DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners

How to Gain an Advantage in a Pileup

How to Gain an Advantage in the Pileups (Or, how to minimize your kWh!)

by Wayne Mills, N7NG

I recently purchased a “Kill A Watt” Model P-4400 by P3 International. This device measures AC power consumption – KWH. It’s good up to 15 amps, and I intended to use it to verify the power consumption of various “green” devices. I found another use for it. Read on.

The appearance of a rare DX station on the ham bands usually results in a pileup of DXers calling the DX station in an attempt to add a band-mode counter to his or her DX total. The tactics used by these DXers is often related to the rarity of the DX station being called. The tactics used vary widely. In most cases, the effectiveness of DXer’s tactics is a function of their DXing experience.  Many less experienced operators will do things that are simply not very effective. Maybe you can take advantage of their errors to enhance your chances of landing the target.

One of the easiest ways of working DX is finding the DX before most of the other DXers. This approach involves lots of listening on the bands, of course, and is best practiced by retirees. However, watching for spots on the various alerting networks doesn’t help here.

Another way of gaining an edge is to take advantage of others’ errors; don’t make the same mistakes. Every operator who feels he absolutely must comment about something on the DX station’s frequency (“he’s listening UP. UP, UP” etc.) can be another plus for you. The more guys who are transmitting on the DX frequency, the more who AREN’T transmitting in the pileup. The more DXers who aren’t calling in the most effective manner, the better off for you. Moreover, when the DX is covered with QRM, the fewer people will actually call. I have always made it a point to call – in the pileup – during these times, even if I temporarily can’t hear the DX station. There are fewer calling, and my chances increase. Even if he comes back, and I don’t hear him initially, he will likely persist, and I will work him.  Don’t be distracted; don’t spend time chastising DXers who do stupid things like mistakenly calling on the DX frequency. Use that time to your advantage.

Listen carefully to any instructions from the DX station. If you are DXing on CW, this tip might include improving your CW skill. If you must use a code reader, learn to get more than your callsign. If you are on ‘phone of RTTY, hone your interpretation skills such that you know what the DX station is looking for. In short listen effectively. Please excuse the repetition, but listening and knowing what to listen for is the key to successful DXing.

Finally, consider whether the band conditions support your calling effort. If the DX station running power, but very weak, there are likely stations much louder than you at his location. Calling at these times is pretty much pointless.

At this point, I’ll get back to my Kill A Watt. I will try to minimize the number of kilowatt-hours required to get the DX station in the log – a figure of merit, if you will. Every mistake consumes additional and unnecessary kilowatt hours. My model P-4400 has limited power capacity, so I will need to be relatively QRP, but maybe they will come out with a QRO version…

This week’s Hint or suggestion is that you can improve your DXing by learning the things that other DXers do wrong, and using that knowledge to your own advantage.

(c) 2012, Wayne Mills, N7NG