Use the Holidays to your full Ham Advantage!

It’s time.  I know you don’t want to hear it but it is “The Holidays”.  That time of the year when your schedule fills up with family time, parties, shopping and any number of things that take away from your, “HAMmer Time”!  The weather is turning for many of us and it is time to think about Winter Field Day, January 27th & 28th, as well as what you need for your 2018 Ham Activities.  You get gifts for the Holidays, right?  Whether or not you get stuff from other people, you always get yourself a little something.  Why wait and get that Holiday tie, those funny socks, another dress shirt or that god awful sweater that you know your grandma picked up at the thrift store.  Make a list of things you could really use and enjoy.

Some people think that making a list is in bad taste or takes away from the gift giving some how.  I say Bah Humbug! Taking a gift you don’t like to the Salvation Army, re-gifting it to another unfortunate sole or just throwing it away, that is the real shame here.  You need a list.  A piece of paper, an email, a shared Google Doc, an Amazon Wish List or any number of other options are available.

Listen!?  That’s not Old St. Nick at the door, that’s opportunity knocking. 

This weekend, pick a room, a basement, the garage, maybe the Ham Shack.  Layout all your gear and group it by the type of item.  Radios, antennas, survival, camping, backpacking, testing, tools, clothing and so on.  Now take a long look at it……….  What is missing?  What needs to be replaced?  What do you want to do with Ham Radio in 2018?  SOTA, IOTA, MOTA, camping, hiking, Field Day?  Start making your list.  Now go to your work bench and your Ham bench.  Same questions.  Add to the list.  Do you run UHF/VHF/HF portable?  Go sit in the truck/car/RV.  Same questions.  Add to the list.  Go out to your Antenna Field, Antenna Garden, you simple dipole or that loop you have hidden in the bushes so your neighbor doesn’t see it.  Same questions.  Add to the list.

Hercule Poirot

So now your excited!  Not only does this get your ideas on paper, it invigorates the mind.  As Hercule Poirot would say, “It gets the little gray cells working“. You have all these ideas.  Things to do, things to build, hardware to upgrade, places to visit, opportunities to live and enjoy life!  So let’s get started.

You have the list but if you want others to use it, you need to do the leg work ahead of time.  You really want to get one of those new Bioenno LiFePo4 12AH batteries?  Putting that on the list with nothing else, is a sure why NOT to get it.  It needs to be easy.  Exact name of the item, how much it is, where to buy it and if you give them the list via the computer, you need to have a direct link.

Your list needs to have a wide range of items with a wide range of prices.  Everything from the portable rig, that the XYL might surprise you with, to those PL-259 connectors and 50′ of coax you might want from DX Engineering.  That way if they want to spend $20, there are options.  If their budget allows for $100 or more, there are options.  Even if you only get a few things from the list, they will be items you want and you will use, not re-gift.  How many people do you hear each year say, “I don’t know what to get them?“?  Most people appreciate a list.  How many people ask you, what do you want for Christmas?  You say “I want a Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle!” or “an MFJ-2919BP 4:1 Balun for 1.89-54 MHz“.  You think they are going to remember that?  Instead you say, “If you really want to get me something, I will send you an email with a couple of things.”.  It makes it easy for them and they know they got you something you will appreciate and enjoy.

Lists – There are many places online that will let you make a Wish List.  Not all of them let you share it with others through.  If you have a GMail account, it is real easy to make a Google Doc or a Google Sheet (spreadsheet).  You can also make a document or spreadsheet on your computer that can be emailed to one or more people and also updated as needed.  For me, I have been using the Amazon Wish List for a number of years.  If you have an Amazon account, I suggest you check it out.  If people know your email address and it is the same email account you use with Amazon, then they can easily search for your Wish List right from Amazon.  Anyone can go to this Amazon Link and find another persons Wish List. 

