Category Archives: Travel

Grundig G6 vs CC Skywave: Post Reader seeks a travel radio

The Grundig G6 (top) and C.Crane CC Skywave (bottom)

The Grundig G6 (top) and C.Crane CC Skywave (bottom)

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader, Neil Bernstein, who writes:

I travel quite a bit for my job and I want your opinion and your readers’ opinions on whether it is more important to have the NOAA weather radio stations or shortwave radio (with or without SSB), in a compact travel emergency radio.

At this point I’m trying to decide between the CCrane Skywave and the Grundig G6 Aviator.

Any input would really be appreciated.

Ah, the travel radio! One of my favorite topics, Neil.

I’ve used both the Grundig G6 and CC Skywave during domestic and international travel. In my opinion, both are great receivers, especially considering the compact size of each. Here are a few things to note about each radio…

(And Post readers, you’re most welcome to comment with your own additions and views.)

The Grundig G6

2012-03-09_08-53-50_742

  • A great little unit, albeit no longer in production; you can buy a used unit on eBay or similar sites. A quick eBay search reveals that prices vary between about $75-150 US. Note: Personally, I believe anything over $80 shipped is probably asking too much for a used G6.
  • Like other Grundig portables of the era, the G6’s rubberized coating will eventually become sticky/tacky. But fortunately, we’ve posted a few proven remedies.
  • Re emergency use: this one offers SSB, but lacks NOAA weather bands

The C.Crane CC Skywave

CCrane-CC-Skywave

  • Currently in production––and supported by C.Crane
  • Great overall sensitivity and selectivity (read our full review)
  • No external antenna jack
  • Mutes between frequency changes
  • This unit offers weather frequencies, useful in emergencies, but lacks SSB mode

Since the CC Skywave hit the market, it’s been my go-to portable for travel at least 80% of the time. Of course, I still pack the Grundig G6 occasionally, and even my Sony ICF-SW100.

Personally I prefer the Skywave because, frankly, it’s just better tailored to one-bag travel. I like listening to the airport tower and other comms while traveling. Since most of my travel is in North America, I appreciate the weather radio frequencies as well.

I suppose if all of my travels were outside North America, I might lean slightly toward the Grundig G6 just so I could have the added benefit of SSB reception. In truth, however, I rarely listen to SSB while traveling.  SSB may possibly be useful during civil/communication emergencies. If SSB reception and portability is important to you, another radio worth considering would be the CountyComm GP5-SSB–though, like the G6, it also lacks weather frequencies.

My opinion?

Grab a CC Skywave. It’s a great performer, very compact, and–unlike the Grundig G6–is currently in production. I’d only buy a new CC Skywave, however, since some of the early models were prone to overloading. The current production run incorporates an update which remedies this.

Post readers: Please comment with your thoughts and suggestions! What radio do you pack for travels, and why?

The Sony ICF-SW55 and the Voice of Greece: a wonderful travel combo

Sony-ICF-SW55-2
I’m currently in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec (Canada) and having a brilliant time. I’ve been sans Internet for the better part of a week (save a little online time at local cafés) which is why I’m quite far behind on correspondence.

The lack of Internet, though, has a positive side: it has given me uninterrupted time to surf the shortwaves!

The only bad news is that I’m staying in a condo and the radio interference is…well…a little high.

Still, I’m fortunate to have a balcony where I can relax and listen to my Sony ICF-SW55 outdoors. In truth, I’m truly amazed with the reception I’ve had each evening this week from the Voice of Greece. Though, VOG’s broadcasts have been somewhat unpredictable after their official return to the airwaves, I’m appreciative every time they fire up their Avlis transmitter and pump out music on 9,420 kHz.
Sony-ICF-SW55

I should mention that Radio Romania International is also a very easy catch and, like VOG, punches through the RFI with colors flying.

This is one of the great things about shortwave radio–even when you’re far away from home, you can still hear a familiar voice on the air.

Off-Grid Radio: Portable power recommendations?

Elecraft-KX3This year, I have a lot of portable radio play in mind as I travel across the continent. At some point, I even plan to spend several days in an off-grid cabin on the coast.

In the past, I’ve powered my 12 VDC ham radio transceivers with a system comprised of three PowerFilm solar 5 watt foldable PV panels (see below), a Micro M+ charge controller and several gel cell type sealed batteries (a couple 7 Ah and one 20 Ah).Powerfilm-Solar-Panel

The system works well, but the batteries are a little heavy and unhandy when I want to hike into a remote site or play radio on the beach, for example.

