Ham radio contesting on your terms

We’re coming to the end of the major contests this spring ham radio contesting season. Did you contest on your terms?

It is an important question because contesting is a diverse activity within the ham radio hobby. For example, this year we have the Triple Play Award offered up by the American Radio Relay League. Contesting on your terms could mean that you contest only to work and confirm new states for the Triple Play Award. You don’t worry about your score or winning your division or how well your station is working. Instead, you contest on your terms and search for stations that help you win the award.

Think a bit on how ham radio contesting on your terms can help focus your efforts in the hobby.

Ham radio contesting shows station performance

Contesting quickly tests anything you need to in the shack. Want to test that new 40-meter antenna? Enter a ham radio contest as a single band entry on 40-meters. Want to see how that 40-meter band works DX? Make sure you enter as a single band entry in a DX contest.

Ham radio contesting helps you learn software

Want to find out all the new features and roles of a software program that interacts with your radio? Enter a contest using the software (contesting or not) and you will soon find out how everything works. Or doesn’t work. When you are under the gun in a contest, learning happens quickly compared with the stoic pace of casual conversations.

Ham radio contesting helps you increase your Morse code speed

Work a CW contest and watch your code speed increase about 10-WPM. Nothing is better than trying to copy code in a crowded band with many stations running!

Contest on your terms

This is not to say that you shouldn’t go out and try to win a contest. There are many people who do just that. But contesting is a diverse activity and one that can help you focus on the hobby without going after the “win” for the contest. Instead, use contests as ways to learn, test and increase your operating ability to get you out of your comfort zone.

Have you been contesting on your terms? If not, you still have some time before the end of the spring contesting season.


Thanks for endorsing doing just the contesting one wants to do. In contests I only dabble in, I submit my score under the – Underachievers Contest Club. That’s for when I only make a small number of QSOs. A sense of humor is important in contesting as it keeps me from getting too serious and too frustrated. As far as contests and equipment performance, I was outdoors and got to try out a 250 foot longwire as a sloper up 100 feet in a tree. It gave me the chance to see what DX I could work, as plenty of DX was on. I was also able to try out a mic that I got repaired recently. While a CW contest may get me to send faster than I usually would, it takes me longer to copy the callsigns of the stations I end up working. Those I can copy, I try working, those I can’t I have to pass on. I’ve found a couple of code copying brush ups before a contest improves the speed I can copy at. 73 – K6BBQ

@K6BBQ — All good thoughts here. These are perfect examples of what a contest can do for you even though you are not necessarily “in the contest.” Thanks for the comment; it is appreciated.

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