The Elecraft AX1 Antenna
For those of you not familiar, Elecraft designed a super compact portable antenna for the KX3 and KX2 called the AX1 a couple years ago. It’s, by far, the most compact HF antenna I’ve ever owned or operated.
What makes it so unique is that no one section of it is longer than 6″, which means when disassembled, it’ll fit in a very small pouch or pocket.
I purchased the AX1 a couple months ago. I bought the antenna, (which handles 20/17 and 15 meters), the 40 meter extension, bipod, tripod mount, and both counterpoises were included.
It’s a cool piece of antenna kit for sure! And so compact!
But let’s face it: it’s a compromised antenna!
An antenna this small and compact is not as efficient as a longer resonant wire antenna. Not even close.
The AX1 wasn’t built for performance per se–although it’s as efficient as it can be for the size–it was built for convenience!
You can set the AX1 up anywhere, anytime.
A POTA Experiment
A few months ago, a reader who owns a KX3 asked me if I thought he could successfully activate a (Parks On The Air) park with the AX1.
“Sure! Especially if you’re using CW and you have a whole lot of patience.”
Yesterday morning, I decided to test my theory.
I drove to the Blue Ridge Parkway (K-3378) and parked at the Folk Arts Center. I found a picnic table (wasn’t hard at all considering it was hovering around freezing and incredibly breezy!) and set up my station.
It takes me maybe 3 minutes to set up the entire station.
On The Air
I had errands to run in town so didn’t want to spend all day doing this experiment, but I was determined to complete a valid POTA activation which requires 10 total contacts.
Before leaving the house, I scheduled my activation on the POTA site, so it would know to scrape my spot on the Reverse Beacon Network.
Keep in mind, this was taking place on a Monday morning around 10:15 AM and I was activating a park almost every POTA hunter has logged numerous times. The Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most activated parks in the POTA network, so not exactly super desirable.
In addition, propagation number were pretty dismal.
I fired up the KX2, pressed the ATU button, and achieved a 1:1.1 match.
I called CQ POTA three times in CW.
Evidently, the RBN picked me up quickly, because I received a call.
Then another call.
Then a small pile-up of calls.
I called CW again, and had another small pileup.
12 freaking minutes!
Seriously? My point was to prove it takes patience when using extremely compromised antennas.
After logging 12 stations, a received a phone call on my mobile and left the air (no other stations were calling me at that point and, again, this wasn’t a highly desirable or rare park). After my phone call, I decided to pack up and finish my errands in town.
After I returned home, I realized: this was easily my quickest field radio deployment and park activation.
The activation took me a total of 20 minutes: 3 minutes to deploy, 12 minutes on the air, and (generously) four minutes to pack up.
Let’s face it…
The stars were aligned Monday morning.
The AX1 is a compromised antenna but it’s obviously also quite effective.
The irony was en route to the activation, I was listening to the latest episode of Ham Radio Workbench. They were discussing wire antennas and how incredibly compromised shortened verticals are.
I was in complete agreement about compact antennas: sometimes, the compromise is worth it for the convenience.
Now, I would add: sometimes, it’s all convenience, performance, and no compromise whatsoever!
Next, I plan to attempt an SSB activation with the AX1. I do believe it’ll take quite a while to gather 10 stations for a valid activation. But who knows?