BL-5c, 18650 vs AA batteries for portable radios

I’m a bit perplexed at all the negative comments on review sites about today’s portable radios using “non-standard” batteries like the BL-5c and the 18650. Almost all reviewers mention this as a possible ‘con’ while reviewing newer portable shortwave radios because there are always a few comments that say “It’s a deal breaker”.

Personally, I don’t understand why anyone would want to buy and have to store conventional Alkaline batteries these days. Don’t forget to remove them -or- have them leak all over inside your radio. Then you are left wondering ‘are these still good…. awe well… throw them away and grab some new ones to make sure they are fresh… then fill your pocket in case those run out’.

Every radio I have come across that uses these batteries can be recharged from the radio by simply plugging them in via a USB cable. Plug the other end into a wall adapter, my cars USB port, or my larger USB power bank. Why the heck would I spend the money on alkaline batteries!? From a prepping standpoint, these batteries can easily be charged in the radio or simply pop a charged spare one in. Who’s to say the corner store is going to have alkaline batteries to sell in an all out disaster.

At this point, I’d suspect everyone wold have an extra USB wall adapter…. looking in my junk drawer I see three without digging! left over from old phones or tablets.

Truth is, the BL-5c is a very common battery. It was used in cell phones for many years and currently in a lot of cameras. They are CHEAP. You can buy an ‘extended runtime’ kit from CountyComm for less than $15 that has two BL-5c batteries and a wall charge kitted into a nice plastic storage case. They offered this as a compliment to the receiver they sell (GP7/SSB) that also uses this battery. A BL-5c is less than $5 on Ebay. Heck! you can buy three of these batteries cheaper than you can buy a 24-pack of Coppertops today. 18650’s are even cheaper. I just ordered 2-batteries and a USB charger that charges both batteries at the same time for $6.99 on Ebay.

I’m done with alkaline batteries if I can avoid it.

Change of plans. New small SUV instead of off-road beast?

My 2006 Ram truck is my chosen off-road/camping platform. I have a need to pull trailers, haul yard debris, and get off the beaten path to enjoy the PNW outdoors. My truck is getting up there in years, is on it’s second engine, had the front end bushings replaced, and had the rear-diff rebuilt twice. I’m now at 260k miles and really feeling like it’s time to get something new…. but I have been watching prices climb up over the last few years to where I’m easily going to pay a $20k premium to get a basic replacement.

My second vehicle is my 2003 Subaru forester. My wife and I are long-time Subaru lovers. We’ve had a 92′ Loyale, a 2000 forester, a 2003 forester, and bought a new Impreza in 2018. The Impreza is her car and it’s a pretty nice ride. Comfortable and nice looking. Great in the rain and snow but not quite enough ground clearance to get too far off the path.

Now! add gas prices…. what do I do? I decided to park the truck for a bit and not drive it daily. I’m wearing it out and gas prices are taking a definite chunk out of my wallet. My truck is set-up! I have 100watts of solar, a nice comfy bed in the canopy, and plenty of room to everyday-carry everything I need and don’t need but want.

I decided to trade the forester to get myself a new Subaru Crosstrek and re-discover (or go backwards to) a bit more campy experience. I’ll gain a car payment (negative), but will save the truck for when I need it (positive), Save a ton of fuel (positive), be a bit more nimble (positive), and hopefully be just as comfortable… Thinking I’ll use my Gaselle tent that is easy to set-up and get a good cot or some sort of sleeping pad that will compliment my 50yo broken self.

Saying goodbye…..

The 2003 forester is gone. I’ll miss it. It was a great body style year for the forester but was getting up there in miles at 260k, needed it’s third head-gasket job, and just not that comfortable anymore.

Welcoming the new micro ‘overland’ rig. A 2021 Crosstrek Limited with the mighty 2.5 engine

I was able to pull of a no-drill radio install with the Yaesu FTM-400.

OK… one small hole in the plastic trim piece….

More to come…. still figuring out if this will be my main off-roading rig or not.

Thanks for the decal!


