Operating QRP these last few days has been fun and a challenge. I can work lots of DX with 5 watts from my FT-817. Most stations don’t know I’m running 5 watts until my brag macro informs them. I run digital modes 100% here. The challenge is that many stations run excessive power; some run dirty signal that wipe out the psk segment of the bands I’m working on. Here’s a screen shot of a Cuban station with sidelobes so strong the band segment was wiped out up here in Ottawa. Setting up your station for proper operation using digital modes takes some effort. Excessive power into yagi, verticals or dipole antennas isn’t necessary; it’s important to monitor ALC (assure that the ALC setting of your S-meter shows no movement) when ones changes band and even moving within the passband where you’re operating. Proper adjustment and judicious use of RF output makes it a whole lot easier for everyone using the narrow psk segments of our shortwave bands. Of course the little FT-817 doesn’t play as nice as the Ft-950 – I have no filters installed and there are no DSP controls to make things easier on digital modes.
Working QRP is a challenge; I usually wait until a station signs off with another station and then I call them and usually that gets me the DX. When you’re working with 5 watts you want to make sure all of your power gets out to the antenna. That means no antenna tuners. Make your antenna resonant for the band you’re working. 99% of the DX stations I’ve been working give an honest 599 report with a few 569 reports so my setup is doing something right. I always make use of an antenna analyzer to check my antenna a few times a month to make sure all is working as it should.
Here are a few stations worked from my QTH in south Greely – FN25fe – F5FMO, PA3HDG, RA3FO, G0UAN, ES4MM, 2E0GHQ, SM0EJR and RA6AN. Some of these stations are well over 7,000Kms away yet with 5 watts most gave consistent 569 - 599 reports– there was the odd dropped character due to fading and interference from strong stations but the DX is out there – you don’t need a lot of power and it’s fun once the other QRO station finds out you’re only running 5 watts to a vertical antenna. I’m able to work both strong and weak stations – it doesn’t seem to matter too much.
I have plans to order a CW filter to install in the FT-817 to make things a bit easier. I also plan to do some portable operating like I did almost ten years ago when I first got the 817. I used Hamsticks in those days with a large magnetic mount. Hamsticks work very well when conditions a good but they did get the job done during Cycle 23.