What’s Your Favorite HF Portable Antenna?

Lately I have been experimenting with a number of portable antennas for hf in the field for my QRP operations. The mini-bac Delta Loop configuration and the W3EDP have been fun and seem to work well. Of course, my go to antenna has been my trusty Buddistick, but since I am a tweaker, I continue to try new options.

Would you take a minute and complete a brief poll? Or better yet, leave me a comment AND take the poll? How about it? Let me know what you think? How do you deploy your favorite antenna? Now it’s your turn… Please take the poll, you may answer with your TWO (2) favorite choices and feel free to comment by clicking on the COMMENT link.

What's Your Favorite HF Portable Antenna?

  • Buddipole/Buddistick (34%, 31 Votes)
  • End Fed Half Wave, W3EDP, Zepp (28%, 25 Votes)
  • Plain ole dipole (includes OCF, Multi band, etc.) (13%, 12 Votes)
  • Random wire (13%, 12 Votes)
  • Vertical (wire or Pac type) (11%, 10 Votes)
  • 44 foot doublet (8%, 7 Votes)
  • Other-- please leave comment to explain (8%, 7 Votes)
  • 88 foot doublet (7%, 6 Votes)
  • Loop (Delta, Horizontal, Vertical, Square, etc.) (3%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 90

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12/20/09 Update. Went out to the lake with my mini-bac Delta Loop and had some fun on 40 and 20 m this afternoon.  Nice antenna for multiband use.


  1. kmack says

    Ok… I started the ball rolling… jump in and add your two cents and comments too!
    72 es 73,
    Kelly K4UPG

  2. says

    I voted for the plain old dipole. I feed my hiking trip dipole with about 10′ of speaker wire.


  3. kmack says

    Thanks Goody! Enjoy your blog too! Many will likely agree that it is hard to beat the dipole!
    72 es 73,
    Kelly K4UPG

  4. says

    Hey there Kelly,
    Di-pole suits me best but I always have extra wire and a 1/2 wave wire chart along in case I didnt bring a di-pole for the band that is really open.

  5. kmack says

    Good to hear from you again! Yep, pretty hard to beat the dipole except for ease of deploying when solo and portable. Plus its so much fun to use a tuner on a wire with balanced line. :-)
    72 es 73,
    Kelly K4UPG

  6. Mike W3MC says

    Usually use simple wire vertical with one counterpoise wire. Would like to use the doublet more, but there are too many trees too close together where I usually operate so it’s difficult to get the doublet up high enough.

  7. kmack says

    Ain’t that the truth? I like the simple single wires for the same reason… plus the speed of getting on the air is much better too! Thanks for the input!

    72 es 73,
    Kelly K4UPG

  8. says

    Hi Kelly,
    Well, I enjoy keeping up with what you are doing here, so I try to drop in at least once a week. Antennas are one of my fun things to play with.
    Hope to see you in Branson again next year. Our group is doing the Friday Nite Build again and we will have a new, neat little ‘radio’ for the challenge. Details are still secret. It will be neat..
    I’m trying to put a 30 meter dipole up this weekend, lots of snow so not so sure about going up on roof.
    73’s for now
    Dar – W9HZC – Nebraska

  9. kmack says

    The Ozarkcon is one fine time and Branson location makes it a great vacation option too. Not sure if we can make it this year, but if it is at all possible, we will do so. I think the 4 States Group and your Nebraska bunch are two fine organizations and I’d love to see a similar group develop here in Central Florida. We have a nice core group started and are looking for others that share our love for homebrewing and operating QRP portable. Thanks for all the info and wisdom you all share!

    Kelly K4UPG Polar Bear #173

  10. says

    Anyone can check why I have selected the Small Magnetic Loop antennas as the best companion on my portable QRP
    operations seeing my videos posted on YouTube.


