The spirit of QRP

Here we are, on the morning of Christmas Eve, and I find this quote from Teddy Roosevelt  floating around in my head:

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

                                    –– Teddy Roosevelt

Perhaps I’m thinking about these words because they sort of fly in the face of all of the consumerism that often surrounds the holiday season…?

Well, I’m not sure of the reason.  What I do know is, I feel like this quote speaks to me as a QRPer. Part of the appeal of low-power operations is making do with less. With just a faint breath of power, I can reach across the globe to connect with others, and have just as much fun doing it as the guy with the tall backyard tower.  Yes, I have to admit, there’s a certain satisfaction in that.

You might not know this, reading, where we often talk gear, discussing its various shortcomings and merits, but I’m actually a fan of simplicity.  Outside of the world of radios and packs––and even in it, to a degree!––I try not to own too many things.

In my little QRP world I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to beta test, review, and evaluate a wide variety of radios and gear. Since I do purchase almost all of my review radios––except for the few that are loaned to me––I’ve accumulated a lot of them over time. I know I can sell the ones I don’t often use, and I frequently do, but it’s fun to take them out for a spin now and again; you may notice that I rotate them out regularly.

Yet because of this, I do worry that people read my posts (and those of others in the ham community) and reflect with despair along these lines: “I can’t activate in the field…I need a lot of new expensive gear to do that!”

But this couldn’t be further from the truth.

For four years, when I lived in Germany and the UK, I only owned one radio–a Yaesu FT-817. And, know what?  I had so much fun with that single radio and a limited number of home-brew antennas.

To which I might add, this past year, some of my most memorable activations have been with radios I purchased for under $200:

I could easily activate all of the parks and summits I wish, only using one of these little radios, coupled with a key, a home-brew wire antenna, and a battery.  That’s it~!

So, you really don’t need a lot of gear to enjoy field radio.  This is true especially if you’re a CW operator.  But even just starting out, you really can have fun with a simple field kit.

Even if you’re new to ham radio, don’t wait to hit the field until you’ve assembled the “perfect” or the largest, finest field radio kit. Instead, take Teddy Roosevelt’s advice,  and just do what you can with what you have…right where you are.  

Here’s wishing everyone

A Very Happy Holiday Season! 

63 thoughts on “The spirit of QRP”

  1. Thomas – I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas tomorrow. I’ve been too busy working at home lately to chase you at parks, but hope to again soon. I wonder if you still have the IC 705, as I haven’t seen it in several videos (and still wondering if you ever charged up the mAT 705!!

    72 and Happy New Years!
    Scott / KN3A

    1. Hi, Scott!

      Yes, I need more KN3A in the logs as well! I’ve been watching for you in the spots when I’m at the radio too! 🙂
      I still have the IC-705–doubt I’ll ever get rid of it! I just haven’t had it in the field in a few weeks. Hmmm…might even be an upcoming field report with it. Honestly, I can’t remember! 🙂

      Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!


  2. Merry Christmas to you and your family Thomas. Love your blog and real time videos. Hope to work you sometime when I learn KO4DNI

    1. Thank you, Lee! It would be an honor to work you in CW. I’m happy to slow to a speed with which you’re comfortable. You can do it!
      Merry Christmas!

  3. Many thanks for sharing your POTA/SOTA experiences through your many excellent videos. They are both informative and inspiring.

    I have a friend who is quite an active POTA activator who was a die-hard SSB-only operator and your videos encouraged him to relearn CW. He is now confident enough to do CW POTA activations.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family and best wishes for 2023 !


    Michael VE3WMB

    P.S. I only discovered that you were here in Ottawa this summer after watching your video on the Hogs Back Park POTA activation. Had I known you were in town I would have popped out to say hello in person.

    1. Thank you Michael–I especially thank you for mentioning that your friend found my content informative–there’s no bigger compliment in my world.

      And yes, how we LOVE Ottawa. No doubt, we’ll return again before long. So many more parks around there I want to hit!

      Merry Christmas to you and yours and a very Happy New Year!


  4. Merry Christmas, Thomas, along with all the readers here. We hams are a peculiar bunch, and the QRP subset is more peculiar still. The satisfaction of making the most of our pipsqueak signals is hard to describe, though you rise to the challenge.

    I’d like to echo your recommendation on the QRP Labs QCX rigs. I have had lots of fun with them, from the build to the alignment to the eventual on-air experience. Add a battery harvested from discarded electronics, a home-brew end-fed half-wave with scrap cat5 wire and ferrites harvested from an old monitor cable, and a home-brew key from scraps, and you have a complete station for well under $200. Most importantly, you can do all of this with your own two hands and derive even more satisfaction than QRP alone. What an amazing hobby we have!

