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Should I buy a new 2m handheld?

I’m looking for some advice on 2m handhelds, for SOTA and non-SOTA use. I currently have a Baofeng GT-3TP and a Yaesu FT817ND.

For my first two activations I used the Baofeng and only managed one contact on each so no SOTA points. However, I did contact two stations on Black Combe in the Lake District from outside a holiday cottage near Caernavon in North Wales last week. This is about 90 miles which seems pretty good for a handheld (although the cottage is at about 300m and Black Combe is 600m). So, for £30, the Baofeng is clearly quite capable. I have two concerns though: will it survive rain and the front end is reputed to be wide open so wont’t be great with an external antenna and will also suffer on summits with commercial masts.

For my next two activations I used the FT817 with a slim jim made from 300 ohm ladder line hanging from a 4m fishing pole. From Snowdon I managed 9 contacts and from Great Orme I managed 5. Great Orme is infamous for breakthrough from the masts there so the FT817 must have managed OK. However, I’m not sure I want to be using it in the rain. I’d also like to keep my HF and VHF equipment separate so that I can set up both together.

One option would be to get the Yaesu FT270 which is waterproof and is said to have a decent frontend. But it’s 2m only and 70cm is useful for non-SOTA repeater use. I could use the Baofeng for that but it would make sense to have a decent handheld that was suitable for both. I’m interested in the Yaesu FT1-XDE which also includes Fusion so could be useful for the digital repeateers. I’m not sure how water resistant it is or what the front end is like.

So, for anyone who’s got through the above ramblings, what do you suggest? Do you use the FT1-X (or earlier models) or can suggest what I should use? Do Icom or Kenwood make anything suitable?

You get what you pay for. The Baofeng will be fine for summits in the North West of England and North Wales, that have a good take off (not screened by higher hills) and that do not have commercial mast installations on or near them.

The single band Yaesu 2m handhelds are much better at rejecting “junk” on sites like Great Orme, Billinge Hill etc but are 3 or 4 times (at least) the cost. The Yaesu VX-110 is excellent. I think it is out of production but there may be some available on the 2nd hand market.

The Yaesu VX7 is waterproof, but is tri-band (2/6/70) and wideband RX, so can suffer breakthrough. Not too bad though - but a lot more expensive.

Water and radio transceivers generally do not mix, so it is best to organise your kit and how you carry it so that rigs do not get wet! I’m not sure to what extent the digital VHF stuff is taking off. Personally, I’d need to look into that a lot more and find compelling reasons before parting with a stack of cash to get into that.

The FT270 looks an excellent option for your needs. 70cm is extremely quiet, even here in the relatively VHF-UHF active North West.

Hi Richard,
No matter which HT you buy, nowadays the first thing to replace is the antenna. For the really small Baofeng models of a few years ago, on the UV-2R I added a Nagoya NA-636, telescopic antenna. For my old Wouxon UVD1P, I recently bought an RH-770. In both cases switching from the “rubber-ducky” to what are 1/4 wave or 5/8th wave (70cm) antennas makes a BIG difference to the HT.

You need to make sure you order the antenna with the correct connector of course, some use SMA, some reverse SMA and a very few BNC connectors.

73 Ed.

PS - to my surprise some of the Chinese HTs are waterproof to IP57 standard, so no worry with a bit of rain - The Baofeng dual/band R760 is one of those. Should cost around 50-60 Euros.

Thanks for the comments. My Baofeng has a bigger aerial than many but making it too big just makes issues with strong out-of-band signals worse. A lot of handhelds have very wideband receive and I do wonder if that makes them more susceptible to problems. I wonder how many people make use of that on a handheld.

Richard, the Baofeng makes an excellent paperweight. Considering how cheap they are new, nobody will buy one secondhand, so cut your loses and forget about it.

As Tom says, there are some single band Yaesu handhelds that are the mutz nutz for SOTA. These are really amateurised versions of commercial market handhelds such as the FT-270. I have its forefather, the VX-170 (Tom has a VX-110 I think). It’s 2m only and built with a solid metal frame, huge NiMH battery, waterproof, loud audio and very good when used on sites with other transmitters. It has everything needed for FM operation. It’s waterproof to 1m for 30mins. Mine has been in an outside pocket of my rucksack for 8 years without a case. It’s indestructable it seems. I think one of the best bits of kit I have owned.

I have had (and still have) plenty of handhelds, most of which are useless on 2m when near other transmitters. Alinco DJ-G7 overloads easily but I only use it on 23cms. Icom IC-80 (bought for D-STAR) is useless on 2m with anything more than the stock antenna. Yaesu VX-1r too QRP for 2m FM. These 3 all have Li ION batteries and they don’t like the cold. When below 0C, the IC-80 forces itself to low power.

There are probably commercial derived Icom/Kenwood handies but from my experience with the VX-1xx family and other’s experience with the FT-270, there seems nothing to better it for SOTA type uses. It lists for £110 since the asylum inmates voted to make the pound worthless, they used to be well under £100.

The Yaesu FT-60 works well for SOTA too but I think it’s now discontinued.

There is however a “health warning” to this advice Ed. If you have a “waterproof” HT like the FT270 or the VX7, then replacing the supplied antenna with another one might well relieve the unit of its water resistance.

I fitted a “low-profile” BNC adaptor to the VX-7 several years back and we have so far had no trouble. They are our default option for activations in the rain.
We use a 30cm helical stick or a water-pipe dipole or a slim-jim/colinear for 2m and 70cm with some sucess.

73,
Rod

Change antenna and the HT leaks - Really?
Well I could see this legally lose the IP65 rating (as we know all manufacturers want to protect themselves), but that water would get in via the antenna socket sounds a little “suss” to me.

