Ham radio operators log their contacts to preserve the memory of a special QSO. Others use logging to capture their achievements  – things like the number of grid squares or states worked.

We’ll tell you how to log your ham radio contacts the right way, and a great way to keep it organized, coming up.

What is Logging?

Hi, I’m Jim, N4BFR, one of the instructors at Ham Radio Prep.

Have you ever heard the saying, “the job’s not finished until the paperwork is done?”. Well the same goes for most ham radio contacts. Logging is a way of documenting your contacts.

Why do you want to do that? One of the ways I use my logs is to check my performance on a particular ham band. That could tell me I can easily contact England on 15 meters, but I have fewer contacts there on 40 meters.

Another is for awards. If I’m looking to work 100 grid squares on VHF, I need to know where I have success, and the ones I still need. Contests need logs for their entries too.

Even if you don’t chase awards, being able to confirm a contact with someone who does is helpful. It’s part of the ham radio experience.

Now some will say, “The FCC doesn’t require a log anymore.” They would be 100% correct, but we believe it’s a great way to track your success over time.

Example Contact and What to Log

Let’s take a look at this contact we made on 10 Meter HF and see what we need to log.

There is a lot of information in that QSO!  We’ve got call signs, names, locations, signal reports and more. We also want to capture some information that wasn’t spoken. Think of this as, “What information do I need to know to be able to confirm this contact later if asked?”   To have that we want to capture the “Who, Where, When, and What” of this contact!  That’s the key information.

Example Ham Radio Contact and What to Log

So let’s start with Who. I confirmed his call was Kilo November Four November Echo Hotel, right? So let’s write that down. We heard his name so we’ll keep that too.

Let’s do the “Where” next. If you look on the screen, you’ll see our radio set to 28.600 Megahertz, so let’s write that down too. We got another piece of information from James, he’s in “Atlanta”, so we’ll include that as well.

Before we go too much further, we want to capture “When” this contact is happening.   Let’s say it was August 1st at 3:15 PM local time.    So that goes into our contact log.   We can convert that time to UTC as well because that’s the standard hams use.  At that time of year UTC is 4 hours ahead of where we are, so we’ll also put 17:15 UTC.

Let’s add the “What” now. Our “What” should include the mode of contact.  Also any key information we exchanged that would allow us to confirm it later.    So we’ll add “USB” for Upper Side Band which is our mode, and put down the signal reports we exchanged. Did you catch those?

Let’s get these down as I “Sent” 5-5 and I “Received” 5-9.

So, that’s a lot of data for a conversation that took less than 2 minutes, right?  Let’s recap what we have:

Contact With: KN4NEH, James
Contact Where: 28.600 MHz or 10 Meters to Atlanta

When we made the contact: August 1 at 17:15 UTC

What was the contact made up of: A USB exchange of a signal report, I sent 5-5 and Received 5-9.

What’s a good way to store and track that information? We’re going to use the World Radio League Logbook.

How to Log Your Contacts Online

So let’s go to WorldRadioLeague.com.  I’ve already set up a free profile so I am going to click “Log Contacts” and start a new log.   Once I do, it comes up with a window that will let me enter the most common information captured during a contact.   Let’s transfer it from our contact log notes to the logbook.

The first thing it asks is “Their Callsign” – We have that, it’s KN4NEH so we will put that in.

When we hit tab two things happen. Let’s look at the screen change first.  We have a “Callsign Match” so James is also a WorldRadioLeague logbook user.  It added his name, state, and grid location from his home logbook information.

How to Log Ham Radio Contacts Online using World Radio League Logbook

The cursor also jumps to the next field which is RST sent.  That’s where the exchange goes, part of our “What” group.  We sent KN4NEH a report of 5-5 so we’ll add that in.    He sent us 5-9, so we’ll tab over to the next field and confirm that.

Tab again and you are in the frequency box.   We will enter this in megahertz so 28.6 is all we need to put.

Notice when you hit tab this time it changes the next two boxes.   The logbook knows that 28.6 MHz is in the 10 Meter band, so it automatically populated that.   It also knows that part of the band is typically used for Sideband communication so it added SSB under mode.   You can leave that or use the arrow to drop down and select USB.

Let’s jump down to time and add our information on time and date.  We’ll put in 17:15 in the time field and August 1 in for the date.  Let’s click on the “Their QTH” area and put in “Atlanta” for good measure.

As you can see there are a bunch of other things we can track.  That would include the power output of our radio, handy if you are tracking your QRP contacts.  Another is which antenna we used.  We can even add some notes, but for the basics of confirming a contact, that’s all we need.  Let’s hit “Log Contact” to save it.

