Category Archives: EDC

An EDC Bag for the Classic Sony ICF-SW100 Receiver

In a 2014 article, this site’s administrator Thomas Witherspoon introduced readers to the CIA’s Survival Kit which is housed in a superbly sturdy waistpack, the Maxpedition M-2. Thomas observed that the M-2 pouch is perfectly suited to holding the diminutive Sony ICF-SW100 receiver.

I was intrigued by that possibility, but only recently tried to combine the two after I resurrected another ICF-SW100 that fell silent to the chronic broken ribbon cable problem. Indeed, the radio is a perfect fit and the M-2 is impressively solid and well designed. I was not aware of the Maxpedition firm prior to learning of the M-2 bag, but I see in various forums they are a major player in well-made gear for the survivalist and outdoor enthusiast crowds. The M-2 is a very popular item, and one or more of the four available colors are sometimes out of stock at the manufacturer. Fortunately there are many sellers on Amazon and Ebay who have these waistpacks available.

What is EDC you may ask? It refers to “Every Day Carry”, the essentials that an individual deems necessary for their lifestyle or a particular activity. For me, an EDC bag is taken along on hikes or other outings to the countryside and typically contains a compact shortwave radio and related accessories. It’s always fun to stop for lunch or a break in a remote location and be able to search for interesting stations whenever the mood strikes.

This photo shows what I’m able to carry in the Maxpedition M-2 bag; a coffee mug is shown for size comparison. Contents of the “kit” include:

  • The Sony ICF-SW100 receiver
  • Zero Audio Carbo Tenore In-Ear Monitors & soft pouch
  • Sony AN-71 reel-up antenna
  • Panasonic RR-XS400 Digital Voice Recorder
  • Short 3.5mm male-to-male stereo audio patch cable
  • Two extra AA batteries for the Sony receiver
  • An extra AAA battery for the Panasonic Digital Voice Recorder

A few comments on the contents. The Zero Audio Carbo Tenore In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) provide excellent audio quality for their price. They are among a handful of IEMs regularly recommended by budget-minded audiophiles on the popular Head-fi.org site. I like these IEMs not only for the audio quality, but also their small size (in the cloth bag) which barely fits into the M-2’s main compartment along with the ICF-SW100. Larger earbuds or IEMs might not fit the M-2 without being mangled by the hefty YKK zippers. One caution: the similar Carbo Basso model by Zero Audio is deemed by many to be overly heavy on the bass frequencies. I find the Carbo Tenore to be more than sufficient for bass heavy genres like Electronica.

The Panasonic RR-XS400 digital voice recorder has been out of production a few years, but is a highly capable and compact recorder. It contains a hidden USB plug for charging and data transfer, has a fully featured and backlit LCD display, built-in stereo microphones, switchable LINE/MIC inputs, and other useful features. In excellent used condition the RR-XS400 is worth about $50 USD in 2017, despite some Amazon sellers trying to move them at the original $280 price.

The extra AAA battery for the recorder slips into the front pouch of the M-2 bag along with the Sony AN-71 antenna. The additional AA batteries for the radio, however, are held in the two “pen loops” on the left and right of the M-2. Despite these loops being open-bottomed tubes, the fit is tight enough to hold the batteries securely.

Like every portion of the Maxpedition M-2 bag, the belt loop is proportioned perfectly and sewn with precision. With the Sony ICF-SW100 EDC “kit” secured to my belt on a hike, I’m assured of quick access to a DXing opportunity, such as when hiking the Naches Loop Trail near beautiful Mt. Rainier:

Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

Dave’s Yaesu VX-3R notes

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dave Zantow, who shares the following in reply to my recent post about the Yaesu VX-3R:

The VX-3R has a tiny internal ferrite bar for AM/mediumwave broadcast listening.

Yes, it’s indeed true the VX-3R is discontinued and is already pretty much sold out.

Rumors of a VX-4R has been around for years and let’s hope that happens–?? Have a sneaky feeling that IF it come to pass it will include C4FM digital (Yaesu Fusion) ?? I actually preferred the older VX-2R over the 3, but that was me (have reviews on both models on my web page). But my two VX-3R test samples were very early production (lots of QC bugs).

http://webpages.charter.net/n9ewo2/vx2r.html
http://webpages.charter.net/n9ewo2/vx3r.html

As I cover on my news page Yaesu is coming out with a number of new HT’s soon.

Sorry no word of a tiny VX-3R replacement yet. Will of course cover that IF and when it happens on the web page.

http://webpages.charter.net/n9ewo2/news.html

Thank you, Dave!  I’ll certainly consider purchasing the VX-4R (if it comes to fruition) if for no other reason than to compare it with the VX-3R.

