Sunday, 5 January 2020

PORTABLE HF ANTENNA REVIEWS

MY PORTABLE HF ANTENNAS

I was talking to another M7 the other day and the only antenna he had was a Diamond X30 antenna for VHF/UHF but he was preparing to move into the HF arena as soon as funds permitted. I was telling him how I loved to play QRP on HF and how much I enjoyed the success of making a DX contact on 10W or less, using simple portable antennas.

At home in the shack, I tend to use my permanent EFHW or G5RV, but outdoors I have a choice of portable antennas which are listed below. All these are used at one point or another with my YAESU FT-818 or my ELECRAFT KX3. The antennas can also be used for QRO work on Field Days with my local Radio Club.

So, for the benefit of any newbies wondering what to buy, here's what I chose to invest in...


____________________

The SotaBeams products are highly favoured by me (and many others) and I consider them to be fantastic products at a very reasonable price. The best thing about them is that they are so 'complete'. They come with absolutely everything you need, including tent-pegs and a neat carry-bag.

The 20/40 Linked Dipole BandHopper II is probably my primary choice - it is permanently stored in my Go-Bag and because those two bands are the ones I use most frequently, it ends up being in constant use. Needless to say, no ATU is required, since this antenna is resonant on both bands (with the links connected or disconnected accordingly).

Despite how it may look in the photos, the BandHopper II is very simple to erect and rebag. When I first saw it I thought it would be like getting the Genie back in the bottle, but thanks to those fantastic (supplied) winders, it's an absolute breeze! Just be sure to wind the cables back onto the winders in a 'figure of 8' motion so that they unravel easily the next time you use them. I strongly recommend that you watch some of the videos on the SOTABEAMS website.




Apart from the antenna itself, you will, of course, need some means of getting it up in the air. Personally, I use a portable mast and erect the antenna in an inverted-v, as recommended by the manufacturer. You can use SOTABEAM's Tactical-7000HDS or the smaller Tactical Mini.


M7MCQ up on Winter Hill, G/SP-010

I'll be honest and admit that I struggled a little to get the mast and antenna to stand up at first, but then I came up with the idea of using a small Guy-Tube to make things infinitely easier even in high winds....
Simple  'Guy-Tube'

____________________

The next antenna I purchased was the BAND SPRINGER MIDI and this is a 'Long Wire' with a Counterpoise. Again, the kit comes complete with a carry-bag, winders and tent-pegs - and a handy BNC connector that many other manufacturers would probably have left out.

The BandSpringer is available as a MAXI too, but the MIDI seemed like the best choice for me, since I wasn't interested in working 80M portable. The MIDI will work on 8 bands but an ATU is required! Whilst I prefer to use resonant antennas like the BandHopper, it sure is nice to be able to switch from 10 to 60M for when conditions are really good and the other bands have lots going on.



____________________

My 3rd choice of portable antenna is an End-Fed-Half-Wave. I wanted to invest in one of the American products from MYANTENNAS but they're just not readily available here in the UK so I took a chance on a UK manufacturer called WIRE ANTENNAS and it should arrive in a couple of days. When it does, I'll test it and report back.



This product claims to be resonant on 40/30/20/17/15/12/10m and to be honest, I'm interested in how much better (or maybe worse) it will perform than the similar BandSpringer.

UPDATE <<<   It arrived! First thing to note, is that it's quite heavy. And it's not exactly 'compact'. I'm guessing that this thing will put quite a bend in your fibreglass fishing pole and isn't really practical to fasten to the very thin sections at the top. Much more likely to be fixed lower down the pole. The SotaBeams BandSpringer Midi weighs 190g whereas this weighs 720g!!!



The quality looks fabulous! All components seem to be of a high quality and well constructed. The wire is wrapped onto a plastic winder and there's a Hook & Loop belt to keep everything in place. The UNUN enclosure is actually attached to the winder itself.



I just unwound the 66ft of cable in my office to see how easy it was to work with - and let me tell you - it's nowhere near as easy as the thin SotaBeams wire antennas! The cable is 1.5mm copper in a plastic jacket and is quite stiff.  It feels like single-strand wire, but it is, in fact, Class 2 Stranded copper  and for some reason, the outer sheathing is LSZH (Low Smoke Zero Halogen) which is normally used in conduit and for fixed, protected installations where fire, smoke emission and toxic fumes create a potential risk to life and equipment. Weird!

Winding it back onto the winder takes time, although I think it would have been a hell of  lot easier if one end was attached to something to stop all the twists and kinks that there in the wire on my office floor, lol.  The ABS enclosure is good quality and the components within all look good, so no complaints there.

This EFHW is meant for 'portable use' but I would say it's most certainly not for SOTA use. It's probably better suited to a Field Day with the local Radio Club at a location where you have got your vehicle close by and are able to take a more sturdy mast with you than you would on a SOTA trip. Anyway, I'm looking forward to trying it out at the weekend and will update again.

Another option is a Magnetic Loop. There are a few DIY designs on the internet for those who like projects, or for those who have some spare cash, you can invest in a commercial loop such as the fabulous ALEXLOOP.  I invested in the AlexLoop Hampack and you can read about that HERE.



____________________

FINALLY, I should like to mention my dinky telescopic! I bought this to use with my KX3 radio - it's the fabulous ELECRAFT AX1. Yes, £100 is an awful lot of dosh to spend on a little telescopic, but believe me, this thing is special!

For more information, CLICK HERE to read a previous post about this fantastic little antenna.
____________________


SINCE WRITING THIS POST, I've bought an Icom IC-705 and use these antennas with that radio too.



Thanks for visiting - please take a minute to leave a comment below 

73, Tom, M7MCQ.

No comments:

Post a Comment