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Tips for getting started on HF?

This is, IMHO, the best of the many good tips given so far.
I do chase from home on both CW and SSB, but receiving well enough a QRP SSB signal in these poor propagation days is so much harder compared to a CW one that you wouldn’t even imagine.
CW gives you not only the best of your QRP output, but also the invaluable automatic spotting through RBNHole, which will always bring you chasers right away no matter when, where you are CQing.
IMO SSB is often a too inefficient mode for QRP with poor propagation conditions.
Good luck!



Waste of money IMHO. Invest in learning Morse and a Morse filter. Yeah boring I know but my 5W of Morse has the same effective signal power as 80W of SSB but I don’t have to carry an amplifier and a bigger battery!

The other advice is good: alert in time, spot yourself, pick the right band for time of day/time of year, pick the right frequency, get a speech processor for the 817/8. All bar one of those items comes for free :slight_smile:

For your info, I thought conditions yesterday ranged from complete pants to bands are a bit dead so SSB with spotting was hard work for someone who’s been doing QRP SOTA continuously since October 2006.


At the risk of taking this thread completely into the rough here is a link to our field day I mentioned in my post above. QRP it isn’t but I’ve had more distant contacts with 10W when conditions were better than they were earlier this week. But doing it this way is more comfortable! @oldmenonahill

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I don’t have an SSB filter for the 817 and everything is perfectly fine.

Feel free to look at my YouTube videos and activation statistics.

Again spot is the key to success. And learning to handle the pileup. But that’s another story :wink:

73 Joe


18 posts before cw was recommended. We’re slipping :wink:


A little more info on your wire dipole might be helpful
you say you unwind it to suit any band ?
What height off the ground, and is it vertical or inverted.
Do you use an ATU ?, how is it fed.
Finally you say it works fine on FT8 at your QTH, does it also work fine on SSB from your QTH ?

73 Neil


All good advice. I have never used an SSB filter for my 817. Doubt it will solve the problem.

Resonant antenna is important if you have no ATU. You can check SWR on your 817.

Try an SSB activation in the garden or local park to check your kit is working.

Working QRP, the chaser almost always has to be 5.9 report to hear you if calling with no spot.

Another approach is to ask if a VHF contact can spot you on the SOTA website with either a 40m or 20m frequency that you have already checked is clear.

Good luck.



SSB with 5w is much more difficult.
No problem with CW or FT8 at 5 watts whatever the propag conditions.
and often answering a CQ is more efficient than making a CQ
bruno, F6HHK

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One of these guys in this list of Pro’s is the guy who due to his impatience in waiting for his QSO, was passing on the report in the thread entitled “Wiil they ever learn”. As a very experienced operator he should know better. Hopefully if he reads the thread and this message he won’t be tempted to do it again…

73 Phil

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Hi Phil, I would say on occasion it can get a bit mad, but these Ops. usually wait out when requested. The seasoned Chasers are quite good at keeping one another in line too.

There is another Op, who seems to “make up” my end of the QSO, gives a signal reports and then thanks me for the contact when I’m working another station. He must be running kilowatts as he kills everything else. He doesn’t go in the log on those occasions!

As you say, experienced Ops. should know better.

73, Fraser


HI Fraser

Yes, we’ve all experienced this phenomenen, it also happens in CW! It sounds like your one is a regular who does it all the time though, rather than an isolated case… As you have been quite active of late you will be getting to know the phoibles, good and bad of the SOTA fraternity!

73 Phil


Indeed! I was actually concerned when I hadn’t heard a certain regular for some time. However, he appeared on the air last week and we had a good catch up. And yes, everyone else waited until we were done, mid-pile up. There are still good manners out there. :slightly_smiling_face:


Well I tried today, put an alert up and spotted but only made 1 contact - CT1OIX on 20m who gave me a 41 report (Nothing on 40m). Although I confirmed the call sign twice, I’m not sure it’s correct.
Was running 5w the whole time, internal battery with the power level flashing.
Heard another SOTA activation in OE which I replied to a couple of times but didn’t stand much chance with all the QRO stations, although I think I heard him working someone on G/SP-012?

Antenna is one of these: https://www.wireantennas.co.uk/sota-dipole-for-hf-40-to-2-meter (it was a gift) running as an inverted V today on a 4m pole.
Last week I tried it horizontal, tied to the pole at one end and the trig point at the other.
No ATU, I find a quiet frequency, stick the radio on FM and key up to see how many SWR blocks I get on the 817 and adjust the length until it’s 3 blocks (can’t get it any lower) which corresponded to 1:1.5 SWR on the meter at home.
The power meter on the 817 peaks at about 50% (2.5W?) when speaking. Will try adjusting the mic gain at home tomorrow and see if I can get it any better.
I haven’t managed a HF SSB QSO from home, only FT8 although I haven’t tried very hard due to the high noise floor here.


Hi Pete,
IIRC, when running the FT-817 on internal batteries and you get the power indicator on the LCD flashing, that means your output is 2.5W. Those 3 blocks on the SWR meter strike me as a quite high SWR. I would guess you were at something close to 3:1, which is too bad and I never ever afford when I’m transmitting. I always carry a tuner with me.
2.5W plus an SWR of 3:1 on SSB and under poor propagation conditions is the perfect combination for a null.
Please, try an external battery to get the 5W out of your rig and make sure your SWR reading is showing not a single block while you are transmitting.
Good luck!


