QuickSilver Radio's Hammo-Can XL Ready-Made Go-Box
Tue, May 30, 2017 at 6:01AM
David Coursey, N5FDL in Batteries, Go-Kit Items, Hammo-Can, Portable, Quicksilver Radio, Reviews, portable power, portable station

Two admissions right up front: 1) I have never used one of these Quicksilver Radio ammo-box emergency stations. 2) When/if I get one, it sure as heck won’t say Hammo-Can XL in big faux-military letters on mine.

Callsign? Sure. Communications? Good. But I am still tormeted to be labeled by the FCC as an “Amateur Extra” — which sounds like “especially dufus” to me. I don’t need more embarassment.

I like the radio best mounted in this “top” orientation.I am writing this “review” because I plan to rebuild my existing portable station and would also consider purchasing something much like this box. There is a lot to like about this portable station, a few things to quibble with, and maybe something I really don’t like.

All-in-all, if you can accept this box for what it is, it should be very useful. (The images expand if clicked upon. The battery in inside the gray box).

Product Specs

Here is how QSR describes this $349.73 can of tricks. I’ve added my comments in italics.

Ready to Go!

Our new Hammo-Can XL™ is a complete VHF-UHF Station in a box.

For starters, this is a good idea. We need a good portable emergency station that is easy-to-purchase and works.

Yes, the radio is included! It’s a full featured dual-band radio by Jetstream. The JT270MH covers the 2 Meter and 70 Centimeter Ham bands, plus a lot more — including all of the NOAA weather channels. It is computer programmable, cable and software are included (also supported by Chirp software) with 25 Watts output power.

The radio itself costs about $120 if purchased alone. Call me a bigot, but I’d be way happier with a Yaesu. Or would I? I’d probably run the Yaesu at its 50w default, eating the battery. This radio needs to be able to transmit outside the ham bands during emergencies — like search and rescue missions. I am presuming that is possible with the Jetstream.

I’d program this radio with channels set for both 5w and 25w side-by-side so I can easily use the lowest acceptable tx power and save battery power.

Yes, the battery is included. It’s a 12 Amp-Hour rechargeable gel cell that will run the radio for many hours. Recharge it through the convenient Anderson Powerpole connectors. Wall charger, lighter plug cable, and other charging options available.

All the power in and out goes through the two powerpoles. Or the cigarette lighter jack. For me, two PowerPoles, one used for charging, seems four too few. I’d like to be able to fully power this station from an external supply. Is that easily possible? Can the battery be disconnected as desired? Charged separately? And all these cables come off the front of the box.

I mention this because I rarely run totally off batteries, although I am sure many others rarely run off AC in the field.

Is a 12 Amp-Hour battery enough? At 5w, probably for the day, even at a reasonably busy net control. I’d bring a DC supply I can connect to mains power or a generator. Or a much larger battery. That would make me feel much more secure.

Versions of this box and power-only boxes are available from the vendor.

Yes, a dual-current USB socket is included. Charge smartphones and tablets, run LED lighting, etc. Plus a heavy duty lighter socket for convenient power. Bright, easy to read voltmeter also included to keep track of your battery.

This is the heart of what I like about this box and what I want to add to my existing box: I need USB charging, cigarette lighter power is very helpful, I like the voltmeter. But I’d also like to know how many amps I am pulling, especially when running off an outboard DC supply or large battery.

Yes, two genuine Anderson Powerpoles are included. Charge the battery with any appropriate power source and run external devices.

I’ll talk about this more in relation to my own box and plans.

Yes, the antenna is included. Dual band whip with a BNC connector so you can easily swap in your choice of external antennas for higher performance and range.

If we accept — as I do — that having this box sealable and with no protrusions, this antenna mounting is a real plus for “right now” portable operation with essentially no setup. I, of course, would rarely want the antenna so close to my face. If I had one of these, I’d add 25 or 50 feet of coax with a BNC on one end (for the box) and whatever my antenna requires on the other.

All in a tough and water resistant metal Ammo-Can. Approximate dimensions 11-3/4”L x 5-1/4”H x 7-1/8”H; 15 lbs. 10 oz. Detachable lid with gasket.

What does “water resistant” mean? I don’t expect submersible, but can this box, when sealed up, sit out in the rain? Sit in a puddle? I know this isn’t a Pelican case, but what can it protect against?

Odd place for the radio, I think.

My Own Box

My personal box, wooden as it is, benefits from having a back that slides up and off. The exposes access to antenna jacks, data cabling for packet/APRS and radio programming, and extra Powerpole connectors. All of which, along with the DC power supply, can be accessed from the back without getting in the operator’s way.

My box has multiple radios — a Kenwood dual-band APRS mobile radio, a Motorola mobile VHF public safety radio, and a Uniden scanner. I typically run all three, with the scanner connected to a small antenna that sits near the box. The two other radios feed coax to separate antennas.

The Quicksilver box appears to have room for a second small dual-band radio. The scanner could become a handheld or perhaps a public safety, used to monitor and communicate with served agencies.

So far, the Quicksilver box could still be easily modified to meet my needs. Adding USB, voltmeter, etc., to my box could be a pain.

