Quest for DXCC on 160 Meters

The minimalist's approach


N8MR 160 Meter DXCC Award, received 11 Aug 2007

The station


Yaesu FT-920

No amplifier

No special receive antennas*

No preamplifier for receive*

No "small farm out in the country"

Area = 66' x 113' lot in the city

* For the first 100 DXCC Entities.


Inverted L up 65 feet for transmit and receive

Radio Works Carolina Windom 80 up 65 feet for alternate receive antenna

Humble Beginnings

First real 160 Meter antenna

170-Foot inverted L with one radial

After I was told by most of the members of a local radio club that operating on 160
Meters was impossible from a small city lot, Dick, W8RCM (SK), from the Motor
City Radio Club demonstrated and proved that it was entirely possible, though not as
effective as the proverbial "stations with acres of antennas."

After years of floundering along with a very low 80 meter dipole (25 feet off
the ground), Ted, K8NA encouraged me to set up a simple, yet effective antenna for
Top Band. The two 65-foot maple trees on my property, which I'd been using to support
my Carolina Windom 80 could be used to temporarily support the inverted L. After all,
this project was just an experiment to see if I could boost my usually poor totals in the
2001 ARRL 160 Meter Contest.

An inverted L requires radials for effective operation, and my back yard did not
give me enough room for many conventional 1/4-wave radials. So I got creative and
using standard electric fence wire (thanks Ted) stitched one 1/4 wave radial
through the bottom links of the chain-link fence that encircles my yard. This antenna
was all still in the experimental stage at this point.

However, it was my first real 160 Meter antenna, and judging from the ARRL
160 Meter Contest, it performed far beyond what I thought possible. I contacted
47 states and several Canadian provinces. In a little over a year, I had all 50 U.S.
States confirmed along with Worked All States CW #774.

The Next Step


170-Foot inverted L with 14 radials

By this time, it was apparent that success was possible on Top Band with a small setup.
My Heathkit SB-200 amp is only capable of 80 thru 10 Meters, so antenna optimization
was key in getting a better transmitted signal.

Between Christmas and New Year's Day, a rare warm spell (near 50 degrees F) in the
Great Lakes region allowed me to place 13 more radials within the confines of my
property. Using electric fence wire and a sod cutter, I buried the radials, attempting
to keep them as straight as possible and keeping the ends of each separated by no more
than 0.015 of a wavelength. Because of this, each radial was a different length, the
average being 50 feet. The last radial was placed along the north edge of the cement
sidewalk and driveway. This one was 1/4 wavelength and stretched out in a direction
away from the others - to the east.

The ensuing head cold I got allowed me the time to use the new setup to get several
more DXCC entities.

The Next Step

More Improvements

170-Foot inverted L with 16 radials

Since the addition of 13 more radials seemed to have a good effect on my transmitted
signal, I wondered what two more 1/4 wavelength radials would do. The property seemed
to have room for two more radials, each of which would wrap around the house and head
in an easterly direction. These would also be the only radials placed directly under
the horizontal part of the inverted L. This time, I chose the summer of 2004 to install
these two. Taking my trusty sod cutter and a few gardening tools, I buried the last
two radials.

Taking it Further

Even More Improvements

170-Foot inverted L with 21 radials and a cold water pipe connection

I thought the north side of the tree was lacking radials, so on October 29, 2005, I
buried four more radials on that side of the tree. The radials (all electric fence
wire, just like the others) range in size from 10 to 20 feet in length. Additionally, a
75-foot bare 14 AWG copper wire was connected from the feedpoint, buried running
east under the patio and into the house. The wire was connected to the cold water
pipe system of the house at approximately the 50-foot point. From there, the wire
was run 10 feet south, then 15 feet east.

On Second Thought...

Revising those Improvements

170-Foot inverted L with 21 outside radials and 6 inside

George, W8UVZ, pointed out that the connection to my cold water system may cause leaks
eventually and suggested that I remove that connection. I did so and then soldered the
copper wire already in the house to six more that I had strung southward across the
basement. This pattern provided a better indoor radial pattern than the cold water
system provided.

Each indoor radial is either 40 or 50 feet long, depending on its location. The wire
used or the radials was taken from my scrap pile and consists of 14 and 12 AWG wire,
and also a mix of stranded and solid (romex) wire. Most of the wire is insulated,
with the exception of one near the center of the basement. That one - a bare solid
wire - was placed on top of the metal grid of the basement's drop ceiling.

At this point, I cannot conclude whether or not the additional radials made much of an
improvement, with the propagation on the Low Bands being as poor as its been. However,
I have gotten several more new DXCC entities and will use the setup as it stands to
attempt to get DXCC on 160 Meters with only 100 watts.

