New to qrp

I’m new to sota activation, but yet to get any chasers. I have a new ft-817nd using a buddie stick. Can someone tell me what I’m doing wrong? I try from home in a desert valley with hills all around me.Could that be the problem I tried all bands and nothing is happening.Anything would help me.

You’re not doing anything wrong, per se. Getting out there and activating is the important bit. However, chasers are nice too :slight_smile:

The buddistick is a compromise vertical - the 5W your 817 puts out is mainly going into heating the loading coil, particularly on 40m, less so but still significantly on 20m. It’s also finicky to tune, so your SWR may not be perfect, also affecting radiated power. It’s one sole advantage? It’s small (so it fits in a suitcase, etc). It’s not really an ideal QRP antenna. I have one, and I use from 25-50W through it with an 857 and still prefer my dipole. I have worked good DX on it (EU and NA from VK), but I tend to swear at it more than praise it.

Make yourself up a one or two band dipole (say 20m and 40m), set it up at home, and practice working QRP with that. Then take it out on the mountains confident you can get signals on the set up you’ve got.

From anecdotal evidence on the reflector here, people use either wire dipoles or end-fed half-waves on HF, generally atop a fibreglass fishing pole, and that’s probably 95% of activations at a vague and non-scientific guess. The other 5% are full size verticals (or at least longer than the buddistick).

The other aspect to the buddistick is making sure the counterpoise is off the ground, not always possible on a summit. If it’s on the ground, efficiency seems to plummet.

In short, nothing wrong with the radio, but play around with the antenna :smile: and most importantly, keep at it, there’s nothing wrong with QRP, it just takes a bit more skill and the margins for error are a bit tighter


Hello Jan,
First, I agree with VK3ARR. You’ll do much better on 40 meters around southern CA with a full length horizontal wire. Aver A BIG thing may just be that you’ve started at a particularly bad time for band conditions, on top of other issues. Don’t be discouraged. Listening for you…

Ken, K6HPX

1 Like

I use a “NORCAL” Doublet made from old four conductor rotor cable, 22 feet on each side then the wires continue down as feedline. I used to use an Emtech Balanced Line Tuner but now I use an MFJ QRP 4:1 Balun and the tuner in the KX3. Works great on 40M and up. I support it with a 21 foot SD20 pond pole. I also use an end fed 53’ wire that works almost as well and is quicker to deploy. With either of those antennas, and a mountain top for a launch pad it amazes me. I use the collapsed fiberglass pole (about four feet) as my second hiking pole. Keep trying different antennas and you will find one that works.

Thank you for your fast response. Now just to o make a diaper for it. Something new fo me to build! So now at this

Thank you Enough I will keep that in mind

Thank you for your help. I will see where to get the wire what do yo recommended ?

First for more detail search for “Norcal Doublet” a lot of good info. Some designs used computer ribbon cable sometimes available at surplus electronic stores (like the one I used to run). I ended up with a roll of five conductor “rotor” cable (cable from controller to old TV rotator) that is a little heavier 18ga ga vs 26. As an alternative you could use 18 or 22 gauge wire for the antenna part then old TV twin lead for feedline. Read the articles on line and if you want to pursue it email me (see QRZ). Also check out the PAR end fed, I tried a friend’s and it worked quite well. There are also many good ideas on this reflector.

Thank you very much for your expertise.its most appreciated

What the others haven’t meantioned is self-spotting. Even if you are radiating an “OK” signal from the summit, unless someone happens to tune across you,no one knows you are there. Mot Chasers monitor the SOTAWatch spotting cluster. Putting an entry under alerts giving a guess of when you might be active on which frequency in the Alerts section of sotawatch ( ) from home the day before and then putting up a spot when you are at the summit and calling CQ to the spots section ( ) will increase your chance of a contact at least 10 fold. How to spot from the summit? If you have a smart phone thaere are several apps availavle for both iPhone OS and Android OS. Simply search the relevant store for “SOTA”. If you only have a feature phone, then you can register its number and send a formatted SMS to SOTAWatch to do the spot. Smart phone apps are better though as they also show you the other spots of other activators who are out on the summits, so you can try calling them to get a “summit to summit” contact.

