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General Contesting Tips
Home > HF Contesting > Tips and Techniques > General Contesting Tips
This page contains a variety of general Contesting Tips.
This page contains a variety of general Contesting Tips, collected from the Ham reflectors, from the Internet, from other Hams, and from my own experience. I'd like to thank everyone who has contributed, and apologise for not being able to mention all of the originators.

Want a really good station grounding system? Go to your local hardware store and buy a 12-14 inch width roll of aluminum -- the type used to put around chimneys, or used in roofing. Now ground everything by mounting on the almunium (using it as a ground plane) or grounding to it. If your desk is made out of wood, you may use a lot of self-tapping screws, but the grounding will go easily and quickly. Ground everything to eliminate hum and interstation interference.

Keep several different pairs of headphones, to relieve pressure on the ears.

Tape a piece of paper or old QSL card behind the TUNE and LOAD controls on your amp and record the setting for each band and antenna so that you don't have to do a major retune when you change bands.

When doing single op 2 radio, I use a second keyer on the second radio, so I eliminate having to throw an extra switch to change keyer/computer on main radio to 2nd radio.

Use a programmable keyboard to redefine keys so your hands don't have to move as much. For example I use a keyboard with the regular function keys on the left and the shift function keys on the top. I redefine the top function keys as such 'sf1' is equal to 'ctrl-enter' to enter station on band map, 'sf2' is equal to clear key (f11). When I am tired and S&Ping I do the 1, 2 . In other words I type the call in, I notice if it is a dupe or not and then do the sf1, sf2. (known as the 1, 2 punch). I also redefine the tab key so it equals the 'f1' key. The +/= key to equal the '+' , and 'sf12' (since it is to the right) and my 2 nd rig is to the right to equal 'alt.' which takes computer to the 2nd radio band.

Always have available a second antenna for a band. I used to use a 40 meter zepp with open wire feedline (which would load on all bands) for a secondary antenna. So when I was beaming Europe and S&Ping and came across a South American station I could work him on the zepp so I didn't have to wait to rotate.

The most valuable piece of contesting gear I have added to my shack was the most recent addition. It is a selectable 0 thru 101 Db attenuator that I use on the receive input. It has been successful in reducing contest related fatigue in a big way. The 5/10/20 db attenauators on most rigs just don't cut it. One selection is either too much or too little. I have used anywhere from 3db to 40 db depending upon the QRM levels and the band involved. It reduces noise, receiver overload, and other strong signal induced problems. I set the attenuation just enough to get the ambient band noise to the S0/S1 level and take it from there. I don't know how I got along for so long without one!

Improve your station. Learn the truth about feedline matching, antenna loss, VSWR, directivity, and gain. That means read and study. That means experiment. That means cut and try. Shrug off the myths embraced by the mediocre. Don't listen to people who tell you that 2:1 SWR is good enough because all the power goes somewhere eventually. Or that 9913 is lossless at HF. Or that a 1 dB difference in a signal is unnoticable at either end. Or that connector loss is negligable. All those statements are lies. Find out why. Work on your antennas. Nothing is perfect or stays that way. Put up new antennas. Try wires. Try loops. Try beverages. Try low-noise receive antennas. Try slopers. Try, try, try. All these antennas are relatively low-cost.

Learn your radio. All (well, most) of those knobs on your radio have a purpose. Find out what they do. Read and study the manual. Do you know where the manual is? If you can quickly set a split frequency, you might be the first to work a new station on 40m. If you learn how to use those 100+ memories efficiently, you can stack up big stations and throw your call in rapidly to 2, 5, or more stations simultaneously. Get all your filters in place. Get a voice keyer. Learn your DSP. Get a better mike. Tweak the audio until it sounds crystal clear and with all the punch of a buzz saw cutting through aluminum. Remember that setting for the contest, then turn it back to mushy so the boys on 80m don't complain.

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