It’s extremely rare for an aftermarket amateur radio product to be so well done that when installed it looks and functions like an OEM factory part. The Portable Zero 817 Escort is exactly such an accessory.
If you run your 817 as a portable, then the Escort is a must-have. This simple but effective product provides your radio with a high level of protection from physical damage as well as make it look badass tough.
The process for ordering an Portable Zero 817 Escort is a bit awkward. The manufacturer website does not have a direct order on line with a credit card function. You have to send them an email telling them what you want. They will respond with a PayPal invoice. After the invoice is paid, they ship your item.
Portable Zero does have an eBay presence but I’ve never seen anything listed there. They responded to my emailed order with a PayPal invoice within a few minutes even though it was late Saturday night.
I was told I would have my Portable Zero 817 Escort in about a week and they actually did a little better than that. The packaging and presentation was clean & professional. I have a lot of respect for people who are proud of their work. They care, and it shows.
The parts are straightforward. Two side pieces, some screws and bolts, and the strap clips. I also went with the optional tilt up prop stand. The build quality is extremely high. You get carefully machined purpose-built aluminum components (not cheesy stamped steel) with tapped holes and custom fit screws. The aluminum is powder coated and comes in flat black or military green. It’s is as good looking as it is functional. The Escort is the work of a true craftsman.
Remove the existing screws from each side of your 817 and attach the side pieces with the longer included screws. The optional bottom prop stand is held on by two supplied stop nuts.
The problems I had installing the Portable Zero 817 Escort were not due to issues with the product itself. I found that removing the factory screws from my 817 to be very difficult. The screws are in so tight that it is hard to get leverage on a thin jeweler’s screwdriver. I solved this matter by using a vise grip to make an ad-hoc right angle screwdriver. The 817’s factory screws then came out with little effort.
The Portable Zero 817 Escort has expertly machined holes that line up exactly with the holes on the radio, again proving that they put a lot of care into this product. The tight tolerances are impressive. There is no excess play between the parts, nor you will you need to jam or bend anything to make it fit. Everything falls perfectly into place.
My entire install would have taken mere minutes but for the stubborn factory screws. Integrated into the Portable Zero frame are loops for a carry strap (the factory strap brackets are removed). One big bonus is that the Portable Zero 817 Escort solves an annoying problem: Installing/removing the carry strap from the stock 817 is a major pain in the ass. The Portable zero includes two spring loaded clips that go on the the strap so it can be installed/removed without hassle.
I was a little disappointed that the clever folks who developed the Portable Zero 817 Escort did not make any allowance for a microphone clip. It would have been easy to include a built in mic clip or at least some tapped holes to add your own. Bummer, man. You’ll have to find some other way to drag the mic along.
The Portable Zero 817 Escort costs $55.00 for the standard model or $59.00 with the tilt up prop stand. The two side panels combined will make your 817 about 0.50 inches wider (0.25 inches on each side), not including the two “wings,” and the stand will make the finished package about 0.50 inches thicker (added on the bottom). Be aware that standard versions cannot be later retrofitted with a prop stand.
Fifty-nine bucks is real money to most hams, including me, but consider that it adds less than 10% to the price of a new 817; think of it as an insurance policy. For another thirty over what you would blow on the cheaply made and inelegant looking Yaesu CSC-83 vinyl case, you get a very rugged, very cool looking military grade aluminum frame that provides a high level of protection from accidents and rough handling.
It would be great if future versions of the Escort had cross bars, at least as an extra option, to protect the top and bottom of the radio. For now, Portable Zero offers a shoulder carry Sherpa bag that will address these concerns.
I’ve been using my Portable Zero 817 Escort for a few months now and it is a superlative product. I wish I knew about it before I bought the flimsy vinyl CSC-83 case! Portable Zero should approach Yaesu and set up a deal to make the Escort a factory option. It’s that good. I’m positive they would sell a ton of them.
There are also versions of the Escort for the Yaesu FT-857D and Icom 706/703.
If after reading this anyone wants a barely-used vinyl case for an FT-817, contact me and I’ll sell you one for cheap!
Pros: Expertly machined. Exceptional production quality. Easy to install. Looks badass. Solves carry strap design flaw. Practical and functional. Great value for the money.
Cons: Awkward ordering process. They take PayPal only. No accommodations for a microphone clip. Does not protect top and bottom of radio.
The Bottom Line: The Portable Zero 817 Escort is so good it should be an OEM option. A place for a microphone clip would have made this a flawless product.
I absolutely love this thing. Very highly recommended.
$55.00-$59.00 on line from Portable Zero
Off Grid Ham Product Score: 9.5/10
Disclaimer: This is an unsolicited review. The item reviewed was purchased through normal channels with the author’s own funds. The author did not receive any monetary compensation, gratuity, or merchandise in exchange for this review.