I was sceptical about minimalist HF radio … until I tried it today
This post is aimed at sceptics who (like me) doubted one could get many decent contacts in a short time using a short whip HF antenna – and even feared a failed activation - especially on the lower HF bands like my favourite, 30m.
For a year or so I’ve been reading blogs (re KX2/AX1, KH1, etc) on this reflector and watching YouTube video especially Thomas @K4SWL and seeing [with my own eyes] the S-meter readings and incoming reports they got – which dented my scepticism. Yeah, I thought, but everyone seems to be demo’ing on 14MHz and above.
By chance I found two 138-cm-long monoband telescopic whips, for 30m and 15m, which had been gathering dust for at least 25 years. I got my old school classmate G8EJN to 3D print boltable plastic clips for the whip BNC connectors and I made a couple of bipod supports like the ones for the AX1.
For (fairly) rapid deployment in the field I re-purposed a large transparent toilet bag to hold all the radio gear (rig, ant, logbook, earphones, etc) with the KX2 in a bubble-wrap bag for extra protection. It might not be very ‘James Bond’ but it’s very practical and weighs just over 1kg. Note the 7m-long counterpoise wrapped round the KX2, bright yellow so I and other walkers can see it easily.
It takes me (not rushing) 2-3 minutes from rucksack to QRV. That might not compete with the KH1 in its carry bag but it’s hugely quicker than my usual 15-20 minutes setting up my EFHW inverted L on a guyed 6m pole. As an old bloke with poor circulation I really appreciate getting the radio gear into a 15L rucksack with all my winter clothes, Helinox chair, bothy bag, dog coat [yes, she goes on all my activations], coffee flask, etc AND being on-air long before my keying hand and brain freezes up.
BUT, will it work?
I went to a local summit this morning, Gummers How G/LD-050, popular with tourists and families as it’s an easy 25-minute ascent with lovely views in all directions. Google “Gummers How” images. 2-5C at the summit, just the situation for minimalist radio.
G/LD-050 this morning
I found a thigh-high rock ledge for the rig and resting board/logbook.
I had low expectations for QSOs, perhaps a few QRO stations. As soon as I called CQ I was into a pileup for most of the next 25 minutes with a run of ~20 chasers. It’s mostly chasers I’ve worked many times before. Wow! It really works.
Looking at the ‘map’ of EU contacts today, the distances worked are about the same as with my EFHW or vertical done many times before daytime on 30m.
(C) Google Earth 2023, ADIF courtesy M0NOM
I recorded the sent/received reports [I usually don’t bother] but I think they (on average) are not any different (i.e. worse) than with using the EFHW or vertical on 30m. I show them here to show how good the whip antenna did.
I’m very happy with the results. The KX2 internal battery was 11.1V but still putting out 10W.
Packing up was equally quick. It reminded me of my VHF-only activations. This is ideal for cold weather activation like today.
Now there will still be warm sunny days or SOTA events where I’ll want to take my time and work many bands or get those transatlantic 10m contacts, so I’ll take the EFHW or my Cha MPAS Lite vertical. But this minimalist HF radio will likely be the new normal for me in cold weather or on big summits.