PowerFilmAACharger-1

In terms of receivers, my portables (like the Sony ICF-SW7600GR, Tecsun PL-660, etc.) simply use AA batteries which I charge with PowerFilm AA PV chargers (see above). My CommRadio CR-1a has an internal battery that will power it for hours at a time.

Power is much less of an issue with receivers because they’re quite resource efficient.

I mainly need a system to power my QRP ham radio gear, and that’s where I could use your experience!

Wish list

Charge controller

I need a new charge controller since my Micro M+ (no longer produced) is now being used to power a remote antenna tuner.

Of course, I’ll need an inexpensive charge controller that doesn’t produce RFI (radio interference).

It would be an added bonus if the charge controller could also charge my batteries when grid power is available.

12 VDC Battery packs

I’d like something relatively lightweight and safe.

Note: LiPo packs worry me, especially since I had one (an early GoalZero model) quite literally melt down and burn up on my bed only a few hours after bringing it back from an eight hour flight a few years ago. Scary!

Pure Sine Wave Inverter

PureSineWaveInverter

I’d also like a small, efficient pure sine wave inverter that I I could connect to my largest battery and power my laptop for extended SDR spectrum recording sessions while off-grid.

I’d love a recommendation from someone who uses one and can confirm a model that doesn’t create radio interference while operating.

Recommendations?

Post readers: Please comment with your recommendations and include model numbers and links if possible. Thank you in advance!

The CountyComm GP5/SSB: my go-to shortwave radio for hiking

CountyComm GP5/SSB while hiking

My two hiking companions: the CountyComm GP5/SSB and Hazel the dog.

Posting the Blinq deal a few moments ago reminded me that my favorite shortwave radio to use while hiking/walking is the CountyComm GP5/SSB.

I have CountyComm’s custom GP5 case which I clip to my belt or backpack. While hiking, I find it handy to open the case from the top, pull the radio out and operate/tune it with only one hand. Indeed, the vertical form factor of the GP5/SSB is ergonomically-ideal; I can control almost all of the radio functions without having to use two hands. A huge bonus while hiking on uneven terrain!

Typically, when I start a hike, I enable an EMT scan and within a minute or so, the GP5/SSB populates temporary memory positions with all of the signals it can easily receive. When you’re in the middle of the woods–far from sources of radio interference–you’ll be amazed by what you can hear.

GP5SSB-Top

Of course, with the antenna fully extended, one does have to watch out for low-hanging branches, etc.

CountyComm GP5/SSB while hiking

Since the telescoping antenna doesn’t swivel, it’s much easier to hold the radio in a way that the antenna points forward while you hike (bonus: it’ll catch all of the spider webs across the trail before your face does!).

GP5SSB-MW-Antenna

So far, I’ve never used the external mediumwave ferrite bar antenna while hiking–I worry that I could drop the radio and damage either the antenna or the 1/8″ antenna jack.

I typically listen to the GP5 with headphones unless I’m walking a trail during the time of year when black bears are active (in which case the speaker helps alert bears that I’m in the neighborhood).

GP5SSB-Front

Of course, there are a few other radio models with an identical vertical form-factor–most notably, the:

If you’re not familiar with the CountyComm GP5/SSB, click here to read previous posts. I also featured the CountyComm GP5/DSP (Tecsun PL-360) in an ultra portable shoot out in 2014–click here to read.

Do you have a favorite shortwave portable for hiking, biking or cycling? Please comment!

Radio Go Bag: JC recommends this affordable shoulder pack

Bag-TacticalSpeaking of backpacks and protective cases for radios, SWLing Post reader, JC, recommends an inexpensive tactical shoulder pack available via eBay.

JC writes:

I tend to want a little more protection and space so I use a tactical military type shoulder bag for my portable radio kit. It hangs nicely off the back of the passenger’s seat in my car and allows me to keep my PL-660, spare batteries, portable wire antenna, earphones, frequency lists, and other gear all together in a handy pack.

JC's shoulder pack

JC’s shoulder pack

The price is about $13.60 w/ free shipping. It’s a great bag for my portable kit, and it’s built pretty sturdy. Any extra protection is better than none for a radio used out in the field.

Click here to view on eBay.

Thanks for the recommendation! That is incredibly affordable and a great looking bag.

I’m very partial to Spec Ops Brand packs, but they’re quite pricey in comparison.