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Ten steps to QRP success

QRP gear Operating QRP QRP log

1. Use efficient antennas

A half wave dipole or better is preferred.

2. Know your capabilities - do not expect DX every time

It would be nice to work Europe with one watt to a mobile whip on forty metres, but do not expect such contacts to come easily (if at all). Instead, you should cast your sights a little lower and enjoy the closer-in contacts that are more achievable. Even if you get no answers, check the Reverse Beacon Network after a CW CQ session - you never know where your signal might have reached.

3. Have frequency-agile equipment

Many articles describe simple crystal-controlled QRP transmitters that can be put together in an evening. These are fun to build but frustrating to operate; 99 percent of such rigs sit on shelves, unused, gathering dust. Instead, use a VFO or 3.58 MHz variable ceramic resonator on eighty metres, or a VXO with at least a 20 kHz tuning range on the higher bands.

4. Use 'tail-ending' to advantage

When your signal is weaker than average (such as when operating QRP), 'tail-ending' is the most effective way of obtaining contacts. Simply tune across the band, noting the contacts that are ending. When all stations sign clear, call one of the stations. They will most likely reply to your call, even if only to give a signal report.

5. Have a quality signal

A transmitter that clicks and chirps is harder to copy at the other end than a signal from a clean and stable rig. This is particularly the case when the receiving station is using narrow CW filters.

6. On CW, know the relationship between your transmit and receive frequencies

It is possible for a station to miss your call if you are transmitting on the wrong frequency. Set direct conversion QRP rigs so that they transmit about 800 Hz below their receive frequency. Conversely, if calling CQ, tune around your normal receive frequency (with the RIT control) just in case a station is calling you on the wrong frequency.

7. Have an efficient transmit/receive switching system

A homebrew station that requires the operator to flick two or three switches to switch from receive to transmit is inefficient and may result in missed contacts (particularly during contests). Use just one T/R switch or experiment with the many break in and timing circuits available.

8. Use the best receiver you can afford

Most of the complexity in a QRP station is in the receiver. While simple receivers are fine for casual SWLing, active operating requires a somewhat better class of receiver. Aim for good frequency stability, adequate bandspread, reasonable selectivity, good strong-signal handling and an absence of microphonics. A well-built direct-conversion receiver should satisfy on all five counts for all but the most hostile band conditions.

9. Enter contests to boost your operating skills

Many people think that high power is necessary to participate in contests. This is untrue, particularly for the local, club and smaller national contests. Contest rules are given in amateur radio society magazines and on contest website.

10. Don't be afraid to call CQ

On bands such as ten metres, the band can be wide open, but no one would know as every body is listening. Call CQ, particularly when you have grounds for supposing the band is open, for example reception of beacons or 27 MHz CB activity. Automatic CQ callers using tape recorders, computers or digital voice recorders are particularly handy here.


Here's another trick. Watt for watt CW is more effective than SSB when conditions are marginal. Not every ham on HF knows Morse but it's worth a try if after many tries you haven't got your call across. That is even if you're on SSB you mouth your callsign in Morse. That can sometimes be enough to get it through, as demonstrated below:



Further information

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