Category Archives: Travel

Back at the dial again…!

Ship-Throttle

Many of you might have noticed I’ve been absent on Facebook/Twitter , slower to correspond, and not posting quite as often this summer.

Yes, you guessed it: I’ve been on the road again.

Starting in mid-May, we made our annual pilgrimage to Dayton, Ohio, where we hosted an inside exhibit at the Hamvention, made some NPOTA activations, and visited the phenomenal National Museum of the USAF.

The LNR Precision LD-11 and QRP Ranger during a National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) activation in Ohio.

The LNR Precision LD-11 and QRP Ranger during a National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) activation in Ohio.

I then returned to the shack for one week, frantically finished a few projects, then hit the road again.  Headed even farther north this time….Destination: Canada.

The Udvar-Hazy Center houses a number of large aircraft including the Concorde, the SR-71 and even the space shuttle Discovery.

The Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center houses a number of large aircraft including the Concorde, the SR-71 and even the space shuttle Discovery.

Stopped in the Washington, DC area for a few nights and spent the better part of one day at the Udvar-Hazy Center. The aviation geek in me was in the skies––wow, what an amazing place!

By June 5th, i was just outside Québec City in the town of Beaupré.

My station on Field Day operating as VE2CQ.

My station on Field Day operating as VE2CQ.

While in Québec, I participated in a Field Day event with the incroyable members of the Club Radio Amateur de Québec. I practiced my French, the club members treated me like one of their own––hosting an excellent lunch and dinner––and I even got a few hours on the air as VE2CQ.

Oh, and you might recall a post from June in which I shared photos from an aerial display in Québec City featuring the Snowbirds. It was our first time seeing them, and it was, as you might expect, just spectacular.

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We spent the rest of June and part of July in Québec, then made our way to Prince Edward Island via New Brunswick and Nova Scotia where a rustic off-grid cabin awaited us.

The view from our off-grid cabin on PEI.

The view from our off-grid cabin on PEI.

While the condo in Quebec had all of the radio interference one would expect, the off-grid cabin was blissfully quiet, free of radio interference. As you might imagine, I played a lot of radio…

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I also sampled a lot of Island craft brews!

We spent several relaxed weeks in Prince Edward Island, then made our way back to the States.

I’ve only been home since last Wednesday, and found quite a pile-up in the work zone, so I’m busily catching up.  However, I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I should be current with correspondence by next week.  Thanks for your patience, email friends!

And if you’re interested, just for fun, I plan to write a more detailed trip report later this summer or fall. I do have a few pics from side trips I’ll likely share in the meantime.

Yet again, we had a terrific adventure in Canada!  But it’s sure good to be back home…and back at the dial.

Anyone else done a bit of traveling this season? Feel free to share & comment!

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

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  • 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!