I will kick off this discussion with some views of my own.
On my last visit to VK, as VK5GCC, I took a 33 foot wire, a 17 foot counterpoise and a home made L-match. With this in different locations I was able to work some good DX (including into the UK on 40m) using 2 watts.
I found I could get good results on the three bands I used mostly, 40, 30 and 20m CW. I used the antenna from different locations and in my experience, an end fed needing one support only has an advantage over the dipole idea. The counterpoise was pressed into service as a single wire and occasionally was connected to any adjacent metal, a nice metal water tank in one location and a bed frame in another.
On another location, in Scotland, I used a 40m dipole fed with 300 ohm ribbon to a balanced AMU, which worked well on four bands. The centre of this antenna was attached to string thrown over a tree branch and tied to a stone on the ground. Quick to erect and worked well.
I have two favorites and take them both: 1. Dipole, cut to length, usually 40 or 20M. 2. Half wave length wire plus a similar counterpoise and the ZM-2 tuner. Usually configured as a vetical but have used it as a horizontal antenna. I use the dipole if I can find two suitable supports. If I have only one support my experience is that the wire/tuner combination work better than the dipole as an inverted V. Bob KI0G
I have strong feelings about a "best" antenna. First it depends on whether you are planning to work most/all bands. If so, then THE antenna for me is the Collins 637-T1 or 'T2. This is a somewhat heavy unit for the long trip backpacker, but for less rigorous weight demands, or portable use, it is ideal. The antenna is contained in a tough plastic body weighing a little less than 3 lbs. sized about 5 inches by 9 inches. It has two dials on either end you set to zero with the coils of #14 phosphor-bronze antenna wire wound inside. The dials are then calibrated in MHz, and all you have to do is reel out an appropriate "frequency" from each side. There are appropriate fasteners to hold it tight while in use, and a molded in place to attach a rope to raise the unit. When finished, just reel it back onto the two reels using the spinners mounted on the dial-faces and you're off to your next QTH. It has a type-N connector for your coax. They have become available on the surplus market, and, while they are not cheap, they are a superb, rugged answer to portability, and compactness while camping or back-packing. 73 Ed N4XY
I am a rank newcomer in backpacking / QRP operating. But, given that, I just use a wire dipole fed with coax. Currently using RG8X / 14 gauge wire as I had several made up, but plan to make up some from a lighter gauge and RG58. I don't mess with a tuner. I mount it inverted vee style or, preferably, dipole style (depending on available trees on that cliff). Always try for a significant dropoff in the desired direction (see AA7QUs notes in ARS website). Grant K7GT
My favourite is a kite-borne vertical Zepp. That is, a "vertical" half-wave of wire held up by a kite and fed at its lower end with one leg of the lightest 300 ohm ribbon cable I can find (the other leg of the feeder remaining disconnected of course). The "vertical" naturally always slopes away from the wind, depending on the type of kite and strength of wind at the time of operating. However, a well trimmed box kite or parafoil kite can hold the wire at better than 45 degrees to the ground and, in any case, I've never noticed that the slope made much difference to the results. The parafoil kite is ideal for this type of operation since it flies well in light winds, has good lifting power and, most importantly, has no rigid parts so it will roll into a small bundle and squeeze easily into a rucksack. Of course, this type of antenna is only good for windy days. I'll leave other contributors to suggest the best antennas for non-windy day back-packing! Dave G3LSL
My favorite backpack antenna is a 40 meter center-fed inverted-vee with an open angle of about 100 degrees; fed with 50' of 440 ohm stranded ladderline. I cut the antenna to 67', use a homemade 1/4" plexiglass T with three slots as strain relief for the antenna's feedpoint. Drill 1/4" holes in ends and top for a rope support. A tuner and SWR bridge are needed, but can work very efficiently with a Z-Match and a resistive type LED bridge used so successfully in Joe N2CX's Rainbow Tuner and the AZ ScQRPion LED/SWR kit. In fact, the Emtech ZM-2 used this technique. One downside is if the height is not substantial then must ensure the ladderline is not looped, away from metal objects. One could make the feedline 30' and make a 20' patch cable in case the antenna can be brought to good heights in the field. This is my favorite antenna for the following reasons: 1. Ease of setup. Only one tall tree or support necessary. 2. Not necessary to lengthen and/or shorten the elements to resonance based on environment or a particular band of band segment. 3. Multi-band; able to work 40 through 10 meters with one antenna. 4. More omnidirectional vs. a conventional flat-top dipole. Maximizes QSO possibilities. 5. Nice gain figures on 20 and 15 meters. Also the inverted-vee has better gain figures on 10 meters vs. a flat-top dipole configuration. 6. Stranded ladderline is much easier to wrap up when done. I use cheap masking tape to secure. It tears off quite easily with residue left on the feedline (as is electrical tape). 7. Have been very successful with this portable setup for the past 3 1/2 years. Kevin N2TO
