Pronounced “Q SO party,” a State QSO Party refers to a contest where you try to work as many stations as possible in a specific state or group of states. They last for a specific weekend and are held all year long. You can see a full list of them on the WA7BNM State QSO Parties Calendar page. Here are some maps for various parties - check this link for updates.
Contesting is a competitive HAM activity enjoyed by many HAM radio operators. In a contest, an amateur radio station, which may be operated by an individual or a team, seeks to contact as many other amateur radio stations as possible in a given period of time and then exchange certain information. There are rules for each contest like which radio bands, the mode used and the kind of information that must be exchanged. Each station keeps a log of their contacts (usually using Contesting Software) which is uploaded to the contest sponsor once the contest ends. Stations are scored on their contacts and ranked in order of total points. Contest sponsors publish the results in magazines and on web sites. It's best to watch someone else contest if this interests you. This wiki page will give you more information.
ARRL’s most popular award is the Worked All States Award. Two-way communication must be established on amateur bands with each state. Any or all bands may be used (with the exception of 60 Meters). A good way to contact others is to look at the State QSO calendar and work those states on those weekends. There's a great article here and another one here if you want to know more.
Sponsored by the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU), the Worked All Continents award is issued for working and confirming all six continents. These are North America, South America, Oceania, Asia, Europe and Africa.
Summits On The Air (SOTA) is an award scheme for radio amateurs that encourages portable operation in mountainous areas. But, this is not just for mountaineers! There are awards for activators (those who ascend to the summits) and chasers (who either operate from home, a local hilltop or are even Activators on other summits. SOTA offers a variety of awards for working or activating designated summits but the two main awards are: Shack Sloth (for obtaining 1000 points by contacting summits) and Mountain Goat (for obtaining 1000 points by activating summits). There is a points system that relates to the elevation of the mountain, with higher summits generally having more points. Check out "Find A High Spot For VHF" by Bob Witte, KØNR. Bob has also written a great article about both SOTA and POTA - see the POTA secion below for the link.
If you enjoy the great outdoors, Parks on the Air (POTA) might be a fun thing to do. POTA promotes communications from national/federal and state/provincial level parks. There are thousands of parks available in the program and each will present a unique experience. Bob KØNR has written a great article that you might want to check out: "More On SOTA and POTA." provides opportunities to advance your portable deployment skills, win awards, ragchew with like-minded Hams, take in some spectacular views, and maybe get a dose of Vitamin D in the process.
U.S. Islands Awards Program (USI) is an amateur radio award program centered around chasing and activating river, lake, and ocean shore islands within the 50 United States and its Territories and Protectorates. Island Directory.
Make a two way contact with a station in each of the 3077 counties in the United States. CQ Magazine offers a large certificate and plaque for confirmation of each of these contacts. You can find more information there at MARAC. There's tons and tons of information there. Happy Hunting! Here's a list of all the counties in the US by state. County maps are availabe here but they are not free.
Every weekend, in cities and towns all across the country, ham radio operators gather on hilltops for a very special kind of contest–the Fox Hunt. A small, low power transmitter is hidden and the rest of the crew tries to find it. Here are some links to learn more: http://www.arrl.org/grid-squares.
World Wide Flora & Fauna (WWFF) is an international organization started in 2010 that encourages hams to leave their shacks and to go outside and operate portable in protected nature parks throughout the world. WWFF has over 50 National Affiliates, like KFF in the U.S. Check out the Rules to see if this is something you'd like to try. Here's the US KFF Park-County Database Listing to help you find one near you.
ARRL had a Grid Chasing Even in 2018. It's over now but you can do your own Grid Chasing or even better, make it an event for you and your friends - maybe something for a club to do. For more information on grid squares and the Chase see http://www.arrl.org/grid-squares. You can adapt the 1983 rules to your own event or club event. Download the US Grid Square Map here.
The VUCC award is given by ARRL for contact with a minimum number of Maidenhead grid locators per band. For further explanation and information please view the VUCC Rules. Download the US Grid Square Map here.
The DXCC is an award available to hams throughout the world, granted by the ARRL, to those who can verify two-way contacts to 100 different entities from the DXCC country list. Verification can be either by QSL cards or through logs submitted to Logbook of the World, also run by the ARRL.
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