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Author Topic: WHEN IS QRP NOT QRP?  (Read 30738 times)

Posts: 1563

« Reply #15 on: April 20, 2013, 08:05:56 PM »

5 watts is adequate  for QRP CW
20 to 25 watts is adequate for  SSB QRP. If you use anything less than this on SSB you are really asking for frustration.

Its ridiculous that contest rules set the QRP power limit for CW and SSB at the same level considering the advantage that CW has over SSB. The contest SSB power level should be at least 25 watts.
I call this power level minimum necessary  communication power.  Minimum necessary power on CW is 5 watts and on SSB its 20 watts. Just arbitrarily setting the power level  in contesting  rules is
a flawed concept. Contesting was supposed to be about testing the effectiveness of antennas and modes of operation. Without applying some kind of weighting to the advantage of one mode over the other
shows how ridiculous the whole QRP operating bandwagon is. The objective should be to use the lowest effective power that allows communication, not just selecting a power level in some arbitrary manner.
Just like moon bounce requires a minimum ERP that depends on TX power and antenna gain, HF is no different. You require a certain level of power based upon mode and SNR to complete the hf circuit.

If the objective is to put yourself  through as much frustration by communicating with the lowest possible power and you enjoy doing so, thats another argument. Then why pick 5 watts  why not just set the power level down to say 1 milliwatt and  be a real QRP hero? We dont do this because that makes it too  hard, that will be the argument. So if it 1 milliwatt is  ineffective or too hard why not set the power on SSB or any mode for that matter to something that produces results. On SSB the QRP power level should be set at 20 to 25 watts not  something ridiculous like 5 watts  which assume 5 watts on SSB is as effective as CW. The 5 watt QRP argument is  flawed the moment you change the mode. What about digital and models like WSPR and PSK?  WSPR can achieve communications with  milliwatts   so 5 watts is excessive power for that mode.

We need to move into modern era of HF communication planning and adjust our ham radio notions, rules and pragmatism  about effective communications power  and not be stubborn  5 watt zealots trying to be supermen. The argument  that also is forgotten is that signal to noise ratio is getting worst and worst and worst in modern cities. The romantic image of  a ham or SWL listener running a end fed wire through the wooden house window frame and pulling in DX signals from all over the world is long lost. If you do this today in a modern house or city, all you will ever hear is S9  of noise. The same goes for  areas like the tropics. The low bands are covered with S9 static year round and we have some arrogant NA or European QRP purist that will tell you  that 5 watts is enough for SSB based on only what they know, not on the  real reality of  getting the message through to any place on the earth. I am not  a QRP hater. I enjoy QRP operations as well, but  anything  that I do I want to be effective at.  If this means  selecting the appropriate power level so be it. I consider power levels up to the power level of 25 watts to be QRP in this modern day and age when you consider all factors.   We all remember bygone sunspot cycles where you could work DX on 10 meters 24 hours a day with 5 watts, they gone and today we dealing with many challenges. We should change with the times  and be pragmatic. If i hear anyone with 25 watts or less saying they are QRP, I dont give them lectures about how QRP only starts at  5 watts. Same goes for HF mobile operators on the low bands. They are dealing with antenna efficiencies of less than 2 % with 100 watts of power they are QRP operators, do we give them a pat on the back say good job you doing amazingly well?  Most hams dont! The NTIA rules on  5mhz about effective radiated power and transmitter power is how we should determine power levels for all band for so called QRP operation. This is how professionals work out effective communications power  based on the requirements of the HF circuit and antenna gain. For hams  setting a limit like 25 watts is simple way of achieving this based  on what the average ham uses for antennas both mobile, portable and from a home station.

 The Military guys have known  for years that 20 to 30 watts on HF is all that you need even when using short tactical whips on HF manpack radios.  If  the military could have used 5 watts and make more battery space or light radios they would  have have done so a long time ago. They experts at what they do and 20 watts today is  considered effective communications power even when special forces operators have to get the message from 1 continent to the other. When the Falklands war was happening I could hear military HF clansman manpack communications all day and all night  long . If they were running 5 watts  I would have never have heard them from another continent.

5 watts Booooooooooo!

