The CC Skywave SSB is set to wake me at 3:30 to catch a 5:30 flight.
I have a pretty accurate body clock. Regardless of when I doze off, I always wake up at the same time.
When I’m at home on my regular schedule, I trust my “internal chronometer” so much, I haven’t set an alarm in years.
When I travel, it’s a completely different story…
It’s a rare occurrence when a flight, train, or even road trip allow me to wake up at my normal time, so I rely on an alarm clock.
In fact, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m a nervous Nellie when I’m forced to break my sleep cycle to catch an early flight. My fear of missing a flight may even border on paranoia–I’ll wake up multiple times during the night in a panic unless I feel completely at ease that there’s an alarm system in place to wake me no matter what.
I recently told a friend about this fear and he asked, “Why not just set the alarm on your phone?!”
Simple answer: I don’t trust smart phones and tablets. They’re too complicated with so many nighttime settings, alarm/alert volume levels, short battery life, etc. etc.
Case in point…
Earlier this year, I had to catch an early flight and needed to wake up at 4:00 AM, so I scheduled my iPhone and iPad to alarm at 4:00. (When at home, I try to have my iPhone/iPad wake me first, because the alarm is very gradual and doesn’t disturb my wife.) Of course, I also set my travel radio’s alarm clock for 4:10, as a fail safe.
Knowing I had a total of three(!!!) alarm clocks set, I slept like a baby.
At 4:10 AM, my travel radio alarm started beeping. The iPhone and iPad were completely silent.
Turns out, the iPad decided to do an operating system update during the night. For some reason, after rebooting, it simply forgot about the alarm. (Thanks, iPad!) And the iPhone? I’m still not sure how/why, but the mute switch on the side of the phone was engaged and if it vibrated to wake me, I never heard it rumbling on the night stand.
Thank goodness the travel radio had my back, else I would have missed that flight.
Travel radios: Never leave home without one!
I like to be a self-sufficient traveler even though I only travel with one bag and pack very lightly. I never rely on my destination to have a functioning alarm clock (with battery backup, of course) or effective wake up call service. Regardless of how minimally I pack, I always take a travel radio.
In February, for example, I travelled to Philadelphia for the Winter SWL Fest. Even though my trip was nearly a week long, to keep from paying a carry-on fee with Frontier airlines, I packed everything in a bag that met their strict “personal carry-on” bag size.
Regular readers know I’m a bit of a pack geek, so my bag of choice was the Tom Bihn Stowaway. Here’s the bag fully packed out at my feet in the airport:
Here’s a photo of everything I packed in the Stowaway for that trip:
This particular trip really pushed the limits on my minimalist travel philosophy. Honestly? It was a fun challenge! I had to hone my pack contents down to only the essentials (don’t make fun of me for believing three flashlights were essential–the previous year, our hotel was without power for several days).
Still, I made room for one of the smallest travel radios in my arsenal: the County Comm Marathon ETFR:
I chose the ETFR because it has a custom case that could attach to my belt or pack strap if interior space became too tight. The ETFR radio hasn’t been in production for a decade, but it’s an effective radio companion and the alarm works without fail.
Choosing a travel radio
Most modern digital portables are based on DSP chips that have clock and alarm functions, so you might already own an effective travel radio.
With that said, I always prioritize radio features that benefit a traveler, of course; here are some that I look for:
Small size: Naturally, it’s sensible to look for a travel radio that’s small for its receiver class for ease in packing.
Overall sturdy chassis: Any travel radio should have a sturdy body case that can withstand the rigors of travel.
Built-in Alarm/Sleep Timer functions: We’ve already exhausted this topic, right?.
Powered by AA batteries: While the newer lithium ion battery packs are fairly efficient, I still prefer the AA battery standard, which allows me to obtain batteries as needed in most settings; a fresh set of alkaline (or freshly-charged) batteries will power most portables for hours on end.
Standard USB charging cable: If I can charge batteries internally, a USB charging cable can simply plug into my smart phone’s USB power adapter or the USB port on my laptop; no extra “wall wart” equals less weight and less annoyance.
