I carried out a survey in early 2014 to try to discover which portable HF antenna was most popular. Just over 300 people responded. They were asked to choose their "favourite portable antenna" from:
- Endfed Halfwave
- Single Band Dipole
- Random Length Endfed
- Linked Dipole
- Magnetic Loop
- Multiband Loaded Dipole
The order the antennas were listed in was randomised so each respondent got them in a different order. The survey was publicised on various internet reflectors and ran for about a week. The top five portable HF antennas were:
No.1 End Fed Half Wave (18%)
No. 2 Linked Dipole (16%)
No. 3 Single Band dipole (12%)
No. 3= Random Length End Fed wire (12%)
No. 5 Ground Plane (11%)
The table below compares these antennas.
|Antenna||Wire Antenna?||Multiband?||ATU Needed?||Lightweight?||Easy to make?|
|End Fed Half Wave||Y||N||Y||*****||*****|
|Single Band Dipole||Y||N||N||****||*****|
|Random Length End Fed||Y||Y||Y||*****||*****|
End Fed Halfwave: the most popular antenna in our survey. Why? I think people like it because it is a resonant antenna with simple tuning arrangements. Note that a special type of antenna tuner is needed for an end fed half wave. Normal multi-purpose tuners often will not match the high impedance presented by an end fed half wave. It's an antenna that is easy to make and use. It's potentially efficient if the ends are kept clear of the ground and the centre of the antenna is raised nice and high. It's a good antenna for use in areas with a lot of foliage as it's easy to pull through trees. Most end fed half-waves are single band antennas. It is possible to make multiband versions although these loose some of the advantages of the single band variety.
The EFHW is also potentially a very lightweight system. As with any halfwave antenna it gives a predictable radiation pattern. Power handling is limited by the tuner.
Linked Dipole: a multiband system. You can have as many bands as your want. As they are resonant they don't need an antenna tuner. They do require a feeder though so they are a little heavier and less easy to set up than the EFHW. Hugely popular for SOTA type portable operating. Band changing requires the links to be opened or closed. This might require the antenna to be lowered. Linked dipoles are time-consuming to make and adjust - although the process is quite easy. Very predictable radiation pattern. Usually arranged in an inverted vee configuration for portable use as this allows a single support to be used.
Single Band Dipole: in at third equal, it's hard to beat the simplicity and efficiency of a dipole. Like the linked dipole, it's a resonant system so no ATU is needed. A feeder is required though, so there is a small weight and convenience penalty over the end fed half wave. Of course a dipole is really easy to make and adjust. Like a linked dipole it gives a very predictable radiation pattern.
Random Length of Wire: third equal. Multi-band antennas don't get much simpler. The performance of a random length of wire depends on how long it is and how good the antenna tuner is. For efficient operation, the wire will need to be at least a quarter wave long at the lowest frequency you intend using it on. The radiation pattern (and efficiency of the antenna/tuner system) will vary from band to band. Very simple to make and use. Usually tuned up against a counterpoise - just another piece of wire laid on the ground. Power handling is limited by the tuner.
Ground Plane: in at fifth, the groundplane is always a popular choice for the higher bands. Usually a quarter-wave vertical radiator is used which tends to limit use to 20m and above in many cases. The radiator is fed against three or four quarter-wave radials. A groundplane is fed with coax cable and, because the feedpoint is at the bottom, often very little is needed. An efficient system with nice predictable omni-directional radiation pattern. Gives a slightly lower angle of radiation than a dipole antenna that may be better for DX contacts. The groundplane can be made of wire, with the radiator supported on a non-conducting pole or strung up from a tree branch. The vertical radiator can also be made of aluminium tube or similar.
It was interesting to note that the favourite portable antennas are all antennas you can make yourself. More complicated commercial products such as magnetic loops and self supporting dipole systems did not feature in the top 5 of our survey.
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