  11. Alex, K5UNY says

    My ALL time favorite is my Iditarod Jumper dipole that covers 17 thru 40 meters, it like any resonant dipole, gets out really well in the Inverted V form and best of all requires NO outboard tuner.
    My second choice would be the End fed Half wave wire, one for each band. I carry mine for 40 thru 17M on plastic spools that at one time held Control Line Airplane wire;Easy up antennas!!! My tuner for the End feds is a Switched Inductor tuner from the web site of KC8AON.
    Your web site is marked as a Favorite and I look at it several times a week. Thanks for having it out there.
    73 Alex PB#105

  12. kmack says

    Alex K5UNY,
    Guess I need to break down and make one of those Iditarod Dipoles! I have it on my radar but keep putting it off. My objection to dipoles is having to put two supports up, but most of the time, that’s pretty easy for me and I could so inverted vee too with only one “hanger”. Thanks for good comments!
    Kelly PB #173

  13. kmack says

    PY1AHD Alex,
    Thanks for the comment! You are truly the king of magnetic loops! I think you have one of the most interesting sites I visit! Still working on a good capacitor for my mag loop. Not sure if I will go butterfly using your design, or a trombone slide type of device. I really need an indoor antenna so I can get on without having to spend time setting up and taking down antennas. Your loop designs seem to be the answer. I really want to connect with you on the air soon! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year good friend!
    Kelly K4UPG

  14. says

    The end fed and random wire to me are about the same and i feel they should be listed as end fed/random wire.
    My other pick is not listed and that is the MAG LOOP

  15. says

    Hi Kelly,
    Any random wire or end fed for me.
    Also the MAG LOOP.
    Can’t b ebeat for antenna restricted hams and it;s not only getting more hams on th eair but it also makes a very good indoor back up antenna when Mother Natures takes down the big dipole:-)

  16. Chuck, K6QKL. says

    A vertical consisting of a half wavelength of insulated wire closely wrapped as a helix around the outside of a wooden pole. Diameter of the wood pole not critical — I use 2 1/2 inch stock from the local hardware store. An aluminum pizza pan connected on top as a capacitor. This technique results in a very short, quite portable vertical, easy to move. A very narrow band, resonant antenna. Feed from the bottom with coax, coax shield to earth ground. Trim wire length to resonance at center of frequency range where you like to operate. On 80 meters this nicely covers the PSK spectrum now in use.

  17. says

    I keep trying to leave a reply but it doesn’t seem to work.
    I’ll put my call next to my name and see what happens.
    Anyway I agree with ALEX and him being th emaster of loops.
    Alex has made many DX contacts with his lite loop

    BOB AF2Q

  18. says


    I admire your open mind and share your interest in the quest for performance portable antennas. This poll is a good idea on your part – as well as sharing the comments for others.

    First I would request some more info on your “Mini BAC” antenna. I am not familiar with it. I would like to look into that further.

    I have the following portable antennas here:

    – multiband short / hatted vertical dipole (15-40m)
    – 20m vertical loop
    – 31ft fiberglass pole vertical with 16.5ft and 33ft radials
    – half squares for 20, 30, 40m
    – 20m and 40m dipoles
    – 135ft doublet with jumpers at 44 and 88ft
    – end fed half wave set 20-40m. The counterpoise is a single 1/4wl wire with bullet connectors to change the length (counterpoise wire segments) for each band.
    – 15m Lazy H. This antenna still provides same pattern and gain on 20m as a 20m EDZ.
    – 30m bobtail

    18ga speaker wire and twinlead are my materials of choice.

    My ‘go to’ antenna is the 135ft jumpered doublet which will put out a nice gain pattern on 30m. The downside is that you need TWO tall trees for doublets.

    Second favorite is end fed half waves. I always bring these along as backup, but there has to be ONE tree around.

    I understand alot of guys enjoy the vertical loop family of antennas, but I just don’t see anything remarkable at all when modeling it.

    I look forward to reading the others’ comments.

