountain and, frankly, I didn’t even have time to explore the trail system  that Tuesday.

Finding a spot to set up was quite easy. I entered the park and took a right at the roundabout which lead to the parking area at the top portion of the mountain.

From there, I found a small picnic area perhaps 50 meters from the parking lot. I carried my gear there and set up shop!

Since I was doing this activation mid-afternoon, I had the picnic area to myself, save one unfortunate woman who was trying to (conspicuously, if I’m being honest) fit in a bit of meditation time.  She picked out a picnic table near one of the main trails basically in the center of the picnic site , so I assumed she was pretty good at blocking out noises you’d normally hear at a busy park.

But the question remained: could she block out the sweet sound of CW emanating from my FT-817?

There was only one way to find out!

In truth, I try to lay low at parks and not disturb other people. In this case, I picked a table on the perimeter of the picnic area but it was still only a couple tables away from her. Since I was making one of my real-time, real-life field activation videos, I would be using the speaker–instead of headphones–with the FT-817.

In other words, there was no escaping a little CW music!

I shared my picnic table with this little Praying Mantis
I think he’s upset that my throw line is all over *his* ground.

Gear:

This was also the first time I’d used my new orange single-level CW Morse paddle very kindly gifted to me by contributor/subscriber, Nathan (N8HWV).

Although it might look like a dual lever paddle, it’s actually a single lever!

Thank you so much, Nathan! 

On The Air

I started on 20 meters CW and, fortunately, it was hopping!

I worked 18 stations in 19 minutes. Whew!

Many thanks to N2EIM and NA9M for the P2P (Park To Park) contacts!

I then moved to 40 meters where I worked K8DRT for a second time (first was on 20M) and my “it wasn’t a real activation unless I worked him” buddy, K8RAT.

40 meters wasn’t in as good of shape as 20 meters was.

Having no way to spot myself to the POTA site, I didn’t attempt any SSB contacts–I would have at least for a while,  otherwise.

Video

Here’s a real-time, real-life, no-edit, no-ad video of the entire activation:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Inner Peace through code…

Evidently, Morse code must have “resonated” with my meditating neighbor.

She didn’t move until I I was off the air–as if the conclusion of her session coincided with the end of my activation.

Obviously, a little CW helped her along her journey to inner peace. 🙂

I know it did for me!

Thank you

As always, thank you for reading this field report. I hope you take a little time to achieve your inner peace by playing radio outdoors! 🙂

73,

Thomas (K4SWL)


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