The March issue of CQ magazine just came in the mail and this month it’s QRP! Woo Hoo!
QRP is amazing. Period. Full-stop.
I used to run a KW in contests and, trust me, someday soon I hope to do so again. But running QRP especially in CW contests where I am less than two S-units below the 100-watt guys there is no practical difference in signal strength or effectiveness.
It comes down to this: If you can work everyone you hear easily on the first call most of the time raising your power level will have no appreciable effect 🙂
Now if you want to hold a frequency and call CQ you’d better be running power and the more power to the biggest antennas located on top of the tallest hill is essential. Or go to the Caribbean with your QRP, 100-watt or 500-watt station and enjoy the immense advantage that salt water and being located near the equator provide.
But we’re not talking about big muscles here. QRP is when you care enough to send only the very least 🙂 and QRP is mostly a search and pounce mode.
I used to have racks of equipment. I had radios the size of big microwave ovens and the tubes heated the shack. Now I have a radio two-thirds the size of a building brick and about a 1/10th of the weight and an external auto-tuner that’s not much bigger and neither one needs be on the operating table.
And most computers of reasonably modern age can run the Flex and your logging program without any effort at all. Most of the computer issues can be directly related to operator error when it comes to the interface between the rig and computer.
But you don’t have to run a Flex. Elecraft has some amazing QRP rigs and I’d like to get my hands on a KX3 or even a KX1. These rigs are small to tiny and can run off an 8-amp gel-cell for days at a time.
Look my antenna system is nothing special. It is composed of a Hygain Explorer four-element beam with the 40-meter extenders to add a 40-meter dipole and a variety of garden-variety verticals, dipoles, end-feeds and slopers. In other words nothing special.
But during CW, RTTY and even phone contests I regularly work Europe, Asia, South America and Australia. I’ve even worked DX using the vertical and wire antennas just to prove it can be done.
Sure 100-watts during rough conditions would be great and I am looking at what my next 100-rig is going to be (likely a FlexRadio 3000 or a Kenwood TS-590s or maybe a K3) but I’m a much better contester thanks to running QRP.
I’m more aggressive and less likely to think the other guy won’t or can’t hear me. I regularly break pileups into the Caribbean and even into north Africa.
In fact, I’ve had more fun running QRP here in Oakville at lake level than I’ve had with any of my other stations that I’ve set up in 23 years I’ve been licensed. (Now my Dad’s station VE3HG (SK and I got his call sign a few years after he died) located on the second highest piece of land in southern Ontario with a 90′ tower with a four-element 204BA 20-meter beam on top running the old Drake pair was pretty magical in its own right.)
If money was an issue or stealth a requirement I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to setup a QRP station on 40 or 20 (or even better both using an end-feed Par Antenna) and I’d work the world. If you’re not convinced go get a copy of March CQ at Chapters and enjoy the magic of QRP.