Category Archives: Slightly Off Topic

Deal Alert: Tactical pack sale at Spec.-Ops. Brand

The Spec.-Ops. Brand THE Tactical Pack UAP

SWLing Post readers know I’m a certified pack geek. Well, I just received an email from one of my favorite tactical backpack and gear suppliers: Spec.-Ops. Brand. They’re having an unheard of 70% off sale on some of their overstocked tactical packs.

 

I’ve mentioned Spec.-Ops. in a number of previous posts as I own a lot of their gear including the T.H.E. Pack, Pack Rat, Triple S, DPO, Op Order Pouch, and All Purpose Bag.

If you’re into camping, preparedness, or just like backpacks, I highly recommend Spec.-Ops. gear. Everything is made in Texas and carries a lifetime warranty. When I bought my ($189) T.H.E. Pack Tactical, ACU on sale I got a great deal at $110–now they have this same pack for $56!! Yep–I’m likely going to buy another at this price.

Click here to view the tactical pack sale on the Spec.-Ops. Brand website.

A review of the Red Oxx “Lil Roy”: an excellent radio kit bag

Yesterday, I posted some photos of the yet-to-be-released CC Skywave SSB and a number of readers had the same reaction as Frank (K4FMH):

“Who makes and sells your canvas bag? Inquiring minds want to know!”

Frank was referring to the bag in the background on many of the radio shots–and he wasn’t alone in his inquiry. I received a few email messages and inquiries on Facebook about this bag.

Be warned: I’m an avid bag and pack geek. If you find the topic boring, you should run away now!

The Red Oxx “Lil Roy”

The Lil Roy might look like a typical canvas bag.  But the Lil Roy isn’t made by the typical pack manufacturer–it’s made by Red Oxx Manufacturing in Billings, Montana, USA. Red Oxx gear isn’t just designed in Montana, it’s made in Montana. The two leaders,  Jim Markel and President Perry Jones, are military veterans and bring mil-spec quality to all of their products.

I love the design of Red Oxx bags–they’re not tactical, but they’re not really low-profile or urban either. Markel describes the design as:

“Tactical strength without looking like you’re going to war.”

I was first introduced to Red Oxx gear in 2012 when I traveled to a meeting in Denver with my good friend Ed Harris (who is an SWLing Post reader).

Even though Ed and I had traveled together in Belize and had known each other for quite a while, I never realized he was a one-bag traveler like me. Once the topic came up, we proceeded to talk about our main travel bags. Ed showed me his Air Boss by Red Oxx.

The Red Oxx Air Boss.

I instantly fell in love with the overall quality and the bold Red Oxx design.

All Red Oxx bags are manufactured to the company’s high standards, including the Lil Roy

Four portable radios, an antenna reel and earphones all easily fit into the Lil Roy with room to spare.

Though it looks like a canvas bag, the Lil Roy is made of 1000 weight CORDURA nylon. Red Oxx uses super strong UV resistant threads in the stitching and into every seam. Each stress point is box stitched.

Red Oxx uses large, pricey #10 YKK VISLON zippers on all of their bags. They slide beautifully and if you don’t zip up the bag completely, the zippers won’t slide back open–they essentially lock into place. They’re even field-repairable.

Inside the Lil Roy you’ll find two “stiff mesh” pockets on each inside wall with Red Oxx Mil-Spec snaps to keep things contained.

FYI: If you ever want to check the quality of a bag or pack, flip it inside out and look for frays, bad stitching and incomplete seams. Cheap bags are loaded with them–you won’t find one thread out of place on a Red Oxx bag.

While the Lil Roy is a small bag, I’ve found that it holds a lot of stuff. This month, I’ve had no less than four radios to beta test and review. I found that the Lil Roy can hold all of my portables and accessories, making it easy to grab the whole lot and take them to the field for testing.

While in Canada this summer, I had to do all of my radio listening and testing in the field. I was able to pack my portable radio and my recording gear into the Lil Roy with room to spare.

Listening to the 2017 BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast from the back of my vehicle in Saint-Anne-de-Beaupré, Québec, Canada.

