QRP: Less power, more fun!
Some time ago, someone posted a message on the Elecraft reflector after reading the book "The Complete DX'er" by Bob Locker, W9KNI. He enjoyed the book, but ended by saying that it made him jealous as heck of people with towers and rotatable antennas.
A bigger thrill
I used to feel that way when I was just another guy running 100W to a no-gain antenna. Then I built the K2 and discovered the joys of QRP. It never ceases to amaze me that my signal, using barely enough power to light a torch bulb, energizing a loop of wire in my loft, manages to make it to the other side of Europe, never mind half way round the world as it does when conditions are right. Does the guy running a kilowatt into a big beam on a tower still experience that thrill each time he makes a contact? I doubt it.
The downside of wanting to be a DXer if you only have an average station - which is all most of us can afford - is that the joy of making an unexpected DX contact is experienced less often than the frustration of when you don't work it. You only have to listen to the behaviour of people in pile-ups to see what I mean. Many of them sound stressed. They don't sound as if they are having a good time. Is there pleasure to be had in shouting the last two letters of your call into a microphone for half an hour, especially if at the end of it you have nothing to show for it? I don't think so.
People often respond to my views by saying that there's room in the hobby for everyone, from the QRPer to the DXer. That's true. But the emphasis placed on chasing DX as "the thing to do on the radio" puts many people off the hobby because it fosters the idea that that's what ham radio is all about, and you need high power and a big antenna to do it properly. Personally I think there is more satisfaction to be had chatting with like-minded people using a radio you built yourself than there is working DX using thousands of dollars worth of commercial gear. I'd like to see more articles promoting aspects of the hobby you don't need to be a "big gun" to enjoy.
A sense of wonder
A few of the high-power guys like to claim that it's their ears that do all the work during a QRP contact. "QRPers brag about working DX with milliwatts but it's the guy other end who does all the work to make the contact" is a typical comment. But if you believe that QRP operators brag about making a contact, you don't understand the QRP mentality at all. What the QRP op feels is a sense of wonder that such a tiny amount of power can propagate a signal to the other side of the world. The QRO op at the other end can feel that too. And from the comments I sometimes get ("your QRP is doing great" etc.) I think that the grumpy guys who think QRP just makes work for them are in the minority.
Achievable by all
The reason I think all this is important is that QRP amateur radio is something which is achievable by all. A high power, DX-capable station is achievable by a minority. Some simply can't afford it. Others don't have the opportunity to erect big antennas, or simply don't want to displease family members or annoy the neighbours. Be honest: how many non-hams think antennas are attractive?
Many new hams are discovering HF for the first time thanks to the new Foundation License we have here in the UK - with a power restriction of 10 watts. These new hams shouldn't be discouraged into thinking that their new license is something inferior, with which they can't do much. Just remember that many long-time hams choose to run QRP. If you wonder why, the reason is simply this:
QRP is more fun!
Want to chat about QRP with other like minded enthusiasts? Then join the QRP message board at Zerobeat Forums. See you there!
Read more about QRP
- QRP - Simply Amazing, by Fred Karasek KF6HQC