Portable Radio Go-Box – Part 1: Planning
Lately I’ve been throwing ideas around about building a radio go-box of sorts but I keep running into the same two problems, cost of buying extra radios just for the go-box and size limitations of something that is portable. KB4RMA just built a very nice UHF/VHF go box but I want to include more band possibilities including HF which would be way too much for a small dry box like he used. Adding more radios and the additional ability of being able to use my go-box for an emergency power source for my local EMA EOC radio room in the event it’s primary power supply fails pretty much rules out a single box or case that can be picked up and carried by hand. Enter the new(ish) Rigid Pro Tool System, a modular system consisting of 3 different sized tool boxes that can be easily and quickly connected together to form a rolling set when used with the wheeled box. Stuart over at ToolGuyd did an excellent review of this system and after a lot of reading, measuring, and planning I believe this 3-piece system will work for my mobile radio system.
Here’s the catch and how I’m getting around the cost issue of buying more radios, I’m not buying extra radios and equipment just for this platform. Instead this setup will become my home base which is used daily, only I’ll be able to unhook a few antenna connections and have all of my gear portable and ready to go. It will require re-working my current base setup of course but a small price to pay for such portability, to me anyway.
My initial plans are to use the large bottom box which has wheels and a collapsable handle to house the battery bank. The other boxes attach to this larger box so it is crucial for carrying the entire system around. The middle box will house all of the radios, power supplies, tuners, and other electronics. The smaller top box will be used for cables, parts, and general equipment storage. Only the smaller top box will need to be removed during use. The radio box will be able to used while still connected to the lower box or can be detached and used on a table if desired.
The battery bank will initially be built to house SLA batteries that were removed from a large APC UPS system. The batteries are a few years old but still have plenty of capacity left due to how the APC controller maintained the batteries. They’ll be replaced later on with new Optima 12v or RV 6v type batteries. A stand-alone 120v charger and DC-AC inverter will also be incorporated into the battery bank box so that it can be used completely separate from the rest of the system. The inverter will provide 120v in the event a source is needed for HT chargers or powering other equipment. Anderson connectors will be used to connect the bank to the radio box. An MFJ voltage booster will also be housed in this box to ensure the radio box is provided with a constant 13.8 volts when used in this configuration.
The radio box will house all of the transceivers, tuners, meters, power supplies, and other electronics. Currently the following equipment is planned but is subject to change as the planning progresses:
- TYT TH-9800 UHF/VHF transceiver
- THT TH-9000D 220MHz Transceiver
- Alinco DR-135T VHF Transceiver for Digital Modes
- TNC Controller for Digital Modes (with connection to laptop)
- Yaesu FT-450D 160-10+6M
- Antenna Tuner for HF
- SWR/Wattmeter for HF (space permitting)
- Antenna Switches for UHF/VHF Radios
- MFJ DC Voltage Booster Remote Head
- 2 separate 12v 30A Power Supplies
- Various Voltage and Amperage Meters
- Arduino Temperature and Voltage Monitor
- Temperature/Transmit Controlled Fans
- LED Lighting for Night Operation
- Various Power Connections for powering other equipment as needed
It’s a lot of gear but I believe there will be ample room for all of this equipment in the box.
This box will house all of the extra cabling needed to make this system usable in any situation. Extra power connectors, extension cords, mics, coax, and spare fuses and parts should fit great in this box. An additional box this size can be added if needed while still maintaining access to the handle on the bottom box however I don’t expect to need it.
The next step will be to start acquiring equipment, materials, and do much more research. I already have the radio box purchased and will start designing the radio mounting hardware soon. The battery bank will be started on soon as well since I already have the batteries, wire, and Anderson connectors. Antennas, especially for the HF radio, will be the next topic to plan. When used as my base I will simply connect to my antennas mounted on my home. When mobile I have portable UHF/VHF antennas but haven’t put together a portable HF antenna setup yet. Location will dictate what I use but I’ll likely build dipoles for certain bands and carry plenty of wire and insulators to setup a loop if needed.
Much more to come!