Verticals make great compact antennas. This one, the QRPGuys Tri-Band Vertical is a classic kit antenna. It’s a great beginner kit antenna which is perfect for SOTA and POTA. Like all QRPGuys kits that I’ve made, the kit is well planned, the instructions are easy to follow, and the finished product works well in the field. Looking back, I believe that I made this antenna back in 2018, making this the first kit antenna that I ever built.
Like many other QRPGuys kit antennas, the part count is on the low end but you do have to bring your own wire. This kit is nothing more than two toroids, two switches, some stainless hardware, a BNC, and a PCB that doubles as a wire winder.
Electrically, the kit is equally simple. On 20m, the switches bypass both toroids and go straight to the 17ft radiating element, a quarter wavelength long on 20m. Band switching is simple. For 30m, you slide one switch to engage the lower toroid, electrically shortening the antenna. For 40m, both switches are down, engaging both toroids further shortening the antenna electrically.
From there, stainless hardware is added. The top bolt and wingnut combination connects the 17ft radiating element to the top of the antenna winder PCB while the bottom set connects the four 10ft ground plane wires.
The PCB is also designed to be attached to a mast. The 7.2m fiberglass fishing pole mast can be found on eBay easily. I like attaching mine to the mast using double sided Velcro bungee straps. However, the antenna also works well with arborist’s throwlines if there are enough trees available.
So long ago, I remember worrying about if following the instructions closely was going to give me a good product. However, I didn’t own an antenna analyzer. All I could do was build it and hope for the best. I dutifully followed the instructions, cutting my wire to the exact length stated and winding the toroids with equal precision. Of course, the fact that I hadn’t plugged this antenna into an analyzer made me reticent to put any power through it with the QCX classic I built for 30m.
I also remember agonizing over which antenna wire colors I was going to get. I ended up getting black and green, which are great stealth antenna color choices. Experience has shown me that field deployable antennas need to be a little more visible to minimize entanglements. Nowadays, I tend to make my antennas out of yellow and orange wire.
Unfortunately, that antenna sat in a box for a long time thereafter. I didn’t know the code yet and I didn’t have a place to setup and operate with enough regularity to learn it.
Fast forward to 2020, I had more time on my hands. While I was still on the job, I was able to work from home. The three extra hours per day gave me plenty of time to learn the code with the Long Island CW Club. Moreover, my wife and I moved into our first home we bought which allowed me to leave antennas permanently erected.
I finally was able to get on the air whenever I wanted and worked up enough courage to send CQ on my straight key. After a few contacts, I packed the microphones away for good. Over the course of a couple dozen more QSOs, I progressively turned down the power from 100w, to 50, to 20, to 5w.
Even at these power levels, I made all the contacts I wanted to make. I purchased a Mountain Topper MTR3b, sold the QRO radio, and started getting outside more.
The QRPGuys Tri-Band Vertical was a solid first choice for antenna, even though it took me a few years to get to use it. Now that I have it, I like to break it out every once in a while. If you choose to build it, I’m sure that it will find a place in your quiver of antennas.