A thank you to AA1PR and KB7RQQ for sharing a couple of HRVO decals with me. I finally got the “truck top tent” mounted once we found the right number of working shoulders to get it up there. I am looking forward to sending future photos of the sticker from the “road”. Stay Safe.

Wires-X Now Connected To HRVO TG 31655!

Hello all,

Wires-X room 46720 is now permanently connected to HRVO BM TG 31655 and is running great! Now we have yet another way to link in and say hello. Just a reminder… Wires-X is not accessible through hotspots. You’ll have to use a local Fusion repeater and/or a Wires-X node.

Join Us! New ways to access the group being added

Just a quick update on the Ham Radio Venture Overland group. While the talk group was created and geared toward outdoor adventures and off-roading, it is open to ALL as a home-base of friendly hams. If you need a place to hang out, rag-chew with your friends… you are welcome to do that here. We have a great core group of ‘locals’ that should answer a call.

We are growing in ‘regulars’ and ways to access the group. 31655 is a Brandmeister network talk group. You can also access it via AllStarLink (analog) using one of two different bridge nodes. 42282 (east coast) & 54897 (west coast). There is also a P25 network server and bridge available at: 31655 41000. The P25 server is also available as a home base springboard to other P25 hosts if you’d like to plant yourself there. If you are in Vancouver, Wa… try my AllStarLink node #54895 at 432.225MHz 100.0Hz PL. It is low-level located in the West Hazel Dell area… but it’s worth a shot. Antenna is at 20′ and node radio is running 25 watts. (linked to 54897 and BM 31655).

In the next few weeks, Travis W0MUD, will have a Wires-X room connected full-time to this group. Room# 47620. Looking forward to hearing some new calls. If you don’t have a wires-x set-up but have a Yaesu digital radio, you can try my wires-x node also in West Hazel Dell. Node# is 71335 at 145.655MHz DG-ID 00-00. It is also low-level running at 25 watts.

I’m also experimenting with building a stand-alone DMR server. It currently has four individual talk-groups and will be linked full-time to BM 31655 (here). The others will be available as PTT to play with. Just an experiment. I’ll update details as I get it going more reliably.

73 all! Hope to hear you on HRVO – KB7RQQ Todd

This is the type of S#^T that will kill ham radio.

My comments are in bold….


· While amateur radio is open and public (which we don’t like, but we are too cheap to license our own commercial network so we’ll take away from the HAM community and tie up a bunch of repeater pairs for our own use while looking down at anybody below the 900mhz as trash.  At least they are up ‘there’ and not tying up 2m and 70cm frequencies like a local SAR group…(that should be on public service frequencies)), linked systems like ours is a collection of privately owned repeaters and linking hub servers. We have a substantial investment in our repeater and linking hardware.

· Others are free to build their own linked system and set their own rules. (because that would be in the spirit of Ham Radio!?)

· Our 900 MHz network was formed by repeater owners with a common interest in 900 MHz and higher operation. This is in part due to technical interest and in part due to the common culture associated with operation on 900 MHz and above. (and the elitist attitude we have decided to pin to it) We don’t want it to become another 2M or 11M (CB) channel. (!?!*$#)  We don’t want ANY linking from FM repeaters or simplex nodes on bands below 900 MHz. (Yet you are linked using AllStarLink that requires that you allow connections from anywhere. Because again! You are using it for FREE. It’s not yours to decide.  Why aren’t you creating an elitist linking network of your own?)

· Radios on 900 MHz come from commercial service and are not generally ham radio store “appliances”. This helps filter out the 2M and 11M culture crowd. (Don’t want THOSE guys. Lowely ham radio operators bringing their jargon up here! Into 900mhz heaven.  They can stay in 2m and 11m hell! We only want people who still have a DOS laptop and a RIB interface to program prehistoric radios… which I have BTW :))

· The operators on the 900 MHz network have interest in the technical side of the hobby. (people below 900mhz couldn’t possible comprehend the ‘technical side of the hobby’)  They could be called “techies” (or wannabe elitest snobs in this case) . They are generally interested in the intimate technical details of repeater building, audio interfacing, Allstar/Asterisk and Linux/Unix systems along with the networking that makes it all work. These are QSO’s that everyone is interested in hearing, regardless of the particular area one lives in. We are all hams and often compare notes on weather differences in other areas on the link as well as other daily activities. (WHOA WAIT! WEATHER????  What next, a conversation about the painful boil on your ass and other ailments?)