    Aaron, N9KSN

  19. says

    If portable and lightweight/small required, the EFW either 30 footer or 88 footer with adjustable poise 16-32 foot.
    If portable and want all bands and better signal, weight not a factor, the 135 ft twin lead fed with 4:1 balun to tuner.
    You could go on and on,the answer changes based upon support structure availability, time/energy to put up, stealth issues, park regulations, the need for directional gain, single band, multiband, weather condxs and so on. Don’t limit yourself with a one size fits all. Have a full set of field antennas to match the requirements. My arsenal includes unusual antennas such as a sterba 32 ft high by 100 ft long and 400 yards of aluminum fence wire for large loops, balloon and kite options, wire beams, phased verticals, 1/2 wave wires etc. You can never learn too much about antennas or have enough wire in your junk box. Find the antenna that will put out the most RF for what goes in. A physically short center loaded vertical with lots of ground wires might reach 70% efficiency. Half waves reach about 95% so don’t over look them. Have fun, learn and play radio! 73 John N0EVH

  20. says

    Great poll, Kelly.

    My favorite portable antenna is one I’ve been dragging to one park or another for almost 30 years, a jumper dipole used as an inverted vee. It is either supported by a 20′ Crappie Pole or fishing leader line launched into a favorable tree with a golf ball enhanced with a screw eye. The golf ball falls through the branches nicely and being bright orange, is easy to spot.

    An alternate is the trusty NorCal 44 doublet constructed of ribbon cable and tuned with either the PFR-3 built-in tuner or the Emtech ZM2.
    The 44′ doublet folds up into a plastic sandwich bag but requires a tuner. The jumper dipole, with coax, is a bit more bulky to pack, but is resonant on 40, 30 or 20 meters.

    I was surprised to see the high response rate for end-fed half wave dipoles. I see that I’m going to have to investigate this type of antenna.

    Thanks for running the pole. Your blog site is “required reading”.

  21. says

    I like the BWV (Black Widow Vertical) and I have been using it out on the Appalachian Trail since 2003. Takes only 5 minutes to setup and you can work 40, 30, 20 & 15m.

    72 Ron de WB3AAL

  22. kmack says

    Alpha Bear aka Ron,

    Thanks for sharing the wisdom. I am intrigued by your BWV and have it on the list to build. Appreciate the kind comments on the blog too! I love the ethos and culture of the Polar Bear group. One of the most fun virtual groups that I have connected with in all my 20+ yrs of computing! One of these days I’ll get up your way for a AT hike with you. Would be fun to give that a go too!

    Kelly K4UPG PB #173

  23. kmack says

    You da man! I see your jumpered dipole in action. You get it up quickly and it seems to work well for you. I’ve not had the same luck with the 44 ft doublet that you have though. Think it is more of a tuner and configuration issue than anything else.

    One of these days, we need to do some serious A – B testing and run a Field Strength meter around and see what it shows us.

    Kelly K4UPG PB #173

  24. kmack says

    John N0EVH,

    Great input. You are right that no one antenna fits every context. I am like you and carry around a BIG bag of tricks and lots of options. But I would like to begin to zero in on “my” fav antenna and not carry the BIG bag every time I go out. Yesterday I cut back and just took the mini-bac Delta Loop and W3EDP but the DL did the job so I didn’t bother to rig the W3EDP at all. The noise is so much less on the vertically flown Delta Loop that I tend to lean in that direction. Next up would be to make it into a beam or phased array. But that would take more hands and time than I normally have available to me!

    Blessings and hope to cu in Branson agn!

    Kelly K4UPG PB #173

  25. kmack says

    Aaron N9SKN,

    You have a wonderful spread of antennas and I often browse your site for ideas! I think you and I are wired alike and just cannot stop tweaking with wires. The mini-bac is a neat option for backpacking and going light. But you do need to experiment with it. It is just 2 pieces of 96′ of wire and a tuner and you play with various setups. The delta loop is only one 96′ piece and makes a loop and twisted feedline setup that works well for me. Give it a look!

