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Author Topic: Working CW From a Hotel Room  (Read 2287 times)

Posts: 58

« on: September 25, 2009, 11:40:58 AM »

I'm going on a short business trip next week, up to Orlando. I want to take my IC-718 and MFJ tuner with me to, perhaps, operate a little CW.

I figure that I can run a random length of wire out of my window in the hotel, then connect that to my MFJ-949E. I may just have to drop it down the outside of the wall.

Having never yet done this, I was wonder what I might expect. Of course, I hope that my room is above the ground floor.

I guess I shouldn't expect a lot of power, but I'm pretty much planning on running QRP anyway.


Thanks & 73,


Posts: 21764

« Reply #1 on: September 25, 2009, 11:53:05 AM »

First, be sure you're in a hotel where the windows actually open!  In many, they don't.

You'll also need some sort of counterpoise for this setup, otherwise it's like trying to make a light bulb work with only one wire connected to it.  The counterpoise can be a piece of insulated hookup wire cut to 1/4-wavelength long for the band you want to operate, connected to the GND terminal on the tuner and just laying across the floor inside the hotel room.  Better than nothing.

How well this works depends a lot on the building construction and also noise generated by stuff inside the hotel.  Certainly worth trying!


Posts: 58

« Reply #2 on: September 25, 2009, 07:37:35 PM »

Thanks for the counterpoise tip, Steve.  The hotel is in Orlando and, like every hotel I've ever stayed in in this state, I suspect that I will have a balcony sliding glass door, at the minimum.
  I'm thinking that if I have a metal balcony railing system that I could try that as a counterpoise. Either way, your suggestion would work at least as well.
  Like I said, I'm not looking to push a lot of power out; QRP is good for me. I might even take my Rock Mite and see if I can scrounge up any QSO's that way, as well.
  I have read some articles about people working long wire from a hotel and thought I'd go to the well to get advice. I doubt I could work a dipole, given the urban environment.

Thanks again & 73


Posts: 149

« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2009, 05:38:44 AM »

I've tried to do that on a couple of occasions.  I ran a end-fed 20M antenna from the 2nd floor of the motel to a light pole about fifty feet away.

Since I was in a 2nd floor room on the back of the motel nobody seemed to mind.

The wire was pretty much horizontal. and about 20ft up.

20M at night on a cobbled together antenna with 5 watts during a solar minimum didn't make for a lot of contacts (zero to be precise).  But it beat watching bad TV all evening Smiley

mike AA4N

Posts: 21764

« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2009, 04:29:07 PM »

>RE: Working CW From a Hotel Room  Reply  
by MOTOR486 on September 25, 2009  Mail this to a friend!  
Thanks for the counterpoise tip, Steve. The hotel is in Orlando and, like every hotel I've ever stayed in in this state, I suspect that I will have a balcony sliding glass door, at the minimum.<

::That's lucky.  The "high rise" hotels usually don't have any balconies or windows that open, as a preventive measure to keep people from falling out.  The high rise hotels in Boston, NYC, Chicago, LA, etc. absolutely don't have windows that open.  In Las Vegas, home of more hotels per square mile than anywhere, usually they don't open, either.

As a frequent traveller, I've compiled my list of favorite hotels for me as a ham, which means these are ones that don't have a lot of locally generated RFI and do have windows that open, or better still, balconies.

One great one is local to me but I take the family there at least once a year, that being the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim.  That's only 60 miles from here, so it's hardly worth staying there except it makes it easy to do stuff at Disneyland and California Adventure 2-3 days in a row without having to face all that traffic.

Disneyland Hotel suites (the uppermost floors) all have balconies with sliding patio doors and furniture (little table, couple of chairs) out there.  VERY compelling place to operate!  And the upper floors start about 100' above ground and go up from there, so you have a good view.

I've "worked the world" from there, while the family was sleeping after a long day of walking, riding, eating.  Best antenna I've used from there is my little "MFJ Super Hi-Q Loop" antenna.  It's only 36" in diameter, easy to carry, easy to set up (I just lay it on a plastic patio chair on the balcony) and works better than any kind of wire I've ever tried.


Posts: 2808

« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2009, 04:36:57 PM »

A balcony railing _does_ work as a counterpoise, if it's reasonably long.  It won't hurt to try.

I had a 16' "flagpole" sticking out from my balcony, used the balcony railing as counterpoise, and did decently with 20m, using digital modes and CW.  Your manual tuner has greater range than my LDG Z-11 Pro autotuner.

If the building is a typical high-rise, it may be pretty well shielded, so you can run 100 watts off the balcony without bothering anyone inside.

I once had a QSO with a visiting Japanese ham.  He lowered a wire from his hotel room window, fired up his 5 watt CW rig, and got me.  I was only 2 miles away, but it was fun for both of us.

HF is _really_ unpredictable.  Sometimes a wire out the window is all you need.


Posts: 21764

« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2009, 07:33:26 PM »

Indeed, propagation does most of the work if you time it right.

A few years ago I worked Jack W5FG/MM off the coast of New Zealand on 17m.  He actually "broke in" to a rag chew I was having, and when he broke in on SSB (evidently several times) none of us heard him.

He finally broke into our SSB ragchew using CW, and I got his call.  "W5FG on CW?  Are you breaking in here?"  He sent "Yes," and we make a contact over the 7000 mile or so path, which was not terribly open.

