To QRP or not to QRP?

Posted: November 30, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,
In ham radio, QRP operation means transmitting at reduced power levels while aiming to maximize one’s effective range. Generally power is kept at five watts or less. QRP can be fun and exciting under the right circumstances. I’ll never forget the fun I had on the bands during 1992. My Yaesu FT1000MP’s PA went out and the rig would only put out 8 watts. The band conditions at the time were very good, and I was having a blast working the entire world on ten meters with little difficulty.
Fast forward to today and QRP is done a little differently. Some QRP operators see themselves as a special class of operators who have handicapped themselves for various reasons. Imagine running on only one leg during a foot race. QRP operators are often found in big pileups for rare DX. They are competing with stations running 1,500 watts (or more). The QRP operator is at a big disadvantage at breaking the pile up. Their self limiting handicap is often used to their advantage.
When operating in the recent XZ1J DXpedition, I often heard QRP operators in the pileup, but at the wrong time and wrong circumstances. Often we would follow our propagation. When we would ask European callers to QRX and attempt to work North America, often times I would hear EU QRP callers calling and calling, completely ignoring our instructions.  It was if they were using their special status to ignore our request to QRX and that we might work them rather than our chosen target continent.  The DXpedition team discussed this phenomenon and we all experienced it. Most of us chose to ignore the QRP callers sticking to our desire to work the remote continents when propagation allowed.
Often, after I return from a DXpedition, I receive email from those QRP operators. Their email is something along the lines of “I heard you very well, why didn’t you answer me?”   What they fail to remember is that we brought Yagi antennas, 800 watt amplifiers and good coax to a remote location. All they brought was their five watts. Not an equal equation in any way. QRP operators need to accept their limitations and not bend the circumstances to make themselves any more special than the hundreds of other callers in the pileups.
What do you think?
  1. Greg Poel W8GP says:

    I operate QRP strictly for the personal challange and I never expect special treatment.I do not sign “QRP” after my call, I either make the contact or I don’t. I am a ragchewer at heart and a casual DXer so I normally run 800-1000 watts for my normal operating to make the contacts more enjoyable.

  2. Larry, NU4B says:

    WOW! I didn’t realize QRPers could cause such a ruckus. On the one hand we are just too weak to work, but on the other hand QRPers are the ones calling out of turn and causing the QRM. Of all the bad operating (the calling out of turn, the continual calling, the tuning, etc…, etc…, etc…) its the QRPers? I didn’t realize we were in such large numbers to do this havoc.

    Of all the complaining I read on the internet, the horrible things posted on the DX cluster, the “Come to “XX” band on “XX” mode”, the “you missed the “XX” opening”, etc…, etc…, etc… – its when the QRPers complain that get a response?

    I am not new to QRP DXing nor am I any kind of expert. I’ve been doing it about 30 years. I’ve worked 297 DXCC entities, 39 zones (256 zones over 8 bands), close to half of the IOTAs, and 1400 DXCC challenge points using individual call signs (that would be 1400 DX call signs). I make about 1000 (+/-) mostly (90%) DX contacts a year. (I’ve uploaded close to 18,000 QSOs to LoTW since June 2001) I do know a little about it. I don’t know much about what other QRPers do. I only operate CW, so I’m not really familiar with what happens in the phone portions either – other than what I hear.

    For myself, I don’t use “/QRP” when DXing. (Its actually too long and cumbersome). From that stand point there would be no special class recognition. I don’t spot on the cluster that I’ve worked X station QRP. One time in 30 years I’ve requested a call sign check. Never did get a response. I worked the next expedition on several bands so it didn’t matter and have since come to the conclusion that if the correct call sign can’t be exchanged it can’t be a good QSO, so I’m not a fan of “fixing” the log when the expedition is over. But that’s another story. I have never written an expedition, posted anything negative about an expedition, requested they call for QRP only, or requested any special consideration from any expedition. In fact I don’t think I have requested anything at all from an expedition except for a QSL card. And unless somebody saw my QSL card they would have no confirmation I was QRP. With OQRS, there is less and less sending out actual QSLs.

    And while I may not be the sharpest nail in the box, after 30+ years DXing, I am sharp enough to notice trends and when and why they occur.
    The only thing I have requested from expeditions in general is that IF they have a goal of trying to give everybody a new one (or some similar statement) that they employ strategies to accomplish that are in accordance with the size of expedition, length of expedition, place on the needed list, etc… Otherwise say up front what the goal is. If its working 100,000 QSOs and it doesn’t matter where they came from, that’s fine, just let us know. I’ve ALWAYS said, its the expedition’s expedition. I’ve also said if there is a cost/QSO, instead of asking me to contribute ahead of time, why not ask those making 20, 30, or 40 Qs to contribute their fair share, ahead of time? I’m more than willing to contribute my fair share and more (and have), but not to finance a little game for the big boys.