One of the best things about the Amazon Wish List is that it doesn’t have to only be things on Amazon.  WHAT, WHAT??  I have items on my Wish List from DX Engineering, Main Trading Company, Buddipole, Alpha Antenna, Bioenno Power, HamRadio 360 and so on.  The key to using it, is to add the Amazon Assistant to your Web Browser.  When added, it puts a little Amazon icon in the top bar of your browser.  Then when you are at any website looking at an item, you can click on that little icon, add or change any information like pricing, add notes and then save.  It then saves that information with a link to the items website, in your Amazon Wish list.  So when you share your Amazon list with Friends and Family, they see items from all different websites not just Amazon.  It is a very slick solution.  You can find more details at this Amazon Assistant link.

So now you need to take your initial list, visit the different websites and find the best price for the item you want.  Add that item, the price and a link to that item to your digital list.  If your using Amazon’s Wish List.  Add the Assistant to your browser and then just click and add your way to a Christmas of presents you can use instead of someone else’s old sweater from the thrift store and that fruit cake your cousin got from work and is re-gifting to you!

I keep my list going all year and add items as I find I need them.  Most of the time I end up buying those items myself but when Christmas rolls around, my list is already 80% complete.

Here are some of the fun things I have on my list:

  • Bioenno Power Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4) 4.5AH Battery Model BLF-12045W – This is for when I am running QRP from a SOTA or MOTA.  Super light and long lasting.  Be sure to check the Continuous Discharge Current of any battery you pick to make sure it meets your needs.  One nice thing about these Bioenno batteries, if you go past their rating, the internal circuitry just shuts it down so you don’t damage the battery.
  • Bioenno 28 Watt Folding Solar Panel
  • Bioenno 12V/24V 20A Solar Charge Controller
  • BITX 40 QRP Transeiver – From HF Signals.
  • 5W CW Transciever Kit – From QRP Labs – Have not done a lot of kit building in the last few years but want to get back into it.  This looks like a fun why to go and has some good reviews online.
  • Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS – After my SOTA experience earlier this year where my 10 year old GPS unit would only point North and East, I really need a new one.  Imaging my surprise when I tried to follow the GPS trail back to my ATV and the GPS said I was going East when I knew I was heading West or even South!
  • RoadPro RPMCRT-2 Refillable Butane Micro-Torch – After checking the bench, I remembered that my old torch has a slow leak at the valve.  This is why you review you equipment, work bench and ham shack when making your list.  Regardless of the holiday, you still have things you need.
  • Anker Powercore 10000 – External 10000maH USB battery – You always have something that needs USB power.  Like this next project that I am working on, Portable Pi.
  • Portable Pi Shack Computer – This is a great idea from my friend Cale Nelson over at HamRadio 360.  He pulls all the parts together, into one location, to build a low voltage portable computer for Ham Radio use.  I have bought almost all of the parts in this list.  I elected to go with a different case (my choice listed below) and I am not sure if I will go with the ammo box for storage or something else.  My purpose for this project is to use it for digital modes and remote logging.  Hopefully I will have an article and/or video on this site when the project is completed.
    • My case choice – Smarticase Raspberry Pi 7″ Display Adjustable Angle case – I chose this case since it has a stand built in that can fold out of the way.  Watch for my build article soon to see if I made the right choice.
    • For the power supply choice I went with the DROk USB Voltage Converter.  I will wire it up with Anderson Powerpoles so it fits right in with the rest of my gear.
    • While it does have a touch screen, a 7″ display is not going to be pin point accurate for some of the things I will be doing.  So I went with the iClever Bluetooth Folding Keyboard with Touch Pad.  Up to 60 hours of run time and a rechargeable battery.  Charges off of USB so I can use the same setup to charge the keyboard if I need to.
    • Check back here for details on how this project went or follow my Twitter Accounts.  @MinesOnTheAir or @TheRealJohnnyF
  • Para Cord, Zip Cord, Anderson Powerpoles, PL-259 & SO-239 connectors.  The list goes on and on.

People that want to get you something for Christmas, want to get you something you want and can enjoy.  So a list is a great idea.  If nothing else, it gets you to review your gear, set your goals for the coming year, makes you a little more organized and helps you enjoy this great hobby.

73 and Happy Holidays from Mines On The Air and JohnnyF.  WJ0NF


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