PackTenna Mini End-Fed Wire Antennas

and more. The result is an enjoyable, and
highly affordable, beacon transmitter for
Manufacturer: QRP Labs, www.qrp-labs.
com. Note: QRP Labs is strictly an online
business. All purchases must be made online and communication will be conducted
via e-mail only. Price: Control Unit,
$33; Si5351A Frequency Synthesizer:
$7.50; OCXO/Si5351A Crystal Oven
Stabilized Frequency Synthesizer: $16;
Relay-switched Low-Pass Filter: $16;
Low Pass Filters: $4.90 per band (the
Control Unit includes one low-pass filter for your band of choice); Enclosure:
$38.50; OLG1 GPS Receiver: $23.
PackTenna Mini End-Fed Wire Antennas
Reviewed by Stuart Thomas, KB1HQS
As an avid activator in the National Parks
on the Air (NPOTA) and Summits on the
Air (SOTA) programs, I often find myself
in the backcountry operating my QRP rig.
Operating in these locations, pack weight
and antenna setup time are critical factors
for a successful activation. Getting to these
remote locations on foot requires careful selection of my hiking and radio gear.
Along with my Elecraft KX3 transceiver,
I need an antenna that is lightweight,
durable, and most importantly, easy to
deploy and stow away. One such antenna
well suited for this task is the PackTenna
Mini, made by Nick Garner, N3WG, and
George Zafiropoulos, KJ6VU, owners of
The PackTenna Mini is a trail-friendly,
lightweight antenna designed for portable
HF use. Two versions of the PackTenna
Mini are available — the End Fed Random
Wire antenna and End Fed Half Wave
Both antennas are centered around the
main body of the antenna mount which is
constructed from PC board material. This
board serves three functions: an attachment point for the coax cable (BNC connector), a mount for the toroidal matching
transformer, and a self contained winder
for the 26 gauge copper clad steel element
wire. The winder reduces tangling and allows for quick deployment (see Figure 19).
Small banana jacks located on the PC
board allow for attachment of additional
counterpoise wires or radials. Plenty of
holes have been added to the PC board, allowing for a variety of hanging configurations whether by fiberglass fishing pole or
by paracord.
Each antenna comes with a Mylar bag for
like to see more amateur manufacturers
providing manuals for their products with
this attention to detail.
Two Models Available
The End Fed Random Wire, which uses
a 9:1 UNUN (unbalanced to unbalanced)
matching transformer, is rated for 100
W PEP, and is a multiband antenna. This
model has a yellow heat shrink protective
sleeve and requires a tuner to use. The antenna includes 40 feet of wire, and you will
need to trim it. PackTenna’s recommendation is 29 feet, which is not a multiple of
⁄4 wavelength for any HF ham band.
Figure 19 — The PackTenna Mini End Fed
Random Wire with an optional S-clip on the
end, wrapped up and ready for a backpack. The
9:1 matching transformer is under the yellow
sleeve, and coax connects to a BNC jack at the
storage. PackTenna online has an excellent manual in PDF format that gives some
good background information and directions for setting up your antenna system.
This is an excellent resource and I would
Bottom Line
The lightweight, compact PackTenna
Mini end-fed portable wire antennas
offer a lot of features specifically for
backpack portable operators.
The other version is the End Fed Half
Wave antenna, which uses a 50:1 matching transformer and is also rated for
100 W PEP. This model has black heat
shrink protecting the balun. The antenna
also comes with 40 feet of wire and needs
to be cut to length for the band you want
to use (20 meters or shorter wavelength).
Because it is resonant, no tuner is required,
but it only works on one band. Using
the guidelines given by PackTenna, I
cut my wire element to 31 feet 3 inches for
20 meter operation.
Setting Up
Deployment of the PackTenna Mini is very
simple and straightforward. Having the
wire wound on the antenna mount makes
for a very easy deployment and cuts down
on time to set up. My ideal standard is to
be able to set up a portable antenna in 10
minutes or less.
The antenna only requires two attachment
points. I usually attach the Mini antenna
mount to a tree near my operating location
(see Figure 20) and hang the wire end to a
tree roughly 35 feet away. This allows for
simple, quick setups and short coax runs
to my Elecraft KX3. I use short lengths
of strong, lightweight paracord to hoist
and tie off the antenna. PackTenna offers
QST ® – Devoted entirely to Amateur Radio
November 2016 25
optional “S-clips” (plastic carabiners)
which are handy for attaching the antenna
to supports, and I installed one on the end
of my antenna wire.
10 meters. The tuner in my KX3 had no
trouble matching the Random Wire version on the various bands.
What improvements could be made? One
minor issue I had was remembering which
antenna model I was currently using.
While each one can be identified by the
color of the heat shrink, I would like to see
both models specifically labeled indicating
the antenna version (9:1 or 50:1 UNUN).
Other configurations I have tried are
sloper and vertical (using a fiberglass
fishing pole). One of the features of the
PackTenna that I really like is the small
hole at the top, allowing the operator to
thread the antenna mast through the hole
for instant mounting. That’s an excellent
feature when you’re wearing gloves in
cold environments.
Also, after winding the wire element on the
antenna body, I needed a way to secure it to
prevent unwinding while stored in my pack.
I solved this by attaching a rubber band
from the S-clip to one of the ears of the antenna body to secure the antenna wire.
During the spring and summer I used both
versions of the PackTenna Mini in more
than 34 NPOTA and SOTA activations.
Locations have been everywhere from the
beach in Maine to the summits of North
Carolina near the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Considering the typical portable operations that I do, the antenna was often not
very high due to time constraints and yet
still worked well.
I made a total of 322 QSOs with the antennas and my KX3 (15 W maximum), with
contacts as far as Alaska and France. I used
the End Fed Half Wave on 20 meters, and
the End Fed Random Wire on 40, 20, and
26 November 2016
Ultimately, when reviewing gear, the most
important questions to ask is: If I lost my
PackTenna Mini antenna, would I replace
it? The answer is most definitely yes.
Along with my AlexLoop portable magnetic loop antenna, the PackTenna Mini
has a permanent spot in my portable antenna arsenal.
Figure 20 — The PackTenna Mini End Fed
Half Wave uses the same construction as the
Random Wire, but has a black sleeve and
uses a 50:1 matching transformer. Note the
antenna wire fed through several holes at the
top right to provide strain relief for the PC board
ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio®
Manufacturer: PackTenna Portable HF
Antenna System; e-mail support@; Price:
$89.99 for either version. S-clips, $0.99
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