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I am relatively new ham-radio operator. I have a goal in mind to hike and have overnight stays in a tent. I keep exploring idea about bringing a radio with me. I am prepping for general license to enable the HF bands. I live in Boston, MA and when I listen HF bands the only active seems to be 80 meters one.

I want to make a small power efficient transceiver and do a little QRP operations. I learned about magloop antennas and those can be packed into the backpack. So antennas business seems attainable.

So my main question is about the bands.

Which bands to choose?

I really want to limit the choice to 2 bands to keep things light and efficient. I can use latching relays for LPF.

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Magloop antennas are actually bigger than random wire antennas that are neatly wrapped up, and something like a Super Antenna is designed for backpacking and is all band. (Elecraft also has a good antenna like this that is even smaller.) There are many similar alternatives. You might not want to deal with 160m on a hiking trip, but all shorter bands have decent alternative antennas that would likely work better than a magloop and pack smaller than a good magloop. (Although it's probably hard to beat the magloop on set up time.)

You should pick your bands based on space weather conditions and the time of day you intend on using the radio. Lack of activity except on 80m probably means you are only hearing groundwave and not skywave. This could be due to your antenna's elevation angle, or the antenna has no sensitivity on other bands, or because conditions are just poor. I suggest checking internet radio propagation websites to determine which.

There are sections of the bands (beacons, ft8) that are basically always busy and can be used to guess at current propagation conditions.

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Complex explanations aside, my best casual bands:

a) 40m for talking over short distances (most of the time you will contact somebody) and the best antenna is cheap and light EFHW: 20m of wire+1:49 UNUN that you throw on the tree (see:arboristic throw, arboristic libe, home-brew UNUN)... but u need a tree. When adjusted, broadband and easy on radio finals.

b) 20m if the propagation is good you get further AND your antenna gets portable, because u can buy on Aliexpress PAC12-like antenna based on extensible 5.5m whip (60cm collapsed) with some accessories that will work 20m and up. It is cheap and extremely fast to set-up. When adjusted, broadband and easy on radio finals.

Never used a mag-loop but these are narrow-banded and need adjustment after changing frequency. Thus yr radio might need to withstand high swr if you do not tune it properly after changing frequency. Single-band whips for above bands or multi-band mag-mounted whips fall in-between easy-on-finals antennas mentioned above and mag loops.

My point is your design choice shall take into account antenna you use.

You did not mention the radio you want to build - is it a kit or otherwise and this affects available bands - example kits:

  • KX2 or KX3 many-bands, all-modes, best things ever for portable if you can afford even used with their shortened whip antenna.
  • QCX mini - see https://qrp-labs.com/qcxmini.html - QMX getting out of experimental phase that is multi-band, still CW but supposed to be SSB one day by replacing firmware)
  • (tr)uSDX - see: https://dl2man.de/ - cheap, small, all-mode, many-bands, good-enough for many people. ...

73 and good luck

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  • $\begingroup$ I was playing with various designs and I figured out that the best option is to build a small DIY solution. $\endgroup$
    – k1zmt
    Feb 12 at 18:01

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