Tag Archives: Preparedness

Virtual Radio Challenge IV: Emergency radio and a chance to win a prepper radio package

GP5SSB-Front

The CountyComm GP5/SSB portable SW/AM/FM radio is just one of many items in this prize package!

UPDATE: This challenge is now closed.  Click here to read about the winning entries.

The SWLing Post attracts readers and enthusiasts from all walks of life. In the past, we’ve put together Reader Challenges based on actual questions we receive from readers, usually looking for the best radio kit for a unique situation or location. Our first challenge sought gear for the most remotely inhabited island on the planet; the second, for a village in the Himalayas; and the third, for an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker.

This time we’re taking a slightly different angle, but nonetheless representative of a quite significant (and growing!) number of reader queries: What is the best radio for use in an emergency? Or, as we’re often asked,”What is the best prepper radio?”

There are many ways to answer this question based upon the scenario a reader is confronting. To help define a scenario for this challenge–perhaps the first in a few similar radio challenges–I enlisted the help of my good friend, David Cripe (NM0S). Dave, an engineer and radio/kit designer, is something of a modern day MacGyver and preparedness expert. Not to mention, a very cool guy.

Dave agreed not only to help author an emergency scenario (below), but has also agreed to judge the reader challenge responses.  Dave will select his favorite from among the best  entries.

But there’s more: CountyComm Government Products Group has generously offered a comprehensive prize package for the winning entry!

Interested? Keep reading…

The scenario

ivan-hurricaneAs is often said, stuff happens. Indeed, our modern communication infrastructure is a fragile thing. Let’s imagine that your area suddenly loses power–as well as cell phone and internet service–for an indeterminate period. Home and personal electronics remain unaffected, but must be powered off-grid (without mains power).  Moreover, you may be required to evacuate your home…perhaps even on foot.

Electricity-Pylon-TowerDoes the above scenario seem far-fetched?  Actually, this is just the sort of scenario we often see occur in regions throughout the world as the result of natural disasters (and occasionally human sabotage), and it’s the scenario we’ll mentally prepare for in this exercise.

In preparation for this event, what portable radio kit would you assemble?  In particular, you’ll want to look for an optimal combination of features and portability for price, ($400 US for all your kit). And it isn’t just the radio we’re interested in, but also how you intend to use it.

Therefore, how do you intend to:

  1. obtain information about local and world events?
  2. communicate within your local region to assist emergency services?
  3. pass messages to friends and family over long distances?
  4. power your kit for an indeterminate amount of time?

Limitations

Rather than making this virtual challenge restrictive, the following limitations are designed to make the challenge more fun and create a level playing field for all participants.

  1. Once again, you’re limited to a (virtual) budget of $400 US to procure your supplies; ideally, this will include the shipping costs of all purchase(s) you make.
  2. You may select new, used, or homebrew gear, but you must base your choices on reality (i.e., actually find item(s) online and document the price and time of availability). If you “shop” eBay, for example, make sure you’re using the final purchase price, not the current or opening bid. If you do locate something used on eBayQTH.comQRZ.com, or at Universal Radio, for example, do include the link to the item (just to add to the fun). If you enter a homebrew radio, it should be based on something you’ve either built or used, and must include a photo. Of course, you can use multiple radios, but keep in mind the amount of space and weight these will consume in your evacuation or “bug-out” bag.

The prize package

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

CountyComm is generously offering the selected entrant of this contest a prize package that includes the following items, useful whether there’s an emergency or not:

The total value of this kit is $209.94 US!

How to enter the challenge

This challenge will continue for one month, ending on November 21.

To enter, simply describe the kit you’ve chosen and how you would address the scenario above. Please be specific, but also as concise as you can. If you’re describing a radio or gear you already own, consider sending photos, as well.

Simply send your entry to SWLingPostContest@gmail.com.

Spread the word!

If you’re active in a preparedness group locally or online, please help us spread the word in your group!  Although there is a serious element to this exercise, in that it might really help you or another reader in an emergency situation, it’s intended to be fun; enjoy the challenge, and good luck!

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Urban go-kit

Davids-SuppliesMy good pal David Korchin (K2WNW) posted the above photo in his Facebook feed yesterday, simply titled, “Today’s carry.”

David is very much a kindred spirit; like me, he is constantly tweaking his go-gear. He works in New York City and likes to have his essentials with him there––radio included, of course. Since he’s a professional photographer, he never leaves home without the Lumix GF1 + Leica 20MM, very nice gear. Since he’s a ham and an avid ARES guy, he carries a Motorola XPR7550 UHF transceiver. And since he’s a radio listener, he carries the CC Pocket AM/FM radio.

True, he doesn’t have a shortwave radio in this kit, but he certainly takes his shortwave with him when traveling any further afield. Indeed, we once did some field work in Belize for ETOW and enjoyed a great SWLing session with the our Grundig G series receivers. Made for great comparison.

What’s in your kit?

