From One End of HF to the Other: The ARRL 160 Meter and 10 Meter Contests


Both MF and HF offer a lot of breathing room for all interests in Amateur Radio. As the 2009-2010 Contest Season continues, two single-band events in December will highlight the magic of the opposite ends of the shortwave spectrum: the ARRL 160 Meter Contest and ARRL 10 Meter Contest.

Until relatively recently, operations on 160 meters in the US were limited to certain portions of the band -- as well as different day/night power levels -- due to the LORAN radio-navigation operations that occupied 1.8-2 MHz. Today, amateurs are allowed to run full legal power anywhere on the band.

According to ARRL Contest Branch Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X, many operators have never tried 160 meters -- often called topband -- due to the size requirements of full-size antennas. "A dipole for 160 meters would be around 245 feet long -- not too many hams have that kind of real estate," he explained. "Fortunately, verticals and inverted-L antennas will allow you to make plenty of QSOs on that band. In fact, try loading up anything you can -- many a 160 meter QSO has been made with a 40 meter dipole through an antenna tuner. You'll be able to work stations all night long, after the ionosphere's D layer dissipates along with its absorption of MF signals."

The 160 Meter Contest is a CW-only event. Participants need to work as many ARRL/RAC sections as possible, as well as listen for DX stations. US stations send a signal report and their ARRL/RAC section, while DX stations only send a signal report. DX stations may work stations in offshore and non-contiguous US states and possessions (KH6, KL7, Pacific and Caribbean US prefixes) in the contest.

At the top of the HF spectrum lies 10 meters. Even though 10 meters has been rather flat as of late -- due to our being near the bottom of the solar cycle -- there are still plenty of opportunities for QSOs, thanks to winter sporadic-E propagation. "Any 10 meter operator will tell you the band has a funny way of opening up during this contest when many stations are calling CQ," Kutzko said.

Antennas are much smaller for 10 meters than for 160; a dipole for 10 meters can be built in a couple of hours and is only 16.5 feet long. Kutzko advises Technician class licensees not to forget that they have SSB operating privileges on 10 meters from 28.3-28.5 MHz: "This is a good weekend to try your hand on this band and make some QSOs."

In the ARRL 10 Meter Contest, US and Canadian stations exchange a signal report, as well as their state or province; DX stations send a signal report and a serial number. "Lots of people will be on for this event," Kutzko said. "Last year, we received 1892 entries from all over the world. That's not too bad for being at the bottom of the sunspot cycle."

The ARRL 160 Meter Contest runs from 2000 UTC Friday, December 4 through 1559 UTC Sunday, December 6. The ARRL 10 Meter Contest runs from 0000 UTC Saturday, December 12 through 2359 UTC Sunday, December 13.