Saturday, May 7, 2016

All-around All-out Bug-out Radio

I was recently asked what would be my all-out, all-around, bug-out ham radio. This is a tough call and an easy choice at the same time. I believe I would choose the Yaesu FT‑857D if I needed all mode and lightweight travel. This is an incredible little radio designed for backpack use. 

When it comes to mobile HF I have always been a fan of the Icom 706 series of radios. There are a couple of issues with the 706 that I don't like if I had to carry one with me all day. The Icom is heavy and power hungry on FM. The Icom 706 series of radios are very impressive, however the Yaesu FT-857D offers a radio that is designed for HF portable operation. Let's take a brief look. 

The size is impressively small. If you are on the move the size and weight of items you care is critical. The specifications of this little jewel is 6.1” x 2” x 9.2” weighing only 4.6 pounds. On the Yaesu website they claim that the FT-857 is the world’s smallest HF/VHF/UHF transceiver! Think about the actual dimensions. This radio can easily fit into a backpack. Actually there are special radio backpacks designed exclusively for this radio. They have an antenna access port, battery compartment (some with a battery), and an accessory area for items such as an antenna tuner. 

This radio has a 200 channel memory bank that can be broken down into 10 memory groups and is capable of HF/6M/2M/70CM. Power output is rated up to 100 watts on HF, up to 50 watts on 2m, and 20 watts on 70cm. 

Keep in mind though that with any radio the weakest link is usually the antenna. There is no exception with this radio. It has an antenna connector for only a 50ohm system. The reciever is not as sensitive as Yaesu's top end gear however it will get the job done providing you have a decent well-tuned antenna system connected. (continued below...) 

Ham Radio transceivers are in the plenty category and the major manufacturers are trying to keep up with diversity of the hobby. The demand is currently in the digital arena and their focus is there. There aren't too many companies making true on-person lightweight rigs. But they are out there and many are a little pricey. 

If you are looking for the "box store radio" then put the FT-857D radio on your radar. It's a great little rig but it's not perfect. If you love experimentation and understanding the challenges there are some better options. The question is, are you up for the task.  Let me know what your experiences are with ultra-portable wide coverage multi-mode radios. 

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