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Weighing it all up


#1

It seems a long time since I tackled a decent lump of rock, so I decided that a trip to the English Lake District was in order. With Richard G3CWI recently sharing his experiences and fun with his new RockMite 20 with the aim of ultralight activations, I started thinking about lightweight equipment solutions myself. When tackling the larger summits, I guess it’s very beneficial to have less weight on your back.

I got the weighing scales out this evening for fun and also to help plan for my upcoming activation trip this weekend. I thought it might be interesting to share my results here.

First up was the new Palm Pico Paddle (inc magnetic base), with home brew cable in supplied case, this weighed in at 109 grams, compare this to the Palm Mini Paddle (inc magnetic base)in supplied case with home brew cable at 152g. To save even more weight, the Pico Paddle and cable fits very neatly in a standard Altoids tin; this combination weighs 70g. So swapping the Mini Paddle for the Pico in Altoids tin, I have saved 82g!

Moving on to the radios, I have 3 RockMites in Altoids tins, one each for 40m, 30m and 20m, these weigh 79g, 77g and 81g respectively. Interestingly my KD1JV Mountain Topper in Altoids tin weighs 80g, so the same nominal weight. The new version of this radio in it’s custom case weighs 170g.

I think that 150g for a 5 watt rig with key is pretty good going, and the weight could even be trimmed much further.

Bare FT817 with CW filter (no mic, batt etc) = 932g
Small Wonder Labs SW-20+ 1.5W 20m CW with frequency read back and keyer = 301g
Home Brew RockMite PP3 challenge rig (no batt) ~100mW on 30m = 283g
KD1JV Designs Mountain Top’er HF twin band DDS 5 watt CW rig (custom case) = 170g
KD1JV Designs Mountain Topper HF twin band DDS 5 watt CW rig (Altoids tin) = 80g
RockMite in Altoids tin ~ 500mW = ~80g

I think my best choice is to take along my Altoids Mountain Topper and RockMite 30 as back up, three bands (40m, 30m and 20m) for 160g :slight_smile:

Unfortunately I don’t own a KX3 or any other exotic radios to weigh :frowning:

I was most tempted to order a new LiPo battery today, but I’ll struggle with my current unit that weighs in at a hefty 168g!

Ditch that FT817/FT857(FT897!) for something lighter! :slight_smile:

73, Colin M1BUU


The 1 Kilo HF challenge. A multiband activation pack below 1 kilogram
#2

In reply to M1BUU:

So, Colin, having ditched the FT817 for something lighter, what do you recommend for a committed phone operator? :slight_smile:

Lets get real, for a moment. You are going to carry more than a Rockmite up a major LD summit, I should think. So, what will a properly equipped fellwalker be carrying? Lets start with a rucksack: a good quality 65 litre extensible sack - 1700 g. What goes in it for a major LD summit: a cagoule at 430 g, a lightweight fleece for cold summits, also 430 g, map, whistle, compass, headtorch: 350 g, a wooly hat to keep my head warm (a major source of heat loss) 110 g, add a kilo for drinks, a butty and a chocky bar at 210 g, a couple of Leki Guide walking poles at 540 g, and a camera - my small one is 200 g, and at this point you are carrying 4.8 kg.

Now we add the radio gear that I usually carry!

FT817ND with 2500 mAh NiMH batteries, mike and headphones, 1390 g.
Homebrew Z-match, 290 g,
W3EDP antenna, 190 g,
7 metre roach pole, 490 g,
2 metre dipole plus feeder and wire extenders for 6 metres, 620 g, a bit heavy but very robust!
Notepad and pen, 110 g.
All-in weight of radio gear capable of operating on eleven bands at will, 3090 g.

Total weight 7.890 kg

Of course, I have been known to add an FT857 and a 13 Ah SLAB, which adds considerably to the weight! However, my normal outing is with the 817, and note that 60% of the weight carried is in support of your outing, 40% is in support of the SOTA part of the day.

Just to put it in context, back in the day, when I would go out for some Scottish snow and ice climbing with ropes, pitons, ice screws, deadman belay, two ice axes, helmet and so on, I would arrive at the foot of the climb carrying in excess of 20 kg - but I was younger, then!

DON’T ditch any of the support gear however you pare down the weight of the radio gear, that ~5 kg gets you there and back safely!

