Emergency Communications – “Shack-N-Bag” A Ham Radio Go Bag
For The Yaesu FT-857D Etc
The AA5FR “Shack-N-Bag” TM
The AA5FR “Shack-N-Bag” TM is my personal emergency communications “go bag” or “bug out bag” packaging approach to turn the Yaesu FT-857 into something that is as close to portable as my old FT-817ND was. I loved my FT-817…actually, I loved both of the two 817s that I have had in the past. But for all its capabilities, I found the FT-857D a MUCH better radio with more power, DSP, speech processing, etc. The one thing that the 857 doesn’t have is built-in batteries.
So, one main question was: how to power the 857 with enough juice to really operate for more than just a few minutes? The other main question was: how to package everything I REALLY needed for my typical portable operations – while containing it all in the smallest footprint possible?
Components of the Emergency Communications “Shack-N-Bag”
The “Shack-N-Bag” TM is my simplistic solution to both questions. It lets me combine the following into an easy to “grab and go” 16 lb. package:
- Yaesu FT-857D which is a much-improved radio over the great FT-817. The 857 is terrific for both mobile and portable operations – especially with the “Shack-N-Bag” TM approach. Weight of the FT-857D is 4.6 lbs.
- PC310 Odyssey 12 volt motorcycle battery, which gives me 8 AH of power for under six pounds in a very small footprint of Length 5.43″/ Width 3.39″ / Height 3.98″. Weight is 5.9 lbs. I got mine on EBay for about $108.
- ACI BCSC 7a Supercharger – a great little 12 Volt, 7 Amp Constant Current Charger (Equivalent to 14 Amp tapered charger in charging time.) A great side benefit is that the charger also acts as an AC supply for both receive and even transmit up to about 5-10 watts…giving you both recharge of the battery and AC power at the same time. Recharge time for a fully depleted PC310 is about 45 minutes. Measures 6 ½” x 3 ¼” x 2” and weighs 18 ounces. I got mine on EBay for about $49.
- LDG Z-11 Pro Auto Tuner powered by the PC310. Weight is 1.5 lbs. If I am using my ATAS-120 for emergency communications or portable operations, then the Z-11 has to be bypassed.
- Timewave ANC-4 Noise Filter powered by the PC310. This is used in noise filled locations like my balcony operation. Otherwise, it isn’t used. (More info on this very effective gizmo is on my Equipment page.) Weight is 2.0 lbs. If you skip this component, your “grab and go” is only 14 lbs. It was not used when these photos were taken but it, too, fits in the bag.
- Heil Traveler headset / mic
- Tag It And Bag It – All of the above is neatly contained in one reasonably sized NexPac camera bag, Model 122L for true “grab and go.” This particular bag is a snug and near-perfect fit for all of the above without being too big and the included shoulder-strap is most useful. It took some effort to find a bag that was such a great fit to the radio and other gizmos I wanted to include. I got them on EBay for under $30, plus shipping, for both bags. The large bag, Model 122L, measures 14″ X 9″ X 6.5″ and the medium bag, Model 122M, measures 11″ X 9″ X 5″. The two front straps are VERY adjustable so you can really get 10 lbs of errr radio in a 5 lb sack!
- Note: A reader just let me know that the NexPac is no longer for sale on eBay – and I can’t find it anywhere else. If you find a listing, please leave a comment below. The closest one I could find to the same inside dimensions is a Zeikos camera bag for about $40 on Amazon. Just click Zeikos. The brand doesn’t matter…the 14″ X 9″ X 6.5″or something close is required if you have the same equipment layout that I do. The Zeikos is 14″ X 8″ X 6.5″…but any camera, etc. bag that size will do.
Total weight for the whole set up, including battery, radio, tuner, noise filter, coax, log book, kitchen sink etc.: a luggable 16 lbs. for the fully stuffed large bag. Not great for hiking…but works GREAT for easy picnic portable to the balcony, to a beach cabana or a mountain vista. Yes. the FT-817 is only about 3 lbs. But if you have the same tuner, battery, cables, etc., there would only be a 2 lb difference in total weight. For me, the extra 2 lb. weight is well worth the extra features contained in the FT-857D.
I can attach the rubber duck with a 90 degree angle connector, poke it up and out the end of the closed lid and operate Pedestrian Mobile on VHF / UHF or attach my Arrow II and work the AMSAT birds. I can set the bag down on a rock, table or beach cabana and flip open the lid, attach the coax to whatever I am using as the portable antenna du jour and start operating with all the equipment in the case. Because of the way that everything fits in the case, the radio and tuner are tilted up so that all controls are easy access, ventilation is not a problem and the only set up needed is for the antenna itself.
I only use the second camera case if I want to take the charger with me to either recharge the battery or use as a quick A/C supply. When the battery does need charging, there is a charging pigtail that is always connected to the battery making the connection to the charger a 10 second operation that doesn’t require the battery being removed from the case. This pigtail is included with the above charger.
For me, and the ways I usually operate, this approach works great. I wanted the minimum bag that would still hold all the stuff I use and what I need for “grab and go.”
(Note: I have no economic interest in any of the above companies…nor do I sell any of the components or any bundled package! My goal was to give you all the info necessary for you to roll your own!)
If you mouseover the photos, you will see details about each photo. If you click on the thumbnail photo, you will get the BIG picture.
None of the above is leading edge stuff…but, hopefully, will give you some ideas for developing your own Shack-N-Bag approach for your own equipment and your own personal perspective for ideal portable operations for emergency communications.
73 / 72,