Updated December 2019 and November 2021 – see below
I do a fair amount of public service events like Rallysport and help respond during disasters. After the 2013 floods, a personal goal of mine was to build up a radio go-kit that I could grab quickly and run out the door. The core of the kit packs into a single Pelican case obtained at a Flea Market. All photos are clickable for enlargement.
The kit consists of a Yaesu FT-8800, Yaesu FT-857 w/SSB filter and DSP, LDG FT-Meter, Powerwerx SS-30 power supply, SignaLink USB interface and an external speaker with a A/B switch to easily go between headphones or the external speaker. The choice of radios gives me wide adaptability in terms of how many frequencies I can monitor at once as well as modes. The radios are mounted on a sheet of aluminium checkerplate which is durable and provides a ground.
Companion items accompany it in a matching case and include my headphones, HTs, chargers, spare batteries, HT chest pouches, mics, and HT antennas. It also carries the LDG Z-11 Pro tuner for the FT-857. All cases are well marked with my callsign on 3 sides for easy identification along with larger items like clipboards.
Feedline, 120V power cords, 12v clip to Powerpole cords and wire antennas travel in another plastic case along with basic pens/pencils/clipboards/paper, magnetic hooks, phone chargers, travel router, computer cables as required along with a variety of dollar store carabiners from 1″ to 6″ in size.
Magnetic hooks and carabiners are used to get feedline up to a ceiling and over and out of a window – this works great just about anyplace and especially in rooms with drop ceiling tiles with T-bars. Pro-tip (from the guy who made this mistake): don’t use cheap hooks, get these ones and ignore the rest.
Updated December 2019
In preparation for a Rally I decided to change up a few things to speed up setup and make it easier to transport my gear. The Go-Kit is now on Revision 2 and is in two cases. There are many tiny changes like adding a 12V to 5V USB plug, and the ability to hang the speakers on the corners of the cases as seen in the photo above and directly below.
I am right-handed so any laptop goes to the right of this setup as you can see in this poorly-cropped photo taken at a recent event.
I bolted down those pieces I used to leave out on the table if only for speed of set-up and simplicity. They went into the left kit.
Left side: Drop-in charger for my VX7s, a multichannel headphone audio amplifier, HF Tuner, SignaLink USB, Power distribution. Underneath is one added external speaker, RF adapters and a few smaller bits. The headphone amp is from Behringer at most music stores, and I added a tiny LM386 module into one channel to specifically power the speaker. This gives me the ability to drive my headphones and an external speaker so others can hear what is going on as well. Many drop-in chargers can accept 12VDC directly so this one has been hardwired with a PowerPole which negates the need for the wallwart supply; and with this accessory I always have a charged HT battery on hand. A 90 degree adapter makes hooking up an HF antenna to the tuner simple as my feedlines tend to be routed upwards towards the nearest ceiling and out the window anyway.
Right side: In this case not much changed save for a power feed over to the left case for the distribution strip. Still the FT-8800, FT-857 loaded with filters, DSP, TCXO, the same power supply, external speaker and LDG FT-Meter. I moved some of the smaller bits like RF adapters to the left case if only to redistribute weight a bit. I added a ground lug to the FT-857’s bracket for the grounding strap.
To make setup quick and simple, a number of lines run from left to right: Audio for the amp to either radio, coax from tuner to HF, ground strap from left to right, USB cable for the SignaLink, and data cable from SignaLink to the FT-857’s data port. All cables are length-fitted and zip-tied together mostly to stop them from getting tangled up. From right case to left case is a single power feed.
Updated November 2021 – see new page Winlink Packet to-go for the latest piece of gear added to my Go-Kit
I hope that this writeup inspires you and gives you fresh ideas for your kit.