Someday soon, I’ll take some photos of the kit that accompanies me most everywhere I go. In the meantime, we’d love to know what’s in your go-kit! If you have one, take a photo and add a few brief notes describing everything in it. I’ll post it here on the SWLing Post!

PS: For those who want to know, here’s David’s description of the above, in his own words:

“CLOCKWISE: Motorola XPR7550 UHF transceiver; Lumix GF1 + Leica 20MM; Moleskin folio notebook; Lamy Safari fountain pen; vintage Zippo lighter; Mercator lock blade penknife; CCrane Pocket radio; Sony El Cheapo™ earbuds; Luminox ANU Watch; iPhone; CENTER handmade leather card case from YXE, because Canada.”

Brilliant…! Thanks, DK!

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Include in the CIA’s Survival Kit: the Sony ICF-SW100

CIAEscapeandSurvivalBag

I recently discovered an article on the excellent blog, LifeHacker, which describes the contents of the CIA’s Escape and Evasion Survival Kit.

The kit’s contents currently include:

Lifehacker believes the small bag used is the Maxpedition M-2 Waistpack. I like Maxpedition packs: they’re very durable, typically military grade, and reasonably affordable. But the M-2 is small–quite small.

This led me to thinking about über-portable shortwave radios I would carry in such a small pack for survival purposes. If I were a foreign operative, ideally, I’d want a shortwave radio that has SSB mode, in case my home country’s numbers station broadcast in SSB.

In reality, there are very few good radios that are so compact they could fit in the M-2 Waistpack.

A few that came to mind were the Tecsun PL-310ET or Tecsun PL-380, but the fit would be very tight, if at all; both radios are slightly wider and taller than the M2’s main pocket, which measures 5 x 3 x 1.5 inches. I then remembered the Kaito KA1102 that I owned a few years ago–a very portable radio, but it, too, would be too large at 143 x 88 x 28.50 mm.

But then, it hit me: there is one radio, which, though no longer on the market, would fit the bill (and the pocket)…

The Holy Grail of über-portable receivers: The Sony ICF-SW100

Sony-ICF-SW100

I have never owned an ICF-SW100, but I’d love to. Occasionally they show up on eBay, but prices range from $300-$800 depending on condition. That’s simply too pricey for my budget. Universal Radio has acquired used units in the past on rare occasions; these have sold between $200-400.

Then there are the lucky few, like my radio-listener buddy, The Professor. Remarkably, he tracked down (and knows I’ll never forgive him for it) an ICF-SW100 on Craig’s List for about $50! That was a steal.

Performance is superb for a radio this size. Not only does it have SSB mode, but selectable sideband sync detection.

One note of caution, should you be lucky enough to acquire one: the ribbon cable that connects the lower portion of the radio with the display (especially in the mark 1 production units) is known to fail. Fortunately, there are a number of videos (like this one) which walk you through replacement.

Click here to search eBay for a used Sony ICF-SW100.

Honorable mention: the Sony ICF-SW1S

icfsw1cs

The ICF-SW100 predecessor, the ICF-SW1S (above), would easily fit in the M-2 Waistpack–it measures a mere 4.75 x 2.785 x 1 inches. Like its younger brother, it is highly sought after on the used radio market, and usually fetches $300+. The ICF-SW1S does not have a sync detector and lacks SSB mode. Still, as a broadcast receiver, it is truly superb for its size.

If you purchase a used ICF-SW1S, do ask the seller if all 6 original electrolytic capacitors have been replaced. If not, you may have to replace them in short order as the originals were known to fail. While not a repair for the faint of heart (as parts are quite small), there are several instructional sites and videos to help you.  Alternatively, you can send your ICF-SW1S to Kiwa to be professionally re-capped.

Click here to search eBay for a used Sony ICF-SW1S.

Any others–?

Do you know of any other high-quality shortwave portables out there compact enough to fit in the M-2 Waistpack?  Let us know!

The hunt is on…!

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CommRadio CR-1 and WRTH: Power outage essentials

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Like much of North America, we’re currently experiencing record low temperatures and strong winds here at our mountain home. This morning, I woke to no power and no Internet. My iPhone still works though, hence the ability to publish this post.

But no power is really no problem when it comes to SWLing. Indeed, for those living in urban areas, power outages represent temporary refuge from all of those electronic noises (RFI) that plague daily listening.

I’ve spent the morning SWLing with my CommRadio CR-1. The beauty of the CR-1 is that it can operate for hours on its internal battery and can also be charged/powered via USB or anything from a 6V to 18v DC power source. I’m currently charging the CR-1’s battery from our solar-powered battery bank. It makes me realize that the CR-1 is an ideal, top-shelf radio for off-grid DXing.

Additionally, I received my 2014 WRTH yesterday in the post. The WRTH is always a welcome delivery, but this morning was even more appreciated since it requires no power source whatsoever to work!

No power? No worries! With a WRTH and CommRadio CR-1 combo, I’m a happy listener!

