QRP as a religion

balanceI’m sometimes surprised at the emotional involvement with which some people view the participation of others in this hobby.

Two prime examples of this are among QRPers. Nowhere else in ham radio does someone so easily take it upon themselves to tell others how to operate.

The examples:

There is a prevailing thought among many QRPers that antennas should reflect the spirit of the rig in use [remember that word “spirit” – I’ll get back to it in a minute]…they should be simple, all-wire, low profile antennas and that once you hook a tower-mounted Yagi to your QRP rig, you’ve somehow violated the intent of QRP – that intent being Simplicity or low profile operation.

All of a sudden ERP is brought into the equation to further their argument against the infidel.

Another example – and the subject of a current name-calling thread on a QRP forum – is that on CW, QRP is a maximum of 5 watts out (10w on SSB).

Who decided on that value? And on who’s authority? By the same organization that use to define QRP as “less than 100 watts”?!

For contests and awards, the organization sponsoring them has the right to define QRP – for that specific event. But if I don’t pursue those particular events, can I not work 100 DX entities with 8 watts and then correctly say that I did it QRP?

I think I can and so does Bob Locher W9KNI. In his article Musings On An Experiment In QRP(750kb PDF), Bob describes his experiences QRP DXing with a 12-watt K2. The sacrilege!

Up until my Index Labs QRP+ bit the dust, I was attempting to work DXCC with that rig. Depending on the band, it put out 7 to 9 watts yet I considered myself QRP when operating it. I didn’t take gentle care to dial it back to 5 watts each time (or any time) I changed bands.

I understand that we have to have some common agreement on a definition by which to measure our accomplishments or by which to compare ourselves with others. When I tell you that Houston is 8000 km from Montevideo, you can relate because we all know how long a kilometer is.

But QRP is not a unit of measurement with a fixed value despite the fact that various organizations want it to be. If it were, the ERP argument would not be used by QRPers to further their aguments against certain antennas.

QRP is a spirit of operation, or so I’ve been told by many QRPers when they make their “too much antenna” argument.



  16 comments for “QRP as a religion

  1. March 1, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Good morning John, very nice blog post John and it so true the measure seems to be 5 watts and below is QRP…….not sure why. For some reason I have fallen into the 5 watt understanding and have not ventured above 5 watts. Another reason for me to stay below 5 watts are my condo neighbours. As for the antenna I am in full agreement with you, if I had a house and a nice yard up would go the towner and a beam! At this QTH the best antenna is the way to go, the way I look at it …..Im already down to 5 watts or less so give all I can give to a great antenna.

  2. March 1, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Hello John, interesting post. Indeed power below 5W is seen as QRP. I think it has to do with the max. power from the populair FT-817 which is used by most QRP stations. The addition of a beam just helps is my opinion. How much ERP is radiated is not interesting for me but for the religious it is, Well it’s just like religion itself, some believe this, others believe that. In the end, what do you have to proof to anyone? It’s just a hobby…don’t take it to serious. 73, Bas

  3. Orland Gibbon
    March 1, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Vy good comments John. I propose all the self-proclaimed governing bodies like QRPARCI hold a emergency meeting this May and change the official name to …QRP 44.722dBm maximum… to avoid all confusion and extend their right to control our hobby. The Hall of Fame by these men of shame could be replaced by the “QRP People’s Choice Award” to remove bias and, partisan wickedness. QRP is whatever you wish it to be friends and God bless you one and all!

  4. WR9H
    March 1, 2014 at 1:47 pm

    Good post. I have attended 7 FDIMs and have asked the same question; “How did we decide on 5 watts as the QRP power?” at each one.

    I got MANY different answers of conflicting thought. My own opinion, based on the answers I received to the prior mentioned question, and through reading about QRP/5W history is this: there was an anti-establishment attitude towards those who defined QRP as 100 watts by the lower power operators. In some ways the attitude seems to have mirrored the times (the Vietnam war era or there-about). The anti-establishment group simply over powered the 100w guys and gained control of the QRP movement and our 5w cw power restriction was born.