    Keep tweaking and sharing!

    Kelly K4UPG PB #173

  26. kmack says

    Chuck K6QKL,

    Great idea! I’m going to look to see if you have a pic online! I want to do some 80m in the backyard and this might be a solution that would let me get on the weekday nets locally! The pizza pan special, eh? Sweet… Thanks for sharing the idea and stay tuned to see how it works in FL!

    Kelly K4UPG PB #173

  27. kmack says


    Sorry you had trouble posting. Might just have been the delay since I have posts moderated to try to limit spam posts. My filters get most of it but not all!

    Looks like most people agree with the end fed/random wire choice. I think they would like the mag loop if they tried it too, but if they can have an outside antenna, most probably won’t take the time and effort to build the mag loop. I’m encouraged by my experiments with it so far!

    Thanks for comments and sharing. CW Code Warriors Yahoo Group is the melting pot for a good number of my ideas!

    Kelly K4UPG PB#173

  28. Carlton Lee says

    I use hamstick dipoles when operating special event stations. They go together quickly and work with light weight masts.

    Carl W2PTZ

  29. kmack says

    Thanks Carlton! I see that setup at hamfests when people are camping very often! Another guy uses a single hamstick and a 1/4 wave wire in a vertical and counterpoise setup and it works surprisingly well too. Just clamps it onto a barbeque grill and is on in about one minute!

    Kelly K4UPG PB#173

  30. says

    My go-to antenna is a 56-foot doublet fed with 25 feet of TV twinlead (the cheap, brown stuff). Why 56 feet? In some situations, I use it with a 28-foot Jackit pole as an “up and outer.” That is, with one leg vertical (supported by the pole) and the other leg horizontal. More often than not, I use it in the field as an inverted vee, supported by the Jackite pole. I also find that the 56-foot length is a bit easier to match on 40 meters than the 44-foot doublet is. 73, Craig WB3GCK

  31. kmack says

    Verrrrry interesting Craig! I do not think I have ever heard of that configuration at all, but it does make sense. Sort of an inverted L but center fed rather than end fed… Wondered how that would look on modeling software? Then I looked at it on your website! AHA! I enjoy your website and have snitched a couple of great ideas from you. I’m playing with a version of your Simple and Versatile Tuner for QRP as it has always intrigued me. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Kelly K4UPG PB#173

  32. Alex, K5UNY says

    Craig and all,
    The 44ft doublet is a tad short for 40m and is in itself a Double extended zepp on 10M. It will load up on 40M but is flakey and you lose that nice Broadside pattern. The 88ft Doublet will load extremely well thru 80m and here again its a Double extended Zepp on 20M with the theoretical 3Db of broadside gain.
    The 56ft doublet is almost a Double extended zepp for 15M with a nice broadside pattern thru 60M. So if tuning and nice Broadside patterns on 15 thru 60M are what you are looking for, then Craig, you got it. My personal Doublet is actually 59feet on each side and loads/radiates well up thru 60M. Made from one continuous piece of 22ga speaker wire.
    Now someone with antenna modeling software may prove all this Doublet stuff wrong but with simple math and simple tuners it seems to be on the money.Just my 2cents worth. Aren’t antennas fun things?
    73 and Merry ZChristmas to all Alex K5uny

  33. says

    Almost everything about /P antenna depends on local conditions and what you have available to for an antenna support. 90% of my operating is /P so I vary antenna to suit. I don’t care what anyone says but one size definitely does not fit all but a dipole comes close. A lot depends on who/where you want to try and work, a horizontal/NVIS antenna might be fine for 80m but I think I’d want something with a lower take off angle for 20m.

    Hike into the hills where there are no trees and anything either like a buddipole (got one, made 2), PAC-12 (made several) or fishing pole supported dipole/longwire/W3EDP etc are likely candidates. If you are by the beach then a couple 8m fishing poles and a vertical moxon for 20m/15m will bring in the dx better than most antennas I have used.

