Five good Rules for the QRPer
During my years as a QRP operator, I have gained some experience. On this
page, I would like to share this experience. My main interest in QRP are CW and
DX. The rules below will reflect this scope.
§ 1 Avoid a defensive attitude
Do these expressions sound familiar? My experience negates them all. A
defensive attitude is a big enemy of QRPing. In fact, you can have a lot
of fun and work a lot of DX with flea power. The only difference between
QRP and 'normal' power (100 W or more) is your signal strength. Your QRP
signal will always be 2-3 S-units weaker than the 'normal' signal. This
means, that under some (bad) conditions, 5 W is simply not enough to establish
communication, where the guy using 100 W will be succesful. Having said
this, all other factors are equal. Your receiver, your antenna, your proficiency
in CW, your knowledge and experience regarding propagation are 1:1 comparable
with your QRO counterparts.
I can't work DX using only 5 watts and a wire dipole
I have to be grateful for achieving just a few
contacts with QRP
It is impossible to participate in a contest with QRP
My point is: Avoid a defensive attitude due to using QRP. Do not be
selfconscious using QRP. Weak performance is not reflected in the power
level. Weak performance is being a bad operator, lacking propagation knowledge
or transmitting bad sounding signals.
§ 2 Learn and use CW
CW is the preferred mode for most QRPers. Set yourself a personal goal:
I want to be a skilled CW operator. This requires practising, both off-air
and on the bands. It took several years for me to acquire the needed skills.
A good off-air training program after having passed the morse test is a
very good idea. You set your own speed both in sending and receiving, and
you feel safe because no one hears your mistakes. A complementary way of
practising is to be on the air. This part gives you operational skills.
You will learn to deal with interference and fading and to read unorthodox
(i.e. bad) CW, which is sent by some stations.
§ 3 Listen carefully
Listen carefully on the bands and identify every station you hear. Listen
both for the strong and the weak stations. I am often pleasently surprised
when getting a response from a weak station which I call. If you are the
only station on his frequency, your signal strength is not important.
European stations like me are often fooled into not calling a weak DX-station
because we hear loud local stations nearby. We believe, that our signal
is too weak for the DX-station to hear. But the DX-station may not hear
the same as we do, because the loud locals may beam towards us and may
not even be heard by the DX-station. So don't avoid the weak DX-signals.
Give them a call!
§ 4 Participate in contests
Is DX more difficult to work in contests than in normal operation? No.
My experience is, that a major contest brings you more DX-opportunities
during 48 hours than several months of normal hunting on the bands. Contest
participation is recommended if you want to increase your country total
quickly. The rare (or semi-rare) countries are easier to work in a contest,
because the pile-ups are smaller, especially on the second day.
Some hints for those having little experience in contesting but wanting
to increase their country total:
Try a minor contest before targeting a major. Here in
Europe, the bi-yearly "Original QRP Contest" is a fine place to start. The
pace is human, the tone is friendly and only a few hundred QRPers participate.
Hunt for new countries and for unconfirmed countries.
Don't worry about your eventual low score.
Don't be afraid of a station sending fast CW. Take
your time to read the call and the contest exchange. Write down the serial
number. When you jump in, you know what number you will be given. Send your
contest exchange at a comfortable speed without errors.
Change band according to the propagation. Choosing the
right band at the right time is a science in itself. But a multiband effort
will probably increase your chances of success.
Be active on both days of the contest. Saturday may
show good propagation while Sunday yields bad results or vice versa.
Submit your log in the QRP class or as a checklog.
§ 5 Build your own equipment
The proudness being on the air using a piece of homemade equipment can
not be described. It is a really good feeling. You should allow yourself
to experience this. In these days of "credit-card-bying-power", nothing
beats to control airwaves by your very own homebuilt equipment. Let me
suggest a watt-meter, an antenna-tuner, a transmitter or even a complete
transceiver! The Rock-Mite is one example of a simple transceiver for the 20 meter band.
Operating: How do I avoid weak performance on the air?
Generally, it is not necessary to sign /QRP when calling a station. If
he hears you, you will usually get an answer. Your callsign, your clean
and pleasant sounding signal and your good operating technique are more
important than your signal strength. An exception: Sometimes it is an advantage
adding /QRP to your call in order to attract attention!
When the initial contact is established, it is not necessary for the
QRPer to send his report, name and QTH three or more times. Under normal
band conditions, this info should be sent once or twice. If repeating unnecessarily,
you anticipate your signal being difficult to read. If it actually is difficult
to read, the other station will tell you by requesting the missing information.
The same applies to contest exchanges. Send exactly the same short exchange
as the high-power operators. Again, if something doesn't get across, the
other station will request it.
Written by Lars Petersen, OZ1BXM, June 2nd, 2001.
Latest revision January 11th, 2013.
10 steps to QRP success by VK3YE