    The only thing I have asked for in general (and not from any specific expedition) is a shot, if it fits in with the expedition’s goals and plans. DXCC does not have a worked in pile up requirement or a worked in big pile up requirement. The requirement is to make contact. After 30 years I am quite aware of my station’s abilities and limitations as well as my own.

    Over the years I have worked just about all the major expeditioneers and expedition groups from somewhere. But, I’ve never worked a “PSE” expedition. Hmmmm….

    To sum up, I was saddened to read about all the interference and bad operating practices QRPers apparently have been causing and the waste of time both on and off the air they have been. As much as I can, I do apologize for all the QRPers that don’t participate in such practices, I would have hoped real QRPers would have an edge on good operating practices out of necessity.

    73 and thanks for all the rare places activated and QSOs your group has handed out to deserving DXers. All the best

    – NU4B

    Oh, and the obvious answer to the question is NOT to work those calling out of turn – high power, low power, or QRP

  3. Luke VK3HJ says:

    As a DXpedition operator, I’ve been surprised at how loud some of the QRP callers in the pileups are. I work them as I hear them.
    At home, I play QRP as a challenge, but not obsessively. It’s actually *fun*! I have 110 countries after a bit under 2 years, and often get very favourable reports. Nothing special here, a Hex Beam and some wires. When I call, I only append /QRP *after* my callsign has been acknowledged.
    I was interested in the comments on some of the out of turn callers, playing the QRP card. They are still out of turn, and should be treated as such. Perhaps, later in the expedition, when the pileups diminish, and the rates drop, some calls for QRP stations could be made? Again, this will attract unscrupulous out of turn callers.
    I’ll be interested in further discussion on this topic.
    Luke VK3HJ

  4. Larry, NU4B says:

    Hey Luke,
    Congrats on the QRP activities.
    I was kind of surprised by the comments. I’m not saying QRPers are perfect but I was surprised it caused enough of a problem to merit comment. Is there really that many of us? So I wonder if its some high powered bad actors getting bored and playing with QRP (or even faking it to play on some perceived sympathy from an expedition op) and bringing their bad habits with them. (And I’m not saying every high powered guy has bad habits, but we know there are some out there.)
    I would think most serious and experienced QRPers would realize early on that type of activity (other than being wrong) would be rather useless. That’s a ticket to nowhere in the DX game for QRPers. In fact I would say most serious QRPers know good operating practices and following DXing rules (like the DX Code Of Conduct) are essential to successful DXing at these power levels.

    I actually listed a summary of my activities not as a paragraph of self-adornment but rather to show that QRP signals can be heard rather regularly and over a wide part of the world with no special antenna system or special attention from the DX op. (although better antennas = better success) 🙂 It does help if the DX op has an interest in listening for stations weaker than the KW+ stations. Just because a low power signal is not as loud as the KW+ stations doesn’t mean there is not a readable signal there.

    So indeed there is, in my opinion, no real need to identify as QRP or have an expedition specifically request QRP stations (although its a nice gesture). I do identify as “/QRP” when I’m calling CQ for other QRP stations. But not in DXing. I have found it (as I said) too long and cumbersome. The time is better spent listening to the DX station and the pile up if there is one.

    73, NU4B

  5. VE3CX says:

    A few years ago I was at Dayton a few years ago chatting with another contester. He mentioned the folks who sign /QRP, which seemed to be a way of saying “Hey – listen up! I am running QRP, so you need to listen harder to work me!” They just made the job of working them HARDER, not easier, as I need to copy an extra 4 characters that have no useful information. If several folks call at the same time, owing to the “longer” call, that is usually what comes through. It also does nothing to help figure out who the guy is, and it does cause problems.

    I have spent a lot of time, money and effort into gear and antennas to produce a decent signal, and my station hears very well. If they want to make things easier, install better antennas, and drop the /QRP designation.

    That said, I do admire folks who have decided for whatever reason to run 5 watts. At the same Dayton hamfest, I sat in on the QRP forum, and the presenter made an interesting comment. He told the assembled group of QRPers “Work contesters. They will hear you!” That made me smile, and he was right..

    And that is the jist of this whole discussion. Run QRP if you wish. Drop the /QRP designation, and no one knows (or cares) that you are running very low power.

