The antenna I used with the Youkits TJ2B review is a relatively well known and very well made antenna from a company that caters to QRP and SOTA operators- LNR Precision, made right here in NC. I purchased up one of their antennas a short time ago on a recommendation from a buddy who’s big into NPOTA and has had hands-on input with LNR’s product development.
Wanting something ultra compact for trail use, I’ve normally always built my own antennas out of whatever I can source at Lowes, Harbor Freight, Sears, and Hamfests. I like building antennas, as long-time readers know, but my aforementioned friend talked me into trying one of LNR’s designs and promising he’d buy it if I gave it a thumbs down. Thinking it’s simply an end fed with a small matchbox, why bother buying? Well, after a few runs with it, I’ve taken some notes.
Built with very good components, the antenna is worth the money, and is on par with the issued HF long wire antennas I used in the Army, but much, much lighter. The total package weighs in at just a few ounces, and can fit in a pocket without you knowing it’s there. The matchbox is super compact, and features a BNC connector, which not only makes a more compact coax interface, but is easier to attach or take down in a hurry. On the matchbox is two tie down points for hoisting lines. Tarred bankline works well and is cheaper than 550 cord for stringing it up in a tree. The wire is very compact polystealth, and is extremely flexible, making it quite durable. This is an asset. The end of the primary section houses a plastic spool with another short run of wire and terminated with a small insulator. Again, bank line works very well to hoist the antenna end.
The tiny matchbox mates well to RG-8X fitted with BNC connectors. I use RG-8X because it’s the best medium between weight and durability and has very little loss on HF. Many SOTA and ultralight operators like RG-174, which is a super-compact and lightweight coax. I don’t run it because with the advantages of lighter weight comes a tradeoff with durability- the connectors vastly outsize the diameter of the wire and looks like it could break if moved the wrong way. RG-8X, while heavier, is more durable with its attachment to either BNC or UHF connectors, so I’d rather trade a bit of weight for hardiness on the safe side. A 25ft run of RG-8X is nothing to complain about weight-wise anyway, so it’s no big deal.
The antenna configuration was one that should be familiar to any HF-capable RTO- a simple horizontal longwire with a counterpoise strung relatively low, in order to allow for strong NVIS propagation characteristics. The counterpoise is simply a 40ft run of 14AWG THNN, available anywhere and cheap, strung out on the ground to give the hot wire (radiating element) something to push off of- a reflector.
An end-fed antenna is essentially a dipole with one end chopped off, so the use of a counterpoise makes for an even stronger radiation pattern, roughly broadside to the antenna wire. In plain terms, this means your pattern will move at 90 and 270 degrees to the antenna direction. Raised to just above head level, the antenna will have a very tight radiating pattern which is exactly what we’re looking for when we need NVIS propagation on 40M.
The LNR raises fast- I had it up and running in under 5 minutes, and I was taking my sweet time and enjoying a fine pilsner while doing it. In a hurry, I could have it up much faster. Running the antenna roughly N-S, East and West stations were coming in strong in both directions, especially from the West. Using the LDG QRP tuner, the antenna tuned very fast for both the 817 and the TJ2B, presenting a low SWR to protect the radio.
The antenna presents very low noise, which is surprising considering it’s compact form factor. Shortwave stations were very loud and clear, which was also surprising considering the noisy atmospheric conditions present. I had no problems making 5w SSB contacts into TN, which is a testament to both the radios I was using and the antenna itself. As a complete system, it works, and works well. One station in TN was surprised I was only running 5w, and even more surprised I was on a field-expedient setup. With both radios I had no issue making solid contacts, even in the deplorable band conditions present on 40m.
Why pay for something I could make? Because it works. And works well. At $75, it’s worth the money especially for the beginner who’s new to making antenna, and likely would spend twice that on trial and error. While I strongly advocate building your own antennae to learn the underlying theories, engender a sense of accomplishment, and most importantly, gain the know-how that can never be taken away, this antenna is a great example of something done right, built by my neighbors just a few counties over.
For a compact, stealthy antenna system, the LNR is a good choice and a solid performer. For 20w and under, this is a definite performer and one you should be eyeing for a simple, rapidly deployable antenna in the field. Pick one up- you won’t regret it.