Essential DXpedition advice from Gary ZL2iFB August 2012
(1) Make sure you are logging QSOs with the correct UTC time.
especially important to check this if you are operating from a different
time zone to normal. Double-check every PC when you are about to start
(2) Take a USB memory stick to make periodic backups of your log. Get into
the habit of backing up the log at least once a day (e.g. every lunchtime)
and then storing the USB stick safely away from the PC. A few minutes
every day may save years of grief later if you lose your log due to a
software error, hardware failure, accident or theft. [If you are fortunate
enough to have reliable Internet access, you can also upload your log daily
to LoTW or ClubLog or a cloud backup service, but make the USB backups as
well, just-in-case the Internet access is not as reliable as you were led to
(3) If you have time before your trip, get familiar with whatever logging
software you are going to use by practicing with it. Contest software such
as N1MM or Wintest is designed to make the logging process very efficient,
but it can take some getting used to. Read the help. Practice by opening a
practice logbook, listening to someone working a pileup or a contest and
'logging' their QSOs at the same time as they do.
(4) Find yourself an elmer - someone who has actually experienced big
pileups from the DX end. Tell them your plans and ask their advice.
Elmering is a hidden benefit of hooking up with one or more "pilots" who
will pass messages (such as unusual propagation paths) between you and the
DX community during your trip, if you decide to go that route.
(5) Make absolutely sure you not only have permission to both land and
operate from the DX location, but you can prove it. You will probably need
to submit evidence to the DXCC desk at ARRL, for example, in order to get
the digital certificate necessary to upload your log to Logbook of the
World. Operating without the requisite official permission such as visas,
landing rights and licenses can get you in deep trouble with the authorities
and reflects badly on amateur radio (it may even prejudice future
operations). If possible, try to take photographs showing you at the
location, preferably with an official name board in view (e.g. the welcome
sign at the airport or docks). Keep evidence of any transportation you have
booked to get you there, such as ticket stubs and receipts.
(6) Before you leave home, check the location details for your chosen spot,
including things such as CQ and ITU zones, latitude/longitude, locator
square and IOTA reference (as applicable). It generally helps to write this
information, along with your callsign and QSL details, clearly on a sheet of
paper that you can place near the station: when you are tired and emotional
towards the end of a full-on run, it's surprisingly easy to forget the
(7) Unreliable and fluctuating power is often a factor in DX locations. If
your rig works on 12 volts, you may be able to borrow or rent a car battery
from the locals to stabilize the supply. If it is mains-powered, a computer
UPS or generator may do the trick. You may be able to arrange these in
advance, along with things such as bamboo or scaffold poles, a desk/table
and comfortable chair, and perhaps some willing helpers. Due to weight and
size restrictions, you probably won't be able to take everything with you,
and you will almost certainly need to improvise on site (e.g. sandbags
filled with local sand or rocks may make usable guy points: maybe take some
plastic or canvas bags?).
(8) Try to make time for a practice run before you go. Pack the gear you
intend to take and head off to a temporary location to try it out,
field-day-style. Double-check that your packing list has EVERYTHING and
that it all works together. Solicit and log some genuine signal reports to
make sure your signal is audible and clean.
(9) Budget sensibly for the fees and duties you may need to pay, both
official and unofficial, just to get there, get on the air and get home
safely. Be discreet about your wealth and security-conscious, especially in
places where a transceiver would cost more than a year's salary. Travel
insurance may be a wise investment if you will be carrying valuable
equipment and facing dangers or health issues. Try to pre-arrange access to
emergency assistance (e.g. a friendly embassy) and funds (e.g. emergency
cash) in case it is necessary.
(10) While you are there, remember that you are representing the wider
amateur radio community. Take time out for your hosts and any officials who
visit the station, explaining what you are doing. Be a considerate guest,
leave good impressions.
(11) Don't completely exhaust yourself on the trip: save some energy for
the chores when it's over - things such as uploading your log to LoTW,
responding to direct, bureau, OQSL and email requests for QSLs, thanking
sponsors, elmers and pilots, and writing articles about your trip for the
amateur press. Tip: take a small camera, pocketbook and pen to make notes
during the trip and don't leave them behind on the plane (BTDT!).