My Radio Dilemma

After being a “permanent” Technician class Ham Operator for the past 16 years, I devoted myself at this year’s Dayton to achieving the Amateur Extra class ranking before year’s end. On July 5, I achieved that goal! I promised myself that when I got Extra class, I would buy myself my first “real” rig (in other words, one that can do something other than 2 meters @ 5W). Now I intend to make good on my promise! I’ve done some research, but before taking the plunge and laying out the ca$h, I thought I would throw this out to the cumulative knowledge of the surfing hordes to see if there’s any advice, criticism or guidance you might provide:

The Goal

Since I live in an antenna-restricted, covenant-controlled neighborhood, I am unable to put much of an antenna on my home (footnote #1). Having said that, I DO want to be able to work the HF bands, but want to gear my rig toward a more portable installation. I am picturing a system designed to be easily set up & torn down – something that could contribute to a collective Field Day station, taken on a family camping trip, set up in the backyard for some patio DX, or be transported & set up during an emergency. However, I’m also seeking a lot of flexibility in the bands / modes that I can work. I’m a geek, so digital modes are a near-necessity for me (a laptop or other computing devices aren’t a problem).

The Budget

I am going to be spreading the purchase out over about six months’ time, but wish to keep my total expenditure under $1700. My initial focus will be on the Radio & Antenna, with accessories coming later.

The Radio

I’ve narrowed the radio down to the following possibilities, ranked in order of my preference:

  1. Yaesu FT-897D
  2. Yaesu FT-450
  3. Kenwood TS-480SAT

I really like that the FT-897D is basically an all-mode, all-band transceiver, and includes 2m & 440 MHz. (100W out on HF-6M, 50W on 2M, 20W on 440MHz), It is form factored for portability, but it’s portable focus means that I would lose easy access to features, since it is necessarily menu-driven. That’s not necessarily a killing point for me. It has options for insertable batteries and power supply, either of which would greatly simplify mobile/portable setup. However, including those options makes this quite expensive

The FT-450 has a lot of visual appeal to me – it just LOOKS like a radio! It’s also the cheapest option, and includes an internal antenna tuner. However, I lose anything above 2M, and it’s not made for portability, per se.

To be honest, I threw in the TS-480SAT to include an option that isn’t a Yaesu product. The Kenwood offering is the most expensive that I explored, but does offer me features like internet connectability (which is NICE, since I am a geek!)

The Antenna

Here I haven’t put quite as much thought. To be honest, I probably need more help/advice here than anywhere else! Since I’m looking for simple, portable operation, I was looking at:

  1. The BuddiPole antenna system (or something similar)
  2. Yaesu’s ATAS series screwdriver antennas.
  3. Something more homebrew

The Request

To the wise, radio-active surfers to this site: can you think of anything I’ve missed? If you have experience with any of the radios/antennas I’ve listed above, I’d love to hear anything you wish to throw my way! Is there a radio I’ve completely missed? Maybe an antenna to buy/build that you think would be good for my needs?

I appreciate any help you all have to throw my way!



(1): Yes, I know I have options for antennas that I could install at my home…and I probably will end up with some sort of antenna, be it a dipole strung along the apex or eave of my roof or a small-ish antenna that I can keep within 10′ of my roofline, while still getting a couple of bands. HOWEVER! That’s not my question here, and I don’t wish to start the base antenna holy war. Please read on!

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