by Thomas (DM1TBE)
Since I have seen the Band Hopper III antenna at the website of SOTAbeams, I have been thinking about it. Most of the time I have used end-fed half-wave (EFHW) antennas when operating portable – vertical attached to a fiberglass mast or in a sloper configuration with a tree. Those EFHW antennas seemed to cause way less troubles than a dipole with its centerpiece and coax at the thin end of the fiberglass mast. However, there was this “other” dipole from SOTAbeams. So I thought I could give it a try and ordered it.
Two days later -including customs procedure- the antenna arrived. The antenna is a linked dipole for the 20-, 30- and 40-meter band and weights less than 500 g / 18 oz. That includes the coax and guying material. I already had the Tactical Mini ultra, a 6 m / 19.6 ft fiberglass mast that is a perfect fit for the Band Hopper antenna.
The weather was fine, my manager at work was on vacation, so there was no reason for not leaving the home office early and go for a quick activation. I went to the SOTA location for Kaltes Feld (DM/BW-659), which is also POTA (DA-0410). I have been there a couple of times this year, but offering chaser points for both programs promised more QSOs, especially when conditions are difficult. The other advantage of this place is that you can drink cold beer if the antenna fails to work. 😉
You may, or more likely may not, remember this image from an activation report in March this year.
The place looks much more inviting now with kids playing, people enjoying barbecue and a cold beer, and operating a radio is much more pleasant.
Although I have been here a couple of times, I have never visited the ruins of Castle Granegg, just a mile away. While the SOTA activation zone is surrounded by trees, the walk to the castle satisfies with a nice viewpoint on the way.
The construction dates, builders, and owners of Granegg Castle are unknown. It is believed to have been built in the 13th century. The castle’s existence as a lordship is unconfirmed, and it is unclear if it was destroyed or abandoned. There exists a map, dated to 1572, from this area, but the castle wasn’t depicted on it anymore. The castle, or better its ruins, were first mentioned in 1674 again. Remnants of the castle include walls and the foundation of a round keep, which is a free-standing, fighting-tower.
There were no known contemporary views of the castle, and some stones from the castle were used in nearby villages. Around 1885, remnants of a cellar vault with a cellar staircase were reportedly still visible. Today, only a small, overgrown trail leads to the castle, which sits there, waiting to be completely forgotten.
Back to the plateau, I started with the antenna test. As mentioned, I was quite keen to see, how it behaves from a mechanical point of view. The kit includes two antenna wires with guying ropes at the end, each on its own winder. The third guying rope shares the winder with 10 meter / 33 ft very thin and light RG174 coax cable.
Everything, including the balun, comes together at the very light centerpiece.
As a “Linked Dipole”, you chose the band by opening or closing the two breaks on each side with alligator clips.
With only three guying points, the dipole has an angle of about 120 degrees, but it did not cause issues. I pushed two pegs in the ground, raised the fiberglass pole and moved the pole so the two fixed antenna wires with ropes were stretched. With the third rope, I moved away from the pole while keeping it slightly stretched, and pushed the last peg into the ground. It took less than 5 minutes to erect the pole with the antenna, even I never did it before.
I wanted to start with the 40-meter band, as I was a bit skeptical due to the low height. But the SWR was good and CW and SSB QSOs worked fine.
I operated for nearly one hour. The HF conditions were far from being perfect, but I was more interested in how the antenna behaves mechanically. It did perfectly, I was quite impressed.
At the end, I had 22 QSOs, 16 on the 40-meter band and 6 on 20-meter.
As the antenna worked, there was no excuse for drinking beer, so I stuck with ice-cold Apfelsaftschorle, a popular drink in Germany made of apple juice with sparkling water.
I will use this antenna more often and as of writing these lines, I have already used it again with good results. However, the antenna requires a fairly large footprint, so it might not be the best option if space is a bit of an issue.