I’ve also packed my CommRadio CR-1a, NASA PA-30 antenna and all assorted cables for a little weekend travel and radio fun. The Lil Roy easily accommodated everything. In the photo below, I simply placed the CR-1a inside (on top of the CC Skywave and CC Skywave SSB) to show how much room there is to spare:

So are there any negatives? Perhaps one: the Lil Roy was never designed to carry radio equipment, so there’s no padding inside.

Indeed, I believe Red Oxx initially designed Lil Roy for someone who wanted a bag to hold their car chains. Of course, most customers use the Lil Roy as an electronics organizer–something to hold tablets, Kindles, cables, etc. Some even use it as a packing cube.

Since there’s no padding in the bag, I’m selective about what I put inside and how I pack it. Most of my portables have soft cases that protect them anyway. When I put something like the CommRadio CR-1a inside, I enclose the radio in a soft padded sack. Even though the sack makes the CR-1a bulkier, the Lil Roy can still easily accommodate it.

In general, Red Oxx gear is considered pricey by most standards. After all, you’re purchasing products wholly designed and made in the United States, so US wages are baked into that price. On top of that, Red Oxx backs all of their stuff with what they call a “No Bull” no question’s asked Lifetime Warranty. Because of this warranty, Red Oxx gear holds its value amazingly well. The warranty still holds even if you purchase the bag used.

I also believe when you’re purchasing from Red Oxx, you’re supporting a good local company that does one thing and does it very well.

The Lil Roy retails for $35 US. I think it’s a fantastic value for a simple, rugged bag that can be used in a variety of applications. The longer I’ve had it, the more uses I’ve found.

I’m considering purchasing the Red Oxx Mini Boss or possibly Skytrain in the next few months to replace my Timbuk2 Small Wingman.

Told you…I’m a pack geek! Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 🙂

Click here to check out the Lil Roy at Red Oxx Manufacturing.

Post readers: Red Oxx is one of three quality pack manufacturers I support–Tom Bihn and Spec Ops Brand are two others. Do you have any favorites?  Please comment!

30 Year Flashback: From the April 1st Edition of the Cascade Mtn. DX Club Bulletin

Among SWLing Post readers, I’m sure there are others like myself who, decades ago, listened to the Zzzt…Zzzt…Zzzt! sound of a dot-matrix printer as it spit out copy for “pasting up” a DX club bulletin. In the 1980s I was one of those enterprising DXers, taking over publication of the Cascade Mountain DX Club (CMDXC) when a local hobbyist lost interest in producing it.

For a few years I found that creating a regular bulletin was almost as satisfying as DXing itself, and I went on to publish another local bulletin, DX/Northwest. It was a forum for DXers in the Pacific Northwest USA to share loggings and information. I also hosted occasional gatherings of Seattle area DXers who were members of the club.

I recently came across my collection of all the past bulletins and appropriately found the April 1, 1987 edition of the CMDXC. I had completely forgotten I’d made an effort every April 1st to “spice up” the bulletin content with some April Foolery.

The first item was slipped into the midst of the monthly loggings, just to make sure readers were paying attention:

The fictitious DXer named “Grobe” in the spoof logging was a thinly veiled reference to radio hobby publisher Bob Grove of Grove Enterprises and Monitoring Times magazine. He actually wrote to me after the initial April 1st edition, beginning a running joke of humorous responses to my April Fool’s bulletin content, and always signing his letters “Bob Grobe”. I received similar letters from him after each year’s April edition. I don’t recall Bob ever being a member of the CMDXC, so I’m not sure how he knew of the content. I still have one or more of those letters stashed away somewhere.

Perusing the April 1st, 1987 bulletin again, I note that I was feeling charitable towards a certain down-on-his-luck DXer “M.T. Pockitz” from nearby Vancouver, BC Canada, and wanted other club members to help him in his time of need. I was also in close touch with new developments in radio technology, as I am today:

Who else remembers the old DX club bulletins–from the dot-matrix printer era–with fondness? You may even be senior enough to feel nostalgic over the “ditto machine” or Mimeograph produced publications!

To read more humor that only a DXer could love, I highly recommend Don Moore’s excellent web site BLANDX – Historical DX Humor. This site is the web archive of the classic BLANDX parody bulletins. I was an occasional contributor, and on the receiving end of Don’s wonderfully warped funny bone at times. If you can’t laugh at the BLANDX content, watch out–your WPE Callsign might have expired!

