Building a Portable Ham Radio Station

Nowadays, you can get into ham radio on the cheap. A handheld radio can be had for less than $30, and licensing is cheap or free depending on where you live. However, like most hobbies, you tend to invest in better kit over time.

[Günther] just finished up building this portable ham station to meet his own requirements. It runs off 230 VAC, or a backup 12 V car battery for emergency purposes. The Yaesu FT897d transceiver can communicate on HF + 6m, 2m, and 70 cm bands.

This transceiver can be controlled using a Microham USB-3 interface, which provides both CAT control and a soundcard. This pre-built solution is a bit simpler than the DIY option. With the interface in place, the whole rig can be controlled by a laptop running Ubuntu and open-source HAM software.

With the parts chosen, [Günther] picked up a standard 5 U 19″ rack, which is typically used for audio gear. This case has the advantage of being durable, portable, and makes it easy to add shelves and drawers. With an automotive fuse block for power distribution and some power supplies, the portable rig is a fully self-contained HAM station.

22 thoughts on “Building a Portable Ham Radio Station

      1. That is how I always saw it, as long as you get at least one hack every day then people don’t have the right to complain about things not being a hack. You never promised more than one!

    1. A constant stream of hacks would ruin the feels you get when you read a really good one. In the mean time, posts like this are mildly interesting enough to peak my interest and make me do some research!

  1. That is not very portable. I have seen far more portable systems that fit into small back packs. in fact look up the RADAR guys on Google plus. they operate from canoes and hiking with far smaller packs than that large rack case.

    1. There is a bit of a difference there. This is a 100W all band all mode setup. What you describe is much less powerful and capable. Still fun and gets out but just a different approach. Apples and oranges.

  2. Software defined radio front end and clean linear amps that support VHF/UHF/ TX Freq. of your choosing should fit in an enclosure no larger than a small pizza box. A smaller more efficient Linux capable SoC should be chosen with a small cell phone for wireless control of the headless box. I recommend an AT91 or an AR71XX board as they are highly capable and cheap.

    1. SDR is a virtual radio platform. This is real radio using an actual physical transceiver that can operate independent of the other things added to the box. Your SDR is not a stand alone communications solution, and will never be.

  3. Its great to offer your opinions on design or utility. I appreciate the alternative ideas.

    But there is no proof of your concepts UNTIL IT’S BUILT!

    The author built one and shared is build-out. I appreciate that effort and his sharing. I am in the process of building my own go-kit for Field Day, and emergency field operations and welcomed his design ideas.

    Thanks to the author for sharing and a job well done!
    -Steve
    -NE5SD

    1. Oh, and making a base station transceiver configuration work in the field should be considered a ‘hack’. We do that every day when we take something and make it work where it was not originally intended. :)

  4. I still prefer my Ham Radio Node using Echolink Network and a raspberry pi connected to a Baofeng Radio. This is about 1/2 a pound and it is about 6″ tall and 8″ wide. Cannot beat that of course you need an internet connection which you can get with a Cellphone. A better mobile solution without the need of an internet connection would be a simple Mobile radio like a Yaesu dual band 2m and 440 inside of a pelican case and its power supply or running the radio from a 12v DC battery Like a 7 AH battery used for back up. ;)

    But this is a good post. The setup is clean.

    1. But this station offers HF capability, which can send signals around the world without any other infrastructure, while a 2m/440 is rarely much more than line of sight (though repeaters and internet links can certainly extend range, if available).

      Ham radio has a lot of different bands, modes, power levels, and niches of capability. The trick in setting up a portable station is to figure out what’s important to you, include that, and then leave out the rest to save weight, volume, and money.

  5. His patched-together system is similar to what I have. But if you’d like something elegant, versatile, and extremely portable, consider this marvelous SDR (software-defined radio).

    http://www.elecraft.com/KX3/kx3.htm

    It’ll fit inside a cigar case, runs on flashlight batteries, will communicate to the entire world via any HF mode, including 6 meters. With an added module, it will work the 2 meters too.

    Combine it with an inexpensive, VHF/UHF handheld, and you’ll be in marvelous shape for any communication challenge.

    –Michael W. Perry, KE7NV/4
    editor of Across Asia on a Bicycle

    1. and if you cant afford the awesome elecraft. Yaesu and Icom both have super small self contained radios that do all that as well.

      I have the Yaesu 817ND and a buddistick that fits in a very small backpack and I work PSK31 with my phone to the radio running software. less than a square foot of space total. Used the 817 can be found around $500

  6. Don’t think that case would be big enough to fit my SB1000. Portable is not a word used much here in NZ. It tends to mean not talking anyone other than local vhf/uhf contacts. After all most Hams in the world are in another hemisphere. Hi Hi.

    1. I was thinking the same thing…I would have to have wheels to drag around my Collins S-Line (75S-3, 32S-3, 312B-4, 516F-2, 30L-1)…and it would take one heck of a solar array to power it all!

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