    Why is this even worth mentioning? Clearly, there are folks looking for an advantage (any advantage will do), and if they think adding /QRP to their call will help, then it seems fair game. Are some running more that 5 watts? I have worked some pretty loud QRP stations, which makes me wonder if they really are running QRP as they claim.

    Are QRPers being slighted unfairly? Perhaps. The first step in education is pointing out that there is a problem. I have no doubt more QRPers have no idea there is a problem, and as such, the problem will never be corrected.

    So – consider the request of NOT adding /QRP to your call, unless you think it will have special meaning to other QRPers, or to solicit QRP QSOs.

    Tom – VE3CX

  6. Dan WG5G says:

    Hello to Larry and Luke, I would like to add my thoughts to this subject, I have heard many times over the years ham’s say they are qrp to get special treatment, when in fact they may have hit the switch on the amp now calling with 100 watts, I’m sure thats what Paul was hearing many times when he thought it was actually real qrp dxers. I am a real qrp dxer – 100% of the time and I have called when a dxpedition is asking for “qrp only” stations, but Paul I have been in more pile ups for rare dx and worked them going head to head with qro ops, for me it’s the rush of opening up the rx filters and hearing the howling pile and knowing you just did the near impossible, like I said don’t mix up real qrp dxer’s with all the crap that goes on during a dxpedition, Paul your a fairly new ham, much less a seasoned dxpeditioner, there’s an old saying the dxpedition is as good as the operator on the dx end, 73 Dan WG5G.

    • n6pse says:

      Dan, thank you for your interest in my Blog. I’ve been an active Ham since 1982. I’m puzzled why you would think I’m a new ham? Since 2010, I’ve participated or organized seven major DXpeditions. While I’ve dabbled in QRP myself and can understand the unique appeal,

      I’m questioning the behavior of QRPers that I’ve heard in recent DXpedition pile ups. As you know, the DXpedition operator has no way to know the actual power output of these operators, nor do most DXpedition operators really care or concern themselves with that. My point is that some QRP operators (real or otherwise) seem to treat themselves as special and often call out of turn during the DXpedition.

      My own experience as a DXpedition operator shows me that the QRP operators are most effective during the last days of the DXpedition, often when there are few callers and the DXpedition is calling CQ.


      Paul N6PSE

  7. Dan WG5G says:

    Hello Paul, ok I stand corrected, guess you have been around about as long as I have HI HI. I must admit I have worked just abt all of ur dxpeditions except YI9PSE needed that one on cw but never heard you loud enough to work. I suppose those of us that condider ourselves real qrp dxers get our feathers ruffled when someone speaks negatively about our passion. Im sure we are a very small percent of the ham population and pursue a new dx qso with as much or more enthusiasm as our qro brothers. When you activate P5 remember me because I will work you or a member of ur team providing ur there long enuf to meet the demand, good luck & 73 Dan WG5G/QRP.

  8. Larry, NU4B says:

    “My own experience as a DXpedition operator shows me that the QRP operators are most effective during the last days of the DXpedition, often when there are few callers and the DXpedition is calling CQ.”

    That makes sense, but then that would be true for anybody. Finding a station before it gets spotted on the DX cluster sites is an advantageous time also. Again that would be true for anybody. Unfortunately they are all not quite that simple. And many QSOs do require participating in the pile up procedure. Its also a bit risky assuming the expedition will last as long as indicated. Sometimes they don’t. And its easy to get burned playing the waiting game. (Also many times there is a big rush at the end of an expedition as many DXers realize the end is near. That’s also true in the big contests. The lull comes well before the end.)
    Many of us QRPers can give you a long, long list of QSOs made in a pile up. So as a QRP operator (not as a DXpedition operator), I would have to modify your statement to say QRP operators are most effective when they listen and determine the best time and frequency to call. 🙂

  9. VA3QV says:

    Reblogged this on VA3QV's Weblog and commented:
    While checking out some of the blogs on my Blog Roll (right hand side of your screen) I came upon this excellent article from N6PSE. It caught my attention with the “I love QRP Graphic” and then when reading it… well to keep it short I felt it was worth sharing with you.
    As I am (as you know) also a QRP Operator (for different reasons) I did find it interesting….
    One comment though…. If more DXPeditons took a couple of minutes every hour and called for “QRP Only” then perhaps… part of his troubles would not be there… but I do agree with following the DX Stations to the letter… He is there for me… I am not there for him…
    Anyway… Please enjoy the article

  10. RoyInNC says:

    Perhaps some qrp’ers announce they’re qrp in hopes that the qrp nature of their qso will be reflected on the qsl, adding legitimacy to their claim that they were qrp when seeking an award.
    Roy WA4DOU

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