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I'd like to get started doing portable HF work and I'd like some information on antenna possibilities.

My broad (and somewhat flexible) criteria are:

  • By "portable" I mean it can be carried in a modestly-sized vehicle such as a sedan/saloon and hauled on foot a reasonably short distance. I don't intend to take the antenna to mountaintops (unless there's a road there :) ).
  • Multiband is preferred, but I'm better off on a single band than on no bands. Assume I have a tuner, although a portable antenna that can be made resonant on multiple bands would be a nice thing.
  • I prefer something I can buy over something I can build partially because of my general building skill, and principally because of lacking time. Recommend a type of antenna, rather than a specific commercial product.
  • The antenna should be able to be set up by a solo operator.

I'm attracted to the Buddipole system for a few reasons, although I wonder sometimes if I might be better with a longer dipole and some means of putting the thing up. The Buddipole seems usable just about anywhere, though, which is a huge plus.

Since specific product recommendations are off topic here, can you give me some guidance as to the types of antennas that might be suitable for this situation?

I would like to be able to use full barefoot power (i.e. 100 watts), and would work principally in SSB mode with occasional CW.

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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, but direct product recommendations are generally not allowed on Stack Exchange. If you can reword your question to ask about what type of antenna to use for your application, or whether a specific one suits your needs, that would be acceptable. However, your question as specified does seem to be mostly just "I want a portable HF antenna", which is fairly broad. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Reid AG6YO May 18 '18 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ It would also be helpful if you could comment on power level, modes, and bands of intended/desired operations. $\endgroup$ – Glenn W9IQ May 18 '18 at 23:09
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think adding "Please don't make the recommendations too specific" makes the question any more on topic. A better question would be "What are the advantages of a longer dipole over a Buddipole?" $\endgroup$ – Phil Frost - W8II May 19 '18 at 13:26
  • $\begingroup$ I use a Buddipole (Deluxe version) for field portable work and QRP. I like it very much and prefer it over most other antenna systems. It takes me about 15 minutes to set up the Buddipole antenna in the field and generally I am transmit capable in 20 minutes. My very first time though I spent about an hour doing the same thing but that was learning time. I usually operate 20 meters but also sometimes 40 meters. My rig is Elecraft KX2 capable of a whopping 12 watts peak power CW. Although it is capable of SSB, I have never transmitted in SSB with this rig, only CW. $\endgroup$ – K7PEH May 20 '18 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ Don't discount the utility of a slingshot, some string, some wire and a tall tree for portable operation. $\endgroup$ – Duston May 24 '18 at 14:19
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Portable antennas are always a compromise. The best antenna in terms of radiation efficiency will be the one that compromises the least. That means basically two things:

  1. make it big
  2. get it high (or install many radials to reduce ground losses)

The best antenna in terms of portability will be:

  1. easy to move (small)
  2. easy to set up (not high)

My advice would be to choose the largest antenna you can which is portable enough. Maybe a Buddipole is what you need, but don't forget you can also throw a half-wave wire dipole over a tree.

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I use telescopic fiberglass pole (10 to 12 meters is sufficient) and home made dipole antennas, single band and multiband (some trapped dipoles some linked dipoles).

It does the job pretty well and it can fit in my backpack.

I mostly use "hybrid" multiband dipole which consists of 20/17 meter trapped dipole and optional attachments for 40 meters.

20/17 meter dipole can also be used as vertical dipole using the same fiberglass mast to get more DX.

It is all very easy to set up by single person. System is light enough to even do not need guying, just good fixation at the bottom of the mast.

You could try it. It is actually quite cheap solution and all pats are reusable for other projects if you end up not happy (which I doubt).

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  • $\begingroup$ I second this - and not wanting to recommend any particular brand, but SOTAbeams have some great portable solutions. They have some wire antennas that roll up to be very small, and good fibreglass pols that easily fit in a backpack. $\endgroup$ – Scott Earle Jun 22 '18 at 9:40
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End-fed half-waves (EFHW) are popular with SOTA operators, and they understand portable. If you'll be operating where there are trees, you can tie a rock to some cord, throw it over a tree, and hoist up a 10 meter piece of wire. If no trees, you'll have to carry a 30 ft fishing pole, but they can be found and the collapse to fit into a trunk.

With a suitable impedance matching unit, 10 meters of wire will operate well on 20 meters as an EFHW. Replace the matching unit with a binding-post-to-BNC adapter, add a 20 meter counterpoise, and the hoisted wire acts as a 1/4 wave on 40 meters. If you have an ATU, it will also suffice on 17m and 30m.

I've personally used this on hundreds of outings. You can't get much more portable than a coil of 24 AWG wire. While RF in the shack can be a problem for an EFHW, you aren't in a shack when you're portable. It may be sensitive to noise, but if you're portable, you're probably not near RFI sources.

Building an EFHW - You can certainly build the impedance matcher, but there are many available commercially. You'll generally have to cut a length of wire. Borrow an antenna analyzer to trim it to length. That's a level of "construction" which someone who is all thumbs can handle.

Loops can be fiddly for HF. Dipoles require supporting center and ends which can be a chore for a rapid portable setup. EFHW goes up quick, is easy to carry, and is reasonably effective.

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There are a number of portable magnetic loop antennas available that fit your criteria. Many are flexible enough to store in typical vehicles; the conductors are typically large diameter coaxial cable. Most are designed to tune across a few adjacent bands. They perform well at low height and are easy for one person to set up. Disadvantages include narrow bandwidth and limited transmit power.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'd be going barefoot, so handling 100 watts of power would be plenty. $\endgroup$ – Jim MacKenzie VE5EV May 18 '18 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ You didn't mention your power requirements in the question and this is crucial for magnetic loops, so I'll follow up with a comment. 100W is substantial for a magnetic loop. Magnetic loops have very high current conductors, but they use a large tuning capacitor where high voltage is present. Typically power is limited by the capacitor; excessive voltage with cause a short by sparking across the tuning capacitor. Portable magnetic loops are usually rated for a few 10s of watts. Less portable loops with higher voltage capacitors and lower resistance conductors can handle 100+ watts. $\endgroup$ – allenc May 18 '18 at 22:49
  • $\begingroup$ I'll amend my question when I get a few minutes. I can do QRP but I'd ideally like something that can handle full unamplified power from a standard rig. $\endgroup$ – Jim MacKenzie VE5EV May 18 '18 at 22:50
  • $\begingroup$ Magnetic loop antennas are quite lossy. $\endgroup$ – Mike Waters May 19 '18 at 2:27
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    $\begingroup$ Not only lossy, but they can be tricky to tune. They generally have such a high Q that bandwidth can be as little as a few kHz. I have seen a magnetic loop that gave a usable bandwidth of 3kHz on 40m, so tuning around the band can become a laborious task. $\endgroup$ – Scott Earle Jun 22 '18 at 9:38
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I use normally linked dipoles, but there is a fine design called NorCal Doublet (not commercialized, Google for it) that allows you to work from 10 to 40 m on a pole of 6 to 8 m. It is very light and I have good results while being used as inverted V. Anyway, best ones have been reached using linked inverted V center fed dipoles with light coax like RG174.

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