· Technical QSO’s often are longer due to the nature of what is being communicated. (Probably even longer if you have to dumb it down and techsplain it to anyone used to operating below 900mhz) Nontechnical QSO’s can get uninteresting quickly and accordingly should be kept short. (like the weather?)

· Regional hubs often disconnect from the main linking hub during weekday commute times, if there is heavy local/regional activity.

· Acceptable operation on ALL linked systems requires:

o NO calling CQ. If you ID once, EVERYONE heard you. There’s no need to keep doing it. (OK… that is annoying)

o NO general DX calling (essentially, calling CQ) o ONLY use phonetics in your call when needed. If someone doesn’t get your call correctly, then correct with phonetics. (OK.. I’ll give you that one too)

o To restate: Just ID once without phonetics. (Again..phonetics on a crystal clear FM voice network is annoying.. agreed)

o DON’T use CB type lingo like “back to you”, “I’ll be on the side or back in the box”, “Negative contact on . . . . . “, etc, etc. (Don’t forget “Breaker, Breaker 927 MHz”)

o QSO content and length depends the nature of the network (900 MHz is not the same as a 2M network). (WTF does that mean?  Have to talk slower because the wavelength is so fast?)

o Exclusively local QSO’s on the same repeater should be short or moved to a nonlinked repeater, unless the topic is of general linked interest.

· Hams with these common interests and culture are welcome to join in

And there’s your problem lady!  Off my soap box for now….

First Check In


My first post here. I’m not an overlander, at least not yet, but love to tent camp and kayak fish. I will be picking up an Escapod teardrop camper in Utah this Fall and can’t wait to take it into some remote places.

SDR Radio front end

SDR Radio.  I’m hooked.  I’m a glutton for punishment I guess, but have been looking hard at going full on SDR for my next HF rig.  This doesn’t seem to be an altogether wise choice as it WILL be full of set-up issues, software quirks, likely become useless with unsupported software upgrades and hardware connections becoming obsolete and changing in the future.

It will very likely have a useful life much shorter than my 21 year old Yaesu FT-920 which purrs right along with the best… but I’m still very interested in the technology and figuring it all out.  I know I’ll regret it in the long run.  Reminds me of a saying my uncle told me about a girl I was interested in….  he said  “no matter how hot you think she is, somewhere there is some guy that’s completely sick of her bullshit!”   Stuck with me, but I’ve always been bad about advice in that arena too 🙂

I’ll admit I’m completely hooked on the ‘waterfall’ it’s so beautiful and I like to see visually what is going on the entire band.  I tried to avoid it and keep it simple… just turn the knob lazy! But after purchasing my SDRplay a few years back and seeing waterfalls incorporated into the IF stages of newer radios it’s hard not to want that.

In my research of all this SDR stuff, I realized I really just needed to put my SDR receiver in the chain.  Not much different than the old twin radios of the past.  Transmit with the transmitter and receive with a capable receiver. 

There were a lot of videos and kits available to tap the IF stage of almost any older radio to get a waterfall but the IF stage in between filters is just not very wide compared to the SDR receivers that are capable of displaying as much spectrum as the device can based on the soundcard bandwidth built in.

Steve, K1GMM, that gets on Venture Overland from time to time, has a great YouTube channel where he is playing with this stuff.  He has both an Icom IC-7300 in a TR switch set-up like this and a couple of really nice SDR radios including an Anan. Also has some great HiFi SSB content.  I’ll thank Steve for saving me the cost of a new vehicle! As he talked me through adding an SDR specific TR switch that would allow me to work in ‘twin mode’ with the gear I mostly already had

I’m going to work on a video of how it’s all set up and operates.  Here is a diagram of my station wiring until then.

