I wrote about the apparent shortage of telescopic fishing poles a while back in Where have all the telescopic poles gone?
After switching from full size poles ( approx 1.15m collapsed ) to travel poles (approx 0.57m collapsed) I don’t want to go back to full size poles. I’ve been using 5m poles since I started in 2006 and all my antennas have been optimised for such a short pole and the lack of readily available poles has been bugging me.
My favourite pole is the Life’s a Breeze Travel Kite/Windsock Pole. I was informed about these by Phil G4OBK and Victor GI4ONL. I had a lightweight travel pole that was reserved for foreign travel as it fits inside my suitcase so I punted for the Life’s a Breeze pole. Oh boy they’re good, much stronger than a normal pole. Sadly heavier but strong… they don’t flex much in the wind. Both Victor and myself made the same dumb mistake in 2021… we looked at their website and never quite got around to ordering a spare and then they were out of stock. Lots of follow up calls etc. and it was Victor who got the bad news… Life’s a Breeze supplier wanted a much bigger minimum order and they decided to stop stocking them…
Hunting about I saw that Decathlon did a range of class telescopic poles. They did full size and travel size and I picked up a 5m Travel pole. It’s the same size extended as my LAB (Life’s a Breeze) but about 1/3rd the thickness at the top. I had to make a few adapters to the fittings I use to fix antennas to the pole so that I can deploy my antennas on 3 different 5m travel poles. A few minutes with some scrap plastic, a Dremel and a file and the job’s done. Last week I noticed that Decathlon had a 6m carbon pole back in stock after months being AWOL. It is minute compared to the 5m fibreglass.
Decathlon Caperlan firstfish travel 500 (fibreglass) : 375g 57cm collapsed
Decathlon Caperlan Lakeside 5 travel 600 (carbon fibre) : 322g 40cm collapsed
The carbon fibre pole is very skinny and flexible at the top. I didn’t buy it as a 6m pole but as a small and light 5m pole. So I was expecting there to be quite some excess and useless carbon fibre pole above my antenna mounts. Well that was theory.
Today was the first day I had a chance to try them despite now being 50% retired… it’s a long story why I have not been able to get out.
The WX for today was heavy rain till 8am then bright cloudless skies till 4pm. That’s exactly what was delivered though I failed to notice the 20mph wind with 40mph gusts… oops!
Off to Scald Law to try out both poles and as it was blowing a gentle houlie it was ideal WX to test deployment in real conditions. Up to the trig from the car park in 52mins including talking to a few people, that’s in the right zone. But boy was it windy. I mean W.I.N.D.Y. I tried to get into the lee of the wind and it was only windy there. Up went the 6m carbon fibre pole and down came the pole. You forget you need to work at making new poles stay up especially in a semi-gale. I must have had a brain-f**t when making the adapter because the top of the inverted V was far too high on this pole and in the wind it was bent over like a banana. It didn’t snap but it was impressively bent. OK, I need to remeasure and remake the adapter that makes the fitting for a 5,5mm diameter top section stop at the right place on a 2.5mm section.
Down came the carbon pole and up went the fibreglass pole. Here the adapter did work and up went my inverted V for 30/20/17. I’d forgotten that ordinary fibreglass poles bend in these winds where the LAB pole hardly bends. Again it collapsed a few times as making the joints stick takes a while on new poles. However, it worked fine. The LAB pole weighs nearly 600g which is 1.6x heavier than the Decathlon pole of the same size. Only 200g but when you start adding in ice-axe, crampons or microwave radios to the bag, saving 200g here and 50g there makes a big difference.
Anyway the bands were buzzing… 30m brought 12 QSOs, 2x S2S and YL2AG. YL not that common chasing me. 20m was busy with lots of OTH Radar bursts, 19 QSOs (CW&SSB), 2x S2S and AC1Z as ODX, 17m brought 4 QSOs (CW) with I think my first OM S2S QSO. I didn’t spend much time on 17m as I finally thought to check 10m and it was crammed with stations. Down came the Inv V and up went the Delta Loop. Well when I remembered how it went on the pole I worked 3x I stations and SV2SOQ. OK qualified on 10m, and tuning about I heard ZS1UOK at S9+60 but he was having rag chew QSOs so I didn’t bother waiting to call him. V31XX in Belize was working EU by numbers and the number calling him from EU was biblical. There was a YI in Iraq in and out of QSB. I heard PJ2TP ( Neth. Antilles Bonaire, Curacao) calling for German stations only but I called him just for a report. He spent longer complaining I was not German than it would have taken him to say “59 but German stations only please” so I’m logging that. Finally VU2DSI appeared calling CQ… I was in 1st and we were 56 both ways. Not bad for my 4.5W to a Delta Loop with the bottom section about 1.5m AGL.
Apart from the adapter failure on the carbon pole, the battery was flat in my memory keyer so I had to call by hand, I had forgotten how tedious that is.
So the verdict is witheld on the carbon fibre pole… some more work needed to make it viable. But the Decathlon Caperlan firstfish travel 500 is certainly a viable pole for SOTA operations.