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Activation Shining Tor G/SP-004 with a Hamstick

A few months ago I asked on the forum about peoples experience with using Ampro style Hamsticks for activations. The feedback I got was mixed, with most people saying long wire was the way to go. I use Hamsticks on top of my Campervan and have had some great experiences. Two weekends ago I had a QSO with a guy in Reunion Island a distance of 6,134 miles (on 10w) so my enthusiasm was sparked again for these simple antennas.
With lockdown slowly lifting, yesterday I decided to activate Shining Tor (G/SP-004). With near freezing temperatures and winds of 25mph, I wasn’t expecting social distancing to be an issue. Arriving at the Cat and Fiddle, there were just two other cars parked there. It was freezing!
The first decision was what antenna to take? In these conditions I didn’t want to mess about with long wires and Sota Poles, so I opted for a aluminium stake, 20m Hamstick and radials. On the walk up, the wind was unrelenting, so I consoled myself that at least I could just try my handheld. Arriving at the top, my fears were met, the North Westerly wind from Greenland was bitter. Within minutes of taking off my gloves my hands were beginning to freeze. With a couples of 2m QSOs on the handheld, it was decision time, should I try HF?
I found that by getting low behind the wall, just down from the trig point I could get out of the worst of the wind, so I decided to go for it.
The ground was fairly moist so getting my aluminium stake in the ground, was pretty easy. I have included a photograph of the set up I use. It consists of a short aluminium stake, a stainless steel 3/8 mounting bracket and four 10’ radials laid on the ground.


I use a Xiegu G90 for HF and an initial listen around on the 20m band was not that encouraging. I could hear a few Eastern European stations, the inevitable, high powered Italian stations, but not a lot else. Nothing from North America. The Xiegu has an amazing ATU, the SWR was near perfect. As others have said it could probably tune a length of wet string (maybe an experiment for the future)!? In the next hour I made 9 QSOs the furthest was 1,700 miles away in Russia.
So there we have it, my love for this £22 antenna continues to grow. Is it a compromise, of course it is, but it took me about three minutes to deploy and despite poor band conditions, worked well.

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Excellent report.
Luckily there are a choice of walls for shelter, depending which way the wind is blowing.
I do like your mounting bracket, simple and effective.
Well done.

Stuart
G1ZAR

Well done for sticking it out Martin!

I have an HF-Pro2 antenna that gets used in those kinds of conditions for the same reasons - quick deployment and easy to carry. In my case, I use a converted photo-tripod rather than a stake as quite often I have to contend with rocks rather than soil. In any case, I do know what you mean about hands freezing minutes after removing gloves! I’ve found cotton inner gloves are great - while they are not good enough on their own, they are fine for the critical time when thicker outer gloves have to be removed to set up antenna and equipment. They can be bought in packs of 5 or 10 pairs on eBay (some have S M L XL others are one size fits all).
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/5-Pairs-General-Purpose-White-Cotton-Lining-Gloves-Health-Work-dr/274475005611?

One comment for the newer amateurs - the ATU as used in this configuration (i.e. to a coax feeder to an antenna), does not “tune” the antenna, it matches (as best it can) the output of the rig to the antenna. So the G90 internally maybe sees a 1:1 VSWR but the antenna may still be off-resonance and power is being reflected - which is then dissipated in the ATU coils as heat rather than hitting the rig’s output transistors. So as always, a truly resonant antenna will always provide the best signal out and in and not require any (or very little) matching. Again, however - in such cold conditions even if you are only radiating 1/4 power with a simple antenna and an antenna matching unit, that’s still better than not operating because putting up a resonant dipole would be painful in the conditions. Believe me, I’ve done both on many occasions and the compromised, quick set-up antenna has become my preferred option!

73 Ed DD5LP.

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Thanks Ed that is useful. What was interesting is that in the damp soil the SWR curve was different to tests in dry soil, so the stake would be different to using a tripod. In dry soil the curve was more like a squared off U. In wet soil the shape was more like an inverted bell curve. I suspect the ATU is working harder in dry soil. When it gets a bit warmer I will do more testing. I have just bought a VNA.

Ed
Thanks for the update

Another example to debunk the on going theory of “hamsticks they dont work” for SOTA or POTA.

The dipole pundits are fuming right now as you just needed a stake in the ground to get on air quickly
John VE3IPS

I am a bit of a linked dipole bigot but own too many Hamsticks as well. Next outing will include my Outbacker Perth

As a result of that original thread about hamsticks I bought a 20m with a mag mount to use on a vehicle. I was unimpressed by the SWR at first and at the time I didn’t have an ATU. After the first initial disappointing trial I gave it another go a few days later and while getting it out of the bag discovered what I thought was just a label were the folded up instructions! These told be the length is adjustable and you are supposed to er…adjust it. :slight_smile: I then got the SWR down to about 1.3:1 without an ATU.

I think the main problem with it is the length and weight but for the price it does a good job.

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I know they are heavier than my Bandspringer, but in the wind and cold yesterday I was reluctant to mess about with guys and a SOTA pole. I have three options now. The Hamstick, Bandspringer and 3 band vertical 20/30/40. When it gets warmer I plan to do some side by side comparisons. For a quick ‘run n gun’ activation it worked well. It was great to be out again!

