Over the last few months, I have participated in an increasing number of discussions, either on local repeaters or in zoom meetings, about newly licensed hams interested in operating in the HF bands. Two main questions kept coming back: what radio to buy and what antenna to use. It is why I have decided to put together a presentation for my local club, the San Mateo Radio Club
In the presentation, I only focus on the antennae. Buying a radio is easier. You can go online, type any brand name, and you will have a multitude of models from affordable to unaffordable. You can download the flyer with nice pictures and an exhaustive list of features. Even if you don't understand what all the options are, you cannot go wrong buying any rig. Your only risk is overpaying for features that you will rarely or never use.
The first advice I give to a new ham is: If you are on a budget, don't put all your money in the rig. I know it is easy to get carried away when you look at all the photos and exciting features of your future radio, but don't forget that a radio without an antenna is a brick. All these features will be useless if your radio does not have an antenna connected to it.
Here is the list of things you will need to buy with your rig:
- power supply
- multiple cables, jumpers, wires, and connectors
- hardware to install your antenna
- probably some tools as well
The focus of my presentation is on what's between your new rig and your first HF QSO: The antenna. During the first part of the presentation, I go through a quick recap of the feed line, radiation pattern, and SWR losses, nothing more than what you had to learn for your General exam. I think it is a helpful reminder that needs to be kept in the back of your mind while deciding about antennae. Then I talk about different antennae types for beginners, especially for hams like me who live in the suburbs with small lots or limitations.
This presentation is not a recipe for how to build a specific antenna. Everyone has to deal with different limitations and different operational goals. It is why I try to provide the background necessary to make the best choice for your first antenna. I also encourage you to build your first antenna. It will improve your knowledge and you will better understand the compromises you are making when choosing different types of antennae. Even if you buy an antenna, building a few yourself first will give you practice for the day you will install your new acquisition.
You can download the slides for the presentation by clicking on the image below.