Great to see you gearing up for your winter.
I mostly use my KX3 and have been caught out maybe twice with rain that I did not expect on activations. I carry a larger size super market bag in my back pack all the time. For these rain occasions it is a handy rain coat for my rig. It has a small hole in 1 corner just big enough for my bnc coax plug to fit through I can poke my coax in the hole and hook up to the KX3 inside the bag out of the rain. I put battery and mic/paddle inside the bag with the rig as well. On 300 activations done I opened up my KX3 for the first time and was very surprised at how clean it still was on the inside. But my rigs never see snow like you folks mine is more likely to be affected by dust from this drought stricken land we live in. Have used my FT817 in the rain a few times too and yes maybe it is more robust to the wx but my KX3 did surprise me all the same. Maybe I could suggest you take the FT817 on your shorter hikes and the KX2 on longer ones to limit the KX2 exposure to the elements and count the 817 extra weight hikes as training for the next outing.
Ian vk5cz …
I will be the first to come back with a completely different radio to your two options and say the Xiegu G90 - why? Despite its heavier weight, with over 20 watts PEP output it gets warm when driven hard with the speech processor on (allowing some hand warming), it’s in a solid housing with protection guards for controls and its ATU will match anything.
Coming back to your two choices, however, I would go with the KX2 as it has the built-in ATU. Antennas don’t always work as you expect in the winter environment and having the option to couple to a slightly mismatched antenna in the cold is a valuable option. The FT817/8 is better protected should it fall but the KX2 with some care in handling would be my choice.
The fewer extra things you have to plug in, while on a cold summit, the better!
Another vote for the KX2 with a inbuilt aerial tuner. The tuner gives a bit more flexibility with out of tune aerials.
I carry my KX2 and all accessories in a clip tight lunchbox which keeps it dry.
The one time I took it out in the snow managed to keep it dry with a ground sheet.
I have a 20-year-old FT817 and a 5-year-old KX2 with internal ATU.
I wouldn’t use either in the rain without protection. Yes, the KX2 is more delicate but I wouldn’t like either to fall onto rocky ground. So, I carry both in protective bags inside my rucksack and when operating, they sit on or close to the ground or – if I can find one - on a safe ledge.
The weight comparison is a thorny one and has been discussed here many times before. I concluded there’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer. I understand why some like ultra-simple / ultra-lightweight radio but for me my rucksack has a lot of other stuff this time of year including a tarp or a bothy bag, winter clothes, food, hot drink, etc, which masks the small weight differences between rigs.
Unless I’m doing 2m/70cm SSB/CW [sadly, rarely these days!] or 6m I always take the KX2 and not the 817. I throw away the KX2’s weight and volume advantage by also taking my FT1D HT (with Diamond RH770 ½-wave whip). Why? I like the redundancy which has avoided having a failed activation on a few occasions.
I use both radios and my advice is to use the 817 in winter if there is any chance of moisture getting into the kit. Yes the KX2 is lighter (and more fragile) but seems to develop problems if it gets damp, not even wet! I also use a watertight 1120 peli case for the KX2 which is 3lbs in total, so no overall weight saving.
My choice might be influenced by our Scottish conditions in winter!
Colwyn, I’m always keen to seek out better winter solutions for my KX2.
Do you use the Peil case just for transporting the KX2 or operating as well? I don’t see how the latter would be possible without the [opaque] case lid being open (which would defeat the purpose of stopping rain and moisture getting to the rig).
I currently use a large see-thru plastic toilet bag (tuned on its side with zip facing me) for the KX2 and LiPo. I can see the display through the bag and stick my fingers in through the partially undone zip. If it’s raining cats and dogs or in thick mist, I can zip up around the three cables for antenna, headphones and my Palm Pico paddles on a small metal plate inside my winter jacket pocket.
Maybe operating in rainy Ireland has clouded my judgement, but I no longer worry about radio weight. It’s such a small percentage of the overall pack weight that its not worth worrying about. The bulk of my pack weight is made up of weather protection stuff. I decided I’m happy to carry the gear (tarp / storm shelter / groundsheet) and sit in relative comfort and dryness than save the weight. I don’t operate my radio (KX3) out in the rain, so it wouldn’t matter what the radio type was. All the radios I’ve used, FT3D, QCX, KX1 and KX3, I’ve treated with kid gloves and usually have them under some form of cover
As an Elecraft and Yaesu owner, I’d rather use the KX2 in bad weather. It’s smaller, easier to cover, easier to protect inside my pack and with its internal li-ion and internal tuner, just quicker to set up and pack away.
I bought a GoPro style bag to protect it. I don’t take it swimming, so I don’t feel I need a waterproof case. I think the radio inside its case, inside a rucksack liner , inside a rucksack is ample.
The (or my) FT818 is not immune to moisture issues. Mine has lost rx completely on 80m twice now. On both occasions it did not get water on it, but was carried/stored in a pack that had ‘damp’ (not wet) gear in it. On both occasions all the gear was in a waterproof pack liner, but just had accumulated moisture throughout the trip, as gear does. Higher bands were still fine both times.
Did have a look at the circuitry and there are a series of separate band-specific blocks in the rx path, presumably where the issue was located. Some component near tolerance that moisture pushed over the edge?
On both occasions leaving lid-off on a sunny windowsill rectified the issue.
