A Few Field Radio Gift Ideas for Less Than $100!

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.

If your budget is flexible, you might also consider these paddles which are still less than $200:

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

Trees–if you have them where you live–are brilliant antenna supports. In my opinion, the easiest, most reliable, and simple way to get an antenna in a tree is with a quality arborist throw line.

I’ve written an article about throw lines which goes into more details and offers a number of options.

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.

It consists of two components: a Weaver arborist throw line & weight and storage bag. Together they cost about $46 US and will last for years. A very solid and high-quality (US-made!) gift.

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.

Click here to check it out at the ARRL. 

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

You can never have enough antennas, right? Right!

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:

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.

A headlamp

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.

A QCX-Mini

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.

28 thoughts on “A Few Field Radio Gift Ideas for Less Than $100!”

  1. Thanks Thomas! I was looking for a headlamp for my wife for her morning walks. Appreciate the recommendations!

  2. Couple weeks ago I bought a CW Morse outdoor pocket paddle because…….. well just because, and it definitely is a heavier duty ver of the pocket paddle. I like the feel and consistency of that paddle.

    Mike AD8EV

  3. I wonder how many times this article will be forwarded to spouses. Great stuff, Thomas.

    I’m a bit surprised you didn’t have portable chairs, tables, bags\packs, etc. Maybe part 2?

    72, Pat

  4. Note: The Kindle version for $10 is only one volume. So far I’ve only found Volume 1 and 2 ($10 each) for Kindle. While the lising implies that the entire set is $10, when you select it for purchase, only one volume appears in the listing.

  5. Great info as always and thank you! What’s the length of the coax you have pictured? I’m assuming it’s from ABR.

    Thanks again and 73,

  6. The only thing I don’t love about Christmas, is the tree! It’s not nearly high enough to throw an antenna up into.

    Love the Post. And I can readily endorse the QCX Mini, assembled. But did you know, the QDX can now be ordered assembled as well? For $45 extra, you can’t go wrong.

    The PackTenna’s are my favorite field antennas. The End-fed, or the Random which pairs nicely with the KX2. But hey, they’re sold out! Santa, get your elves to work on that…

    And buy it, just buy the N0SA SP4 paddle. I love mine. A very nice field key.

    I’d also recommend buying from eBay some audio earpieces.


    Ten bucks for two, free shipping. They don’t hurt your ears… R/A 3.5mm plug is perfect for a pocket transceiver like the QCX Mini.

    Thanks Thomas!

  7. Good article as usual, dont know how you keep it up, but read them all, save most.

    Very good ideas although I tend to not ask for Ham gear from wife, but any of the items would be good.

    Another suggestion is the “QRP Quarterly” magazine. See at http://www.qrparci.org Is devoted to QRP and lots of good articles.

    73, ron, n9ee

  8. I’d be very suspicious about the TalentCell 12 V 3 Ah lithium ion battery. KD8RTT tested one of their 6 Ah batteries and it had far less charge than 6 Ah (somewhat less than 12 V, too). He then took it apart and found out why. I suspect that the 3 Ah version is made the same way, just with half as many cells (two parallel banks each of 3 cells in series for the 6 Ah version).

    See .

    TalentCell also has some LiFePO4 batteries. Maybe they’re better. Or maybe not.

    You usually get what you pay for, or somewhat less, and rarely more.

    David VE7EZM and AF7BZ

      1. Thanks for sharing this. I’ll take a look.

        I’ve only used this with my most efficient little radios (KX series, Mountain Toppers, QCX-Mini, Venus SW-3B). I feel like it’s more of a “spare” instead of a primary battery, but I’ll admit that it’s never failed to get me through an activation. My buddy WD8RIF has one and uses his frequently for KX3 activations.

        True, though: quality is nowhere close to that of Bioenno and other LiFePO4 products.

    1. Hello, David.

      Your comment and KD8RTT’s video prompted me to perform my own test of my Talentcell YB1203000-USB 3000mAhr 12v Li-Ion battery.

      Following a full charge of the battery, I connected the battery to my Elecraft KX3 through an inexpensive “150A High-precision watt meter and power analyzer” that reports, among other things, Ah consumed by the load. I started my KX3 transmitting at 5w in CW beacon-mode “CQ POTA de WD8RIF K” at 5-second intervals. I stopped the test when I saw the battery dip to just about 9v during transmit.

      Here are the results of my test in a slightly malformed spreadsheet:

      Time (UTC) V (RCV) V (XMT) Amps (XMT) XMIT PWR Ah Battery LEDs
      1248 12.45 11.80 1.42 5 0.600
      1347 11.35 10.85 1.36 4 0.885
      1416 10.98 10.46 1.31 4 1.165
      1445 10.72 10.25 1.31 4 1.273 3
      1457 10.66 10.20 1.31 4 1.577 3
      1528 10.48 10.00 1.31 3.5 1.577 3
      1545 10.34 9.87 1.25 3.5 1.737 3
      1604 9.94 9.04 1.91 5 1.918 2

      I ran the test for 3 hours and 16 minutes, stopping with the battery voltage measured just about 9v on transmit.

      As can be seen in the table, the actual power delivered to the load was 1918 mAh. This is less than the rated 3000 mAh but was actually higher than I expected based on KD8RTT’s video.

      It should be said that Talentcell markets this battery as a having 9v minimum voltage and a maximum voltage of 12.6v. Please note that my test didn’t drive the battery all way down to 9v at no-load. Since the KX3 specs say it can be run with a supply voltage as low as 8v, the KX probably would no t have complained had I run the test longer and I would have then seen a higher mAh-rating at the end of the test.

      I suspect a similar test with a lighter load, such as the KX3 in receive-only mode, would produce an mAh-rating closer to 3000 mAh.

      I was interested to see that as the supply voltage dropped, the KX3’s output power also dropped slightly until the supply voltage on transmit reach about 9v, at which point the KX3 suddenly drew higher current on transmit and power-output jumped back to 5w. The engineers at Elecraft clearly configured the KX3 to be able to provide 5w output even with the internal 8-cell AA pack, albeit at the expense of higher current-draw and reduced battery life.

      The 3000mAh Talentcell is not my primary power supply for my KX3 field operations. I’ve most often used the Talentcell to power my Elecraft K1 in the field and is now my go-to battery for use when I’m bicycle-portable with the KX3. For normal field operations with the KX3, I use a 4.5A Bioenno LiFePO4 battery.

  9. “I could easily write a series of articles about Morse Code keys. That’s not what you’re looking for, though, right?”

    Yes that is what I am looking for! Please do it!

    Great list, Thomas! I have nearly all the things on your list and can confirm, they are excellent recommendations.

  10. No straight keys? I’ve never gotten over the feel of one properly adjusted. Paddles always felt too “mechanical” to me (if that makes sense) and only had for contests.

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