Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pelican case go-kit for the FT-857D, also computer case

I have been planning out my strategy for this for a while. Ever since I made the decision to get an FT-857D (way before I got it) I have wanted to make a go-kit. I wanted something that could withstand abuse and be totally reliable and ready to go anywhere and everywhere I go.

I have heard of Pelican cases in the past. It seems any time you hear of equipment cases they are Pelicans - cameras, guns, surveying equipment, even Bird Watt meters! So, I thought it would be a good idea to get a Pelican case for my go-kit. If they are used by the military and the government they must be good.

The main goal I had in mind was to keep things compact. I have a problem with packing too much stuff. That has always been the case. I am a Ham radio operator, what can I say? Everywhere I go a radio goes. However, that encompasses everything else to make it work, right? Wires, antennas, power sources, etc. I have driven several people crazy when it comes to trips hehehe.

Because the FT-857D is so small I thought the Pelican 1450 would do. It is deeper than the radio is so things can be stacked a bit and there would be some space to the sides for extras - mic, key, wires. One thing to keep in mind with a case like a Pelican (and the environment you use it) is that there needs to be space around the items for foam. Unless you go with an empty shell case and just pile everything in to it, however this really defeats the purpose of having the protection of a Pelican case. So I really didn't know if the 1450 was going to be the right case. Measuring things and looking at dimensions online is one thing, but actually having the items in hand and being able to physically lay them in/on something and move them around to see how it all works really goes a long way.

I have not heard of any "dealer" for Pelican cases, only online stores (and the company website, but you can't buy direct). So, I did some investigating on this. Come to find out, there is a dealer right here in Columbus, Ohio. It is only about 10 minutes from Universal Radio off of Broad St. East of I-270 on the East side of town.

The place is called Midwest Case Company. It appeared to be more of a distribution warehouse, so I didn't know if I could go there as if it were a store. I called the number and the guy there said it was a distribution office but I was more than welcome to go look around. So I did!

I decided since I was going to go out there I might as well look for a laptop case, too. I got a laptop for my birthday and no case, just a neoprene sleeve. I need something that will protect the computer a bit more than that.

I have to say I was impressed. I didn't think shopping for a case could be so much fun. If you need a case for something (or a bunch of stuff!) I highly recommend you try to go to a dealer! I ended up spending several hours (2-3) in this warehouse going through boxes of cases and seeing how everything would fit. I went through about 6-8 different model cases by the time I was done. Again, being able to have the objects in hand side by side with the cases really was the way to go.

My main goal in all this was to keep the go-kit as compact as possible without degrading its function. The first case I went to was the 1450 since that is what I thought I wanted. It fit the radio, key, mic, and chord but I would have squished it all in. Having the extra space on top really didn't amount to much because the foam block that comes in it is one piece (plus a 1/2" bottom and 1" or so lid piece). I could have cut the main block in half, though. Still, everything would have been really packed in there.

So I looked at the brief case style cases - the 1470 and the 1490. They are flatter but have more surface area so I could space the items out a little bit more than with the 1450. The 1470 was a bit too close but the 1490 seemed a bit better.

I then went up to the next size above the 1450 and the 1490 - the 1500. This was a deeper case like the 1450 was but slightly larger in footprint than the 1490. It most definitely would have been enough space. Again, the block was only one piece so I would have had to cut it down.

While looking at the 1450, 1470, 1490, and 1500 all side by side with my gear I figured the 1500 was just too big. I want a compact setup and there was just too much bulk with that case. For an expedition it might work alright, but for the situations I know I will find myself in that size would be too cumbersome.

Since I had my laptop with me I looked at the laptop cases. Surprisingly, the laptop cases are just different configurations of the regular cases they sell with foam - just with padded sides, a strap for the computer, and some had pockets for papers and a PDA in the lid. The 1490 happened to be one of these cases. So, since I was considering this case with the foam for the go-kit I figured it was a no-brain'er. The case could serve two purposes!

I walked out of this place with a 1490 that had the pick n' pluck foam package. I had some foam at home that I could use for the case as well, so I didn't need to buy anything other than the case to get my dual-personality Pelican case.

The first thing I got to work on was the rig configuration. The layout I came up with is this:

I made sure the pieces fit in there nice and snug. With the pick n' pluck foam you better go one block less than what you think you need than not, otherwise your items won't fit right. I will admit, though, that getting the radio in there is a squeeze. There is a lot of pressure on the foam (as you can see at the spacer between the rig and mic - it bows towards the mic) but I would rather have a radio that is hard to get in and out than to have it bang around in to other objects or flop out of position.

The kit is not completed yet. I am sure I will add things here and there to it. One item I really want to get is a Gamma Research HPS-1A power supply. It is a little bigger than a pack of cards but will run a 100w radio at 100w CW/SSB. It would be perfect for this setup! I also want to get some better batteries. I don't know that the batteries will be put in the case or not, though. All the essentials are there!

Now.. where can I go with it? I am sure I will put this to good use!

This morning I got working on the computer insert. This was a sheet of "egg crate" foam. I marked out where I wanted the computer and chord to go and then started trimming with a razor blade. It is a hack job, but the computer is protected quite nicely and there is not much pressure on the lid (as there was if I just put the computer in there without trimming out the block).


Anonymous ke5vli said...

Great write up. I'm looking to set up a hardcase for my Go-Kit as well.

December 31, 2008 2:14 PM  
Anonymous Rahul said...

I bought the 1450 case online. Big mistake. Will hold just the radio (706) and mike. Should have bought 1490.

Good setup.

January 14, 2009 9:33 AM  
Anonymous Jay said...

excellent write up...working on a similar setup for my icom 706 and assorted accessories. you certainly have helped me eliminate some possibilities! 73 de kd4bpz.

May 10, 2009 11:59 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home