In any case a larger antenna on a Japanese or Chinese HT (especially the telescopic ones) is IMHO a worthwhile improvement as we don’t usually use them underwater. Of course a J-pole or even a beam would be even better - as always it depends how much you’re willing to carry.

Ed.

I’m not convinced a larger antenna on a cheap Chinese radio is a good idea as it will make it more prone to breakthrough and amplify the spurious emissions. These rigs often fail spurious tests but the antennas are so lossy that in practice they are ok. But change the aerial and the harmonics become much stronger.

I disagree with your very negative view of the Baofeng. While not ideal for SOTA they are great value for chatting via the local repeater. And I managed a 90 mile contact with mine. You just have to be aware of their limitations.

Any exposed metal is going to be less water-resistant than the covering on the supplied helical antenna.

But we do use them in Scotland, a country not known for it’s vast and arid landscape! :grin:

There’s a compression gasket on the antenna mount on my VX-170 and the genuine Yaesu antenna mates against this forming a “quite” watertight seal. The 4pin TRRS socket has a screw in cover with gasket . The genuine Yaesu TRRS plugs also have a screw fit and washer. So I think genuine Yaesu stuff works, the problem being it’s very expensive compared against 3rd party accessories.

My VX-170 sits in a mesh pocket outside the rucksack and hasn’t yet succombed to GM rain. 3rd partyantennas are fine in use as long as you remember to refit the original rubber duck to seal any possible leaks. I have made a small telescopic whip into an antenna for mine, it’s 19in long with the SMA male adapter Araldited in place at the bottom. I should have bought more of these antennas when I saw them for £1 each… could have sold them for much more to SOTA people !

The more useful antenna gizmo to make is a better replacement for the earthy side of the antenna. Normally the rubber duck on the set works against the earthiness that the big bag of salt and lard holding the radio exhibits. Adding a 19in piece of wire to the earth side of the antenna socket and leaving that hanging down is worth at least 1S point if not more in my case. I think I posted a picture a few years back. I’ll post another tonight.

Please not a picture of the bag of salt and lard!

Hi Richard,

As others have said, the Baofeng is OK for the price, but it isn’t truly comparable to more expensive sets. They do work though, so long as their limitations are understood; I’ve been using a UV-82 for some time now and it’s been fairly successful (best DX has been Win Hill in the Peak District, to Hull, some 70 miles on the standard Baofeng antenna - height may have helped me here though hah hah!).

The UV-82 is the type of radio that I can chuck in the rucksack when we go hiking in the UK and I don’t have to worry about it if it gets smashed, dropped down a bog (peat, or otherwise) or wet. They are so cheap, that it’s literally a choice of a few cups of Costa coffee, or a new radio?

It does suffer from pager breakthrough though on VHF, so much so, that my attempts to activate Bardon Hill all failed using the UV-82; I returned with a Vertex Standard VX-459 commercial radio, which also covers 2m and I activated with no problems.

Now, would I take this cheapo radio with me on a trek to a ~4000m peak in the deepest Swiss Alps? Of course not; I’ve got the IP57, wide temperature range, proven commercial radio that comes with me when it’s a life or death situation and I may need to rely on it… also, most of our amateur radio kit won’t do 5-Tone calling, which is necessary for Alpine SOS calls to REGA etc.

Not sure if any of that helps, but you can often pick up some ex-demo commercial kit that is almost new, for very reasonable prices on the usual sites. It could be an option, if you didn’t want to spend too much?

Regards,
Simon

As others have said. FT-270 with an external antenna. I use either a plastic pipe dipole or a coax dipole on a roach pole (kindly made for me by my friend Allan GW4VPX).

This lightweight set up has got me through dozens of activations in all weathers.

See this video… it really is bombproof.

Personal record is Moel Eilio to a summit near Oban with the waterpipe dipole.

I think someone has already said, you get what you pay for, I use an IC-51E. The power output is good and the batteries are reasonable and there lies the tail. I would have thought the positions you have been in would have resulted in better number contacts, it may not be your gear, just could be the 2 meter gremlin that people monitor and don’t answer. For me its all about the antenna. I personally don’t think there is much wrong with your gear as long as you are radiating - more frills on a radio more power gets consumed and I don’t know how you power these things. Good luck and have fun. Regards

Mike M0AZE

I bought an FT-270 as a no thrills 2m handheld specifically because it is waterproof having had issues with an FT-817 in moist conditions (they definitely aren’t waterproof!).
I’ve had a 125m QSO from Fairfield in the Lake District on the built in whip.
I do use a Slim-G but I wouldn’t necessarily do so if the weather was bad unless I had to as the built-in whip does have a seal which wouldn’t work anywhere near as well with a BNC adapter.

Regards, Mark.

I have bought as my first handheld the Yaesu FT1XD especially having SOTA on my mind.
The APRS feature to track myself and to use APRS2SOTA for spotting with a very nice size and battery lifetime did not disapoint me so far.
With just a flexible 1/4 lambda Diamond SRHF40 antenna I managed 135 km S2S connections.
No issues with rain or humidity (IPX5 rated) so far - knock on wood :wink:
I keep it in the side pocket of my backpack.

In addition the connector for my FT817 fits - more or less well - so I can charge it from the LiFePO in case I stay overnight in a hut or tent. But that’s valid for all Yaesu I guess.

73s de Joe

Any idea how well the FT1XD behaves in the presence of strong out-of-band signals?

From Yaesu’s blurb…

“Enjoy wideband receive from 500 kHz to 999 MHz”

So I’d sugges the anwer is maybe not too good. I’ve not tried one so maybe it’s a doosie but that spec has me going “hmmmmm…”