Radio Go Kit!

10 03 2011

I have been interested in building a Radio Go Kit for a long time.  I first saw Robb Wood’s (KE5ROB) Go Kit.  He had a D-Star radio inside of a toolbox that he could use in his car and also could take it out if he needed to.  I thought that would be a great idea.

Since I got my ticket I have owned a D-Star IC-91AD radio and have been interested in the technology and capabilities of the D-Star system.  I also have owned a couple of radios that did transmit and receive on multiple bands but not simultaneous dual band monitoring.  I had two HTs that had the capabilities, however in support of events and traveling in a car they just don’t always make it into the repeaters.  I knew I needed 50 watts to get to some of the repeaters in Northern Colorado, especially when traveling in the canyons and up in the mountains.

So I set out to build a Radio Go Kit that I could provide dual-band monitoring, D-Star and I wanted to make it so I could use in my house as well as in a car or at a fixed location without 120w power.

In looking over the options I had available I decided on a Icom 2820H radio.  It had all the requirements and could do Crossband Repeat function which I also wanted but did not require.  The 2820 was not cheap so I had to do some saving up and pulling together christmas gifts to make the purchase.  I purchased my radio with the optional UT-123 D-Star board and programming software from Ham Radio Outlet in Denver.

I figured I would also want to have a case for my new portable radio so I looked around and decided to get a Pelican Case.  The Pelican case seemed to be very rugged and would hold the radio the best during almost all the conditions I would need it.  (Dust, light Rain, transporting, good looks, easy to carry)  I went with a 1450 case and got it off of Amazon because the with shipping price was cheaper than any where else I could get it.  I actually got mine with foam but did not use the foam.

The other nice part about the pelican case is it has an engineered bracket that mounts to the inside to allow one to mount a plate in the case.  My plan was to mount the radio on the plate so that everything would be safe during movement.  This bracket was a separate purchase and for some reason took over a month to ship.

I set out to figure what all I needed to make this kit a reality.  The 2820 radio has multiple connections on it and I wanted to make sure that I did not have to open the case in the middle of an event just because I wanted to plug something else in.  The radio has two antenna connections for diversity receive (a nice feature that helps pick up signals that are week on one antenna but stronger on the other antenna.)  There is a Data connection for programming the radio and running digital software like D-Rats.  There is a GPS, two speaker connections, of course a power, microphone and control head connection.  There is also a 6-pole 9600bps connection although I have never used it and don’t have anything that can connect with it.  I figured out what all the connections required and how I would make them.  As you can see the photos show the various connections and locations.

Since I wanted this G0 Kit to be pretty self contained I knew I wanted the connections to be readily available.  I extended all of the connections to the plate so that the radio would be mounted and left alone in the case.  I figured I could make the mounting plate out of plexiglass and would be able to purchase it from a local hardware store.

I went to Lowe’s Home Improvement and purchased a 18″ x 24″ plexiglass and they cut the dimensions to the correct size to fit into the box.  I took it home, rounded off the corners, drilled multiple holes for the radio mount and the mounting holes so it could mount to the case.  I was getting down to one of the last big holes and all of a sudden the 1/4″ plexiglass broke.  I was so bummed.  I thought if I would have gone slower, had it stabilized better or even went with a little smaller drill bit I could have kept from breaking it.  But, it was broke and nothing I could do about it.

I contacted some fellow HAM operators and told them of the disappointment and they mentioned that I should just get a piece of Aluminum and mount it into the case.  They said it would be easier to drill, cut and manipulate the way I wanted.  I also talked with a co-worker about my project and he mentioned he had an Amplifier project once where he went to a local store and had them laser cut the plexiglass for not a lot of money.

So I looked up the place to ask them lots of questions and they informed me all I needed was a drawing to scale of what I wanted and they would be able to make the plexiglass without a problem.  I set out and made all of the dimensions and drew out the design.  It helped to get a pair of Digital calipers so that I could make measurements accurate and quickly.  I sent the company a quote and they gave me a price that seemed reasonable.  I actually had the piece within 3 days of ordering it.  Let me know if you would like a copy of the files that were used to make the template file for the cutting machine.

You can see the photos below are pictures of the Pelican case, the connections that were required to be made and the final assembly.

So to use my radio somewhere all I do is carry the Yellow Pelican Case, A Battery, the Antenna and a soft sided satchel that has extra coax cables, earphones, an external speaker, power connections and manuals.  I use the battery when I am at home or without my vehicle.  If I go weather spotting I am able to use a cigarette adapter to power the radio.

If you have any questions about the radio or need some ideas let me know.  You can e-mail me at my call sign

I hope this article is helpful information or provides you some enlightenment for your GO KIT project.


KI6MPA (Eugene)