QRP and DXing

I rarely post on the Elecraft reflector these days but I do check Nabble from time to time to see what’s going on and today I saw one thread that got me annoyed. Someone who had just built a new base version K2 posted that until he had done so he hadn’t realized that it was possible to work DX using 15 watts. Someone then piped up that QRP DX claims are pretty meaningless unless the antennas used are also mentioned – a point with which I’d agree. But then someone had to add the hoary old argument “They also don’t report how the guy they worked had to struggle to pull them out or what his equipment was.”

This argument gets my goat every time. Whilst many people use QRP through choice, when it comes down to antennas many people don’t have a choice. If you live in an apartment, or like me in a tiny house on a postage stamp sized plot, or if you have HOA restrictions, or again like me have an awkward neighbour who likes to make your life difficult just because he can, then having a tower and a beam, or even a decent long wire antenna high and in the clear simply isn’t an option.

What these people seem to be saying is: “If you can’t run high power and a beam like me then don’t waste my time.” Now, excluding a lot of people from the hobby just because they aren’t fortunate enough to be able to put together a top class station doesn’t seem to me like a good thing for the future of the hobby.

It is surprising what you can work using low power, even with modest antennas. And what the naysayers who have probably never even tried using low power and simple antennas don’t realize is that it is also surprising how many contacts don’t have to struggle to pull the QRP station out of the noise. In fact they have probably worked many low power stations themselves without realizing it because the other guy never mentioned he was using QRP. The attitude that “life’s too short for QRP” is just bullshit.

But when making contacts with low power and limited antennas is a struggle there are always other things you can do. Personally, ticking countries off a list has always seemed to me to be an exercise in frustration, especially since the advent of the DX Cluster which means that you’ll almost never come across a DX station that isn’t on the end of a pileup. And whilst it’s nice to have a chat uisng the radio, these days it’s so much easier to have a discussion about the hobby online using forums, blogs and so on.

For many of the QRP persuasion, ham radio is a lot to do with seeing how far a little radio signal can go. And there are so many ways you can do that – with QRSS beacons, WSPR and weak signal digital QSO modes like JT65A. Today I saw a Google Groups post from Joe W6CQZ/4, the author of the JT65-HF program, who is using the mode to make contacts running 500mW to a 20m Hamstick mounted on the metal roof of his shed. This sort of thing is much more satisfying than working DX using a superstation. Let’s fact it, anyone could do that if they had deep enough pockets and enough real estate. Where’s the challenge in it?

So if you can’t run a superstation don’t be discouraged by the braggers with their QRO gear and big antennas. There’s a heck of a lot of fun to be had in this hobby using low power and simple gear. And I’ll bet a whole lot less frustration, expense and envy as well.

Julian Moss, G4ILO, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Cumbria, England. Contact him at [email protected].

7 Responses to “QRP and DXing”

  • Ernest Gregoire, AA1IK:

    Excellent point Juilian,

    Years ago, a guy made a real stink about ‘Real QRP’ VS. all other QRP I guess. His definition of ‘Real QRP’ is using 5 watts with a dipole or vertical or anything but a ‘Gain Antenna’!

    The long and short of it was that he lived in a place where he could not put up a tower and gain antenna and the he could not afford one.

    This guy wrote article after article about ‘Real QRP’ (real qrp according to him, that is) and tried his best to gather like minded hams. The purpose of this Chicken s–t group was to alter the rules of play for contests and to look down their noses at those who could afford a tower, a gain antenna and the real estate on which to place it.

    It amounted to nothing, eventually. Jealousy has been around for a long time and I’m sure this issue will continue to rear its ugly head in the future. (Its a non-issue as far as I’m concerned!)

    They called it ‘Leveling the playing field’! This is a hobby for crying out loud!

    Antenna use is up to the individual. I adhere to the triad of antenna rules.

    1.Any antenna is better than no antenna.
    2.Bigger is better
    3.Higher is better.

    Almost all my ham activity is portable, so that limits me to a Buddipole and simple wire antennas. I’m a ham to have fun, chat with people in other lands and make friends doing so. If that bothers someone because I can’t use a thermo-nuclear-mega-band-super-gain-hyper-dx antenna, Well too bad!

    I send them my very best, Bronx cheer~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  • Chris WB2VEN:

    Hear! Hear!

  • Goody K3NG:

    The problem is a lot of amateurs can’t see past transmitter power or understand that QRP means “low power” and not “mediocre antenna” or “minimalist equipment”. If these people really want to get into debates about real QRP and they continually bring antennas into the equation, they need to stop defining QRP by transmitter power and rate it based on EIRP. Then we can move on to more important debates, like how do you calculate EIRP for a random length wire antenna or roof spouting loaded up as an antenna 😀

  • N7CPC:

    I have what I like to think of as a nice QRP station. I live in an eighth floor apartment in downtown Seattle. I run a OHR 100A (Oak Hills Research) 40m X-cvr thru a LDG 100 Plus auto tuner into a MFJ apartment window mount ant. Usually 3 watts. Both here and local parks. I do pretty good I might add. So phewey to the QRO set.

    Oh yeah, the fellow with the new K2 needs to knock off another 10 watts and try again!

    72 de Craig,N7CPC -.-

  • Joe ws4r:

    Julian I could not agree more. I can’t wait untill the new Elecraft come to market. To me there is no challenge running a mega station other than picking station out of the pile up one creates with such a station.
    To me doing a portable op with a piece of wire and a qrp rig is great fun and a challenge. This hobby is so rich in what it offers to everyone wiiling to put forth some effort. The magnificent thing to me is that when you make contact with someone in a far off land, you realize just how much we are all alike and how small our plnet is.
    God Bless you Julian..Stay Well
    73
    Joe Sanders
    ws4r

  • Bob Daney, WD8LIC:

    I run 5 watts into a flagpole vertical stealth antenna (HOA restrictions) and can work occasional dx when condx are good. I agree with you and would be anoyed too.

  • DAN WG5G:

    I am one of the top QRP DXERS in the world, I kind of get tired of reading about
    the 5 watts to a dipole is the only way to work dx, well I can tell you this, I’ll
    give these people my station & I doubt any of them could come close to my totals,
    there’s alot more than antennas involved with working dx with 5 watts. 73 Dan WG5G.

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