Survivalism & Self Sufficiency Topics > Amateur Radio Gear Reviews

Help comparing Yaesu 857d and Elecraft KX3 from a preppers point of view

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armymars:
  The Yeasu 857 is not a bad choice. You get more utility from it as the sunspots start to dip. The KX3 has one of the best receivers out there. As far as 10 watts verses 100 watts 10 db is a lot. The National Guard and Army have been getting by with 20 watts for years. You can dial down the Yeasu power to 10 watts if need be, but the receiver will pull more current then the KX3. In my club the KX3 is the next great thing. Many members have one or more. Yes some have two of them. They also have the K3 with all the goodies. When the band is good anything will work, when it's bad nothing will work. 73

Ken325:
I am currently having this same debate.  Here are my issues.  I am a new ham, technician, who is studying for general.  I am in a townhome with really horrible antenna restrictions, in a dense urban area.  I like to keep my gear very portable as I will probably want to bug out in SHTF so I want a very portable HF setup.  The people who maintain the property are not real alert so I can probably get away with some kind of covert antenna.  I have access to the attic.  The attic is free of metal interference and it is 3 stories high.  I put a 70’ long wire  SW antenna up in the attic (bent 3 times to fit) and the performance was a lot worse than a 40 foot wire outside antenna, but I have to take the outside antenna down when not in use.   So I am a little worried about the performance of an attic antenna.  I also have no way of running a RF ground.  My townhome is 2 floors and the first floor is basically a one room kitchen- living room with no room for a radio.  I would have to route the RF ground up into the attic from the second floor then down the outside of the house.  This would increase the possibility of getting into trouble with the HOA and I have heard that a long RF ground can end up acting like an antenna and can cause problems.  I am strongly considering a magnetic loop antenna or a covert end fed antenna to fool the HOA.  A fan dipole in the attic is also an option.  So here is what I am looking for. 
A very portable, simple for beginner HF radio that can be used in a covert manner.  I would like general coverage so I can receive SW broadcast.  A low power requirement would allow a reasonably sized solar power setup for field use.  I understand 100 W is recommended for beginners, but 100W means big power requirements.   I anticipate listening more than transmitting in a bug out situation.  I need to consider the portable antenna and probably antenna tuner as well.  I am very interested in using digital modes like PSK31.  Here is what I am considering. 

Icom 7200 in a mobile case with power supply, automatic antenna tuner, endfed antenna or MFJ magnetic loop.  Homemade diapole for portable use.  Estimated total cost about $1700.  My thoughts: Would require computer or tablet for digital modes and a large powerful solar system with 12V battery.  Largest and heaviest option.  Not portable without vehicle.  100Watts for transmission.  Need power supply as I will be looking for AC power.

Yaesu FT-817ND ($600), alex loop ($400), antenna tuner (LDG Z 817).  Estimated cost $1170.  My thoughts:  Very portable (back packable), seems like older technology,  good for receiving, menu intensive, also has UHF, VHF bands, least expensive, works with small solar unit, Very low power QRP unit.  Operating QRP could be frustrating but it decreases possibility of RFI in HOA restricted townhome.  Need computer or tablet for digital modes.  Lots of online support.

Elecraft KX3 with built in tuner, battery charger, and optional filter for general coverage SW reception ($1600), Alex loop antenna ($400).  Total cost $2000 My thoughts:  High quality modern receiver, software defined radio so easily updated, modular system is easily upgraded, built in PSK31 and RTTY, very mobile, very low power requirements, can be upgraded with module for VHF bands. Is a 10W QRP radio but double power of Yaesu FT817. External 100W amplifier is available but expensive (600$).  Amplifier is still less than buying 2 systems (portable and home). American made radio.

Final thoughts:  I think Elecraft KX3 is best option for my needs, but the price makes me pause.  I want long distance communication capabilities but $2000 is a big commitment for something that may get me in trouble with the HOA.  The Yaesu FT 817 is a lot less expensive, would probably be a lot of fun for portable use, but would probably be frustrating due to low power.  Would almost have to learn CW or use digital modes.  It would still give me basic long distance communications and it would be good for listening to other transmissions.   The ICOM 7200 rig would probably be simplest to learn on but it would almost be as expensive as the KX3.  It is the only 100W option i considered but It barely meets my portable requirement.  I can afford the KX3 but that is money I could spend on other preps.

 So any opinions or comments on the issues I described?

Carl:
A low power ,battery powered radio is 'cute ' but offers little to you as the AA power in an 817 lasts about 3 hours and the KX# actually less...YOU NEED POWER and those two flea farts are FUN ,but not up to the task of being heard in an EMERGENCY ,especially with mobile or portable antennas..YOU NEED 100 WATTS and you can always turn the power down when you don't and as far as ine radio for ALL BANDS....HF and VHF/UHF are for two different needs..

VHF /UHF for local comms and HF for distance ,the two separate radios make better sense...or maybe the FT 897 would be both mobile/stationary and portable...but you NEED POWER to get performance...PLEASE get a full power HF and separate VHF/UHF radio
so they are up to performance levels .

I have used and owned all four of the radios mentioned and though the KX3 receiver is better that the rest...without a major size antenna ,you will not notice the subtle difference,and with LOW power of the battery radios you have little chance of being heard over the noise..I have covered this in many posts , I LOVE QRP (low power) but it is far better to lower the radio to that level than to max out the battery operated radios ...The FT 897 runs 20 watts with internal cells and 100 with external power (13.8 volts) but don't expect a full 100 watts from any radio on battery power as batteries don't produce the voltage without the auto alternator in use.

QRP can ,and does ,do amazing things at long distance....but not all of the time,not consistently...many times even 100 watts does not assure you being heard.I tell you this to aide you and help keep you from being under served...mistakes are expensive and costly.

Smurf Hunter:
While I'm not ready myself for extended HF operation after bugging out, I am gradually developing opinions on the topic as I gain experience.

Power source:

It is hardly feasible to carry enough portable power on your back to operate for any significant amount of time.

Let's work backwards and define the use case for your portable HF station.

Are you wanting to phone home and let mom know you are safe, or will you be relaYing message traffic as part of a team?

My main point is, if you have nontrivial operating needs you either have a serious battery bank, solAR array or generator.  All of which are heavy.  So having a 2 lbs. Ultra light radio isn't an advantage if your kit contains a 75ah SLA battery

FreeLancer:
As someone who got an FT-817, for all the reasons Ken325 puts forward, I would recommend not getting it as a first HF, for all the reasons Carl and Smurf lay out. I know exactly where your coming from, but it's not a great first, or only, radio.  For me, if I could do it all over, I should have just started with the FT-450 and FT-2900 I eventually got because I couldn't get out on the 817. 

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