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I'm trying to assemble a VHF/UHF FM base-station at home. Assuming I have the following pieces of equipment:

  1. VHF/UHF FM transceiver
  2. power supply - 30 amps, no meters
  3. antenna that's resonant on 2m and 70cm and a way to mount it
  4. proper grounding
  5. cabling to link them all together

What other gear and equipment, besides the list above, would most hams consider essential or at least highly recommend having at hand? The intended use of the station is local repeater and simplex operation for casual contacts, net participation, and possibly emergency operations (RACES/ARES).

To further clarify what I'm trying to ask, would any of the following be considered essential or at least really really useful to have under the above scenario with the previously mentioned equipment?

  • dummy load
  • ammeter/multimeter (assuming the power supply doesn't display amperage)
  • in-line antenna tuner
  • informational resources (maps, log books, etc)
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closed as primarily opinion-based by Kevin Reid AG6YO, Phil Frost - W8II, Timtech, PearsonArtPhoto, Ron J. KD2EQS Feb 24 '14 at 14:10

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ The answers to this are as broad as the applications of radio. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Feb 17 '14 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ Can you offer a suggestion on how I can narrow the question down? $\endgroup$ – Andrew N5ITM Feb 17 '14 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ You will have to pick a direction. Do you want to do DX PSK31 on 20m? Do you want to homebrew antennas? Do you want to work satellites? If you ask about HF, VHF, or UHF, that covers pretty much the whole of amateur radio. The only essential gear common to all of this is the obvious stuff, like a power cord, maybe a microphone... The non-obvious stuff only comes into play if you have a non-obvious application. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Feb 17 '14 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ So is the answer that there's no other gear outside of my list that most hams would consider essential for good base-station operations regardless of mode or intended use? $\endgroup$ – Andrew N5ITM Feb 17 '14 at 14:09
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    $\begingroup$ Have a care with the selection of coax to go from your station to the antenna. The typical mobile coax of RG58 or the inexpensive RG-8X both have pretty significant loses at VHF/UHF frequencies. If it's a short run or you are just hitting local repeaters, this may not matter much. If you are looking for longer range communications, then that loss will hurt. $\endgroup$ – WPrecht Feb 17 '14 at 14:46
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Based on my somewhat short experience as a ham, these are some of the things I find very useful in my shack or would like to have:

  • a comfy chair
  • paper/writing instruments and/or computer for logging purposes
  • a hook or clippy thing to hang your microphone from (if you're not using a desk or boom mic)
  • shelves. you can never have enough shelves in the shack.
  • a 24-h clock set for UTC time.
  • Maps of the ITU and CQ zones
  • ARRL band plan chart
  • external speakers for your radio
  • SWR/power meter

given that your antenna is resonant at 2m/70cm, an antenna tuner wouldn't be necessary unless you decide to start experimenting with other antennas. Dummy load would be useful if you need to test your radio for some purpose.

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    $\begingroup$ How about adding a combined SWR/power meter to the list? I realize its not much use if nothing goes wrong, but it would be the first troubleshooting instrument in the case of problems. $\endgroup$ – Malcolm VE2DDZ Feb 17 '14 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ ooo ya. didn't think of that one because my rig already shows me tx power and swr. Definitely handy for radios that don't indicate one or the other. $\endgroup$ – imabug Feb 17 '14 at 20:32
  • $\begingroup$ Is a microphone essential if you operate CW or digital modes? What about the computer to do those digital modes? Is a 24hr clock or a national or world map essential for VHF/UHF operation? This answer is entirely subjective, and not backed by any reference or fact. $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II Feb 18 '14 at 13:55
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Trouble shooting equipment such as an antenna analyzer and VOM, replacement parts (PL-259's, etc), a soldering iron. Provisions for expansion as needed (another operator at your station during a disaster, etc.)

Your initial list is a great start but it assumes nothing is going to go wrong.

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    $\begingroup$ Could you expand on what you mean by "provisions for expansion"? $\endgroup$ – Andrew N5ITM Feb 17 '14 at 14:41
  • $\begingroup$ More radios for other operators. $\endgroup$ – SDsolar Sep 9 '17 at 5:54

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