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Hi Pete

You don’t mention how high you have your antenna. Height matters.
For 40m I get good results with an inverted vee at 7metres in the centre and 1 metre at the ends.

If you have an external SWR meter use that when you set up the antenna so you can see what makes the SWR best. I do this at the local park where I can spend more time trying different things without the constraints a summit can present.

Don’t be afraid to spot more than once. Some chasers are using apps that only show the most recent 4 or 5 spots and it’s easy for a spot to get lost in the ‘noise’


It’s good that you are able to qualify the summit on 2m, at least the walk up is rewarded with some points.

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According to KA7OEI, three swr bars on an 817 is 7:1 on 1.8 MHz and 3.3 to one on 14 MHz.

Elliott, K6EL

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Hi Pete,

I have an ft817 and I am familiar with its quirks, and Guru @EA2IF is even more an expert on it (indeed a Guru!).

I agree with his advice re the SWR indicator, even one blob showing on that is a sign that something needs improvement. When your antenna is very low (4m is very low for the 40m wavelength, only 10% of a wavelength) that affects the impedance and the efficiency. So not only is the antenna presenting the wrong impedance making it hard for your transmitter to deliver power to the antenna, what power reaches it is soaked up by the nearby earth, rocks, operator, kitchen sink etc. This is why the majority of activators are using poles higher than 6m. 7m is a good compromise on pole strength and longevity while giving good antenna performance. When erecting your wire antenna, try to get the ends as far above ground as possible. They must not be lying on the ground. The ends of the antenna have a large effect on the antenna resonance so if they are very close to ground the antenna frequency goes lower than it would be if it was 1-2m agl. If the ends are on the ground, the antenna is effectively shorted out.

Re the metering on the 817, do not expect to see more than 50% of the nominal power output when using ssb mode. The metering circuit is not fast enough to indicate the peak power of the voice signal, so it only indicates the average power. This could be between 30% and 50% of the actual peak. It may worry you to see the indicator at half scale, just mentally double it and that will reassure you.

Voice technique on ssb is very important. Talk like a newsreader, never let your tone drop below “HERE IS THE NEWS”. Every word has to be spoken at a high tone and level. This takes practice and nobody was born with this skill, they all had to learn it and practice.

I have made world wide contacts with the ft817 at 5w on ssb, but that was in better propagation conditions than we have now. Just keep faith that provided your antenna is up in the air, well matched to your radio, the meter indicates about 30-50% of max when you speak, and you keep your voice up, you are doing the best you can without fancy compressors or external amplifiers.

You did the right thing by self-spotting on suitable frequencies. That should work well once your antenna is radiating a good signal. But once you’ve done that, stay on that frequency if it is still clear. Not all chasers are at their radio when they see your spot. Sometimes I am a long way from the shack when I see a new spot and it takes me 5 mins to get to the radio. Staying on the frequency for at least 10 minutes after my spot is my usual practice.

I suspect with the low antenna and the high reflected power you were effectively operating at less than 1 watt, which is long way down on 5w. Answering other CQ calls is a good tactic, but don’t assume that just announcing your callsign while many others are doing it, will get you heard. If they are louder than you, how will you be heard? You would need to use extra techniques, by making your call a bit longer such as adding “Summit to Summit” if that is the case, - if other callers have given their callsign already, maybe the only part of it the other activator hears is your “summit to summit” phrase or part of it, and most activators like S2S points and will then stop the pileup and request the S2S station to repeat his call. So you do it with technique, rather than a bigger transmitter power or antenna. Try it.

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH


Hi Andrew, great advice and incites provided. Thanks.

73 de Geoff vk3sq

Been trying to keep my nose out of this discussion but could not help myself sorry.
I use a Link dipole style antenna with various clip on extensions for different bands.
My antenna is from the sotamaps.org antenna design site in its third configuration over 9 years or so.
Support pole is now 7m long the Antenna is cut for 7.050 and 14.100 a 2 band link dipole, with clip on extensions for 80m and 30m.
End support height is a rock usually at ground level so is set to .01m.
End strings should be 5.5 metres long to give a good 60 degree angle of the inverted V antenna. My end strings are 7 metres long in the hope lifting the ends a little higher will give a miniscule amount of gain over the standard config. I may be luckier than some but of the 46 summits I visit every year there is room to erect this antenna to its full Hight and extent to the ends of my support strings fully. Minimum compromise for what the antenna is and tuned properly so an antenna tuner is not needed for either my KX3 or FT817 which are my main SOTA rigs.
Good luck Peter maybe the only other suggestion to you at testing your kit for SOTA is set up in your yard or a park and do some SOTA chasing. Chances are if the SOTA activators can hear you from a portable location you will be heard when you are activating from a summit. Alert your intensions to activate even email a couple friends who might be interested in chasing you, the more people who know you are out and about the better.
Ian vk5cz …


Hi Pete
I am sure you have the power setting for 817 sorted, but just in case here is a short video

Had a look at the antenna, i am unfamiliar with it, but it must need an ATU to get any kind of decent match. even then i have some doubts if it will be an efficient radiator . As VK1DA says 4m pole will not give you enough height 6/7 m should be ok I use a 6m pole without problems.
Linked dipole antenna is the way to go as mentioned by VK5CZ, easy enough to make and you can get all the bits from Sotabeams and other suppliers.

Good luck and hope to work you from a summit

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