C. Crane Skywave
by George Paul Tire
While in the wild, it’s wise to know what’s coming from the weather. The easiest way to do that is with a radio. The C Crane CC Skywave is a slick little 8.25 ounce (with batteries) marvel. It covers AM, FM, shortwave, aviation and the all-important NOAA weather channels. NOAA transmitters cover most of the US now, but if you can’t get NOAA, you can probably get something on one of the other bands.
The Skywave is 4.75x3x1 inches in size and can easily fit in a shirt pocket. It has an alarm so you won’t miss your rendezvous with Bambi if you’re hunting. It uses AA batteries and if you install rechargeable ones, you can plug it into a USB outlet to keep them charged. It will even run from USB without batteries. They don’t include a USB power supply, but mine worked from every USB port I tried. It has a mini USB connector rather than the now more common micro one, so be sure to bring the right cable. There are a number of inexpensive solar panels with USB output you can buy to keep it going off grid.
There is a plug for the included earbud to listen in quiet. If you want to enhance reception, bring a length of wire and wrap one end around the collapsible whip antenna and experiment with stringing it around your camp. I found it made a nice improvement to shortwave and AM reception. Unfortunately, there isn’t much on shortwave broadcast anymore. The Internet has taken its place, though you can still get strong signals from China and Cuba and a number of Christian stations from the US. I’m not sure I trust the Cuban and Chinese much more than I trust NPR, but they do sometimes offer interesting perspectives and give you information you don’t hear elsewhere.
The Skywave does lack single sideband which means you won’t be able to hear much on the amateur bands or any of the unencrypted military and governmental channels. The aviation frequencies, however, can sometimes provide a lot of information.
I have found the radio to be a very pleasing addition to my accumulation of radios. Sensitivity is quite good and for such an economical and small device, selectivity and reasonable resistance to overloading from strong signals. The controls are reasonably intuitive and it has five settings for bandwidth that can help separate signals. You can change the tuning steps for US or the rest of the world if you need to. The audio tone is quite acceptable for such a small box. My only problem is that I mislaid it and it’s small enough to be hard to find. Sigh.