Last April during a trip to Hong Kong I was highly motivated to chase long range AM-DX, but there was a bizarre "Catch 22" problem-- all of the buildings had nasty indoor RFI, while almost all of the outdoor areas were overcrowded, and unsuitable for setting up an elevated 5 inch "Frequent Flyer" FSL antenna. For the entire week I pushed a 7.5 inch loopstick CC Skywave to the absolute limit, taking it on daytime DX trips to Macau and HK's plunging Cape D'Aguilar, as well as shoving it outside a 12th floor security window to escape the indoor RFI. For the first 5 days "long range DX" was a laughable term-- my farthest catch was 693-Bangladesh, at about 1,500 miles.
Finally I sacrificed some sleep and shoved the souped-up Ultralight outside the security window prior to sunrise, and somehow managed to track down 1431-Radio Sawa (Djibouti), 1413-BBC (Oman), 1413-Vesti FM (Moldova) and 1548-TWR (Moldova) on the 7.5" loopstick. The performance of the souped-up Ultralight was thrilling, but the harsh lessons of the Hong Kong trip had already been taken to heart. A fully portable, hand held DXing combo was needed which could provide more gain than a 7.5" loopstick, but which could be easily carried anywhere in a backpack, and which would not attract too much unwanted attention on crowded public beaches. In addition, it would need to routinely pass through TSA inspections at airports, and need to be capable of deployment outside of windows (with a PVC support system) in order to escape interior RFI.
Only one type of hand held antenna could satisfy all of these requirements--- a portable radio + tuned FSL combination attached to a compact PVC frame. Since the TSA-friendly FSL's are all relatively lightweight, combining them with a compact portable radio on a common PVC frame is well within reason for hand held capability. Such a DXing combo would be the master of convenience-- it can track down MW-DX (with decent gain) while being held in the hands, placed on a picnic table, placed on a 5' PVC base, or even elevated to a higher level. The combo's PVC frame can be supported (with attachments) to provide decent DXing gain outside of an apartment window to escape indoor RFI. And even for those who usually have no interest in live DXing, it can check transoceanic propagation and even go after exotic targets prior to broadband antenna setup.
Current experimentation has resulted in four different FSL sizes for combo frames (see photos)-- a 3 inch model (10 Russian surplus 100mm bars), a 3.5 inch model (13 bars), a 4 inch model (16 bars) and the standard 5 inch "frequent Flyer" model (20 bars). The latter FSL is the same model which was used a couple of months ago in Hawaii, tracking down AM-DX from all continents except Europe during sunrise and sunset sessions. The option of having one of these high gain FSL's in a go-anywhere, hand-held combo is pretty thrilling. Future experimentation will use some of the new R40C1 ferrite to make up another series of compact FSL's for this project, as well as drafting a few of the 3 inch "Baby FSL's" with Russian surplus 125mm ferrite rods into the effort. It's looking like an exciting experimental year is coming!
73 and Good DX,
Gary DeBock (in Puyallup, WA, USA)