Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Antennas for travel: Buddistick

The Buddistick is a creation from the makers of the Buddipole and is, in essence, half of a Buddipole. (I'll talk about the Buddipole tomorrow.) Like the MP-1 discussed yesterday, the Buddistick is a shortened vertical antenna with a loading coil and mount. It breaks down into small pieces for easy travel and the nice zippered bag stuffed with antenna parts, radials, mount, and a 25-foot run of coax weighs in at only 4 pounds.
Because it is a vertical antenna (shortened quarter wave vertical) it needs a radial system or other mechanism to give it a low resistance return path. The Buddipole comes with a nice radial wire wound around a kite string handle for this purpose, but I've created a small collection of very lightweight radials from some very small and tough wire sold by The Wire Man. Having a set of radials (maybe 5 or 10) is a big improvement over just a single radial.
The Buddistick has the following construction: there is a coil with 3/8-inch x 24 threaded rod on one side and a place where such a rod could screw in on the other side, it comes with two 11-inch rods that are to go between the mount and the coil, and a whip antenna that extends to about 6 feet. The whole system comes in a nice zippered bag that organizes everything and keeps it safe for travel.
Assembly of the antenna is easy as everything has standard 3/8-inch x 24 threading. Screw the two rods together giving you 22 inches of base, screw the rods into the mount on one end, screw the coil on to the rods, screw the whip into the coil, and it is assembled! Easy. It takes about a minute once you know what you are doing.
The coil is larger in diameter than the MP-1. You tap the coil by inserting a small device into the winding at a particular place and then tightening it. A wander lead with a small banana plug then plugs into this little gizmo to accomplish the tapping. It isn't as convenient as the MP-1 with its sliding sleeve, but it works fine.
The thing that makes tuning this antenna easier (and this goes for the MP-1 and Buddipole, too) is an antenna analyzer like the MFJ-259B. I find all I need to do is hook up the antenna to the analyzer and then slide the wander lead up and down the coil until the match looks good. Then, stick the little gizmo in the place you spotted and tighten it down. With practice, this can be done very quickly.
Since the antenna uses standard 3/8-inch x 24 threading you can substitute parts if you like to improve the performance. I've purchased a couple of MFJ 12-foot telescoping whips that I've used with both the Buddistick and the MP-1. More whip means less coil and more efficiency. The MFJ whip is not nearly as sturdy and robust as the stock one that comes with the Buddistick, but if you are careful it should hold up OK. Also note that a full-sized 15m antenna can be made from just the 12 foot whip, mount, and radials!
The carrying bag has enough room in it for a couple of extra things: I have a spare whip, some extra coil clips, radials, four plastic stakes (to hold down the radials), and a 25-foot piece of RG-8X coax. This is the antenna system I bring with me when I'm doing short trips by car. I toss this little bag along with the Pelican case with my Elecraft K2 stuff in the back of my Element and hope the hotel has windows that will open. (GRIN)
At $139 it is a little more money than the MP-1 ($99) but it is also a little more rugged and comes with the carrying bag. You'll also want to get the table top mounting clamp for another $25 unless you've already got one that you use with your camera or camcorder.
I'm very pleased with my Buddistick. It performs very well compared to other antennas (like the MP-1) and is very rugged. And, like I say, it is easy to assemble, easy to disassemble (these things aren't always symetric) and travels well--which is the point here in case you forgot!
One last note, you won't find this in the HFpack Vertical Antenna Shootout because the antenna was introduced after this event. For this time, at least, you'll have to take my word for it: it performs at least as well as the MP-1 (LONG) as it has the extra "base rod" as compared to the original MP-1 design and a longer whip.
Tomorrow I'll discuss the Buddistick's big brother, the Buddipole.
(Updated this post in the afternoon to correct the lengths of the rods. There are two 11-inch rods, not two 22-inch rods.)


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