Again, I love this little all-in-one micro-sized HT as an Everyday Carry radio. If you’re interested in the VX-3R, your best bet will be to check with radio retailers like Universal Radio and Ham Radio Outlet for used/demo units. Of course, as I’ve mentioned before, you might also follow a VX-3R search on eBay where I recently purchased an open box unit for $119 shipped.

Video: Shortwave listening and radio astronomy

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On Thursday I attended an event at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI)–location of the 2015 SWLing Post DXPedition.

During a break, I had a couple of free hours, so I reached in my messenger bag and pulled out the Sony ICF-SW100: a radio that has quickly surpassed all others as my favorite EDC (everyday carry) radio. It has so many useful features in such a small package!

Radio astronomy observatories are ideal locations for impromptu shortwave radio listening as there is little to no radio interference/noise present.

PARI-26E-and-26W

PARI’s “Building 1” and the 26 West (left) and 26 East (right) radio telescopes.

While the weather on Thursday was gorgeous, HF band conditions were…well…miserable. There was very little to hear other than China Radio International, Radio Havana Cuba and a few other blow torch broadcasters.

Still, time signal station WWV was on my mind since I had just purchased Myke’s new edition of At The Tone and have been reading your excellent comments with early memories of listening to WWV and WWVH.

I tuned to 15 MHz and, of course, there was reliable WWV in Fort Collins, Colorado on frequency. Though WWV’s signal was relatively strong (despite the conditions) I turned on the SW100’s sync detector because fading (QSB) was pronounced at times.

Here’s a short video of the ICF-SW100 on a picnic table in the middle of the PARI campus. That’s PARI’s 26 (meter) West telescope in the background:

Pocket DX: Finding the Sony SRF-59 and SRF-39FP

Sony-SRF-59-and-Sony-SRF-39FP

I have two of the Sony SRF series pocket AM/FM radios: the grey SRF-59 and the clear SRF-39FP.

The venerable SRF-59 has long been one of the least expensive, quality analog AM/FM receivers on the market. I originally purchased one new for $14.95 US including shipping. Here’s a short review I made of the ’59 several years ago.

Sony_SRF-39FP-front

The Sony SRF-39FP (click to enlarge)

The SRF-39FP–the model with the clear case–was specifically designed by Sony radio for the prison market.

A couple years ago, someone on eBay had a lot of Sony SRF-39FP units on sale–I jumped at the opportunity to buy one new-in-box for $20 US. The entire lot of SRF-39FPs sold in a matter of hours. Indeed, the ’39FPs were so popular, by the time I prepared a post for the SWLing Post, the seller had already sold out. (I’m kicking myself for not buying at least one extra–!)

While most ultralight radio enthusiasts would give the SRF-39FP a performance edge over the SRF-59, they’re essentially the same radio–especially if you tweak the SRF-59 like my buddy Dave Richards did.

Click to enlarge

The Sony SRF-59 (click to enlarge)

Several weeks ago, while Steve researched the reason he was hearing shortwave broadcasters on his SRF-59, he also discovered that the SRF-59 had been discontinued and selling in many places for three or four times the original price.

He found one vendor still selling the SRF-59 for $14.99 plus shipping. I placed an order with this vendor over a month ago, but still haven’t received the product because the vendor hasn’t taken delivery of the final batch of units from Sony. I’m in contact with this vendor and when/if the units are received in stock next week, I’ll post an update here on the SWLing Post (if interested, follow this tag).

If you’re in the market for a Sony SRF-59, here are a few places you may find one new or used:

(If you know of other good suppliers, please comment!)

Sony_SRF-39FP-back

The SRF-39FP has a clear housing which is meant to prevent prison inmates from using it to smuggle contraband.

If you would prefer the Sony SRF-39FP, the only source I know of is eBay. When one becomes available, it typically sells for $45-50 US.

Click here to search eBay.

To be clear: while the SRF-59 is an exceptional ultralight receiver, $45-50 US would certainly place it in a price class with other excellent ultralights.

Review: the Waka Waka Power+ portable solar charger

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In my role as director of our 501(c)(3) charity, ETOW, I’m always on the lookout for technologies that could improve the lives of those living at or below the poverty line in remote and sometimes politically-charged regions of the world that are usually off-grid. At ETOW, we prefer simple, rugged technologies that require no learning curve, that can be easily maintained, and that offer exceptional benefit to our users. Self-powered radios, of course, are  ETOW’s mainstay, but we’ve also provided digital recording and playback devices, solar and hand-cranked power generation, and, of course, lighting.

When I first learned about the Waka Waka Power+, I had ETOW in mind. I reached out to Waka Waka and they sent a sample for me to evaluate.

