How high can you get your antenna? I used a roll-up J-pole antenna on an 18′ collapsible pole supported by our patio table and could be heard across the city using only my 5W HT.
Every Monday night, I check in to the Palo Alto ARES/RACES training net. I can almost always hear net control, but they can rarely hear me. I guess it is good practice relaying traffic, but it makes it hard for me to contribute substantially.
Last night, I realized that I could use the umbrella hole in our patio table to support an antenna mast! It worked really well. I got great signal reports from across the city. I was clear enough that I got a report of low audio, so we tested a bit more mic gain.
The pole is a Greenlee 18 foot fish pole that was left behind after some electrical construction. It weighs 2.5 pounds and collapses to under 28 inches long. The sections are friction fit and designed for pulling, so they won’t support a lot of weight.
The antenna is an Ed Fong dual-band roll-up J-pole. You can build your own from Ed’s instructions (downloadable from his site), but he builds them better than I could for only $28. I bought mine at our local Ham Radio Outlet in Sunnyvale.
If you have a patio table, grab some PVC pipe and get your antenna off the ground. It really helps.