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MFJ-1899T Antenna (Update)

I currently use a random wire with my KX1, which works great, but many of the summits around here are barren and I have to stretch the wire between my two hiking sticks as I don’t want to carry an additional fishing pole. I bought the MFJ-1899 because I thought it might be good for those summits where I can’t get the wire into a tree.

My entire setup fits in a Harbor Freight container, I don’t have pics (I will add later), but everything fits in there nicely. I made a mount on the handle for the 1899 and it also fits on a tripod.

So far this thing is a turd, at least with the KX1. I have tested it at the house and can occasionally get picked up by RBN. I have taken it on my last two summits, the first time I got no contacts with it so I switched to my random wire, stretched between poles and finished the activation. Today, I got a single contact (Thanks W7RV) and because I was feeling lazy and not chasing MTN Goat awards, I tried all the bands and packed up happy with the one contact.

Anybody have any experience with this antenna? Any tips? Is it too much of a compromise to use with the under powered KX1?

73,

Mike

Yes, too much of a compromise. The 52 inch whip needs to be much longer.

73, Barry N1EU

Hi Mike,

With antennas size does count. Tiny antenna, tiny signal. Of course sometimes compromise is necessary and then even a poor antenna is better than no antenna.

Wire antennas are hard to beat for SOTA, even if you only hold them up on walking poles. You can get compact 5 m telescopic poles which are a bit spindly at the top but 4 m agl is a lot better than 1.6 m.

Small HF whips can be improved by adding a section below the coil. You would need a bit of work on the bench to make up a rod with appropriate BNC connectors on each end. The bottom one needs to have the outer shell insulated from the rod and only the pin connected. The rod could be a wire on a fibreglass rod.or a metal one.

Make the rod as long as you can fit in the case. A two section rod might be good.

Having a wire counterpoise clipped to the rig ground would also help. The whip is only half the antenna, the rig, mile cord and you form the other half and the efficiency of that is poor.

The probability of working DX as per the advert may happen at the peak of the sunspot cycle on 10 m but you’ll be lucky to work anyone anywhere on any band with this antenna right now.

It would be handy for short range - working someone just out of the Activation Zone or at a field day where your partner is 100 m away.

73
Ron
VK3AFW

1 Like

I watched some videos on youtube where people were using this antenna and making some contacts, so I figured I would give it a shot for SOTA; if it worked out it would have been great. I thought it might work OK with the 817 but wasn’t sure about the KX1…it doesn’t work as mentioned.

As you guys reinforced, antenna size matters and I am a bit envious of the activators that get dozens and dozens of contacts to my, maybe a dozen. I guess I am going to have to bite the bullet and expand the antenna arsenal to include bigger and better. I do like the homebrew buddistick that I use with the 817; that does the trick, but doesn’t do well with the KX1.

Here are some (not so good) pics of how my gear fits into that container. I put the random wire in the box and the 1899T in the pack, as it is too long. I close the lid and use that as a platform for sending/copying.

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Mike,

Bigger is better, and higher is too. 40 to 70 feet of #24 or #26 wire can take you much farther than you know yet.

We have a very effective tool to use for evaluating our SOTA antennas - the RBN (Reverse Beacon Network). Call CQ often during your activation, and use the RBN to get spots and see how many and how strong they are. Compare your signals to those of other activators - even if the truth hurts.

The KX1 is a capable rig, but it wants at least 12V to put out an effective signal. I have one running on 15V, and it puts out 5W and is OK with that.

The tall fishing poles are your best bet for supporting a wire with the least hassle. You’ll be amazed what a 5M or 6M pole will do! There is a learning curve, but good, consistent results will come. These poles are much lighter and more effective than all the other antennas you might think would work.

If you have trees on your summits, you don’t really need a pole - just learn to use a rock to throw a small cord into a tree. With practice, you can get one end of your wire up to 20 feet or more. If you have more patience, you can rig two supports for an inverted-L. The possibilities are endless, and the results will amaze you. You don’t need any feedline - but you will have to experiment to see what lengths of wire will work with your rig for each band. You may decide to make an antenna with links or jumpers to allow good performance on several bands.

A moderate counterpoise may improve your operation - 10 to 12 feet of wire is all you need, and then you experiment with your main wire(s) - it could be 30 to 70 feet long.

This is too large a subject to detail here, but the door is wide open - many combinations of wire and counterpoise will work efficiently. I’ve been amazed how many different combinations of end-fed wires will work on several bands with my homebrew tuners.