As you can see it’s moved down to my log.   Now remember how I said earlier you can track where your signal is going.   Click that button that says “QSO Map” and we can zoom in to see where our short 10 Meter contact happened.

VHF Simplex Contact

Let’s try logging a VHF simplex contact because those are fun too.  Grab a Baofeng and a friend and see how far away you can get and still make contacts.   You absolutely want to track that right?

Logging VHF Simplex Contacts to WRL

Let’s say I was out for the day on top of Stone Mountain near Metro-Atlanta.  James found a spot on top of one of the buildings near downtown.  If we both have our handhelds, we can make a contact and log it!

We want to capture the same thing as before, the who, where, when and what of this contact.  Here’s what that contact list looks like:

Contact With: KN4NEH, James
Contact Where: 146.52 MHz or  2 Meters, Stone Mountain to Ponce City Market

When we made the contact:  December 11 at 21:30 UTC

What was the contact made up of:  An FM simplex contact.  I sent 5-9 and I received 5-9 in return.

VHF Simplex Contact in the Logbook

Let’s put that in the logbook so we can see how it looks.

Their call sign was KN4NEH and the RST Sent and Received were both 5-9, so we updated that.

The frequency was 146.52 MHz so we’ll enter that and the logbook knows that was a 2 Meter FM contact so it updated it.

How to Log VHF Simplex Contacts in WRL Logbook

Power might be helpful here.  We used a handheld on high, so that’s 5 watts or so.  Our time was 21:30 UTC on December 11. Since we were both mobile we want to be a little more specific about our location or QTH.  I’m going to erase their default information and write “Ponce City Market” under their QTH.

I’m going to overwrite the defaults on my contact as well since I wasn’t home.  I’ll put Stone Mountain under QTH. My radio was a UV5R and my antenna was “stock HT” and I erased the grid.

OK if that looks accurate, hit “Log Contact” and you have it saved.


Analytics on World Radio League Logbook

I mentioned at the beginning that one of the more important reasons for having a log is to use it for analytics.   Here’s a big benefit of using the World Radio League logbook.   Once you have a few contacts logged, you can look under “My Profile” and get an idea of how you are operating.

When I look at my band graph I see most of my contacts have been on 10 or 20 Meters.    I also have QSO’s by Mode to tell me that I’ve been logging all voice contacts.

Finally, check out my QSO map.  4 continents in the log!  That’s pretty exciting right there!


Let’s cover a few areas you might run into issues while logging.

First, you might ask yourself, “If I have name and call sign, isn’t that enough for a log?”  Yes and no.  Let’s look at an example.

Let’s say I worked James, but I wrote down his callsign wrong.  I made a typo and put K-M-4NEH.   So when his QSL request comes in, and I don’t find his call, what can I do?   If it shows the right exchange and time, I can find the contact and safely assume I made a typo.  So I correct my log and confirm the contact.  It happens.

Let’s also talk a little about time.   You can keep your time in local time or in UTC – also known as coordinated universal time or zulu time – if you are logging on paper.  Remember most of your contact confirmation requests and online logging will be in UTC. So be prepared to convert.  One place that’s easy to trip up are those late evening contacts.  10 PM Eastern on Monday is early Tuesday morning UTC. Don’t forget to increment both the date and the time when converting.

One more comment on time. 1630 vs 1632 UTC are functionally the same time.  In fact one online logbook says a contact that has a start time within 30 minutes is a match.  Don’t be too strict about 2 or 3 minutes if all the other info matches.

Should you log frequency or only the band used?   It’s better to have frequency than band.  But there will be times when you are scanning up and down and didn’t quite get the right frequency.  Don’t beat yourself up.  If you have at least the band right that is enough to confirm a contact.

You won’t always get a signal report as a final confirmation item.  It’s more likely in HF voice or CW, but if you are working digital you might get a power level.  In satellites you’ll get a grid square. In contests it might be a date or serial number.   In any QSO, it’s good to keep track of what you get for future confirmation.

Don’t look at logging like a chore.  It’s so much fun to be able to look back at favorite contacts.   With a log it’s easier to answer that, “How many countries have you talked to” question from friends?  Or chase grid squares.   Whatever your reason,  ham radio logging is a fun way to follow up your contacts.   And with the World Radio League logger, you can easily see your stats and track your performance.

Wrapping up

If you are just getting started in Ham Radio, come visit us at HamRadioPrep.com to get your license.  Then keep your logs over at WorldRadioLeague.com.

We also have a whole lot more on logging and handling QSL’s in our HF Masterclass.  It has everything you need to start making those long distance contacts!

I’m Jim, N4BFR from Ham Radio Prep.  We hope to hear you on the air… and get a contact in your logs.. soon!