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Author Topic: STARTING OUT QRP  (Read 5408 times)
N9LCD
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Posts: 126




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« on: April 07, 2019, 09:00:18 AM »

It's Spring(?) in 9-land and the bug has bitten -- again or as usual.

After years on VHF/UHF with a HT, I'm interested in trying HF - QRP.  My HF experience to date is limited to two stints as a "guest op" at HV3SJ.

QRP solves several problems -- space for the rig & where to put the antenna.  Yeah, I know that indoor antennas pose all kinds of problems especially at HF but I've been told more than once that I've got an antenna challenged QTH.

And, NO, I'm not even dreaming of DXCC.

QUESTION:  Is it advisable to start out in HF by going QRP?

Tnk & 73!

N9LCD
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AA4PB
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Posts: 15067




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« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2019, 10:53:02 AM »

QRP is definitely more of a challenge, especially if you've got a less than ideal antenna. QRP and an indoor antenna can be a real challenge - depending on the antenna. For QRP, using CW is a big plus (I assume that digital modes like FT8 would be as well). I've run 5W CW on 40M to a hamstick dipole on a 10 foot pole in the back yard and made some pretty good contacts. I also once had an apartment where the owner let me string a full sized 40M wire dipole in the attic (all wood building) and it worked much better.
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Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA
KL7CW
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Posts: 606




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« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2019, 11:13:25 AM »

With the propagation conditions for the next few years being what they are QRP operation even for experienced CW ops with a good antenna can often be quite challenging.  I like the challenge, but have been a CW op for 65 years and have good antennas at home.  When I travel I seldom operate from the homes or hotels we visit.  Antennas are usually a problem, and high levels of RFI on receive are the norm.  However I usually just take my one or perhaps five watt QRP rig to the nearest park, throw a 26 foot wire up in a tree, and have a blast for several hours usually on 20, 30, or 40 meters.  However my park expeditions have been much less successful in the last 5 years from the lower 48, the UK, and Europe.  So most folks would say get a 100 watt rig and get some experience, and you can dial the power back to 5 watts.  Most folks get easily discouraged if too many factors are negative.  Some of us just plow ahead and struggle for QSO's, perhaps with less than one watt and call it a fun day even if we have a success rate or perhaps one percent !!
    Some QRP folks (even backpackers) consider it worthwhile to run a full 5 watts, or even something like a KX 2 with 10 or so watts.  Phone operation with QRP is even more difficult, but some folks even are successful there.  Look at some of the VK3YE or KX 2 videos on U tube, but do not assume you will always be this successful.  I like to encourage QRP operation, but this is just not what everyone likes.  There are some very good QRP CW rigs for < about $300 new if cost is a factor and you are not sure if you want to jump into it with both feet with something like a KX 3 or whatever.
               Rick  KL7CW
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N9LCD
Member

Posts: 126




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« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2019, 11:42:55 AM »

Rick:

I thought of trying QRP in the back yard / patio.
  • The concrete makes anchoring anything, even a portable antenna, a major operation.
    Anything short of a BuddyPole, if anchored in the available ground, would be in danger of contacting electric lines.
    The QTH is under 28 IN / 10 OUT of ORD!

As for CW, after countless attempts, different learning aids, and different learning methods, I finally concluded that I'm one of those 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 that doesn't have the aptitude for CW.

Rick, thank-you for your guidance.  It looks like indoor QRP isn't for me.

Tnx & 73!
N9LCD
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KX4QP
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Posts: 404




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« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2019, 04:12:55 PM »

Except for the "years on VHF/UHF" I've got a lot of the same.  I'm working on putting together a 100W station, but it'll be a while before I can get all the pieces and put everything in order.  Meantime, I just today assembled a Cricket 80a -- runs on a 9V battery, puts out around a watt on 80m CW, and has a straight key built right onto the circuit board.  It cost $30 plus shipping, and assembly took around two hours, going step by step, cutting every set of leads before populating the next part.

Now I need to get a fresh battery and make up an antenna (and continue my code copy practice).  This is a park rig, more than a home station.  No, with current propagation, I don't expect to work the world, but I hope to make some semi-local QSOs.  If I like it, I might order another one, alter a few component values, and put in a 20m or 17m crystal (usually better in daytime than 80m/40m).

