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Contesting on 160m
Home > HF Contesting > Tips and Techniques > How to Contest on 160m
This page explains the special requirements of contesting on 160m.

There is usually a flurry of activity at the top of each hour when many of the m/s expeditions check 160m for 10-15 minutes or so. Those periods are generally more productive than the rest of the time, though with the increasing numbers of operators contesting on Topband, and the importance of its multipliers to a final multi-band score, there is generally some activity through out the hours of darkness.

The New England operators can hear Ireland from around 21:00 or 22:00 UTC, and will be hearing Europe all the way to about 6:00 UTC, probably around their sunrise. Best times to Europe from the US generally are from about 0000Z to 0730Z, with the British Isles and Scandinavia a bit later perhaps. A couple of years ago, they were still hearing SM's at 1040Z!!! As is well known, sunrise/sunset on either side is the best time to work anyone on 160m, so these times make sense. The times will, of course, favor the sunrise grey line in Europe.

Here's the 160m log from a well-known US multi/multi station during CQWW, which will give an idea of the times and openings they were getting. Its been re-formatted in time-order. The antenna was a 5 element (3 active elements) vertical array, and the transmit power was 1500W.

31-Oct-99  0001  184  1.839  IG9A      IG9
30-Oct-99  0005    8  1.833  PJ4B      PJ2
30-Oct-99  0006    9  1.8    KP4AAQ    KP4
30-Oct-99  0006   10  1.8    V26B      V2
30-Oct-99  0008   11  1.8    J3A       J3
30-Oct-99  0012   12  1.8    VY2SS
30-Oct-99  0015   13  1.8    YV3AZC    YV
30-Oct-99  0018   14  1.8    ZF2LA     ZF
31-Oct-99  0022  186  1.849  IH9P
30-Oct-99  0030   19  1.8    ZX0F      PY0F
31-Oct-99  0042  189  1.814  CT1EEB    CT
31-Oct-99  0120  191  1.8    TM1C      F
30-Oct-99  0155   38  1.8    VP9BO     VP9
31-Oct-99  0213  200  1.8    EA8BH     EA8
30-Oct-99  0243   53  1.8    PJ8/N7KG  PJ7
31-Oct-99  0305  211  1.8    VY2OX
30-Oct-99  0319   62  1.833  CN8WW     CN
31-Oct-99  0324  212  1.836  CQ9K      CT3
30-Oct-99  0405   83  1.838  FG5BG     FG
30-Oct-99  0412   90  1.8    K6SE
30-Oct-99  0415   91  1.835  YV2IF
30-Oct-99  0424   94  1.837  VO2CQ
30-Oct-99  0444  105  1.8    VP2MCS    VP2M
30-Oct-99  0450  109  1.834  NP2B      KP2
31-Oct-99  0507  226  1.8    EA4ML     EA
30-Oct-99  0511  110  1.835  KH6CC     KH6
30-Oct-99  0516  111  1.8    XE2/N7RK  XE
31-Oct-99  0528  227  1.8    DL7ON     DL
30-Oct-99  0535  115  1.8    VP5T      VP5
31-Oct-99  0543  228  1.8    SP3GRM    SP
30-Oct-99  0550  120  1.842  HI9/DK8YY HI
31-Oct-99  0551  229  1.8    OK1DIG    OK
30-Oct-99  0605  122  1.8    8P1A      8P
30-Oct-99  0607  123  1.8    HC8A      HC8
31-Oct-99  0611  230  1.847  J6J       J6
30-Oct-99  0700  128  1.8    P40E      P4
30-Oct-99  0702  129  1.8    XE2DV
30-Oct-99  0704  130  1.8    V47KP     V4
31-Oct-99  0705  234  1.8    TI5EBU    TI
30-Oct-99  0807  134  1.827  6D2X
30-Oct-99  0810  135  1.825  8R1K      8R
30-Oct-99  0823  140  1.825  PJ2C
30-Oct-99  0829  141  1.84   FS/K7ZUM  FJ
30-Oct-99  0834  143  1.8    XE2DN
30-Oct-99  0853  146  1.8    VP5DX
30-Oct-99  0912  148  1.847  FM5BH     FM
30-Oct-99  0912  149  1.832  VP5R
31-Oct-99  0914  241  1.838  VK3AJJ
30-Oct-99  1137  177  1.8    VK5GN     VK
31-Oct-99  2325  264  1.8    OX3LG     OX
31-Oct-99  2333  265  1.8    S57M      S5 