Since you’re using CW, the biggest challenge is already done. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have regular SOTA activations with dozens of contacts, occasional DX contacts to EU, and nice reports. High mountains and low mountains make almost no difference, except for local contacts.

The key is to decide to have a stronger signal, do what’s required to do that, and then refine your techniques one activation at a time. Things will go wrong, sometimes trees and wind do bad things, but mostly you need to use what’s already on the mountain. Always put your priorities on light weight and convenient gear.

Although I generally use a cheap 6M telescoping fishing pole from China, I’ve done numerous activations with wires supported by trees, dead trees used as poles, or high rocks for supports - and 30-40 contacts on 3 or 4 bands, DX contacts, S2S, and big piles of chasers - using an ATS rig at 5W, and a homebrew tuner. I’ve often had to set up 40-50 feet below summits because of winds, but the results are there. You must get that wire up where the fields can radiate, you must use enough wire to present a reasonable impedance, and you must match the wire’s often complex impedance to your radio.

Don’t forget that you can do RBN tests anywhere outdoors that is OK to use for experiments - no need for an activation - just call CQ DE YOURCALL, and then go check the RBN on the internet.

Try to get many RBN spots, dozens per band, in 5 minutes - also try to get RBN reports of 10-30 db or more on days with good band conditions. Many of us do this most of the time, and we’re not carrying big rigs or fancy antennas.

This is the real truth about SOTA antennas.

73

George
KX0R

7 Likes

They take up a bit more space in your pack, but I’ve had good luck with mag loops (W4OP loop from LNR Precision). Even with the loop sitting on the ground I’ve worked ZL and OH with it, running 2-3 watts.

2 Likes

A neat arrangement Mike. I’m using $2 lunch boxes to protect gear in my pack, some bubble wrap and stack it in in layers.

73
Ron

Forget about ‘convenience’ antennas - they’re all a compromise. There’s no substitute for metal in the air. Mag loops, Alex loops, Buddisticks etc etc are nicely packaged but they won’t beat a simple wire antenna. For me, a dipole is my choice, but a simple ground plane or end fed would also work very well. For the ground plane you’re looking at maybe 4 pieces of wire 1/4 wave length, 1 radiator, 3 radials. Use the radials to guy a fishing pole and run the radiator up to the top. Cheap, simple and effective.

Some ops find end fed half waves fed via a tuner (impedance transformer) the most convenient antenna of all.

I worked VE2JCW from my local summit here in England on Friday using a dipole and ~4 watts on 20m from my MTR5B, the propagation conditions were preducted as ‘fair’.

Good luck, 73

Colin

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“Convenience antennas” have their place in the SOTA antenna arsenal: usually that place is in a drawer at home. More often than not any set-up time gained by using them is more than offset by the increased time taken to make any contacts.

Coincidentally I read that Elecraft will be making their own version of a short whip antenna.

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I agree with everyone about those types of antennas I can’t see taking a cumber-son tripod up a summit easier than carrying a 7 or 8 m squid pole to support a dipole antenna that gives the chasers a signal they can hear makes no sense to me .
200 summits done 63 more to old goat
Ian vk5cz …

Richard, maybe it would be worth re-running your WSPR antenna experiment with some of these compromise antennas versus a 1/4wave GP ?

Agree with all the comments. I did many activations with an Alex Loop. I liked it in the winter because it was FAST to set up. But it is SEVERAL s-units down from a simple wire antenna supported by a pole.

Barry N1EU

I have used the MFJ-1899T antenna on several summits where there was limited space and/or no trees and as a compromise antenna I was successful working chasers in multiple states from 1 point summits in California. I believe having pre-cut counterpoises for individual bands has been the key to having a modest success with this antenna. I mount the antenna on a camera tripod. I have noticed that signal reports when using this antenna are generally significantly lower.

However, this antenna is not my first choice. I prefer an end fed wire into a 9:1 balun - a 33’ wire supported by a 30’ PackTenna pole is my go-to antenna on a summit. I have tried throwing the antenna up into a tree and also using it strung from a large bush to a nearby rock, and that wotks, but the end fed wire set up as a sloper seems to be best. I do want to try changing to a 53’ wire and I suspect that will work better than the 33’ wire!

My HF rig is my KX3 with the built in antenna tuner.

I will probably try the Elecraft AX1 when it is available just to have one more antenna choice available.

I used a MFJ 20m whip with the tuned counterpoise with no luck on my first SOTA attempt. It could work and is useful for when you cannot erect a full size vertical or dipole.

