A handheld CB would be an ideal radio to use for this project but the bag outlined below will be utilizing a small mobile radio. These mobile radios are usually easier to find and cost less on the used market. The radio used in this specific pack was purchased at a local Habitat for Humanity thrift shop for $4.00. The total cost for this entire station came in at less than the cost of a new handheld CB.
- Cobra 19 Ultra CB radio with microphone and power cord with 12V lighter plug… $4.00 (used)
- A Harbor Freight 1.5 watt 12V solar battery maintainer with 12V lighter plug… $10.00
- A 12V Sealed Lead Acid AGM (gel-cell) Rechargeable Alarm system battery..$12.74
- 12V clamp-on socket, adapted with spade connectors… $6.99
- 12V Plug adapted with spade connectors. Plug was scavenged from an old heated coffee cup… $0.00
- Two short bungee cords… about $1.00
- Custom made CB dipole antenna …. around $10.00.
- 40 feet of cord to suspend and tie out the antenna…. $1.00 (?)
- Padded Shoulder bag, this bag held some sort of medical device. It was purchased at a thrift store for 80 cents.
- Small camera pouch with belt loop… 10 cents at a garage sale.
All of the labor involved in this project is in the battery and the antenna. This battery is a backup battery for an alarm system. At 1.3 Amp/Hours, it’s about as small as I would be comfortable using. You should check the power requirements for your radio before getting a battery. This battery is small and light but the trade-off is that it will only give us about one hour of full-powered talk time before needing a charge. One hour of talk time is actually more than we would probably need but it would be better to have more.
The 12V socket that is attached to the battery was purchased at the local PepBoys store and originally had two large alligator clips on it. Those were replaced with spade connectors that firmly fit the battery’s tabs. Heat shrink tubing was added for additional insulation.
The 12V plug shown on the right in the top photo was originally a power cord that came with a heated coffee cup. It is used as a charging cord to recharge the battery via a vehicle power port or other 12V source in case the solar panel is not able to maintain the battery. It also has been fitted with female spade connectors and heat shrink tubing. NOTE: Be sure to follow the battery manufacturer’s recommended charging instructions.
The battery and power cords fit nicely into the padded camera bag. When needed, the socket can be used while the battery stays protected in the bag. The great thing about gelcell batteries is their ability to be used in any position without leaking.
An additional benefit that comes from this type of power supply is that it can be worn on the belt as an external power source to run spotlights or handheld radios.
Everything fits into the padded shoulder bag and the solar panel is bungee corded to the back of the bag with the extra d-rings. The bag has corners that can be opened to allow the antenna cable to pass thru. The bag’s face turns down to allow access to the radio and mic while the bag is hanging.
The total cost of the above kit was $35.63 before the cost of the antenna.
There’s no limit of ways to put one of these base stations together. We have several of them set up and ready to go and none of them are exactly the same. We’ve used soft-sided coolers, laptop bags and camcorder cases. All of our kits use previously owned radios purchased at garage sales or from people just looking to sell their CB. The only things that we keep the same are the power cords and antennas so they can be interchanged between kits.
These are great to have for camping trips and other group events but their true value is for security and communications during an extended emergency situation. For that reason, we maintain the contents and the battery charge condition between uses.