The move back to the US will happen at the end of July, but I will need to pack up most of the equipment in the next few weeks. So, with time remaining, I’ve been thinking about I can get done with less and less equipment — I think the answer is 17 meters.
Looking at LOTW, I have reached DXCC on the bands that benefited most from contest contacts: 20m, 15m, and 10m (in the days when it was open). I’m approaching 70 contacts on 40m, but given geography, that’s not likely to change much no matter what I do in the next month.
I’m pretty close on 17 meters — currently 96 entities. Propagation on 15m is marginal, but 17m is still open most of the time and is not as congested as 20m.
So, I’ve replaced the 40m loop antenna with an end-fed 17m half wave antenna. It’s the one I usually use on SOTA expeditions and is only rated for 25w, but I don’t see that as much of an issue as I intend to operate FT8. For a high duty cycle digital mode, I wouldn’t push my transceiver beyond 50W anyhow, so 3dB less power input is not a big deal considering the sensitivity of the mode.
As manufactured, the antenna operates on 40/20/10m, but its broadband matchbox can work any HF band when a suitable half-wave wire is added, so I added a wire about 8.2 meters long and trimmed to 1:1 SWR for 18.100 Mhz.
One other consideration is that the combination of FT8 and 17m is my best shot at QSOs with North America during an afternoon window, and I would like to try to give away some more contacts to folks in US and Canada to balance out QSOs with EU and Japan.
I did a test run yesterday, was spotted a few times, and participated in 140 QSOs. So, this set up seems to perform well and the only issue will be the amount of time I can put in (and my ability to keep focused on hitting the “enable” button).
If I do manage to pick up those last four 17m contacts, I would switch out the radiating element for a 30m half-wave element.