Once again, my family made our annual vacation trip to North Carolina. We rented a house in Corolla on the Outer Banks for the week. Of course, in between the usual vacation activities, there was some ham radio involved.
For various logistical and traffic reasons, it took us longer than usual to get there. It wasn’t until the next day (Sunday), that I was able to get an antenna up. This year, I went with my trusty “Up & Outer” antenna.
I mounted a 28-foot pole on the 3rd story deck for the vertical element. I strapped a smaller pole to a fence to support the horizontal element. I put a BNC-to-binding post adapter on my KX3 and fed the 300-ohm twin-lead directly. It loaded up fine from 60M through 10M. Surprisingly, the ambient noise levels were low. Man-made noise is usually a challenge in these rental houses.
I operated from a 2nd-floor deck on the rear of the house. This spot provided some nice shade for most of the day and gave a great view of Currituck Sound.
I managed to catch a few hours of the SKCC Weekend Sprintathon (WES) contest. Running 10 watts, I worked 20 stations and added 8 more new contacts to my quest for the Senator Award. For good measure, I also worked DP6A in Germany who was participating in another contest. So, the antenna set-up appeared to be working fine.
For the rest of the week, I fell into a pattern of casual QRP operating for a bit in the late mornings. The rest of the time was spent swimming, crabbing, and riding bikes with my grandkids. I still managed to make a handful of contacts each day and enjoyed some nice rag-chews.
Mid-week, we had some unsettled weather. I had a “Plan B” for inclement weather, though. I planned to move my radio gear into an unused sitting area not far from my outdoor location. I was going to use a small piece of pipe insulation to route the twin-lead in through a sliding door and keep it from touching the metal door jamb. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and “Plan B” never came into play.
As usual, the week went by too fast. On our last day, I made two more contacts before it was time to pack up the radio and tear down my antenna.
This was another fun vacation, radio-wise. I made 40 contacts, including some very nice early morning CW chats. I also worked a couple of stations who were also operating portable while on vacation and made a couple of DX contacts to boot. Plus, I continued my slow-but-steady progress towards my SKCC Senator Award, adding 16 new ones this week.
It was nice to be using a decent antenna in a low-noise environment — a welcomed change of pace from my home station!
My family and I went on our annual vacation in Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Ham radio-wise, it started off as a challenging week.
We arrived at the house we rented for the week after a long but fairly non-eventful drive. As we were unloading at the house, a storm rolled in. This delayed getting an antenna set up.
We were also visited by a security officer for the development we were in. Apparently, my daughter’s small cargo trailer was in violation of the Development’s rules. I won’t go further into that but, because of that drama, I decided to keep my antenna as low-profile as possible.
On Sunday afternoon, I finally got an antenna set up. I sloped a 29.5-foot wire down from a 3rd story deck to a wooden fence behind the house. It tuned up OK and I appeared to be getting out. Unfortunately, the local noise level was horrendous. Despite the high noise levels, I managed three quick contacts in the SKCC WES contest.
On my second full day there, I used my Alexloop outside on the deck. It helped to make the noise situation more manageable on most bands. The 20M band was still a bit noisier than I would have liked, though. Even though we were only 2 blocks from the ocean, our rental house overlooked a scenic little lake. The struggle with the noise levels was at least partially offset by the great view I had.
On the third day, I removed the sloper and installed a 53-foot inverted L antenna. I mounted a 9:1 UNUN near ground level and ran the wire up the deck support. I ran the horizontal portion of the wire along the top rail of the deck. I estimate that the vertical portion was about 20 feet with the remaining 33 feet running horizontally. Surprisingly, the inverted L had significantly lower noise levels and seemed to be getting out pretty well. There was a picnic table conveniently-located near the antenna’s feed point, which provided a shady spot in the morning hours.
