*EDITORIAL* The Challenge of QRP on 11m

Some DXers have reached a stage in their 11m DX career where shack time doesn’t seem as attractive as it used to.

Many European Freebanders, for example, have worked the majority of DXCC with little left to conquer and if the diversification to chasing islands or working SES doesn’t appeal then the temptation to move on to greener pastures with new fences to leap is all the more enticing.

One aspect of the hobby that is explored by few on 27 MHz — nonetheless one that’s viewed with much fascination by those who engage in the practice — is ops at reduced power levels (otherwise known as QRP).

‘QRP’ refers to transmitting at reduced power levels and actually derives from the Q code where “QRP?” was used to mean, “shall I lower my power?”

In modern times, QRP means to operate using low power and a DXer is said to be ‘operating as QRP’ when his SSB output power is 10 watts or less.

At first glance, chasing contacts on SSB using 10 watts or less might seem akin to running a car on the scent of an oily rag.  But not only are local and interstate contacts possible on 27 MHz when running QRP power levels, even distant DX can be worked — sometimes easily.

To this day, one of my fondest memories of 27 MHz operations is working a YL station in the Philippines on just 5 watts and the QSL card + photo take pride of place on my shack wall.

In addition to seeing QRP ops as a supreme test of one’s antenna system efficiency, not to mention one’s tenacity behind the mic, there are actually many reasons why QRP operations might appear attractive to an 11m DXer…

As I suggested previously, some might choose to run QRP when the DXCC drought hits so as to inject a challenge back into their hobby; they may have achieved DXCC the conventional way and now are chasing DXCC using only QRP power levels.

Others might enjoy the adversity of operating radio ‘in the field’ or as a portable station using small power.  Indeed, for those who, by choice, have moved away from large power, QRP represents a divergent way of thinking.

For those not accustomed to running as QRP, the concept raises many questions…  Firstly, can I operate as QRP with my existing home station?  Do I require a special antenna?  Or, does my transceiver allow for QRP operations?

The easiest way to try out QRP is to turn down the output power on an existing commercial HF rig.  Most commercial HF rigs have provisions, often via a front-panel control, to reduce the transmit power.

If a rig lacks such a control, however, a simple ALC bias-supply circuit can be built to reduce the rig’s output power and these mods can be found using a quick Google search.

According to well known QRP DXers such as 43DA102 Geoff, “a commercial state-of-the-art commercial HF rig such as an IC-703 (pictured) makes the best QRP rig for the home station due to excellent RX performance and QRM-fighting tools such as DSP, NB, filters etc.”

Keep in mind, however, that it’s illegal in many countries, including Australia, to operate on 27 MHz using an amateur transceiver and a traditional CB radio must be used.

Moreover, 11m DXers wanting to take the QRP aspect of their hobby further and experiment with specifically designed QRP equipment are encouraged to gain their ham license as licensed operators are among the only members of society that can design, build, test, and use their own radio equipment.  Essentially, this fact has spurred on the development of many innovative radio designs, some of which can reside in a case no bigger than a pack of cigarettes!

While QRP ops are quite popular on ham bands, there are sadly no current systems in place on 11m, to my knowledge, which promote this aspect of radio comms.

Unfortunately, the World QRP contest on legal CB frequencies had its last edition in 2009 and the QRP Club which managed this event has also disbanded.

According to the old QRP Contest guidelines, though, the identified QRP monitor frequency on the citizens band was 27.285 MHz USB however some DXers around the world are still known to use this frequency when operating as QRP.

Back in 2011, members of the Sugar Delta DX Group discussed the idea of reinventing the World QRP Contest for 11m QRP enthusiasts but unfortunately it didn’t get off the ground.  Perhaps, with some DA-RC intervention, it might soon!

73 de Darren