At one end of the amateur spectrum, there are home stations whose operators wield vast power. Some scorch the ionosphere with antennas so big they need their own zip codes. At the other end? Operators in motion: biking, hiking, and backpacking their way to places no ham has gone before. For these hardy enthusiasts, we’re pleased to announce the Elecraft AX1 multi-band whip.
If you’re already a veteran of ultralight expeditions, you’ll find our new antenna to be a great addition to your portable antenna toolkit. But the AX1 is so much fun that it has the potential to get just about anyone out of the shack. It’s not just about the fresh air, either, or the exercise, or brushing up against nature. It’s about escaping from noise, in all of its pernicious forms.
Here’s an example. At my suburban QTH, I’m under continuous assault by a phalanx of light dimmers, computer peripherals, and power lines. These enemies encroach on all sides, from homes down the block as well as from nearby devices I can’t do without. So, whenever possible, I pack up the KX2 or KX3 and an AX1 and have an adventure. Once I’m a mile or so outside the range of modern appliances, magic happens. Weak signals are suddenly easy copy. Band openings I didn’t know were happening spring to life. Equally welcome is the absence of engines, horns, and 24-hour news. There’s nothing like being perched on an overlook above a forest or lake with nothing but a breeze between you and the DX.
Get On The Air In Seconds, From Anywhere
Antennas for field use come in many flavors. For example, we recommend carrying at least a 25 foot (7.5 m) length of wire to loft over a tree branch, or a compact dipole, etc. Such antennas take a bit of effort to deploy, but they’re quite efficient.
The AX1 is designed for times when it’s impractical or impossible to put up one of these full-sized antennas. You might be literally in motion (pedestrian mobile), operating the rig HT-style. You may find yourself in the middle of a meadow, on a beach, inside a tent, or above the tree line. Or, as is often the case, you might just be in a hurry to check out the bands, then move on. In all of these circumstances, the AX1 shines. It is comprised of two parts: a 6” (15 cm) base, and a telescoping whip that collapses to that same length. Both will fit inside our smallest KX2 carrying case.
The base has high-Q loading coils that provide resonance on 20 meters, along with a second setting for use with an ATU on 17 and 15 meters. These are ideal bands for quick-deployment field use, representing a good compromise between radiation efficiency and antenna size. The AX1 also comes with a 13’ (3.3 m) counterpoise wire, which is required for transmit.
In addition to the AX1 itself, we offer two accessories to simplify field operation: the AXB1 whip bipod, and the AXT1 tripod adapter. The AXB1 keeps any BNC-mount antenna from rotating in light or moderate winds when mounted to the radio at a right angle, such as at a picnic table. Alternatively, your whip can be mounted to a standard camera tripod using an AXT1, which provides a connection point for coax to the transceiver as well as tie-points for guy wires or radials. Both accessories are included in our complete AX-Line package, and can also be purchased separately.
Designed To Work With Your ATU
Every operator who has used short, HT-style HF whips knows that these antennas are narrow-banded, at times making it difficult to obtain a low SWR. The resonance point varies with terrain, body capacitance, radial length, and height above ground. To match the antenna to the radio, you can either adjust the antenna and radial length, or take advantage of your rig’s internal automatic antenna tuner. The Elecraft KX2 and KX3 transceivers feature wide-range ATUs specifically for this reason, giving you the flexibility to match narrowband or ad-hoc antennas.
The AX1 is designed to cover all of the 20, 17, and 15 meter bands when used with an ATU, compensating for all of the factors mentioned above. Non-ATU operation is possible on 20 meters where the antenna is at resonance, though adjustments of radial or whip length may be needed.
If you change locations frequently, maintaining a good match is quick and easy: just tap the antenna tuning switch whenever you notice a significant increase in SWR.
Comprehensive Manual Includes Operating Tips
The AX1 comes with an eight-page manual covering setup, transport, and use of the antenna. Setup examples show how to use the antenna alone, with the AXB1 whip bipod, and with the AXT1 tripod adapter. While the emphasis is on use of the AX1 with a transceiver’s internal ATU, instructions are also provided for adjusting whip and radial length to achieve resonance on 20 m without a tuner.
There’s also a section on successful operating with portable antennas. Included are field-proven tips on maximizing your signal, how to increase your QSO rate by choosing when to operate and which stations to call, and general guidelines for QRP operation.
This leads me back to my most important point: the benefits of escaping to the great outdoors. The AX1 is an antenna you can take with you wherever you go, just like our KX-Line transceivers. It’s designed for minimum size and maximum versatility. And yes...when the bands are open, you can work the world with 10 watts and a whip!