FT-857 Portable Manpack

See part 2 here

My poor FT-857 has had a rough life. It’s been used portable and usually ends up being thrown in a bag with the ATU, battery and other parts. I decided it was time to show it some respect and create a military inspired manpack to keep it safe and secure.

After searching youtube for some ideas, I settled on making a sort of exoskeleton frame to fit the FT-857, LDG Z-11Pro 11 and battery inside. I decided to make the basic frame from 15mm copper water pipe because I had a few sections laying around and just needed a few fittings. I also wanted my manpack to be contained inside a backpack for protection and easy of transport. I like to operate on HF from the local beach so having something that I could just throw on my back an go is also a bonus.

Keeping with the military theme, a visit to the local surplus store yielded a suitable backpack with a single large pocket and 2 smaller side pockets. It also has some molle loops to I can easily add additional pockets if needed.

Robust backpack.
Robust backpack.

I measured the internal dimensions of the main pocket and used AutoCAD to design a frame to fit inside. I decided to make the frame from 15mm copper water pipe as I had some spare and just needed a few simple fittings.

The basic frame
The basic frame

After checking that the FT-857, LDG Z11Pro11 Tuner and battery would fit inside, I cut the copper pipe and started to assemble.

Frame assembly
Frame assembly

Once the frame was dry assembled I tested the equipment for fit before soldering the frame together using a blow torch.

Frame dry assembled
Frame dry assembled

Soldering the frame was easy but I wish I had used the type of connectors that are not pre soldered. The ones I used had a ring of solder inside the connector so I had to make sure each connector had the correct tube inserted before I applied heat.

Top section soldered
Top section soldered
Basic frame soldered
Basic frame soldered

A quick test fit in the pack to make sure it fitted.

It fits!
It fits!

With the basic frame done, I cleaned it up and started to add the fittings. First, some aluminium strips to support the battery. I tried to solder the strips to the copper but it was very messy so I ended up using some small rivets instead.

Battery supports
Battery supports

Next up was the strips and bracket to support the FT-857.

FT-857 support
FT-857 support

Followed by the antenna connection brackets and ATU support.

Antenna connections
Antenna connections

I cleaned the frame again and rubbed it down with wire wool before giving it a coat of paint. I used some “truck bed” paint from the local auto store which was billed as “hard wearing” and leaves a textured (think sandpaper!) finish.

Two coats of paint
Two coats of paint

I wanted to soften the frame up a little and protect the paintwork on the base and handles so I found some DPM bandage (originally for my dogs injured leg) and used it to wrap parts of the frame. It’s a bit spongy and makes the handles a bit more comfortable.

DPM bandage makes good handles
DPM bandage makes good handles

The LDG tuner was attached to the frame with some double sided foam tape. This stuff is used in cars to fix trim and is very sticky!

ATU fitted
ATU fitted
ATU fitted
ATU fitted

Next to go in was the FT-857. It sits in the original mobile mounting bracket with the microphone clip attached via a bracket screw.

FT-857 fitted
FT-857 fitted
FT-857 fitted
FT-857 fitted

Last to go in was the battery. I use a 7Ah 12v SLA battery and usually run the radio at 20W or less. The battery is held in place with a webbing strap (I need to get a black or green one to replace the orange one!) and connects via powerpole connectors for easy charging.

Ready to use
Ready to use
Ready to use
Ready to use

The frame slips in and out of the pack very easily and can be use in or out of the pack. Here it is complete with a dual band 2M/70cm whip fitted on the right and a 4M long MOD surplus vertical fitted on the left (running through the ATU).

Complete pack in use
Complete pack in use

I intend on adding extras as I get used to using the pack and hope to end up with a complete station in a simple to carry and robust package.

50 Replies to “FT-857 Portable Manpack”

  1. Hi Matt. I saw your post on HFPack asking about antennas for manpack set ups, and I ended up here. I use a mil surplus AT271 whip with a tuner. Fantastic. Lots of people on the Realhfmobile yahoo groupse the MFJ 1979 telescopic whip. Come over to http://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/realhfmobile/info and you’ll find a whole heap of good info.
    73, Pete

  2. looks good.thinking bout doing something like that as well.

    martin 2M0KAU

  3. Hi I am looking foreword to make one ,of the
    Frame myself but i would like to have the
    exakt dimentions.
    Of the tubes,sins they are hard to read from
    the photo.
    I am convinced there are many that wanted the same.
    Tanks in advance.
    Christian.

