I’ve been listening on SW radio since I discovered my father’s National set as a kid. Fast forward many years and I find myself with an amateur radio licence and want to broaden my radio horizons.
I like walking and radio so SOTA seems like a good thing to try (small summits first!). I have a Yaesu FT60 2m / 70cm handie at the moment and an HF base station. I am looking to pick up a FT817 or similar when funds allow. The FT60 has a standard rubber aerial which I am looking to upgrade - suggestions welcome for a suitable aerial with more gain please.
I look forward to chasing and activating in earnest in 2022!
I also had a HH with the rubber duck antenna and wanted to upgrade to something a bit better and easy to carry. I finally ordered through the internet and received for about 15 € in a matter of few weeks. It’s the RH770. I don’t see Diamond printer anywhere on the antenna or the packaging, so it may well be a Chineese copy. It’s dual band and I don’t know yet how well it performs because I haven’t yet managed to use it.
Hi Lee Welcome to SOTA.
You can qualify summits with a handheld but it does depend where you are in the country. I use a slim jim on top of a 6m Decathlon fishing pole with my handheld. As well as having gain over the rubber duck it is much higher off the ground so works much better. The other advantage is you can shelter from the wind and still have the antenna up high.
I recommend learning CW as it will make HF activations much easier. With QRP it is much more effective than SSB and, provided you alert first, it will usually generate an automatic spot guaranteeing lots of contacts.
Regarding the aerial, it is more about less loss rather than more gain. In a rucksack configuration it is very difficult to do better than a half wave dipole (0dB gain). It would simply be too long, I have found the “Flower Pot” aerial to be practical, reliable and effective. In tests I found it to be 10dB up on a rubber duck.
Using a Flowerpot in rucksack, I think my best 2m FM DX was from Blencathra near Keswick to Portsmouth over 300miles distant.
If more power beckons, then add a 40W linear (+9dB) and suitable battery in the rucksack, (most base stations run more than 5Watts so the TX / RX balance is improved), but beware the EMF implications.
I’m using my HH KG-UV8D on 2m and 70 cm with a NAGOYA NA771 since about 8 years, sometimes for SOTA. This Antenna seems to be the same like DIAMOND RH771 (the same shape, the same parameters, the same number). It’s much better than the original rubber duck. A slim jim on a pole would be a further improvement.
So enjoy SOTA and be aware, SOTA is highly addictive.
2m is a very popular band in some places but the south of England isn’t one of them I think. It can be used but posting an alert on SOTAWwatch is important and you may have the best chance on weekends. My experience on the South Downs without doing either was somewhat disappointing.
An RH770 antenna will be an improvement but a Slim Jim hung from say a 6m mast would be better. If you want to go further look at the Diamond 144S5R Yagi. If you attach it to a short bit of plastic pipe of a suitable size you can support it on a mast as the clamp is at the balance point. This antenna folds up and can be carried on a rucksack.
But don’t overlook the advantages of the rubber duck.
It’s smaller and lighter, and therefore much easier to handle. It doesn’t place additional strain on the sometimes fragile antenna connector on your handheld. It best retains any waterproof or water-resistant properties of your handheld transceiver.
From most summits in the UK it will work perfectly well. The options described above will generally give enhanced performance - but you lose in the other areas I’ve mentioned.
After two decades of operating with VHF-UHF hand-portable transceivers, I’m firmly in the camp of using them with the manufacturer-supplied stock helical antennas these days.
I don’t have much to say on the subject of 2m HH antennas, as I’ve rarely used it with SOTA - simplex FM contacts are few and far between around here Others are far more knowledgeable than I!
For repeater operation with my Baofeng I usually use what I think is a copy of a Nagoya design, about 13-14in long. Much better than the stock Baofeng whip, which isn’t even helical, just a whip with a matching arrangement at the base.
Once I made a full end-fed half-wave 2m antenna, mounted on a spare Baofeng. I say spare cos it’s hard to take on and off!
Performance is terrific, but it’s NOT really practical in most situations!
If I’d used a telescopic whip it would be better.
The lump just above the antenna connector is a L-network matching circuit with a blue trimmer capacitor and an air-cored coil of around 12 turns from memory, all covered in RTV sealant.
You can’t see in the photo, but the whole thing is nearly 1m long. The perspex panel attaches using the little screws meant for the belt clip.
I find Nagoya NA771 good option, when I am walking. It’s flexible and therefore going through the bushes or other obstacles minimises risk of damage to radio or antenna. I use it instead of rubber duck on the daily basis. It’s cheap enough to replace, if it gets broken.
For activation I also recommend Diamond RH-770 for dual band operation. Make sure that you get one with SJ letters at the and, so you do not need converter SMA-BNC for your radio. There is also RH-205 which is a very good option, but works only on 2m.
If you do not mind carrying 5-7mtr mast, already mentioned FlowerPot is great. I made 2* 5/8wl version as roll up. If there are trees on top, a thin rope can help to hoist it instead of the mast.
Some summits have radio and repeater towers on top, which can block your radio. For these occasions I recommend small LPDA yagi.
I got a similar one that is 1/4 wavelength on 2m, but I didn’t see much improved gain, compared to the rubber duck.
Yes, this is a very good antenna to use, once you’re on the summit. Unfortunately I could not find the SMA version (the shops I asked said that I’m the only one that asks for it, which I don’t believe) so I had to buy several Chinese clones. They are very good in performance but incredible fragile, to say it in a nice way, that’s why you have to buy several ones. I’d rather buy the original one and pay a bit more but produce less waste. But what can you do if the shops only sell the BNC version and I don’t like to put even more stress on the rigs’ SMA connector.
Where did you get yours Marek?
Sotabeams used to sell a Multi Function Dipole antenna system easy to setup can be vertically strapped to the side of the rucksack, fence post, attach to a mast. If you plan to get an FT817 that can cover the SSB mode it can be used horizontally for SSB. .
Also a user of the flower pot antenna made mine from RG174 coax with a small 3m mast strapped to the rucksack generally use it with a handheld.
Thank you all very much for the warm welcome. There’s a lot to take in! It seems I’ll badgering Google for a fair bit of information over the Christmas break. I don’t know why I didn’t think of a flower pot as I have one for 6m working at home. I quite like building my own. There’s something to be said for knocking something up in the shed and it actually working! I am tempted by a ‘tape measure yagi’ too. There is a local fishing tackle shop nearby that sells telescopic poles so I could look at that angle too.
I had a look on the map and Botley Hill (G/SE-005) is the closest but appears that there is a radio tower of some sort there - I think I’ll start with somewhere a bit quieter. Maybe Leith Hill, Detling or Crowbrough.
Thanks again and I look forward to Activating / chasing some of you in the near future.