If you are TRULY backpacking the only way to go is a super-lightweight wire antenna. Some time ago I bought some 17-strand copper coated steel, PVC sheathed #26 AWG antenna wire (Product #541 - The Wireman, South Carolina , USA). The stuff is quite incredibly strong, and makes a great lightweight long-wire (300 feet weighs around 8 ozs) for either tree installation or kite lofted (using the wire as the kite "string") with a parafoil, all-cloth kite just a few ounces in weight, that folds up into "nothing". If using the kite support system it is essential to use something like a 10K 1 watt resistor from the antenna wire to ground at the tuner to bleed off static induced in the wire by the wind and other atmospheric sources. You also need a counterpoise for the above which you should lay out in the direction of the antenna itself enough for at least an 1/8 to a 1/4 wave of the lowest operating frequency you are planning on using. If you have the weight allowance in your backpack about 60 feet of skinny 300 ohm ladder line along with two 51 foot lengths of the lightweight antenna wire discussed above plus some small, homemade plastic insulators make for a great center-fed Zepp style antenna that will tune to just about all the bands you want to work with a balanced tuner or a regular unbalanced tuner with an external home constructed 4:1 balun (15 or so turns bifilar wound on a suitable size toroid for your operating power). I love wire antennas for backpacking as they are relatively inexpensive, efficient, lightweight and can be scrunched down to almost no space. David KB2TQX
I think the best Antenna for backpacking is, a 1/2 wave long wire. I take 66+ feet of # 24 Stranded wire coiled up with an Aligator clip on one end. I have a small length of rope with a tennis ball on one end of it, I toss it up into a tree, attach the free end of the wire to my rope and pull it up into the trees. Clip the 1/2 wave length wire to my rig and have at it. Free end of wire can be doubled over itself to make for 1/2 wave Antenna on any band 40 Meter and higher. I don't worry about a counterpose or ground wire, everything seems to work fine. This is a simple, light weight, very cheap, system, that is very easy/fast on putting it up and taking it down, and gives what I think are very good results. 72 Jim, KU4QW
I've had a lot of success with a plain dipole, usually in the Inverted Vee configuration. I had a 15 foot mast that I strapped to the external pole of a tent and then ran the two legs to convenient trees etc. I never used a tuner which simplifies matters and never used a SWR meter which saved worry and stress. I tried it out at the same height at home and then used it repeatedly without any problem. All my /P operation was from camping sites reached by car so weight wasn't a major consideration. 72, Jim, VE2KN
I like the SLV as it makes for a fb walking staff when collapsed and sets up in no time at all. Also, performs well from high ridges above the tree line where it would be difficult, if not impossible, to put up a dipole. Vern Wright's (W6MMA) mods also add a great deal of versatility and convenience to the basic idea. Arth W6AGS
End-fed vertical half-wave wire with counterpoise. (1) Very compact, with little or no feed line -- only a small L/C tank circuit for matching/tuning. (2) Omni-directional (3) Low take-off angle (4) Only one support wire (no need to look for two nicely spaced trees) (5) Can also be set up as a sloper, inverted-V, inverted-L, etc., where a sufficiently high support cannot be found, where directionality is desired, etc. 72 DE K1CL, Chuck.
My favorite backpacking / hiking antenna is the St. Louis Loop ( SLL ) which does require a transmatch if you are using it as a multi-band antenna with twinlead / ladderline. This is a very forgiving antenna that produces results. It has been published in the Peanut Whistle, NorCal QRPp, and CW Ops Australia. The SLL can be used horizontal, vertical, or as a sloper. the sloper version uses only support pole, which can be a 'Black Widow' or other 20 foot fishing pole. Actually if you are backpacking into the trees or to the desert, this antenna is ground independent, has no radials, is field repairable and provides a small footprint. Depending on how the antenna is set-up, the operator has the option of cloud warming to low takeoff angle for dx. This is a most useable antenna for many occasions. Walter AG5P
2 meters and up: 1) rubber duck of the rig 2) hb9cv (2el for 2meters and 3el for 70cm) HF : 20 met V inv. dipole home brew 5 band vertical some wire and a h.b. tuner commercial 5 band whip 20 metres loop Silvio I1SU
Possibly it's no use of speaking about t h e best ant to be used for /p.I have been several times in G and in GM this summer. All depends on the situation. To cut a long story short: For the upper bands - 10 Mc - I use the upper-and- outer because it is easily to be mounted with the help of a fishing pole and the radial can be used for tuning and there is no need of looking for a tree or any other means to fix the ends of the wire. When operating from a b&b site I use the longwire fed through coax from the DTR 7 this coax then being matched to the wire with a C and a ferrite ring attached to 7 Mc. I had this rig in Northumberland this yr from my room down to the fence where I used a 4 m fishing rod to lift the end of the wire. And only a thin wire is seen, nobody will ask...Possily only one will ask what fish could be caught with this array. Dieter DL2BQD
By far the best, most reliable antenna is a simple dipole. I use a 40 meter dipole fed with RG-174 and it works great. I don't use / need a tuner, it is compact and light, and always performs! That's my two cents. Mike WA6ARA