    1. Hear, hear, Steve! You’re absolutely right: today it’s so easy to spend very little, assemble a kit radio, build everything else from scraps and play some serious radio!

      Thanks so much for your kind comment and here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

  5. Definitely captures the spirit of QRP and POTA/SOTA and portable operating in general – love it!

    Still hoping to find you on the air, maybe a TR-45L to TR-45L QSO.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    1. Oh now I do like the idea of a TR-45L to TR-45L QSO, Alan! Especially if P2P, but I’m happy with Shack-To-Park too. 🙂 Let’s make that happen in 2023.

      Thank you and here’s wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas!

  6. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to Thomas and all my friends here on this blog! Thanks for all the POTA contacts in 2022.


  7. Merry Christmas Thomas and to all who read this, may Peace be with you.

    Teddy Roosevelt was definitely a boss! I’m sure he’d be a Ham, and probably a chart topping POTA and SOTA activator, had he been around in our time.


    1. I agree, Matt! 🙂

      Thank you and here’s wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and 2023 filled with Peace.

  8. Great article, fully agree!
    For decades, my only radio activly used was the trusty 703, it had followed the FT-7 (which I still regret to have sold). There was my father’s FT-890AT sitting aside for years and now a 7300 brings the occasional new DX where the 5 or 10W into the simple wire antennas I can only put up due to my living situation just don’t crack the pile-up. But in the end, I take the most out of a chat at the edge of the urban noise, decode a new GQRP or FISTS-number and know another ham by name and qth. And it will be the 703 again to accompany me through GQRP winter sports.
    73 from Berlin, Merry Christmas and looking forward to reading more from you!
    Tom, dm4ea

    1. Thank you, Tom! What a great comment. Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas in beautiful Berlin. Please enjoy some Weihnachts Chocolade in my honor! One of my favorite Christmas treats in Germany!


  9. A Happy Christmas to everyone.

    QRP has been my passion for more than 40 years
    From the HW8 I built (and still have) through the Elecraft K1, K2, K3 I built plus the KX2 and many single band Xtal controlled cw rigs and an 817 in the mix, I’ve now arrived at perhaps the pinnacle of QRP rigs — the ICOM IC-705 .
    Honestly, I get fun making contacts on any of those rigs.
    You don’t need the ‘top of the range’ to make contacts and have fun 🙂
    Just enjoy the hobby at whatever stage you are at.
    Bruce G4ABX

    1. I fully agree, Bruce. Thank so much for sharing your comment and here’s wishing you and yours a very Happy Christmas!


  10. Thank you for this great post, Thomas! And thank you for all of the videos- I think I’ve seen them all. As an avid QRPer myself since 1974, the videos make my day. Perhaps one day I’ll snag you on a POTA / SOTA QSO. Merry Christmas!

    72 de WI2C
    John Fleischmann
    On the Isle of Long
    LICW #91

    1. Hi, John,

      It would be great indeed to log you someday soon! I’m sure in 2023! Thanks so much for your kind comment and have a very Merry Christmas!


  11. Those three appear to be very fun little radios and I have been watching FB Marketplace, eBay, and possible estate sales for one. I also bought a ticket to HamCation in February which means I haven’t been to a hamfest or convention for over 25 years, LOL.

    I see POTA and SOTA as reviving interest in CW which was declining since my XYL and son got their Codeless Technician tickets in 2001.

    72, Dave – KU9L

    1. I agree with you, Dave. I think POTA has had a HUGE impact on the number of CW ops out there. A very, very good thing! 🙂

      Have fun at Hamcation. I don’t think I can make it this year as I’ve got a conflict. I had planned to make this my first one. Report back! 🙂


  12. Happy Christmas.
    I love your presentations of how you set up, and demos of different products. To be honest I dislike CW so I do skip past most of that part of presentations but and that is a big but I really like your explanations of how where why you set up for communications. Excellent !!!! Happy Holidays and all the best in the New Year. AC5VB

    1. Ha ha! Fair enough–I’m so glad you enjoy the portions of the video you do. Soon, I’ll be posting an all-SSB activation I did last month!

      Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!


  13. A wonderful post, Thomas.
    It is so easy to get caught in the newest/best race in life. Nice to have a reminder that simplicity can be a goal in itself.

  14. Very true, as we are edging into the 1929-35, it is a good thing to appreciate what you have and to make the most of it. That’s what attracted me to CW and QRP in particular, both very minimalist and a powerful combination. I love the FDR quote and the song of the time “Happy days are here again…”

    Joe – 72/73 es Merry Xmas de AI5DD

    1. A very Happy Christmas and New Year to you, Joe! I look forward to many, many more Q’s in 2023!

  15. It’s a great article Tom, thank you.

    I bought my 817 so long ago that I can’t remember when, but I remember being so disappointed that no-one seemed to be able to hear me. That really set me back and I moved away from HF and CW to do other things.

