This Page is dedicated to Ham Contesting, which has become a very active part of Ham Radio, and a major interest of mine. There are many contests, using all modes and most frequency Bands, although the “WARC” Bands are normally reserved as a refuge for those not interested in Contesting. My primary interests currently are State-level and US/North America-level contests. I operate some of the International DX Contests, but my current Station does not make me very competitive in those. I still enjoy getting on the Air for the big ones to get some practice and to pick up some Countries for awards.
Among my favorite Contests are the ARRL November Sweepstakes (especially CW) and the North American QSO Parties. Sweepstakes is loved by many and disliked by others, mainly because of the long information exchange that is part of each QSO. In contrast, the North American QSO Parties (NAQP) have short exchanges including your Name.
I added a calendar to this Page with some of the upcoming contests. You can also check out this Contest Calendar Site to see the latest activities.
State QSO Parties
A great place to start out in Contesting is by participation in one of the many State-level Contests or “QSO Parties.” Most States have a Contest weekend for their QSO Party and some of the smaller States have pooled their resources, making for some interesting multi-State QSO Party weekends. Unlike some of the Big International contests, State QSO Parties are generally more casual and friendly. Most include Phone, CW, and some Digital mode operating options. Each State has their own rules, and they differ quite a bit. Best advice would be to pick an upcoming QSO Party and spend a little time getting familiar with their rules well before the Weekend comes.
I have been very active in recent years in the Virginia QSO Party (VAQP), operating from my Home Station, from a Mobile Station, and recently from an Expedition Station. In VAQP, and Expedition is a portable/mobile station that is operated from multiple locations, and can be setup similarly to a Fixed station at each location. If you are interested, you can learn more about VAQP at this Site.
Contest Logging Software
Nearly all Contesters today use a computer with a Contest Logging Program. Some use only the bare bones of Callsign and Exchange logging, while many have their Contest operations heavily automated. My operating lies somewhere in between, but I have been gradually adding more automation over time. The one remaining area that needs work at my QTH is antenna switching automation.
There are several good Contest Logging Programs. I will add some references for some of the more popular Contest Loggers as I get the time. I primarily use N1MM+ for most contests and also use N3FJP Logging Software for some Contests and for day-to-day logging of non-contest QSOs.
What Attracts Hams to Contesting?
Contesting activity attracts Hams for many reasons. Some are just plain competitive and want to compete and win (plaques, certificates, bragging rights, etc.). But contesting also provides a chance to Log new Countries, Counties, Grid Squares, etc. and Contests provide a great opportunity to improve your Station and operating skills. My interest is a combination of these, with a primary interest in building and testing antennas, and assembling and improving a Station full of contesting hardware and software.