So, I quite regularly see folks asking questions about traveling with Ham Radio equipment on commercial flights. Short answer - it's easy! As much as we think people will get excited about our radio equipment, at the end of the day, TSA sees much weirder stuff than our radios and they don't get paid enough to care about our specific brand of geekiness (is that a word?) In fact, ham radios are so non-exciting to TSA that they specifically give them the greenlight for either checked baggage or carry-on. They just give you the generic warning about being careful how you pack electronics so things don't get damaged. Like any other large electronics you just have to take your radio out and send it through the x-ray machine on its own if you carry-on (from experience, the 857d is considered large, but the MFJ 30 amp switching power supplies and LDG tuners are not.)
With that bit of information out of the way, I figured the easiest way to show how I generally travel with my gear, would be to do a photo-journal. Depending on the trip, I can sometimes get everything I need into just my carry-on/personal item (see Packing the Bags that I wrote before a trip to southwestern Ohio) but often times for work, I'm taking other equipment, so I have to take a checked bag anyway. I would imagine that when most people travel they are doing the standard 1 checked bag, 1 carry-on, 1 personal item arrangement. Without further ado, here's how I fit my ham radio gear into that situation for a week-long trip (I am willing to re-wear things like pants, but I insist on clean socks and underwear....):
- Rig Expert AA-54 HF+ 6m Antenna Analyzer
- MFJ Battery Booster (I'd go straight to the manufacturer for this)
- Buddipole (Again, straight to the manufacturer is the best bet here)
- Times Technology VHF/UHF Antenna Analyzer (the model I have is no longer available, but you should be able to find the replacement models with a Google search)
- Underwear (I honestly recommend these...they're awesome)
- My Coax came from one of the common ham suppliers
- My shirts came from wherever my YL bought them (probably Target :-)
Get ready for it.....
- The cell booster is a good solution if you have cell signal outside your house, but it's weak down inside your basement shack.
- No top secret wire supply house here - just whatever I can get my hands on
- Pants are my old company provided uniform pants - standard service tech Khaki
Will you just close the lid already? Okay, but this was only the checked bag - I still have my carry-on and personal item!
So, there's the checked bag. You might have noticed that there was no radio in there....that's because I prefer to carry that on so that I can keep my eye on it. I use an old, hard, laptop case as my "personal item." The specific one I use isn't available anymore (I bought it with a laptop about 100 years ago...) but there are similar models out there. This is another case where I put the stuff in, and then just pad as needed with foam.
But wait, you say, you didn't tell us what was in the backpack, or where you got that awesome backpack with your callsign on it (L.L. Bean. It was an anniversary gift from the YL, and I love it!)
I didn't show you the inside of that, because the backpack is whatever other random stuff I happen to take along. It usually includes my toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, comb (I rely on the hotel to provide any other needed toiletries), an issue or 2 of QST, whatever book I happen to be reading at the time, my Samsung Tablet, my Laptop, and an HT and it's charger. Sometimes even a spare set of clothes or extra pair of shoes.
The last recommendation I have is the headphones you see hanging through the bag. I love them, because they communicate wirelessly (bluetooth) with my cell phone and tablet for making calls, watching videos on the plane, etc. but they also have a wire that you can plug in and use in an analog fashion, so I use the same set of headphones to plug into my radio if I don't want to rely on the built in speaker in the 857d (I still use the hand mic for transmit audio.) They are the Skullcandy Hesh 2 headphones - I don't go anywhere without them because it's one set that will do it all!