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[Articles Home]  [Add Article]  

DXing for Beginners By a Beginner

from Brennen Ernst, KI4PRK on February 10, 2014
View comments about this article!

"Editor's Note: Due to the popularity of some of eHam's older articles, many of which you may not have read, the eHam.net team has decided to rerun some of the best articles that we have received since eHam's inception. These articles will be reprinted to add to the quality of eHam's content and in a show of appreciation to the authors of these articles." This article was originally published on: 11/30/2007





In a just over a year and a half of being a ham, the only thing I've found that I can do for hours on end without getting bored is DXing.

I've found that many people claim that DXing is too hard, or that they don't have the equipment, or that QSLing is too expensive.

I have one of the most basic setups a ham can have. Being 13 years old, I certainly don't have money to throw around, nor do I have the experience time in ham radio to be an expert.

So how did I end up with 188 countries?

DXing is something that EVERYONE can enjoy. And nobody says that you have to QSL to be a DXer. Many hams I talk to are DXers with over 200 countries but not a single QSL to speak of. DXing is not hard. You simply need too remember these five, simple rules:

1) Always listen before transmitting
2) Always be courteous
3) There is always propagation to somewhere
4) Know your propagation, at least basically
5) Be patient

If you already follow these 5 rules, you have 90% of what you need. For those who don't have unlimited time, a computer can be useful to pick up some DX spots. Some good spot sites are DXwatch.com, or DX summit. Your equipment matters very little for the first 50 to 75 countries. If you are very patient and willing to learn a little technique, you can stick with QRP to a wire for those earlier catches. But the easiest way to go is 100w plain transceiver and a Dipole or a good vertical.

There are excellent books out there. Too many to name, but my personal favorites are the DXCC handbook by the ARRL, and "The complete DXer", by W9KNI. Both are available from the ARRL.

While not necessary, an Extra class license helps. On 80, 40, 20, and 15 most of the good DX hangs out below the General class segment. But I worked 75 countries with a General class license, and you can too. 17 and 30 will be your best bands for now, and 12/10 when the sunspots come back. And once the sunspot cycle kicks in again, even the techs can work DX on 10M!

I recommend learning CW. CW has a very good signal to noise ration versus a SSB signal under same conditions. Of course, I have worked VU7RG, 9U9Z, and others running SSB but CW will be your best friend in poor circumstances. SSB works fine and some have achieved Honor roll #1 on SSB, but CW helps a lot.

And even at this point in the cycle, don't forget about the higher bands. Even 10 meters is open to Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America at some times, at least from the Eastern USA. I have PM5JC in Indonesia confirmed on 15M! So though not as active as 20 or 17, keep an eye on the spotting net while tuning 20 and you may get a nice surprise. 12 and 15 are often open to the pacific when other bands are not, usually in the mid/late afternoon.

While I've stated before that your equipment matters little for very casual DXing, I still recommend getting the best antenna you can. Put your Dipole up high, or get a good set of radials for your vertical. For the low bands, Beverages work nice for receive (only), and for 160/80 inverted L's are good for transmitting.

Don't abandon digital modes either! PSK31 is a very efficient mode, and with my Dipole @ 40 feet I've made it all the way to Ukraine on 3 watts using this mode!

And if you do chase awards, DXCC is not the only option. IOTA, SOTA, CQ zones, Worked all Africa (very hard!), or some of the smaller awards are fun too. I enjoy the Canadian awards. And WAC (worked all continents) makes a very nice first award.

QSLing can be easy. I won't go into detail about the complicated direct process, but via the buro is cheap and easy if you are willing to wait. And LoTW costs virtually nothing! Not all DX utilize this excellent resource, but some patient DXers have DXCC using only Logbook of the World! And though not accepted for DXCC, eQSL is fun and easy.

So next time you hear a DX calling CQ, don't just listen. Join in! It's fun!

73 and hope to hear you on the bands, de Brennen KI4PRK age 13

Member Comments:
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DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by W1JKA on February 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Great article especially from a then 13 year old. He hits all the pertinent points and is correct that DX is easy no matter if running 3 watts or a 100.
 
DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by VE3TMT on February 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
A great article, but I find it hard to believe it was written by a 13 year old. If so, you have far superior grammar skills then I see on most of the swap sites. You must be up to 300 countries by now!
 
RE: DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by K1PJR on February 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
QRZ indicates he's now 17. Also a talented musician. Interesting young man.
 
DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by KB2DHG on February 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
A nice read... As a DXer myself, the simple fact is patcence...

DXing is a lot like fishing, You never know when or what your going to get.

Reading the propagation reports does help. BUT do a lot of listining and be patchent.

ANYONE can do it
 
RE: DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by N8XI on February 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
For a 13 year old he has captured the essence of DXing.
This youngster payed attention 'cuz he thought there may have been a test ? :)
======================================================
by K1PJR on February 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
"QRZ indicates he's now 17. Also a talented musician. Interesting young man."

The article was written in 2007 and his qrz.com Bio was updated in 2011 making him 17 THEN.
2014-2007 = 7 years (13+7 = 20 Years)

73, Rick - N8XI
 
DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by W8EIR on February 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Does it really matter how old a person is, and how well they are spoken, or can write? It was written 7 years ago.

