HF Portable Radios:

There are now many good radios suitable for HF Portable operations. Important attributes are: Power Drain, Compactness, Ruggedness, ease of use, etc.

I have had direct experience the following:

Vertex VX-1210 HF Manpack

This 25w SSB radio is a new favorite. It's pretty much optimal for pedestrian mobile HFPack type operation.

More info here

Yaesu FT-897D

The FT-897 is a versatile "all in one" rig which excells at portable operation. With 9AH of internal battery capacity, add the top-notch AT-897 bolt on tuner from LDG, and you have a great picnic table (/PP pedestrian portable) and usable /PM (Pedestrian Mobile) rig with the right pack.

The FT-897 can be configured to use minimal current on RX by turning the dial light to automatic, and disabling the DSP. Using headphones helps as well. In this mode, you can get down to 550-600mA, which is much lower than counterparts like the IC-706. In fact, other than the dedicated manpacks like the F-817, VX-1210 and military equivilants, only a few rigs like the Elecraft are more frugal.

One nice feature is the 897 and 857 will automatically switch to battery mode, lowering power to 25 watts, putting the display light in auto mode, etc. No changed needed. While the dedicated manpacks do have a more efficient power output on low power, being able to use the rig on 25-100w is a large plus.

The case is very rugged, with die cast components and a handle. It's truly designed for portable use, if not manpack usage.

I made an insert for the British Radio pack for the FT-897 which works well. It's made of corrugated plastic from an old political sign, which I cut & folded to shape, then covered with camo cordura.

 Mine was used extensively portable, mobile, and on emergency deployments.

Yaesu FT-857D

The FT-857 is the mobile version of the FT-897. It's smaller, lighter, and has a remote mount head. It's also less expensive. But you lose the capability to use internal batteries and bolt on tuner. Electrically, it's identical, and operation the same.

I switched to the mobile once I purchased the Kenwood TS-950SDX and eliminated the need to ever use the FT-897 as a base station.

From a construction perspective, it's lighter duty than the FT-897. In a pack, that's OK. But for slapping on a picnic table it's not as rugged.


This military radio is a very rugged and usable manpack with 25 watts on HF. More info here.


This little 10w SSB lunchbox is crystaled up on 40m & 60m. It works great, and is handy to listen to around camp. It's also a great grab & go rig to give to someone to have instant HF capability. Recent testing between this radio and my VX-1210 in canyon conditions show it's a very viable short range (ground-wave) alternative for when VHF/UHF are unusable.

More info on the JSB-20

Alinco DX-70

This inexpensive rig is an excellent way to get started in portable HF operation. They are available for $400 or so used, have a reasonable current drain and are quite compact. You can also remote mount the head if desired.

This photo shows my DX-70 in a Wal-Mart Hydration pack. There is room in the pocket for a 14.4v 5AH NiMH battery.

I've since moved on to other radios, but the DX-70 offers lot's of operating for not much money!

Others IC-703- Nice, well integrated rig. If it were 25w I'd have one. Lighter duty construction, more like a cheap CB when contrasted with the FT-897 and even FT-857.

FT-817- The first modern purpose built HF portable for the portable market. Neat rig, but power is too low for my usage patterns.