I’ll echo what other have said about antennas an inverted-V format wire dipole - either single band, equipped with links for multiple bands or an off centre fed dipole (which is multi band) or an end fed half wave antenna will work better than your buddipole. The Buddipole is valuable when there is limited space at the summit, wher you cannot get a dipole out.

Fot details of wire length if you want to build a linked dipole, there is a great calculator on the SOTA Mapping website under extras/linked antenna designer ( ).

On your FT-817 - if you have not changed the menu setting and are running off the internal battery - you will only be putting out 2.5 Watts not 5 watts. Most people use an external LIPO (3 cell) or LifePO (4 cell) battery. Some people (myself included) have built a 3 cell 2500maH LIPO into the battery bay. I have also added a speech compressor module into the microphone housing to boost the low powered signal.

73 Ed DD5LP.

Quite useful for your first pile-up on CW :smiley:



From the SW of the UK and welcome to the world of Sota been hooked me self for nearly two years and mainly a chaser and my licence within the UK only allows 10w. Yep lower power nigh on QRP etc. but when I speak to people and they mention yeah man using 1kw etc and god knows sized beams are impressive. I personally at moment using wire antennas made me self and do rather well on them. And because I have restricted antenna space I tend to make things to fit and even on portable side have come up with some idea that actually work mainly on HF bands.

I feel your next stage is start looking at your antennas and think on how can i better and get my little old signal to get out better AND receive better. Many people on here to whom go out onto the summits mainly use home made antennas as myself do and so many types you can use and EASY to make. As said before you can have the multi band antennas so don;t have to carry an ATU with you lighten the load as to speak. Personally I just have 1 8m telescopic fiberglass flag pole and 11m of wire on it via a 9:1 Unun (again home made), then coax to the MFJ tuner and the rig. Then made me counterpoise wires better to which helps the antenna work that much better. but i must been the luckiest person on the planet that day i went up to Kitt hill G/DC-003 set up me gear. sent a spot to the watch to announce i was there and what freq am using. So on goes the radio straight to the desired freq and nigh on fell out of me chair when got me first chaser from VK5 using my silly home brewed vertical for 40m and 10 watts from the rig. Man must been the biggest grin in a long time after that moment.

As some people have mentioned the solar cycle is going down ward to its next dip and things will get harder higher up the bands but even then it pulls out couple surprises even during day light hours working 1200 km to 1600 km Sota stations in last few days on 40m.

QRP is a challenge and can be developed better by up-ing your game on antennas, and making your own is even better still as i have found instead of throwing money to buy said antennas to which are very expense. Take my home antenna a 40mb loop. Things used coil of 50m 1.6 hard drawn wire, 8m of RG6 75 ohm coax (the feeder), a end conduit box to make up the feeder point prob cost me about £40 and have had good results on it because i up-ed my game in the antenna dept.

Its a matter of taking that QRP signal and making it work for you via your antenna. The antenna does the hard work in receiving and getting out. So make it work harder for you.

Its all a learning curve

Karl M3FEH

1 Like

Hi Jan, as has been pointed out there will likely be a couple of issues here.

Firstly being the conditions - currently they are very poor which will not be helping things. Even with a good setup at home (amplifier and directional antennas), I am gettting far lower numbers of contacts than when it is good.

Secondly, the antenna you are using is low efficiency - and using low power makes it even harder for you to make contacts. QRP is fine with a good antenna, but with a compromise antenna like the buddistick, unless conditions are good contacts will be few and far between. Everyone has their favourite antenna which they believe is the best - personally I favour the Off Centre Fed dipole as it gives me multiple bands without the need to tune or adjust it. Others prefer end fed wires, linked dipoles, loops, verticals - the list is long and varied.

What is important is to use an antenna that gives you the best performance for the circumstance. At home, at a minimum put up a full sized antenna for the band(s) that you want to use, on a SOTA summit, it may differ - if there is very limited space, the buddistick may be the best option - but better to try a more efficient antenna if at all possible.


