Tuesday, July 2, 2013

QRP Setup for Contesting

From the looks of your call - you are a new ham. QRP contesting is always going to be challenging because of the at least 13.5 dB disadvantage in signal strength (everything else being equal). I assume you want to stay with QRP power at 5 watts. Here are the approaches I recommend.

(1) make sure you are getting al the signal out from your antenna system - replace lossy feedlines with low loss feedlines. One can easily find better feedlines on the internet - compare loss values per 100 ft in dB. I have a blog post (http://ny4g.blogspot.com/2013/05/where-does-all-that-rf-go-anyway-by-w7ci.html) where I regurgitated what W7CI said about RF highlighting the need for low loss feedlines.

(2) If you are using wire antenna - select a design which minimizes the work the internal tuner has to work.

(3) Pick your battles. QRP contesting is different from busting a DX pileup. QRP contesting is the domain of CW. You will do best as a contester in this mode. During contests there are going to be signals all over the band and Ops are not going to discriminate against you too much if you are in S&P mode in CW. Do not be too close to a louder station calling the same station as the stronger station will drown you out. Separate yourself enough - yet still in his passband so he can hear you. There can be a small pileup if a station calling CQ is a rare one is in international DX contests. It once took me an hour to call New Zealand (ZL) during the IARU HF Championship - but I needed ZL for DXCC QRP - so I hung in there. Good luck in SSB - this is the domain of amps and gain antenna systems. You can improve your chances with mic compression plus gain antennas.

(4) Get a gain antenna. Just because you are limited to 5 watts at the transmitter does not mean you cannot get gain at your antenna - some examples - a vertical near salt water along the coast, a hex beam gets you 6 dB (that is 4X power multiplier), a tribander or other higher gain antenna system may give you 9dB (8X power) although beams are limited to 20MHz or higher for something affordable. I built a hex beam from scratch for about $300.

(4) Don't use /QRP - it takes more time to send, identifies you as QRP, it takes more time to copy on the other end. Remember, the other station is also trying to maximize his QSO count.

(4) Practice, practice, practice, NAQCC and QRP-ARCI have monthly contests. QRP usually has power multipliers which is a recognition of the power disadvantage. ARRL Field Day gives you a 2 points per QSO for CW, and Digital and a power multiplier of 5.

(5) QRO stations are going to get more points than you. Your objective is to do as well as you can in the QRP category.

Patience, patience, patience. Nothing makes you a better radio op than learning to make the best use of the meager 5-10 watts of power. I have a friend who has a sign "Life is too short for QRP" but by the same token I can brag to him that I have DXCC-QRP and WAS-QRP which is a feat much more rewarding than getting DXCC and WAS the easy way.

Enjoy the hobby

Ariel NY4G

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