ETM: Many new digital portables have an ETM function which allow auto-scanning of a radio band (AM/FM/SW), saving what it finds in temporary memory locations–a great way to get a quick overview of stations. (As this function typically takes several minutes to complete on shortwave, I usually set it before unpacking or taking a shower. When I return to my radio, it’s ready to browse.)
Single-Side Band: While I rarely listen to SSB broadcasts when traveling, I still like to pack an SSB-capable receiver–especially for longer trips.
RDS: Though an RDS (Radio Data System) is FM-only, it’s a great feature for identifying station call signs and genre (i.e., public radio, rock, pop, country, jazz, classical, etc.)
External antenna jack: I like to carry a reel-type or clip-on wire external antenna if I plan to spend serious time SWLing. Having a built-in external jack means that the connection is easy, no need to bother with wire and an alligator clip to the telescoping whip.
Tuning wheel/knob: Since I spend a lot of time band-scanning while travelling, I prefer a tactile wheel or knob for tuning my travel radio.
Key lock: Most radios have a key lock to prevent accidentally turning a radio on in transit–but with a travel radio, it’s especially important to have a key lock that can’t be accidentally disengaged.
LED flashlight: Very few radios have this, but it’s handy to have when travelling. Note that the County Comm ETFR (above) does!
Temperature display: Many DSP-based radios have a built-in thermometer and temperature display; I like this when I travel anytime, but especially when I’m camping.
While I don’t have a portable that meets 100% of the above travel radio wish-list, I do have several that score very highly.
Long-time SWLing Post readers know that I geek out about a number of things: radio, of course, but also travel and packs. No doubt my love of backpacks and carry bags stems from my love of travel…and the need to have a radio or two along. In the past, I’ve reviewed a number of backpacks, travel pouches and cases. What follows is a new pack review.
Introducing the Red Oxx Hound
Last month, Montana-based company Red Oxx sent me their latest small carry bag for evaluation and review. This small crossbody bag, affectionately known as The Hound, is made to stay by your side and carry your important gear––just as you’d expect of man’s (or woman’s) best friend.
Red Oxx is not a new name here on the SWLing Post. In the past, I’ve reviewed the Red Oxx Lil’ Roy and helped Red Oxx evaluate and review their first-generation Micro Manager pack. I also travel frequently with my Red Oxx Mini Boss, one of my favorite one-bag travel packs. I have several other Red Oxx brand accessories and travel cubes. All of which hold up very well, indeed.
Hazel thinking, “Seriously? Another pack?…Okay, I like the name, but are there any treats in there?”
In the spirit of full disclosure, this pre-production pack was sent to me at no cost for comment, evaluation, and eventual review, assuming no design changes are made before production.
So what is the Hound? I would describe it as a small padded EDC pack with a carry strap, designed to be a stand-alone, to function as a travel pouch––and/or to moonlight as a packing cube, since it easily fits inside another travel pack.
In terms of size, the Hound is somewhere between the Red Oxx Lil’ Roy and Micro Manager. It’s roughly 9” tall, 7” wide, and 3” deep, by my measurements. It’s not quite big enough to hold my Microsoft Surface Go tablet, but it holds my eReader and my wife’s iPad Mini with room to spare.
On the front exterior panel, you’ll find a zippered pocket. While this pocket isn’t pleated, the pack is forgiving and flexible, so it’ll easily hold a thick paperback book as long as the main compartment isn’t packed out densely.
On the inside of the Hound, you’ll find one main compartment with one open pocket opposite the side panel of the external pocket.
The floor and two 7”x 9” side panels are padded and do a great job protecting contents. I like the new super-thin Hyper-Cel padding Red Oxx uses for the Hound because it gives the bag’s contents padded protection without making it too rigid, thick, or unforgiving, if you want to cram a little something extra in.
