I have a real problem with using vertical antennas when operating field portable. And I mean quarter-wave vertical antennas. You see they need “the other half”; a ground plane, radials, or counterpoise and without “the other half” they just aren’t going to work.
So here’s the rub (as Shakespeare would undoubtedly have commented had he not been born four centuries before the invention of radio). A quarter-wave vertical occupies a very small footprint. A radial field or even just a single counterpoise wire requires a much larger footprint. So, if we have sufficient room in the great outdoors to put up a 33ft long raised counterpoise for the 40-meter band, why not just use a wire antenna anyway?
And here’s another “rub”. A quarter-wave vertical antenna can be mounted on a backpack for pedestrian mobile operation. The “other half” then becomes a drag wire which makes intermittent and constantly variable capacitive connection to ground.
So can we get rid of “the other half” of the antenna to make pedestrian mobile or field portable operation less awkward? No. But we can make it less inconvenient and this contrarian tinkerer is on a quest to explore strange new worlds and boldly go where no ham has gone before to discover all the ways to make it so.
So far I have come up with five alternatives:
- A Ground Tuning Unit with a capacitive ground connection
- A tuned counterpoise to resonate a short conductor
- A full-length quarter-wave spiral counterpoise
- A ground rod, 8-feet long pounded into the ground
- A saltwater ground plane such as an ocean
Option 4 can be summarily discarded. Pounding copper-plated steel rods into the ground isn’t terribly convenient for temporary field portable operations. Option 5 has been successfully demonstrated by well-known YouTuber Peter Parker VK3YE who paddled in shark-infested Australian waters wearing a conductive ankle bracelet. Personally I have three options for saltwater. I can travel hundreds of miles east or southeast to the Atlantic coast. I can travel way up north to Hudson’s Bay or, I can arrange to flood the world’s largest underwater salt mine on Lake Huron. None of those options is likely so Option 5 goes in the bin too.
That leaves three practical options that we’ll explore in separate posts:
– A Ground Tuning Unit (a.k.a. Artificial Ground)
– A Tuned Short Counterpoise
– A Spiral Counterpoise
Dare I say “Stay Tuned” …