I don't know of any reason one couldn't make an AM modulated transceiver similar to this -- I've read about Pixies converted to AM transmitters (the receive audio stage was sacrificed for the modulator).  The same thing ought to work with the (much better) Cricket circuit, or it might be possible to connect a modulator to the external keying adapter (which is part of the kit).  Start with one on a higher band, and put the right crystal in it (to get out of the CW sub-band) and you might at least get scolded for using AM and "wasting bandwidth" as compared to SSB.
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KL7CW
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Posts: 606




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« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2019, 04:18:16 PM »

Sounds like something like a KX 2 from the park with an external battery pack might be an SSB option.  With built in antenna tuner something like a 26 ft wire thrown up in a tree branch should give you a reasonable chance of some QSO's, some possibly over or well over 1000 miles if conditions are exceptional.  Usually short or even medium length whips, etc. are expensive and usually are inferior to a longer wire antenna.  Operation outside can be a challenge (I know), like operating from AZ on a hot summer day, or from north of the arctic circle in Norway in the winter, however some of us who are a bit crazy do things like this and call it fun or a challenge....for sure not recommended for everyone.  I am reluctant to recommend something as expensive as an Elecraft KX 2 or KX 3 since it could be an expensive experiment if you do not enjoy QRP SSB.  On the positive side in 9 land you have large ham populations within less than 1000 miles, so QRP, even SSB may very well be somewhat productive.  In past years I made many very fine CW QSO's with my 1 watt QRP rig from parks and trails in the upper Midwest, even a very occasional Europe or South American, but conditions were better then.  From the upper Midwest QSO's with the gulf coast and much of the Eastern seaboard were common on 20, 30, and 40 meters, and at times all the way to the west coast.  If you buy one of the 10 W Elecraft rigs, you can always later buy the 100 W external amplifier if QRP is not your thing.  Welcome to HF, and enjoy your SSB activity.  We do not at all want to make it seem like you need to be a CW to be a real ham.              Cheers,  Rick  KL7CW  Palmer, Alaska
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W4FID
Member

Posts: 233




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« Reply #6 on: April 08, 2019, 03:17:12 AM »

QRP is fun but more so for experienced guys. If you already know how to cope with weak signals, DX piles, and thinking out of the box for what antenna can I get up where and how then you will do better at QRP. And you'll get a "kick" out of working someone special. 58+ years and about 30 Field Days and a dozen home QTHs with various antenna issues, and I can do CW about 12 or so WPM. So I have QRP in my RV. But an afternoon on the picnic table may still only get me a few QSOs. As a beginner you probably won't do as well.

BUT THERE IS LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL. Get a digital interface, a used inexpensive laptop, and do CW that way. You'll have the advantages CW gives you without knowing the code. Or FT8 is a very good weak signal mode. I ran a 10 watt rig on 40 - 30 - 20 - 17 into an end fed 30 foot wire that was up 12 feet and worked about 400 QSOs in a month from a cabin in rural WV.

Don't be discouraged. But set your expectations realistically. Learn as you go. Equip yourself for a fighting chance from the start so you don't get too frustrated and give up.
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KL7CW
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Posts: 606




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« Reply #7 on: April 08, 2019, 09:45:40 AM »

YES !!   Any day spent at a park with a picnic table, or even siting under a shade tree on the grass operating QRP is better than any day sitting inside in the easy chair watching "Days of Our Life" and munching on pork rinds.  For me this is true even if I only make one or two QSO's and receive replies like RST 339 tnx QSO sorry QRM, QRN, QSB, no copy, 73 (or 72).  PS.... not always this bad...really !!                KL7CW
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K5LXP
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Posts: 6169


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« Reply #8 on: April 08, 2019, 11:37:54 AM »

 
So do you want to work HF or not?

1. Figure out an antenna solution.  A single band dipole or end fed even as a temporary antenna is a great start.  Hint: avoid snake oil contraptions like buddy poles and loops on a stick.

2. Start with 100W.  If the idea of portable QRP really floats your boat then you can go down that road separately.  QRP is harder than QRO. 

3. At every step of the process consider is this improving or reducing my odds of success?  Picking harder modes, compromise antennas and low power are not just adding up, they're compounding the compromises.

I have QRP rigs and portable antennas.  But they weren't my first station and they're not my only station.  Start with stacking the deck in your favor, then scaling back as you gain knowledge and experience.

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM
 
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VK3YE
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Posts: 267


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« Reply #9 on: April 08, 2019, 12:57:57 PM »

Yes, it is advisable - and fun.

Don't have your expectations too high.

And don't do multiple things that reduce your chance of success - eg crystal control, a few hundred milliwatts only, poor antennas etc.

Operating technique is also really important. A lot of info including 10 steps for QRP success is at http://home.alphalink.com.au/~parkerp/qrp.htm

Some SSB QRP tips in this recent video at: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z51toS16mbs
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Peter VK3YE

One ham radio post each day. Visit http://dailyantenna.blogspot.com
Author of top selling $US 5 amateur radio ebooks on antennas, QRP, getting started and more. See http://home.alphalink.com.au/~parkerp/vk3yebooks.htm
AK4YH
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Posts: 122


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« Reply #10 on: April 08, 2019, 11:54:47 PM »

I'll second Peter here, yes, definitely.

Use a good antenna (half-wave end-fed comes to mind) and keep the losses down. 5W will get you anywhere using CW under the right condition, on the right band at the right time.