    I prefer resonant antennas than using a tuner but often carry a BLT or simple altoid tin L match (a Z11 auto tuner has seen a lot of /P activity).

    Apart from bands etc the choice depends on how heavy you want your kit/pack and that extra XYL factor… there is no way on a trip you can take anything that takes ages to setup and tune or need lots of extra hands, any attempt to use such an antenna will ruin a trip fast. The most fun ever had /P was probably using a base loaded 8ft whip off a bicycle across HB9/HB0 and DL and an FT817 rig was run using a recharging SLA (6 hours cycling meant 2hour operating in evenings)…qrv 80m through 20m and hopeless for efficiency. The cheekiest /P antenna was stopping and knocking on a door and using someone elses 20m 4 el yagi (F/M1KTA/P). On a beach /P nothing so far beats a 20m vertical moxon for RX and TX signal reports.



  34. kmack says

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving this fantastic comment! Hope to work you on the air /P to /P one of these days!

    Your blog is a great source of ideas for homebrewers too!

    Blessings and 72,
    Kelly K4UPG

  35. says

    A friend and I have been going out portable at the park and he uses a Buddy Stick vertical. I find that the tuning is critical and the adjustment of the radial(s) is part of the problem.
    I came up with an idea of using what has been in my antenna junk box for sometime now, an old Mosley mobile antenna with coils for each band. It is something like the Hustler mobile antenna and in fact I use one lower section used by Hygain for added height. First I use a camera tripod. I connected one of those mirror mounts and attached it to the tripod. I then use a tilt-over extension section supplied with the set. I put the other extension section on top of the first one. The band coil goes next and then the whip. I attach a set of three radials cut for 40 meters to the tripod. Tune up is with the Z-11 or whatever I have and off I go making contacts. The last contact I made was on 20 Meters with 5 watts to France RST 339 or so.
    I find that it is easy to setup or change bands, works fine and not too bothersome to carry.

  36. John - WA8HSB says

    I travel a lot on business and, as others have noted, usually carry several antennas with my KX-1 [or ATS-3/T1 ATU combo or K1] to maximize the antenna options depending upon what is available. I always have a 28′ wire with counterpoise with me and it works OK [and fits unobtrusively in my carry-on bag]. A partially filled bottle of water with dental floss tied under the bottle cap gets the antenna up in a tree fairly nicely. This wire has worked in a many hotel parking lots, city parks, as well as from hotel rooms to nearby trees. Sometimes I will carry a collapsible fishing pole to use to extend the antenna away from the hotel building.

    For ease of setup and not worrying about trees and such, the Buddistick is my favorite. With the clamp mounting bracket, I roll the back window down a couple of inches on the rental car and fasten the clamp to the window. This setup nicely supports the Buddistick with the counterpoise off to the side as an elevated one. I’ve put some tape on the counterpoise wire to mark the approximate lengths for the different bands. This speeds setup quite a bit as I only have to make minor adjustments to get the SWR to an acceptable level. I’ve been able to work a good bit of DX with this setup but I only take it when I check a bag. The Buddistick gives me quick access to my 3 favorite bands; 40, 30, and 20.

    When possible to put up, I’ve found a W3EDP wire is the overall best performer. I’ve had good luck with it strung over 2 or 3 trees (~20-30′ tall) in a inverted L configuration [the water bottle and dental floss combo works great for tossing over trees]. I usually have the 85′ roll of wire with a banana plug on one end stuffed in my checked bag so it’s available if the opportunity to set it up presents itself.

    The Norcal Doublet is in my carry-on pouch along with the 28′ wire but I’ve rarely used it. I’ve found it more useful around home when I can carry my 20′ Crappie Pole [a little difficult to carry on routine business air travel]. I also have a St. Louis Vertical, a homebrew PAC-12, and a homebrew Buddipole that I’ve used many times when close to home.

