QRPp: Activate a park with ⅒ of a watt–? I had to at least try!

In my last published field report, you might recall that I successfully activated a park using 500 milliwatts or ½ of a watt. I was so surprised by the results of using this QRPp power level I immediately made plans to push the power level even lower during my next activation.

Let’s face it, I was drunk with a lack of power!

QRPp

After my last field report, there were quite a few questions about the term QRPp and what it means. To be honest, I’m not sure if there’s an “official” definition, but here’s what is widely accepted as QRP power categories:

  • QRP: 5 watts to 1 watt (for some contest 10 watts = SSB QRP)
  • QRPp: Less than 1 watt to 100 mw
  • QRPpp: Less than 100mw

I don’t own a field radio that allows me to lower the output power to QRPpp levels. In fact, few of my radios actually allow me to lower power below one watt.

 

My Elecraft radios, however, do allow me to lower power output to as low as 0.1 watts or 100 milliwatts.

The plan

On Wednesday, December 7, 2022, my travel schedule shifted and it opened up the entire afternoon to play radio.

A rarity indeed!

It was very rainy and foggy that day and I didn’t have my ENO rain fly with me, so I decided to visit a park with a good picnic shelter to keep me, an my gear, nice and dry.

Fort Dobbs State Historic Site (K-6839)

I had four park options with covered picnic shelters within a 45 minute drive. I decided that I would try to activate Fort Dobbs State Historic (since it had been a couple months since I’d visited) and Lake Norman State Park would be my back-up plan.

Fort Dobbs is a small park, so I called in advanced and asked for permission to do the activation and also asked if their picnic shelter was reserved.

The rangers there know me, so the phone call was pretty quick–no need to explain POTA nor my motivations. They told me that on rainy/foggy December days they have so few guests that I was welcome to use the picnic shelter or even the entire park if I wished (perhaps an ideal time to erect a Rhombic antenna–okay, just kidding!).

The Dobbs park rangers an volunteers are the best!

Setting up

On the way to the site, I decided that I would deploy my MM0OPX end-fed half-wave I’d cut for 40 meters.

I needed to make the most of my 100 milliwatts, so I figured the MM0OPX EFHW would be the best antenna for the job.

Deploying the antenna was a wee bit tricky. As I demonstrate  in the activation video (see below) I actually had to launch the throw line quite high into a tree next to the shelter. This was one of those rare occasions that my 25 meter throw lines wouldn’t have been long enough. It took two tries with the throw line (off camera) but I did manage to snag the best tree limb.

One thing that would have helped the antenna would have been a proper counterpoise or a long feed line (since end-feds use the RG-316 shield as counterpoise). Unfortunately, I only had a 10-12′ length of feedline–too short, but then again EFHWs are pretty darn forgiving.

Gear:

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A few notes about QRPp operation

I decided to start my 100 mW activation on the 20 meter band. If you watch the video, you’ll note that I moved around a bit before finding a good calling frequency. That is to be expected when operating QRPp.

I do have some potentially helpful advice should you decide to go QRPp someday:

  • Since your power output is so low, you really do want to find a clear spot on the dial giving your activation wide berth. Even if my KX2 has no problem operating only 0.5 kHz away from another station (receiver-wise) the other station may wipe out or QRM my puny signal on the hunter’s side.  It’s much better to space yourself a good 1 kHz+ away from other stations if possible.
  • You may find that someone starts operating right on top of you even after you listened and called “QRL?” before sending CQ. This is because the other station simply can’t hear you. Just QSY!
  • In fact, many of the hunters searching for you have noise levels at home that are S5 or higher. If your QRPp signal is 529, they’re not going to hear you through the noise.
  • Of course, to make the most of your wee wattage, choose an efficient antenna. It’ll be doing the heavy lifting.

That said, it was time to see if I could log ten contacts and validate this activation with 100 mW!

On the Air

After moving around a bit to find a nice clear spot, I started calling CQ POTA on the 20 meter band. I was going to be patient knowing that not many would hear my signal.

My first contact was my friend Bob (WC1N)! What a brilliant think to work POTA royalty with 100 mW!

Then, the stations kept coming in. I was floored!

In ten minutes, I logged ten stations.

Seriously!

This really surprised me. The signal reports were all pretty low 529/539 etc. but golly! It actually worked!

