HAM Radio 101

Word of the Day: Pileup

Imagine you are one of many reporters at a White House press conference, all simultaneously trying to get called on by the president. A din of voices fills the air until someone is chosen. A DX pileup is similar, only a heck of a lot more fun–and just as challenging.

Because a DXpedition grabs the interest of Amateur Radio operators from around the globe, many individuals will be on the air at once attempting to log a rare contact. When multiple stations transmit their call signs at the same time and on the same frequency or over a range of frequencies, this creates a “pileup” of noise as each operator attempts to be called out by the DX station The DX station picks out one call sign—maybe the loudest or the clearest or the luckiest—and makes a short contact, most likely a simple exchange of signal reports. Then the pileup starts again.

Snagging an extremely rare contact is a thrill for seasoned and beginning Hams alike. How can your station break through this auditory traffic snarl? Any veteran DXer will tell you that your ears are your most valuable tool when confronting a pileup. Before transmitting, listen to learn the station’s pattern for ending a QSO (contact) so you know when it’s time to call. By listening to experienced operators, you will also pick up on proper etiquette for transmitting your call.

Here’s a video from DX Engineering customer/technical support specialist Mark W8BBQ on DXing tips, including how to work through a pileup. And when you’re ready to upgrade your station’s DXing capabilities, DX Engineering has chaser packages featuring transceivers, antennas, linear amplifiers, headsets and more.