1 Like

Do you mean you are calling cq SOTA from home?

I was wondering too, the first post is somewhat equivocal…

Think of activators as “rare DX” :slight_smile: I would imagine the chances of an activator on a SOTA summit looking for someone not on a summit calling for SOTA contacts is very slim indeed…

Whatever, welcome to SOTA and I’m sure if you follow some of the advice on antennas available above and elsewhere on the reflector you will get many more contacts whether SOTA or not :smiley:

73 de Paul G4MD

This article on the SOTA website can be helpful:

I don’t know if this will help but I have read elsewhere on the web that antennas in desert environments tend to underperform, it might be worthwhile following that up.


I agree with ED - spotting is a HUGE factor in making contacts on summits! I used a KX1 @ 3 watts and a LOOP antenna for the first 2 years of my SOTA life (be warned it IS a LIFE) and always activated summits that I could self-spot on. I always had contacts and only rarely did not make the required 4 to count the activation. Spotting gives the chasers a place and time to listen for you and they really do their best to catch a weak signal and help you with contacts - if necessary you can update your spot and mention you only need 1 or 2 more contacts to solicit additional help/sympathy :wink: At least post an ALERT if you’re heading to a summit where coverage is questionable. Chasers will spot for you if you cannot self spot. Chasers will also recommend a new freq if your signal is compromised by heavy QRM you may not be hearing.

I recently switched to a link dipole and jack-tight pole for my antenna system - a HUGE improvement both directions! I still carry the LOOP in my pack since it takes up little space and is about the only thing I can set up on a summit that is all rock in windy conditions - which I had to revert to yesterday due to very high wind on both summits I activated!!

As suggested try different antennas in your back yard until you find one that works best for you - be sure SWR is not minimizing the signal leaving your antenna! if you search this reflector for “link dipole” there’s a really good calculator to help you determine wire lengths for home-building that simple wire antenna - that’s what I used and my antenna SWR is flat on all 5 bands I built it for.

Good luck! Rick WB0USI

There have been several good, helpful thoughts offered. I would echo the previous comments regarding the antenna and the value of self-spotting (when possible).

For my QRP operations from home (I run exclusively QRP) I have used dipoles with ladder line and a tuner for the low bands. For efficient QRP operation the low-loss characteristics of that system are important. I can’t afford to lose a watt or two in the coax!

So when I first started with SOTA activations I went with what I know and what works for me: a dipole with ladder line and a tuner. I use a telescoping 20’ fiberglass mast (Jackite) for the center support, guyed at about the 12-15’ level. This is relatively easy and quick to put up and simple to tune to change bands. Before my first activation, I did a trial run with this system in my backyard running 5 watts: my first QSO was a YV5.

There is certainly a trade-off in weight with this system compared to others, e.g. KT5X, but I wanted to make sure I could do everything possible to be heard and have plenty of flexibility for 40-10 meters. (Fred’s whole system, rig and all, weighs less than my 25’ of ladder line I’m sure!)

I am going to put-together a different dipole/feedline using smaller twin lead in place of the ladder line and a smaller, lighter mast. (I have a couple of the lighter masts from SOTABeams - we’ll see how they hold up - I’ll probably remove a couple of the top sections.) That should knock off a couple pounds.

BTW I also use an FT-817nd, typically at the 5 watt level when activating and operate both SSB and CW. With a good antenna and some decent propagation (what’s that?), you will get out. And self spotting (or using the SOTA Alert system and CW) will help to assure the chasers find you! Contrary to some opinions QRP will work on SSB. But if the chips are down, use CW and you can salvage an activation. QRP is a blast but it can be a challenge, whether you’re on a summit or in your home station. Conditions are everything. And you need to be patient and persistent (and maybe slightly masochistic).

One last word of advice: be careful - SOTA is extremely addictive!

Randy, ND0C

Jan, I sent you a note about the NA spotting to your email address (from QRZ)…

73, Richard.

Wow so much information and will be working on my first diapole with everyones help here. again thank you all