Want to Work All 50 US States QRP? Here’s How…

I recently had another great QSO with Bill Haycock, WB4DBO. During our cw rag-chew, Bill mentioned that he only needed one more state to have worked all 50 US states with nothing more than 5 watts or less, QRP. That state was North Dakota – and less than a day later, he had worked it to achieve all 50 states QRP. And, since this is a goal that I, myself, am working toward, I thought this would be a great topic for the blog.

So I asked Bill if he would be willing to write an article on his experience with his recent accomplishment, and he gladly said yes. Great thanks to Bill for this – enjoy!

QRP Challenge -by Bill Haycock, WB4DBO

The challenge of working all 50 US states using QRP can be slightly different for each individual.  Much depends on the geographical location and the all important antenna system!  QRP operation generally assumes a power output of 5 watts or less.

This article describes my personal challenge using QRP, CW only, to work all fifty United States.  I will cover my QSL effort, or rather my lack of QSL effort. Equipment used, antennas, on line resources, and my personal approach to “capturing” states using QRP CW only.

I approached QRP WAS as a personal challenge which began February 22, 2014.  I make no attempt to obtain QSLs via cards, eQSL, or LOTW official confirmations.  What I did was print out an outline map of the United States and then simply entered the call sign of the station worked in the particular state.  Very low tech but the visual effect of watching the states slowly show a call sign worked was a visual motivation to continue on the quest!  For me, this was just as important as it might be for others to receive a certificate for the wall.  I did still maintain a QRP computer log of each QSO, just a good habit to continue.  I am very strict on myself to operate at 5 watts or less and never used high power (QRO) to start a QSO with a station and then switch to QRP for a quick report and confirmation.  All contacts started and ended in the QRP mode.

The Rig:

My equipment is a KX3 rig.  All QRP work is done using this rig.  My antenna situation is far from ideal.  I have four full size dipole antennas located in my attic! With these antennas, I can operate on 40 meters through 10 meters. I am always amazed at how well these antennas perform in a far from ideal environment.  Don’t let a poor antenna situation keep you from the challenge!

I do a lot of “listening” and use QRZ.COM to determine a particular call sign’s state location.  My approach to finding needed states is to listen to various contests, state QSO Parties, as well as routine QSO’s where a call sign might indicate a needed state.  If a call sign numerical number indicates a possible needed state, I will then look it up in QRZ.COM and if I am lucky and the state is a needed state, I just wait until the QSO is over and give the operator a call. This technique has resulted in the majority of my working a needed state!  I seldom call “CQ.”  Ninety five percent of the time I am “listening” and then calling a station if it is likely they are in a needed state.

A lil’ Help from W1AW can go a long way…

A recent resource has been a big help during the year 2014.  W1AW portable operations throughout the United States has helped capture some difficult states!  As of this writing, I have worked all states except for the traditional “hard to find” SD, WY, NV, DE, RI, HI, and AK.  I will work their QSO Parties, W1AW portable operations, as well as this year’s Field Day operations.

In conclusion, Work All States (WAS) QRP is a fun challenge that takes time, patience, and a systematic approach.  Put up the best antenna possible, be aware of propagation trends on different bands, use QSO Parties, contests, and any other means of finding those states still needed.  And, “listen” and “hunt” rather than call CQ.  WAS QRP has little to do with sending, mostly listening and pouncing on a needed state when found.

Have fun watching your map slowly fill up with states worked and feel the thrill of working those last few hard to find states.  Good luck and 73.

Bill Haycock – WB4DBO

About Bill: Amateur Extra class Bill Haycock is an avid CW operator and QRP enthusiast with a great CW “fist.” He can be heard running his Elecraft rigs, both the K3 and KX3 on 40, 30, 20, and 15 meters, many times QRP. Find out more about Bill at his QRZ.com page.