73

Brian G8ADD


#3

In reply to G8ADD:

Brian, I can tell you how I optimized my SSB setup as I am also dedicated SSB operator (now struggling with CW hi hi).

I used FT-857 with 7Ah SLAB mounted in my manpack. You can check some pictures on my website http://www.ok1bil.cz/sota-ft-857-manpack/.
Manpack is not the lightest thing to carry (5.7kg), but you can do all the cabling in your warm home and then just plug the antenna on the cold summit and operate.

For longer walks I decided to prepare a more lightweight setup. I found really nice kit which can do 10W SSB! It is called KN-Q7A and is available from crkits.com. It can do only 40m but that is ok for SOTA. Building instructions and the PCB are really simple to understand (way simpler than SW-40+). I spent this summer fine tunning the lighter setup.

Here is what I carry (I have just weighted it for you before leaving to work, hi hi):

KN-Q7A 40m 10W SSB - 633g
LiPo 4S 1.3Ah - 208g
40m dipole wire - 341g
choke balun - 124g
10m of RG-174 coax - 114g
pen - 13g
2pcs of wide velcro - 22g
electrical tape - 20g
notepad - ?g
carrying bag - 338g

TOTAL - 1813g

  • 6m fishing pole - 488g

Some notes which might help someone:

  • I use resonant antenna to avoid problems with improper tunning
  • RG-174 is not that much lossy when compared to RG-58
  • few pieces of wide velcro are excelent to mount antenna mast
  • LiPo is the biggest weight saver of all (can be bought at reasonable prices from hobbyking.com)

I also recently upgraded my FT-857 manpack with 4.5Ah 4S LiPo and dramatically reduced the weight:

with SLAB - 5.7kg
with LiPo - 3.6kg (63% of original weight)

73

Marek OK1BIL


#4

In reply to OK1BIL:

Some very good ideas and tips there Marek!

I remember carrying 5 pieces of 1m aluminium tubing with rope to suspend a dipole fed with RG213! I used a 7Ah SLAB with the FT817, this was when SOTA was first getting going. I’m glad that the poularity of SOTA and portable operating is having the knock on effect of pushing equipment manufacturers to make lighter, more efficient gear.

In reply to G8ADD:

So, Colin, having ditched the FT817 for something lighter, what do you recommend for a committed phone operator? :slight_smile:

How about the new LNR FX4?
http://www.lnrprecision.com/

Or even the BITX if kits are not a problem -
http://www.qrpkits.com/bitx20a.html

MKARS 80?
http://www.radio-kits.co.uk/mkars80page.html

ILER 20 or 40 -
http://ea3gcy.blogspot.co.uk/

The added bonus is not only lighter equipment, but also lower current consumption, hence no need for a heavy SLAB!

Lets get real, for a moment. You are going to carry more than a Rockmite up a major LD summit, I should think.

I’m being very real Brian! I’d take TWO RockMites, firstly if one should fail, I have a back up and secondly, there may be QRM on one of the bands or the band may be closed. :wink:

73, Colin
M1BUU


#5

In reply to M1BUU:

Colin

Your post reminds me of an article that I wrote for Radcom on this subject about 10 years ago. I have copied it here:

http://www.sotabeams.co.uk/weight-matters/

73 Richard G3CWI


#6

In reply to M1BUU:

Unfortunately I don’t own a KX3 or any other exotic radios to weigh :frowning:

My KX3 (including battery charger board, ATU, roofing filter board, and internal batteries) weighs 1002 grams according to the digital kitchen scales…

73, Rick M0LEP


#7

In reply to M0LEP:

My KX3 (including battery charger board, ATU, roofing filter board,
and internal batteries) weighs 1002 grams according to the digital
kitchen scales…

Eeek.


#8

In reply to G3CWI:

When you carry 10’s of kilos of excess lard like me, the weight of the bag is insignificant!

Andy


#9

In reply to G3CWI:

Eeek.

On the same kitchen scales my 817ND (with its supplied internal batteries) is 1138 grams.

I must do a kit weight break-down some time. I know that the last time I headed for the Lake District I decided the extra kit I’d need to do any SOTA with was Too Heavy™ and left it all behind.

73, Rick M0LEP.


