With another trip into the field on the horizon, I found myself sorting through my gear the other day preparing for several weeks in balmy Borneo. One item that I dusted off and set aside for my trip is my trusty Grundig Mini 300 World Band Receiver. If you’re not familiar with the company, Grundig (www.grundig.de) started as a German radio retailer and repair company during WWII and became a popular retailer of tubeless radios once the war ended. More than 60 years later, Grundig is a great european manufacturer of consumer electronics and produces everything from televisions to kitchen appliances.
When I travel, I always like to have a reliable radio so I can tune into local broadcasts and get a feel for the country (or state/city) I am visiting. I’ve taken this radio into the field in Mongolia and Belize and take it to the beach and on domestic trips frequently. The Mini lives up to its name very well. It is tiny and very lightweight, measuring 2.5 x 4.5 x 0.75 inches (70 x 102 x 19 millimeters) and weighing in at 4.5 ounces (128 grams). It fits in most standard pockets (jackets, bags, vests, cargo pants) and has a belt loop on the case for those who can’t fit it into the pocket of their skinny jeans.
It is a bare bones radio, lacking many of the bells and whistles that similar devices have. It tunes into AM, FM, and seven shortwave bands. It has a very powerful 20-inch telescoping antenna that provides the listener with excellent reception and a single small speaker (1 inch maybe) that produces a surprisingly loud level of sound. Earbuds are provided with the radio and the output switches to stereo when the listener uses them. The sound quality is amazing using either option and has provided me with many hours of entertainment listening to Mongolian National Radio or the BBC while away from civilization.
When you are traveling somewhere where you will not have access to electricity for several weeks, an energy efficient device is key. The Grundig Mini 300 is the most energy efficient electronic device I have ever used. The unit comes with two AA batteries and in my experience, can run for at least 50 hours without requiring a battery change. It is also a very durable device that has survived numerous falls onto hard surfaces, baking in the sun for hours on end, and exposure to water many times. It is not displayed as “waterproof” or even “water resistant”, but I can attest that it takes exposure to water in stride.
It uses a 1 x 7/8 inches (25.4 x 22.2 millimeters) LCD so you can dial in a particular frequency accurately and also has a clock with alarm and sleep timer. I have nevermore been one to wear a watch and having this with me has kept me on time for a much-needed meal on more than one occasion. The alarm itself is invaluable when you have to wake up early or during long layovers when you can fit in a quick nap and still manage to board your plane on time.
The downsides of this device are few, but there are some. First and foremost, it is only a radio. In today’s modern age of digital music, many travelers want more than just a radio. Personally, I’m not heavily into music and don’t have an extensive mp3 collection. I don’t prefer a specific type of music and enjoy listening to the news and talk radio just as much, if not more than music. I also own several inexpensive (and somewhat disposable) mp3 players that I take with me on most trips.
Another downside is the case. It is a very simple faux-leather and nylon pouch that allows the base of the antenna and the wrist strap to poke through. The case does a great job of protecting the radio from damage, and the device can still play through it with no distortion. Unfortunately, it is so tight that it puts pressure on the tuning and volume dials which invariably causes the user to adjust the device for optimized listening.
The antenna, while very robust and reliable, is also something that could be improved on the Mini 300. The antenna base protrudes 2.25 inches (57.2 millimeters) above the top of the radio making it a little bigger than it needs to be. If it were completely retractable, it would make the device a bit more travel-friendly and less vulnerable to breaking off when maneuvering any tight corners.
Overall, the Grundig Mini 300 World Band Receiver is an excellent piece of gear. It may not work for the technophile that needs all of the newest bells and whistles, but it does a better job than most radios that retail for twice as much. I suggest this model to anyone looking for a travel radio and travel clock with alarm and am looking forward to adding more Grundig products to my gear pile in the future.