Shortly after acquiring a lab599 Discovery TX-500 earlier this year, I did what I always do: invest an insane amount of time in researching and configuring a dedicated field radio kit.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times, I’m a serious pack geek, so this is incredibly fun for me even though the choice is often difficult.
I like to buy packs and cases from manufacturers in the US and Canada when possible, so started searching through all of the options.
I wanted a pack that was compact, versatile, and offered proper padding (even knowing the TX-500 is a rugged little transceiver). I don’t handle my packs with kid gloves, so I expect them to cope with sometimes rough field conditions and still protect the gear inside. I also like a certain level of organization inside the pack.
I wanted the kit to be relatively compact, but large enough to hold the transceiver, all accessories and connections, logging pad and pencil, paddles, a proper arborist throw line, portable ATU, and a 3Ah LiFePo4 battery. A the end of the day, I wanted this TX-500 field kit to be fully self-contained.
For more on my field radio kit strategies and philosophies, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my Anatomy of a Field Radio Kit series.
In the end, I adopted a pack with which I’m already very familiar…
The Red Oxx Micro Manager
Red Oxx is my favorite pack company and if you’ve been a reader for any length of time, you’ve obviously seen a number of their bags and packs in my field reports.
Back in 2016, when they introduced the first iteration of the Micro Manager EDC bag, they actually reached out to me–as an existing customer–knowing that I had been looking for a good radio pack with proper padding (many packs don’t require side padding and internal padding). They sent me a prototype of the Micro Manager for my feedback and then incorporated some of my suggestions.
I ended up using the Micro Manager as my dedicated Elecraft KX2 field kit which served me very well during the National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) event.
I also purchased a Micro Manager for my wife who quickly turned hers into a mobile art studio!
Much like my buddy Steve (AC5F)–whose XYL creates some amazing water color art in the field–my wife (K4MOI) is also an artist and loves to paint/draw during park and summit activations. Her art kit is always at the ready and she’s traveled with it extensively over the past five years.
The Micro Manager is a pack carried over the shoulder, much like a messenger or laptop bag. Those times when my field activations require a lengthy hike, I’ve simply pulled all of the items out of the Micro Manager (since I do modular packing, this is super easy), else I’ve even been known to stick the entire Micro Manager pack into a backpack!
Over the years, Red Oxx has made iterative upgrades to the Micro Manager including a pleated front pocket, slip-in external pocket, and they started lining the internal pocket with a more flexible and thinner dense foam padding. The new padding not only fits the TX-500 better than the first Micro Manager version did, but I believe it will have enough dimension to accommodate the TX-500 battery pack when that’s available next year.
Inside the Micro Manager I also use a Tom Bihn Large Travel Tray to hold all of the TX-500 accessories: key, microphone, ATU, battery, and cables.
I own a number of these large travel trays and highly recommend them. I especially like the ballistic nylon versions for radio kits as they open and close so smoothly.
I made a short video tour of the TX-500 Micro Manager kit before a recent activation at Table Rock:
TX-500 Micro Manager Kit Contents:
- lab599 Discovery TX-500
- Packtenna Mini EFHW antenna
- MFJ-1984LP End Fed Half Wave
- CW Morse “Pocket Paddle” (single lever version)
- Red Oxx Micro Manager
- Bioenno 3 aH LiFePo Battery (Model BLF-1203AB)
- Weaver arborist throw line/weight and storage bag
- Tom Bihn Large Travel Tray (black, 210 ballistic nylon)
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch (affiliate link)
- Rite In The Rain Notepad (affiliate link)
- Jovitec 2.0 mm Mechanical Pencil (affiliate link)
- Muji A6 Notepad (affiliate link)
I’ve used this pack for a number of field activations and couldn’t be more pleased. Looking back at the contents, it’s funny: the pack and almost every single item inside (save the notepad and pencil) are made in the USA while the radio is made in Russia! A bit of international harmony going on here!
If you have a field pack for the TX-500 (or any radio), I’d love to know more about it. Please consider commenting with details or even submitting a guest post with photos!
13 thoughts on “Video: A tour of my Red Oxx “Micro Manager” Discovery TX-500 field radio kit”
Nice setup. I am building a bag for my TX-500 using a 5.11 Amp 12 backpack. I like this backpack because it has a padded sleeve for the radio. I still have a few pieces coming but right now the pack weighs 12 pounds without food, water, 3 ah battery, and an ATU. I am hoping to do some SOTA activations later this year. The TX-500 is a fun radio.
