30 Ham Radio Contest Tips — Have a QSL system

QSL CardThis month, I’m providing a ham radio contest tip-a-day (along with other posts) to help you trigger your own contesting activities.

Today’s tip: have a QSL system.

One of the side effects of contesting is that you can generate a lot of QSL card requests from other hams who want a card from your station. Whether it is for reasons of DX, county hunting, state confirmation, prefix collecting — there are a hundred reasons — contesters get QSL cards.

Consequently, it is important to have a well thought out system for working the QSL process. Your system needs to address several areas:

Logbook of The World. The Logbook of the World service enables you to electronically confirm contacts with other stations. As I noted in “30 Ham Radio Tips — Logbook of The World,” there are some very good reasons for electronically submitting your log to this service as it reduces incoming QSL requests.

This means it is important that you have gone through the LoTW setup process, gotten your certificate, and have a log program that will format up your contesting logs into a LoTW format so you can submit them after the contest.

Direct Cards. Many stations, especially if your station is a new “something” for them, will send you cards directly. Here you need to ensure you have the right stuff to process them: Your QSL cards, envelopes, stamps, a logging program that will identify the sent and receive dates for the QSL card so you have tracking, and knowing how to process International Reply Coupons with your post office.

Bureau Cards. By far, the greatest number of QSL cards come through the worldwide bureau systems. The process is different than direct cards in that you don’t want to send bureau cards back directly to the stations as it will break your local bank.

Utilizing a bureau service, such as that provided by the ARRL here in the United States, means that you have to get the cards lined up by their rules and then be prepared to ship them off to the bureau for processing.

There is also a new service available that addresses bureau cards called Global QSL. All you need to do with this service (after creating an account and purchasing the cards) is upload your ADIF file to them and they will process all of the cards in the file. Simple and straightforward — and making bureau cards much easier to handle for the contester.

QSL cards are a fact of contesting. Having a QSL system in place for your station will ensure that the process is handled efficiently.

Scot, K9JY