I posted a small teaser a few weeks ago when I took one of my favorite radios (the Panasonic RF-B65) and a copy of the WRTH to a local park for some relaxed radio listening. Both the Panasonic and WRTH fit inside with just a little room to spare for small accessories like earbuds, spare batteries, a wire antenna, and a snack. The radio fits perfectly in the interior open pocket and is essentially protected on all sides, save the top, which is no problem if you’re carrying it with the strap.
Like all Red Oxx packs, the Hound’s exterior sports 1000-weight Cordura nylon material that’s available in twelve solid color combos (plus 4 extra “Red Eye” colors for a limited time) . This is a proven, incredibly durable material that will surely outlast this bag hauler’s handling.
The Hound also features the Red Oxx standard #10 YKK Vislon zipper on the main compartment, and a #5 zipper on the front pocket. These beefy zipper pulls also have attached “monkey fist” knots made from nylon cording that permit easy zipper operation. The Hound is designed for and ships with a shoulder strap made of durable webbing. Two D-rings on opposite sides of the main zipper insure balance on the shoulder.
Taking the Hound for a walk
The Hound makes for a great bag to protect your portable tech, but also accommodates other items in your everyday carry (EDC).
In fact, if you’re a bit of an EDC minimalist (ahem…not quite me) you likely don’t want a full backpack or shoulder bag to carry your gear. Something the size of the Hound would make for an ideal lightweight carry companion.
Red Oxx went through a couple iterations of this bag before adopting its current dimensions; the result is an incredibly useful and accommodating pack.
The Hound packed in the top of my GR1
One function I find the Hound ideally suited for is as an in-flight kit bag. Being a one-bag traveler when I fly, I only carry one main travel pack that can fit under the seat in front of me. Having this flexibility means that I don’t have to worry about being first during a boarding call to grab that limited overhead bin space, because I know I’ll always have space for my bag.
Thing is, when my bag is stowed under the seat in front of me or especially in an overhead bin, the last thing I want to do is reach for it during a flight to grab a book, protein bar, water bottle, and the like. That’s why I always pre-pack a removable bag for the flight. When I get on the aircraft, first thing I do is open my backpack, pull out my in-flight bag, stow the pack, and keep the in-flight bag at my seat.
On a recent cross-country trip I packed out my GoRuck GR1 backpack and left room at the top to stow the Hound. The Hound made for an ideal in-flight pack. It carried my reading glasses, a book, a Kleen Kanteen water bottle, granola bars, pencil, pen, paper, earphones, adapters, my iPhone, a small battery pack, and an assortment of cables. And there was room to spare.
The Hound taking its inaugural flight on an Airbus A321!
Another benefit of carrying a bag-within-a-bag? Say you buy your kiddos or spouse some gifts, or someone gives you a cool item that you plan to carry back home––let’s say, a shortwave radio. By having a separate pack, you can always carry the Hound outside your pack freeing up capacity for the new item(s) in your pack. Since the Hound is designed to be carried over the shoulder, your hands are still free.
You could even use the strap to tie the Hound to your main bag. Since the Hound is so small, you won’t get charged extra, even by unforgiving low-cost carriers.
If you’re into radio gear, then the Hound should easily accommodate most full-featured portable radios (like the Grundig G3, G5, Satellite, Sony ICF-SW7600GR, Tecsun PL-660, etc.) It’s also large enough to hold any HT (handy talkie) on the market, although you might remove long antennas unless you close the zippers around it. No worries, no antenna will poke through this bullet-proof fabric.
And of course, women readers: the Hound would also make a great casual crossbody purse that would be as comfortable on a hike as touring a European city. In fact, after I received the Hound, my wife nearly walked off with it. I could tell, she was already mentally sorting out how all her gear would fit inside. Likely the only thing keeping her from declaring this one hers is the fact that this bag is khaki––if it were her favorite shade of Red Oxx red, I’d likely have already been forced to surrender it!
Is the Hound for you?
If this simple, super-sturdy bag is the size and configuration you’ve been looking for to haul your radios and other EDC (or, let’s face it, dog owners: biscuits and baggies) around with you, then I can recommend it without reservation.
