160 Meter Inverted “L” Antenna – Updated 12/30/2020

I have a need to get on 160m occasionally for a contest, but have limited space. I tried a dipole, but it was just too much trouble. I had to bend the ends all around to fit my small lot. I keep hearing that an Inverted L is a decent antenna, but have never been fond of laying radial systems. The vertical antenna I have has less than 8 radials – that is just the way it is going to be.

I won’t bother posting a graphic of this antenna, they are everywhere. If you want the design details, just Search on it, or go to the ARRL Antenna Book or any of the many great reference Sites and books out there. Here is one link, if you really want to dig into 160 meter antennas of all kinds. This is a presentation by Jim Brown K9YC. His material is always worth reading and digesting, and he is a recognized expert on EMI/RFI in the Ham Radio world.

When I started this project, I was still thinking about a “long antenna.” It turns out that this is now the shortest wire antenna (horizontally) that I have. Shorter than my 80 meter Broadband dipole, shorter than my ZS6BKW. In fact, it turned out to be much shorter than the distance between the two trees I had planned to use as supports.

The formulas say to use a horizontal section of around 80-90 feet. I always start long with wire antennas, so I get to cut when tuning, and do not have to worry about adding wire. I began with a total length of 135 feet, with about 90 feet on the horizontal leg. I only added two radials, and they are both very short, probably about 66 feet long. I also used a ground rod and a 1:1 balun for conveniently connecting my coax for the run to the shack. I have about 30 feet of coax, and have a few ferrite beads on about 5 turns of the DXE-400MAX coax, just before it enters the house.

Here is an SWR plot of the first attempt, with total length of 135 feet:

160m Inverted L 135 feet

As you can see, the SWR min is too low in frequency, which is to be expected, given the length. This was good enough for me to use it in the NAQP CW contest this weekend (which started 30 minutes before I completed this antenna), with my Antenna Tuner. After the contest, I will trim it, to get a larger portion of the Band within the 3:1 SWR range, as needed by most rig-internal tuners.

After a couple cuts, and measurements, I got the length down to about 127 feet total length. I have the vertical section about 40 feet long, and it is not exactly vertical but slopes from a tree to my balun about 3 feet above the ground. Here is the resulting SWR curve:

160m Inverted L 127 feet long

I can definitely live with this for now. In most contests, the activity seems to be in the lower portion of the Band. I may do some more pruning, but for now, this will work. And I will add more radials – sure I will…

The original (135-foot long) antenna worked quite well in the contest. I got 16 State multipliers and about 50 QSOs in the last hour or so of the contest. So this will be staying in my antenna collection. I will try to add a few better radials, maybe..

I did have one minor issue. It seemed like I was getting some RF into the shack, and PC acted a little strangely at one time. I need to improve my EMI filtering on some of the lines entering the shack, to make sure I am choking common-mode RF in the 160 meter Band.

If you have the room, I always hear that a full-wave loop is a great antenna for 160 meters. That is just not going to happen on 160 at this location.

Thanks for stopping by, please leave comments or questions if you have time.

Update 1 Sept 2020

Two days after I posted this, my 160 meter inverted “L” antenna was taken out in a storm. It worked well in it’s only test, and will be reconstructed. Due to the short length, this will probably continue as my only 160 meter antenna at this QTH. I mainly use it to work fellow PVRC Club members, late in HF Contests. I also have a Loop-on-ground that I can use for Receive, with reduced noise levels. You can find more about that antenna in other Posts on this Blog.

Update 30 December 2020

I wanted to work the Stew Perry 160m CW contest last weekend, so I reinstalled a 160 meter inverted-L. I got the flat part up at about 40 feet. Only used 4 40′ radials, so I could have done better there. But it worked surprisingly well. I did tune it to cover more of the Band with low SWR. Since the feed point is at the ground, it is simple to add or remove a little wire to get a good SWR curve. I will surely be using it again in the CQ 160 meter contest in January. Hope to see you there.

Update 30 November 2021

I continue to use this antenna during contests and now have worked 47 States and 51 Countries. Most of this is on CW. I know people are looking at antenna options for the ARRL 160m contest coming up this weekend. Give this one a try. You will be glad you did. If you have a chance, consider adding a separate Receive antenna like a Beverage or a Loop-on-Ground. This will greatly reduce your noise level. Hope to see you on the Air for ARRL 160




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