Thursday 12 August 2021


Yes, it's that old chestnut - life's too short for qrp. I've heard the expression a million times. I'm sure some people think QRP operators must be on a shoe-string budget and have no choice but to buy a low-power radio, but that's absolute tosh.

Personally, I've owned some of the best base-stations available on the market and always ended up selling them on. Sure, it's nice to have a big transceiver in the shack with hundreds of buttons, dials and knobs and a huge screen, but it's not really necessary is it?

And although my licence restricts me to 10W, who's to know if I use a 1kW Linear to reach those DX stations? Me!!

I just don't feel the need for more power - I love QRP!! I could pass my Intermediate exam in a heartbeat, which would give me extra power, but I just have no interest in it. I find it much more thrilling to obtain a DX contact using 4W than 400W. In fact, it always makes me chuckle when operators tell me they're "only running 100W" and then I go back to them and declare my 10W or less 😂

I suppose it's a bit like biking. I've had small capacity bikes and big bikes (up to 1700cc), but my absolute favourite is 400cc. The bigger, more powerful bikes can reach 0-60mph in less than 3 seconds with absolute ease - it's just twist and go!

But to ride the roads quickly on a small bike is far more challenging and rewarding. You have to be skilled and focused enough to wring out every last bit of available power from a 400cc bike and make sure that you are maximising the power and torque bands by being in the right gear at the right time. It's all much more involving! I've toured Scotland with friends on powerful sports bikes and left them behind me on my little 400 Honda. Great fun!

I have to admit though, most of my radio time is not spent in the home shack - it's spent in the great outdoors, so my perspective is probably different to others. 

People regularly mock the idea of working QRP. I see it on various internet platforms, on-air, at radio clubs and even (quite surprisingly) in magazine adverts! There are even Badges, Cups and T-shirts available to help reinforce the idea that QRP is a bit of a waste of time. So what's the problem?

Well let's not forget that in most cases it's just a bit of humour! But like any joke which is repeatedly aimed at a particular group, it can become a little tiring - especially when you keep hearing hams talking about QRP on the radio as though there's something a bit odd with  low-power operators.

When I mention that I made a contact with someone thousands of miles away, I often get asked how much power I used and when I tell them I used 10W (or less) they smirk and imply that I'm lying.

Well, apart from the fact that I'm only licensed to use 10W, I actually prefer to use less when possible! I've made SSB voice contacts with people 7,000km away using just 2.5W and got a 55 report from them (eg. KE5EE).

It gives me great pleasure listening to QRO operators from my region struggling to get a contact logged with someone and then I manage to do it with my little IC-705. It's even more amusing when I know that they're using a monster antenna and I'm using a portable dipole or an end-fed wire.

Yes  we all know that I could pump up the power and in reality no one would know any better, but  I  would know and that's the whole point - I'm playing radio for me not for others!

Even when I go on a Field Day with a club, I wouldn't dream of leaving my QRP radio at home. I'd much prefer to make ten contacts with 1W than making fifty contacts with 100W on the Club Radio. I love the challenge of QRP.

If people want to use 100W, 400W or 1500W, then that's up to them. I don't think any less of those operators - they've paid their money and chosen their preferred operating method just like I have. For me, QRO is like fishing in a bucket - it gets boring real soon.  I know only too well that sometimes 10W just won't get you where you want to be and in my mind, I just think "I need to get to a higher location or a better take-off point". Or I need to improve my antenna.

One of my favourite places to go is Bodie Hill at the top of Glasson Dock. Easy to get to and superb take off point to the West. My tiny (tr)uSDX 4W QRP rig is just a joy to use up there. People can hardly believe that I'm talking to them with a little plastic kit-radio with built-in microphone. 


The harder I have to fight for a contact, the happier I am when I get it. Getting the station set up optimally and in the right location is my "power". And it all ties in with my enjoyment of going outdoors. Thankfully, my wife is also happy to go out with me for the day. We prepare a picnic, choose somewhere to go and while I play radio she can enjoy a good book, walk the dog or just chill out for a few hours.

When I'm at home, I spend very little time in the shack to be honest. Most of my time is spent with my IC-705 in the garden or in at my holiday home connected to a magnetic loop. If it was at all possible, I would sell my high-end radio and invest in an amazing antenna array, but that's never gonna happen due to local restrictions.

So what happens when I'm stuck at home and conditions are poor and my 10W limitation is getting me absolutely nowhere?? Well that's when I switch to my DVMEGA CAST which allows me to have some great chinwags with anyone in the world on FUSION, DSTAR and DMR. Or I jump onto Wires-X with my FTM-500 and PC.

Cynics say "So why have you got a 100W Base Station"?

Yes I have an Icom IC-7610. It's a magnificent radio!! That's why I bought it. If the IC-7610 was a QRP radio, I would still have purchased it, but of course it's 100W so there's nothing I can do about that.

If Icom had brought out an IC-7610W and an IC-76100W for roughly the same price, which one would I have bought then? Well I would obviously have still chosen the 100W radio to guarantee the highest resale price.

Just last night I was on my IC-7610 when I heard Ana from the Azores (CU2YK) and I moved from 5W to 10W but no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t get through to her. I could very easily have pumped up the power, but it’s just not me. I’ll get her another time when I’m higher up (and probably on less power). 

.After two years of being a licensed operator (Update : 4 years now), I absolutely know that I will never need 100W, 400W or 1000W and will therefore never take my Advanced test (not that I'd have a hope in hell of passing it). I might take the Intermediate just so that I can use more power in my truck on 2M & 70cm FM. That is where I will admit to feeling limited. But then again, 2M FM occupies an extremely small part of my operating time.


