I was sceptical about minimalist HF radio … until I tried it today

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.
2023-1110 4 Reverse Beacon Reports

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.


You’re hooked, Andy!
Welcome to the HF minimalist gang.


Hi Andy,
Good mount and results on 30m.

If I understand properly you just extend the radial and the whip and don’t add any coil to the whip but just use the internal KX2 tuner to tune the antenna??

If that was the case the results are very good for such a short radiator.

73 Ignacio

Excellent work Andy!

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Hi Ignacio, that’s exactly right.

I stood about 8m away from my operating point then walked towards it uncoiling the counterpoise wire wrapped around the KX2, connected the whip to the rig, positioned the two bipod feet, and extended the telescoping whip. Pressed the ATU button on the KX2. That’s the setup in 2 minutes (without racing against the clock). No additional coil++ for the 30m monoband whip.

++EDIT UPDATE: Monoband whips have a built-in band-specific coil

The good results are especially surprising to me as the base of the antenna was 1cm off the ground (Picnic tables are a rarity on UK SOTA summits). On the other hand (even on this hill 321m ASL) there’s an unobstructed low-angle takeoff in all directions with fairly steep drops on all sides.


But the coil is at the base of the whip covered by black strip (similar to MFJ 1830T I use in my speedy activations). See the picture with the KX2 radio.
I use MFJ 18xxT for 20-30 and 40m without tuner (my radio is a SW-3B). I used an antenna analyzer to optimize the lenght of the whip and of radials (1 ten meters long for 40, 2 five meters for 20 and two 7,5m for 30) for the CW band. The best result is YC2VOC from F/AM-145, over 11.000 km! But in general I have the same results as with a LW of 16,2m with tuner.
Welcome whip!


Wonderful, OM.
In October, I paired my Elecraft KX2 and AX2 antenna and activated Black Balsam Knob (W4C/CM-005).

The entire station fit on my kneeboard.
I worked the best DX I’ve ever worked in the field all with 5 watts and the smallest, most compromised antenna I own (the 4’ AX2).

I don’t always use minimalist/compromised antennas because I love shaking up my activations and experimenting. That said, it’s amazing fun to hit a summit with such modest gear and be surprised with the results. It’s what amateur radio is all about.
Thanks for sharing your report!
Best & 72,


I’ve done good work on summits with my KX2 and AX2 antenna. I think more people should try similar combinations because they’re just so convenient and let you get on the air quickly.

From a couple activations 1 day earlier this year (KX2+AX2 for the HF contacts). This was in VA, so not only was there DX, but multiple coast-to-coast contacts.
W4V/BR-015 (Calf Mountain):

Not as much DX, but it was late and getting dark, not to mention well below freezing and windy :D…
W4V/SH-006 (Hightop)


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[quote=“G8CPZ, post:1, topic:33772, full:true”]
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.[/quote]

That looks like the MFJ-18xx series of whips. Before I got my AX2, I used the MFJ ones on 20, 15, and 10. My buddy has those and 17m and 6m. They work well.

BTW, if you use a heat gun to gently warm the junction between the coil and whip, you can loosen the glue and unscrew the whip, making it pack up smaller.


Great stuff!!

Can you go into more detail on the Bi-pod you created please? Thank you!

Kent K9EZ

Yes, as I [faintly] recall it is the MFJ-1830. I look forward to trying the 15m version with the KX2.

I shudder at the very thought of disturbing the whip assembly. Fortunately, the (collapsed) whip, BNC elbow adapter and bi-pod (connected together) fit in the large toilet bag making rapid deployment possible. In fact there’s room for both the 30m and 15m sets.

That’s right, which is why I said (above) no additional coil. I understand some multi-band whips require you to change coils for different bands. These monoband whip antennas already have a coil to suit the specific band.

Thank you for your inspiring videos. They in part led me to trying a short whip and definitely led to getting a Helinox Chair Zero a few days ago. It was a close call with the Big Agnes Skyline UL (~699g) but the Helinox (~500g) won on weight.

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Andy, thanks for the report. I agree with you 100%. I have never once considered using such a compromised antenna with my field radios (KX2 and MTR3), but since I have been field testing the KH1 I have been amazed at how well it works on the whip. Especially for getting on the air quickly to catch S2S, it has been fantastic. I always seem to be arriving on the summit in the middle of a ‘SOTA storm’, and by the time I have my antenna up a bunch of people have already gone QRT.

Of course the most important factor is HF condx, and we have been enjoying some good condx lately!


It will be interesting to see how well these whips do when conditions decline.

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Probably not great, but then we can go back to lugging heavier stuff :wink:


[In Eric Idle singing voice] Always look on the bright side of life, tee-tum, tee-tum.
So, let’s all make hay while the sun shines.


Here are the components for my antenna whip bi-pod support. The assembled bi-pod is not pretty but it does the job.

The critical component is the bolt-able plastic clip that clips to the male BNC at the base of the whip. Adam @K6ARK has designed an improved (3D printable) version of the clip and a plastic knob which he uses for his AX1, and has posted details here …

… including a link where you can find the 3D-print design of the clip and a plastic knob for the nut & bolt fixing.

There appear to be two versions of the clip. My friend 3D-printed a few of both designs. One clip design has straight vertical edges and the other design is bigger at the bottom (see my photos) and I found the latter holds the BNC better.

The knob has a hexagonal-shaped recess for the nut. I think it’s intended for an American standard, probably a UNF nut thread, but I found the nearest metric thread nut fits too (with a bit of slack).

The legs are cheap stainless-steel plates which I got from Amazon [other vendor solutions are available]

I made two bi-pod supports, one for each whip, so that I don’t have to keep clipping and unclipping, potentially stressing the clip.


Minimalist QRP is fun! In fact, my two longest QSOs have been running a small portable QRP station, both LOTW confirmed. I worked Indonesia on 40m SSB and New Zealand on 17m CW from North Georgia in the US, both with a simple wire in a tree. Welcome to the addiction!

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Interesting how this thread, the release of a very compromised, expensive handheld HF radio and the increasing solar activity cycle all coincide.

Harder to imagine any of them being so successful 2-3 years ago when it frequently took breaking into evening 80m nets to finally qualify a summit and get down before dark. (All of which makes the timing of the KH-1 release all the more impressive. Coincidence or good planning - how long have they sat on that idea?).

I’m very tempted by the short setup times and low weight solutions discussed here and elsewhete lately. Not lugging 5kg of radio gear with me each time I go backcountry would be … nice! Time to experiment, indeed.

But I certainly wouldn’'t be disposing of the EF 80m HW, SOTA pole, amplifier, 2nd set of batteries. I suspect they’ll all be doing solid work again in a few years time.


Worked a year ago for sure already :wink:

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Was that thread a year ago already? What is happening to time …!