Tag Archives: Preparedness

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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Telegraph operations in the Great Auroral Storm of 1859

Sunspots of September 1, 1859, as sketched by Richard Carrington A and B mark the initial positions of an intensely bright event, which moved over the course of 5 minutes to C and D before disappearing. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

These days, CMEs and solar flares get a great deal of media attention. But it’s mostly speculation–for even with our advanced abilities to measure the potential impact, we can’t be sure what will happen each time this occurs. Might this solar flare be strong enough to damage our satellites and electrical infrastructure? we may wonder. Could it ‘fry’ our electrical grid?

The concerns are merely speculative. But is there actual cause for concern? Surely. A massive solar flare could damage much of our technology in space–such as our satellites–and could also certainly cause headaches for those who manage our electrical grids.

But do we know how powerful solar events can be? History may hold the answer.

In September of 1859, a solar flare was so massive that there were newspaper reports of it across the globe, and many found the strange light it created baffling. Of course, now, there’s no speculation as to what happened then–eyewitness accounts and plenty of written evidence in this pre-internet era paint a clear picture of a massive coronal ejection. This event has been referenced many times as a benchmark–one that, should it happen now, would certainly give us serious pause.  Technologically, that is.

I happened upon a fantastic article about the 1859 flare on ARS Technica called: 1859’s “Great Auroral Storm”—the week the Sun touched the earth.

The following is an excerpt:

It hit quickly. Twelve hours after Carrington’s discovery and a continent away, “We were high up on the Rocky Mountains sleeping in the open air,” wrote a correspondent to the Rocky Mountain News. “A little after midnight we were awakened by the auroral light, so bright that one could easily read common print.” As the sky brightened further, some of the party began making breakfast on the mistaken assumption that dawn had arrived.

Across the United States and Europe, telegraph operators struggled to keep service going as the electromagnetic gusts enveloped the globe. In 1859, the US telegraph system was about 20 years old, and Cyrus Field had just built his transatlantic cable from Newfoundland to Ireland, which would not succeed in transmitting messages until after the American Civil War.

“Never in my experience of fifteen years in working telegraph lines have I witnessed anything like the extraordinary effect of the Aurora Borealis between Quebec and Farther Point last night,” wrote one telegraph manager to the Rochester Union & Advertiser on August 30:

The line was in most perfect order, and well skilled operators worked incessantly from 8 o’clock last evening till one this morning to get over in an intelligible form four hundred words of the report per steamer Indian for the Associated Press, and at the latter hour so completely were the wires under the influence of the Aurora Borealis that it was found utterly impossible to communicate between the telegraph stations, and the line had to be closed.

But if the following newspaper transcript of a telegraph operator exchange between Portland and Boston is to be believed, some plucky telegraphers improvised, letting the storm do the work that their disrupted batteries couldn’t:

Boston operator, (to Portland operator) – “Please cut off your battery entirely from the line for fifteen minutes.”

Portland operator: “Will do so. It is now disconnected.”

Boston: “Mine is disconnected, and we are working with the auroral current. How do you receive my writing?”

Portland: “Better than with our batteries on. Current comes and goes gradually.”

Boston: “My current is very strong at times, and we can work better without the batteries, as the Aurora seems to neutralize and augment our batteries alternately, making current too strong at times for our relay magnets.

Suppose we work without batteries while we are affected by this trouble.”

Portland: “Very well. Shall I go ahead with business?”

Boston: “Yes. Go ahead.”

Telegraphers around the US reported similar experiences. “The wire was then worked for about two hours without the usual batteries on the auroral current, working better than with the batteries connected,” said the Washington Daily National Intelligencer. “Who now will dispute the theory that the Aurora Borealis is caused by electricity?” asked the Washington Evening Star.

Read the full and fascinating article, 1859’s “Great Auroral Storm”—the week the Sun touched the earth on arstechnica.

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