    I think that the anti-establishment attitude still runs strongly through the QRP community to our benefit or detriment. Just read how, as you mention, some QRP operators want to influence other QRP/QRO operators, operating on any QRP reflector!

    The antenna question will be this years research project!!!



  5. March 1, 2014 at 2:04 pm

    Thanks for the comments – I’m a bit surprised at some of the agreement with my sentiments.

    I am a part-time QRPer myself due to my enjoyment of kit building and past outdoor operating. I see QRP as more of a descriptive term than a rule/power level.

    Herb, interesting comment you made on how our attitudes toward a hobby can be influenced by more broad-spectrum events happening at any given time in our society. I agree with you 100% on that as I’ve noticed other similar parallels.

  6. Lou Axeman
    March 1, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    A “definition” for some is merely a “suggestion” for others. When I joined the QRPARCI, I believe no more than 100 Watts was considered QRP. Shortly thereafter it considered QRP to be no more than 5 Watts (CW out?) I also think I remember some QRP organization to which I belonged to require its members to pledge not to operate with more than 5 Watts CW out. Personally, I operate 99.9999999% QRP CW with an FT-817ND, 200 foot dipole up 35 feet around the roof parapet of our condo complex fed (the antenna, not the complex or the parapet) with 450 ohm window line through an MFJ-901B tuner and an MFJ-9211 4:1 balanced line QRPocket current balun using a J-38 key in the city of St. Louis, MO. I made 128 contacts in the ARRL International DX CW Contest two weeks ago, Including New Zealand. Of course most of the DX stations I worked — or that worked me — were using Kilowatts with gain antennas, some of then 6 over 6 over 6 monobanders, way up high. How much of a QRP contact was my contact with stations such as these? How many contacts would anybody in that contest have made if everyone were using no more than 5 Watts and simple wire, low profile antennas?
    Lou Axeman, N8LA/QRP(mostly)

  7. Al N6ZI
    March 2, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    If you can hear the sig it’s not qrp. My 1 w Vectronics 40m tx and gp ant was heard on reverse beacons in AK and VA. I need to pad that little fellow way down. 72, Al

  8. Alan Dove
    March 3, 2014 at 10:09 am

    I think this originally stemmed from the desire to make radio contests and award programs into “purer” measures of operator skill. Contest and award sponsors try to do this by defining specific power levels, which in turn are often dictated by the available equipment. Since the semiconductor revolution, numerous designers have chosen 5 watts as a good compromise for portable CW rigs, so 5 watts became the standard for “QRP” in competition. Similarly, 100 watts worked well for general purpose HF rigs, so 100 watts (or thereabouts) became the standard for “low power” in competition. The actual output of these radios can vary widely, though. It’s not at all unusual for a kit-built CW “5 watt” rig to put out anywhere from 3-8 watts, depending on construction quality, power supply, and band.

    Antennas are much trickier. Really, the only way to level that part of the playing field is to require all operators to use identical antenna setups from carefully matched operating sites. WRTC is the only contest doing that, and the logistics are so insanely complex they can only hold it once every four years. My radio club is providing setup crews for WRTC this year, so I’ve heard quite a lot about this problem.

    All of this only applies to competition, though. People trying to force the contest and award programs’ interpretation of “QRP” onto casual operators are just being silly.

    • March 3, 2014 at 4:04 pm

      The DX Marathon also takes a step in the level playing field direction with separate categories for wire antennas and Yagis. I understand the reasons for this and agree that they are valid. But the merging of one category into another is a fuzzy gray line, not a sharp cut-off.

      Except among purists (which I’m not)!

  9. Jon
    March 10, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    I’m not sure that 100W has ever been considered QRP in the UK. The max power limit here is 400W, and I think it is unusual for people to add an external amplifier to a 100 or 200W rig. Therefore, 100W has been regarded as “QRO” here, and I’ve always known 5 or 10W to be QRP levels. The G-QRP Club has been promoting the 5/10W levels since it started in 1974,

    best wishes,

    Jon, G4LJW.

  10. March 15, 2014 at 8:24 am

    The levels for QRP are 10W SSB, 5W CW and 5W data.

    100W is serious QRO!!!!