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

Video: Ivan surveys Cuban TV from a cruise ship

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan Cholakov, who shares the following:

[W]hile on a cruise ship 30 miles off the coast of Cuba (January 2017) I pointed a small active antenna towards the island and scanned for old fashioned analog TV.

The results show analog TV is alive and well in Cuba! Multiple programs on multiple channels.

From what I understand Cuba has selected the Chinese digital TV standard but using their own channel spacing so I am not aware of any receivers that can pick up Cuba’s digital TV transmissions.

I posted the YouTube video of my channel scan here:

Click here to view on YouTube.

St. Helena is “ready to welcome the world”

If you’ve been a shortwave listener for very long, you may remember the annual Radio St. Helena Day: one weekend a year when this small island broadcaster hit the shortwaves and accepted reports from across the globe. I never had the fortune of receiving their modest signal, but I surely tried!

Since I’m fan of remotely inhabited parts of the world, St. Helena is on my bucket list of places to visit–and it looks like visiting the island may become much easier:

(Source: BBC Travel)

For more than 500 years, the only way to reach the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena was by sea. Travelling to the South Atlantic island by sailboat, after a nine-day voyage from Namibia, my family and I made landfall the way every person before us has: the way Napoleon Bonaparte did when he was sent into exile in 1815; the way modern-day Saints (as the local population is known) do when they venture home from work in the UK; and the way the occasional, intrepid visitor has always done. But we were one of the last travellers to do so.

In April, the first commercial plane landed at the island’s new airport, and the last working Royal Mail Ship, the St Helena, was slated for decommissioning.

A dwindling population and defiant island geology – which, as Charles Darwin put it, “rises abruptly like a huge black castle from the ocean” – were long-time barriers to the development of an airport. But fears that the island could become nothing more than a remote old age home as younger Saints look elsewhere for employment finally forced the issue. Planned weekly flights will replace the monthly ship visits, and tourism is projected to take off.

Now, for the first time, visitors won’t risk being doused in the Atlantic swell when they reach for the ropes at the sea-washed Jamestown landing, trying to time their first step onto solid ground.

Continue reading on the BBC Travel website…

I do understand that the new airport may be a challenging place to land an aircraft. The following is noted on Wikipedia:

Due to the short runway and the long distance to South Africa, a Boeing 737-700 flying to Johannesburg is not able to use its full seat and cargo capacity. Only flights to and from Namibian and Angolan destinations would allow using a Boeing 737-700 near its full load capacity. The other planned destination, London, requires a fuel stop in Gambia, at almost the same distance as Johannesburg.

If Wideawake Airfield on Ascension Island were open for commercial non-military flights, it could be listed as an alternate aerodrome; this would mean that the load capacity of an inbound Boeing 737-700 could be increased as fewer fuel reserves would be required.

The distance from key destinations, the length of runway available, and the type of aircraft available in the region dictate that air services to St Helena must operate to the requirements of extended twin engine operations (ETOPS) which implies the provision of an instrument approach system based on an off-set instrument landing system localiser (ILS LLZ).

Such is also required by the terrain of the airport which, in commercial passenger air transport terms, is safety-critical due to its steep approaches, high elevation (1,000 ft or 300 m above sea level) and rocky outcrops. Without an instrument approach the provision of a viable air service is considered impossible.

There were doubts concerning local weather conditions and, in particular about the amount of turbulence on the approaches from fallwinds resulting from the elevated location and the surrounding bluffs. Therefore, it was recommended that a charter aircraft should perform approaches to and departures from the intended runway. By April 2016 such flights had taken place, and they weren’t 100% positive[…]

There are so many reasons air service will help this isolated community–especially for medical evacuations–but I suspect this will be a challenging airport for any pilot. St. Helena is one of the most remotely inhabited island on earth–due to aircraft fuel limits and the inability to land at alternate locations, aircraft will be forced to land in occasional adverse weather conditions.

While I’d love to to take a cruise to St. Helena, air service will likely make my future visit much more accessible!

Post readers: Please comment if you’ve visited or live(d) on St. Helena! Please share your experiences! Has anyone had luck receiving Radio St. Helena Day broadcasts in the past?