The 6m band is one of my favorites because it is possible to achieve remarkable DX with the simplest of low powered equipment. It is a band that at various times supports most types of enhanced propagation and this is what makes it so interesting.
It is also a good band for local working as antennas are small and coverage reasonably good. Being 2MHz wide (in the UK at least) there is space for all modes. Some days you can switch on and hear nothing but noise. The next it may be open with Sporadic-E propagation across Europe or even across the Atlantic. At the peak of the sunspot cycle one might hear an Australian station by F2 propagation. When the conditions are right you might chance on a good tropo opening allowing DX contacts across the UK and nearer continent. On yet another occasion you might hear the raspy sounds of an auroral opening. At all times it is possible to hear distant beacons on meteor pings and, if you are suitably equipped, work decent ranges by this mode.
My first rig for 6m consisted of an IC202 (on 2m) working into a small homebrew transverter down to 6m. This produced about 1W pep on SSB. These days I have the option of using 2 rigs: the trusty FT817 that will run 5W maximum or the IC703 that will run 10W. The IC703 also has a decent speech processor and auto ATU and this has been the workhorse of late.
To start with the antenna was just a wire dipole strung just outside of the bedroom window facing towards Europe. In more recent years I've graduated to a V2000 triband vertical which acts as a vertical dipole on 6m and a stacked vertical on 2m and 70cms. This is a bit higher up but only just clears the roof top at its highest point.
A lot of fun can be had on 6m with very simple gear. As an example, look at my SixBox elsewhere on this website.This is a simple QRP AM transceiver than may be made for very little.
Since first getting on the band when it was first generally released in 1986 I've never used more than 10W and frequently only 1-2W of SSB and CW. Despite this, I've managed to work stations across Europe, North Africa and the USA with just a dipole or simple vertical antenna in casual operating. Unlike some people who spend hours at the radio my time is limited. There have been periods of months or years when I've not been on the band, concentrating on another band, or on work.
In the early days the first contacts were locals in East Anglia then one evening I chanced on an AURORAL opening and was amazed to be able to work more distant G stations with just 1W and the wire dipole. The opening didn't last long but it proved how exciting the band could be. In contests, I managed to work further around the UK with some difficulty but managed to push the DX by TROPO out to some 400kms. Then the first SPORADIC-E season came and I realised that all of Europe was at my disposal as long as I could break the QRM that appeared.
Unfortunately I did not get on the band seriously during the last sunspot maximum when world-wide contacts were sometimes possible by F2 propagation. I did hear stations all over North America and Africa though.
In summer 2007
I managed to work across the Atlantic at last with
real QRP from the FT817 via about 2-3dB of cable loss into a small vertical antenna too.
The ERP was around 2.5W only. The DX station was K1TOL who gave me 519 on the key.
The band is full of suprises: only this morning (June 20th 2009) I turned on the FT817 and heard a station in The Canary Is on SSB at about RS57. I called him not expecting a reply only to receive a report of RS55 and a solid contact at a distance of just over 3000kms.