The flip cover has detents which allow you to angle the solar panel for optimum solar tracking.

The flip cover, which acts as a stand, offers detents which allow the user to angle the solar panel for optimum solar tracking.

The Waka Waka Power+ is a small, lightweight portable power supply built on a 2200 mAh LiPo battery pack. A built-in solar panel occupies one full side of the device, which charges the battery when placed in sunlight.  On the other side of the device–behind a flip cover–is a large round power button and two protected Cree LED lights.

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After charging my Tecsun PL-380, the Power+ still had about 50% of its battery available.

On top side of the Power+ is a row of four green LEDs that indicate the battery level.

The body seems to be made of a very durable plastic designed to operate in temperatures up to 80 °C (175 °F). It has a smooth surface and gasketed USB ports. The LEDs are protected behind clear lenses.

Flashlight

Let’s face it: operation of this flashlight is dead simple.  No learning curve here, which suits ETOW’s use brilliantly.  And brilliance, indeed, is what the device provides.

Press the large power button once to check the battery status; press twice, and the LED lamps are activated at their brightest setting–about 70 lumens, which lasts about 10 hours on full charge.

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Each consecutive press decreases the LED brightness for a total of four brightness settings. The lowest LED setting (about 5 lumens) is perfect for reading, and should increase the light’s longevity to approximately 150 hours with a full charge.

Emergency?  If you press and hold the power button for two seconds, the Power+ will flash “SOS” in Morse Code.

The Power+ also has a hole in the tilt base that allows you to perch it on top of pretty much any bottle and become a table lamp.

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I used a bottle of single-malt, but any bottle will do!

You can also loop a string through the central hole and hang the Power+ from the ceiling–or the roof of your car or tent–for an overhead lamp. Fantastic design for useability!

Charging

The Power+ has two USB ports:

  • a micro USB for charging the Power+ from any other USB charger (cell phone charger, USB port on PC, etc.)
  • plus a full size USB port to charge other devices on the go (your smart phone, or–for our purposes–a shortwave radio)

If you plug your Power+ into a typical smart phone charger or a USB port on your computer, it will charge the battery in about four hours.

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If you’re on the go, or simply want to go green, you can charge the Waka Waka Power+ internal battery with the solar panel directly facing the sun. It takes about two days of sunny skies to fully charge the Power+.  But you can use it even if not fully charged.

Most of the time I’ve used solar power to charge, I started with a battery at 50%–it took perhaps five to six hours of sunlight to bring the battery to full capacity.

Summary

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The Waka Waka Power+ is the first solar-powered portable charging device that has actually impressed me. I’ve tested numerous flashlights and portable battery packs over the years; many have been effective as smart phone chargers, but were heavy or unstable (one, for example, literally melted down on my bed while charging–no kidding).

Clearly, I like the Waka Waka Power+. I’m especially impressed because this seems to be Waka Waka’s first product iteration. The Power+ is small, lightweight, tough (though not waterproof) and delivers what it promises.

Negatives? Well, the only one I can think of at this point is that it takes almost two days of sunlight (at least, where I live in North America) to fully charge the Power+ via the sun. It could take longer if you live in an area with less sunlight hours. To be honest, however, I’m still fairly impressed that a PV panel as small as the one on the Power+ charges this quickly.

I’ve charged my Moto X (2nd gen) smart phone several times during my travels; it even came to my rescue when I left my phone’s mobile charger at home and had nearly depleted my battery while using the phone’s GPS to find my way in unfamiliar territory.

WakaWakaPowerPlus-and-PL-800

I’ve also used the Power+ to charge my Tecsun PL-380, PL-310ET, and PL-880 shortwave radios. In each case, I effectively charged the radio’s battery from roughly 25% to 100%.

The Power+ easily fits in my Spec-Ops Brand Op-Order Pouch and even my Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer. It’s an ideal size to carry pretty much anywhere, and especially useful for one bag travel.

I also think the Waka Waka could be quite useful in some of the countries where ETOW works.  They could have especial relevance in regions where mobile phone networks are in place–increasingly prevalent in rural Africa–but our ETOW partners (teachers and community supporters) have no means of powering the phones or else can’t afford to power them. I’ll certainly order a few and test them in the field.

WakaWakaPower+

The icing on the cake–? When you purchase a Power+, Waka Waka will donate a Power+ for humanitarian use (not yet to ETOW, but to other worthy organizations) through their network.  It’s a “get one, give one” deal–and believe me, this helps out.

At $79 US, this is a bargain for a cool little charger/flashlight that actually delivers as advertised.

The Waka Waka Power+ can be purchased