QSL Cards

QSL simply means "acknowledge receipt" and QSL? means "do you acknowledge receipt?" In the ham radio and shortwave listening world a QSL card is a way to acknowledge the conversation or contact. Over the years the traditional method of sending and reviving QSL cards by mail as dwindled. I think the last time I checked I had a 30 percent return rate. I wounded what the other hams used the SASE for that I sent?

With the advent of eQSL and Log Book of the World there are not many paper QSL exchanges taking place. QSLing and QSL design has really become a lost art. Whatever or however you QSL it is your personal choice. I still prefer paper cards but I am not chasing any awards nor do I work a lot of DX or live in a highly desired and rare country so it is ok if I am low speed and high drag when it comes to QSLing.


KC0YQF and I recently pondered her QSL card design and luckily for us we have access to a graphic designer in wG0AT, and he helped us come up with her QSL card.

Lynn's QSL card as designed by wG0AT
We really like how that turned out. Since Lynn does most of her operating from SOTA summits that is the theme we wanted. This particular picture was taken on Signal Butte near Divide Colorado and one of my favorite summits.

Now we could have utilized any number of QSL card design and production companies. Many are listed here. They make it real easy to enter your information and order up a batch of cards and have them delivered to your door in a few weeks. If you get creative you can use a picture or your own design and go that route. It is all personal choice. I think the ready made QSL cards are fine and have seen some neat ones come to me in the mail.

For Lynn's card we utilized KB3IFH for the design on the back of the card and the actual printing of the card. Randy was great to work with and was very receptive to the custom SOTA information I wanted on the back of the card.

Just before we did this, Steve, wG0AT, turned me on to dashtoons which is a QSL design service by Jeff, K1NSS. In fact Steve, wG0AT, used Jeff for his QSL design. That got me thinking............


The more I thought about it the more I wanted to get a card designed by dashtoons because I liked his style of drawing. I cannot explain why I like it or even what his style is I just knew I liked it. I wanted a SOTA card or in other words a card that I could send out that is not location specific until I fill it in on the back of the card with Summit name, Designator and ASL.

The process is you just email Jeff and start working on a design via email and you come up with something you like and off to the printers you go. Saying that makes it sound like a few hours but it actually took about five days.

I already have a few cards I use to QSL but I thought it would be nice to have a card that reflects and promotes Summits On The Air.

As for the design I used a picture that my SOTA Elmer took while I was operating on an unamed summit called 10090 near Guffy, Colorado. I was just sending code and kind of looking out over the land and Steve really just captured the moment, as he often does.

Picture taken by wG0AT
After I sent the picture to Jeff he went to work and asked for some closeups of the radio, backpack and other items to be used in the design. Jeff worked the font, placement and added his own unique element to the design all the while sending me updates and giving me the opportunity to comment or re-direct.  It was just a fun process, at least on my end.

Here is the design progression.

Rocks added for a better illusion of altitude

Backpack log book and Steve Weber designed and K0JQZ built MTR in Altoids tin with USAF symbol

The SOTA Flag meant some stuff have to be rearranged

and the final design

I love it!!!! Thanks Jeff! If you want a unique and personal QSL card I highly recommend Jeff. It is a great experience. Everything you need to know including pricing is on the Dashtoons web site so check it out.


All of this fun over a new QSL design got me to thinking about how plain my QSL cards had been in the past.

I could not find all the QSL cards I have used over the years but here are a few:

My First QSL Card (1979)
I should note that I went by my middle name as a kid but started going by my first name when I entered the Air Force.

I lost the card from when I was portable DU2 in the Phillipines and G4VDN in the UK (RAF Chicksands). In late 1985 I was reassigned to Minot ND.

My card from when I was stationed at Minot ND 1985 - 1988 (very plain)
After ND I moved to Northern Japan, Misawa AB and got the call 7J7AAL.

Misawa Japan 1988 - 1992 (a post card with some stickers)
In 1992 I moved to Colorado and used my ND card and just changed the address then I went to Guam and did not have time to operate and then to Fort Meade MD. I did not have a card there beyond a post card of the building I worked in (NSA). I then ended up in West Virginia and Korea where I was radio silent. Finally I came back to Colorado to retire and get a real job. I used a few cards but nothing I really liked and when I changed my call sign to K0JQZ I came up with this.

My main QSL card by graphicsstore.com
If I did not work you from a SOTA summit this is the card you would get from me. In the picture I am on my 1996 Buell S2T (number 95 of less than 500 made).

That is about it for my QSL history. I had more QSL cards and made a lot with a printer and card stock to commemorate events like Straight Key Night, my time in the USAF, operatinf from State Parks etc. I think it is nice to change designed every so often.


In order to keep this page a page worth visiting from time to time I will update it as I get interesting QSL cards in the mail. First up is my SOTA Elmer and friend, wG0AT.

wG0AT QSL as designed by Dashtoons
Here is one I really liked from Japan. I climbed Mt Fuji when I was there and it is one spectacular mountain.

JA2BHK QSL from Japan
I think SOTA is going to grow dramatically when Japan gets involved.

I liked this card because that is an actual plant from Bob Anderson's garden and the whole card is hand made. It does not get any cooler than that.

As I go through my cards I have realized that the ones I like the most are from the current years and not anything from 35 years ago. Interesting. Maybe QSL cards are making a big comeback.

Here is a highly sought after card of the "Goat Man." I believe this card may be retired. It does a great job of telling the story of how Steve operates.

