By: gvi
12 June 2005

I know a ham friend who likes to say, "If your antenna survived the winter, it wasnít big enough." Heís joking, of course. Heís something of a smart aleck. He also nails the ethos of certain of us in the ham community, the "QRO" types.

Iíll allow that Iím not one of them. I first learned about two-way radios in the military, and my approach toward ham radio tends to parallel what I picked up in the Army. Particularly, that if you are disaster-prep minded and own ham radio gear, it pays to have gear thatís as flexible as possible.

The same ought to go for our antennas as well. I submit that thereís no such thing as a single perfect antenna for any radio, which is why each of my radios have at least two.

In my case, hereís what I have and use, and why. It is submitted for your consideration in appraising your own antenna needs.


  1. A short rubber-ducky, which is most convenient when moving around a lot. Ducks arenít the best radiators - Iíve heard them referred to as "dummy loads on a stick" - but their size often offsets their poor efficiency.
  2. A telescopic whip. Better for hitting the local repeater from hard-to-reach places, but fragile. Wonít take a lot of abuse.
  3. A homebrew J-pole made out of 300ohm TV twinlead. Very nice omnidirectional antenna that can be rolled up and fit in a jacket pocket. Hereís a link to a project page: http://hamgate1.sunyerie.edu/races/antenna/pocket.htm


  1. A mag-mount vertical for the car/truck. I can use this with my HT by sticking it on top of the fridge, letting the fridge act as the ground plane. Mag-mounts are really handy.
  2. #3 above, slid into a CPVC sleeve and duct-taped to the top of an antenna mast.


  1. A homebrew wire dipole, cut for 20-meters. Canít get much simpler than a dipole, and it takes a darn good antenna to beat one.
  2. A variable-length dipole made from two 100-foot lengths of wire, spooled onto a couple of camperís clothesline reels. Probably the most versatile antenna I own. Certainly the cheapest. Itís available commercially as the "Yo-Yo-tenna" for something like $20.00 or more, but I just went to the camping section at Wal-Mart, picked up a couple of clothesline reels for about $3.00, then bought two 100í spools of wire at Radio Shack. If I were really cheap, I could have left off the clothesline reels and used the spools - they make great insulators all by themselves - but the reels are just too darned convenient. A great portable NVIS antenna for the regional 80-meter net, too!
  3. A homebrew vertical for 20 and 40 meters. Hereís a link to the project http://radio.thulesius.se/div_mtrl/PAC-12.htm
  4. (On order). A Buddipole. http://www.buddipole.com This is the first HF antenna that Iíve ever gone out and bought, and while I havenít received it yet (mail takes forever in Iraq), it seems well-made on the face of it.

My antenna choices are based on three considerations, none of which is paramount:

  1. lightweight and portable
  2. multi-band or multi-application, if possible
  3. Iím a real tightwad, and homebrew antennas let me indulge myself.

Iíll be the first to admit that I even after the above list I donít have all my bases covered. For example, I have nothing for HF mobile. In my defense, Iíll allow that itís never occurred to me to work HF mobile, although I ought to try my hand at it. Still, Iíve given my antenna selections a critical analysis, which I recommend to all who intend to use their radios in austere conditions.

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