What is Ham Radio Contesting and why Hams do it?

Ham Radio contesting is a radio sport in which hams participate in a competition to score as much as they can to secure a winning position. In this competition, a ham radio operator has to contact other amateur radio stations within a given time scale. Also, the information that a ham operator must exchange with the other amateur radio stations is specified based on the contest. There are several types of ham radio contests that are governed by some rules, and the ham radio operator has to follow those rules to secure the winning position. So far, there is no international body or government organization to sponsor this sport. Despite this fact, it is a popular contest among hams across the world. Also, hams have to obey all rules of the contests that are set by the amateur radio regulations of their country.

Contesting Rules for Hams

Depending upon on the contest, the rules of ham radio contesting may vary. While different contests have different rules, listed below are some of the common rules for every contest:

  • Contesting can be done with some selected bands only
  • Mode of communication is always declared before the contest starts
  • Contest always takes place on selected dates between a specified time period
  • Information exchange is must when contact other amateur radio stations
  • Exchanged information must be logged
  • Hams can exchange only the information that has been set as per the contest

Why Hams participate in Contesting?

Contesting is a popular radio activity among hams, since 1920. Hams participate in contesting for several reasons. Some hams (experience hams) have fond of contacting amateur radio stations in other countries. They do it as a hobby. On the other hand, some hams participate in contesting to improve their message handling skills and communication skills over a ham radio. As different contests have different rules, participating in a contest gives hams enough exposure to different amateur radio bands, frequency, etc.

Different types of ham radio contesting

Despite the fact that there are no professional radio contests that are governed by a government organization, there are several radio clubs, magazines, and amateur radio societies that arrange different types of contests for hams. The sponsor of the contest also sets some rules that every participant has to follow. A contest can last from a few hours to two days depending upon the contest duration set by the sponsor. Moreover, these contests usually happen on weekends or weeknight evenings. Let us have a look at some of the popular ham radio contesting types:

  • European HF Championship
    • This contest allows hams to contact amateur radio stations in a particular part of the world. The location is usually within Europe. As it is an HF contest, the radio bands allowed for it are 160 meter, 80 Meter, 40 Meter, 20 Meter, 15 Meter, and 10 Meter.
  • CQ World Wide DX Contest
    • This contest provides hams the possibility to contact other amateur radio stations across the planet. It is the most popular contest, as every year thousands of hams and radio stations participate in this contest.
  • Japan International DX Contest
    • As the name of this contest says, it restricts hams to contact radio stations that are out of Japan.
  • Maine 2 Meter FM Simplex Challenge
    • This is one of the best contests for new hams. It provides new hams who are licensed to participate in the contest for the first time. Entry category can be a handheld radio to a well-managed radio station.
  • RTTY Roundup
    • In this contest, hams have to contact worldwide amateur radio stations to exchange QSO information using digital modes, such as Baudot RTTY, ASCII, PSK63, AMTOR, PSK31, and Packet on 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meter bands.
  • IARU HF Championship
    • In this contest, hams have to contact IARU member society HQ stations using the 160, 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 meter bands. In fact, hams can contact any worldwide amateur station, but the focus should be on IARU member society HQ stations.
  • Rookie Roundup
    • It is a six-hour contest, which is arranged three times in a year. It is arranged in April, August, and December every year. Hams who are licensed three years or less can participate in this contest.

Like these above listed contests, there are many more contests that are arranged every year by different sponsors.


Pileup is a chaos like situation that occurs when everyone, including your own station tries to get on-the-air with the same frequency. In such a situation, it becomes difficult to contact the required station. In such a situation, your time is wasted pushing you behind in the contest, so you will have to spread the pile as soon as possible. As an operator, you will have to put the transceiver on a split frequency. You can do it using variable frequency oscillators (VFOs).

Logging for Ham Radio Contests

Logging is must for every ham participating in the contest. If you have participated in the contest, but you have not logged the contacts, the sponsor will not consider your score. Logging can be done in two ways. First, use a pen and a paper to create a log of the contacts you have made during the contest. Second, you can use logging software, which is the best way to ensure you have logged everything required as per the contests requirement.
The logging software also records the timestamp of the log. And, in case, you are restricted to create only one contact then the logging software will also help you avoid duplicate contacts. Also, it helps you to follow contesting rules and guidelines by checking the details of the amateur radio station you are contacting. With so many benefits, the logging software also helps you to submit the log to the sponsor on the provided email address along with all necessary information about you and your station.
There are several logging applications available on the market using which you can create a log. Some of the well-known names are WinLog32, WriteLog, TRLog, and MacLoggerDX.

Log Checking and Results Announcement

Once the ham radio contest has been completed, and all hams have sent their logs to the sponsor, the sponsor continues with the log checking process. This process is about cross-checking the logs that are submitted by hams. During cross-checking, the sponsor also looks for the errors in the recorded logs. Depending upon the contest rules, there may be penalties applied on the hams if the wrong information is found in the log, if there are inaccuracies, or if the balance between the accuracy and contacts is disturbed. Based on several factors, the winner of the contest is decided and announced.

The winner is announced in a magazine, a journal, or on the sponsor’s website. The sponsor may also announce the winner on all these platforms. The winner is honored with a prize that may include a certificate, a wooden plaque, medal, trophy, or anything other such thing.

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