QRP is great. Why not ALL SOTA on QRP or 10w MAX?

Dear SOTA mates.

Today it’s been my first work day after great holidays in the beautiful Northwestern coast of Spain, the Spanish Autonomous Comunity of Galicia, which I highly recommend you to visit, despite the cooler temperatures with more cloudy and rainy weather in the area compared to the Spanish Mediterranean coast.

In Galicia, my family and I stayed, as we did last year, in a house with a certain amount of land around not far from the Atlantic Ocean shore. Nothing huge but far more than enough to be able to install a telescopic fiber pole 8m up and a random 30m Long Wire as an inverted vee.

I took my FT-817ND with me and I’ve been on air all these days, between July 17th and August 10th, using the special preffix AM0 (AM02IF), for which use, as I explained in other posts, EA hams are allowed between June and September 18th to conmemorate the arrival of our new king Felipe VI to the trone.
I can assure you that I had a lot of fun chasing, activating and even working the National CW Contest on QRP 5w.

With this little power and the simple invee LW antenna, I’ve worked great DX and have completed 393 QSOs in total, 213 of which were made during the National CW contest and other 88 were chased SOTA activators.
I also activated 4 times from 3 different summits of 1 point each in the close area, which gave me a total of 74 QSOs, some of which were DX with USA and Canada, as well as S2S with these 2 mentionned countries. On these 4 activations, the used antenna was not a LW but a home made 1.5 m diameter magnetic loop in vertical position with the help of a tripod.

While chasing, unless I had the good luck to catch an activator on some of the first CQ calls and before a spot was raised on SOTAWATCH, as you can imagine, I always or most of the times had to wait until the end of the pile up to be copied by the activators, which was not a problem most of the times because I was relaxed on holidays with time to wait and work out my patience :wink:

However, I wondered sometimes how different SOTA chasing and SOTA pile-ups would be if all the chasers were working on QRP.

I can assure you that I managed to work almost all of the activations I was able to copy, which means that using more power is indeed a bit of a waste of energy. In several occasions, the signal I was receiving from the activators was as weak and tiny as the one the activators were surely receiving from me.

Let me make you all a proposal, although I guess it’s possibly going to have very little interest in these days of rush, power amps and lots of dB over S9 signals, my proposal is to run a test for all or a volunteer group in the SOTA community consisting in the use of QRP (5w or 10 watts max. if you find 5w too little) for either activating or chasing and just for a certain period of time in these days of pretty high SFI. Then reviewing the overall numbers in such period of time in order to see whether the number of chased activations or the number of chasers worked by the activators had been significantly reduced.

Any comments/ideas will be very welcome.

Best 73 de Guru - EA2IF

In reply to EA2IF:

All my activations are QRP 5W. This year I started to work all my contacts from home in QRP. I make every day at least one QRP CW QSO, for the QSO-A-DAY Award from NAQCC. So all the SOTA and contest and other QSO’s are made with only 5W. Sometimes you have to have some patient. In big contest they realy want the qso and the points. So they try hard to work you.
Chasing SOTA stations takes some time because of the big pile-ups. Especially in the weekends. But in the end I could work all the activators. Sometimes I call a few Hz up. That will help. So QRP is not a problem. It’s fun with only 5 W.

PA9CW, Tonnie

In reply to EA2IF:

QRP is quite enjoyable. My only activation so far (during which you worked me, in fact), as well as some of my chasing, has been done with an FT-817 at 5 watts…I love that little radio! Actually those radios, as I have three of them, but that’s another story. :wink: I often do general operating at 5 watts, never saying ‘QRP’ while calling another station, instead telling them about my power level only after the contact has been established if there is time. It’s amazing how many times they don’t believe me!

That said, I would have a lot fewer chaser contacts if there were such a power limit (not that I have many, having only worked 28 activators so far). A number of my contacts were running higher power, and I could barely copy some of them as it is. I can see that such an idea would work better within Europe, much as I have successfully worked several activators on my side of North America with 5 watts on both ends. I am afraid, however, that it would greatly reduce my chances of working European or other DX summits, as well as those in the western USA.

In fact, I have heard many chasers working activators whom I could not copy well enough to work, if at all. The 80 meter horizontal full wave loop antenna at our radio club site which I use for chasing works amazingly well for what it is, but not quite well enough to pull out some of the weak ones. I should also note that the most I ever run is about 50 watts from an amplifier on the '817, or another radio at 100 watts. DX stations often comment that I am stronger than much bigger stations under those conditions…that loop is phenomenal.