    I have a 20M dipole that I used several years ago when I started carrying a radio with me on my travels. I used it with the MFJ Cub and PSK-20. I haven’t carried it for several years. I need to try the Iditarod Dipole though. I like the idea of the antenna being tuned already.

    Thanks for running this poll. I’ve picked up a couple of ideas from the other comments for me to tinker with.

    73/762, John

  37. kmack says

    Great comment! You covered all the bases and as a frequent traveler we share some common thoughts and experiences. Hope to meet you on the air soon! Appreciate your taking time to post this as many will benefit! Happy New Year!
    72 es 73,
    Kelly K4UPG

  38. Alex, K5UNY says

    OK to continue this antenna stuff which by the way I really love to read everyone’s conmments, here is another.
    I like my jumper dipole as No tuner is needed for 40-30-20. BUT I uncovered and New to me was the G7FEK antenna for limited space. I have put one up in my backyard as I had just enough space , 50feet, between two trees
    and the antenna performs like gangbusters on80 and 40 meters and is no slouch on other bands. It has become my everyday antenna here at the home QTH.
    Now is it good for portable operation, my answer would be Yes, if you had 2 supports for the wire. According to the website I retrieved it from the wires should not have much downward slope. Apparently its not intended for an Inverted V configuration.
    I love tinkering with wire antennas and if any or all of you guys are of the same mindset I would suggest you give thhis one a try.Google up G7FEK Antenna for Limited Space.
    73 and Good Luck

    Alex K5UNY

  39. Frank VE7DSN says

    My favourite, though maybe not that efficient, is a homebrew 20m ‘M’ dipole.

    It is supported off a 20′ telescopic mast stabilized to a bicycle ‘tripod’. The ‘M’ shape comes from two 8′ ‘arms’ that cause the ‘arms’ and mast to form a large ‘Y’ shape. The 17′
    dipole elements are loosely wrapped around the arms and the excess 9′ ends just hang down from the arm ends. This antenna is fed with 20′ balanced feedline to a Z match tuner. It tunes most HF bands and works quite well with a QRPKits PFR3 tranceiver.

    I often operate along public beach promenades, park benches etc. I like the fact that nothing but the bike itself impedes the public.

    72 de Frank VE7DSN

  40. kmack says

    First time I have heard of this one. Sounds interesting so I am going to put it on my list to try! Thanks for posting your comment! Hope to catch you on the air soon!
    Kelly K4UPG

  41. says

    Hi Kelly,
    Nice to see you still have this up and running
    Well I now am playing with a Miracle whip but modified with two 12 pole rotary switches to tune it.
    The tuner goes right to the back of the FT 817.
    I’m using a 5 foot telescope whip and I also located a 3 foot long threaded SS 1/4″ rod.
    It’s not the PAC 12 but close to it.
    Bill is also designing one that has a tuning cap.
    But outdoors,
    I just feel the end fed wire almost vertical really kicks butt against all the others.
    Keep up the great work here.

  42. kmack says

    Sounds like a unique idea and a real time saver to put that switch on the Miracle Whip. Interesting thought…

    Be curious to know how it works out for you. I agree, that so far, the EFHW is the berries… just need a bit more directivity for my peanut whistle signal if I can find it. HA!! It is just fun to try things, eh?

    Kelly K4UPG PB #173

  43. says

    Hello to all, after years of portable activities (mainly IOTA, …) my most favorite antenna is G5RV and 2x 27 m extended ZEPP, depending on a room which is available.

    Regards from Vit, OK5MM

  44. Garth says

    I’m just getting started in QRP portable. The only antenna I’ve used so far is an EFHWA matched by a SOTA tuner. I worked the East coast from N. Utah. I would like to try the PAC-12, just because it sounds like a fun home brew project.

    Garth, KF7ATL

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