Working With A Mast

When the summer was just rolling around, I ordered a SOTABeams Tactical Mini mast for portable operation. It seemed to stall out in Chicago (as a lot of things traveling into the states are) and then was magically in my mailbox one morning. I was pretty excited about it, but things got in the way and I didn’t really get a chance to do anything with it until this week.

I decided to get it set up in my yard and see how it worked with my Par EndFedz┬« End Fed Half Wave Antenna set up as a sloper. The mast itself is very lightweight and yet incredibly strong. I got it guyed out with a little assistance from my son (no callsign because he’s stubborn and doesn’t want to get his ticket…yet). Once I had it set up, the rope was cut to the proper length and I proved to myself that setting it up solo would be a breeze.

Mast set up with guy lines in place.

The antenna was attached to the top with a couple of zip ties that I made into a strange device for holding the end. I guess it works? It was resistant to the wind and all of that jazz, so it’s probably solid. At the end of the day, I would like to get a little loop to situate on top to make that part a little more stable and easier.

Full mast deployed.

It worked nicely and I was able to get 3 contacts in short order. This is largely because the antenna is so perfectly tuned on 40m and 20m. I cannot say enough good stuff about that antenna. And the combination of the two will make working in the field easy enough when there aren’t any trees around.

The addition of the mast muddies the water for me in only one respect: weight. I still love my SuperAntenna and I think it’s the one I’m going to use most often when operating portable. It attaches to the Jeep and performs really well. That said, the wire antenna is attractive because it’s small, tuned for the frequencies I use most often, and light. Neither of these options require a tuner under most circumstances.

That said, if I were to do another 40 mile hike with my IC-705, I would likely skip the SuperAntenna and the mast altogether as I’d likely be in the woods or near a tree most of the time. At that point, I would be debating the use of the arborists line as the weight adds 10 oz. and I have a bear bag that has a smaller bag for putting a rock in and tossing line over a tree limb. That’s the backpacking calculus: is it more miserable to carry something or miss it in the field? All in all, I could probably pare down to the radio and the antenna with my Lightsaver Max as a battery option for a bare bones trip.

Still, it’s nice to have options. I operate a lot with my Jeep (and soon my bike) as my method of transportation, so it does open up what I can take with me and what I might use given the circumstances.

I like the mast. I’m sure it will come in handy.