Well, I finally took the time to order up the extra buddipole pieces to get around to making a vertical antenna for 20m. What's wrong with the dipole you ask? Well, nothing for the most part. I get wonderful signal and the more directional ability is quite nice especially with nearby signals. However, on the last camping (ok, rving) trip we took, sites were pretty tightly packed and in order to use a dipole, I would be encroaching greatly on my neighbors area. This is defintely by both ham and RVing standards you don't do.
What all is involved in making a good vertical with the buddipole components? For me, the easiest thing was to use NE1RD's guide to the buddipole antenna. (That can be googled and found online quite easily). I've read through that manual quite a few times, but it's always a good refresher to review the section I'm using. So, according to him, i needed two more antenna arms and the longer whip to make a full scale vertical. I had already been using the longer whips on my 20m dipole, so that wasn't a problem. I did have to go and order the 2 extra arms. Luckily, it didn't take long for buddipole to send those to me and a few days later I was beginning to play with the vertical setup.
The easy part, being this is full scale, is that all you have to do is assemble all four arms together and put the whip on the end. The hard part is getting enough room to fully extend the whip and the even hard part, putting all that up on the top of the tripod to and screwing it in. Once that was complete, the rest was pretty easy.
From the initial order, I had the ground radials (two anyway) to lay out with the nice screw in adapters that they came with as well. That made everything so easy to put together. I placed one on each of the places in the "T" adapter where I would normally place my antenna arms for a dipole. The one thing I had to do (and I still need to order and extra one or two for ease of use), I had to take the jumper wire with the banana plug off one of the coils and place it inside the screw-on adapter of the buddipole on the black side so I could jumper over to the red banana plug and use both sides of the "T" for the ground radials.
After doing that, I plugged in the coax to the "T" adapter, plugging red to blue and black to black. I then measured out about 18 ft of radial for each of the two I have and sloped them down to about 3 ft from the 8 ft up where I ran the tripod up to. The good thing of the vertical is that you do only have to run the tripod up about 8 ft. It makes it very easy to change things up should you need to do that. After getting everything plugged in and run out, I hooked up my MFJ analyzer. I found I was a little out on the SWR, so I began playing with my raidals, adjusting a couple inches at a time until I got the SWR down. After just a few minutes, I had it down to about 1.3-1.4. Well, within range of where it should be.
I plugged it in to my Flex-3000 and got PowerSDR running. I ran the autotune on the flex and it left the tuning alone as it was already under 1.5:1. Then it was time to try it out. A couple of CQ calls and transmissions later and I had managed to hit both sides of the US coast on about 25W. I have to say that's not too terribly bad for a vertical antenna. Now, I'm obviously not getting my DX like I was on the dipole, but it's still not too bad for a portable vertical antenna.
A couple things to keep in mind. One, make sure before you start putting this up you're not around power lines!!! This does stick up quite a ways in the air, even though you don't have the tripod up very high. Two, make sure to guy the tripod very well because the way that sticks up and the whip moves in the air (its built in flexibility) just a little wind will really start making it move around. I was trying to re-guy mine and a gust came up and pulled the tripod out of my had. Luckily, the only thing that got damaged was the whip. It broke it at the second section from the end. Not a really big deal, but I did have to order another one. Moral to the story, if you don't have it guyed well to start, get someone to firmly hold the tripod before you start playing with the guys. :) Just a friendly reminder.
Overall, I've had pretty good luck with this version of the buddipole. It makes for a very small footprint so in tight places like RV parks, your neighbors (nor the RV park folks) will really care. Sure, if I have room, I will typically run in a dipole mode for the better directionality and range. But this really does fit the bill for a nice way to stay on the air no matter where I go on vacation.
Now, I just have to start working on what to do for a better home and RV antenna. I'm liking the Gap Titan DX and may give that a shot for my home antenna. It's a vertical, yes, but from what I hear and read it's pretty phenominal even on DX. The RV, I'm leaning towards a Tarheel screwdriver. It won't do as well as my buddpole, but when it's -30 outside and the wind is howling 60+ mph in Colorado in the winter, I don't have go out and readjust to switch bands. So, we'll see how I go on that decision. I'll keep you updated....