While I truly enjoy doing product evaluations, beta testing and reviews, my time is very limited. I’m picky about what I choose to invest my time in. When Red Oxx contacts me about gear evaluations, I make time. Why? Because their products have never disappointed me.
Red Oxx build and materials quality is second to none. All their gear is designed and manufactured in Billings, Montana––yep, in the good ol’ US of A–– and will last a lifetime. Or potentially longer.
Plus: in the unlikely event your Red Oxx gear is damaged due to rough treatment (or even neglect), Red Oxx will fix it. For free…and for life! Their “No Matter What” warranty requires no receipt and no explanations. No doubt, this is one of the reasons why used Red Oxx gear appears on sites like eBay with prices near what you’d pay for it, brand new. These bags not only hold your gear, but they also hold their value: a bit of a rarity in today’s disposable world.
This top-notch workmanship comes at what most of us would consider a premium, when compared with mass-produced gear you’ll find on Amazon or a big-box store. But for me, I still find incredible investment value in Red Oxx gear. On top of that, I feel like I’m supporting a company that takes pride in their their simple-but smart innovations, their good work, and their hard-working employees who do it.
Yesterday, my calendar was pretty full. Not an uncommon thing these days. I needed a break from all of the running around town, so I set aside the better part of an hour to play radio.
I packed up my Panasonic RF-B65 and the latest copy of the WRTH. (I didn’t plan to actually reference the WRTH’s schedules for this outing, but I do enjoy reading through the station listings while I tune around.)
I found a local park en route to my next appointment and set up my kit on a picnic table only moments after light rain had moved through the area.
I didn’t know what propagation would be like, and frankly I didn’t care. Sometimes, it’s just nice to tune through the bands and see what’s there.
I call this a “radio therapy” session because, for a small portion of the day, the ritual takes my mind off of everything else around me. I get some of the same benefit from mountain biking and reading a good book (although, not at the same time).
Everything was going according to plan: the weather was pleasant, I had the whole park to myself, and Hazel (my canine companion) noted each and every squirrel within a 50 meter radius of our picnic table.
My bliss was cut short by two things.
First of all, the batteries in my Panasonic were running low. I had forgotten to charge them. (Doh!) Oh well. That didn’t really matter because secondly, a landscaping company brought their crew by to mow the grass…starting at my side of the park!
That’s okay–I still managed to get a good twenty minutes of radio therapy and Hazel counted at least 47 squirrels to harass on a future visit.
Hazel thinking, “Seriously? Another pack?”
I’ve also been evaluating a soon-to-be-released pack manufactured in Montana by Red Oxx. Turns out, it’s the perfect size to protect my RF-B65 and still have room for a copy of the WRTH, a wire antenna and–had I thought about it in advance–four spare AA batteries. Since I’m also a certified pack geek, expect to see a review of this mystery bag soon!
Anyone else planning a little radio therapy soon? Please comment!
Dan knows well that I’m a certified pack geek, so I love discovering high-quality packs that are designed with organization that suits radios. I’m a very mobile guy throughout the day, so require a bag that can handle a couple of portable radios and my 13″ MacBook Air. I prefer over-the-shoulder bags like this one.
This pack looks the part, though it might be a wee bit small for my EDC gear (I doubt my laptop would fit inside, though my iPad Air might).
Dan noted that he just stumbled upon this listing and found it interesting–he has no experience with this seller who seems to be in the Ukraine. Based on the images, the quality and stitching looks quite good.
Thomas: I know you’re a self-proclaimed pack geek and so am I! You published a photo of your EDC pouch in a post last year. Just a teaser really! What is that pouch and I assume you have a larger carry bag as well? Can you provide more details? I’m ever revising and honing my own EDC pack. Any details would be appreciated.
Thanks for your question Matt! Besides radio, you’re bringing up on one of my favorite topics: packs! You may regret having asked me!
Yesterday evening, I snapped a few photos of my EDC (Everyday Carry) bag and the pouch you’re referring to. Your inquiry is prompting me to consider publishing a more detailed look at my EDC gear–especially since radio is such an important part of it.