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Yes, side-by-side comparisons are the only way, ultimately.

Another technique that can be deployed, but strangely overlooked by many, arguably most activators in the SOTA programme, is to make use of the activation zone rule. This allows you to set up anywhere in the contiguous area down to 25m vertically below the summit.

On many hills, depending on wind direction and topography of course, this allows you to set up in considerable shelter. On the big European SOTA Day back in September, the wind would have absolutely trashed my fibreglass masts and wire antennas on the summit of Shining Tor G/SP-004, but as the prevailing wind was mainly north-easterly, I was able to set up under the cliffs looking out over the Macclesfield Forest, and have an “antenna farm” up all day (though camping and sleeping on a slope was rubbish - lesson learned there!)

Dipoles and groundplanes are more efficient than hamsticks, but less versatile in challenging weather conditions.

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This is shaping up to be an interesting thread.

Some activators want ultimate Dx, some want to qualify the summit before freezing up. So there’s no one ‘ideal’ antenna solution.

This could get like the old myth about the Sixties where you had to be either a Beatles fan or a fan of the Rolling Stones but not both [I was both]. I’ve used linked dipoles [usually in inverted V config] and EFHWs [horizontal or sloper] happily for years but very recently I have also become a fan of my new [Cha MPAS Lite] vertical for its quick & easy deployment, small footprint and ruggedness in high winds. I’ll select a wire antenna or the vertical depending on circumstances for each activation on the day.

I know how you feel. Not much extra weight in my case …
image

I’m sure you’re absolutely right for the lower HF bands but my limited A vs B comparisons with my vertical [not a hamstick] suggests that on 20m it can go either way. I field-tested my MPAS Lite in that stormy weather we had a few weeks ago on my local SOTA summit. The wind was going right through me and the 17ft [5.2m] long telescoping whip was bending at the top but the whole thing seemed very stable despite gusting.

My homemade groundplanes ARE verticals. I use dipoles for 80-60-40 and verticals with groundplane for 30-20-17-15-12-10.

That {wavelength} split is fast becoming the dominant factor in my choice of dipole vs vertical. I know I could make the vertical more efficient on 40m and 60m by deploying multiple counterpoises rather than just the one. But if I were to go to that extra trouble, I might as well erect my 6m pole and wire antenna.

I think the best antenna in any situation is the one that goes up, stays up, allows you to make enough contacts to be satisfying and packs away readily to allow you to complete an activation.

Sometimes there are more options than others. In high wind and very low temperatures, the choice of a compact vertical that was quick to set up was ideal. There are plenty of others huddling at home wishing they were on a hilltop.

Well done, keep it up.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH

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I use vim on summits. I’ve never gotten any DX with emacs.

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I’ve had Qs sitting on Maine and NH summits from Oregon to Germany with hamsticks on 20 and 17 and 2 radials. Even had this oddity, Namibia:

MB

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You probably haven’t configured it correctly. You’ll need some Lisp macros in your .emacs.d folder for working DX.

It’s hard to do CW when you’re holding down a seven key combo

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Have you posted any details on this Tom? It would be interesting to see.

They are the easiest aerials to build Martin, and incredibly effective. I’ve worked the world on mine including loads of DX, with 5 watts from an 817. They pack really small and are lightweight, and you have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve built the antenna yourself.

I’m not at all practically skilled, so if I can make them, anybody can!

Basically:

Cut four lengths of wire to quarter wave for the band you want. Thicker wire is better as it is stronger, and offers a greater bandwidth. The heavy duty green military spec from SOTAbeams is my wire of choice.

Connect three of the wires to the outer (braid) of coax feeder. Connect the other one to the centre (core) of the coax.

To deploy:

Hang the driven element (connected to the core if the coax) from the top of your mast (fishing pole). Acrylic isolators from SOTAbeams are good for this. Secure the other three wires to the pole, just below the feedpoint, with a reusable cable tie.

These three wires form the groundplane, and are also what you use the guy the mast. At the ends of the radials, add a length of nylon cord, with a loop at the end for pegging.

And there you have a highly effective antenna that you made yourself, cost very little and weighs less than your packed lunch.

I’ve made them for every band 30m through 6m and had fantastic results with all of them. I get all the bits from the firm mentioned above (that I don’t mind recommending now my mate isn’t running it!) - wire, coax, top end isolators, nylon cord, reusable cable ties, antenna bag, wire winders, lightweight pegs, telescopic mast.

If you fancy a socially distanced joint activation, I can show you one of mine and prove all the bold claims above!

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Thanks Tom I understand the concept. I will try one for 20m. As soon as the weather improves I plan to do a big test session. I have a Bandspringer and also a tunable vertical 20/30/40 I have built. I enjoy the tinkering/building side of the hobby.
A joint (distanced) activation would be great, as soon as the weather improves. I have yet to do The Cloud! I am waiting for my second jab, so watch out world!

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Having played a lot with multiband antennas - linked dipoles or end-feds with tuner - over the years, I very much favour single band resonant antennas. A single band is usually more than enough to keep you engaged for a typical stay of say one hour on a summit, and the performance plus lack of “flaff” is way better!

You’ll have a lot of fun with a 20m GP, especially if you have CW and FT8 in your operating repertoire. But even with just SSB, a GP is the best way of working DX with QRP.