I’m just starting to try SOTA out. I live in the US Appalachian mountains where the forest
can be dense. Lots of limbs and dense vegetation. Many of the summits
that I am interested in will not have a defined trail. I need an
antenna that can be carried without a long pole snagging and can be
deployed in such an environment. My concern about a wire is that
stringing it horizontally would be difficult. I could extend a
vertical as long as I don’t need to lay it down and then erect it.
However, carrying a pole that collapses longer then my pack would
cause problems snagging during the hike.
Bruce… the best antenna support in the woods is a tree… Seriously, I’m in PA (W3) and for the majority of my activations I have used a link dipole mounted at the extent of my reach , ~7-8ft… That’s it… it works just fine. so 26Ga wire, RC hobby links, and 10ft of RG174. This 20-40m resonant dipole weighs in at about 9oz.
It’s very easy to deploy / retrieve as you can reach everything!
Link Dipole Antenna (and reflector) for 20/40m
Richard // N2GBR.
There is another thread on SOTAWATCH on compact poles for travel that might fit in your pack. If the pole is too flexible to hold up your antenna then use it to drop a fishing line with sinker over a branch and haul the antenna up.
Or like Richard just get the antenna up as high as you can by whatever means suits you. A walking pole can extend your reach.
You might find that using a compact telescopic mast will allow you to put up a vertical with a 5 m single radial on the ground. An ATU will allow you to use your vertical wire (3 to 10 m long) on several bands. The vertical may be easier to get up in the forest but may suffer some attenuation due to the trees etc.
Go and try a few things and see which suits best for you.
I lived in Maryland when I began SOTA and used an End-fed halfwave (Par EF-10/20/40 MkII from LNR precision) for most of my activations. I started out using some para cord with a S-biner and weight (old padlock, in my case) on the end to throw over branches. I eventually picked up a telescoping pole to use as a support and found it to be much easier to set up, and has far more options for positioning than looking for nice branches. The one I used collapses to about 2.5-3 feet, to it doesn’t stick out of the pack too much (no higher than my head). Most trails have decent overhead clearance, so snagging would only be an issue while bushwhacking. I usually just carry it in one hand, though.
I still use this setup, and simply bungee the mast to whatever I can find. The one time I found a hill without adequate attachment points, I was able to use my pack and some rocks to hold the mast up. Since the antenna is resonant on 3 bands, I only need to set it up once.
I experimented with a buddipole a few times, but found it to be too much of a hassle for SOTA.
I’m also in W3 / Central PA, and here is my low cost, medium weight, flexible answer for summits with everything from no trees, to dense brush, or thick scrubby pines. My radios have been FT 817, FT 857, and Ten Tech R4020. I take a linked 40/20 dipole, and a home-brewed Buddistick clone. I use a 6-12’ telescopic painters pole as hiking stick, mast for the Buddistick, and center support for a dipole / inverted V. Sometimes I take a tuner, but not always. My whole pack including radio gear, food, water, first aid, tarp, and a few other outdoor essentials comes in between 20-25 pounds.
Having the options of vertical vs. dipole is really nice, especially if you are not sure what the summit is like until you get there. Also, there have been times that the dipole provided contacts when the vertical did not. Then again, the vertical usually is better for DX. I guess a question you need to ask yourself is, what do you want to do with the activation? If you are content making HF local contacts, the dipole is hard to beat, but then there’s the issue of supporting the ends on a bald peak. If you’d like DX, and not so much the NVIS type contacts, the vertical makes a lot of sense. You can use your pack as a support, and guy it really well, or bungie it to a boulder or stump if you need.
The dipole is el-cheapo lamp cord, so it is not the lightest, most high tech thing going. I take some paracord to extend it to supports if needed, and some aluminum tent stakes if needed. Maybe some people wouldn’t take both antennas, but I don’t mind. It’s not much additional weight, and my main point here is, I’ve never had a washout – I’ve always qualified the activations I’ve attempted. 73 de Eric, KB3UYT
I wish I’d asked his question on the reflector when I started out. The other posters have great responses and good ideas for you to try. I’ll add the following. The antenna I can erect depends on the peak. A monolithic rock peak might require and allow for different things than a talus rock pile which might require and allow for different things than a densly wooded peak. On a densely wooded peak that doesn’t allow erecting a horizontal wire (and I’ve tried and failed), I now extend a vertical antenna, with its associated counterpoise at ground level. So this set-up requires a telescoping mast with a wire attached and some kite-winders of wire for the counterpoise. As you extend the mast vertically it pokes through the tree canopy. You can walk along at ground level to deploy the counterpoise wires, if you use them. On 20m (for long distance) there is no counterpoise, it an end-fed half-wave, easy-peasy. I use a 9:1 unun to feed the end (plus my KX3’s tuner). On 40m, I lay out one or two 33’ pieces of wire for the counterpoise, and use a 1:1 balun. I’ve also done 80m using a coil at the base of the vertical, 66’ counterpoise wires, and a 4:1 balun. Horses for courses. Good luck, hope to hear you on the air. P.S. In the winter when it’s below zero degrees F on a bare peak, don’t mess around with laying out a load of wire, use a magnetic loop. The chasers will understand, and it works.
A source for 10m telescoping poles that collapse to 26’ is:
Fits in the pack.
Cheers and 73,
Since you say many of the summits you are consdering have wooded tops, you need to be looking at some kind of horizontal dipole, either OCF or linked. In my exprience verticals do not perform well on forrested summits, great as regards set up space required on non-forrested summits though. It is said that verticals are better for DX however I have yet to be convinced. I have both horizontal and vertical antennas and decide which to take depending up the summit.
73 Ed DD5LP.
The ideal NVIS set-up it seems would be ~15ft with a ground based reflector of 1-3 wires cut to 105% of the dipole length. and the use of a freq below 10MHz.
In my use of a dipole at around 7ft I usually have contacts to around 400miles… works for me.
Considering the ease of use in wooded areas, this is my go-to antenna.
As a back-up, I always have an EFHW and that antenna with it’s low take-off angle gets the job done, but the closer stations sometimes just don’t hear me.
btw… after a few uses… you’ll be able to spot “good antenna support” with ease…
RJ // N2GBR
The Sotabeams linked dipole works great. I love mine.
On my last few summits I’ve used a ZM-2 tuner with 36 foot wire and 17 foot counterpoise. Very quick and easy setup.