I do carry a larger EDC bag at all times. Typically, this is the Tom Bihn Pilot:
For years, I carried a Timbuk2 messenger bag, but it didn’t have the type of organization I prefer in an EDC bag. My EDC bag must be rugged, water resistant and accommodate my 13″ MacBook Air while still having enough depth to comfortably fit the rest of my gear.
I’ve been using the Tom Bihn Pilot for almost a year and have been very pleased. The Pilot is an investment to be sure, but (like Red Oxx) Tom Bihn construction quality is superb and comes with a lifetime warranty.
It’s amazing how much gear will comfortably fit inside without making the bag bulge. The Pilot also has a dedicated water bottle pocket in the middle of the front panel. While I do carry water, it primarily houses my never-leave-home-without-it Zojirushi Stainless Steel Mug (affiliate link) which is filled with piping hot dark roasted coffee!
I also use the water bottle pocket to hold full-sized handled VHF/UHF radios. It accommodates either my Kenwood TH-F6, Yaesu FT2D, or Anytone AT-D868UV perfectly. Indeed, all of the front pockets will accommodate an HT since the zippers terminate at the top of the bag. Long antennas can easily poke out while the zipper still seals 99% of the opening.
The Pilot has one main compartment that houses my 13″ MacBook Air laptop.
Everything has its place. Not only does it hold my Yaesu VX-3R handheld, but also a multi-function knife, a Leatherman Style PS tool, clippers, earphones, multi-bit screwdriver, USB stick, notepad, spare VX-3R battery, a mini first aid kit, titanium spork, and much more! Someday I’ll pull the whole thing apart and note each item.
Why do I choose the Yaesu VX-3R? First of all, it’s compact. This HT is so small it’ll tuck away anywhere. Not only is it dual band, but it’ll also receive the AM broadcast band (even has a little ferrite bar inside), the shortwave bands, and the FM broadcast band.
The mini rubber duck antenna will work in a pinch, but I also carry a flexible Diamond SRH77CA in the floor of the Tom Bihn Pilot’s main compartment.
When I attach the Diamond antenna, it significantly increases the VX-3R’s capabilities.
While the VX-3R does cover the HF bands, don’t expect amazing performance. Selectivity is poor, but sensitivity is adequate. For a shortwave antenna, I carry a short length of coax: one end is terminated with an SMA connector, the other has the center conductor exposed.
I also carry a short alligator clip cable which I clip to the exposed center conductor and then to a length of wire. The end result is a very cheap, flexible and effective portable HF antenna!
Someday, I’ll take everything out of my EDC pack, inventory the contents and publish a post about it. Somehow, that’ll please my inner pack geek! I’m overdue a review of the Tom Bihn PIlot and Synapse 25.
Post readers: Do you have an EDC pack built around a radio? Please comment and include links to your favorite gear!
In the spirit of full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of Red Oxx gear. I’m fairly choosy about the quality of packs that I buy and am willing to pay a premium for packs that offer exceptional durability and are guaranteed for life. Red Oxx gear is designed and made in Montana, USA, and is nearly bullet-proof.
I love the design of Red Oxx bags; they can’t always be accurately described as tactical, low-profile, or urban, however. Red Oxx leader Jim Markel describes the bags’ strengths this way: “Tactical strength without looking like you’re going to war.” That’s fair.
Their designs are unique to the company and, I would argue, in Red Oxx bags, form definitely follows function.
After posting my review of the Red Oxx “Lil Roy,” I received a message from a representative at Red Oxx. They kindly noted that they were impressed by the detail my review provided, but also recalled that last year, I’d made a suggestion that they design an EDC (Everyday Carry) bag especially suited to those of us who like to carry radio gear (or any electronic gear, for that matter) out to the field. I specifically requested if they would consider designing a medium-sized bag with padded sides and floor, and the option for an over-the-shoulder carry strap––?
My hopes were not unfounded. Red Oxx replied, saying that they’d actually designed just such a bag and wanted to know if I would test it prior to release, and offer any input.
Well…How could I resist?