My standard backpack antenna is a set of dipoles for the 5 pre-WARC HF bands. I have a 10m length of RG-174 coax cable with an insulator on one end, and separate color-coded wires which I can add in any combination. All antennas are pre-cut for best performance in the favored part of the band when installed as an inverted Vee with the center up 4m and the ends about 2m off the ground. I don't use an ATU - just put it up and operate. This kit was originally built for an extended trip "down under", and I wanted something to handle all the bands available on my Argonaut. By using #22 insulated, stranded wire and RG-174, the weight is quite low. I can put up a 10m dipole during a lunch stop, or the complete set if I will be somewhere for a day or two. Assembly is fairly simple, especially after using it a few times. (Yes, it as been done in the dark.) First, I choose the bands I want to operate, tie the wires through a hole in the center insulator (for strain relief), and attach the ends under the wing nuts. (Each wire is stripped at one end, and has a loop tied in the other.) Then I select one of the longer wires and tie my throwing rope on the free end, throw a weight over a handy tree, and use the wire to hoist the feedpoint. This gets at least one wire up as high as possible. The remaining wires are tied off to branches, rocks, grass, etc., using pieces of nylon cord ranging from 3 to 10m long. Practice and experience are important for it to go smoothly. The most common problem is using a rock which is too light to pull the throwing rope back down to within reach. Once on a sandy beach in VK7 I couldn't find a rock, so I filled an old sock with sand. Also, practice tying knots which can be untied easily: I use variations of the bowline, slippery sheet bend, and tauntline hitch. In retrospect, skills such as rock throwing and knot tying may be more important to enjoying QRP backpack operation than the specific type of antenna used. All ropes and wires in my kit are wound in a figure-8 between thumb and little finger of one hand. This also takes practice, but it greatly reduces tangles. Rubber bands are a simple way to secure each piece after it is wound. (I don't have room to explain my method of tying them off.) One design problem for SSB/CW ops in Region 2, is how to cover the entire 80m band (3.5 - 4.0 MHz). I solved this by cutting the 80m wires only 55' long: I add the 10m wires on the ends for the top of the band, or the 15m wires for the low end. A typical 5 band configuration uses 4 sets of wires: 40, 20, 10, and (80 + 15). I've operated QRP portable from KH6, KL7, VK, ZL, VE1, and several US states. Sometimes it has required creativity to put up an antenna. In VK6 I propped the feedpoint up off the rocks with a 1m stick, and still worked W4. The individual wires can be combined in various ways to make more elaborate antennas (such as full wave loops, long wires, half squares, etc.) when conditions permit. In one case I connected the 40m and 80m wires as a twisted pair feedline on a 20m dipole (which was tied between two rock crags - the rig was level with the antenna, but the ground dropped 100m in the length of the feedline!) For real serious backpacking with a single- or dual-band rig, I would probably use and end-fed wire. 65' would be a good length for 40m and 20m. The tuner would be an "L" network designed for this wire on these bands: small toriod coil, slide switch to select coil tap, and trimmer capacitor - about 1" square. For a serious contest trip, I take along a balanced tuner, twinlead, and extra wire. This allows maximum antenna creativity, depending on the available supports. Long wires, vee beams, loops, and colinear arrays are good candidates. My best portable antenna probably was one I put up for Field Day in Southeast Alaska. It was a zepp fed 135' wire sloping down from a cedar tree to a post that I had erected on the tide flats (at low tide.) When the tide came in, I had a sloping wire over salt water, pointing stateside. The rig was placed on a couple pieces of driftwood used as a table. I was so engrossed operating, however, that I didn't watch the tide as it continued to advance up the beach... it came within a few inches of sending me maritime mobile! Good luck! Dale WB6BYU
I am very much a newbie to backpacking and QRP, too. But... what I used this summer was a pair of wire dipoles fed with ~36 ft lengths of RG58 coax. Our rigs were NorCal 40A for 40m and MFJ 9020 for 20m. I have since sold the MFJ and am anxiously awaiting the NorCal 20 kit. There have veen several articles written regarding backpacking antenna systems in QST. A common configuration is to have both a 40m and 20m dipole from a common coax line. Another is to have a single coax run but have various add-on legs to the elements to make the resultant antenna resonant on various bands from 40 up through 10m. When backpacking, I am not about to carry along a Tuner/SWR /Power meter just to get a slightly more efficient antenna system. I will carry any extra weight as spare batteries, thank you! Grant K7GT
On the backpacking antennas. I have been using computer ribbon cable (28 awg) for dipoles "and feedline". I just make a simple knot wherever I want the center to be and spread out the conductors for the dipole. I then make a loop knot on each end of the dipole and support with fishing line. I know it sounds crazy, but it works. During sweepstakes with 2 watts (SST) I worked CO, MD, MI, TN, IL and others. I call this the "Ultra-Lite Knot Antenna" . With the Emtech ZM-2 tuner this makes a really lightweight portable antenna system. Dave AB5PC