Guide to July 2024 Ham Radio Contests: Islands Edition

Okay, so Field Day is over. Hamvention 2024 is in the books. Contest Season is months away. The rare Glorioso Islands DXpedition is done. What’s a ham to do? The short answer is plenty! The long answer is, “If you can’t find a reason to get on the air, you’re not trying!”

Contesting doesn’t cool off during July, especially if you’re into operating in the great outdoors or prefer the challenge of chasing portable stations from the comforts of your air-conditioned shack (hey, you already toughed it out on Field Day, so you deserve a break). July offers one of the premier portable operating activities—the RSGB IOTA Contest: July 27, 1200Z to July 28, 1200Z.

Whether you’re a chaser or activator, the Radio Society of Great Britain’s Islands on the Air Contest is a welcome chance to celebrate the world’s well-known and lesser-traveled island groups (more than 1,200 of them) dotting the planet. The contest is based on the RSGB IOTA awards program, established in 1964 to promote amateur radio and draw attention to the “widespread mystique surrounding islands.”

If you’re new to the RSGB IOTA Contest, which has been around since 1993, click here to read a guide for novices who wish to operate from an official IOTA spot or those who seek to make contact with IOTA stations. Bands for the 24-hour contest are 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10M on CW and phone. Also for new island operators, check out this article by blogger Sean Kutzko, KX9X, “Your First Pileup, Techniques for Success.”

US Islands Award

Summer is an excellent time to hold a mini-DXpedition by activating one of America’s multitude of islands that are part of the US Islands (USI) Awards Program. Celebrating its 30th year, the program has given hams across the country the chance to activate and chase a range of river, lake, and ocean shore islands, from the ones everyone knows (Manhattan, Maui, Key West) to spots perhaps only familiar to the peripatetic amateur operator (Tonganoxie, Shuler Bend, Little Scovell).

Here’s the coolest part. Participation doesn’t require a cost-prohibitive trip to Alaska’s Kiska Island. We’ll wager that there’s an island only a few hours away begging to be put on the air. Case in point, here are a few awards-qualified islands (followed by their program number) that are not far from DX Engineering headquarters in landlocked Tallmadge, Ohio:

  • South Bass (OH007L)
  • North Bass (OH006L)
  • Kelley’s Island (OH001L)
  • Turtle Island (OH038L)
ham radio operate at portable station on dock near ocean
As part of the US Islands Award program, OnAllBands blogger Sean, KX9X, activated Outer Island in the Thimble Islands group off Connecticut in the Long Island Sound. He netted nearly 150 contacts using five watts and a simple multiband dipole in a few hours of operating. (Image/Sean, KX9X)

The program lets DXers vie for honors such as the USI Basic Honor Roll (QSOs with 100 qualified islands); Work All State Islands Award; and Work Ten Award (10 islands from one state). Find the complete list of more than 3,400 U.S. Islands here along with participation rules.

And be sure to check out, where you’ll find everything you need to activate an IOTA, POTA, or SOTA site, or increase your chances of reaching the many islands, summits, beaches, and lighthouses of the world. Not sure where to start? For activators, we recommend a complete DX Engineering POTA package that includes an Icom or Yaesu transceiver; Bioenno Power lithium-ion battery and solar panel; coaxial cable assemblies; antenna tuner; and more. Choose from four packages:

collage of ham radio portable POTA equipment
(Image/DX Engineering)

Also check out popular antennas for portable activations, including the Chelegance JPC-12 40-6M Vertical Antenna (below) featured in the DXE-POTA-1 kit and the DX Commander Expedition Portable 40-6M Vertical Antenna.

chelegance portable modular antenna kit


Beyond islands, there’s loads to do in July. We’ve showcased a few activities below. Good luck!

13 Colonies Special Event: July 1 to July 7. Already underway as of this post, this popular annual event challenges operators to make contact with stations set up in the original 13 U.S. colonies, plus three bonus stations.

Venezuelan Independence Day Contest: July 6, 0000Z to 2359Z. This annual CW/SSB/FT4 contest hosted by the Radio Club Venezolano celebrates Venezuela Independence Day (July 5), which commemorates its history of becoming South America’s first independent country in 1821.

NZART Memorial Contest: July 6, 0800Z to 1100Z and July 7, 0800Z to 1100Z. The nonprofit New Zealand Association of Radio Transmitters has been proudly serving Kiwi amateur radio operators in The Land of the Long White Cloud since 1926. A founding member of Region 3 of the IARU, NZART sponsors a number of contests and activities throughout the year, including this 80M-only CW/SSB event.

