14 Gift Ideas for Ham Radio Operators
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Within the world of ham radio, amateur radio operators are pretty comfortable distinguishing between their SWRs and SWLs or their J-Poles and dipoles. But ask their XYL if any QSL cards arrived today, and you might be met with a blank stare.
At a neighborhood barbecue, friends may have different images in their heads if you start talking about your rubber duckie. So, when it comes to giving gifts to ham radio hobbyists, the world of ham radio can seem impenetrable unless you can tune into their bandwidth. With this in mind, what are some suitable gift ideas for amateur radio operators?
Giving ham radio gifts to ham radio operators can be fraught with danger unless you know them well or they have dropped some pretty major hints. Simple gifts that will be used with frequency are ideal and don’t have to be expensive.
Plenty of customizable gift options exist that may resonate well, but you really have to be on the right wavelength to make any big or specialized purchases for your favorite ham radio operator.
For more elaborate or expensive ham radio gifts, it may be worth putting your antenna out and getting some feedback for their brand preferences and equipment requirements. If you plan to buy something expensive for a ham radio operator, it is better to ruin the surprise and discuss it with them first to avoid any dissonance.
Will the gift be useful? Is it good quality? Will it make them laugh? Is it edible? (And no, they’ve never received a leg of ham before…) Amateur radio operators reading this, feel free to help your nearest and dearest out by dropping some well-chosen hints or by accidentally-on-purpose sending them the link to the next piece of equipment you have your eyes on.
1. Mouse pads, mugs, t-shirts, bumper stickers, keyrings and decals
Plenty of good ham radio stocking fillers and little gifts are available from a wide range of stores online. If their mouse pad is fraying at the edges, or their favorite mug has one chip too many, a replacement may uplift their harmonics.
2. Custom Gifts
You can tailor all the everyday objects above, and many other accessories, clothing and decorations, with your ham radio operator’s call sign or favorite sayings, photos or phrases. Custom gifts like these squelch any doubts about your thoughtfulness.
Amateur radio operators sometimes engage in DXing. DX is ham radio shorthand for distance and DXing is the activity of trying to connect with rare or distant stations. Buy some picture frames for your amateur radio operator’s DX awards and other certificates they obtain from this hobby.
Amateur radio operators often use amateur radio services like QRZ.com or similar for call sign lookup, data services and discussion forums. Find out what your ham radio operator subscribes to and buy them a gift voucher from that organization for future services or products.
Does your ham radio operator read Amateur Radio magazines? Offer to buy them a year’s worth of their favorite one delivered to their home.
6. Printed QSL Cards
Most amateur radio operators have a stack of printed QSL cards. They exchange cards as confirmation of contact with other amateur radio operators around the world. You can top up their supplies but please check you get them the right one with the correct call sign and associated information!
Plenty of Amateur Radio books have been published that make great gift books including “200 Meters & Down: The Story of Amateur Radio” by Clinton Desoto and “Hello World: A Life in Ham Radio” by Danny Gregory.
A note about instruction manuals and ham radio manuals. If your ham radio operator has been pursuing this hobby for a while, they’ve probably already got their license so may not need an updated book about license requirements. If in doubt, ask them whether they want a particular reference book when it comes to technical information.
8. Time Zone Clocks
In addition to ham radio-themed clocks, standard or customized, a tasteful multi-time zone clock can be a useful addition to the ham shack.
These can be useful for amateur radio operators who want to hear transmissions more easily or need a bit more privacy. Wired, over-ear headphones can minimize external noise and are comfortable for long stints on the radio.
10. Electronic Starter Kits
For the experimenting amateur radio operator, Arduino or Raspberry Pi starter kits make it fast and easy to mock up experiments or proof of concepts without needing full size PCB fabrication or computer facilities.
A note about ham radio equipment. It can be really tempting to buy handheld radios, antennas, and other equipment for amateur radio operators. However, they can be a picky bunch and are sometimes quite passionate about the specifications they look for and what brands they use. No matter how economical the gear may seem – and you can indeed get some two-way radios for the price of a t-shirt these days – we recommend you talk to them first or get them a gift voucher which they can use for something they really want to get.
11. Gift cards
Gift cards for eBay, Amazon, well-known local ham radio stores and other gadget or technical shops are useful, even though they can feel transparent and unimaginative.
12. Spare batteries
Batteries, especially for much-loved, much-used handhelds, can get a real workout. Spare batteries for existing handheld radios provide the amateur radio operator with a backup power source. However, every radio is different so make sure you buy the correct battery for the correct model and not just a giant box of AAs.
13. A Wonderful Ham Radio Experience
Often what amateur radio operators are lacking most is time and space to play with their radios. Whisk them away to a place with space and range to play with their equipment. Or let them get away with their friends for a weekend of hiking, camping or driving while playing with their radios.
14. Specialty Equipment
buying equipment for a ham radio operator comes with risks, but if you know them well and are aware of their particular ham radio interest, you can get them classic, quality, unique gifts that last. A beautiful Morse code key for a CW operator, or a vintage radio retro standing microphone might be just a thing to enhance their ham shack.
Supporting the Ham Radio Habit
Supporting the ham radio addict in your life doesn’t have to be expensive or require highly technical knowledge. Sometimes a quirky, funny gift acknowledging their interest may be enough for them to know you understand their interest.
For practical support, it is worthwhile sounding them out if you can, rather than oscillating between options, so you get something they can really use.
Often the best gift is time, space and permission to amplify their enjoyment of their hobby.