By Rick Bandla (VE3CVG)

Note 1: These tips and suggestions are my personal opinion only.
Note 2: Within the last few years, the ARRL rules changed to include a group for FM and also different groupings for 3 bands. Details can be found on the ARRL’s General Rules for ARRL Contests Above 50 MHz page.


  • Use and learn conventional phonetics. Avoid cute phonetics unless they are very common expressions or very obvious.
  • For EVERY string of CQs and EVERY string of QRZs include your call and maybe your grid square.
  • When things are busy, listen a lot and speak a little; when things are quiet speak often and listen often. Chatting is good when things are quiet but minimize chatting when things are busy.
  • Tail-ending is very effective to get into a group and follow it through the bands. Be polite - assertive is OK, aggressive is NOT.
  • People get a little cranky after 10 to 20 hours of contesting. Mistakes happen so forgive and forget.
  • Be a good coach.
  • Look up your grid square using the QTH locator.


  • Most VHF and up contesters employ horizontal polarization.
  • The signal strength penalty for cross polarization is about 20dBm but communication is still possible so TRY it.
  • There are at least 5 factors involved in getting a signal out: antenna height, antenna gain, directivity, RF power level, RF propagation god.
  • There are at least 5 factors involved in receiving a signal: antenna height, antenna gain, directivity, RF sensitivity, RF propagation god.
  • Using HF antennas for 6m (and above) works.
  • Using 2m antennas for 70cm often works (3rd harmonic).


  • CW gets through when SSB doesn’t so learn a little CW even if it is only at 5wpm. It really helps.
  • CW NOT MANDATORY - there are still a lot of contacts possible without CW, but it sure helps.
  • If you are in phone contact but cannot get your grid across or your call, switch to CW.
  • Keep it simple e.g. VA3KA de VE3CVG RRR FN25 K or BK RRR FN25 BK. Always close with 73.
  • The higher above the 2m band you go, the greater the dependency on CW

The Buddy System

  • Team up with a distant buddy who is east or west of you and has a similar set up as you.
  • Take turns calling CQ and listen to what your buddy is doing, you will make more contacts
  • Ask other stations to listen for your buddy and cue him in. Check to see if your buddy is hearing the other guy.
  • Don’t be afraid to go your separate ways occasionally, but watch out for your buddy and work together. The fun level goes way up.

Your Contact Makes a Big Difference

  • If you are not an avid contester, your contact still counts big time. Please turn on your radio and support your buddies, you might even want to join in for the whole contest.
  • In most upper frequency contests, the contact count is quite low so your contact counts big time.
  • Please do not hang back, your contact will improve the score of every one you talk to.
  • In these contests, you can contribute as much or as little time as you wish. Leave the radio on and turned up and you will hear some activity. Your contact counts big time

Suggested Frequencies for Contests on VHF and Above

  • 50.125MHz - 50.200MHz SSB and CW
  • 52.525MHz FM
  • 144.200 - 144.250MHz SSB and CW
  • 146.580MHz FM
  • 145.600MHz D-STAR
  • 222.100-222.150MHz SSB and CW
  • 223.500MHz FM
  • 432.100MHz - 432.150MHz SSB and CW
  • 446.000MHz FM
  • 445.800MHz D-STAR
  • 903.100MHz - 903.150MHz SSB and CW
  • 1296.100MHz - 1296.150MHz SSB and CD
  • 1298.000MHz FM
  • 1298.000MHz D-STAR

Where a frequency range is given, the lowest frequency is the usual calling frequency.