Tag Archives: Shortwave Travel

Bill recommends the Hermitshell travel case for CC Skywave radios

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Bill (KD5XN), who writes:

I enjoyed your article on the C Crane Skywave SSB this month in the Spectrum Monitor. I too have both of the Skywaves now, and agree they are near-ideal travel radios.

I bought a protective case by “Hermit Shell” that I stumbled across on Amazon that may well be one of the best protective cases I’ve ever seen for a portable radio.

It is made specifically for the Skywave(s) and fits like a glove. I believe one could kick it across a parking lot and never worry about any damage to your radio it’s so well padded. I put the earbuds and a clip lead for attaching to a reel antenna into the pouch in the cover. Not much else is going to fit.

I know that you are also a “bag geek” so I’ve sent the Amazon link for you to peruse.

[…]The only slight negative that I could say is that the cased radio is approximately twice the thickness of the radio alone, if tight packing is an issue.

I just thought I’d pass this along as I don’t recall ever seeing anyone mentioning it. At $14.99 it’s cheap but good insurance if you travel where things “take a beating.”

73, Happy Holidays and thank you for all your reviews and articles.

ccskywavecase

Click here to view on Amazon.com (affiliate link).

Thank you for your recommendation and tip, Bill!

We actually have mentioned this on the SWLing Post before, but obviously the article is rather buried at this point. Thanks for the reminder.

Like you, I do see the negative that this case effectively increases the size of the CC Skywave for one bag travel, but it would certainly do a fine job protecting the Skywave in transit. Indeed, I believe that’s a pretty acceptable compromise. I especially like the fact that the earbuds will also fit in the case.   I might pick one of these up with some Christmas credit I have at Amazon.

Afterall, the CC Skywave SSB is a $150 radio–! I suppose since I buy $15-$20 protective cases for my $150 smartphone, my radio should at least get the same treatment! It’ll certainly outlast my smartphone!

SWLing on the coast with the Elecraft KX2 and PK Loop

Since I purchased the Elecraft KX2 last year, I find I do almost as much SWLing with it as I do ham radio activity. The KX2 is actually a brilliant shortwave broadcast receiver–check out these audio samples. It’s incredibly sensitive, selective and outperforms all of my portables. It’s also a joy to operate, once you learn your way around the controls.

I’ve been at the South Carolina coast all week on an active family vacation. What little time I’ve had to play radio, I’ve used the KX2/PK Loop combo.

The KX2 pairs well with the PK Loop (C-LOOP-HDSW6-18) antenna and both can easily fit in one small pack. The combo limits me to the shortwave bands, but that’s okay since I always carry an Ultralight DX receiver like the Tecsun PL-310ET, Sony SRF-39FP or CC Skywave should I decide to hit the mediumwaves.

I can set up the KX2 and PK Loop on a small table or foot stool with room to spare. I typically use a pair of headphones with the KX2 since its built-in speaker leaves much to be desired (but is better than the KX3’s internal speaker, in my opinion). With headphones, you can also take advantage of the “delay” audio effect which makes broadcasts sound much wider that the 5 kHz maximum bandwidth.

Another favorite travel receiver is the CommRadio CR-1a. Like the KX2, it’s compact, has a built-in battery and (unlike the KX2) can even be charged from a standard USB source.

I still manage to take the KX2 on travels more often than the CR-1a simply because I always have the option to put on my ham radio hat and do field/portable operation should I choose.

But CommRadio is cooking up a new radio: I’m watching the new CommRadio CTX-10 with interest since it might also serve both of these radio purposes!

The CommRadio CTX-10 QRP transceiver

I will review the CTX-10 when it’s on the market.

On a side note: since I own both the KX2 and KX3, I’m planning to purchase the KXPA100 100 watt amplifier for the shack next year. At $749 for the ATU-less kit version, it’s a hefty sum–indeed–enough to purchase another 100 watt transceiver like the Icom IC-7200.  But in the end, I’m so please with both radios I think it’s worth the investment.  Thankfully, the KXPA100 was not included in the Elecraft Black Friday sale. I did not need that temptation.

Post readers: Any others take a compact general coverage transceiver on travels? What model do you prefer?  Please comment!