  11. Dick
    March 15, 2014 at 10:48 pm

    “In 1959, Japan established a new license Phone Class (Novice), that permitted phone operation with a maximum power of 10 watts. This new class did not require a code examination since code was not allowed. The examination for the phone license covered a basic knowledge of radio and law. This class of license was very popular and the number of Hams soon increased to a large number. Phone operation was permitted on 40 meters, 80 meters and 15 meters and above. This class soon amounted to about 90% of Japan’s Ham population and is called Class 4. There were some of the usual problems such as running higher power, called “Tokyo 10 Watters”, but by and large… this class made up the majority of Hams as it still does.”

    Thought you might find this info interesting. From a Japanese site. Japanese QRP in 1959. Kenwood and Yeasu QRP rigs for the new Japanese Novice class. Kenwood and Yaesu also exported their ten-watt rigs to the USA. I had a TS-120V and TS-130V.

    Just another “where did it begin and why” entry.

    I practiced QRP to keep the other apartment dwellers happy. Now, because I like it for it’s own sake and for “green” reasons.

    73 F8WBD

    • March 16, 2014 at 6:15 am

      Thanks for that info – I was under the impression that, until the past 15 years or so, that all hams worldwide were required to demonstrate CW proficiency in order to have HF privileges. It seems to have work for the Japanese. I think they have the highest percentage of hams among the general population of any country in the world.

      My own entry into QRP came about because I wanted to build a kit. Then the portability factor (low-power rigs = small & lightweight batteries) appealed and kept me at it for a long time.

      Many DXers eventually go QRP in order to have a new challenge.

      So it’s no wonder that QRP enjoys such popularity. Many people arrive there for a variety of reasons – and are then told how to do it and how to define it

  12. Chad
    March 18, 2014 at 2:12 am

    I really like your take on this. It is nice to hear your take on the QRP cultists. I love the idea of QRP. The small form factor and portability. The ingenuity involved in working stations while using less. Not to mention, ham is an expensive hobby. It is all really cool stuff. But then there are people who want to nit pick everything everyone else is doing. These people have the ego of superheros and the self esteem of a mouse. So touchy are they. Why cant they just enjoy the hobby and not try to go out of their way to rain doubt on others? I define QRP at 10 watts or less in normal operating conditions. If you call me from California on 10 meters with 10 watts and I am in Michigan. Then I am happy for you and will say what an excellent job. I will ask you the 5 “W’s” of who what when where why and how you did it. Only because I think its super cool. I never ever try to be an ambassador of ill will. If you have a new antenna. Ill be all into it. Part of the reason we have our licenses is to advance radio. We strive to put out the best signal possible. Throwing out a random wire antenna while walking a trail and working a station is cool. But hitting the books and developing a Yagi or other antenna that can carry a QRP or even a QRPp(less then a watt) to me is even cooler. It grabs my attention and makes for a lot of rag chewing. I don’t have much money. So I am always looking to do more with less in everything I do. Yeah I’m the guy who is hooking up a cheap ht to a 5 element Yagi made from a broken tv antenna. So if you are advancing radio in any way. I will support you. Yes the nae sayers are out there. But for everyone of them. There is about 10 who are like me. I define the spirit of QRP as just the spirit of excitement and enjoyment when doing something different that works. As far as your question is concerned. If 8 watts is a minimal power to make those contacts with the current operating conditions. Then yes. It is QRP. QRP is what you make it to be. I have a question for you. Is it QRP if you are pushing 60 watts for EME bounce via a mobile hooked to a Yagi?

  13. March 18, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Let it be known and herein acknowledged that we, the great sayers of nay, have ordained and do establish that in the honorable and great pursuit of QRP and its associated modes, digital notwithstanding, 5 wats and only 5 watts shall be accepted as meeting the high standards of QRPness. The poweroutput shall be 5 watts and the power out shall be 5 watts. Thou shalt not put out 4 watts. Nor shall thou put out 6 watss. The counting of the watts out shall be 5. 3 Watts shall never be spoken and 7 watts is straight out.
    We the great sayers of Nay
    aka “The Knights or QRPness”
    I find it all a little humorous myself.

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