For the remainder of the week, I fell into a pattern of getting on the air each morning for a few QSOs. Most of my contacts were casual rag chews. It was nice to chat with a few familiar stations I haven’t worked in a while. The shade out there was usually gone by 1PM, so I limited my operating to the morning hours. The rest of the time was spent with the family and doing the usual things you would expect for a beach vacation.
It was a great vacation. This week was a perfect example of why I always like to bring several options for antennas. These rental houses are all different and sometimes you never know what you’re going to run into when you get here.
[This is an updated version of a post that appears on my old website. – WB3GCK]
Something about the “Up and Outer” antenna has fascinated me since I first came across it in the 1974 edition of the ARRL Antenna Book. This antenna, which was once popular many years ago, is about as simple as it gets. Simply put, the Up and Outer is a dipole or doublet where one leg is vertical while the other leg is horizontal. Although it seems to be overlooked by Amateurs these days, this antenna offers some significant benefits:
It’s a good limited space antenna since one leg of the doublet is vertical. It only requires half of the space that a horizontal doublet would take up.
When fed with balanced line and used with a suitable transmatch, it’s a good multi-band antenna.
It combines characteristics of both verticals and horizontal wire antennas. That is, it is good for both local and DX work.
It’s very easy to build and erect.
First, a little background on this antenna. According to some handwritten notes from QRP Hall of Famer, C. F. Rockey W9SCH (SK), this antenna goes back to the 20s and 30s. Lew McCoy W1ICP (SK) wrote about it in the October 1960 edition of QST . He didn’t use the name, “Up and Outer;” he merely referred to it as a “limited space antenna.” McCoy recommended horizontal and vertical elements of 30-feet each for operation on 80-10 meters. He also recommended using an open-wire feedline to minimize losses. Information from McCoy’s article has appeared for years in the ARRL Antenna Book. (I first saw it in my 1974 edition  and it was still shown in the 1997 edition .)
W9SCH wrote a couple of articles about this antenna for SPRAT and appears to have coined the term, “Up and Outer.” In the first SPRAT article , Rock suggested using 1/4 wave elements for the lowest band and feeding it with either coax (for single band operation) or balanced line (for multi-band operation). In a follow-up article , Rock suggests pruning the horizontal element to equalize the current in the balanced feeder. He noted the imbalance when operating with the horizontal element close to ground. He started with 16-foot elements to cover 30-10 meters.
Another Hall of Famer, L. B. Cebik W4RNL (SK), wrote about a coax-fed version of this antenna for 10 meters . Cebik built his antenna using aluminum tubing and referred to it as the “L Antenna.”
I also exchanged some correspondence years ago with Fred Bonavita K5QLF (SK), another QRP Hall of Famer and fan of the Up and Outer. He told me that W9SCH once mentioned using the copper ball from an old toilet float to top-load the vertical element of the antenna. I later came across a brief write-up by W9SCH on his Copper-Top antenna in the October 1995 edition of QRP Quarterly . Using the toilet ball for top loading, Rock was able to reduce the height of his vertical element by 2-1/2 feet.
For me, the Up and Outer has turned out to be an ideal portable antenna to use while on vacation in a rented house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. For several years I’ve used a 56-foot doublet with one wire supported by a 28-foot fiberglass telescopic mast and one 28-foot leg run horizontally. The vertical radiator is typically situated on a 3rd or 4th story wooden deck with the horizontal wire secured to a nearby tree or other support. For feedline, I use 25-feet of TV twinlead (the cheap brown stuff). Using either a homebrew Z-match tuner or an autotuner with a short run of coax to an external 4:1 balun, I’ve been able to use this antenna on 40-10 meters. Your mileage may vary. Depending on the transmatch you use, you might need to adjust the length of the feedline to get a good match on 40 meters.
