Monday, 17 October 2011

Wild entertainment.

With the nights drawing in and the clocks due to go back, a winter wild camp means many hours of darkness to be occupied. Once gear has been sorted, brews made, and the evening meal cooked, what is there to do?
If it’s clear you can gaze at the stars, or maybe read, although I often find the book I’m reading is far too heavy to be lugged into the hills, and it’s also sometimes quite difficult to get comfortable when reading particularly if the ground is lumpy. My preference is listening to the radio, but my current pocket radio at 250g is far too heavy. Time to spring into action, and also a good excuse to buy more gear.
My start point in the search for a suitable radio was to post the question “Which radio should I buy?”
Unfortunately this didn’t generate many comments, however, I was delighted when Tracksterman posted a few days later, about his search for a replacement hill radio, which was full of useful information.

My main requirement is that the radio should be as light as possible, battery life is not too important as I'll only be away for one or two nights. I'd like a reasonable signal and sound quality, but as long as I can receive some sort of programme, for a few hours each evening, I'll be happy. If by any chance I’m out of signal range, then I can always take Alan’s advice and listen to the wind and streams. Although I'm very aware that the sound of gushing streams is likely to increase unwanted trips outside, for those of us over a certain age!

After much deliberation I’ve ordered a Roberts R986. Its very light, weighing in at 59g, including the headphones (14g) and battery (10g), and it’s astonishingly small, measuring only 80mm x 40mm x 15mm.

It has mono MW / mono FM and FM stereo wave bands, rotary volume and tuning controls and a deep base boost, and I’m hoping that the reliability will be good, as the R986 has been in production for quite a few years, so any teething problems should have been sorted long ago.

I bought the R986 from Bridport Music via Amazon. At £25 plus £1.22 shipping, it wasn’t the cheapest price I could find, but delivery was only two days, and I can’t bare waiting ages for something once I've placed my order, just to save the odd few coppers.

On taking delivery, initial reaction are favourable, it feels astonishingly light, the controls may be a tad fiddly but they're quite stiff, so the rotary volume and tuning controls stay put once adjusted. The reception and sound quality are pretty good, but it remains to be seen how well it performs in the hills. I will post again when I’ve given it a couple field tests.


  1. Thanks for that. Taking a radio backpacking rather than lugging a book then propping yourself up on an elbow that soon becomes painful never occurred to me before. I shall give this no small amount of consideration.
    Alen McF

  2. I'm not sure I would trust radio reception in the Scottish hills. I take (or took, as I have mislaid mine and need a replacement!) an iPod Shuffle that has an interesting selection of podcasts and music on, including many of the excellent podcasts/programmes made available by Radio 4. The unit itself weighs 12g and battery life is excellent.

  3. Hi Nick, I hadn’t really considered an iPod, because I’m not a great fan of music in the hills.
    I prefer dozing and listening to any conversation on the radio, the topic being broadcast doesn’t seem to matter. I suppose it’s a bit like hill food, I’ll eat things on the hill I wouldn’t touch at home!

    However the iPod Shuffle with an all up weight of 28g including my headphones deserves serious consideration. The podcast idea could make it work for me; the main problem would be remembering to do the downloads. My wild camping trips are usually spur of the moment things; I just grab my kit and go when a gap in the family duties coincides with a good weather window.

  4. A bit late now you've spent your money, but in my defence I have only just spotted your blog!
    I use a Roberts Sport 925
    It covers FM / MW / LW so BBC R4 (or the World Service at night) can be received in much of western Europe and all but the the deepest glens in Scotland. It performs quite well, being quite sensitive and selective - certainly better than most other broadcast / domestic receivers.
    I've had mine for 6-7 years now and it always accompanies me on overnight trips.


  5. Thanks for your comment John; I did consider the Roberts Sport R925, as I would have liked LW, as well as FM and AM, but the size and weight put me off.
    I haven’t had a chance to test the R986 yet, but I’m hopeful it will be up to the job.