An HT GoBag is your most basic go bag. It is the most compact and affordable item to get started in preparing your equipment for deployment. In this article I will cover the concept, the basic items, and other ideas to get you started. As a refresher, we are looking for our equipment to be modular, pre‐staged, tested, and understood. Our equipment needs to enable us to be effective and efficient communicators. In the most simple terms a go bag is “some sort of bag or container that is portable, holding set of equipment to make 2 way communications".
An HT go‐bag can be broken down into two categories First, your radio with accessories , and second everything else. As with any equipment it's personal preference and the following is what I have found works for me. Radio At the heart of your HT kit is obviously your handheld radio with antenna, and battery. The antenna and battery are your highest probability of failure. Radio’s are bricks and will take a bit to really take one out of service. However, antennas and batteries are much more volatile. So we will focus our accessories to mitigate the risk and provide redundancy in these areas. I have chosen to have a second HT with matching make/model to my kit. This gives me not only redundancy, but also enables the kit to provide private two way communication like a vehicle caravan. Besides your radio, the following is the most basic list of items to have in your HT go‐bags.
Once you have the foundation, you can add other accessories and personal items to match your needs. Keeping in mind that you want this kit to be as portable as possible. Replacement Battery First item is a replacement battery. Beyond your stock radio battery, you will want at least one extra comparable battery pack. With a second battery you can essentially double your operating time. Or if in adverse conditions, stay on the air. AA Power Pack After having a comparable battery pack, there are the AA shells. These are good in a pinch, but check with your radio manufacture. Most of these will cause the radio to operate in a lower power mode, some as low as 1 watt. 12v Cigarette Pack 12v Power Pack. These are shell battery packs that replace the battery with 12v power supply. These also may transmit in a lower power output and cause some ground hum, but keeps you on the air. Also, your portability is greatly reduced since you are now tied to a battery of some size or your vehicle battery.
Desktop Charger Next to a spare battery the most important item to have is a Desktop Charger. Depending on your manufacture, the desktop charger may be a rapid charger. Whereas plugging directly into the radio may result in a slow charge. Look for a desktop charger that allows you to charge the battery disconnected from the radio. That way you can charge one battery while using the other one. Having a 12v or AC option allows you options on charging.
Antennas Now that we have the Radio, and power, let’s move to antennas. You should have already replaced your stock antenna with a more flexible gain antenna. You should have at least 1 backup antenna in your kit. I also have a homegrown counterpoise antenna as a last resort item. A popular item is a roll‐up j‐pole antenna. After buying many different models, the best I have found is the Slim Jim antenna made by N9TAX. The antenna can be found at N9TAX.com. Lastly, I keep an mag mount antenna (not in the bag but close at hand). Remember to have the necessary adapters with spares to make the connections between different antennas and your radio.
Now that our primary concerns are covered with a radio, battery, and antenna, the last of the accessories would be a quality handheld mic/speaker and a single bud earpiece. While not vital, these are a must have for convenience and propagation. Documentation The last of the essential items would be a user manual for your radio, band plans, and your family emergency communication plan. Your radio should be programmed but it is always good to have this information in a pinch. My Stuff The above identified items is the heart of a go‐kit for HT. You may find you have all these items just not organized into a bag and defined it as such.
Now that we have the foundation I will cover some optional items that I have found make sense for me. Bag First my preference for a go‐bag is the Cabela's Fishing Utility Bag. Usually sells for about $10 dollars on sale. (IK‐129474). Inside the bag, I use smaller zipper bags, containers and Velcro ties to keep the equipment neat and organized. I also have a chest pack to use once deployed. I have simple luggage tags on my bags with my information in case it gets lost. Cell Phone To me, my HT go‐bag is a communications bag. So I also have some cell phone accessories. A portable battery pack, USB cables, spare ear buds, and AC/DC Chargers. Power Options To supplement my chargers, I have a 12v to 12v Splitter/USB Combo. I have cut the cable in half and placed Anderson Power pole connectors to tie it back together, this gives me options on power source. Also have gaiter clamp to Anderson connectors to connect my system straight to a battery if needed. I also have a small AC Inverter. Miscellaneous Personal Items Lastly, I have some random personal items that even though I have these elsewhere, it is nice to have them in the kit. These items include: Flashlight & Headlamp w/ spare batteries, notepad pens & pencils, wrist watch, multi tool, gps, a USB Jump Drive (with manuals, documents, software, drivers, etc) Local Maps, Stake Map, & Stake Directory and Paracord. Lastly, I have a small pouch with 5 or 6 essential tools. I have kept to modular bags so HT go bag always sits beside my 72hour bag, so I defer to that kit for other personal items. If you do not have a 72 bag then you may consider items such as a small first aid kit, small medication pouch, and water.
On a final note, the equipment you select should be your most reliable equipment. Your equipment needs to be modular, tested and understood. You should approach your bag being organized, compartmentalized, neat, and clean. Use smaller bags or containers to separate equipment so it is organized and readily accessible. Use velcro ties to keep cables wrapped. On a final note, never use zip ties to wrap cables. Last thing you want to be doing is taking a pair of dikes, or knife to your critical cable in what could be adverse conditions.