I did some quick modeling of a typical Outer Banks installation using MMANA-GL and you can clearly see the results of the combined horizontal and vertical elements. The horizontal polarity (shown in blue) shows lobes perpendicular to the axis of the horizontal wire, similar to a dipole. The vertical polarity (shown in red) shows a fairly low take-off angle and exhibits some slight directivity on 40 meters in the direction of the horizontal wire. This effect is due to the proximity to ground of the horizontal element and diminishes as you go higher in frequency. So, try to mount the Up and Outer as high above ground as you can.
The modeling bears out my empirical results with the antenna. My version of the Up and Outer has worked very well for both stateside contacts and DX. In particular, it has been very effective for DX contacts on 30 meters. As an added bonus, the 56-foot doublet can also be pressed into service as a normal horizontal antenna in locations where the Up and Outer configuration isn’t possible. So, it’s like getting two antennas in one. Can’t beat that.
If you are looking for a limited-space antenna, give this obscure classic a try!
73, Craig WB3GCK
References: 1. McCoy, Lewis G. “A Limited-Space Antenna.” QST October 1960: pp 23-25. (Available in the ARRL online archives) 2. “The ARRL Antenna Book.” 13th Edition, 1974. Newington, CT. pp 187-188. 3. “The ARRL Antenna Book.” 18th Edition, 1997. Newington, CT. pp 7-15, 7-16. 4. Rockey, C. F. “Up and Outer.” SPRAT Issue #67 (Summer 1991): p 18. 5. Rockey, C. F. “A Four Band Up and Outer Antenna.” SPRAT Issue #69 (Winter 1991/1992): p 16. 6. Cebik, L. B. “Whips, Tubes and Wires: Building a 10-Meter L Antenna.” QST December 1999: pp 52-54. (Available in the ARRL online archives) 7. Rockey, C.F. “The Copper-Top Antenna.” QRP Quarterly, October 1995: pp. 40-41.
For our annual vacation this year, our extended family rented a house in the town of Corolla on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Of course, ham radio was a part of my week’s activities.
I’ve operated my QRP equipment from numerous beach houses over the past 20 years but this year highlighted the need to be flexible and adapt. Before I left for vacation, I looked at some pictures of the house online and did some aerial reconnaissance (Google Earth) to see where I might set up my radio and antenna.
I initially set up a 30-foot vertical on a 3rd-floor balcony on the front of the house. I ran my coax down to an unused bedroom on the 1st floor. That was a great place to operate but the noise levels were horrendous. My vertical was a bit too close to some electronics (TVs, WiFi equipment, etc.). I made one contact before taking down the antenna and moving on to Plan B.
After studying the back of the house (furthest away from all of the electronic gadgets), I decided to go with a 53-foot wire in an inverted L configuration. I ran the wire vertically along a wooden deck up to the 3rd floor. From there, I ran the wire out horizontally to a Jackite pole strapped to a volley ball net. The last 6 feet or so of wire ran back down the Jackite pole. So, I guess it was technically an “inverted J.” Whatever you want to call it, it served me well. I still had some intermittent noise issues but it was more manageable than before.
I fed the antenna through a 9:1 unun with an 18-foot run of coax going in through a nearby window. My KX3 was wedged into the corner of a ground floor bedroom.
On the air, this impromptu antenna worked surprisingly well. It was especially effective on 40 and 30 meters. If I ever get bored enough someday, I might model it to see what it looks like on paper.
The bands were pretty flakey this week but I managed to make contacts every day. I fell into the pattern of getting on 40 meter CW early in the morning then doing some PSK-31 on 40 meters in the evening. I had some nice CW rag chews and worked some Carribean and South American DX on 40M PSK-31.
One notable highlight was working Joe N2CX who was doing Parks on the Air (POTA) activations in Canada. Despite the lousy band conditions, I worked him at three different parks. I worked two of the parks on two bands and one of them on three bands.
We had some thunderstorms and heavy rain on our last day there, so I took the antenna down and packed up the radio stuff a little earlier than I wanted to.
It was a fun week in North Carolina and we’re already looking at houses for next year. You can bet that I’ll be ready with several antenna options. You just never know what to expect.