Radios for Goats


I have used four different radios for my Parks and Summit activation’s.

By far the majority have been done with either of my two KD1JV rigs the MTR and ATS4. Both these rigs run on little power and their compact size makes them quite portable. Batteries are external and if required the ATU is also external. This does make set up a little more time consuming but does provide other advantages such as rig cannot be turn on by accident in the pack, and an external ATU allows the active part of the antenna to be placed a little bit further away from the operator.

ats and mtr

ATS4a and MTR 2 bander

A holiday to VK8 saw me take the FT817, this is a robust performer, plenty of bands, internal batteries, but no internal ATU. I used the 817 on this trip for a number of reasons, firstly the wide band choice as I only have 5 bands max in the ATS4, but more importantly was the battery issue. With the restrictions on carrying batteries in planes the 817 allowed me to use a set of rechargeable Ni-Zn batteries plus supplement with some AA dry cells from the local supermarket. On this trip I would be only activating parks and in VK there are very few CW parks chasers so the 817 would also allow phone operations.


Good Old FT-817

In mid-2016 Elecraft announce their KX2 this radio is a smaller brother to the KX3, with a few less features and bands, see the KX2 FAQ for a detailed comparison

For me the pro’s and con’s of the purchase were; SDR radio, all the bands I normally use portable, all in one package with ATU, Internal Battery, Internal Mic, and SSB. On the Con’s the main factor was the cost in Oz Dollars, plus the risk of being taxed as the radio price was over the local tax threshold.


KX2 with KXPD cover from Side KX and Palm Pico Single

Clearly I purchased one, the first problem I struck was the battery, with Elecraft having trouble finding a carrier that would deliver a Li-ion battery to my part of VK3, however with some persistence from the team at Elecraft it arrived with the battery installed into the battery compartment rather than loose.

I have had the KX2 for around 6 months, and used it on most activation’s since then. Mainly using CW, but worked a few P2P and S2S using the internal mic. The KX2 is a good radio, is it a good sota radio for what I do? Well for me it has a couple of short comings;

kx2 battery

KX2 Battery

Battery, the battery compartment is big enough for the supplied battery pack, but I cannot find a matching size pack here in VK, and a protected 18650 battery holder will not fit. This impacts air travel and the ability to source a battery pack to replace the supplied one when it fails

There is an external power connector but this is not switched, the radio will operate from which supply is higher, so the operator will need to pay attention or end up with two flat batteries when using an external battery.

Could be more field ready, I also purchased the Cover for the KXPD socket, End Plates and Cover from Side KX, these are great products, but for a radio which was clearly built for field use it could have come with these or at least offer these from Elecraft to allow people to combine postage. I would love if the radio had a few less openings for ingress of moisture, dust, ants etc.

kx2 rear

KX2 rear, showing Programming Port and Socket for Counterpoise wire

OK the pluses, it a good radio, does everything it says it will do and the internal mic is great for the CW operator who does not want to make too many phone QSO’s. Its small enough to use as a hand held.

kx2 with palm base

KX2 with base for Palm Pico

I have also attached a base for a palm paddle on the right hand end. To do this I used the existing thread screw hole at the front a drilled and tapped a second hole. This is the same end as the Finals and may not suit all, to date I have not had any problems with over heating running my standard 4.8W.

I have not conducted any detailed testing of battery performance, but I find I typically use 450mAh (CW with Pre-Amp and ATU on), and the supplied battery has a usable capacity of 2100 mAh, so this gives me around four hours of activating time per charge.

cool kx2

KX2 Chilling on the 90 Mile Beach in VK3

So in closing YMMV so make up your own mind, I would love the battery compartment to allow greater flexibility to fit 18650 or similar batteries. As for future activation’s, the KX2 will go on most Park only activation’s as we don’t have enough CW parks chasers to make CW only park activation’s viable. But for the SOTA trips particularly where it has a long walk were weight and size is important the ATS or MTR will be the rig of choice

4 thoughts on “Radios for Goats

  1. Interesting comments on the KX2. Elecraft trying to please the biggest possible audience of course, so compromises are understandable. The battery situation is sad especially for travellers, where internal batteries remove airline concerns, illogical though that is. If it works well on air, especially on cw, I guess you will be very happy with it despite the peripheral issues. cheers, Andrew vk1da

    • Thanks Andrew for your comments, yes I do feel that Elecraft missed the mark with both the battery and ruggedness of the radio. I don’t expect military grade radios from them but fail to see why the radio could not be a bit tighter in its construction. The bezel is only held down at each end allowing it to bow a little thus allowing dust to get under it and I can see no good reason why the programing port which is only need by the factory is left open on the rear.

  2. Hi Warren,
    I really enjoyed reading your post on your radio portable collection, especially on the Elecraft KX2. The battery issue would put me off, especially, as Andrew points out, for those who fly. At the end of the day I reckon the FT817 is still quite an amazing device in such a small package! I also have the Mountain Topper 3 band radio which is also quite amazing in such a really small box. Thanks for the reviews.
    John D VK5BJE/VK5PF

    • Thanks John, yes the 817 is a great radio. A little more rugged than the KX2 and a lot cheaper should it get damaged in the field : ). Of course the KX2 has the lower weight and the lower current draw working in its favor.
      I am glad you find my reviews of interest, whist not a regular blogger I feel it’s important to share ones experiences particularly as we are spread all over Australia.

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