100 DXCC Entities Worked!!

Maybe those radials helped after all

On 25 Nov 2006, I contacted GU4YOX for my 100th DXCC Entity during the CQWW
DX CW Contest. It took exactly five years, but it was a great feeling to know that the
old local ham radio urban legends that "it is impossible to work DX on 160 Meters
from the city, especially with 100 watts" had finally been busted!

On March 19, 2007, I contacted JA for the first time...two of them! Both JR7VHZ
and JA7NI heard my signal, exactly 25 days after the last JA opening - maybe there's
something to that 25-day cycle. The loop had been taken down one week earlier, but it
was resting against the house, coax still connected. Although it was on the ground, it
allowed me to hear both JA stations better than any of the other antennas. I received
QSL cards from both stations 16 days later. Amazing! These two QSOs allowed me
Worked All Continents with 100 watts.

Thank you to all of the DX stations with great ears!
I couldn't have done it without you!

The Results

These are the 150 Current DXCC entities that I have worked,
and 144 confirmed on Top Band with my setup.

    ZP Paraguay
    Africa Asia Europe North America Oceana South America
    3V Tunisia 4X Israel 4O Montenegro 4U1UN U.N. Headquarters 3D2 Fiji 8P Barbados
    3X Guinea 5B Cyprus 9A Croatia 6Y Jamaica FK/C Chesterfield Islands 8R Guyana
    5T Mauritania JA Japan CT Portugal C6 Bahamas FO French Polynesia 9Y Trinidad & Tobago
    6W Senegal UA9 Asiatic Russia CU Azores CO Cuba FO0/A Austral Islands CE Chile
    9L Sierra Leone   DL Germany CY0 Sable Island FO0/C Clipperton CX Uruguay
    CN Morocco   E7 Bosnia-Herzegovina CY9 St Paul Island KH4 Midway Island FY French Guyana
    CT3 Madeira Islands   EA Spain FG Guadeloupe KH6 Hawaii HC Ecuador
    D4 Cape Verde   EA6 Balearic Islands FJ St Barthelemy KH7K Kure HC8 Galapagos Islands
    EA8 Canary Islands   EI Ireland FM Martinique KH8/S Swains Island HK Colombia
    EL Liberia   ER Moldova FP St Pierre & Miquelon T32 East Kiribati HK0 San Andreas & Providencia
    TZ Mali   ES Estonia FS St Martin VK6 Australia HP Panama
    ZS South Africa   EU Belarus HH Haiti VK9/M Mellish Reef LU Argentina
        F France HI Dominican Republic VK9/W Willis Island OA Peru
        G England HR Honduras VP6/D Ducie Island P4 Aruba
        GD Isle of Man J3 Grenada ZL New Zealand PJ2 Curacao
        GI Northern Ireland J6 St Lucia ZL8 Kermadec Island PJ4 Bonaire
        GJ Jersey J7 Dominica   PY Brazil
        GM Scotland J8 St Vincent   PY0/F Fernando de Noronha
        GU Guernsey K USA   PZ Surinam
        GW Wales KG4 Guantanamo Bay   YV Venezuela
        HA Hungary KL7 Alaska    
        HB9 Switzerland KP2 US Virgin Islands    
        HB0 Liechtenstein KP4 Puerto Rico    
        I Italy KP5 Desecheo    
        IS0 Sardinia OX Greenland    
        LA Norway PJ5 Saba & St Eustatius    
        LX Luxembourg PJ7 St Maarten    
        LY Lithuania TG Guatemala    
        LZ Bulgaria TI Costa Rica    
        OE Austria TI9 Cocos Island    
        OH Finland V2 Antigua    
        OH0 Aland Island V3 Belize    
        OJ0 Market Reef V4 St Kitts & Nevis    
        OK Czech Republic VE Canada    
        OM Slovakia VP2E Anguilla    
        ON Belgium VP2M Montserrat    
        OY Faroe Islands VP2V British Virgin Islands    
        OZ Denmark VP5 Turks & Caicos Islands    
        PA Netherlands VP9 Bermuda    
        S5 Slovenia XE Mexico    
        SM Sweden XF4 Revilla Gigedo    
        SP Poland YN Nicaragua    
        SV Greece YS El Salvador    
        T7 San Marino YV0 Aves Island    
        TF Iceland ZF Cayman Islands    
        UA European Russia      
        UA2 Kaliningrad      
        UT Ukraine      
        YL Latvia      
        YO Romania      
        YU Serbia and Montenegro      

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