Posts: 131

« Reply #16 on: April 20, 2013, 11:28:03 PM »

When a signal is not readable, it's not readable; five watts or five-hundred. If my QRP
signal is too weak to be copied, I don't expect to be answered.

Not complicated.

Depends what you want from the QRP hobby. I've lost contact with other QRPers and they with me. I'm not offended and hope they aren't, either. The nature of that type of operating is that QSB, QRN, QRM is undeniably more of a factor.

When it's rough, I pick up my Kindle, or listen to Chopin, or go for a walk with the YL, or crack a beer.

When I want to talk to friends, family members,  or a doctor, I pick up the phone.

When I am operating 2X QRP CW on 14.060, I am initially interested in basic exchanges of operating info. The usual thing. I'm not a particularly chatty type so I don't need 599+ everytime I am on the air. Nice but not necessary. If conditions are good, then further conversation is a possibility.

I always felt that QRP operating was a way of experiencing very early radio-operating.

When a contact wasn't guaranteed. And, a thrill when it occured.


Posts: 223

« Reply #17 on: April 21, 2013, 12:44:16 AM »

I agree, the big thing with the manpack operation is the use of less than optimal antennas - short whips or improvised dipoles.
As an apartment dweller, I emphasize with them : an FT817 into a 12' whip or magnetic loop is not a recipe for reliable communications.

To level the playing field, perhaps QRP should be 5W ERP.
« Last Edit: April 21, 2013, 12:49:07 AM by AF6WL » Logged

Posts: 2100

« Reply #18 on: April 21, 2013, 03:53:26 AM »

F8WBD defines it best for devout QRP'ers ,the only thing I can personally add is that it lets me as an ageing boomer to regress to my young teenage years when a lot of us experimented,made our own one tube 6L6 xtmrs,put up a piece of wire,made contacts and had a ball, QRP at its best and we didn't even know of the term.

Posts: 18001

« Reply #19 on: April 21, 2013, 06:55:34 AM »

Quote from: WB6BYU

There appear to be three aspects of operating that are associated with QRP operation,
but they can be practiced in any combination.

1)  Low power operation, for whatever value of "low" you choose.

2) Building your own equipment and/or assembling it from a kit.  This can be fun
at any power level.

3) Operating in the field.  This doesn't require QRP, but running low power with
a rig requiring minimal current certainly extends battery life.

Actually I forgot a fourth one, that probably is most important:  attitude.

Obviously this varies from one QRPer to the next, but generally it involves wanting
to do more with less; finesse rather than brute force power; understanding the
technical aspects to choose effective antennas, reduce losses, make best use
of propagation, etc.;  and having operating be relaxing fun rather than a
furious quest to be top dog.

So when someone says "life is too short for QRP", they may actually be correct
for themselves.  Others of us would rather relax and enjoy life, and quite
possibly live longer because of that, so life ISN'T too short for QRP.

Posts: 183

« Reply #20 on: April 21, 2013, 12:18:02 PM »


Actually I forgot a fourth one, that probably is most important:  attitude.

Obviously this varies from one QRPer to the next, but generally it involves wanting
to do more with less; finesse rather than brute force power; understanding the
technical aspects to choose effective antennas, reduce losses, make best use
of propagation, etc.;  and having operating be relaxing fun rather than a
furious quest to be top dog.


Very well put! A lot of whats written about QRP operating is appropriately focused on the technical issues. At the end of day, however, I think that it's these values that fuels our interest in low power communications. It's an old trusim: Less is More.


Posts: 1679

« Reply #21 on: April 21, 2013, 12:43:46 PM »

Zenki is only half right.

The manpack boys use power to assure communication between two points.
This is military and lives.  Also the radio that can do 20W is a squad radio,
the rest of the guys may have an VHF/UHF HT in the 5W range.  Also they
are trained to keep it short and to the point even with encryption.

Amateur QRP operation is not based on the idea that contact with HQ from any distance is imperative.
We are amateurs and hobby.  Its fun to play.  Sometime the emergency need occurs and we do
what we have to with what we have often not a KW maybe not even 100W but it gets done.  

