On Sunday the 10th of June I took part in the RSGB 2m Backpackers contest. I like this contest because it combines portable operating and QRP, some of my favourite things! I entered the 5B section, which means you’re limited to 5w output and a mast height of 4m above ground.
With this restriction I decided to take my Elecraft KX3, which has the 2m internal transverter fitted. This has an excellent receiver, and it has a voice keying facility which is perfect for a longer contest on VHF. The only downside to using this rig was the 3w maximum output from the transverter instead of the full 5 watts allowed. I decided it would still be better than using the Yaesu 817 at its full 5 watts. But this raised a question:
Just how far can you expect to work on 3 watts using 2m SSB? Can you work DX?
I chose to go to a local hilltop which offers a good clear takeoff, especially to the North and West. The hill offers a short sharp drop off perfect for a good VHF takeoff. My usual go to antenna for this sort of operating is my 9 element Tonna Yagi, this is relatively lightweight, quick to assemble and offers reasonable performance. To minimise any further losses of my precious 3 watts, I used a short run of Ecoflex 10 coax cable fitted with high quality N-Type connectors.
Here’s my full equipment list:
- Elecraft KX3 (with 2m internal transverter)
- LiFePo 4200mAh battery (lasted the full 4 hours)
- 9 Element Tonna Yagi
- EcoFlex 10 (low loss) coax
- 4m aluminium mast (max height allowed in the Backpackers section)
- Fishing umbrella/shelter
- Small laptop for logging
It was a lovely sunny day and a perfect day for some portable contesting, just a light breeze and a warm 22 degrees.
I carried out a mixture of running and S&P to maximise points and grid square multipliers. I finished up working 72 stations in 15 different grid squares in 5 DXCC (G, GW, GM, GU and F). I was very happy with this for a relaxing few hours in the sunshine. I had several DX highlights:
- Having GU3TUX/P respond to my call from the island of Alderney (short distance from Guernsey) down in IN89 square which is 264km from my location.
- Having F/ON4NS/P respond to my call from France while he was on holiday. The call threw me initially.
- Working MM0CEZ all the way up in IO75XU, which was 501km from me and my best DX of the day!
Here’s my QSO map:
So it turns out that 3w SSB from a good high location will get you further than you might originally think. Conditions were pretty average, certainly no lift and no exotic DX heard like the previous tropo lift I experienced that same week on 2m.
I was very happy working 501km into Scotland. Was it a 59 contact? No! I had to repeat the exchange a number of times but we completed, and with 3w I’m surprised I could raise him at all!
So some fun QRP operating, from a beautiful hillside in the sun… what is there not to like? My friend Phil M0NVS came along to help me pack up, before we retreated to the pub for a well deserved beer in the sunshine.