I know a few hams that are in smaller apartment spaces, and let me start by saying, I fully sympathize. Out of the last three apartments that I’ve been in, I was lucky this time around, there is an attic crawlspace access panel that is easily accessible to me which allows for storage, and easy hanging of antennas. Before I was in apartments, I was in dorm rooms for a bit, and that was difficult. I made up a 2m/440 jpole to get on the air locally, it was matched using 300 ohm TV Twin Lead, and performed quite well. I’d simply tuck it in the corner of the room out of sight, and run a piece of coax to my mobile rig. In addition to that I had a 440 moxon antenna that I would place in the window. That would allow me to work clear into Toronto from Niagara Falls with no issue. I then built a 2m moxon that I would use for both 2m, and 440, as it had an SWR of less than 1.5:1 on 440. The 2m Moxon that I built in the dorms is still the antenna that I will take for my rover station from time to time… when I don’t quite feel like messing with the 14 element beam. (The rover redesign will be coming this year, and will be ready for January, stay tuned.) The moxon is a very small antenna, with quite a lot of gain, it’s a simple beam, with only two elements, a Driven, and a reflector, and when you’re limited on space is the way to go!
The two apartments I was in before the one I’m in now were not great at all. The first one was a two story townhouse rental, and while the space was great, it really didn’t lend well to putting any type of antenna out. I did, however, get creative with it.I started by putting a small stake into the ground, and clamped a 3/8 mount to that to get on HF, however that was pretty much laying on the ground, and I feared someone grabbing that while I was transmitting, so that came to an end quickly. After that, I would occasionally clamp some ham-sticks to the window for my HF usage, and strung a dipole antenna across the bedroom for 10m, however none of those were great solutions. Both are functional however. It was even worse though the following year. Basement level, concrete walled apartment. It was a pretty nice place, but absolutely no space for anything. On occasion I would setup a tripod, and my hitch mount for masts, run a feedline in though the window, and I would be able to try to get on 10m. I would run ham-sticks the same way, but that wound up similar to roving – always setting up and breaking down every time I wanted to get on the radio.
You probably started this thinking that I had a real solution, but I don’t… at least not for HF. In fact, I’m still going to tell you that your best bet is a small dipole or hamsticks strung outside, and if you’re not in a place where they’re okay with you leaving them out there, I would suggest pulling the rover setup situation – it’s good practice for if you ever want to get into that, but in addition, it really doesn’t take that long, as long as you have the ability to do it. For common repeater use, however, my solution is a little different. If you’re adamant on being able to just talk on repeaters, I suggest digital. Get yourself a small, DV hotspot – see Zumspot post – and get on digital voice! If the apartment is just in too big of a hole to get into any local coverage repeaters, you can link it up to your nearest digital repeater, and bam! You’re on the air! And better yet, if you’re in a yank to be able to chat all around the world, DV provides that with the linking functionality! Link to a repeater on the other side of the world, and have a conversation!It’s not the ideal solution, but it does get you on the air!