When the conditions are poor, and your QRP rig doesn’t seem to be working properly, you might consider digital modes.
CW can usually get through of course, but like many, I don’t do morse code. I’ve tried for years to learn it. Locked myself in cupboards and everything with tapes for hours on end. There’s just something about the way my brain works that won’t let it sink in.
Anyway, digi modes. WSPR in particular. WSPR stands for Weak Signal Propigation Reporter. It’s like a spotting beacon rather than a proper QSO, and you set up the software to send your callsign, locator and power out over a two minute key down period (so low SWR is essential). Then you listen for two minutes.
This is what I can get from that mode. I know my signal is being heard all over the world, so my gear is fine and working properly. It also lets me know when paths are open so I can go to a specific band and try SSB.
This was on 30m. Thursday 21st July 2016. Evening time in the U.K. My meagre 5w heard all over Europe, America, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
You need to set up for digi modes which means you need something to interface between your computer and your radio. There’s lots of options just a google search away.
Then you need to download the free WSPR software. You can download it from Here. It also has a full description of the how’s and why’s on that website.
Give it a try. You’ll be surprised at what can be heard. So far with so little.
Here’s a few others.