Antennas play a vital part in any communication system and for more than the obvious reason that the radio simply won’t work without one. Radios, 2-way radio and receivers alike, can work with less than optimal antennas connected to them. But you will soon realize that the performance of the radio will also appear to be less than optimal. Ham radio operators are constantly working on and improving their antennas because they realize the importance of a fine tuned antenna. The ham operators even have a rule of thumb of sorts: “a dollar spent on the antenna is worth ten dollars spent on the radio”.
So where do antennas fit into a radio system used in a survivalist situation? The best answer to that question is yet another question which is ‘what do you want your radio to do?’. If you are looking for reception (and possibly transmission) of signals between countries or continents then you will be looking at a high performance HF1 antenna system. If you only need local or interstate communications then you can still use HF radio but with an antenna with less antenna gain.
Antenna gain. That’s likely a new word here for those interested in survivalist communications. Antenna gain is best explained by stating that an antenna can actually increase the power of a radio’s output signal. And by the same token you will enjoy better reception when an antenna has more gain to it. Without getting too technical you can read the specifications on a particular antenna and use the rough formula of 3db2 of antenna gain will give you twice the power output that you are feeding it from your transmitter. This means that theoretically you could feed 100 watts of power into an antenna with gain of 3db and it will appear to be 200 watts to those receiving your signal. So look at the gain of any antenna you contemplate using to see if it has a specification for gain. For each 3db of gain you get double the power, if your antenna has 9db of gain then your signal will sound like it is 300 watts.
Antenna types. This alone warrants a page alone. Antenna types for both almost all radios fall into these general categories:
- Vertical (includes multi-element vertical beams)
- Horizontal (includes multi-element horizontal beams)
Vertical antennas are just that, the antenna goes from the ground, or the mount, in an upward fashion.
Horizontal antennas run side-to-side and are usually found high up on top of towers or pushup masts with a rotator on it used to aim the antenna.
Wire antennas can be horizontal when hung between two or more supporting structures. Wire antennas are generally looked down upon as solid performers but we are looking more for portability, durability, and “stealthiness” when considering a wire antenna for use in a survivalist environment. That being the case you would be hard pressed to find another antenna that will fit all of these issues.
Most everyone knows what a dish antenna looks like, you only need to realize it is used for microwave radio frequencies and are unlikely to be used in survivalist environments.
Many have seen the various different types of antenna systems mentioned here without giving thought to one day using them as an survivalist.
We have more information about antennas available from the links at the bottom and right side of this page. The information contained on the links at the bottom are the same pages as those on the right side of the page. They were placed in two different spots to make the information easier to access.
1HF when used to describe radio equipment refers to the High Frequency bands.
2db or DB stands for decibels and is a logarithmic unit of sound intensity.