Guest Post: Shortwave Recordings from Mount Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro (Photo: Chris Johnson)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Chris Johnson, for sharing the following guest post:


Shortwave Recordings from Kilimanjaro

by Chris Johnson

Last month, I took a trip of a lifetime to Tanzania Africa to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro: Africa’s highest point and the world’s highest free standing mountain. It is also known as the “Rooftop of Africa” its summit stands at 19,341 feet or 5895 meters.

With this high elevation I figured that I could pick up a multitude of shortwave signals that I would normally not receive at lower altitudes. So I packed my Sony ICF- SW7600G to capture recordings of various signals, some common, others not so common.

Each night I unpacked my radio and extended the reel-wire antenna and scanned the bands. I came across an assortment of stations that I normally do not hear back home in the USA, but some were quite familiar such as the BBC, Radio Romania, and DW which had Africa as their target. In some cases their broadcast was targeted for Asia.

Below is a map of our trek along the Lemosho route and the camps where we stayed are listed with the recordings and the elevation (in meters) of each camp. The higher we climbed, the signals received were sometimes stronger but the surrounding mountains also limited the reception of others. I did find that the bands were congested with signals from stations that spoke Arabic, Swahili and Chinese, not surprising considering my location. For the purpose of this blog I only included the English speaking stations except for a few.

Unfortunately, the critical weight in our day packs was closely monitored and we could carry only the essentials on our climb from Barafu to the summit so I could not record at the summit of Uhuru Peak. Additionally, our time up there was limited to 15 minutes due to the lack of oxygen at that altitude. Below are selected recordings at each of the camps on the Lemosho route. Enjoy.

Click to enlarge

Mkubwa Camp Elevation 2650 meters 8 January 2017

Mkubwa Camp Elevation 2650 Meters BBC 7445 khz 1840Z 8 January 2017:

Shira Camp II Elevation 3850 meters 9 January 2017

Shira Camp II Elevation 3850 Meters SW Africa Radio League 4895 Khz 9 January 2017 1645z:

Shira Camp II Elevation 3850 Meters DW 9820 KHZ 1600z 9 January 2017:

Shira Camp II Elevation 3850 Meters 1 9 2017 1538z Channel Africa 9625 kHz:

Shira Camp II Elevation 3850 Meters All India Radio 13695 khz 1835z 9 January 2017:

Baranco Camp Elevation 3900 meters 10 January 2017

Baranco Camp NBC Zambia Radio 11 January 2017 5915 KHZ 0317z:

Baranco Camp 3900 Meters Voice Of Nigeria 7255 Khz 1 10 2017 1915z:

Karanga Camp Elevation 3995 meters 11 January 2017

Karanga Camp Elevation 3995 Meters All India Radio 13695 Khz 11 January 2017 1753 Z:

Karanga Camp 3995 Meters Voice Of Nigeria 7255 Khz 1812 GMT 11 January 2017:

Karanga Camp 3995 Meters Channel Africa 9625 Khz 11 January 2017 1735z:

Barafu Camp Elevation 4673 meters 12 January 2017

Barafu Camp 4673 Meters BBC Asia Target 7465 Khz 1429z:

Barafu Camp 4673 Meters All India Radio 13695 Khz 1 12 2017 1044 Z:

Barafu Camp 4673 Meters Radio Romania 15150 Khz 1210 Z:


Chris: thank you so much for taking the time to write up this guest post and share your excellent recordings and photos. Amazing!

Post readers: I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired and ready to pack my bags and do some shortwave travel!

Click here to check out other posts by Chris.

Hermitshell Protective Travel Case for CC Skywave

CC-Skywave-Midwinter-Antarctica

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jim (W4FJT), who writes:

I was surfing Amazon.com and saw this hard shell case made specifically for the Skywave and thought this might be of interest to the travelers out there:

ccskywavecase

Click here to view on Amazon.com.

Thank you, Jim! I might grab on of these for my CC Skywave since I do travel with it a lot and am not a big fan of the included soft case.

The price is $14.99 shipped, which is pretty reasonable. I do note that while the 3rd party vendor claims the item is in stock, delivery seems to be out a few weeks. Perhaps this ships directly from China?

Have any Post readers purchased this hard shell case? Please comment.

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.