Tag Archives: Reader Challenges

Ashok is impressed with the GP5/SSB

GP5SSB-5

Many thanks to SWLing Post reader (and contest winner) Ashok Shankar Das, who writes:

The GP5/SSB receiver I got as prize from your SWLIing Post Virtual Radio Challenge is great. My friends envy the cute Monster 🙂

Well with this radio I am monitoring 40m and 20m HAM bands regularly. Since January till date I have received several stations. Most interesting stations till date are VK6HCF/portable, RW9JZ and EA3JE (from India).

Here’s a screen shot of the log book if you like to see. 🙂

Screenshot from 2016-02-23 23_04_33

This is excellent news, Ashok! Many thanks again to CountyComm who sponsored our Virtual Radio Challenge IV.

I hope to have another sponsored challenge posted within the next month or two. Frankly, I have multiple projects on my table, so free time has been almost non-existent the past few weeks. Indeed, I’m still catching up on a back log of correspondence I received during my travels last month! (I appreciate your patience and understanding!)

Happy listening, Ashok!

Update: Check out Ashok’s radio blog:

http://swldas.blogspot.in/2016/03/my-experience-with-gp-5ssb.html

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Reminder: Emergency radio and a chance to win a prepper radio package

Click to enlarge

Enter our challenge and you could win this prize package worth over $200 courtesy of CountyComm!

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.

In preparation for this event, what portable radio kit would you assemble?  

Submit your answer to this question and you could win a preparedness prize package courtesy of CountyComm!

All entries must be received by November 21, 2015.

Click here to read about this challenge and how to submit your answer!

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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

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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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Winner of the Virtual Radio Challenge III

AT_-_Franconia_Ridge

Dennis Blanchard (K1YPP), author of Three Hundred Zeroes: Lessons of the Heart on the Appalachian Trail, recently contacted me from the road, en route to another lengthy trail in Vermont.

Before this latest hiking expedition, Dennis spent many hours pouring over the Virtual Radio Challenge III entries, looking up weights and specifications of radio gear and accessories…And the upshot?  He’s chosen a winner of our Reader Challenge.

Again, in summary, a participant’s goal was to find the best and most portable radio gear to receive shortwave, AM (medium wave), FM, and NOAA weather to support a long through-hike on the Appalachian Trail, to plan each day’s hike, and to make accommodations for frequent spring and summer thunderstorms (as well as occasional spring snow or sleet)…all for a budget of $300 US. [Read full details of the Challenge by clicking here.]

This year, Universal Radio rewarded–and has already dispatched!–a brand new CountyComm GP5/SSB portable receiver to the winning entrant.

Below are Dennis’ comments, along with those of the Challenge winner.


Dennis Blanchard (K1YPP) writes:

“This photo was taken in NJ. Shortly after I took these photos, and walked down the trail about a 100 feet, a bear came over to check the table to see if I had left anything.” (Photo: K1YPP)

Dennis Blanchard operating a portable radio on the Appalachian Trail. (Photo: K1YPP)

I’ve just spent about five hours going over the entries. There are several that are very good…indeed, Challenge participants obviously put lots of thought into their entries.

It was really tough to decide, but I had to go with most practical.

Weight is a big consideration for me, and that leaves out solar panels, hand crank generators, and the like.

What most don’t realize is that the AT has a nickname: “The Long Green Tunnel.” This eliminates solar panels because there is little sun to be had, as you’re in the shade most of the time. By the time you get to camp it is usually too late in the day for any charging, and wearing a panel just doesn’t do any good because of the shade (and weight).

Not only is weight an issue, so is space in the pack…hikers need all the room they can get for food, and in the cooler weather, heavy clothes.

Anyway, out of five finalists, I would have to go with Eric McFadden (WD8RIF).

Eric’s winning entry

So, what did Eric choose?  The following is Eric’s winning entry, beginning with his radio choice and following with a clear, practical explanation for it:

CC-Skywave-1

C.Crane CC Skywave, AM/FM/SW/Air/WX, $89.95 at Universal Radio

Sangean-ant-20-roll-up-antenna

Sangean ANT-60 Roll-Up 23′ Antenna, $12.95 at Universal Radio

Energizer-Ultimate-Lithium-Cells

Energizer L91 Ultimate Lithium Cells, AA, 12-pack, $17.45 at Amazon

“The C.Crane Skywave is small (4.75″ x 3″ x 1.1″); light (5.5oz); power-stingy (30mA with headphones); and receives AM, FM, SW, NOAA Weather, and VHF Aviation.The Skywave runs on two AA cells, and comes with a case and CC Earbuds.