The “Micro-Manager,” as their new product is aptly and amusingly named, arrived the day I left on a weekend trip. As I drove down the road with the unopened box next to me, I simply couldn’t wait to see what the design looked like. Since I didn’t know the dimensions, configuration, compartment size, nor the coloring, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.
Introducing…the Micro Manager
Upon reaching my destination, I opened the box and removed the Micro Manager––and by golly, I was very impressed with the bag’s size: modest, handy, but not dinky. Just about right.
I say this because portable radio gear is a funny thing. Quite often I find a great pack in terms of material and features, but it’s either too small or too shallow for portable gear––or, at the other extreme, swallows my equipment, so that I have to fish around in its yawning depths to find my rig and add extra padding. Rarely is a bag appropriately sized in terms of height, width, and depth for radio carry. The Micro Manager appeared to be just about the size I’d have made it, if I designed it myself. But I had still to test it with the actual equipment, so I tried not to get my hopes up too soon.
I unzipped the pack, noting that the Red Oxx-standard extra-beefy #10 YKK VISLON zippers actually extend to within an inch of the bag’s base. In terms of main compartment access, structure, and configuration flexibility, I find this nearly ideal. The zippers also have attached “monkey fist” knots made from nylon cording that permit easy zipper operation. These look rather cool, too. In addition, the Micro Manager is designed with the Red Oxx Claw Shoulder Strap in mind, having two D-rings on opposite sides of the zipper––this means balance on the shoulder. And the Micro Manager includes the Claw Shoulder Strap, which is sturdy and solid.
Like all Red Oxx packs, the Micro Manager’s exterior sports 1000 weight CORDURA nylon material that is available in twelve solid color combos; mine is “Olive.” Which is, well, olive––olive green––just as you’d expect. No weird color names to throw you off.
Inside the Micro Manager, Red Oxx opted for a red 400 denier CORDURA Brand nylon lining which makes the interior resilient to nearly any kind of damage, and easy to wash up. The vivid red color of the lining also means that any items in the bottom of the pack stand out, making it a cinch to find whatever you’re looking for in there.
But I wanted to check the pack even more closely, from the inside out. And so I did just that: I turned the pack inside out, examined it up close, looked at the stitches and the basic construction: this is clearly one rugged bag.
Durability is not in question here. Tom Bihn is another excellent US pack company; I’d say Red Oxx’s products and Tom Bihn’s run neck-and-neck, though Red Oxx has more of a tactical leaning and beefier hardware than the urban sleek, neat packs Tom Bihn produces.
In short, the Micro Manager is one tough pack. I would argue the toughest I’ve ever used for field equipment.
This little pack is built like a tank.
Of course, what really makes this pack ideal for radio gear is the fact the floor of the pack as well as the side panels are lined with Volara 4-pound closed-cell foam padding. This isn’t super-thick padding, but it’s dense, and in my view effective for radio gear. Nor would I want thick, bulky padding in this pack. It’s simply enough to absorb the shock of setting the pack down, even a hard or hasty set-down, and would likely help protect the contents if the pack were dropped.
To be clear: I’m not talking about stashing upwards of $1300 worth of radio gear in this pack and flinging it out an upstairs window to test the padding. I’m not planning to check this bag at the airport, since I like my gear handy, and I’ll treat the pack and its contents with reasonable care. The padding in this case just makes the contents more secure and resilient to the odd drop, bash, or tumble. I think it will do just fine.
But I still had to see how everything fit in the pack. Being the radio geek I am, the first thing I did upon my arrival at home was to throw my Elecraft KX2 Transceiver pack and antenna supplies bag in the Micro Manager to see if my gear fit as well as I thought it might. It all fit like a glove, and still had room for log book, pens, multi-tool, sunscreen, and (of course) bug repellent!
Next, I removed these items, and tried my larger Elecraft KX3 for size in the Micro Manager––again, ample interior room with just enough space left to include a battery pack and antenna supplies. Brilliant!
I tried various combos of gear and kit to find that the Micro Manager is quite a flexible field bag. Finally! A pack up to the task.