    But these days SOTA, POTA, WWFF etc give the focus that QRPers need. Call from a place that everyone wants to work and that same radio setup that caused disappoinemt in the past is all that’s needed to make all the contacts you want.

    Thanks for flying the QRP flag so well.

    1. Very good point, Ciemon. “Being the DX” has such a positive impact on wee QRP signals. It truly opens the door to amazing contacts and DX.

      Thank you so much for the kind comment and all the best to you and yours!

      Thomas K4SWL / M0CYI

  16. Yep, us QRP ops quickly realize dont need much to have QSOs.

    I like responding to a CQ with my QRP power and find the other end running like 500W and 3 ele beam at 60ft. Of course his antenna aided me also.

    The other part of QRP is one does not need much to be out in the wild, dont need a big generator or huge battery with 100W rig, can easily carry all needed in a bag.

    Have a very merry Christmas and good new year.

    73, ron, n9ee

    1. I do get a real thrill out of making the odd QRP (non-POTA/SOTA) contact and when asked about my power I tell them 5 watts and hear their reaction. 🙂

      Have a very Merry one, Ron, and a Happy New Year!


  17. I too am looking for a TR-45L to TR-45L QSO with you in the new year.

    Merry Christmas from your friend in the foothills.
    Max – WG4Z

    1. Let’s do it, Max!
      Have a very Merry Christmas, friend, and please send your Mom Christmas greetings on my behalf!


  18. Thanks for that post Thomas, it’s good to be reminded sometimes how much we can do with what we have, no matter how simple. A simple cw kit on one band with a piece of wire, battery, and a key can get us communicating/activating. It may be more challenging, but it can be more fulfilling when we succeed. I’m reminded of how much fun Adam in California seems to have with the tiny kit with everything that fits in an altoid tin. It’s not all about fancy equipment.

    Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and happy New Year.


  19. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year to you and your family Thomas. Thanks for all you do for the hobby. I hope to work you on CW some day soon, perhaps TR-45L to TR-45L.
    We’re in the midst of a wicked blizzard and our power went out about an hour ago.
    Brent VA3YG

    1. Sin electricidad… El momento perfecto para QRP :),
      Power out…, Perfect for QRP 🙂 …,
      Merry Christmas

    2. Hi, Brent, I hope that the lack of power at least opened up some QRM-free conditions at home to play radio from a battery. 🙂 Stay safe out there–this winter system is a bit of a beast. I hope your power is restored soon. And, yes, a TR-45L to TR-45L contact would be brilliant!
      Merry Christmas, OM!

      1. During this blackout, I have the house connected to my F150 hybrid Powerboost. The battery in the hybrid is running everything in the house. Truck idles for 5 mins, shuts off and doesn’t start up again for 30+ minutes, then idles for less than 5 minutes and shuts off…..etc. Amazing technology….

        Brent VA3YG

  20. From Maine, Merry Christmas to you and to your many, many fans. I very much appreciate these communiqués all year ‘round.

    Here’s to a safe and happy New Year of QRP and CW efforts!

    Susan, WB2UQP

  21. Wonderful Christmas Eve blog post. I subscribe totally to your “make do (happily) with less” philosophy. And have for many years. The sooner we apply that shown in quotes, the sooner we will find inner peace. At least I have found that to be the case and have been removing “clutter”, in all it’s forms, from my life for years. Hope you had a peaceful Christmas.

    73/72 de F8WBD

    1. Thank you, Richard! Here’s wishing you and yours the best of the Holiday Season and a Peaceful New Year!

    1. Thank you, Robert, and here’s wishing you and yours the best of the Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

  22. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Thomas to you and your family.

    Interestingly as I age I want less, not more! Lockdown changed things for me with the realisation that now I had time to play with all my stuff I didn’t actual play with a lot of it!

    Whilst I would like an FT-101D, it is unlikely to make me happier, especially as buyers remorse set in.

    I’m not totally QRP but I get a wee thrill out of QRP contacts. In this case less is certainly more!

    1. Thank you, Gavin, and here’s wishing you and yours the best of the Holiday Season and a Happy New Year!

    1. Oh I do love that take on TR’s famous quote!!! Thank you for sharing, Bill, and here’s wishing you an amazing 2023, OM!


  23. Oh, bravo, Tom! Couldn’t ask for a better message to send us all into a new year!

    I hope everyone’s Christmas was as merry as ours was, and that we all enjoy many more!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.