The Energizer L91 Ultimate Lithium AA cells provide 1.5v at approximately 3000m Ah, weigh 1/3 that of an alkaline AA cell, and last several times longer than an alkaline cell.

The Sangean ANT-60 would be tossed over a handy tree-limb and clipped to the Skywave’s whip antenna when the Skywave’s built-in 16″ whip isn’t quite adequate for listening to a shortwave broadcast station.

The purchase price of the Skywave, six pairs of Ultimate Lithium AA cells, and ANT-60 would be about $121 plus shipping, well under the $300 limit. The entire station should be small enough and light enough for easy carry in a backpack. If the twelve Ultimate Lithium AA cells don’t last the entire hike, enough of the budgeted $300 remains to purchase more cells (either Ultimate Lithium or alkaline, as available) along the route.”

To this sensible explanation, Eric adds:

Yaesu-FT-60R“Being a ham radio operator, I’d want to have a ham rig along, too. While I’d love to be able to operate HF CW along the AT, my Elecraft KX3 is too large and heavy to carry that far. However, my current Yaesu FT-60R 2m/70cm HT and Diamond SRH77CA whip should travel nicely clipped to a backpack strap and would serve as a back-up receiver for NOAA Weather and be available for pedestrian-mobile QSOs (chats) and calls for help, if needed.

In order to save weight and not have to hassle with charging batteries, I’d leave the NiMH pack at home and carry the FBA-25 six-cell AA holder and stuff it with additional Energizer Ultimate Lithium cells in order to save weight.

Since the C.Crane Skywave already meets all the requirements of the Virtual Challenge, and since I already own the HT, battery holder, and antenna, I won’t consider the cost of the HT, antenna, and batteries as part of the challenge.”

About Eric’s entry, Dennis notes:

Eric’s solution is small, lightweight, and does everything needed. He speculates that he would also bring along his Yaesu FT-60R, but didn’t feel he could include it because of cost. Curious, I looked it up on Amazon; should he take it along, this addition would still keep his total well under the $300.00 limit.

This would provide Eric with two receivers, [the ability to enjoy] ham radio communications, and not much weight to haul. He includes the AA Lithiums, and I have to say that, without a doubt, these are the finest hiking batteries out there: they’re light, last forever, and are readily obtainable. I only had to change mine out once on the entire, six-month AT hike, and I was on the air a lot.

Several of the other entries were winners also great; I basically had to use a dartboard to pick a winner.  Good thinkers out there, especially considering none of them have actually ever done a hike of this magnitude.


Congrats, Eric! Thanks, Dennis!  And more to come…

Congratulations to Eric McFadden for such a well thought-through entry!

I must say, I don’t envy Dennis in making this selection: it was obviously a challenging  process on his end, too, and I’m glad I didn’t have to make it!

Dennis informed me that he plans to post and comment on some of his favorite entries in a few weeks, once he completes this latest multi-week hike. We will, of course, post his comments along with the finalist entries.

Note that when I originally received the reader inquiry which prompted the idea behind this Reader Challenge, the CC Skywave had not yet entered the market. Yet several of you chose it as your sidekick for the Appalachian Trail; clearly, clever minds think alike. Obviously, a radio that would function well on the Appalachian Trail would also be a great radio for your BOB (“bug out bag”), go kit or emergency supplies.

Thanks again to Dennis Blanchard, our intrepid judge, thanks to Universal Radio for the great prize, and many, many thanks to all our Reader Challenge participants, who made this process even more exciting and challenging! Meanwhile, don’t worry if you didn’t win the CountyComm GP5/SSB this time; we’ll soon have another opportunity to win one of these handy rigs in a completely different–and fun!–way.

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Saturday: Your chance to win a CountyComm GP5/SSB in our Virtual Radio Challenge III

The CountyComm GP5/SSB

The CountyComm GP5/SSB

We’ve already received some excellent, creative entries in the Virtual Radio Challenge III: your opportunity to piece together the best radio for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Rememer: this year, if your entry is picked by our judge (Dennis Blanchard, K1YPP), you will win a new CountyComm GP5/SSB portable radio courtesy of Universal Radio!

To participate in this challenge, simply submit your response in the form on our original post with your suggested set-up, any links, and a brief explanation for your choices.

You’re also welcome to email me directly with your response on or before Saturday, August 8, 2015.

Click here to read the full challenge. Good luck!

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