Here are my first ten contacts (click image to enlarge). I should buy them all a beer:

What fun!

After validating this activation, I then pumped up the power to five watts. As much as I loved playing with 100 mW, I wanted to give hunters a chance to work me in case they haven’t yet worked someone at K-6839.

I continued working 20 meters for a while, then moved up to 17 meters where I increased power to 10 watts.

Next, I moved down to 40 meters and decreased power back down to 5 watts.

In the end, I worked a total of 65 stations in 82 minutes.

It was such a luxury not being pressed for time.

QSO Maps

Here’s what this activation looked like when plotted out on a QSO Map (click image to enlarge).

In case you’re wondering, here’s the map of my first ten 100 mW contacts on 20 meters:

Activation Video

Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation.  As with all of my videos, I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. In addition, I have monetization turned off on YouTube, although that doesn’t stop them from inserting ads before and after my videos.

Note that Patreon supporters can watch and even download this video 100% ad-free through Vimeo on my Patreon page:

Click here to view on YouTube.

The real hero here

Let’s face it: super low-power activations like this put all of the burden on the antenna.

Obviously, the MM0OPX end-fed half-wave antenna is extremely efficient and effective. I know Colin’s focus with this particular design was efficiency; he obviously achieved it.

As I mentioned in a previous field report, Colin does sell these antennas, but only in small batches. This is more a labor of love for him rather than a business. In addition, at time of posting, I believe he may pause the business for a few weeks due to an injury to his hand. I assume Colin may have a wait list; you might drop him an email if interested (use his address on QRZ.com).

Thank You & Happy New Year!

I pushed this field report to the front of the line because I wanted to kick-off 2023 with a little QRPp and the longest activation video I’ve published to date.

I hope you enjoy my field reports and my activation videos as much as I enjoyed creating them. It’s a pleasure to share my field experiences with you and I appreciate the fact you accompany me.

Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support.

Thanks for spending part of your day with me and here’s wishing you a Peaceful, Happy, Prosperous, and Radio-Active New Year!

Best & 72,

Thomas (K4SWL)

32 thoughts on “QRPp: Activate a park with ⅒ of a watt–? I had to at least try!”

  1. Happy New Year Thomas.
    This all sounded like lots of fun. My experience has shown that it takes an equally good or better operator and station on the receiving end of your tx to copy your weak signal. I know I, ironically, have a very tough time with weak signals and have much respect for those ops who can copy and understand QRPp/QRPpp signals.

    73
    Brent VA3YG

    1. 100%, Brent! It takes a patient op on the other end that is will to listen to a weak signal in the band noise.

  2. Happy New Year! So nice to get you in my POTA log when I was at the historic Twin Lights K-0180.

    For QRPpp, you could use the TR-45L, I think it dials down to near zero. Of course, you’ll have to measure it to verify.

    Another option is to use an inline attenuator with your other rigs…

    72 es HNY

    1. Great points, Alan. I might try going QRPp next time I take the TR-45L out.

      It was brilliant working you the other day and what a gorgeous site you had there! Happy New Year, OM!
      Thomas

  3. You, my friend, have been watching too many K6ARK videos!

    Adam (K6ARK) has proven the concept. If he could, and probably will, he’ll utilize a coin battery, paperclip, foil gum wrapper, a crystal, and barbwire fence somewhere and yak to EU.

    Don’t get too weird, ok? QRPp (you need an intervention!)

    Hi Hi! de W7UDT

    1. Adam is certainly a legend. Funny, but I watch very, very few Ham Radio YouTube videos. This has mostly to do with a lack of free time on my end. I do know that Adam is a master of micro kits and using flea power, though! Great guy.

      Don’t get too weird? Ha ha! My wife would tell you I’m beyond that point already.

      HNY!
      Thomas

    1. Thank you. I was simply using the power output level of the KX2. I didn’t have a meter between the antenna output and antenna.

  4. A very cool report! Sometimes extra low QRP happens by chance, or forgetfulness. I was hiking the Bruce Trail last fall, VE-5628, intending to do a POTA activation with my FT-818. After setting up above a waterfall, I went to plug in my Bioenno battery and realized I’d forgotten it at home! I was able to run off internal AA batteries at 2.5 watts, well below the usual 6w and got 11 contacts in under an hour on SSB, spread around NE North America. QRP rules!