So what the military ops do with antennas that look cool but are often very inefficient wideband
without auto tune may or may not apply to hams.  Not to take we can't take a page from them
but our communications are usually to someone/anyone and rarely HQ. I have used PRCs, and
have a PRC1099 (5/20W SSB) and the radio is about 30 pounds with battery and antenna.  Its
heavy and fun.  But I'm not Army humping a 75 pound pack.   It is however worth reading
marine handbook MCRP 3-40.3B (can be found via Google or your favorite search engine)
for field expedient antennas.

If you don't like low power, thanks for playing.  

Seriously, QRP means a weak signal.  I know QRO ops that shun QRP and qrp ops but
willingly chase a rare island into the noise even when the island is less than 100W into a
makeshift antennas. Whats the difference besides attitude.

The 5W number is for contests to level the field so someone that thinks 20W is QRP enough
is not qualified as 5W.  Also 5 W is a convenient point where easily carried low cost batteries
with reasonable lifetimes (hours).  Of course you can run a 100W radio at 20-30W using
very expensive 4s2p Lipo but at some point watthours in the battery will collide with
power out and limit available transmitting time. Also most contests are a day or longer
with field day being a good example.

For some out in the grass, hills, or a picnic bench with a radio its all about what you can
or are willing to carry.  For others its how many QSOs you can run on a lantern battery.  
There are more than a few that do QRP due to conditions at the home
(RFI/HOA/CCR/Line noise) make portable operation a way to play.  

I have no problems working a pileup with 4-5W, good antenna and I just work the the
flow of the pileup and get the contact.  What I can't do even with power is wake a
dead band.



Posts: 304

« Reply #22 on: May 09, 2013, 12:27:33 PM »

Something about pea-shooter rig power crossing salt-water....

Grin Brings back memories of an "accident." Back after getting my civ license all I had as an 817, Elecraft T-1 tuner, and some wire w/counterpoise thrown up into a tree. Then I got a THP 45w amp but was tuning up at 1/2 power one day not to hurt the T1 and forgot to kick in the THP. The result was a short but pleasant QSO with a straight-key to the Seychelles on 2.5w. I don't chase DX, I don't live & breathe QRP, but you can be darned sure that QSO is still remembered & at the top of the list.

Continuing to balance the radio life with QRP (CW) has fostered alot of enrichment in researching antennas & propagation, which has enriched everything else. As Allison intimated, I'd rather put a small gel-cell & QRP radio in the ruck and haul more food & water, or just save my back.
Grand-kids have an expression, something like "s'all good"  Cool

"Don't get treed by a chihuahua." - Pete

Posts: 81


« Reply #23 on: May 20, 2013, 01:13:05 PM »

Most has been said already, but I'll add my $0.02... QRP is often confused with portable. There is no logical reason to limit oneself at 5W outside of a contest. I hate contests, so QRP has a different meaning to me. I operate portable... The power limitation in portable operations comes from weight and size. Weight of the batteries mainly. When I say portable, I mean having to carry your gear in a backpack and hike, for miles, not to the camping table ten feet away.. If I could get 100W out of a radio the size of a pack of cigarettes and use it all week on eight AA cells, I would go for that. Of course, that's impossible at this time. Not only that, but it's not needed. I operate my radios at maximum power, and for me it means 12W/KX3, 6W/K1 and 5W/MTR. For CW, you rarely need more than that.

I don't bother with SSB because you need 20-25W and that drains batteries way too fast. I also don't like finding myself screaming in a microphone.. I know it doesn't help much, but that's easy to forget. The only reason I have a KX3 is to allow people with me to call in an emergency if I am the victim. That and short wave listening.

Ultimately, your radiating power will depend on your antenna system, so 5W out of your transmitter is an arbitrary number. It's a "legal" limit for contests, and nothing else. It's more interesting to go for miles-per-Watt..

I don't have a shack, but if I did and owned a 100W radio, it would make no sense to me to turn it down to 5W. I would set it to 25W and forget about the setting, unless conditions were really bad, and then, I'd probably turn the radio off and go do something more entertaining. I would also not carry that same radio out in the woods and be left with a flat battery that same day after draining it at 1.5A/Hr listening, not to mention transmit current. My back wouldn't like it much either. When I hear people say that will do portable ops with an IC-7200, I roll my eyes.. Sure, if you can use your truck battery for power.. Not "portable," which definition reads: "Carried or moved with ease." This is portable:

The question is, do you want to be QRP or portable, or both? If you don't do contests, forget about the definition...



