Adventure with Milliwatts - Worked All States

After getting into HF for awhile it got pretty easy to work most anywhere in the USA. Not much of a challenge there. And I never did get around to any of the basic ham radio awards, like Worked All States.

It didn’t seem right applying for a award, if it wasn’t a challenge to me.


Getting into QRP brought some challenge into the game, and that made things fun again. But still I never did manage to set the goal of getting the WAS award.

However in January 1999 this all changed. It started with the North American QSO Party CW event. I had just built the QRP Watt Meter, WM-2 from Oak Hills Research. I had always wanted to have a more accurate way to measure output power. But I had no idea what it would all lead to!


I had never been in this contest before. But it seemed like a good time to play with my Index Labs QRP+ and WM-2. I called afew of the strongest contest stations who were CQ’ing and had no callers. I set my power down low, like around 50mW, and called. To my amazement they heard me and we made a contest exchange! Something clicked in me, and I was compelled to work some more, and put them in a special log book.

This started me finally in pursuit of WAS. But not just WAS, I was going to work all states and every contact would be done at milliwatt levels.

Looking over some of my issues QRP ARCI Quarterly I came upon a column written by Bob White WO3B. He wrote the milliwatt column there for several years. I think it was Bob who introduced a new concept in QRP/QRPp. He called it, Worked All States Total Points, or WASTP. There were hams doing this and I read about them. I was glad I wasn’t the only one infected with this "milliwatt fever’!

In WASTP the idea is to total the power used to make a contact in every state. If you work FL with 50mW and NC with 40mW, you have two states and WASTP of 90mW.

This went fine, and I was around 20 states with WASTP just under 1 watt, 900mW.

I began to wonder if somehow I could work all 50 states and keep the WASTP under 1 watt. And do it by 12/31/99.

The challenge was about to get even more interesting!

Then I began to experiment to see how low I could reduce my power in a QSO. When conditions allowed, I could reduce my power to single digit mW’s! It would go something like this. After establishing contact with a "sporting" operator with about 500mW, and exchanging reports, I would send "QRX" and reach for my RF power control. Then drop to a lower power level. I send my new power, and the other stations RST. They copy my power, and reply "at 70mW you are 339 bk". This would continue until we find the limit. I record that in the log and QSL them if it seems like a "keeper". Sometimes revisiting the same state several times, getting lower each time.

When we go 1000 miles per watt, both operators qualify for the ARCI 1000 MPW Certificate. I’ve got one and they are nice, and make good wallpaper for the shack. It’s a nice gesture to have one sent to the RCVR operator if you get one for yourself. They did half the work.

This continued through spring, summer and into fall. Then came the QRP ARCI Fall QSO Party on October 23 & 24th. I was sitting at 1.3 W and had 48 states, average power per state of 0.028w.

I was doing ok, but several states were well above .028w. Mississippi for example was 50mW, and Utah was 40mW, etc. By the time the smoke had cleared Sunday afternoon I had reduced power on 15 states. Like MS went down to 21mW, & UT went to 17mW, etc.

In these contests you can hunt for states you need, and call them with single digit milliwatts. More often than not you will make the contest exchange, with no repeats. The other operator will never know how low your power is unless you tell them.

But I like to look up email addresses and contact them after the contest. Its fun to see how they react to the power I used. I always get a positive response.


My WASTP was now 1.105w, and state average was .022w. I had chipped away almost 200mW in one weekend. This is true amateur radio excitement! A real challenge.

But there was only one way I was going to lose the last 105mW, and get below 1 watt. My friends on QRP-L (Internet QRP Club) volunteered to make schedules with me for the two states that I needed help with.

Rhode Island stood at 100mW, and Idaho was in the log at 150mW. Using email we made the sked, and in one evening I reached my goal. RI made the log at 50mW, and IA came in at 30mW. I shaved off 170mW in one evening!

I looked at my totals and looks like 50 states, 935mW WASTP, & an average of 0.0187w per state. Some states went in the logs at 2mW, 4mW, and several at 5mW. Those were amazing QSO’s! When the wattmeter gets that low, its amazing to think about how this tiny amount of RF makes its way. I imagine a little red stereo LED and the energy it takes to light that up.

Its been quite an experience taking QRP down to its natural limits like this. A year ago I wouldn’t have believed it possible.

In all of ham radio, and QRP, if conditions demand we raise our power to make it easier for the other station. If I’m trying to work with mW’s and its not working, I run the power up and finish the QSO.

If you think it might be fun to try, look for one of the CW contests, and call the stronger stations with 500mW and see how that goes. With ˝ watt it should be possible to work all states in 6 months to a year, where ever you live, and with any properly tuned antenna.

My antennas used are, 10/15M 2 element quad, at 70’, 20M is a wire half square at 25’, 40M is a inverted Vee dipole at 45’, and 80M is also a Vee dipole at 45’.

My state by state mW WAS log is located on the KJ5TF/QRP web site.

What will we do next? How about mW DXCC?

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