  4. Christian, stumbled up on your “manpack” frame via M0PZT pages, great idea, like to adopt it HI, thanks for sharing the idea

    Rik

  5. Glad you like it. Feel free to send me an email if you would like a copy of the full size drawings and CAD plan.

    Matt

  6. hello i have been looking around to find a case i can build for my hame and this is the one i like how much for the plans or to build one .hope to hear back soon until then 73 KK6EJA

  7. Hi Emmanuel. I’m glad that you like it. Around 80 sets of plans have been sent out. The plans are available for free. Just send me a short email and I will email them back to you.

  8. Saw your manpack idea and I really like it, can you send the info to me also, much appreciated.

    Ken N8CGY

  9. Thanks for the comment Ken.

    I have emailed the files over to you. Let me know how you get on.

    Matt

  10. hi there
    I would like to receive if you please said measures to mount my ft 857D and antenna models used

    Greetings: jose

    thank you

  11. you just inspired me to do a mod on my wheelchair so I can have my FT-857D with me everywhere I go… hahahaaaa…

    Thanks,
    Tim, K3TEG

  12. Hello Matt,
    Excellent job! I like it.I often work portable from YUFF and need some kind of man pack for my FT-857. Your solution looks fine.
    I appreciate if can get file with dimensions and deatils.

    Thanks!
    73!
    Predrag/YU1JF

  13. Hi Matt.. I love this FT857 manpack idea..! Could you send me the CAD files as well please? What was the total build time?

  14. Emails all sent with drawings.

    Have fun building and don’t forget to show us your finished packs…

  15. Hi Matt,

    Love the home made pack, would like to try it myself, any chance you could send me the plans.
    Thanks
    de Paul VO2PRS

  16. Hey Matt. I stumbled across your post looking at options to make my first radio (FT-7900) portable and it looks like just what I need. I’d really appreciate the plans as well.

    Thanks for your contribution to the community.

    Kyle Burns – KC9ZTA

  17. Hi Matt,

    like to built this pack for my FT-817 and X108. Maybe I will have to change the size.Could you send me the plans, too?
    Thanks,

    Andy DC3AFA

  18. Plans on their way Andy.

    Please let me have some pictures of your finished pack.

    Matt

  19. Nice design, just got a 857 and for sure I’m going to build one for myself if you sent me the pdf. Looking forward to use it in emergency radio excercises.

    Eelco

  20. No problem. Email with CAD drawings is on the way.

    Let us know how you get on.

  21. Hi Matt,

    Sorry to bother you again mate but I never did get the drawings for your home made pack. No problem if you no longer have them, thanks for your time.

    de Paul VO2PRS

  22. Sorry Paul. I must have lost you in the noise!

    I’ll send the drawings to you now.

  23. Hi Matt,

    Found your back pack looks good can you email the plans?

    Also what size is the rucksack?

    Thanks in anticipation
    Neil G0WPO

  24. Very good idea. Hallo lease send me also ur plans.
    Thank you. 73 Uwe DL3KG

  25. Tnku bro,
    Nice design and construction, i ready to my Mobil and emergency communications time. De vu3dng. 73s

  26. Hi Mat,

    thank you for that great solution. I just built it by myself. Could you please send me the model and the dimensions of the backpack?

    Thanks and 73 Markus

  27. Hi Markus and thank you for your comment. Which pack would you like to know about? The green one or the sand camo one?

  28. Thank youbfor your reply! I mean the camo one. That from your revisited post.

  29. Awesome setup! Especially after all the updates. Could I get you to email the dimensions as I can’t get to them on the ARPOC site?

  30. Hi, Iam 72 years old, and due to illness am on oxygen 24/7 so I cant drive, I use a 3 wheel “stroller” to carry the cylinder and to support me when walking outdoors, I would like to try building your pack frame to carry my FT8800 so I can “talk and walk”, could you please send me the plans,
    Thank you, 73,
    Robert, 2i0egn.

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