Rooster and Peanut showing us how Ham Radio is FUN!!!!
Here is another Summits On The Air card.
The picture is outstanding! There is no name or address on the card (front or back) but all the SOTA info is there.

Below is the QSL card of my friend Rem, K6BBQ. Rem has some great videos on youtube and can often be seen hamming it up on his tricycle.
Front of K6BBQ's QSL
The back of Rem's card has a lot of great information including a link to his youtube video. I also like the fact that Rem can check off the particular mode he operated from such as Portable, QRP and Tricycle Mobile. You can tell a lot of thought went into his card.

K6BBQ QSL back side

It is easy to tell a ham that takes pride in his QSL card. The one below from Marc looks like it could be a Norman Rockwell picture.
The funny thing about the card below is on the back the sender, W4QO, apologizes for the nature of the card because they ran out. This was the 2011 QRP ARCI Jubilee event. I think the card is fine and kind of relays the essence of QRP.
K6JSS/7 QSL from Utah
There are a couple of things I like about the card below. Can you guess what they are?

Dick's K1IEE'S QSL card
1. The Air Force Symbol on Dick's hat. Dick is a retired USAF Senior NCO like me. Dick retired as a CMSgt in 1995.
2. The vintage QRP radio looks to be a HW7 or HW-8. (Dick was using a HW-9 during our QSO)
3. Operating outside..... Love it!

This card is kind of special. Not only is it a neat design, my good friend Guy, N7UN, is the keeper of this call sign and I had the pleasure to use it during the 2013 QRPTTF (QRP Take it to The Field)  Event in 2013.
Cool summits on the nS0TA QSL card
The back has a lot of information.
Everything from history of SOTA to current links
Paul, W0RW, has some neat cards. Paul is an a dvid outdoors operator and HF Pack guru. Paul like to use some vintage and modern gear and can use many modes while waking about. Paul initially inspired me to do a few picture QSL cards from some of the state parks I was operating from.

Here are two of his cards.
W0RW operating from Garden of the Gods

W0RW on the Santa Fe Trail
Here is a card from my friend W7TAO under his old call of KF7LX. You will see from his card that Todd also has a few goats that he takes along for his adventures.
What fun it must be hiking with your goat buddies.
Randy sent me this card when he was operating from a SOTA summit int he Grand Tetons NP in WY. I really like his helper spotting for him. Lynn and I got to activate the same summit while on our Honeymoon in Gran Teton and Yellowstone NPs.

Randy, ND0C
Station pictures are always neat to see especially when they are as neat and functional as the station of N8XMS. Paul is a QRP enthusiast as well and I worked him from a SOTA summit. One of the great things I lime about QRP and Ham Radio is building your own gear like Paul is doing in the sub-picture of his card.

A fellow SOTA Activator, K7ATN or Etienne recently sent me his card. Yesterday we had a Summit to Summit QSO which was great. Etienne uses an umbrella to shield his KX3 while snow hits him in the face. Love it!
K7ATN on a SOTA Summit
I think the exchange of QSLs is declining however I think the creativeness of QSL design is increasing or getting better.

When someone wants to commemorate a special event or just a special personal event they can follow WA3WSJ's lead and create a very cool certificate to go with the QSL card. I have seen this done a few times and think it is very cool. This would also be a good way to get a pileup going if advertised in advance.
WA3WSJ Certificate

I use a Buddipole vertical setup on many SOTA summits so it is always neat to work the creator of that antenna system, W3FF. I like the stickers Budd uses and on this particular QSO Budd was Bike Mobile!!! Very cool. I got to briefly talk to Budd at Dayton at his booth. He is a very enthusiastic amateur. 

QSL card of Whiskey Three Freddy Freddy (W3FF)

Lynn and i both worked KY7S when we were on Chief Mountain and Doug was on a summit in Washington state. He was the first station we heard when we got everything setup so it was real exciting to get him off the bat like that. I really like his QSL card design. It is not cluttered with stuff to get in the way of the great picture and all the QSO information is on the back. Good job Doug and thanks for the QSO and QSL.

Here is one from W0CP as part of the ARRL 100 year Anniversary celebration.

W0CP QSL from a Summit to Summit QSO

Here is a QSL card from my friend TJ. TJ is a superb CW operator and also a QRP enthusiast. Not only is the picture on the front of the card nice I really liked the layout of the back.

W0EA QSL Card Front
W0EA QSL Card Back
As a note, TJ has a very nice blog here: W0EA Blog

The next card does not need any explanation as to why I like it. Well done Matt!

AA7EE QSL card looks similar to QSLs from the early days of Amateur Radio. I love it. Good job Dave.

If you are a QRP operator and use CW you probably heard of John, K3WWP, John has a great web site dedicated to CW and QRP and worth checking out.

 K0O was a special event station and although I do not recall the QSO the card does stand out. Someone put some time and effort into it.

W0O QSL Card

A legend in the Trail Friendly Radios before everyone was doing it is Wes. It is always nice to get a call from him when I am out portable.

Here is a prized QSL card from none other than K1ZZ:

Does QRP and simple antennas work? I am on a quest to work and confirm 100 countries, also known as DXCC, with 5 watts or less using my ground mounted vertical antenna.

Here are a few of my 2015 QSL cards:

I try to participate in the Armed Forces Day crossband Amateur Military event every year. Here is the latest QSL.

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