But what really makes this pack shine? The large, open compartment is ideal for us “modular pack” folks.
Tom Bihn Pilot (left) Red Oxx Micro Manager (right)
In my experience, frequent travel means modular packing. In my main EDC pack (a Tom Bihn Pilot) all my gear is organized in cubes and pouches. If I’m heading out the door to catch a flight and want to take a backpack, rucksack, or duffel bag, I can whip the stuff out of my EDC bag, and in a matter of seconds, populate the other pack. Not only does it make transitioning from one pack to another a speedy process, but I’ll know exactly what’s in the pack, and exactly where.
When I opened the Micro Manager the first time, I instantly saw that it lends itself to modular packing, since there’s no internal organization walls and pockets are on the interior sides.
So, aside from packing radio gear, tablets, headphones, a DSLR camera, recording gear, or any other accessories, a packing cube could be used in the Micro Manager to carry clothing on a weekend or on a quick one-to-two night jaunt.
Packed for an overnight trip.
All essentials inside: iPad Air in sleeve, Tom Bihn Snake Charmer (I use as toiletries kit), and an old Eagle Creek packing cube.
Fully unpacked. Click to enlarge.
I’ll take a close look at the Micro Manager’s internal dimensions and see if one of the Red Oxx packing cubes might fit the bill. Maybe, if I’ve been extra good this year, Santa will drop one in my stocking.
Packing in a cube and other modular packs would take full advantage of the Micro Manager’s modest-outside, spacious-inside capacity. A full-size internal cube packed with clothing would be easy to stash in a hotel room to reduce bulk while you’re in meetings at your location, thus leaving more room for files/reports, magazines, a paperback (for those of us who still like paper), and the like; then you could simply replace your clothing module in your MM for your flight home.
A great EDC pack, too
I have even pulled all of the packs from my Tom Bihn Pilot EDC bag and cheerfully used the Micro Manager for the day.
The Micro Manager works wonderfully as an EDC pack if I don’t need a laptop (my 13” MacBook Air is a little too large). It packs my iPad Air with ease and the padded interior pocket gives me peace of mind, encapsulating the tablet in padding all around. On the outside of the padded tablet sleeve, Red Oxx has added four pencil holders and two larger pouches which are large enough for most smartphones, business cards, field notes, and other small accessories.
Of course, there’s another interior pouch with an embedded pocket on the opposite side of the padded sleeve. I’ve used this sleeve for note pads, coiled antenna line, a paperback book, and a portable radio over the past few months. I’ve used the embedded zipper pocket for charging cables, wire cutters, adapters, USB memory sticks, you name it. It’s not a deep zipper pocket, so I wouldn’t put anything thick inside simply because I don’t like bulking out pockets, but it’s very useful.
On the outside panels of the Micro Manager, you’ll also find two double-zippered pockets. These are shallow in depth, but are ideally suited for cords, wire, and antenna line. Of course, they’ll easily hold notepads and other supplies.
The Micro Manager is large enough to hold 8.5 x 11” paper in a folder or even low-profile notebook. For someone who carries a tablet to work, this could easily replace a briefcase.
The genius behind the Micro Manager’s flexibility, in my view, is the open design: the ability to open the main compartment zippers either partially or all the way to within an inch of the bottom of the bag. This allows you to fully open the pack without compromising its ability to be self-supporting. Since Red Oxx’s #10 YKK zippers won’t slip backwards, you can even simply open the top of the bag and not worry about the contents spilling out. I like that.
