Review of the Gipsy dipole
Windcamp Gipsy Portable HF Dipole
Brad Kathrins – W8PAL
In May of this year, I picked up a very clean, used, Yaesu FT-817. This was my first QRP rig and I was excited to get it on the air. Now let me first give you the disclaimers. I have been a ham for 20+ years and a General for over 10. I live in an antenna-restricted neighborhood in Glendale, Arizona (DM33vq) so my HF activities have been sparse and limited to a multi-band dipole stapled to a roof eave. The performance of which is about what you would expect. I have logged very little HF activity. Additionally, my experience with QRP was somewhere firmly between “slim” and “none”. I was a QRP n00b, if I am using my son, KG7ERI’s terminology correctly.
Knowing that I was going on a family vacation visit my in-laws in Indiana (EN70fu) in a few weeks, I decided I needed a portable antenna, or antennas, to bring with me. Yes, I get along very well with my in-laws and was glad to be going. We always have a great time when we visit. In fact, I’m very close to convincing my father-in-law to get his ticket as well! After spending time reading reviews online and talking to the FT-817 Facebook group, I purchased two antennas: a Buddistick vertical and Windcamp Gipsy Portable Dipole. This review is on the Gipsy (sometimes spelled ‘Gypsy’, depending on the website).
I first saw the Gipsy at Hamvention. One of the indoor vendors, Hamsource (www.hamsource.com) had it for sale.
I almost bought it then, but after my FT-817 “impulse purchase”, I really didn’t have the available funds. Now that I had a few bucks built back up, I threw the bone to Hamsource and ordered the antenna. For $70, it seemed like an interesting solution.
The antenna arrived in a very small, somewhat square box. I opened the box and pulled out an olive drab, drawstring, canvas bag that was only slightly larger than my fist and tipped the scales at 14 ounces. I shudder to describe any of my technical possessions as “cute”, but there was no denying that the little bag was just that. Inside the bag was a 1:1 balun, two spools of antenna wire on metal winders, an extra drawstring balun hanger cord and an instruction card which was, helpfully, written in Chinese. The Hamsource website did have the translated version of the instructions available for download.
The antenna wire is made of teflon-coated, 20AWG copper that is quite durable. The winders are metal and appear to be either anodized or powder-coated black. The balun is sealed and is black with what looks like a carbon fiber checkered body with black metal caps. The only thing that is plastic on the entire antenna are the nuts used to secure the wires to the balun posts.
The Gipsy is rated to 100 watts PEP and tunes from 40m through 10m. The method of deployment is painfully simple. You connect the ends of the wire spools to the balun and simply unroll the spools to the length of the desired frequency. The wire left wound on the spool is “electrically ignored.” It can theoretically tune from 7-30 MHz continuously, depending on how much you have unrolled.
At several points along the wire, there are color coded pieces of shrink tubing that correspond to the following frequencies:
Red – 28-29 MHz
Clear – 24 MHz
Blue – 21 MHz
Black – 18 MHz
Yellow – 14 MHz
White – 10 MHz
Green – 7 MHz
I was going to have a “cheat sheet” laminated to remind me of the color codes until I noticed that they were very cleverly silk screened right on the winders! The directions indicate that the antenna can be setup as a standard flat-topped dipole, an inverted “V” or sloper.
My in-laws live outside of Huntington, a small town in Indiana about 30 minutes south-southwest of Fort Wayne. Their property is in an elevated, wooded area south of the Wabash River, with very little around except for trees and a stocked fish pond. I brough three rolls of paracord and threw a weighted end of each over a branch in three separate trees that ran in a line roughly south-southeast to north-northwest, giving me a clear shot to the west-southwest and east-northeast. The distance between the outside trees was further than the length of the dipole set to 40m. I tied the center paracord to the balun and hauled it up about 25 feet. I “set” the frequency by adjusting the length of the wires to the correct length then running them through the lock notches in the winders. I chose 20m since this has been the most active band. I then hauled the winders up into the outside trees until the wires were taught and in line with the balun. I tied off the paracord lines so that the winders could be lowered, the wires unrolled or rolled to change frequency, then hauled back up into place. This also came in handy mid-week when a squall line headed our direction like a runaway locomotive. I was able to lower the antenna and pack it up in a few short minutes, leaving the paracords in the trees to haul it back up after the storm.
Due to a very active week, thunderstorm-wise, the background noise level was elevated for most of the week. This was on both the Buddistick and the Gipsy. Most times it was between S5 and S8, but there were those rare times when it dropped to an S3. Indiana has had significant storms and flooding this summer and the crops have suffered for it. I saw many farmers’ fields that were totally flooded out and the corn was pitifully short.
Before hauling the balun up the tree, I connected a 75′ length of RG-8X as my feed line. I used an MFJ-223 antenna analyzer and the antenna showed an SWR of 1.4:1 on 14.270 MHz. I have no doubt that if I were to brave the mosquito swarm outside and played around with the length of the wires a bit, I could have brought that down even more.
I did a head to head comparison between the Buddistick and the Gipsy. I realize that they are totally different animals and each will serve me well in different applications. That said, the Gipsy was less noisy than the Buddistick, drew in weaker signals (by at least one or two S units) and took up far less space when broken down and placed in my luggage. The set-up of the Gipsy required some fancy line tossing – a slingshot line thrower would have been nice, but it was with far less tweaking than what was required to get the Buddistick tuned.
I tried the Gipsy on 40m, 20m, 17m and 10m, but 20m seemed to be the most consistent from a band condition standpoint.
I would have liked to say that I filled my log with contacts but that just wasn’t the case. Some of this was due to the noise, some was due to family activities encroaching on prime “hamming” time. I’ll admit that much of it was due to me being a QRP n00b and trying silly things like answering a DX station calling CQ with a pile-up of QRO operators trying to get back to him. Live and learn.
I was hoping to have a QSO with my friend KG7YC back home in Phoenix. We tried several times and, while he could hear my voice and knew that I was talking, I wasn’t quite making the trip with only 5 watts. I did finally talk to KB5YN in Waco, TX on 14.235 MHz.
I am very pleased with this antenna. It is compact, durable, easy to set up, and seems to perform well. It’s great for Field Day, camping trips or any other temporary setup. It survived some windy conditions and some rain with no ill effects. It can literally be thrown into your suitcase and will take up less space than a rolled-up t-shirt. Once I improve my QRP technique, I expect to make many contacts with this “cute” little bag of antenna.
73, Brad Kathrins
W8PAL – email@example.com –
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