Thoughts on QRP

I recently read an excellent post by W2LJ on non-QRPers’ perceptions of “the frustration of QRP.”  While I’m in 100% agreement with what he writes—essentially to “act loud” when you’re operating QRP—I’m guilty of the very first sin he calls out at the beginning:  advising new hams not to start on HF with [a] QRP [rig].

I stand by this advice.  Here’s why.  The advice is often solicited in the context of saving money by buying a QRP radio (e.g., FT-817, IC-703, KX3, etc) versus a full-power unit (e.g., FT-857, IC-706/IC-7000, KX3+KXPA3, respectively).  Everybody wants to save money, not everyone wants to operate QRP, whether they realize it or not.  It’s a whole heck of a lot easier to crank a 100-watt radio down to 5 watts than it is to crank a 5-watt radio up to 100 watts.  So why does that matter since we’re talking about why people should or shouldn’t start with QRP?  If you operate QRP, look at your log.  You should see a pattern.  Most of your QSOs are on CW or digital and on the “core” HF bands, 40/30/20/17/15 meters.

QRP is not frustrating at all, as long as you operate CW (or digital) into decent antennas on certain bands.  Knowledge and skill indeed trump power.  But, if you are just acquiring knowledge and skill for the first time, a little reserve power doesn’t hurt.  Just my thoughts.

Ethan Miller, K8GU, is a regular contributor to and writes from Maryland, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

5 Responses to “Thoughts on QRP”

  • Larry W2LJ:


    Thanks for the mention! But maybe I should have made myself clearer. I have nothing against folks going QRP with QRO gear turned down to 5 Watts. The advice you offer is very sound. If you find out that QRP is not for you, you CAN always turn the power up – that’s a good thing.

    My “rant” (for lack of a better word this early in the morning) was against those who would tell a newcomer NEVER to attempt QRP “from the get go”.

    Maybe I don’t give myself enough credit, but I don’t find making QRP QSOs all that hard. My antennas are average at best, and in the QRP Fox hunts, I’m very rarely the first to be heard. Most often, I sit squarely in the middle of the pack – extremely average!

    I just don’t think it’s as difficult as “the experts” make it out to be. Granted, it’s not like shooting fish in a barrel, but what’s the fun in that, anyway?

    73 de Larry W2LJ

  • Dave K1THP:

    The advice is sound. I have been on the air since 1961 and early in my novice days noticed that many guys I worked had the Ameco AC-! and sounded pretty strong at my station. I started building 6aq5 oscillator rigs while a novice and found that I could still work stations. About a year later after getting general privleges I built a 1 transistor oscillator for 40 meters and ran it from a 9 Volt battery. I worked VA from CT with 60 milliwatts input power. I was hooked! Through the years I have had many QRO (1500 Watt stations as well as QRP (5 Watts or less) rigs and enjoy them all. I still use both and will continue for as long as the Lord lets me.

  • Frank KA9FZR:

    On the other side QRP does have advantages for some beginners. You can operate in neighborhoods were the houses are close together with out having to interface with your neighbors because of interference issues. You can experiment with antennas much easier since the power level is less likely to cause arcs and sparks. It really comes down to what you want to do with your license there are so many options. QRP is great for experimenting. At least for me every contact is a thrill. Even SSB is usable at that power.

  • Dave WB7OBG:

    I almost never steer new hams to a QRP rig. They’ve got so many things that are unknowns (Does my radio work? Is my antenna working? DO I have everything connected up right? etc) that it’s best to remove the extra challenges of QRP from the equation. I can’t stress enough the importance of the ‘quick win’, making actual contacts right away.

    Maybe back in the days of huge sunspot numbers it was different, but as an elmer, I want them to taste that sweet taste of success right way and not get frustrated.

  • k8gu:

    Really great comments, everyone. Thanks.

    Larry, I wasn’t sure where you were going, but I did want to speak my mind! It is incumbent on all of us to be realistic with newcomers. There are certain modes/activities that will be challenges of quixotian proportions at QRP power levels. On the other hand, the real “magic” of radio is almost always in doing more with less…

    Dave, K1THP, like you, I’ve never really operated a radio that I didn’t have fun with. 🙂 Hope you get many more years!

    Frank, absolutely right, but you can do all of that with a 100-watt class rig turned down to 5 watts also. I have done a bit of QRP SSB and although one can establish communication, I wouldn’t call it a great time. In my opinion, SSB only really becomes a riot when you run QRO, good antennas, or both. But, that’s just my opinion.

    Dave, WB7OBG, really summarized my thoughts on it all: quick win. Now, you have the opportunity to say, “You want to try QRP? Crank the power down. Pretty neat, huh? Let’s try building a transceiver kit, etc…”

Leave a Comment

Subscribe FREE to's
Amateur Radio Newsletter
News, Opinion, Giveaways & More!

Join over 7,000 subscribers!
We never share your e-mail address.

Also available via RSS feed, Twitter, and Facebook.

Subscribe FREE to's
Amateur Radio Newsletter

We never share your e-mail address.

Do you like to write?
Interesting project to share?
Helpful tips and ideas for other hams?

Submit an article and we will review it for publication on!

Have a ham radio product or service?
Consider advertising on our site.

Are you a reporter covering ham radio?
Find ham radio experts for your story.

How to Set Up a Ham Radio Blog
Get started in less than 15 minutes!

  • Matt W1MST, Managing Editor

Sign up for our free
Amateur Radio Newsletter

Enter your e-mail address: