Tag Archives: Alpha Antenna

NPOTA activations

It’s September which means there are only four months left for the NPOTA event. As I write this there have been over 612,000 QSOs with over 11,000 activations of the 489 units. If you look at the stats you’ll see that there are only 40 units that haven’t been activated. This means that over 90% of the 489 units have been activated at least once, with many of those activated a number of times. I wonder if anyone at the ARRL and the NPS thought that this event would generate this level of interest.

Some significant portion of those 11,000 activations involved Amateur Radio in the view of the public at the units. What a great promotion for the hobby. My activations have drawn interest from people at the units that I’ve activated with the first question usually something like “what are you doing?” followed by the typical responses of either “people still do that?” or “my <fill in the blank family member> used to be an Amateur Radio operator.” All the interest I’ve seen has been very positive. I’ve enjoyed doing activations as it’s fun to be on the other end of the pile-up. It’s not like being some ultra rare DX such as Outer Swobovia but I’m not likely to travel there anytime soon so a pile-up in Wisconsin will serve. I’ve also enjoyed the chase as well. As of this moment I’ve done nine activations and have 107 units confirmed.

Wisconsin doesn’t have any National Parks but we do have five units on the list:

  • Apostle Islands National Lakeshore – LK01
  • Ice Age National Scenic Trail – TR05
  • Ice Age National Scientific Reserve – AA11
  • Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway – WR09
  • North Country National Scenic Trail – TR04

Of which two, Ice Age National Scenic Trail – TR05 and Ice Age National Scientific Reserve – AA11 have multiple locations throughout the state, many of which are very near my home or where my XYL and I camp.

Ice Age Trail - Point Beach Segment

Ice Age Trail – Point Beach Segment

NPOTA TR05 portable station

NPOTA TR05 portable station

At one activation I had some assistance from a dragonfly:

Dragonfly counterpoise

and an odd little bee that spent about 20 minutes flying around and walking about my portable station:



For all of the activations I’ve used my Kenwood TS-480SAT @100 Watts powered by a trolling motor battery and either my Alpha Antenna DX Sr, EARCHI end fed, or LNR EF-Quad end fed, all with good results.

NPOTA portable station

NPOTA portable station

On occasion I’ve used my folding wagon to transport the station equipment:

Portable station transport

And other times I’ve worked largely out of the back of my truck:

Ice Age Trail - Northern Kettle Moraine

Ice Age Trail – Northern Kettle Moraine

NPOTA station @ TR05 and AA11

NPOTA station @ TR05 and AA11

The current run rate is about 76,000 QSOs per month so with four months to go the final tally will probably be just over 900,000 QSOs. Maybe there will be a push through the fall and we’ll break one million QSOs for the year. Who knows.

I’ve visited a number of the units over the years and it’s been fun to work them in this event, recalling the times that I’ve visited the unit in the past. With the popularity of this event, and the interest that it has generated I wonder what the ARRL is going to come up with next. I know that I’ve enjoyed it immensely.



Alpha Antenna DX Sr

With an increase in portable transceiver capability I’ve had to do some catch-up on antennas. Last camping seasons portable operations were largely sustained through the use of Mike AB9ON‘s BuddiPole. Mike graciously let me borrow it for several months through the summer. Obviously the borrowed antenna model isn’t sustainable, so for this camping season I set about to buy\build some antennas for my portable station.

I wanted one vertical antenna option and one or more wire antenna options. I figured that would cover all of my portable operation needs. One wire antenna is the EARCHI that I recently built. A potential purchase option on the radar is an LNR EF-QUAD. I know their a wee bit much for what they are but the reviews for all their products are excellent and sometimes it’s nice to just get something and go operate. For verticals I looked at the aforementioned BuddiStick,  the SuperAntenna SuperStick, and one of the Alpha Antenna verticals.

Based upon my experience with the BuddiPole it was an option. It’s a very nice antenna that’s part of an entire BuddiStuff ecosystem. It’s like an Amateur Radio LEGO set. Once you’re in you can add parts to the system to cover a wide range of frequency and deployment needs. After a lot more reading on the Buddi products I settled on getting a BuddiStick instead of the BuddiPole. First, it represents a low cost entry into the land of BuddiStuff and second, for my needs it would be more easy to deploy and appeared a bit less fussy about tuning than the BuddiPole. So I watched eBay, eHam, QTH, QRZ for a used BuddiStick. Every time reasonably priced BuddiStuff appeared it was gone in a nanosecond. Other postings contained many more pieces than I needed\wanted which translated into way more than I wanted to spend.

Then one day at a Hamfest I stumbled upon an Alpha Antenna that looked to be new in the bag. I’d done enough research on them to know that they appear to be well made and get good reviews on eHam. It was all there, was in perfect shape, and the price was right so it followed me home. Vertical problem solved.

Alpha Antenna DX Sr

Alpha Antenna DX Sr

It’s the Alpha Antenna DX Sr. After sitting in the basement for awhile I had some time recently to set it up and test it. Initial testing with my MFJ-259B showed good matches across all the bands of operation. Everything was well within the range of the tuner in my TS-480SAT and in many cases it won’t be needed.

Wolf River Coil

According to the Alpha Antenna site, the Alpha DX Sr uses a “customized” Wolf River coil. It appears to be a Silver Bullet 1000. I don’t know what’s been customized on the one with the Alpha. It appears to be substantially the same.

Overall the antenna is very well made. The vertical and radial elements are shock corded aluminum poles much like that used for tents. For 10m, 12m, and 15m you only use two of the four sections for the vertical element so two are folded over on the two rising from the base. The tripod is very nice and the whole thing packs up into a much nicer than average bag.

Alpha DX Sr packed up

The entire package weighs 12 pounds but a fair piece of that is the tripod. You could quite easily shed the tripod, reducing the weight considerably for those trips where weight is an issue. My camping is in a camper so the weight is not an issue and since I live in Wisconsin SOTA activations aren’t likely in my future. This thing will work fine for camping and some NPOTA activations.

Unfortunately I’ve not had enough time to operate with it as of yet. It will have to wait for an upcoming camping trip. The antenna analyzer indicates that there shouldn’t be any surprises and I’m confident that it will perform as expected.