I’ve been building and rebuilding my go kit for a couple of years now and every time I do it I learn something. What I learned since I built my last version is that I really value versatility. When building a go kit you should think about what you need the kit to do and how you will be using it. The two previous versions of my kit (see here and here) both used rack cases to contain the radios and other equipment in one complete package. This works great for multiple reasons: it provides a lot of protection, with the covers on the cases are dust proof and water resistant, the cases are stack-able and the operator has easy access to all the radio’s ports. There are two big negatives that go along with rack cases as well: they are bulky and they add a lot of weight.
For my new go kit build I wanted to cut the bulk and weight of my kit substantially (I did some math and found that for my previous VHF case the rack case itself weighed more than the radios inside it). I also wanted to divide the kit into more versatile modules so that I only have to carry what I need in a given scenario. This is a similar idea to what I did when I rebuilt my battery box; going smaller and simpler instead of all out.
To achieve this goal I decided to use Tac-Comm tactical radio carriers. These carriers are made of aluminum, are lightweight, they stack on top of one another, tilt bales & handles are included and they offer a lot of flexibility for how you can mount equipment. On their website they emphasize the use of nylon webbing straps to secure radios, power supplies, etc. That’s fine, but I prefer to bolt things solidly in place. These carriers are not weather tight, so in the event that I need to expose them to inclement weather I will keep them inside a plastic bin to prevent equipment damage. In the end I used three carriers: two standard size (for power supply & VHF/UHF) and one large (for HF).
The power supply module uses the same Powerwerx power supply I have used on all the previous builds. It works great, is compact and doesn’t put out RFI. I mounted it in the standard carrier using the same brackets as previously and added two Anderson powerpole ports to the back of the case. It’s a very straightforward build. I thought about putting a top on the carrier, but leaving it off gives me an easy way to store the power cord and radio power jumper wires. I removed the standard tilt bale to allow for stacking on top of the larger carrier. Including cables the power supply module weighs 5.6 lbs.
The VHF/UHF module uses the same Kenwood TM-V71a and SignaLink USB combo I’ve used in the past. The radio is mounted in the carrier using the standard mobile mount. I added an ABS plastic plate in the back of the carrier to allow a place to mount a USB pass-through port and a powerpole. This provides a convenient place to hookup when in the field and gives every internal cable a place to land so nothing is loose and flopping around. The layout I chose leaves space on the side to mount the microphone inside the carrier for easy transport. Tac-Comm also sells covers to protect the front and rear of the carrier and I used a front cover with an ABS plastic extension to protect the radio’s display & knobs as well as keep the microphone cable inside the carrier. To top it off I used Tac-Comm’s steel top cover which is magnetic and allows for the use of a small mag-mount antenna for instant field deployment. The VHF/UHF module weighs 7.9 lbs.
The HF module uses the same Yaesu FT-450D transceiver I have used before, but this time I changed my digital interface. Instead of a SignaLink USB I decided to use an inexpensive USB soundcard wired directly to the radio’s data port and I key the radio via it’s serial port using rig control. I chose this soundcard because I know from previous experience that it has a low noise floor and works well for digital communications. This new arrangement saves a lot of space and allows me to reduce the carrier to its minimum height without sacrificing any functionality. The transceiver is mounted to the carrier using the same angle brackets as previous builds, only the hole placement is different. Similar to the VHF/UHF module I used another ABS plastic plate for USB & powerpole connectivity and another optional front plate for protection. I also was able to mount the microphone internally for transport. The HF module weighs 15 lbs.
The end result of all this is that I now have a very versatile and vastly lighter go kit. Since each radio and power source are separated from one another, I no longer have to carry anything I don’t need when going to the field; if I’m going to run on battery, I can leave the power supply module and vice versa. Even as a complete kit I reduced the volume of equipment by at least 50%. All together this new kit weighs 28.5 lbs, compared to 40.5 lbs for v2 and 52.25 lbs for v3, a reduction of 30% and 45% respectively. Needless to say I am very happy with the end result. Any protection I have sacrificed is more than made up for by the additional versatility and reduced weight.