Sunday, April 8, 2012

30 Days — 30 Ham Radio Contesting Tips

30 Days — 30 Ham Radio Contesting Tips

For September, I gave myself a challenge: post one ham radio contesting tip a day to kick off the fall contesting season. The subject matter was easy as I love contesting. The challenge was in writing thirty articles, as well as a few others, during the month instead of my normal 20-25.

What I didn’t want to do was have one article with a simple listing of 30-tips. I wanted to go into a little more depth with each of the tips so that some reasoning and explanation could take place.

But, it’s tough to scroll through the entire month of September to find those tips, so I’m consolidating them here.

Thanks for all of your comments and writing references to these articles; I really appreciate it.

30 Ham Radio Contesting Tips:

Schedule your Contests. The really great thing about contesting is they are regularly scheduled — regardless of great propagation, DXpeditions or the mood of the sun.

Create a contest goal. Goals are good and help motivate you while participating.

Contest on your terms. Contest for and be motivated by your reasons. Not everyone is out to win the contest; it could be you want to learn a new mode.

Have an operating plan. Having a plan provides you guidance for the contest and a baseline to compare against reality in the midst of battle.

Test equipment before the contest. You do want your stuff to work, right?

Update Multiplier Files. Downloading the latest ensures you won’t miss a juicy multiplier during the contest.

Read the contest rules. You’d be surprised how often this bites you — even experienced contesters.

Work a contest one month before the real contest. The sun rotates once a month (27 days)…so work a contest the month before to experience the propagation you will have before the one you really want to concentrate on later.

Test ergonomics. Sitting in a chair contesting a long while will test how well your station is laid out for operating.

Have a guest op checklist. What should you bring as a guest op?

Compete with a partner. Work a contest with someone in your club (together or at your individual stations). Discuss what worked and what didn’t about the contest.

Review Newsletter for Contest DXpeditions. Lots of people travel for contests. Make sure you take a look at the list from your favorite ham radio newsletter.

Have propagation plan. Propagation programs can suggest what will be open where. Having a propagation plan can give you a guide while contesting.

Filter your packet connection. If the contest allows packet, filter the connection to match up with your station.

Accurate logging. A contest is about working stations — and logging them accurately. If you don’t you get penalized.

Send in your log. Even if you didn’t work many stations, you can help the contest by sending in your log to help enable log checking.

Logbook of The World. Want to reduce your QSL’ing chores for contests? Submit your log to Logbook of The World for instant confirmations for you and the people you contact.

Review UBN’s. Uniques, Busted, and Not in the Log. It’s how your log is viewed for accuracy.

Have a QSL System. Even if you use Log of the World, contesters get a lot of QSL card requests. Have a system for processing them.

Use a grey line map. Grey line propagation is the cat’s meow. Having a visual representation of where the grey line is right now can help you point your antennas the right way.

Learn a single band. Want to learn propagation on a band fast? Do a contest on a single band. You’ll learn.

Challenge your operating skill with QRP. Get frustrated fast. Operate a contest QRP from your station. Then learn how to get through the mess for points. It will make you a better operator.

Do an After Action Review. Did we achieve our goal, what went right, what could be improved. Record the results for the next contest.

Join a contesting club. Amp up your contesting knowledge and motivation.

Learn from contesting pros. They are out there. They can teach you a lot.

Leverage your strengths. Great CW operator? Great antennas? Whatever your strength, leverage it for the contest.

Go on a contesting DXpedition. Even if it is to a different state. It’s a very different experience and will teach you a lot.

Practice CW before contests. Notice how much better you are at CW at the end of the contest compared to the start? You need to practice before the contest.

Participate on a contesting team. Many contests offer team (versus club) entries. Join a team to up your motivation for the contest.

Find joy in contesting. It’s there. You know it. Go find it.

There are many more contesting tips, of course. But thirty to start out the fall contesting season seemed like the right number for me.

I had great fun writing these. Enjoy the resource.

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