IARU HF World Championship: July 13, 1200Z to July 14, 1200Z. Open to all licensed amateurs, the International Amateur Radio Union’s HF World Championship encourages operators to make as many contacts as possible, especially with IARU member society HQ stations, on 160/80/40/20/15/10M.

QRP ARCI Summer Homebrew Sprint: July 14, 2000Z to 2300Z. This HF CW-only event sponsored by the QRP Amateur Radio Club International rewards stations with multipliers based on how little power you use, from 5W down to 55mW or less. Add big bonus points if operating a homebrew transmitter, receiver, or transceiver. “Homebrew” is defined as equipment that you build, kits included.

CQ Worldwide VHF ContestJuly 20, 1800Z to July 21, 2100Z. Fans of 6M and 2M operating have this annual summer event marked on their calendars long in advance, anticipating the improved propagation and challenge of working the world while collecting VHF Maidenhead grid locations for award credits. The contest features single operator, hilltopper, rover, and multi-op categories. Get all the details here.

IARU Region 1 70 MHz CW/SSB Contest: July 20, 1400Z to July 21, 1400Z. Find all the rules here. From IARU Region 1, “The main objectives are to make as many contacts as possible and to have fun. Other objectives may include improving your operating skills, testing new equipment configurations and techniques, expanding your horizons by operating on the microwave bands, and exploring radio propagation.” IARU Region 1 covers Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and northern Asia.

Amateur Radio Club of the National Electronics Museum (ARCNEM) Commemoration of the First Live TV Broadcast from the Moon: July 19, 1300Z to July 21, 2200Z. The ARCNEM (K3NEM) will be operating W3A in recognition of the live TV broadcast that allowed the world to see mankind’s first steps on the lunar surface. Operation is scheduled for 80M and possibly digital modes.

Thinking of a cool trip this summer? Exhibits at the National Electronics Museum in Hunt Valley, Maryland, include one of the remaining Westinghouse lunar TV cameras, the development of the Morse telegraph and Bell telephone, Marconi’s wireless experiments, reproduction of an early amateur radio spark gap shack, and an operational amateur radio station.

YOTA Contest: July 20, 1000Z to 2159Z. This is the second of three rounds of the annual Youngsters on the Air Contest. Per the YOTA website, the contest is designed to increase youth activity on the air, strengthen the reputation of the YOTA program, and demonstrate support for youngsters around the world.

Maidenhead Mayhem Contest: July 20, 0000Z to July 28, 2359Z. From the Maidenhead Mayhem contest website (cue Twilight Zone theme music), “Imagine if you will, a contest that is truly different from most likely any other you have ever experienced. A contest that has indeed been over 40 years in the making.” Intrigued? We sure were at OnAllBands! Per the rules page, the objective is for amateurs around the world to contact as many other amateurs in as many Maidenhead grid fields as possible on 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, and 1o meters using CW, SSB, RTTY, FT4, and FT8. Unlike many contests, spotting is not only encouraged but amply rewarded. Find many more rules and explanations here.

North American QSO Party, RTTY: July 20, 1800Z to July 21, 0559Z. Here’s a great opportunity for both RTTY aficionados and novices. Designed for contesting beginners and veterans, North American QSO Parties are low-power-only (no amplifiers allowed) contests that are fun and challenging.

Want to learn more about RTTY? Check out these OnAllBands articles from Ed Muns, W0YK:

Alabama QSO Party: July 27, 1500Z to July 28, 0300Z.

MARAC U.S. Counties QSO Party: July 27, 0000Z to July 28, 2400Z. The Mobile Amateur Radio Awards Club (MARAC) is sponsoring the 53rd edition of this contest for county-hunting hams. The contest’s objective is to “establish radio contact with as many U.S. counties as possible in all 50 U.S. states with the emphasis on maximum scoring of mobile entries. Contacts are good toward the various MARAC awards including the initial Worked All Counties Award.”

Contacts can be made by phone, CW, and select digital modes that allow full two-way exchanges between both stations, such as FT4 with proper setup, per the rules. FT8 is not allowed since a grid square cannot define the county of operation. Find complete rules at the link above. Established in 1970, MARAC is a support group for county hunting and mobile activities with members all over the world.


Want to take your mobile activity to the next level? You’ll find everything you need at, including the latest amateur radio mobile transceivers from Alinco, Icom, Yaesu, and AnyTone, as well as mobile antennas.


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