Saturday, July 22, 2017

Yaesu FT-891: the perfect rig for RVing?



With our backpacking days behind us, my XYL and I purchased a used travel trailer recently and are giving serious consideration to buying  a Class C motorhome in 3 years when I retire. The plan for then is to take extended trips, making lengthy stops along the way to explore national parks and other places that give us cause for pause.

Of course, there's no way in the world I'd go on such journeys without a ham radio so the search is on for a rig that would offer me the most bang for the buck, take up little space, cover all the HF bands and easily transition from mobile to portable if the spirit moves me. That and the need for a computer rules out my existing Flex 6300.

The FT-891 is currently going for $629 and, in a "it's too good to be true" sort of way, I'm trying to find a reason not to buy one at that price - and I'm having a tough time doing it. I had an FT-857D a few years ago, never had a problem with it and was quite happy with it. The '891 lacks V/UHF (a non-issue with me except for the ability to receive weather on 162 MHz) and has a bigger display and updated technology compared to its predecessor.

I'll be financing the radio by selling some current gear in the coming months. Those items will be posted here before going (if no sale) to eBay.
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7 comments:

VE9KK said...

Good morning John, I read your post with a smile on my face as my wife and I have been talking (not yet purchased anything yet) the same thing. We are tossing up the idea of staying in Canada and touring the U.S and Canada or going over to England (as we both has a British passport) and touring the EU with a trailer. I'm done working in just under 2 years so you are way ahead of us at the moment with the purchase of a very nice looking travel trailer. As for the FT-857 I did have one years ago and one thing that had me sell it was the frustration of the menu's. It seemed to change the simplest thing meant going into menu hell. I needed a manual to navigate the menus. Not sure if that was cleared up with the FT-891 or not? AS you said though for the price it sure is a hard deal to pass up.
73,
Mike

John AE5X said...

Mike, maybe we'll cross paths at some point...the XYL and I both want to see the Canadian maritimes, Maine and other points a bit to your east. I have a lot to learn about camping this way but it is a fun process that has mostly been local stuff so far - Galveston and Padre Island with a trip to FL planned for November. No radio onboard yet though as we sort out all the other stuff.

Congrats on your upcoming retirement and keep us posted via your blog of RV plans.

73,
John

Steve said...

I'm no where near returning, but have been looking at mobile HF. I'm thinking about an IC-7100. I'd at least have the option for V/UHF and with rebate its ~$800 right now.

John AE5X said...

Hi Steve - I looked at that rig but it requires mounting two separate components. I think this would make it cumbersome to transfer from mobile to portable to trailer.

KA9EAK said...

Congratulations on the new camper John! We are on our third season with ours and love it. We get about 20 days a year in limited only by that four letter word "WORK." : ) I'm a bit behind you in time to retirement but we have a similar plan. Get a little bigger camper and go more, longer, and farther.

I have a 90-100 minute round trip commute everyday and have an 857 in my car. I like it a lot. It does everything that I ask of it. I was mildly tempted to upgrade when the 891 came out but the lack of VHF\UHF held me back. For my mobile use an all-in-one radio is nice. If that's not an issue I would agree that the 891 appears to be a great RV radio. It looks like a nice upgrade to the 857. I'm used to the menus but a larger display and improved filtering would be nice.

I'm glad that Yaesu chose to keep the line going. There really isn't anything in that space anymore. The ICOM 7100 is close but not the same form factor. The Kenwood TS-480 is nice as well, but a bit larger and two pieces again, though you can mount them together with a bracket, no VHF\UHF but the SAT version has an internal antenna tuner. The 891 is right in the sweet spot.

Enjoy your new camper!

73,

Tim
KA9EAK

John AE5X said...

Good morning Tim,

I followed that thread on Elecraft and was glad to see the guy got it all worked out. You no doubt have helped many others with the write-up you posted yesterday.

The FT-891 is not an absolute certainty yet - the KX2 is still in my thoughts. A big power difference between the two but I have to make a decision on exactly how I'm going to operate and which rig's limitations would affect me the least.

In a trailer, 12V in enough capacity to operate at 100 watts would is available - I'm curious why you choose to use the KX2 on your camping trips rather than the FT-857? This is the question I'm asking myself as well...I think I want a KX2 because I like the smallness, cuteness and integration etc of it and am trying to justify it. But the practical choice seems to be the much higher-powered and much lower-priced Yaesu.

KA9EAK said...

Thanks John. The 857 is installed in my car and I don't want to have to remove it and replace it for each camping trip. It's not like it's welded into the car but it's just one more thing to do. I had purchased the 857 for the car but used it on my desk for a wee bit. I got so used to having a nice new radio (the first new HF radio I'd ever purchased) that I missed it when I put it in the car. Prior to the 857 my main radio was a TS-830S. So I got the TS-480SAT for my desk at the time and was (and still am) very pleased with it. Then we got the camper and the 480SAT became the camper radio. Initially I used it a lot at camp as well as "portable" with a trolling motor battery and a wagon to haul it for NPOTA and lighthouse activations. Admittedly I could have made some other battery choices but I had the big batteries so that is what I used. I really really like the TS-480SAT. If I was allowed to keep only one of my radios, it would be the TS-480SAT. For me, it does everything that I need, does it well, and is a pleasure to operate whether fixed or portable and a lot of people use them mobile. It's got just the right mix of knobs and buttons for a smallish interface. I never need to go into menus for normal operating.

The KX2 was\is admittedly an extravagance. I didn't really need it. I wanted something smaller than the 480SAT for portable operation, away from camp or just out on a day hike. As you know, the KX2 certainly fills that need but they are a bit expensive for what they are. I've been using it at camp lately just to gain more familiarity with its operation and capability and for digital it's fine at 5W.

If I had neither the 480SAT or the KX2 and had to pick a new radio for camping, I would take a long look at the 891. It's certainly smaller than the 480SAT and $200 less though it lacks an internal antenna tuner if that matters for your intended use. Compared to the KX2, 100W is better than 10W given band conditions for the foreseeable future plus it's $100 less than the KX2. It's not like you couldn't put an 891 in a backpack. A decent sized LiFePO4 battery will last you a fair while with the power dialed back a bit and will certainly weigh less than a trolling motor battery. If you're trying to talk yourself out of an 891 I'm not being a big help. : )

73,

Tim
KA9EAK