In summary, it is a cool idea, and one which I already try to follow when practical, but I hope it does not become mandatory. If it does, it will provide that much more incentive to try to install an HF beam at our club site. :slight_smile:

—73 Karl KA3RCS

In reply to EA2IF:

Hi Guru,

I agree on the fun of QRP. It definitely is more challenging, but the rewards make it worth it in my mind. I’ve been running exclusively QRP (maximum of 5 watts out) since 1980 from home, as well as on my summit activations. I know a few others also run QRP most of the time when chasing. And I have worked them when I was activating summits.

I think one of the neat aspects of SOTA is the challenge to work weak signals - it helps to improve my listening skills. And there is a certain magic to a 2-way QRP contact! Having said that, not everyone sees the merit in running QRP and may feel that “life is too short …” I do think it is kind of over-kill though to use high power to work a 2-5 watt activating station.

The SOTA chasing pile-ups in NA, although getting bigger in the last year or so especially on weekends, are probably nothing like the pile-ups in Europe. I can only imagine the chaos with a lot of high power EU chasers clamoring to work a summit in Europe. Split frequency operation might be helpful at times!

A gentleman’s agreement to limit power for SOTA is an intriguing thought, but as you indicated, it probably won’t win popular support due to the desire for immediate gratification. I believe that folks who have always run QRO might be very surprised by what could be done with QRP though. But again, each to their own.

Randy, ND0C

In reply to ND0C:

“… due to the desire for immediate gratification. …”

You nailed it!
My solution to retain fun: I stopped calling QRO activators for s2s, sometimes a bit tricky when activators ignore what they announced by alert.

73, Heinz HB9BCB

In reply to Karl KA3RCS,

Good to see I’m not the only one who has an addiction to the 817, I have two of them. One I use for out and about /P /M and I bought a new one with the bhi DSP fit to use as my main station radio therefore all I work is QRP. Currently on 80 DXCC with Uruguay and Chile logged recently for new ones.

Best radio money can buy in my opinion, amazing piece of kit.

73 Chris M0RSF

In reply to M0RSF:

Me, too, Chris! I havent counted for a couple of years now, because TBH Im not really all that bothered, but at the last count I had worked over 100 countries on five continents with the 817 and a 102-foot doublet. I have 100 watts available but unless its a real battle I prefer the 817. I dont even bother to mention that Im QRP unless Im working another QRP station, its just routine in a private challenge. That will change if this QRP to QRP idea catches on, of course!


Brian G8ADD

I was under the impression that the majority of activators were already QRP, what with the prevalence of the ubiquitous 817 mentioned above.
I can’t understand why anyone would need more :slight_smile:

I myself have been strictly QRP since 1982 and even though I now have a lovely KX3 in the shack (to replace some ancient homebrew stuff) capable of running a massive QRO 10W it sits happily set at 3W and occasionally gets wound up to 5W when condx are poor.

I expect that I probably use more power on average on my activations, with the ATS/MTR combo as they are outputting 4-5 Watts.
Anyway who’s counting? The difference between 100W and 5W is only a shade over 2 S points. As most of my reports are 599 what is there to worry about!

Horses for courses. Some folks like to heat up their shacks and the ether.
Others like the simpler things in life like QRP and CW (whoops that’s a red rag to a bull)


Hi Guru,

interesting proposal… QRP is fun and requires some patience and skill. All my activations have been QRP - 3-4Watts CW - never a problem.
I also run QRP at home, G11 SDR, I can pretty much work anything I hear. (95% effectiveness I had to guess a number).
Biggest factors are propagation and antenna system…All part of the fun! I also enjoy operating equipment that you have built yourself…

Vy 73 Angel M0HDF / EA2ECG

In reply to M0HDF:

During the 12m challenge it became clear to me that people who had only a small amount more power than normal QRP levels were much better at getting QSOs when conditions were more marginal. e.g. Carolyn G6WRW who was normally using 25-30W on 12m SSB. It was less of an issue when the band was wide open. I thought then that maybe not having QRP/QRO sections was an ommission but it was too late to change the rules.

As we have no definite ideas what the next challenge will be it is possible that a requirement could be only QRP levels. That doesn’t exclude anyone, we can all run at QRP levels. It may, however, not interest people who don’t want to operate at QRP levels so we’d probably end up having sections were participants were QRO or QRP.


In reply to EA2IF:

Why not??? Well here in Southern Cal we work with a noisy minimum S2 to at times S7 and yes even a S9 every now and then noise level. Who are you going to make contact with when nobody can hear you. I am always giving a 33 report to activators. I think this 59 constantly is a farce. If an one of you…I.e. the chaser or activators have to repeat anything…that’s not a 59 then.

So go ahead an stay QRP…but you do miss out on meeting other chasers.

That’s just my opinion.

In reply to MM0FMF:

As we have no definite ideas what the next challenge will be it is
possible that a requirement could be only QRP levels.

