QRP POTA and testing the new JNCRadio MC-599 portable dipole antenna!

In late December 2023, I received a package from Jesse at JNCRadio/Chelegance. It was their new MC-599 portable dipole antenna. They sent it—full disclaimer: at no cost to me—for evaluation, but shortly after receiving it, life got crazy and I was delayed in taking it to the field.

Fast-forward to February, and I was eager to take it to the field and see how it might perform. On February 5, 2024, a nice window of opportunity opened in the afternoon while one of my daughters was rehearsing A Midsummer Night’s Dream with her cast. Pisgah National Forest and Game Land were a 20-minute drive from her meeting site, so I headed there to deploy this new antenna.

The JNCRADIO MC-599

On-site, I pulled out the two main components of the MC-599 dipole system: the bespoke padded bag holding the antenna and the portable mast.

I knew the basics about assembling the MC-599 because I had watched a video on the Chelegance website that morning.

However, this was the very first time I had deployed the MC-599. I had never even removed any of the antenna components from the padded bag.

With this antenna, it’s best to have an open area for the two sides of the dipole (two telescoping whips) to fully extend without touching tree branches, etc. I had one particular picnic site in mind at the roadside picnic area I chose, but a couple was having a picnic there when I arrived. I waited to see if they might be leaving soon, but they weren’t, so I chose a site I had used before, even though it was flanked by trees.

Assembly was easy: I simply attached the center of the dipole to the 13′ mast, then attached the two telescoping whips to either side and extended them to the 20M position silkscreened on the whip (identical to the MC-750 vertical markings—see below).

Next, you simply attach your coax to the center of the dipole, then extend the mast all the way up.

I had to avoid touching tree branches, but it actually fit quite easily into this small space.

Since it was a bit breezy, I used some line to guy the mast. Ideally, you’d want a minimum of three guying points, but I only had two lines with me, so I made do, and it worked fine—the antenna was stable.

Next, I set up my radio: the Yaesu FT-818ND. Since the MC-599 was, in theory, resonant, I didn’t need an ATU for a match.

I turned on the FT-818 and discovered that the SWR was a perfect 1:1. Amazing.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised because my Chelegance MC-750 is always perfectly resonant (without needing a transformer) simply following the whip markings for guidance.

I should note here that the MC-599 can handle up to 200 Watts PEP—I was pushing 5-6 Watts. Also, the frequency range using the whips is from 20-6 meters. Chelegance also includes two 7 MHz wire elements that can be deployed in an inverted vee shape to play radio on the 40-meter band. It’s an efficient system and has many fewer components than a Buddipole systems I’ve used in the past.

Gear:

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On The Air

Keep in mind that my POTA site was in a deep valley, flanked by high ridge lines–I wasn’t sure what to expect as I hopped on the air.

I started calling CQ POTA and the first station I heard was DL1OK operating in Spain as EA8/DL1OK. Logging Dmitrij was a good sign indeed for this portable dipole!

Stations kept flowing in. I worked my first ten contacts in ten minutes.

I continued working stations in a continuous pileup until I ran out of time. I ended up logging a total of 46 contact all within 50 minutes. I did spend a few extra minutes (as I always do) trying to pull out weak stations and slower code stations.

What fun!

QSO Map

Here’s what this five-watt activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map.

Note that this map does not include my contact with EA8/DL1OK in Spain:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

MC-599 notes

I’ve got to admit: the MC-599 made a great first impression.

As with the MC-750, I’m most impressed with the build quality. The components are all sturdy and nicely machined. The padded case was custom made to hold the MC-599 and its components. Everything fits together as it should and—again—was resonant when deployed according to the whip markings.

Even on this inaugural deployment, it didn’t take long to set up. The next time I deploy it, it will go even faster. Packing it up afterward (as you can see in the video) went very quickly.

Keep in mind: the MC-599 is a low-impact, high-profile antenna.

If you’re at a site that doesn’t allow antennas in trees, the MC-599 could be an excellent option. Other than using optional guy lines that would require tent stakes in the ground, it would have no impact on park grounds.

I love the fact that the MC-599 is self-supporting. This would be an absolutely brilliant antenna to use at parks with wide-open spaces and few trees for support.

That said, it is not a stealthy antenna. In fact, portable dipole antennas are some of the most conspicuous portable antennas you could deploy. They’re maybe slightly less conspicuous than a hex beam or Yagi. Even though I was cloaked by a few trees, the couple that was occupying the picnic site I had hoped to use couldn’t help but stop by on their way out and ask what it was I was doing. I bet if I had been using a wire antenna, they wouldn’t have even seen it.

I would always ask permission before setting up an antenna like the MC-599 at, say, a small historic site or urban park.

I could also see using the MC-599 for SOTA (Summits On The Air), but primarily on summits that are either drive-up, or where the hike is minimal. The aluminum alloy mast is lightweight for its size, but it’s quite large to consider taking on an extended hike. However, for a nice drive-up summit, I imagine you could work some serious DX. Just bring a few guy lines in case it’s windy.

I do think the MC-599 would make for a great Field Day antenna. Since it can handle up to 200W PEP and is easy to lower and switch bands, it would be a brilliant portable option for those operating a multi-band 100W rig.

But obviously? It’s an exceptional performer with QRP power. It’s hard to beat a dipole even when it’s only 13′ off the ground.

Thank you

Thank you for joining me on this fun activation!

I hope you enjoyed the field report and my activation video 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,

Thomas (K4SWL)

4 thoughts on “QRP POTA and testing the new JNCRadio MC-599 portable dipole antenna!”

  1. The Chelegance/JNCRadio MC-599 also looks like a nice option for POTA from the parking lot where there are no picnic tables or easy access beyond the trailhead. I have a flag holder hitch mount that I currently use with my Chinese carbon fiber fishing mast for using EFHWs in “L” or “V” configurations. If it isn’t too windy to “require” guy wires and if the ranger won’t permit stakes in the ground this might be a good option otherwise, much more efficient than a Hamstick on a mag mount. Cheers, Davey –KU9L

    1. Yes, agreed. This would be an effective antenna for a parking lot and there, I doubt rangers would have any issues at all. Thanks!

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