On phone, 1830-35 is supposed to be used for intercontinental qso's, but it often degenerates quickly and on ssb as there is really only room for 1 or 2 pileups in there anyway. Any frequency you can legally operate on between 1800-1900khz will be fine when working into the States; much higher than that and many operators may not find you so easily.

The most activity (and qrm) is usually found from about 1825-1850khz. Some countries still have smaller band restrictions so you have to dial around and work some of them where they call cq and not expect them to all come to you... changing cq frequency occasionally is also a good idea as some regions have qrm from other services that may interfere, and again some countries restrict the band more so may not be able to respond to you just anywhere on the band.

Note that not all countries have the same frequency allocations, or even allocations that overlap. For instance, Finland has 1810-1850Khz, and Japan has 1907.5-1912.5Khz. So, for an OH station to work JA, he will need to operate split-frequency, listening out of his normal allocation.

When calling CQ, you should announce that you are listening on your TX frequency and also out of band, on the other country's TX frequency.

Tom, W8JI, advises: I often hear dozens of Europeans in any SSB contest on 160 below 1850, and without fail they are under strong USA stations parked on one frequency and working only domestic contacts.

I'm sure most don't realize that makes working DX simplex on 160 during contests impossible. It is just silly to work simplex there, especially with so many wide signals and people who won't let someone else who hears the DX have a shot at it.

If the DX stations would listen up the band (USA can transmit anywhere from 1843 up to 2000), and the USA stations would stay above 1843, everyone would be much better off.

Note: A full list of World frequency Allocations can be seen on this website here.


It is useful to know when the band is open, and whether your equipment and antennas are set up correctly. If amateur stations are not available, then commercial beacons can be used to assess conditions. Here is a list of the more commonly used ones, as posted to the Topband Reflector:

FrequencyLocationPowerOther Information
1314Radio Norway500Kw 
1806.5Kiel, Germany  
1845Faroe Island100wDigital, LSB
2065Paris, France RTTY
2163.7Portsmouth, UK  
2805Polder, Netherlands Not always QRV
2834NE England  
1803.5NE Africa  
1615Nadzab, PNG50-100wCW id = NZ
1623Gurney, PNG50-100wCW id = GNY
1632Mt Robinson, PNG50-100wCW id = OKT
1642Moro, PNG50-100wCW id = MOR
1662Pt Moresby, PNG50-100wCW id = KUB
1689Mt Hagen, PNG50-100wCW id = MH
1692Kuiuga, PNG50-100wCW id = KIU
1725Goroka, PNG50-100wCW id = GA
1737Kutubu, PNG50-100wCW id = KUT
1816.5Hawks Bay, New Zealand  
1817New Zealand GPS correction station
1818.5Cooks Strait  
1819New Zealand GPS correction station
2310Alice Springs, Australia  
Middle East
1521Saudi Arabia200Kw 
2340Fuzho, China  
2445Nanchang, China  
2460Kumming, China  
2475Hangzhou, China  
2560Urumqi, China  
Thanks to N4GG, N1EU, W8JI, P29KFS, OY9JD, W2PM, W7AWA, KN4LF, LA5HE and others.
Receiving Antennas

The old statement remains as true as ever - 'If you can't hear them, you can't work them.' There are plenty of resources on the net covering the design and construction of specialist receiving antennas, so I won't bother duplicating them here. A quick search will do wonders, if you look for the following:

  • Beverage
  • K9AY Loop
  • Pennant Antenna
  • Flag Antenna

Don't forget to erect receiving antennas in as many directions as possible.