Gil.
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N2RRA
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Posts: 738


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« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2019, 01:19:28 AM »

Well come on in. The QRP wave is all good. Lot of guys touched on various issues and suggestions so I’ll keep it short, simple and sweet. I have a YouTube channel you’ll wanna check out just as an example that even with this cycle a lot can be done with much success. I’m not gonna say it’s not challenging. Although DXCC is very possible still. I worked all the recent DXpeditions and I’ve ranked high coming in number 1 in the QRP category for 2017 and even did well QRP VHF bands. Just got busy with 2018, but back in the game for 2019. Have to update my QRZ page but check both out N2RRA/QRP and N2RRA. Look at my log. That’s all QRP. Right now I’m limited from 20m-6m due to some rearranging of antennas, but in my videos it will show you can do a lot with QRP. Just have to know a little about your environment, choose the right antennas and work with the space you have. Out in the field portable you can do a whole lot cause you have all the room in the world.

Don’t be afraid to experiment and get into contesting. Many of the DX stations your looking for will be much easier to find and work to get that DXCC much sooner.

73,
Eric
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KB1GMX
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Posts: 1826




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« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2019, 09:06:26 AM »

QRP is possible way to start.

However the logic....

"QRP solves several problems -- space for the rig & where to put the antenna. 
Yeah, I know that indoor antennas pose all kinds of problems especially at HF
but I've been told more than once that I've got an antenna challenged QTH."

has many issues to debate.

Most new HF radios even at 100W can be very compact, so size of radio is not generally an issue
unless you are at the level of living in a 150sqft home....  Most all can be turned down to QRP power
if you want the challenge.  But having 100W also means you do not need to use all of it.  Power
supplies for even the 100W level are compact.   Radio size is mostly a non issue unless it has
to fit in a back pack and be carried a distance. Hint get the best receiver you can!

What QRP does offer is you can build radios as ow power makes the transmitter part of
the build less demanding.  Building your own gear is easier at low power and some enjoy that
part of the hobby as well.  Plus it opens the door to battery power and portable.

Generally indoor antennas are poor due to local noise sources and many homes are well insulated
with foil backed material.

External antennas do not have to be large.  A simple base loaded vertical needs less than
a square foot of ground.  Radials for vertical can run hither as required and do not have to
radiate in all directions to make the antenna work well enough.  An end fed wire can be very
thin and run into the nearest tree.

Generally unless you have a large farm or other significant plot of land there are always
some challenge to antennas.  All that means is you do the best you can and then improve
if needed.  HOA presents a few annoyances, sometimes more than a little, but often less
than impossible.  It does mean be less obtrusive or reading the rules carefully and being
clever.  Bottom line is a crappy outdoor antenna generally beats most indoors ones.  A hint
is start out on one band like 40M or maybe 20M and then consider other bands once you
have a feel for HF.

As to the DXCC, if you want it then full speed ahead, people have done it at QRPp power
levels (1W!).  It means refining your skills, developing your ears maybe even learning
CW as a way to stretch.  And likely lots of antenna experimentation.

One last thing, endeavor to excel and more importantly have fun.

Allison
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KB1GMX
Member

Posts: 1826




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« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2019, 09:24:21 AM »

I didn't see the power line thing.   Two hazards with them the antenna can never
fall on them (id expect they are more than 10-12Ft up.  The other is noise from
power lines can be troublesome.

That would have to be understood more but....

I've been successful with a 150ft wire laying (I am not kidding) on the ground!
look up K3MTs grasswire on the net...

Low dipoles (under 15ft above the ground) on 80m can work very well for
local to 400 miles contacts. That's called a NVIS antenna it may work
on 60M but 40M not so much.  However low antennas are still a
means to getting on the air!

A 8Ft tall mobile whip (or Buddistick) and 8 10 ft radials can work well too
as a potable or temporary situation in the back yard or park.  I've done
this on 40M and 20M a few times for fun at 5W SSB during the day
with contacts made. 

No matter what try something, as its better than nothing, then improve it.

Hint a good antenna matching unit is never wasted.  Build one or buy it.

Listen a lot as then you get to hear the way people work on HF and maybe
find the kind of operation that you find interesting.

OR... do VHF/UHF QRP!  Smaller antennas even yagis a 5W radio like the FT817
and a good hill and fun can be had SSB/CW.  Teh 6M Es season is coming
and 2 and 432 are active during sprints and contest and in some areas
there can be activity at night.

Allison
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K7RBW
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Posts: 525




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« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2019, 04:17:52 AM »

If you live in a place that isn’t particularly ham friendly, QRP makes it easy to escape and find a better location, such as a park. The FT-818 is light and compact and you can connect an Android phone or tablet to work PSK-31 and RTTY.

I have an FT-857, which is like a 100w FT-818, and it’s also portable, but its portable setup weighs about 5x that of the 818. It works wellfrom the car, however. If you have a car, that might be an option.
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