I received an email from a reader’s spouse asking about gift ideas for the holidays and beyond; ideas that could not only be used this month, but also tucked away for the future. They weren’t looking for the obvious things like a transceiver–they were looking for accessories that might enhance their significant others’ field radio fun.
Being the enabler I am, I was happy to oblige and, in fact, decided to turn my reply into a post (since it quickly turned into a very long email) with their permission. For obvious reasons, I’m keeping their ID secret! 🙂
Here’s a rather random sampling of things that came to mind. I tried to limit this to items that retail for less than $100 US. Note that some of these product links are affiliate links:
A quality LiFePO4 battery
Being a QRPer, I don’t need a large battery to enjoy hours of radio fun per charge. My favorite battery chemistry is LiFePO4 due to its weight, safety, shelf life, and recharge cycles (which is in the thousands as opposed to hundreds).
For me, a 3Ah battery is more than enough capacity to keep my QRP radios on the air for 3-5 activations per charge (depending on length of activation, etc.).
I’m a big fan of Bioenno batteries. Their customer support is excellent. You can purchase their 3Ah 12V battery for $64.99 US including the charger. If you already have a charger, the battery alone is $49.99. Click here to check it out.
If your significant other likes to push 100 watts, consider a larger capacity battery. I also have a 15Ah Bioenno battery for this purpose, though it exceeds the $100 gift price threshold). Click here to check it out.
A very affordable Li-Ion rechargeable battery
One of the most affordable rechargeable battery packs for the QRPer in your life is the TalentCell Rechargeable 12V 3000mAh Battery Pack. This pack typically costs around $30 US and is sometimes even less expensive.
This little pack is great because it will not only output 5V to recharge USB devices, but it also outputs 12 volts which is brilliant for QRP radios like the Elecraft KX series, TX-500, FT-817/818, Mountain Toppers, Penntek TR-35, Venus SW-3B, and many others. I actually now pair this with my QCX-Mini. The battery comes with the charger and standard barrel connectors on the included DC cord which fits Elecraft and Penntek field radios among others.
This is a small battery, so can only be paired with efficient QRP radios.
While I don’t consider this a high-quality solution like a Bioenno battery, it is insanely useful and affordable. Click here to check it out.
Morse Code Keys!
I could easily write a series of articles about Morse Code keys. That’s not what you’re looking for, though, right? You want some quick suggestions. Here is a sampling of some of my sub $100 favorites listed in alphabetical order.
- CW Morse N0SA SP4 Precision paddles ($82.95 or $109.95 with steel base): These are the latest paddles from CW Morse. I love them. Click here to read my short review.
- CW Morse “Pocket Paddle” ($44.95): This must be one of the most popular set of portable paddles on the market. They’re affordable and very well-built! There are several versions and colors available.
- CW Morse Outdoor Double Paddle With Steel Base ($74.95): I’ve been using these a alot lately when operating on a picnic table. The heavy steel base allows for one-handed operation.
- N6ARA TinyPaddles ($24.95): I believe every CW field operator should carry a set of N6ARA’s TinyPaddles. They were originally designed to be backup paddles, but I know many ops that use them as their primary set in the field!
If your budget is flexible, you might also consider these paddles which are still less than $200:
- CW Morse CNC Machined Aluminum Paddle ($129.95): These are very high quality, durable CNC machined aluminum paddles. Last week, I dropped them on a concrete floor from about 5 feet and they survived without even a scratch.
- BaMaKeY TP-III Ultra-Compact Paddles (155 EUR): This is a high-quality, lightweight portable key that I also recently purchased. I’ve a number of friends that love their TP-III paddles!
Okay, so if you don’t mind pushing more than $200, I highly recommend any key made by the amazing Begali family. Their Simplex paddle was my first set of paddles and I still use them today. I plan to buy their Traveler next year. They’ve a massive selection of models and styles.
An arborist throw line kit
Assuming you might be purchasing this as a gift for someone, you simply can’t go wrong with the throw line kit in the photo above.
ARRL Handbook: 100th Anniversary Edition
I firmly believe every amateur radio operator should have a copy of the ARRL Handbook. I have a 1994 and 2003 edition, but will also purchase the 100th Edition.
There are two print versions: a paperback collection for $69 US and a hardback version for $79. Personally? I’ll be going for the hardback version! Both come with an electronic copy of the handbook as well.
If you don’t want a “dead trees” copy of the Handbook due to space constraints,
it’s surprisingly affordable ($10!) via the Kindle platform. UPDATE: It appears this is $10 per volume, not for the entire handbook. I think it would be better to simply purchase the paperback or hardback version that comes with an electronic version.
A good field antenna
There’s no way I can include all of the antennas on the market under $100–there are so many. That said, here’s a sampling of antennas I use regularly:
- PackTenna Mini End-Fed Half-Wave ($89.95): This is one of my favorite field antennas. It’s super compact, has a built-in winder, and is made of very high quality components.
- PackTenna Mini Random Wire Antenna ($94.95): The form factor is identical to their EFHW, but this one is designed with a 9:1 toroid. It’s a great antenna that can easily work from 40 – 6 meters if you have an ATU.
- TufteIn EFRW QRP Antenna Long Wire ($84 assembled with 35′ radiator and 17′ counterpoise): This is another high-quality lightweight random wire option. I’ve had loads of fun using this wire antenna in the field. As with any random wire antenna, an ATU is necessary. Note that Tufetln also offers an EFHW antenna!
If you like to build your own antennas, here are a couple excellent kits:
- K6ARK Antenna Kit ($21): This is a fun little antenna kit to build. At time of posting, it’s out of stock, but I know Adam produces these regularly. Since this antenna kit requires working with very small parts, it might not be for a beginner, but it’s very affordable and one of the smallest antennas you could ever take to the field.
- KM4ACK 40M EFHW Kit ($39): This must be one of the easiest antenna kits on the market. The kit is complete and there’s a comprehensive video that shows how to build it. Click here for a short post about this antenna kit.
Again, I know I’ve missed listing a number of excellent antennas on the market–this is merely a short sampling of some of the antennas I’ve recently built.
As I mentioned in several previous posts–especially this one–I believe a headlamp is an essential part of any field radio kit.
I like a good quality headlamp that is USB rechargeable. One of my favorites in terms of price and quality is the Nitecore NU20 Rechargeable LED Headlamp.I have two of these and have also I’ve purchased several as gifts for friends and family.
I also have a Petzl ACTIK CORE Headlamp and Petzl NOCTILIGHT Headlamp Case. The headlamp is superb and when combined with the Headlamp case/diffuser it makes for a compact general purpose lantern. I carry this Petzl combo in my EDC pack.
True: I implied no transceivers in this list, but the QCX-Mini is a superb little QRP mono-band CW radio that’s insanely affordable.
The kit version can be purchased for as low as $55. If you purchase the kit, I would suggest adding the $20 aluminum enclosure and the $6 QCX AGC model, though. You can also order it fully assembled for an additional $45. Click here to check it out!
If you purchase a fully-assembled version, you’ll need to specify which band you’d like. If your significant other likes to activate summits, I’d suggest getting the 20 meter model. If they like activating parks, the 20 meter, 30 meter, and 40 meter models are all great options.