Warning – this is a long post!
Well, one year ago today, I made my first QSOs as a full-time QRPer. I thought it seemed appropriate today to report on my QRP adventures…so, read on…
Until last February, I’d spent a couple years off the air entirely, and for a few years before that, I had not been very active at all. So, it’s probably been at least 5 or 6 years since I have done much operating to speak of. And as far as making semi-regular non-contest QSOs, I probably haven’t done much of that in 10 or 15 years. Sometimes six months or a year or two would pass between non-contest activity.
I’d actually been rigless for a couple years. I was getting the itch to get back on the air, knowing that a new solar maximum was on the way. I was living in an apartment, with no immediate antenna farm prospects, yet unlimited RFI potential, so I decided to get a QRP rig that I could carry out with me and operate portable fairly easily. The Yaesu FT-817ND got the nod. I considered a K2 kit, but an impending wedding and subsequent move would have delayed me getting on the air for probably 6 or 8 months.
I had operated QRP a couple times in the past by turning down the carrier on the rig for fun, but for some reason, it’s just not the same as actually making a commitment to run only 5 watts. The ‘817 definitely forced that. I’m also not one who actively embraces using small antennas like a lot of QRP folk do. In addition to limiting their power, they also seem to find more honor in using a small, inefficient antenna. Not me. So far in my QRP career, I’ve only used relatively small wire antennas, but I do hope that will change sometime in the future. I’ve had or used Yagis on 80 – 10 and big verticals on 160 with Beverages…and I like that!
So, where do I stand in the QRP game? I’m really enjoying it immensely. I don’t know all the reasons why, but it has made radio fun. As I’ve mentioned before, I know a lot of the heavy lifting is done by the other guy, who often has to really dig our QRP signals out of the mud. OTOH, I’ve found that many QRPers (myself included) like to work other QRPers, so we’re doing the digging as well.
Take the QRP Fox Hunts – when you’re a Fox, you’re sitting there for 90 minutes doing nothing but digging out other QRP signals – as many as 70 or 80 guys in that hour and a half, many of which are at the noise level.
Another thing is the folks I’ve met. I’m a member of several QRP email groups and everyone there has been extremely helpful and free with their knowledge. And to top it off is the North Georgia QRP Group based out of Atlanta. It is by far the most fun I’ve had in a local radio club since I was first licensed in ’76 – a great bunch of folks!
For most of my 35-year-plus ham career I’ve been an appliance operator: I learned enough theory to pass the Extra exam, but other than putting together the odd kit from time to time, I’ve never really applied any of that knowledge. Being around QRPers that do build has inspired me. In the past year I’ve built a Softrock SDR receiver for 40m, and have started an Ensemble II as well. Also a Hendricks dummy load and a K8IQY Magic Box. Some of this is planned as stepping stones on the way up to one of Steve Weber’s ATS-3B kits. I think I’m about ready to tackle it.
I’m wanting to do more some more building than just kits – I want to actually build some radios from scratch…kit clones to start with, and maybe partially some of my own designs eventually. To that end, in the past year I’ve purchased a Tek 465 oscilloscope, built a frequency counter kit, did my first Manhattan build of the QRPme.com build-along crystal checker from last year’s FDIM, and have plans to build another item or two of test gear.
I’ve made almost 2200 QSOs in the past year at the five watt level; all CW except four 6 meter QSOs during Field Day. I’ve worked 120 DXCC countries – all on smallish wire antennas. And, I’m well on the way to a QRP 5BDXCC, but 80m will take a long while I’m afraid.
I’ve always been primarily a contester, secondarily a DXer, and not much of a ragchewer. Those patterns have continued with my QRP activities as well. With QRP classes in most of the major contests, I don’t feel at much of a disadvantage – other than my current antenna farm, which would have the same limitations at higher power. Actually, with so many QRPers tending to use smaller antennas, I’m really not all that disadvantaged compared to most of the other QRP class contesters.
Another thing is the QRP Foxhunts – not really a contest, but with a running 20-week season, two nights a week, and a team competition, it really becomes addictive trying to work ‘em all. And there are several QRP contests each month that last an hour or two and are just low-key fun.
Nothing special – I’m wanting to keep on QRPing…I’m looking at getting a K3, and if I do, I’m pretty sure it will be the 10w model. I’ve got some new antenna ideas, and hope to melt a bunch of solder in the next 12 months. And you’ll find me in the contests and DX pileups!