Craig Jungers (AQR029)
From Craig Jungers K7EXT (AQR029)
One of the great advantages we have with QRP is relative ease of portable operations and summer is one of the best seasons to do it. Whether you just go park somewhere in a car, hike in to a remote campsite, or set up a tent for a weekend in a local campground, you can often do more on portable than you can at your home QTH.
Less noise. Find a spot outside city limits and it is almost guaranteed to have less noise. If I drive 10 minutes from home I go from S5+ noise level to S1. The first time I did this I parked, set up the antenna and radials, connected the key and battery and headphones, and turned the rig on. Nothing! I thought my K1 had broken. I had to turn the audio gain way up to hear any of that quality hiss. So I tuned around and the first CW signal was so loud it practically blew my headphones off.
For many of us, summer is the time for vacations and long holiday weekends. Our QRP radios, operating from batteries with antennas that are quick and easy to set up, can be a nice addition to a fishing or camping trip; or just a Sunday family picnic.
Find a lake or an ocean. Getting out of the city is the first step. The second step is finding a place to set up. My favorite places are at the edges of large bodies of water. We all know salt water is best, but fresh water is pretty good. One nice thing about a lake is that you can often park or set up MUCH closer to the water. No tidal issues or high surf to interfere. Also, I like somewhat wet ground under my antenna (not vehicle, necessarily). I usually use my MP-1 all-band (40-10m) vertical clamped to the front (steel!) bumper of my Jeep Wrangler (which can tolerate wet ground) but I also like chain-link fences. (If you mount on a chain-link fence check to make sure it’s not carrying any stray currents or noise spikes from lighting system’s bad grounds). I park with open view towards my preferred direction (I live in the PNW so E to SE to S are mine but that can vary with band conditions) in front of the antenna and the radials spread behind the antenna and out to the sides. I have NEVER been skunked operating QRP next to a lake!
Hills. The higher, the better. Even on HF setting up on a hilltop is hard to beat. For VHF and UHF it is almost required. A lake on a hilltop is perfect!
Antennas. We all have our favorites. I like my MP-1 because it’s quick, small, light, and changing bands is a cinch. Plus, where I live, finding a tree can be a problem. But I also like slopers like the LNR PAR antennas or just a 58′ length of wire and a 9:1 balun. If I take my K2 I can set up two antennas and easily switch between them with that rig’s internal automatic antenna tuner. It auto-tunes both antennas and remembers the settings.
For me, late fall and winter really put the kibosh on outside operations. But often it’s a good time for low noise conditions (summer time can be a problem in many areas with lightning crashes). Setting up in a car with a heater can be a big plus; along with a quickie antenna. But ham radio can be done in conjunction with outdoor winter sports like skiing (we are big cross-country ski fans) or snow sledding.
And if I can’t get out of town then my second favorite portable is my backyard. I’m lucky to live on a large lake with a chain link fence between me and the water. But even if you live in town using your QRP rig with a different antenna and on battery power can reduce the noise levels to tolerable levels. The big issue is having lots of buildings around you. Buildings can block that low-angle radiation from your antenna which is what you need to get any distance (DX) QSOs. Find the part of your yard with the clearest view in any direction and try to configure your operations around it.
And finally, if you can learn Morse code then your chances for QSOs go way up; especially in these days of generally lower propagation conditions. CW is the perfect mode for portable ops. No computer needed, no mic, much less QRM, far less nastiness; and CW is many times more efficient than SSB is. But no matter what, get outside and get away for more fun with QRP!
Craig Jungers AQR029 K7EXJ
There were a couple of reasons I moved to QRP after over half-a-century of being an amateur radio operator. One was watching Steve Wgøat’s videos and the other was that the technology and excitement of ham radio seemed to be all focused on QRP. It turned out that the City won’t let me buy goats and I have to admit that was a big disappointment. Another issue was how to sort through all that new-to-me tech.
Once I got used to the idea that I would never experience the thrill of watching my goat chew up my antenna feedline I reluctantly moved on. There are so many variables in QRP (and opinions about each of those variables). Fortunately we have a huge selection of learning tools. YouTube videos featuring demonstrations of radios, antennas, Morse code keying styles, and (of course) goats.
We have blogs featuring everything from chatty stories to deeply technical. We have magazine articles and we have books. One ebook I bought early on was by Peter Parker who is a member of our group here on FB. No book can feature everything but I found that Peter’s book made a great foundation for me; especially at the $5 price. I am linking it here because even though Peter is an active member of this group, he doesn’t fill the pages with mentions that you can buy it from Amazon for US$4.99. I still read through it. https://www.amazon.com/Minimum-QRP-Doing-unde…/…/ref=sr_1_1…
No book (or series of videos) can cover everything but both Peter and Steve Wgøat deserve credit for contributing to our database of knowledge about this exciting facet of amateur radio. So I’m doing that here. And now, sadly, I’m going to have to go mow the lawn that otherwise would provide food for the goats this city has, so unfairly, denied me. I think the ARRL and FCC need to address this issue!