Impossible to “police” or enforce.

Walt (G3NYY)

Thanks a lot, mates, for your comments.
I’m glad to see that the idea seems to have been welcome by a good number of operators and some of us are even doing it currently.
I’ve decided that I’ll transmit QRP 5w from now onwards when chasing SOTA from home with my base rig TS-940S and of course when activating with my FT-817.
However, if I see that, once the QSO is in progress, my full calsign or my signal report is too difficult to be correctly copied by the activator, I’d slightly increase power to 10-20w, just to make my signal copyable and avoid slowing down the activation running with too many repeats.
I’d like to see more and more QRP chasers chasing QRP activators.
Another idea I want to propose is that a dedicated green letters tittled thread might be created by the administrator to remain for some time at the top of this Reflector (not falling down as the others) where all of us would be able to share comments and impressions about this 2 x QRP experience.
Maybe this way others will feel like giving QRP a try, a chance…
If an activation running QRP doesn’t get strong enough into my RX having S7 QRM currently on 20m and I can’t chase it, I’ll understand that I’ll have to look for another one. That one is not for me…
Best 73 de Guru - EA2IF

In reply to G3NYY:

Impossible to “police” or enforce.

Indeed Walt, my very thoughts. The MT try to keep any competitive element in SOTA between you and your goals rather than you and others involved in SOTA. The challenges are different in that respect. Considering the rules for the challenge there was little “pushing the envelope”. That was pleasing to see as I did think offering something that was more competitive may be akin to lifting the lid to Pandora’s Box! But in the end it was fine. It does show the problems of thinking up challenges that appeal, are feasible and accessible.



Not sure what all this chat about watts is about.

It is down to antennas and propagation. As an activator you can run higher power but if your antenna is not good it makes no difference. Low power plus a good antenna makes a huge difference.

On the chaser side the same applies but the difference is that chasers running high power can often be tricksters. They know their call will get through but they cannot really hear the activators but maybe catch their call back, the call has been recognised so “thank you for summit, bye bye, have a good day” etc. etc.

Time for a walk with Bertie the greyhound.

Night night

In reply to G6TUH:

Not sure what all this chat about watts is about.

Agreed, Mike. It looks to me like a lot of fuss about nothing.

Chasers and activators in SOTA have always been at liberty to use QRP should that be their personal preference. There is absolutely no need for any change to the rules, nor to try to force others to use QRP.

I vote for the status quo!

Walt (G3NYY - GQRP Club #10911)

In reply to G3NYY:

Of course there is absolutely no need to try and force others to use QRP, the very suggestion is outrageous! Encourage, now, is something different. It is the way that great new things can come about, not by force but by cajolery, by showing the value of what is being suggested. After all, doesnt SOTA exist to encourage people to take to the hills with portable gear? Not force but encouragement. Dont be so negative!

A QRP challenge would promote the idea of chasers accepting - or not - the same limitations as the activators. Nothing more than that. Equality. Is that such a bad thing?

Brian G8ADD

In reply to G3NYY:
Dear Walt and all,
My intention with this proposal is not at all to force or coax the SOTA MT for a change of the rules. Not at all.
It’s just an initiative to gather QRP fans and try to run an experimental exercise consisting in working just QRP for a period of time and see what the results/feels/experiences are. Nothing but that.
Nothing forced, just volunteered, but the more of us we play this, the more fun we’ll get and the more we’ll learn about QRP possibilities and limits.
Just an experiment…
Best 73 de Guru - EA2IF

QRP is in the interest of most activators from a practical point of view. You need bigger batteries to produce QRO !

You really don’t need to enforce it.

If you had to use QRP, struggling to get four contacts with terrible band conditions on a hill that you had spent a long time getting up it would really take the fun out of activating. There maybe only 2 S-points between 10 and 100W, but if the SNR is poor on that occasion, I would be glad to use my full 50W! rather then 10, then it becomes a matter of being workable or completely lost in the noise.

It could also be possibly dangerous in some circumstances, as some activators maybe pushed to stay longer on a summit in bad weather condx, because they are having difficulty making contact.

You have to think on a general scale that suits everyone.


In reply to EA2IF:

Guru, do not give up! QRP is nice. I bought my FT-817 at the beginning of June and have used it after that. Time to time I have operated with 2,5W thinking to operate with 5W. But with small power and link dipole only I have had qsos to NA and Far East too. I am volunteer to be a member of SOTA QRP Team because until now I use FT-817 in field operation only. This statement does not force anybody to use QRP. Somehow we could earmark QRP qsos into logs. Let’s think about QRP operation like Rock Mite operation – what is the difference? Nomination only! ;-D

73, Saku OH2NOS