Back in March, I received an email from Mike Giannaccio (W5REZ) the owner of REZ Antenna Systems–he was curious if I’d like to check out his REZ Ranger 80 antenna system.
At the time, my plate was pretty full, so he arranged to send it to me on loan in July.
If you’re not familiar, the Ranger 80 is a portable vertical antenna with a tuning coil at the base that employs a sliding tap for tuning. The Ranger 80 will cover anywhere from 80 – 15 meters without needing any sort of external matching device (like an ATU).
If you’re familiar with the Wolf River Coils antenna systems, then you’re familiar with this type of vertical antenna. The difference is that the Ranger 80 is built to what I could only describe as MilSpec standards.
Much of the Ranger 80’s components are CNC machined from premium materials. It sports a Delrin body, black anodized 6061 aluminum, and all stainless steel hardware.
This is not a featherweight antenna: it has the heft to match the caliber of materials used in its construction. It’s not an inexpensive antenna either–it’s currently about $560 US at DX Engineering.
The Ranger 80 is also rated for 500W SSB and 250W CW/Digital–in other words, quite a bit more power than I’d ever use in the field, but this design will make activators and field ops happy that like to push some wattage.
I was curious how easy the Ranger 80 would be to deploy and tune, so on Sunday, August 6, 2023, I took it to one of my favorite parks on the planet.
Mount Mitchell State Park (K-2747)
I wasn’t alone on this trip: it was a proper family picnic with my wife, daughters and, of course, Hazel.
The weather was very moody that day–driving up to the park, we watched clouds and mists rise up through the trees like waves crashing on a rocky coast line.
Because the weather was so fickle, the park was relatively quite. We knew the picnic area wouldn’t be crowded, but we also knew that both of the picnic shelters were likely occupied. Fortunately, I believe we arrived only moments after a family left one of the two shelters so we were all set for a relatively dry picnic and activation!
Since my wife and daughters were with me, I didn’t film a full activation video. When I’m filming, they try to remain quiet and didn’t want them worrying about that during a family picnic. I did, however film two short videos below.
The REZ antenna deployed very quickly. In fact, there’s not that much to do: attach the ground spike to the coil, plunge the spike into the ground, extend and attach the folding whip, deploy the four 31′ counterpoises, then connect the antenna to your feedline.
I might have spent 2 or 3 minutes deploying it the first time. The speed was due, in large part, to the fact that REZ coiled their long counterpoise wires using the over/under method.
This meant that I could simply toss the counterpoises out onto the ground without worrying about them tangling. I’m not sure if I’ve ever received a cable or wire from a manufacturer that was coiled this way. A very nice touch!
If you’re not familiar with this method of coiling wire and coax, by the way, I demonstrate over/under below in the second video. You can do this, too–it’s easy and effective!
I brought my RigExpert AA-35 Zoom antenna analyzer along for the activation. I find it’s so much easier to tune antennas like the Ranger 80–especially for the first time–when you can see the SWR changes in real time.
I found a near 1:1 match on 20 meters with the sliding tap near the very top of the coil, no doubt because the Ranger 80 height is likely only slightly shorter than a 20M quarter wave antenna, so not much of the coil was needed.
Video: Quick REZ Ranger 80 Tour
I paired the Ranger 80 with my Penntek TR-45L.
My TR-45L has the Z-Match manual ATU option, but, of course, I bypassed that.
- Penntek TR-45L with optional Z-Match tuner and internal battery
- REZ Ranger Antenna System
- 20′ ABR Industries High-Visibility Jacketed Cable Assembly
- Begali Traveler
- Rite In The Rain Top Spiral Notebook (small 3×5 size)
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil
On The Air
I hopped on the air, running a blowtorch five watts of power, and started calling CQ POTA on the 20 meter band.
In fact, I hoped–and was successful–in completing my full activation on 20 meters.
In 25 minutes, I worked a total of twelve hunters. The band conditions were rough–QSB was deep–but it was a very enjoyable and casual quick activation.
I didn’t stay on the air for very long–instead, I joined my family at the table for a wonderful picnic lunch my wife packed.
My main goal was to check out the Ranger 80 and have a little fun on the air.
Here’s what this 5 watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map.
No more tangles!
You might have noticed in past activation videos that I’m a big fan of the “Figure Eight” method of winding wires, lines and cables.
This is because one of my least favorite things in the world to do is untangle and remove knots from lines.
The Figure Eight method works brilliantly with my smaller diameter wires and lines as long as the bend radius is acceptable. You can see a demo of the Figure 8 method as I pack this Weaver arborist throw line in the video below:
For larger diameters, like thicker coax, I prefer using the Over/Under method of coiling and that’s how the Ranger 80 counterpoises were packed and shipped.
The Over/Under Method of coiling wire and cable
I first learned the Over/Under method from the amazing John “The Bear” Butler, an audio engineer professor at Ohio University. I was never a student at OU, but my wife completed her grad studies in the OU film school in the mid 1990s. While she was tucked away in an editing booth working on a film, I’d make my way to the recording studio and hang out with John.
John taught me that taking care of your cables was vital to their longevity and part of that was coiling, storing, and transporting them properly. Proper cord management also meant tangle-free deployment and storage–important in the film industry where time is money.
I learned so much from John–including, but not limited to, the Over-Under method.
Thank you, John!
The over/under method is easy. Check out this short video where I explain it using the REZ antenna radials:
After this short activation, I packed up my gear and we enjoyed some quality family time before driving back down the mountain.
I plan to head back to Mount Mitchell soon to do a SOTA activation before winter weather hits and access to Mitchell closes.
I’ll have the Ranger 80 on loan for a bit longer, so look forward to more field reports using it!
I hope you enjoyed the field report and these short videos as much as I enjoyed creating them.
Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.
As I mentioned before, the Patreon platform connected to Vimeo make it possible for me to share videos that are not only 100% ad-free, but also downloadable for offline viewing. The Vimeo account also serves as a third backup for my video files.
Thanks for spending part of your day with me!
Cheers & 72,