Everything I review has its pros and cons, of course. When I begin a review or evaluation, I take notes from the very beginning so that I don’t forget my initial impressions. Following is the list I’ve formed over the time I’ve been evaluating the Red Oxx Micro Manager:
Durable construction, solidly stitched
Made with rugged cordura
Lengthy, robust zippers track down to near the base of bag and don’t slide back, making for versatile loading/unloading of the bag––half open or fully open
Padded interior pocket for tablets or (for our use) a full-sized portable radio
Interior pocket for cables, pencils/pens, smartphones, and/or field notes
Ample padding is not too bulky but dense enough to take impact
Carry handles plus a strong claw strap for portability
If the Micro Manager were marketed primarily for outdoor use, then perhaps some rain protection around the zippers might be beneficial. Though I wouldn’t suggest doing this, I did leave the bag out in a surprise shower once and saw no signs of water penetration. The only point of water penetration could potentially be the zipper line. But from my observation, you’ve nothing to fear if you get caught in a downpour; I just wouldn’t leave it out in heavy rain or overnight.
The Micro Manager’s solid build means the bag is not featherweight. It weighs in at about two pounds.
The Red Oxx D-Ring attachment points for the Claw shoulder strap are beefy and nearly indestructible. I’m 100% okay with any added weight.
If you prefer bags with entirely built-in storage, like elastic holding straps, instead of the sort of open construction that permits the carrying of modular cubes or kits for your gear, this bag may not be your thing. But you might want to give it a look just the same; I was glad I experimented with modular kits and have learned to really appreciate their benefits.
And some readers will consider the $130 US price a “con” because similar bag configurations can be found on Amazon, eBay, or elsewhere for anywhere from $20-40. Somewhat better “camping grade” packs might be available at a further premium, perhaps $60-80. So yes, there are many cheaper bags out there.
But here’s the thing about Red Oxx gear: with that price comes rugged and superior quality and durability, in-the-US manufacture, and an incomparable warranty. You’re buying from a company that designs and manufactures all of the their packs in Billings, Montana, USA. Their customer service, in my experience, is without compromise. They guarantee their products with a “no bull,” no-questions-asked, lifetime warranty.
Red Oxx routinely posts photos from their shop where employees are repairing customer bags bags that have been so severely battered that no (sane) company would consider it a warranty repair. But there’s integrity in Red Oxx’s insanity. That’s their customer base––folks who actually use their gear, who travel, who camp, who adventure. Those who get out there, get going, get dirty. These bags really take a beating, and thing is, it appears they can take it.
Remarkably, Red Oxx even honors their warranty without receipt of purchase, even knowing you might have purchased it used. Don’t believe me? Search eBay for Red Oxx bags–look at the completed sales pricing, and you’ll find even used bags selling for within a few dollars of their brand new pricing. Red Oxx doesn’t care how you came to be with their bag––you’re their customer, and that’s all that seems to matter to them.
So it’s clear: Red Oxx packs not only hold your gear, they hold up––and they hold their value––over time. In my opinion, too, this bag is for the long haul.
Those of you who follow my blog know that I typically review radio gear. When I start testing new equipment, I never really know what I’m going to run into, especially if the equipment is mass-produced and the manufacturer has a questionable legacy when it comes to quality control.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened the Micro Manager, having only seen a preview ad photo which showed little to no detail. But I knew prior to evaluating this bag that its quality would be nothing less than benchmark. Red Oxx doesn’t allow anything out of their shop that doesn’t obviously meet some of the strictest quality standards in the business. As I mentioned above, I only know of one other pack company in their league, and that’s Tom Bihn. You simply can’t find better quality than these two US companies design into all of their US-made gear.
My only concerns when checking out the Micro Manager for the first time was about configuration and flexibility. Would it effectively hold my field gear without bulging or straining? Would internal organization get in the way of the main compartment’s capacity? Could this pack be used as an EDC bag, or personal carry-on item?
For my use, all of these questions were answered with a resounding Yes!
So…do I recommend the Micro Manager? Heck, yes! Without reservation. As long as your portable kit fits inside, and you like the configuration as I do, you’ll be pleased with the Micro Manager as well as with the company that produces it. This bag will stick around, staying faithfully by your side for many years to come.
On a side note: Shhh…I’ll be purchasing another Micro Manager shortly. While I’ve been testing this bag, my wife has repeatedly tried to steal it to carry her art supplies. For once, I know what to get her for Christmas! And, thankfully, though she edits my reviews, she never reads my live blog. Mum’s the word!
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