Last month, I went to a local Hamfest in town. One of the vendors there was Jpoles.com, a business that manufactures and sells Jpole antennas for use with Ham Radios that operate on 2 meters (and also for 70cm). They are "pre-tuned", and sell for $49.95. I needed an antenna for my ICOM hand held radio, the IC-V85. On the advice of a friendly Ham Operator that I met at the event, I bought one. They guarantee their JPOLE to be free from defects in material and workmanship for 10 full years; if it fails they will repair or replace it.
I was advised to mount it as high up as possible, so I put it outside on the top of the tallest cedar tree pole I could fit it on. I've been using the antenna now for the past month, and I've been very satisfied with it's performance. Prior to this I was using a rubber duck antenna, or my external antenna for my scanner. Neither gave me reliable performance with the IC-V85. Sometimes it would work ok, other times people had trouble hearing me, sometimes no one could hear me at all.
Since using the JPOLE antenna, I always have a strong and clear signal that get's heard every time. At the hamfest, I also bought a 30 watt amplifier and power supply, but I've not needed to use it to access our local repeaters; I seem to be fine without the extra power. I will hitch them up eventually though, so I can perhaps access repeaters that are farther away. But before I can do that, I still need to set up a proper Ham Station, with grounding, etc.
I'll get there eventually. It's turning out to be a fun hobby!
From Wikipedia: J-pole antenna
The J-pole antenna, also called the Zepp' antenna (short for Zeppelin), was first invented by the Germans for use in their lighter-than-air balloons. Trailed behind the airship, it consisted of a single element, one half wavelength long. This was later modified into the J-pole configuration, which became popular with amateur radio operators, as it is effective and relatively simple to build.
The J-pole antenna is an end-fed omnidirectional dipole antenna that is matched to the feedline by a quarter wave transmission line stub. Matching to the feed-line is achieved by sliding the connection of the feedline back and forth along the stub until a VSWR as close as possible to 1:1 is obtained. Since this is a half-wave antenna, it will exhibit gain over a quarter-wave ground-plane antenna. The J-pole is somewhat sensitive to surrounding metal objects, and should have at least a quarter wavelength of free space around it. [...]
Read the whole thing for more details and links. Many people build their own. I was tempted, but I needed something good, in a hurry. Eventually, I hope that I'll have more time to experiment with home-brew antennas.