I have done wspr tests with the wsprlite appliance with everything from a mag loop to an end fed and various others in between.

I then sold off some short compromise antennas and am sticking to a dipole, end fed and mag loop.

My first successful SOTA used the Chameleon Hybrid Micro with a 60 foot radiator and 30 foot counterpoise. This is an end fed design.

Worked very well. I did bring a Packtenna and a Sotabeam but due to time did not deploy.

We have lots of choices and there are advantages to the short compromise antennas but their biggest disadvantage is they will be several s units down in signal and at a few watts it will push your signal into the noise.

Cheers
John

You can use the 17m mfj sntenna on 20 and 15 as well with a tuner

The more wire the better and the better matched the better the signal output…

Hi Mike,

I have used this antenna for my first SOTA HF activations and it was working quite good on 20m in central Europe (up to about 2000km distance). Also made contacts on 80m and 40m with it. I was using a metal measuring tape as adjustable counterpoise.
The drawback that I have identified was that I always had to adjust a little bit on the antenna length and counterpoise for good SWR depending on the soil/rocks on the summit.

For summits with very limited space I think it is still a nice option.

73 Joe

I have the 20M model of the MFJ whip. I’m going to try it with FT8 mode once I get a portable FT8 setup sorted out. I think it might be okay.

Hi Mike,

I’ve used one on a few activations. On Mount Hopkins I used it and made 14 QSO’s, mainly on 40m, with CA, AZ, and CO. I also used it on a couple of small Phoenix peaks as well, much to my surprise I worked as far as Maine on 40m with it, with 5 watts out from the rig. And even more surprising was making a few 80m QSO’s with it (although only with local Phoenix guys and spotting help).

However, the contacts definitely were not easy and I have pretty much decided against using it very often. It’s fun to use such a simple antenna, and I agree that the key is the counterpoise, but I think most other options will be better. And it’s actually heavier than some of the most simple antennas (such as a packtenna mini or homebrew endfed). Sometimes I do carry it as a backup antenna to use in case something goes wrong with my primary antenna.

I saw your spot and was hoping to catch you - sorry it didn’t work out, I’ll be looking for you to return to that peak!

73,
Keith KR7RK

Indeed a last resort emergency antenna … it will never beat a wire antenna of any kind (dipole, endfed …)
I would not advise it for serious SOTA activating, but it is fun to see where it can get you a contact …
In the picture a home made copy of such an antenna , it cost me virtually nothing.
The coil is some magnet wire on a PVC electrical conduit, at the top is a bajonet type fuse holder, which can hold different “plug in” telescopic whips.

With the KX3 on internal AA’s, so at 5W, I worked DB7MM/P on 20m SSB.
With the longer telescope seen on the left (72"/1.8m from RadioShack) I can use it on 40m, with the shorter telescope, it tunes on 30m and 20m.
I worked an EA7 in FT8 on 40m with it on a club night, from INDOOR the clubhouse.
73 - Luc, ON7DQ

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Mike,

Just go with a single band link dipole and feed it with RG174 coax (really small light 50 ohm coax). Ten feet of that coax weighs next to nothing. You can carry a 20 meter dipole only and will be hard pressed to not work twenty stations from most summits.

Hang the dipole from a tree or a rock if u don’t want to carry a short center pole…even a few feet off the ground works very well (especially 40 meters for NVIS). My 40 meter dipole is 13 feet off the ground sloping down to the ground on the ends…works great! Put it up as an Inverted Vee, a classic horizontal dipole, a sloper…whatever…it will work well.

On pinnacle style peaks (cliffs all around u) u can just run throw dipole down over the cliff…a vertical dipole (don’t forget to hold onto one end Hi Hi).

Even Wally World sells cheap telescoping crappie poles or fishing poles tall enough for a dipole. I see them on sale for $10, or u can go online and find ones that are under 18 inches long when collapsed.

No need for a heavy tripod base (or almost any base for that matter) with all of the rocks we have in Arizona.

73

Pete
WA7JTM

1 Like

Thanks for all the replies and tips.

I need to go back to my roots. My first SOTA activations were with a Rockmite 20M kit and an inverted V on a painters pole; and that did pretty well on <1 watt. I have since tried to “streamline” the operation with mixed results. The 817/buddistick combo works well, but the KX1 being what it is, presents some challenges that the 817 does not.

So I am going to break out the inverted V again and grab a cheap fishing pole and give that a whirl.

Thanks again.