My box has two external speakers. Quicksilver would probably benefit from one speaker per radio.

What neither box has, and I want very badly, is a headphone jack and, ideally a separate speaker switch. I want to always be able to use the headphone but want to control the speaker separately so others can hear or not hear, as I desire.

How to do this for three radios at once? That is an issue, but I really only need an earphone/headphone on the radio I am using to communicate at the time. Give be multiple jacks and switches? 

Pricing

Is $349.73 a fair price for this box? Some hams — the more construction-oriented — will add up the total prices of the parts, toss in junk from the shack, and count their time at zero. They will say the box is too expensive.

Normal people will appreciate a professional appearance, the ability to ask the vendor to do customization, and when the UPS guy appears will consider this to be money well-spent. I am in this camp.

Bottom Line

I have about 3/4 convinced myself that my next medium-sized lottery win can be used to purchase one of these. Updating my existing box to add better power management, replace the Motorola radio with something smaller, add earphone jack(s) and speaker controls, etc. is a $200 project, tops.

Adding a really large external battery might be $200 as well. But either radio box could use it.

I have ordered from Quicksilver Radio in the past and like the company as a vendors and would not hesitate to order from them

Update on Tue, May 30, 2017 at 1:53PM by Registered CommenterDavid Coursey, N5FDL
I asked John Bee of Quicksilver Radio to comment on my non-review “review” and here is what he wrote:

Hi David:

I think it’s a fair review, and I don’t see any factual errors.  Some explanation and amplification, though:

The radio itself costs about $120 if purchased alone. Call me a bigot, but I’d be way happier with a Yaesu. Or would I? I’d probably run the Yaesu at its 50w default, eating the battery. This radio needs to be able to transmit outside the ham bands during emergencies — like search and rescue missions. I am presuming that is possible with the Jetstream.

First, nothing I’m aware of from Yaesu, ICOM, Kenwood, or Alinco would fit in this box.  I’m also not an authorized dealer for any of them, which would complicate any warranty issues (and dramatically increase the price!).  I do make the Hammo-Can Pro 18 and Pro 35.  They come in a larger box with larger batteries, no radio included, but will accommodate most dual band radios from the majors.  Yes, the Jetstream has quite wide-range transmit out of the box, no mods needed.

All the power in and out goes through the two powerpoles. Or the cigarette lighter jack. For me, two PowerPoles, one used for charging, seems four too few. I’d like to be able to fully power this station from an external supply. Is that easily possible? Can the battery be disconnected as desired? Charged separately? And all these cables come off the front of the box.

More Powerpoles means less space inside, and again higher cost.  A better solution might be one of my PWRblock splitters if you need more outlets.  I think most people won’t need more than two.  

A quick “block diagram” of the can:

Battery à Fuse à Switch à [the radio and all the accessories in parallel]

Therefore, connecting an external power source through the Powerpoles will run everything no problem.  Leave the switch on to charge the battery, turn it off to run from an external battery.

But I’d also like to know how many amps I am pulling, especially when running off an outboard DC supply or large battery.

Unfortunately, small meters that fit and look good are typically good for maybe 15A, and once again, more costly.  Higher current meters are available, but require external shunts and would not match the round modules we use.  An in-line meter between your external battery and the Hammo-Can is certainly one good solution.

What does “water resistant” mean? I don’t expect submersible, but can this box, when sealed up, sit out in the rain? Sit in a puddle? I know this isn’t a Pelican case, but what can it protect against?

The cans, when new, are waterproof.  Since we don’t do anything to seal the holes for the mounting screws, I don’t feel comfortable saying waterproof.  Out in the rain for a bit?  I don’t see a problem.  Left out in the open for days, weeks, months?  Could be an issue.  But I can’t imagine a scenario where you’d want to do that, can you?

What neither box has, and I want very badly, is a headphone jack and, ideally a separate speaker switch. I want to always be able to use the headphone but want to control the speaker separately so others can hear or not hear, as I desire.

How to do this for three radios at once? That is an issue, but I really only need an earphone/headphone on the radio I am using to communicate at the time. Give be multiple jacks and switches? 

This is something we’ve discussed both in-house and with experienced EmCommers.  The problem is that the external speaker jack is on the back of the radio, so it’s not easily accessible.  And when a plug is inserted, the radio’s speaker is muted.  The obvious solution is an external speaker, a headphone jack, and an A/B/A+B switching arrangement.  Of course, that adds complexity and cost, and takes up room in the can.  And to be honest, after having sold several hundred Hammo-Cans, very few have mentioned that it’s an issue for them.

Finally – I intended the Hammo-Can as much to be an “idea launching pad” as much as a finished product.  Different people have different needs.  I do offer just about all the parts for sale separately, including meters, Powerpole mounts, power sockets, and the custom built brackets for incorporating them in your own Go-Kit project.  The can as built is also easily modified to meet your particular needs and preferences.

I appreciate your time in writing the review.  Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Thanks and 73,

John Bee, N1GNV

Quicksilver Radio Products

http://www.qsradio.com

Article originally appeared on N5FDL Amateur Radio and Emergency Communications (http://www.n5fdl.com/).
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