Monday, August 01, 2011

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.
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