Back On The Bands Part 2: Portable Operation

Back on my first trip to Dayton in 2011, I was about to escape without spending a lot of cash when I found myself taking a long, hard look at the Buddipole system. This portable offset dipole looked well made, and it seemed to have a bit of a cult following with QRP operators. I was getting up the nerve to pick one up when one of my friends discouraged me from buying one. ‘They just don’t work that well’ is what he told me, and I ended up walking away.

Fast forward to March of 2019, also known as the third month of January here in the Midwest. And even though I’d just spent a bunch of money on parts for an inverted L antenna that were still sitting in the box, I decided today was the day, and I placed my order for a new Deluxe Buddipole. Within a few days I was out in front of my house, getting ready to go tailgate portable with the Buddipole from my driveway.

Getting Started

A close up of the ‘cold side’ coil.

Antenna assembly is pretty simple with easy to follow instructions. I didn’t time myself, I’d guess my first attempt at getting it up an on the air took me about 20 minutes tops, but I’d say I’m closer to the ten minute mark now. I was also impressed with the build quality as well. All of the threads on the coils, antenna arms, and whips seemed to be well made. No binding or stripping reported here. That same quality and enginuity can be found throughout the entire design. Even the guy rope connector seemed well thought out, but none of that means a thing if it doesn’t work.

The center tee. Notice the banana plugs used to feed each side. It can’t get much simpler than this.

After dealing with an uncooperative 12v battery (another casualty of the long, cold winter) and digging out an old power supply, I was finally ready to connect the coax and burn up some clouds. My first stop was where I always go first: the Maritime net on 14300. The net controller was in seven land, but I managed to work him on the first call. Nice! I told him what I was up to, and he gave me a signal report of a 5/7. Not too shabby for a coil shortened dipole! I was ready to work some more stations but it was starting to get cold, and 20m was already shutting down for the night, but I was still pretty happy. A trip from Iowa to the Oregon coast with a portable antenna is always a good thing, but I still had my doubts. could this antenna perform on a regular basis, or was this just a fluke?

Fire, a very important ingredient for all outside adventures in the early spring. Brrrrr!

Since then, I’ve spent quite a few nights out on my patio with the Buddipole and a newly acquired FT-891, and I’ve had excellent results, much better than I would have expected. I’ve checked in with several operators on the Maritime net, had QSOs with stations in California, Canada and elsewhere on 20 meters. Better than that, the antenna seems to work pretty well on 40 as well. I ended up working stations in Montana, Maryland, and even managed to have a quick QSO with Roberto, I2VRN, near Milan. Sure he was doing all of the heavy lifting, but still. Considering how bad the band conditions have been recently, I am very pleased with the results.

Getting ready to burn off some clouds in the back yard

One of the things that’s always intrigued me about radio is the ability to take it with you. Whether it’s just a night out on the patio with a portable or a full fledged DXpedition, I’ve always loved the idea of setting up at a remote location and seeing what I could hear. Now, thanks to the Buddipole, I have a portable 40 thru 6m antenna that seems to work pretty well. I don’t know how much exotic DX I’ll be working with it, but I guarantee I will have a lot of fun.

If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have bought the long version, with the taller mast and the longer whip sections, but those can be purchased separately, and will probably happen sooner than later. Most importantly though, I wouldn’t have waited so long to add this gem to the antenna arsenal.