    1. Woo hoo! I’ve done the same thing with my FT-817ND. Once I did a full (and active) SOTA activation thinking my external battery was connected, but it wasn’t. I dod the whole thing with 2.5 watts! :). QRP does rule!

  5. A very cool report indeed, it is not too often we can talk and read about the QRp/QRPp.

    So Here I do it regularly, and I love it.

    For your information to all the regular readers, check this:

    1- https://pa1b-qrp.blogspot.com/p/power-attenuators-for-ft-817.html

    2- https://a29.veron.nl/hams/pa1b/

    3- PA1B, Bert in Netherlands

    Read this, it is a very informative and must reading about that fun subject.

    72/73 Mike VE2TH

    The QRP’er for 60 years in 2023.

  6. As you know, Thomas, one of the many benefits of POTA is that people will listen for you if they see you spotted. Thanks for the POTA QSO’s today and yesterday BTW!

    73,
    John AE5X

    1. Absolutely. The magic in all of this is being the DX!

      And, yes, it was great working you in FL. Big signals into NC, OM!

      Cheers,
      Thomas

  7. Great post, Thanks!
    I’d add one more point to your qrpp helpful advice list: “work with the propagation gods.” Being prepared to find and use the right band can make all the difference. It’s not just the “most open band” – it’s the band that has two-way paths from you to other hams. There are lots of ways to use science and statistics and reporting sites to help you with this, but it mostly comes down to having antenna(s) that work on all bands, and willingness to keep trying until you find what works.

  8. Yep, Thomas, when going QRPppppp 🙂 you’ll want to minimize losses, this means using a resonant antenna AND one which will send your RF where you want, and, while it isn’t the case for POTA, a vertical, possibly with one or two ground radials will allow your RF to travel, such an antenna may be an EFHW deployed as a vertical (ok, almost, you got the idea) and used on its fundamental, plus a choke to avoid wasting precious RF along the coax feeder and, if possible, a run of low loss coax, that would be “magic” 😀

  9. Happy New Year, Thomas! With 100mW you may want to reconsider the rhombic idea again, but obviously there’s no urgent need to do so! 🙂

  10. Very good CW output power – signal propagation study using field results, Thomas. I can”t tell much difference in contact coverage area between 5 watts, 1 watt and 0.1 watt out (though I lack a quantitative means, other than “it looks kinda good,” to analyze such areas).
    My suggestion on what’s next would be to do the same power study using SSB; 5 or 10 watts, 1 watt, and 0.1 watt out. This would help technically resolve the question of CW or SSB for QRP beyond the anecdotal 8x better signal out with CW over SSB that we have all heard before.
    Happy New Year to that NC Witherspoon mountain clan.

  11. Terrific post!! Thanks for all the gear recommendations. I can’t believe how small that radio is in relation to how the controls look. It’s like it’s missing a whole bunch of radio behind it!

    I also appreciate the antenna recommendation. I’m always looking for something like this.

  12. Reading this makes me want to run out to my closest park and see how far I can get using 100mw on FT8. That may be my next challenge.

      1. So, I activated K-0228 yesterday using FT8 and FT4 with the KX3 at 0.1 watt on 20 meters. I got 12 QSO’s. It wasn’t easy and I had to move around the waterfall a lot to be heard, but it is possible.

  13. Talking about QRPp , the NCDXF who are still in the International Beacon Project, are doing very well everyday all arount the world with their 18 different beacons.

    It is fun to listen too, because each time each of those 18 beacons during their identification (call sign) you can hear their 4 different dashes at 100 W, 10W, 1.0 W and 0,1 W ( 100 milliwatts.

    If you can take time to listen carefully, you should be able to compare their signals for each power, Amazing how 1.0 & less often 0.1 W can be heard here at my QTH.

    Much easier because because noise free , during spare time when I play POTA.-

    Just my 5 cents Hi! Hi!

    72 Michel VE2TH

  14. Funny enough, you do have lots of radios that can go < 1w and just didn't know it. Anything with a Tayloe SWR bridge, like your ZM-2 tuner, or the one built into the Penntek, let you reduce your QRP power by a factor of 4 when in the "tune" mode. Enjoy some 250mw QRPp!

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