Posts: 2100

« Reply #24 on: May 21, 2013, 04:04:11 AM »


You hit the nail on the head with PORTABLE definitions.There IS a big difference between back packing or canoeing my MFJ Cubs into the wilderness and using my fragile K1 from my back yard patio table or the picnic table at the local parks but no noticeable difference between amount of contacts between the 2 1/2 and 5 watts of the two.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2013, 04:06:34 AM by W1JKA » Logged

Posts: 81


« Reply #25 on: May 21, 2013, 09:23:47 AM »

no noticeable difference between amount of contacts between the 2 1/2 and 5 watts of the two.

I have noticed the same thing... 2W seems to be the lower limit. Though I have done 5200 miles with 1.3W and 830 miles with 100mW. Those are flukes though. With my MTR and a half gone battery my output may be 2.5W and that seems to always go through. I have had good results with my K1 and a Buddistick on 20m, and I know that antenna radiates much less power than the 6W I feed it! I prefer end-fed half-waves, but you need a tree... When I use my K1 at 6W, I do announce myself as QRP sometimes, but not when I use my KX3 at 12W. Most of the time I just give my output power and antenna. Sometimes saying "QRP" does get you an answer faster. People are curious about what you're using..



Posts: 6994

« Reply #26 on: May 21, 2013, 09:26:10 AM »

Actually I forgot a fourth one, that probably is most important:  attitude.

Of all the back and forth I've been involved with on the QRP forum, this is one thing that was never mentioned, or perhaps forthcoming would be a better description.  Attitude!

This coincides with what JKA said:
the only thing I can personally add is that it lets me as an ageing boomer to regress to my young teenage years when a lot of us experimented,made our own one tube 6L6 xtmrs,put up a piece of wire,made contacts and had a ball, QRP at its best and we didn't even know of the term.

Since I went through that state and this is when I fell in love with ham radio, I can also relate to this. I think this is what is meant by the term, "ignorance is bliss."

HOWEVER..... most of the time, after going through this early stage and then getting one's snout into the QRO "trough", it's extremely hard to go back to using low power. This is where the attitude is changed.

As for what constitutes QRP?  Personally I think that it should be considered QRP when the power level is the aforementioned 5w AND with a wire antenna.  No directional antennas.  This is just my opinion of course.

I have a 4w CW transceiver for 20m.  When I hook it up to my 9db gain antenna my ERP jumps to approximately 32w, which gives me the feeling of "cheating." Again, my opinion.

« Last Edit: May 21, 2013, 09:29:27 AM by K8AXW » Logged

A Pessimist is Never Disappointed!

Posts: 2100

« Reply #27 on: May 21, 2013, 10:33:38 AM »

The "cheating" syndrome seems to be a common thread among QRP operators.For me every time I occasionally fire up my IC-7200 or Johnson Adventurer to see if they still work at QRP levels,I get that cheating feeling just knowing that extra wattage is available.Weird aint it?

Posts: 14778

« Reply #28 on: May 21, 2013, 11:41:55 AM »

It sounds like some of the PSK31 guys - no fair using a real antenna  Cheesy

Bob  AA4PB
Garrisonville, VA

Posts: 376

« Reply #29 on: May 22, 2013, 06:59:18 PM »

Gil, I agree with everything in your post except for the comment about what portable means. Maybe I'm colored by the fact that I've taken part in portable multi-multi contest stations carried in freight trucks and powered by several generators. Grin

If your whole station, including power source, antennas, masts, etc. can be moved around and set up elsewhere in a few hours, and it's away from its usual operating position, then that's portable enough for me for the /P designator.  Even if it's a bigger station than most fixed amateur or even professional stations, and it took 20 people to set it up.  Smiley  

Even though my little QRP station is easily moved around, and usually used from a lawn chair in the garden and running from a battery, I'm not truly portable unless I'm away from home and outdoors.

As for the /M mobile designator, I think it's not enough to be sitting in a car or bicycle to earn that designator - you have to be able to operate the station while somebody's driving the car or while the bike is moving down the road. Let's hear it for the pedestrian mobile HF guys who walk along trailing a long counterpoise wire. Wouldn't want to do that in traffic.  Grin
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