Sunday, October 4, 2015

WLB-817 Initial Review

Last week I mentioned that I was having some battery issues with the W4RT battery pack that I had installed in my main SOTA radio, the Yaesu FT-817ND.  I opted to purchase a lithium polymer (LiPo) battery system from HamSource, a small side hustle of John, N1OLO.

This past Thursday I the new batteries arrived.  WindCamp is the manufacturer.  Total price:  $80.00 + $12.99 shipping and handling.  It turns out that the $12.99 of shipping and handling purchased a 2-day priority shipping via the US Postal Service.  I would have been happy for a slower shipping option to save a bit on S&H.

The small box contained the new battery pack, a small wall charger, and a new battery bay door for the FT-817ND.  There was also an invoice, but no instructions.  I admit I was a bit miffed at that.  At work on Friday, I sent an email to John about that issue.  Within a couple of hours he replied, apologizing for the lack of instructions, which he said should have been included.  He attached a PDF file which had a single page of instructions (this is also available at his website.)

The HamSource WLB-817 Battery Kit
That minor problem solved, I commenced to assemble the new battery system into the FT-817ND.
First, I removed the W4RT batteries from the FT-817ND and dropped in the new battery set, being careful ensure that the wiring harness from the batteries will reach to the battery bay door (which contains a tiny circuit board.
Dropping in the lithium ion battery pack.
The new batteries are smaller than the W4RT batteries.  Fitting batteries into the FT-817 battery bay isn't too difficult.  Some jostling is required, but it worked out ok.
The new battery pack (top) vs. the W4RT NiMH battery pack.
The replacement battery bay door has a nifty feature:  A switch.  This makes a positive disconnect of the battery from the rest of the radio during charging, and for periods of storage.  (Some FT-817ND owners have experienced failure of the final power amplifier, apparently due to batteries discharging through the power amplifier bias circuit.  I'm not sure how much truth there is to this, but it's a common reason given when the FT-817 finals fail.)
The new FT-817ND battery bay door.  Chinglish:  "Choose the specifically charger..."

Underside of the battery bay door contains a board which connects the switch and charging jack.
Connecting the wiring harnesses up.
Replacement battery bay door installed.
All finished.  Radio is propped up with the Palm Radio Peg Leg kit.
Charging appears straightforward.  Simply turn the radio over, flip the battery door switch to "Off", plug in charger, and wait.  The charger has a dual-colored LED which glows red when the battery is charging and green when it's fully charged.  Simple.
Charging configuration.
The instructions say to never allow the battery voltage to drop below 9 volts.  This matches similar advice I've seen elsewhere regarding lithium polymer batteries.

So, that's it.  I'm reasonably happy with the installation.  I have a business trip to SoCal and Arizon over the next couple of weeks.  I'll try to knock out a SOTA activation or two out there.  After the trip reports I'll let you know how the batteries held up.

The batteries ship mostly charged.  11.3 volts indicated.


  1. Nate:
    Looking forward to your field review on the batteries performance. It's hell carrying that 12V 7 AMP (7 Extra Pounds) in your ruck on top of all the other hiking gear. Also, I see all these great videos on traveling with your radio overseas, Hawaii, etc, but never what battery to take when dealing with TSA. So hopefully this is a great solution as I've also tried the W4RT battery as well.

  2. Hi Nate, I use USPS Priority mail because it gets tracked and will go places UPS won't ship like PO Boxes.

    John N1OLO

  3. I have two ft-817s both outfitted with Windcamp 2500mah kits and they are still going strong after 3+ years. I think that you'll like it.

  4. It is cool for this article! Today the battery means power. We need the strong battery pack to run the device.It is hard to find the budget and good battery pack.I found the Gearbest battery pack is good and its price is good.What is your idea?

  5. Hi Nate I'm KG4AKV and I make videos about ham radio space communications for YouTube and I'm working on one where an FT-817 is used and I want to know if I can use your pictures from your blog of the Windcamp battery/charger/hatch in my video. I will credit you

    I added you on FB and asked the same message. Please email me johnbrier at the popular google email service.