SDR Console software with the SDRplay RSP1a. Using OmniRig to control the Yaesu FT-920

73, KB7RQQ

New project


I’ve been working on this for an artist swap. 12 artists, each are given a random name to paint for. I chose to do something that relates to radio. This is a 5×7 board.

Disaster Communications -What’s your take on the subject?

Just some thoughts from my point of view and ideas for discussion…  I follow a lot of ‘Emcomm’ and ‘prepper’ related YouTube channels.  I have always been a ‘preparedness’ guy and radio is a big parts of it for me.  It seems there has been an influx of people into the amateur radio hobby that are coming from the ‘prepper’ mentality and that is great.  Cheap radios on the market and Clubs offering courses are getting them on the air with their Technician licenses fairly painlessly.    Overlanders/off-roaders seem to be a bunch that understands the importance of good clear communications too.  GMRS and Amateur radio are both benefiting from this group.

I guess what is alarming to me is the amount of these channels recommending ‘buying a Baofeng and programming it for your bugout bag’.  Licensed in the Amateur or GMRS service or not… having a versatile radio like this isn’t a bad idea.  Shoot! You can buy the radio and nearly all of the accessories offered for around $100. The radio is ‘open’ meaning you can program it in any service.  Great for off-roading and being able to communicate with your group or family using MURS and GMRS services too.  I’m ignoring the concerns of type acceptance and the FCC rules of using that radio outside of its ‘intended’ service… in a true emergency, or a couple of watts in the middle of nowhere, I really don’t care that much honestly.  Doubt I’ll ever be able to tell you aren’t talking on a type accepted radio for the service we are in.

It’s difficult to cover all situations;  but what got me thinking about it was that I had a friend ask me about buying and programming a Baofeng for his ‘bugout’ bag.  He is not a radio hobbyist, but came to me because he knows I am. His approach is more of a survivalist/bug-out scenario type occurrence.  I think he was looking for a simple yes or no answer and didn’t expect to fall into a rabbit hole.  Honestly, he should know me better than that.

I suggested he forget about buying the Baofeng first.  My answer was  “by a decent shortwave (general coverage) receiver with side-band capabilities”.  I think the ability to gather information from afar on the AM broadcast bands at night, US based shortwave stations like WWTW, WCR, WBCQ, and also getting a news perspective from outside our country like BBC and RNZ (Radio New Zealand), AND Ham Radio operators worldwide to be paramount to getting information directly about what is happening, what to avoid, and likely where to get needed services.  We also talked about better receive antennas like a roll-out wire antenna that can be clipped to the receivers antenna.  Simple stuff.  Big bang for the buck type stuff.  A really decent shortwave radio like the Tecsun PL-330 can be had for about $79!  The radio will scan for broadcast signals and create its own memory banks with its findings!

Secondary, would be a dual band radio or VHF/UHF scanner.  Enter the Baofeng here.  In this radio I would, of course, have all of my local repeaters and simplex frequencies for amateur radio, my local utility company’s frequencies,  police and fire, etc.  One tip I’ll share since I’m a forest road explorer and deep woods camper…  ALL of my ‘mars modded or open’ handheld radios have both Washington and Oregon states Search and Rescue frequencies in them.  They also have all of the forest service repeater and simplex frequencies programmed in a bank.  Makes it a bit easier for them to find you if you have a way to respond to them.  Just a step further than your reflective space blanket and whistle. 

In the big picture, I guess I don’t really concern myself with the ability to communicate via two-way radio. I put more value in having a solid ability to monitor the situation and gather as much information as possible.  I definitely have both capabilities in my ‘plan’ but value information gathering a bit higher.

I’m not meaning to leave out Amateur related emergency services like ARES, RACES, AuxCOMM, or even neighborhood CERT groups.  All complimentary and of great importantance to the Amateur Radio service.  Just not my thing in general.

What do you think about this subject?