Turns out he was running QRP to a wire hanging out a porthole window in his cabin on an ocean liner, the QE-II, on a worldwide voyage.

In later conversation I discovered he never asked for permission or anything, just did it.  That's the "good old ham way."  Very clandestine, evidently.  But it's amazing we could hear him over the 7000 mile path with a wire hanging out a window against what I'm sure was many thousands of tons of steel; that can't be very efficient.

CW reigns supreme for this kind of work.


Posts: 182

« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2009, 03:03:00 PM »

In the last few years it's become difficult to find a hotel that doesn't generate lots of RFI from all the computers and systems in operation.  I have operated some PSK31 with an FT817, and it seems that hearing is harder than being heard.  I don't know if hotel computers are nastier than home stuff (why should they be?) or if there's just more of them.  Most overseas hotels seem just as noisy as domestic places.  But as someone noted, it can be more fun than watching TV, and better than hanging out in the bar.

Posts: 131

« Reply #8 on: September 30, 2009, 05:52:53 PM »

Here's what I did in Seveirville, TN last weekend at the motel
I stayed at for the Ten-Tec hamfest.

The motel room was on the 3rd floor. I bought a couple of
cheapo brooms at the Dollar Store and duct taped their
plastic handles to the walkway railing as far apart as possible.
I brought one end of the length of wire through my room's door,
securing it such way that no one would trip, or fall or otherwise
have a problem with it. My wire was about 65 feet long. I
shoved the wire into the antenna connection of my LDG Z-11 PRO autotuner. Made a counterpoise connected to radio/tuner
ground and extended it around the room as best I could.
Radio was an FT-817.

Checked into several 75M nets with help from relays, but
understand I was running 5 Watts with my FT-817 !
Everyone thiught it was SO NEAT... 5 Watts !

It worked so well that one morning I heard a couple of stations
strongly so I announced myself and was recognized and
invited to comment. When I mentioned QRP these rejects from 27MHz told me I was not welcome with QRP. Some
real fine hams. Never mind what I wanted to reply based on
20 years in the U.S. Navy I  thanked them and wished them
good DX etc. and left.

So CW from a motel room? YES! go for it! Hang a wire the
best way you can and it WILL work.

My 60 second antenna lecture:
Anything that conducts electricity will radiate a signal.
How well it does that is the seperate science of our hobby.
Use a tuner.
It will work and if you get just ONE QSO you've done it!

Posts: 50

« Reply #9 on: September 30, 2009, 08:14:17 PM »

i do something similar every night with my Z11 pro in my apartment, i do run 50 watts though, it helps.  Glad you had a good experience and hope you try again sometime soon.  What kind of hams hate QRPers, sad really

73 de WI3M (ex KG4DGF)

Posts: 263

« Reply #10 on: November 04, 2009, 11:52:03 AM »

Here's something I did operating from a hotel during a business trip in LA about three years ago. Fourth floor, no opening windows, no balcony, dull evening, bored ham.

I popped open the cable TV service outlet and noticed that the place was using "drop wire".  For those unfamiliar, that is coax cable with a steel "messenger" line moulded in the outer jacket.  Worked great on 40 with my FT-817 and old Dentron jr monitor.

Trick two: often rooms like the above have an individual AC unit and you can usually snake a stiff insulated wire through wall/unit seal to the ouside world, followed by your thin, flexible antenna line.  Unplug the unit first before attempting.

Posts: 263

« Reply #11 on: November 04, 2009, 12:07:56 PM »

I also wanted to add something I did operating from an apartment in the late 70's. This works wonders if you have  PVC drain pipes. Attach a small bit of styrofoam to the end of some thin magnet wire or similar, place the foam piece down the sink drain, and run the water.  The water carries the bouyant foam, and allows you to fish the attached wire down the drain and along its merry way.  I managed to get about forty feet down the line in my case.

Posts: 8911


« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2009, 05:17:23 AM »

"What kind of hams hate QRPers "

The kind who don't understand how logarithmic power scales work, and who feel insecure with less than "1500 WATTZ OF RAW POWER"

One of the most popular selling antenna system types today probably typically has 3dB-10dB loss in the feedline on 80m and up to 20dB on 160m.


3dB loss drops your 1500 watts to 750W.  4dB gives you 600W ERP.  20dB is 15W.

If you're going to run 15W ERP on 160m, I can tell you how to do that without an amplifier at all.  It requires a little curlicue of wire at the base of ... well, pretty much any height antenna over some radials.

But that's not SEXXY AWESOME POWER like an Alpha amp that will put out 3 or 6dB more than the legal limit... you know, just in case you need a full 40W ERP when you try to work that KP4 you're hearing on 160m with your lossy antenna system :-)

A lot of people really misunderstand signal levels.  They can't get their head around the idea that a QRP signal could be as loud as a 1500W signal because it's like 300 times more power, how could it not be 300 times louder?

What they don't seem to get is that dropping signal level by a factor of 300 (25dB) on a band where 1500W gets you a S9+40dB signal can still result in a S9+15dB signal.  And propagation differences swamp the 25dB difference.  Even if you showed it to them I bet a lot of hams would ask you to turn the amp back on...

A lot of people have a real emotional connection to deeBees that come out of an amplifier while at the same time letting a whole lot of loss deeBees pile up in their "compromise" antennas.  

Irrational and weird, but seems to be the case.



Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.
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