Ham Radio Antennas
2018-10-14 There is no "best antenna". When someone asks, What's the best antenna? My next questions should always be for what, when, where and why? And even then there is no perfect answer. Or another way to say it is, the best antenna is the one you have and made a contact with! Most of us have no objective way to prove or really even test how well any antenna works beyond looking at its SWR and making contacts. If we do that consistently over time with several different antennas we begin to get a "feeling" for which "works" the best in the situations where we have used them.
So for example, I have had a 102 ft. G5RV up on my property in roughly the same configuration for nearly ten years. over the years I have also hung dipoles (single band, fan, trap and link versions), a vertical, G5RV Jr., end fed half waves, for periods of time at different times. The G5RV is my go-to antenna. Why? I can tune it on nearly every band from 160-6 meters. It consistently gives me good contacts under varying conditions. It is easy, especially with my auto tuner, just click and go.
All my other antennas have various advantages and limitations. Some are single band. They may out perform my G5RV on that band but for me, that trade off is not enough better to last. The vertical on my garage is also a multi band antenna and may perform better for DX at times, but is not very good for close by. And I struggle to keep the radials up even though it is on my garage roof and only needs two cut radials for each band. My multi-band dipoles, whether trap, fan or linked have limitations of bandwidth or convenience. So the G5RV is just my bread and butter, workhorse antenna in my situation here at the house.
On the other hand, I wouldn't even think of taking the G5RV out for a portable or temporary setup. It is too long and heavy and unwieldy, even for Field Day. For those occasions end fed long wires, multi-band inverted vees or verticals are my "best" antennas.
And so, I keep playing with antennas. Not particularly to find the "best one" but to learn about them, enjoy my failures and successes and marvel at making contacts on something that is clearly NOT the best antenna! For me, that is part of the joy of ham radio.