A real “Shack in a box”

We have all seen the black box radios that have attracted the term “shack in a box” but I wanted a real shack in a box.

I have limited space at home and wanted to enjoy a bit of portable operating but didn’t want to spend out on extra equipment for portable use and didn’t want to keep unplugging the HF radio and associated bits. The solution was to build a “go box” or “jump kit” that contained all of the equipment needed for home operation and could also be packed up quickly and used for portable operation.

Now, this thing is not lightweight so when I say portable, I don’t mean climb up a mountain portable, I mean put in the back of the car portable. That’s fine with me as I only go portable so that I can get away from the noise at home and get the chance to put up some good sized antennas.

The case is a 6u rack flight case made by SKB. It’s roto molded plastic so it’s tough as old boots, has a rubber gasket around the case lids to keep water and dust out and a good solid pair of wheels with a retracting handle so its easy to move. I can lift it OK but I won’t say that the finished item is light! Next time I take it out I will get it on the scales.



Here is what the box contains:

A nice small switched mode PSU complete wth a noise offset function. Good for 30A and mounted at the front so I can have easy access to the 12v accessory terminals if needed.


2 x 7Ah 12v SLAB
Mounted in the back with room for at least 6 more if needed. I have used the box for 4 hours on HF @ 30W and VHF @ 50W with no problem using just the existing 2 batteries.


KI0BK Low Loss Power Gate
A great little power gate. This Keeps the SLAB’s charged using the output from the PSU and provides seamless power switchover if the PSU fails. Perfect for keeping the SLAB’s topped up whilst at home and ready for portable deployment without a separate charger.


G.T.Power Watt meter and power analyser display
A very handy display originally made for RC model enthusiasts. It displays current consumption(A), current load (W), power voltage (V), total consumption since turning on (Ah and Wh) and a whold load of other power related info.


Kenwood TM-V71 VHF/UHF Dual band transceiver
For local VHF and UHF comms. This model also has the cross band repeat function available.


A simple cross needle VHF/UHF SWR bridge for checking antenna match.


Yaesu FT-857 HF/VHF/UHF transceiver
My main HF radio with the UK 5Mhz band enabled and wideband receive. Also equipped with the optional collins SSB and CW filters, temperature controlled crystal oscillator and MH-59 microphone for direct frequency entry.


A small and simple ATU for HF. I prefer to work with resonant antennas when portable but use the ATU at home and you never know when it may come in helpful when portable.


A simple cross needle HF SWR bridge for checking antenna match.


G4ZLP DigiMaster MMiniPro
Data interface for the FT-857. I do a fair bit of data modes at home including PSK and some SSTV so built this into the box. It’s easy to use and just need a USB and sound card connection.


64GB USB memory stick
This stick contains a live linux distribution and lots of HAM software. I can grab any computer or laptop, boot from the memory stick and have access to 100’s of data modes. It also holds a copy of my licence, conditions, band plans, logbook and other useful radio related documents.


2 x Front facing external speakers
One connected to the FT-857 and the other connected to the TM-V71


Heil Sound Pro set 6 headset
Unplugged and ready for use with the FT-857. I like using the headset when portable as it blocks out a lot of background noise and QRM from bystanders.

The only external connections to the box are mains power, Data (if I want to use data modes), 1 x HF antenna and 2 x VHF/UHF antenna. It takes about 1 minute for me to unplug them, put the front and back covers and lift it off the desk ready to go.

All of the equipment is mounted onto 1U 19″ rack shelves. They are 1/2 depth shelves so 3 fit from the front and 3 fit from the back. This makes it easier to remove and adjust individual sections of the box.


Test fitting the radios and power meter.


A front view of the completed “shack in a box”.


So there you have it. If you ever work me /P then I will probably be using this box of fun!

11 Replies to “A real “Shack in a box””

  1. Hi,

    I would be interested to know what software you use on you’re usb stick.

  2. Thanks Matt,

    That’s very helpful because I haven’t come across it before.



  3. Hi Matt thank you for the call on 2m when u were on Bluebell hill on the 21/3/2014 around lunch time I had a look at your site and your go box very interesting, something I would like but would not use it enough to warrant making it, nice all the same well done.Best regards Brian G0UKP

  4. Thanks Brian.

    Your idea of a plywood shelf and a case is a good one. Perfect for occasional use.

    I would love to see some pictures once it’s done.


  5. Hello
    Good radio box, me too i have make my station in a rack 19 pouces
    For cafring or in bicycle (remorque) for my futur hollydays in ouest
    My station:
    Icom 706 Mk2, match box mfj, yaesu Vhf/Uhf F3E match box V/uhf,
    Alim 30 A and a futur Battery 2x7A.

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