So please, let's stop the "Life's too short for QRP nonsense" 😂. 


Here's a typical comment too, on the subject of whether a QRP Rig is the right thing for a newcomer to use. This was a chat on Facebook in Nov 2023 where someone told me that QRP Rigs were merely toys for experienced hams!

Thanks for visiting - please take a minute to leave a comment below 

73, Tom, M7MCQ.


Anonymous said...

Well Said!
QRO'rs dont understand how antennas work.. They think MORE POWER is the solution. Boy if they only knew.. I have a friend who has been a HAM since the later 60's and he went out to a beach in New Hampshire and his Icom 703 in a backpack and a super antenna on a 2 foot mast sticking out of the backpack.. Walking on the wet sand at the shore line he was king of the band at 10 watts.

Its amazing how this all works I myself is still learning but I am so Fascinated by QRP I started a Facebook group and doing very very well.. so please all who reads this i am inviting you to join.

Thank you for this wonderful post MadDog! 72,73.. to you sir!

Dick said...

I agree. Run an old TS-120V/10W and K2/10W. That's all I have. If prop is not QRP friendly, well I take the dog for a walk or pick up a book. 72 de Dick F8WBD.

MadDogMcQ said...

Thanks for the visit to the blog Michael.

73, Tom, M7MCQ.

MadDogMcQ said...

Absolutely Dick. I have MANY hobbies and if there's a reason that I can't play with one toy, I just pick up another, lol.

Best wishes and thanks for visiting the blog mate.

Tom, M7MCQ.

Unknown said...

I combine 2 worlds: QRP and CW. Morse code because of its high efficiency and the fact that it is a beautiful universal language. QRP because this is a great challenge. It is a matter of patience, knowledge of propagation, antennas, .... It brings out the best of radio amateurism. 72 Peter OO7Z

Clyde said...

Hello Tom. You gave me some useful tips a few months back and I subsequently bought an IC-705 and a Bandspringer Midi antenna. The IC-705 is an amazingly sophisticated gadget, so sophisticated that I think that I will be learning how to fully use it for the rest of my life! I have not got my head around the D-Star stuff yet. I used (sometimes) to use my FT290R to access local 2m fm repeaters 30-odd years ago, before a long lapse in my amateur radio activities. Can the all-singing all-dancing IC-705 not be used in this way?(with an appropriate antenna, obviously) That is my first question, if you can help, please? Next, I have spent a whole day at High Willhays on Dartmoor, calling "CQ SOTA", and otherwise returning to others' CQ calls, and have worked - nobody! Similarly, I have spent a few days on Christ's Cross hill in Devon (another Marilyn) with my old FT290R and the best I could do was to (almost) speak to a net through a N Devon repeater and they said that they could not hear me well at all! I was using an old HB9CV antenna on these occasions. I haven't given up hope yet, but I wonder if you could suggest a reason for these problems. Someone said that maybe my HB9CV was dodgy after so many years in the garage. Myself, I feel that the mic (which is a CB one bought recently from a ham shop) might be at fault. Any other ideas, please? Thanks, Clyde. G1TCH.

MadDogMcQ said...

Hi Clyde,
I'm so sorry that I haven't replied earlier! BlogSpot stopped sending me notifications for some strange reason, so I didn't know people had been commenting.

I will respond to you via your email address on QRZ.

Apologies again mate.

73, Tom, M7MCQ.

MadDogMcQ said...

100% agree Peter! Shame that more people don't 'get it'.

Thanks for visiting the blog mate.

73, Tom, M7MCQ.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely !! Just discovered your blog and think you must be a long lost brother of mine !! I have a 705, 3 x tru SDX, motorbikes and love QRP from the hills. Originally from Manchester and used to paraglide on the back of Winter Hill as well ! Enjoy your content and Qrp related reviews. 73’s, Neil, G1AAD

MadDogMcQ said...

Hey brother Neil :-)
Thank you for visiting the blog - much appreciated. Hope to work you some time.

73, Tom, M7MCQ

Tech Minds said...

Hey Thomas, You look like an intelligent chap so you'll understand why your video clip of my content got taken down.

What you failed to get in my original video was the sarcasm! I often run digital modes at 5 watts or less, so I have nothing against people that love QRP.

I felt your comment and posting of my clip was taken out of context and you tried to portray me as someone against QRP, which is not the case.

How are you getting on with the HL2? Not bad for a 12 Bit SDR is it!

Tech Minds

MadDogMcQ said...

Hi Matt, thanks for the visit. I guess I was feeling a bit ratty when I posted that video - I'd just had another nonsense comment (from a guy on DSTAR) and then by coincidence came across your video. Looks like I failed to recognise sarcasm in your voice.

My apologies for reacting that way.

Anyway, I've sorted the HL2 out (just now) and made my first contact into Southern Spain, so it's happy days.

Regards, Tom.

Tech Minds said...

Hey Tom, No worries at all. Just didn't want people thinking I had something against QRP.

Have you ever tried connecting an antenna to a Raspberry Pi GPIO pin and using it to transmit WSPR? It's pretty much a square wave so it requires a filter, but it's roughly 10mW.

I found it extremely interesting to see how far the signal got on such low power.

Hope to work you on the bands sometime.


Anonymous said...

Exercise in futility, glutton for punishment,
total waste of time, not enjoyable at all. Might as well take microphone off and just listen. With terrible conditions qrp makes no sense at all. The days of throwing a wire up and working the world with 2 watts is done. Gone to never return, go minimum 100 watts or stay home.

MadDogMcQ said...

Dear Anonymous, it comes as NO SURPRISE that you didn’t want to make your identity known. You are clearly talking absolute nonsense (or you’re just trolling). Tom, M7MCQ.