My idea of portable operating is to have something ready to simply grab and go at a moments notice and get to my operating site by car, plane, boat, foot, bicycle, or rollerblade with a minimum of fuss. Traveling lightly is the key to my outdoor pleasure. It allows me to go anywhere. I dislike being limited to where I can go, simply because of the amount of gear I carry. Being truly portable, small and discrete is much more fun.
My desire is to have capability for all modes on HF bands from 40m through to 10m along with 2m and 70cm. Although my go kit is always changing, this is the list of what I carry in most situations.
- Yaesu FT-817ND
- MFJ-971 manual tuner
- Wouxun KG-UV6D with 2 x1700mah & 1 x 1400mah batteries (usually one spare battery only carried)
- Non-resonant Doublet antenna with 300ohm ladder line
- JPC-7 Vertical HF multi-band antenna
- 1 x 8m length RG58/U with PL259 both ends
- 1 x 500mm length RG58/U with PL259 both ends
- 1 x 1m length RG58/U with PL259 & BNC
- 2 x 4.2ah LiFe batteries (one is usually more than enough for a multi summit day)
- 100m spool nylon filament line & throw-weights
- 7 meter heavy duty squid pole (rarely carried or used)
- 2 Metre dipole (my homebrewed version of a SOTABeams MFD - rarely carried)
- Leatherman multi tool and a few little bits of hookup wire
- duct tape
- a couple of RF adaptors
- compass & map
- Magellan Explorist 510 GPS
- 2 x pencils, logbook, , stonepaper notebook
- pocket knife
- First Aid kit
- Samsung Gallaxy S11 smartphone with 3500mah hi-cap battery (Androzic installed and used in preference to the Magellan)
- 1.2 litre water bottle
- lightweight nylon tarp
- LED headlamp
- BIC lighter
Both the doublet and vertical antennas will tune from 40m through to 10m. I sometimes carry another 2 x 22ft of wire and a couple of terminal blocks so I can extend the doublet for 80m but for most portable setups, I rarely even bother with 80m unless setting up for a day or more at a camp site where I can spread out a little and work short to medium range distances with other stations in the evening .
I avoid carrying the squid pole or anything that protrudes outside the backpack most of the time as it can be difficult when climbing or getting through heavy bush and scrub.
The throw-weights I use to launch my antennas are any old bits of metal that I can afford to loose. I have heard tales of people losing spanners and sockets from their tool sets. This can be expensive and rather inconvenient. My favourite antenna launcher is a cut down cast iron bicycle crank. A third of the pedal end of this bicycle crank was originally cut off and the end was ground down to become a sump-plug removal tool for the Mercedes Benz I no longer own. It is now an efficient but potentially lethal antenna line launcher. It is heavy enough to fall back to ground and get through thick foliage and a good swing can get it over a branch or limb at respectable height.
If I find my operating position in thick forest or conversely lacking a tree or two, this makes erecting the doublet a challenge. The vertical antenna can then be deployed as my backup with reasonable results and can usually be on-the-air far quicker than the doublet. In any case, I do always try to deploy the doublet whenever possible as it really is a superior performer. When operating QRP, every bit of radiated power from the antenna counts. In fact, when 20m opens in the afternoons, it is unusual not to get at least one DX contact into Europe or the USA. I have had contacts with pedestrian mobile stations around Blackpool in the UK and other comfortable QRP SSB contacts into the USA when conditions are favourable.
I know that I can reduce the weight and bulk if my Go-kit even further by using smaller batteries and a smaller Z-match in place of the MFJ-971, but for now what I have is reliable and manageable. Depending on the activation I've been known to carry nothing more than the Wouxun HT, or gone the other extreme and hauled the full kit with a folding chair, table, umbrella, 2m 5 element yagi and a supply of cold beer to the activation zone. No two activations need ever be the same!