On the other side of the coin, wonderful article and some great pointers for those who want to wonder into chasing DX, newbies or the old crusty curmudgeons. ;-)

 
RE: DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by KF4HR on February 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Great article and great advice.

As I read KI4PRK's article I applauded his mindset:

1) Always listen before transmitting
2) Always be courteous
3) There is always propagation to somewhere
4) Know your propagation, at least basically
5) Be patient

... and wondered how this mindset develops?

1) This is OUR frequency, yep... 24/7. We even have our own website to prove it.
2) Yes, we understand we're interfering with your net but we're not QSY'ing.
3) Negative comments, take your pick: AM'ers, SSB'ers, Contesters, Nets, Rag Chewers, etc.
4) Tuning up on active net frequencies and qso's in progress, and/or purposely causing other types of interference.
5) ... and of course the infamous on-the-air BURPPPP!

This hobby needs more people like Brennen.
 
RE: DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by K1PJR on February 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Dave
I think it does make a difference in how well a person writes and speaks. It's our language and these skills are are important. Do I think less of a person if they lack writing and speaking skills? No , but it doesn't take much to write properly and use proper diction. It just takes practice. There is no excuse for misspellings when you have spell check and what ever happened to "rough drafts"? To be successful in life you must be able to communicate. Ok, that's enough. I'll get off the soapbox now. :)
Phil
 
DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by N4DSP on February 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
No way this was written by a 13 year old. Find it hard to believe it was written by someone under thirty years of age. Kids that graduate out of high school have a 5th grade reading level.
 
DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by N2QN on February 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Though I've been licensed since 1993, I've never really held any interest to chase DX (even when I only operated CW). Only recently I started to dabble with the DX Clusters. But this article is a welcome eye-opener and is now blow-torching my interest to another great enjoyment still to be had in Amateur Radio. Thanks for reposting!!
 
RE: DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by AF5CC on February 10, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
"And once the sunspot cycle kicks in again, even the techs can work DX on 10M!"

Techs can also chase DX on 80, 40 and 15 meters. 15 will be affected somewhat by the sunspot cycle, but the other bands won't be. This seems to be one of the biggest misconceptions I have seen repeated often these days-that the only HF band techs can use is 10m.

73 John AF5CC
 
RE: DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by K9MHZ on February 11, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
"by N4DSP on February 10, 2014 No way this was written by a 13 year old. Find it hard to believe it was written by someone under thirty years of age. Kids that graduate out of high school have a 5th grade reading level."


I don't know what season of life you're in, but if you're college hunting for a high school senior today, I think you'd find very quickly that what you've written isn't true at all, at least for motivated college-bound high school seniors. Many are very, very bright, and are competing against college admission standards that are much tougher than when we were in their shoes. ACT/SAT scores, AP credits (English comp and lit is HUGE) and exam scores, athletics and other leadership activities.....all boilerplate now. Just try and get into a large state school (North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Purdue, etc) without the above.....you'd be just wasting your time and money for applications, testing fees, etc.

Yes, there is a lot to be disgusted about today, wrt youth and education, but there are also many, many exceptionally talented kids from great schools who are performing like we never could have dreamed.
 
RE: DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by AF5CC on February 11, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
The NCAA recently released the results of a study concerning student athletes (all sports, not just football) and found that 67% of student atheletes in college are reading at a 8th grade or lower reading level. As one who teaches college, those results didn't surprise me at all.

John AF5CC
 
RE: DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by N6AJR on February 11, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
great article, even for a retread, and DX is fun, and I am so glad I am reader. some folks get high, some folks read, but I enjoy a good book to be somewhere else, reading lets your mind be in a million other places.
 
DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by DOCMORRISON on February 11, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Nit-picking OCD proofing....;-) Typo: signal to noise ration ....should be ratio. Rations are for eating. Never tried to eat a S:N ratio, but I have had to eat my words, sometimes.

Sorry for burning bandwidth. 73.Doc.
 
RE: DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by ZENKI on February 14, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
And make sure you have pen or pencil.

Amazing the number of new hams who struggle copying DX stations and routinely forget the DX stations name or callsign. This is the just bad manners. "Gimme your name again OM, I did not write it down and forgot" Just rude and inconsiderate.

Then the next best thing if you new to the world of DX'ing is to use a pair of headphones. The boost in readability from using headphones makes it the best investment a dx'er can make for improving readability.

When I hear stations struggling with S5 signals and telling the DX station that they hard to copy I shake my head in disbelief. Hard to copy would be a signal strength near the noise floor or S1 or S2
 
DXing for Beginners By a Beginner  
by KI4PRK on February 18, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Wow, I tripped across this repost on my first look here in a long time and certainly didn't expect to see this article! Kind of a blast from the past for me (7 years is pretty long for a 19 year old haha). Y'all are too kind, I really appreciate all the kind words!

I moved from my parents house but haven't been able to get a shack set up yet, so I haven't been on the air in nearly the year. I'm on the road playing music a whole lot too, which makes it hard to find time to get on the air, but I sure do miss it! I was real sorry to hear of missing a recent DXpedition to Amsterdam Island!

Last count I was up to about 260 on my DXCC count (:

Happy DXing and I hope to be back in the pileups soon! 73, Brennen KI4PRK
 
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