I now carry the FT818 in a dry bag to keep it separate from other gear inside my pack. No issues since! I also activate with the FT818 inside the drybag if it’s raining. Bit of a pain, as signal reports become guesswork, but better than a wet radio. And not perfect as moisture does travel down the mic cable. The yaesu mic seems fairly moisture tolerant.
I’ve never had issues with temperature on the FT818 (or the Sansung / LG 18650 batteries I use with it). Or with heat, and as discussed elsewhere that black case gets very hot in direct sunlight in summer. Seems very temperature stable.
My two Samsung S5 phones have given up on several winter summits, but the Yeasu powered on. I keep the phone in a neck-pouch against my skin in winter, but even on a brief summit activation they can cool down beyond their functional range when taken out for logging.
I have had a mic failure with my FT817.
My guess was condensation corroding the fine wire on the dynamic mic insert - which is not sealed. I keep the radio and mic in a dry bag in the rucksack, and used to store it like that at home after airing it. It occurred to me that speaking closely into a cold microphone is likely to result in a lot of condensation.
I don’t store it in a sealed bag at home any more.
I bought a replacement mic from Yaesu for about £45.
Soon after, I found a dynamic insert for £1 which fitted, with minor surgery to the mic casing.
In A/B tests on air, all stations asked preferred the quality of the cheap replacement. Doh! So that’s the one I use now
Gotta go with the KX2 in all conditions.
Even in the worst of it, if I still think I can get some RF out to the world, I will rig up a small tarp if possible to block the wind/rain/sleet/snow/dust and keep the radio under the top flap of my ruck. I keep my back to the weather as well, and my ruck is between my legs in front of me.
The coax threads right in under the flap, and the headphones and key thread right out the other side. I usually use a small clipboard for logging. My key velcro’s onto the bottom of the clipboard.The radio is really never exposed very much at all.
If the weather is just too rough to operate in, good chance that nobody will hear my 5 watts anyway. Pack it back up and turn the trip into a nature hike, or head on back down for coffee!
I use my KX2 all 4 seasons of the year, not had any problems so far. However, when it gets very cold, I let it warm back up slowly when I get home. I worry that opening the container and exposing the KX2 to the high humidity in my flat while it is very cold could lead to condensation on the electronics.
73 de OE6FEG
I haven’t had any problems with my KX2 either until recently.
Over 4 years I have used it even in bad weather. In the rain, of course, you have to cover it. Snow that lay on it I have simply blown away.
Nevertheless, I’m still a bit more cautious now and will perhaps prefer to hike with my QCX on the summits in bad weather, although that would be a limitation… where I have no idea how sensitive they are.
A Lab599 Discovery TX-500 would probably be the best alternative.
I do have a ancient FT817 but I rarely take it out. I do like the rig but I find it rather heavy. My wife said I could have a KX3 if she could have another child - my son is now 10, but I still don’t have my KX3! I have simply never had enough money to spend on an Elecraft rig, although I would obviously really like to own one. I’d probably chose a KX2 these days, although I would be rather precious about taking it out in horrible weather.
My FT817 has been out in all kinds of weather, I guess the rig owes me nothing after 20 years plus of service.
My home built radios go out often in horrible weather and they’ve always been fine. I guess there’s no screen to steam up!
Probably old news here, but I had a KX3 for a while but sold it to fund other purchases which included another FT-817ND. I love the sound out of the little Yaesu and still really enjoy using it. 99% of the time now, however, I use my IC-705. I haven’t been in any bad WX with it yet so no idea how it holds up. I can see how the KX2 is much more appealing for SOTA than the KX3 for quickness getting on the air.
RE: FT-817 dynamic mic mod - I did this a while back and it is very sensitive and sounds good, however most folk I have QSOs with on HF or VHF who are using a stock mic on an 817 also sound great. I think the quality of the MH-31 inserts has varied over the years - the one I got with my FT-857 was terrible, the DTMF Dynamic upgrade being a world away.
It does seem to be weather resistant
I am much less uptight about showers now the KX3 stays at home. I hardly ever resort to the bothy bag which generates big drips onto the radio and just enjoy what view I get through the short showers of rain. Persistent or heavy rain shortens the activation. Not tried falling snow yet.
I miss (occasionally) the KX3 2m facility and more flexible signal processing but do not miss watching the wet creeping under the faceplate before I panic and call a sudden QRT.
I found a plastic case to fit the KX3 for transport (and one for the TX-500). On air the lids give some protection but inevitably hamper operation.
The 817 is strongly built but I always felt that the design left the controls very vulnerable even in its large flip-top camera bag.
I can confirm that the TX-500 is very weather resistant.
Last winter I accidentally dropped it in the deep snow, at the end of an activation. I dug it out and wasn’t worried at all, even though all the GX12 connectors were full of melted snow and ice. These GX12 connectors used in aviation are waterproof, so no problem at all.
I also own an FT-818, which is definitely more rugged than a KX2, but I wouldn’t repeat this experiment with it on purpose.
In the video below (especially after 3:35), you can see how I operate the TX-500 in the snow (and made my first contact with ZL!) and how I log the contacts with my non-waterproof smartphone:
If I had to decide between the KX2 and FT-818 in the harsh winter, I would probably choose the 818, but without the tuner and additional cables.