Oh my word…5.11. A fellow pack geek introduced me to this company many years ago when we were doing some humanitarian work in Belize. I was super impressed with the quality. I might have to finally break down and check one out myself.
Great article! Are you able to bring your end fed wire antenna through TSA airport security or do you have to put in checked luggage?
So I haven’t traveled with an end fed in a few years. Last time I did (2019?) I took it in the carry-on along with my KX2. Did get a question from TSA either leg of the trip. 🙂 I do keep an extra copy of my amateur license with the radio, just in case.
Before our family trip to Norris Lake TN, this past Sept, I had put in an order for Red Oxx Hound EDC bag, Micro mngr and a C Ruck carry on backpack.
After seeing them on your activation vids of course. I would have never come across them otherwise. 👍
Their quality is really 2nd to none. I used the Micro Mgr for my iPad and other assorted stuff.
Took about 30days to get but we’ll worth the wait.
And now I’m going to be ordering a Med duffle to replace my suitcase for our next trip.
PS: Congrats on the ARRL award.
Oh dear! You’ve become one of the Red Oxx “herd!” You’ve got some phenomenal packs there, Mike. They’re worth the wait as you now know.
Your single lever red paddle looks the part with my TX-500, so it’ll be a permanent pairing! Thanks again for that.
You’ll need to put those Red Oxx packs in your will because they’ll outlive us all! 🙂
I’ve been seriously contemplating a duffel as well.
Thank you, Mike!
I am not a back packer, dont care to walk so much thru the bush to get to an operating QTH, this is just me. I prefer a good picnic table under a shelter and like having other Hams along to enjoy the outdoors, again just me. I carry my gear in a suit case style case, very protective. Looks like with the back pack shown here one has a number of bags in a large bag.
I also prefer a good antenna, that is why I use a 40m OCFD with 20ft portable flag pole, probably not suited for backpacking, hi.
But as for buying American made, is good, but the TX500, them main piece in the backpack, is Russian. I wonder about the seriousness of this. And TX500 is IF DSP, 1990s tech in a small package. KX2/3 are American, direct sampling, but most of us go with Japanese rigs. The TX500 looks like a good rig, one of the many good rigs on the market today, but my main issue is the connectors used. They are good quality, but need adapters for most gear one uses. Like for power I have like 4-5 power cables for my IC705 so can hook to many sources.
Also dont care for the keyer paddle, need to hold it to work it, not the way CW is taught. Understand might be lighter, but can get some good paddles that hold themselves in place and then can send CW as on should. But when making QSO of 599 QTH 73 guess works. I like a good conversation when working QRP events.
73, ron, n9ee
So truth be told, I’ve no issue with international trade and, in fact, love the fact the TX-500 is Russian. It’s great to have yet another country represented as a proper competitor in the world of amateur radio.
I always try to purchase American made when I can mainly because I grew up in a blue collar town that produced furniture. My dad and sister worked in a furniture factory–I did for a summer while in college–and made some of the best quality items you’d ever find. Eventually all production was moved overseas for cheaper labor. For items like packs, I always try to find an American manufacturer first, just to support innovation and production at home. I do the same for radios and that’s why I own so many Elecraft radios and Ten-Tec & Drake (in the past).
The TX-500 is a wonderful rig and I’m happy to see a company truly hit it out of the ballpark on their first go! 🙂
Thank you for your comments and notes, OM!
Tom, you always do a great job on your video’s. Thank you for your commitment.
FYI- I’ve taken a few of your articles and converted and pasted them into G4Fon for my head copy practice for Morse code. So keep these articles coming. (Yes, easy for me to say.) 73.
Thank you so much, Fred! 🙂
I finally got my bag together. Instead of the 5.11 pack I went with my Filson Journeyman. I like the old school retro look since I am old school retro. Here is a video on my pack using the TX-500.
Thanks for the video on your set up. I have today received my Micro Manager and it’s a truly well-built pack!! I look forward to using it in portable ops/POTA in 2022 and beyond, along with my TX-500!
Hope to see you on the air again soon!!
You’ll love the Micro Manager, Mike. It’s perfect for the TX-500! And you’ve supported a great company in the process. Enjoy!