Best HF Mobile Antenna?


Brian Mileshosky:
Hello Everyone,

  I've looked around within this forum and haven't found much, so I'll ask the question.

  There are many HF mobile antennas out there -- Screwdrivers, Texas bugcatchers, Spiders, Outbacks, etc.

  Which is the best antenna for HF work while on the road?  Why is one better than the other, with specifics?  I'm interested in getting into mobile HFing, and I'd like to get a good antenna based on experience and real performance.

  Let's hear what you have to say!

Brian, N5ZGT  

Alan Applegate:
Do you know what is more important than the antenna type and brand? How you mount and match it!

Even the best antenna money can buy can turn into a dummy load on a stick if improperly mounted.

Think of it this way. If it's small, mounted on the bumper, and has a near perfect match, it's NOT the antenna you want to buy. Most HF mobile antennas are 6 to 7 foot tall, with the better ones even longer. Typically, their input impedance is 15 to 35 ohms at resonance, and except those with built-in shunt matching, will require some sort of matching device to match a modern solid-state rigs' 50 ohm output.

If you're an ARRL member, you can down load Walt Maxwell's "Another Look at Reflections" from Pay particular attention to Parts 5, and 6. This series of articles will give you good insight into what does and does not work.

Reading the various reviews on this web site is another good source of information, but even a lot of this information can be misleading, particlarly when it comes to VSWR bragging rights.

Good Luck

Alan Applegate, KØBG

Steve Katz:
I couldn't agree more (with Alan).  Perfect advice.

I must admit that I'm rather lazy when it comes to HF-mobile, as I don't spend that much time on the road anymore; as such, I'm using my old Hustler MO-2 foldover mast (54" tall) with the Hustler Super Resonators that screw into the top (one by one).  It's mounted on a trailer hitch mount which is welded directly to the car frame, and additionally grounded by two, 12" long and 2" wide copper braid straps bonding to other points on the frame, beneath the car. That's reasonably sufficient, but not excellent.  It works.  I won't win any "signal shootouts."

On the receiving end of an awful lot of mobile signals (when operating from home), I must say I hear more excellent signals from Screwdriver antennas than any other kind.  This is likely because Screwdrivers can be adjusted for resonance on-the-fly, so most people using them probably really do have them tuned properly; the fact that they are heavy and expensive probably is a good incentive to mount them well and ground them properly; and they're big enough to do the job.

My friend and neighbor Neil, K6SMF, works a lot of DX from his mobile, using a fill-sized Outbacker (7' tall model) on a huge magnetic mount (4 magnets) in the center of the roof of his SUV, so the base of the antenna is about six feet above the street.  That undoubtedly hits a lot of stuff, but when it's not hitting things, it seems to work well.  I question the use of magnets on the lower frequencies (like 40m-80m) but on the higher bands they seem to work.  He does have an outstanding mobile signal on 17m, I've heard him from everywhere.


Floyd Sense:
You didn't mention which band(s) you plan to operate.  If you really need all HF bands, then one of the screwdriver type antennas is probably the way to go. I decided that just 17 and 20 meters was good enough for me, and obtained Hamsticks for those two bands.  They work just great, and I get great reports into Europe on 17 meters with my Hamstick mounted in the center of the roof of my minivan.  A big plus for the Hamstick is their optional quick-disconnect that fastens to the antenna and the mount.  I can remove the antenna in just a few seconds, and swap with the 20 meter Hamstick in another couple of seconds.  The overall height with the approx. 7 foot Hamsticks is within the 13' 5" limit and the only thing I ever hit with it is low hanging branches. Beware those parking garages, however!

Mark Mayer:
Maybe a better question should be: What is the best way to mount the hf mobile antenna.
I use the cheapest one: Hamsticks. I'm sure its the best for me.
It's mounted high, in the clear, on the roof of an SUV via a big mag-mount. Sure its going to hit branches, but so what? Just replace it for 20 bucks if it breaks.
My signal "screams" on 17-10M. The ground and height is the key, not so much the antenna.
If you don't drive an SUV, or do not want to use a mag., then a trunk-lip mount is the next best way. Forget the bumber or trailer hitch.
A screwdriver is only better at 80&40M.
Just my opinion!
Thank you


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