Tools, Telescope, Ham Radio and Lights

This post is really parallel to this post about finances, and the conclusion of our travel/build spending spree.

I’ve been using consumer grade tools for years. I have a ton of Ryobi gear that has served me very well, Harbor Freight, Husky, and Stanley hand tools that have done the same. The problem with the Ryobi gear is that my two most often used tools, the drill and the driver, have been slowing down. They don’t feel like they have the power that they used to, and the chuck on the drill imploded into many little pieces the other day when I was drilling 1/2″ holes for my antenna mounts. And while all my hand tools have served me well, I have a better idea of what I need now and wanted to buy new tools for the new toolbox. I’ve broken a lot of pieces over the years, and haven’t bothered pursuing warranty services on cheap tools, leaving holes in all my sets.

Some of the newer tools use brushless motors, which are a lot more efficient and last a lot longer than the tools that were offered when I started collecting my many pieces of Ryobi gear. I wanted to go with a contractor grade brand, known for quality brushless tools, to last me at minimum a decade or more of service, and after a lot of research decided to go with Makita. I picked up a brushless 5.0ah drill/driver combo set, which included two batteries, and a promo deal offered two more 4.0ah batteries with purchase. And because I’ve been doing a lot of work on the truck and trailer with very stubborn, large bolts, decided to opt for a dream tool of mine, a 1/2″ Impact. After reading a lot of reviews it looks like they have one that beats many of the air impacts out there in terms of performance. Makita had another promo where if you purchased two bare tools you would get two 4.0ah batteries as well, so I looked around for another tool I’d use. I finally settled on a battery powered chainsaw, because my dad has one he really likes (a Ryobi, I think) and I could use one. It might even come in useful on trips for dealing with firewood and branches preventing us from parking. That gives me four total Makita tools: a drill, driver, 1/2″ impact, and chainsaw, and six batteries. Tools I’ll actually use rather than what they throw into the package sets, and plenty of batteries. I’ve had my Ryobi tools about five years and they’ve seen a ton of abuse; I hope to have these for at least twice as long. In addition to the batteries, I was able to get a flashlight/lantern that uses the same batteries thrown into the deal and picked up a matching 70pc impact bit kit.

As for hand tools, I went Dewalt. It wasn’t so much the brand that sold me, but the set. Most of the socket sets you find have both 6 and 12 point sockets (resulting in lots of duplicates), a useless selection of wrenches, and lots of small tools you’ll never actually use just to inflate the piece count. I found a Dewalt 192 piece set that contained all 6 point sockets, 1/4″, 3/8″, and 1/2″ ratchets, a useful array of extensions, and a small set of hex keys.  No wrenches, no useless screwdriver and bits. No fluff. The price was reasonable, especially compared to the other brands I was looking at (Blue Point, Gearwrench, SK) and it comes with a lifetime warranty. I also bought separate metric and SAE wrenches, pliers, screwdriver set, and deep socket impact set by them.

I’ve also collected a lot of specialty tools for working on the truck and trailer. 32-46mm wrenches, for instance. And Tekton torque wrenches I’ve had for a while, and am really happy with. Those will be going in the box as well.

For the telescope section of our list, we wanted something that would be small enough to fit in the RV, large enough to see DSOs, and have a good enough mount to take some amateur photographs of stars, clusters, and galaxies. We decided to get a ES AR-152 and EXOS2-GT mount, Bresser 70 deg 6pc eyepiece kit, Celestron filters, Meade 2x barlow, Pentax K-mount adapter, Hotech Astro Aimer G3, and a ES carrying case for it all. We’ve had trouble getting it shipped out (Never buy from Adorama) and will do a detailed review once we receive all the gear.

I mentioned in this post that I was looking at the Kenwood TM-D710GA ham radio, and that’s the one I ultimately decided to go with, mainly for APRS support. APRS is a tracking technology so that people with our call sign can locate us on a map, such as Since neither of us are licensed yet, I ordered flash cards for the Technician and General exams, as well as my antenna hardware from HamRadio. The antenna will be a Larsen NMO-2/70B, a 34.5″ tall antenna, mounted on a Comet CV2ANTNCG fender mount on the driver’s side fender just opposite the factory AM/FM radio antenna, and use a Larsen NMO-K NMO cabling kit. I picked up a relay and relay socket off Amazon to wire it in with, and a Lido 22″ seat-bolt radio mount that I’m going to retrofit for a hopefully factory quality install (meaning no wires where they shouldn’t be!).

Finally, at the very end of our list was lighting. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do here, but we’ve had two occasions where we arrived at remote sites at night and the lack of visibility either resulted in us almost getting stuck, or sustaining damage to the RV. I wanted to remedy this if possible. I found a 50″ curved light bar with good reviews on Amazon for a reasonable price, and a RoughCountry mounting kit for it that places it at the top of the windshield. Some of the light bars they are coming out with are insanely bright, and this thing full of Cree 3w LEDs (288w total) should be no exception. The mount requires some minor drilling into the A pillar, but comes with everything you need except for a rivet gun, which is required for the pop rivets they send. I’ve never used one before, but picked one up for around $10 on Amazon. It doesn’t directly address backing up, but should give us a much better idea of what is in front of us before we start backing in. And should be useful in general. It also came with two six Cree 3w LED lights which I may mount on one of the bumpers.

That’s truly the end of our wish list. We’ve bought everything we dreamed up for the truck/RV build over the last several months, and most of it is in transit. I have a long road ahead of me getting these and all the other things we have installed, and getting licensed for the radio. I’ve been able to pass the online Technician practice tests with minimal effort put into learning, but will do a lot more studying before taking the actual test and the General, on the same day. So far I’ve been using, which is making me wonder if I wasted money on the flash cards. But they’ll be nice to have.


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