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Jeff designs an SDR “Go Kit” around the Softrock Ensemble

SoftrockGoKit1Jeffrey Fritz (WB1AAL) contacted me with details about his SDR (Software Defined Radio) “Go Kit” and has kindly allowed me to post it.

Jeff writes:

As a reader of the SWLing blog, I know that you are very interested in SDR. And you probably know that a “Go Kit” is a portable ham radio system in a case that can be moved at a moment’s notice and set up at another moment’s notice virtually anywhere.

I have a VHF Go Kit made up for emergency events. It is complete with waterproof carrying case, Aden PCS-7000H two-meter transceiver, a Kenwood VHF tuner, a Kenwood SW-100 VHF SWR bridge and two antennas (a 2-meter J-pole made out of twin lead and a two meter mag mount.) But what if there is a need to monitor the HF bands during the same event?

Now that I own a Flex-1500 SDR transceiver, the Softrock Ensemble SDR receiver that I bought a while ago has become somewhat redundant. It is still a serviceable radio and works fine, but it can’t hold a candle to the amazing Flex-1500. While I could turn it into a panadapter or sell it on eBay, eHam, etc., I had a better idea.

To monitor the HF ham bands, I could use something like my Grundig G3 shortwave radio in my Go Kit. While it is portable, battery operated and will tune LSB and USB, listening to SSB or even CW in an emergency situation with the G3 can be a bit of a chore. (Think of the old boat anchors with their main tuning and fine tuning band spread dials, but now make both dials tiny and you’ll get the idea.) Instead, why not build a 12-volt battery supply with common, easy to obtain batteries? I could connect it to the Softrock Ensemble and then via a USB audio interface to a battery powered laptop. Add a pair of headphones and we are in business.

That is just what I’ve done.

I’ve attached some photos of my most recent project–done this past weekend actually. [Check out photos above and below] It’s an SDR Go Kit. One of the attached photos shows the laptop and the Softrock Ensemble SDR receiving 40-meter band SSB while entirely being operated on battery power. There is no power switch. You simply pull the DC jack out of the Softrock Ensemble SDR radio when it isn’t in use. Simple as it gets! The other photo shows the battery pack built into a (ahem!) Preparation H Pad holder pack. (Now, I am not saying who used this!)

Ah but what will battery life be like with 8 C cells in series driving the receiver? It’s too soon to say because I just put it together an hour ago. But here’s a guess:

SoftrockGoKit2The Softrock Ensemble draws 18 mA at 12.6 volts (my measurement.) An Alkaline ‘C’ battery can supply up to 8,000 mAh, so doing some math and assuming fresh batteries, the battery pack should run the radio for roughly 400 hours. (Hopefully my math is correct!) If so, then I think that the laptop batteries will give out long before the life span of the C Cell is reached!

73,

Jeff, WB1AAL

Jeff, this is an excellent use for the Softrock Ensemble. I imagine it will run for a very long time drawing only 18 mA. I have a “Go Kit” for QRP ham radio purposes and one for SWLing during travels. You’ve inspired me to piece together a proper receiver “Go Kit” to be used in case of emergencies.

Readers: If you have a project, like Jeff, that you’d like to share on the SWLing Post, feel free to contact me with details!

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Hurricane Sandy: Getting prepared

Self-powered radios can be your link to your community and to the world in the wake of a hurricane or other natural disasters.

I don’t know of many people living in eastern North America who aren’t a little nervous about what Hurricane Sandy could bring in the next few days. Several models point to some pretty severe weather and predict power outages in the wake of storm surge, high winds and rising water levels.

Of course, it’s difficult to prepare this close to a weather event as supplies are typically low and demand is high. We radio enthusiasts are well aware of the importance of radio supplies, but there’s so much more to include to have preparedness basics in place.

Sandy may or may not pan out to be a memorable weather event, but we can take this opportunity as a reminder to be prepared.

No matter where you live, spend some time preparing for natural disasters or interruptions to public utilities. We have several helpful posts on the SWLing Post which can help you with this very thing. If you do nothing else, make sure you at least read this post and this post.

Here’s a full list of relevant posts from our archives:

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Severe Weather: Are you prepared?

As I was listening to reports of tropical storm (now hurricane) Isaac this morning on the radio and a lot of emphasis was placed on preparedness for those who lie in his path.

Of course, it’s difficult to prepare this close to a weather event as supplies are typically low and demand is high. We radio enthusiasts are well aware of the importance of radio supplies, but there’s so much more to include to have preparedness basics in place.

Isaac may or may not pan out to be a memorable weather event, but we can take this opportunity as a reminder to be prepared. Indeed, the US National Weather Service predicts that we will have an active hurricane season in here in the states. If weather in Europe follows the same course, it could be bitterly cold and snowy. Typhoons in Asia have also been active most recently.

No matter where you live, spend some time preparing for natural disasters or interruptions to public utilities. We have several helpful posts on the SWLing Post which can help you with this very thing.  Take a look at the following in our archives:

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