Other Tips

Its useful to keep a band map of who is where so you can check back and try to catch a DX station that faded out when you tried them earlier. It also helps to know the second night just who is active that you still need.

It helps to know when to CQ and when to be tuning for others CQing.

Some operators try to tune the 1810-1850 segment constantly unless they are CQing. When the band is really open to Europe, they'll listen in a wider segment than that. They'll call CQ anytime they think they are hearing the "second layer" of EU stations because US stations usually pretty loud in Europe and they have good listening conditions as well.

Listen, listen, listen. Learn to switch your RX antennas often - your ears and RX antennas are the best indicators of propagation. You will hear stations working DX you cannot hear but be patient.Propagation may shift to you eventually.

Transmit using your allowed power to a vertical of any kind with a good ground. Other antennas will sometimes work but a vertical has proven itself to be best overall on 160.

An Expert Speaks..

The following is from an email sent by I4JMY to the 'CQ Contest' email group..

In the last 10 years I used to work split during my 160m ssb contests from IR4T when conditions allowed Eu-Na traffic. I found this way much more effective for me: better reception, and good to speed up operations since I wasn't blanked by forever callers on the other side of the atlantic ocean. I got anyway the feeling I was one of the very few ones doing that, and that such *technique* wasn't so much appreciated.... A number of US station did reply on my TX frequency although I asked not to do (it happens on 80m too) and some envy Eu station jammed on my RX spot. My fear is that according to the new ARRL bandplan most of the Eu stations, before spreaded from 1820 to 1850 will now park and fight for a *place under the sun* between 1843 and 1850 with the pathetic hope to hold a good frequency for continental traffic and for to avoid split operations with the intercontinental one. The same thoughts will be in north America. In facts this area will be probably *owned* by known big MM ones and this congested situation is going to be surely enforced if some cw *enthusiast* will patrol 1830-1840 during contests to quarrel with the SSB operators to kich them away, although no real cw traffic can take place in that moments. If true that the 160m band is wide, it's also true that the largest majority of operators deals with narrow band antennas hat are not so much flexible for TX operations. (even my 2 elements yagi has a noticeable F/B derate upper than 1870..... but luckily there are beverages).

Adding that most of the intercontinental traffic is confined around 1820-1850, no matter the mode, it's quite evident that most antennas are tuned there. Considering that international allocations for hams on 160 largely vary around the world but again meets in such *slice*, practically speaking that part of the band is the common area for a vast majority of people, an area that has to be shared with intelligence and realism.

Talking about international contests, very few ones are really worth for a paying SSB traffic (I won't lose my time on 160 during a WPX for example) and it's probably wise to realize that during contest it's needed ......to be more realistic than ever.
73, Mauri I4JMY

Canadian Bandplan

The following was seen on the RAC website:

160 Metre Band - Maximum bandwidth 6 kHz
1.800 to 1.820 MHz - CW
1.820 to 1.830 MHz - Digital Modes
1 830 to 1.840 MHz - DX Window
1.840 to 2.000 MHz - SSB and other wide band modes
1 - 1.800 to 1.820 - CW Only (no SSB contest use)
2 - 1.820 to 1.830 - CW DXing (Canadians may call CQ)
3 - 1.830 to 1.835 - CW and SSB DXing (Listen for DX stations, do not call CQ)
4 - 1.835 to 1.840 - SSB DXing (Canadians may call CQ)
5 - 1.840 to 1.860 - SSB and CW
6 - 1.860 to 1.905 - SSB (some CW contest use)
7 - 1.905 to 1.915 - JA - DX Listening Window
8 - 1.915 to 1.930 - Digital Modes
9 - 1.930 to 2.000 - SSB, AM, SSTV and other wide band modes (no contest use)

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