#10

In reply to M1BUU:

In reply to G8ADD:

So, Colin, having ditched the FT817 for something lighter, what do
you recommend for a committed phone operator? :slight_smile:

How about the new LNR FX4?
http://www.lnrprecision.com/

Or even the BITX if kits are not a problem -
http://www.qrpkits.com/bitx20a.html

MKARS 80?
http://www.radio-kits.co.uk/mkars80page.html

ILER 20 or 40 -
http://ea3gcy.blogspot.co.uk/

The added bonus is not only lighter equipment, but also lower current
consumption, hence no need for a heavy SLAB!

Lets get real, for a moment. You are going to carry more than a
Rockmite up a major LD summit, I should think.

I’m being very real Brian! I’d take TWO RockMites, firstly if one
should fail, I have a back up and secondly, there may be QRM on one of
the bands or the band may be closed. :wink:

73, Colin
M1BUU

No need for a heavy SLAB with the 817 and a set of NiMH cells!

By “real” I was drawing attention to the fact that most of us (excluding a few pack mules!) carry a lot more weight in support than in ham equipment up a mountain. Of course, some of it is consumable and may even be discretely er- deposited en route rather than brought back to the road, depending on your rate of throughput! :wink:

None of the rigs that you listed have the flexibility of the 817 or KX3. A couple of the rigs that you listed were new to me, and I may build the one of them sometime just for fun, but really if you think like me and want flexibility and the capability to work on a fair number of bands (both in SOTA and low-level /P) then in operating your way you are going to start carrying several rigs instead of one, and the weight advantage will diminish or vanish. With my antennas, tuner and rig I could operate on any band 160 - 10 metres plus six and two. I haven’t tried 160 for SOTA yet, by the way, the W3EDP antenna needs a very long counterpoise for that one, but I have it for if the spirit takes me…!

It comes down to “different strokes”, there is no right way, just the way that suites you, but its fun to compare notes.

73

Brian G8ADD


#11

In reply to MM0FMF:

When you carry 10’s of kilos of excess lard like me, the weight of the
bag is insignificant!
Hi hi!

That is probably true for most of us activators. I know I am a good 10Kg heavier than I was in my 30’s and I think I’ve got away lightly (pardon the pun) with that middle aged spread… must go to the gym and eat more salad.

As per Brian, if I compare the radio gear with my winter mountaineering kit it really doesn’t feel like much.

73
Gerald
MW0WML


#12

In reply to G8ADD:

OK on having lots of bands available for an activation and that there is a trade off between weight and the the number of bands that is able to be offered.

I think Richard G3CWI in his article sums the weight problem up quite nicely by splitting portable (SOTA) operators into two distinct groups, those who carry enough gear to get the job done and those who carry every conceivable bit of gear to cover every eventuality.

Before SOTA, I was neither an experienced hill goer or amateur radio operator, but SOTA really appealed to me and thus has introduced me to both aspects.

My take on the situation is that there aren’t many occaisons when as an activator you stay on a summit for a long time operating on as many bands as you possibly can. Sure, on a nice sunny day it might be fun to spend a few hours on a summit and do a multiband operation like I did from Boulsworth Hill last week. I offered up 160m,80m,40m,20m,15m and 12m. 2m and 70cm got ditched as I didn’t fancy fighting with the beam in the breeze.

I think it is best to think about a plan of action -

Do I want to qualify the summit as quickly as possible and move on to the next summit or retreat back to the car?

Do I want to offer a number of bands? 12m in addition to another band to take part in the challenge but still qualify the summit if 12m is dead for example.

I very rarely lug my FT817 up a hill these days, I prefer to think about what I want to achieve, at the moment my main driving forces are to work DX and to bag the summit points towards my goal of achieving Mountain Goat. My MTR is all I need for this, I scratch my DX itch by working our NA friends on 20m.
Once I have achieved Mountain Goat, I envisage taking even less gear up hills - the pressure to bag the activator points will no longer be there.

I tried an FT857 once from a summit, I couldn’t believe how power hungry that thing was!

Yes, I totally agree - there is no right or wrong way - activator is king. As above, sometimes it is fun to offer lots of modes and bands, but not for every activation.

73, Colin M1BUU

Later edit -

I meant to also make the point that for winter time if you take more radio gear out, you can fit more winter stuff in. Activation time is likely to be shorter in winter also, so a single band quick offering is more likely in any case.


#13

In reply to M1BUU:

I meant to also make the point that for winter time if you take more radio gear
out, you can fit more winter stuff in. Activation time is likely to be shorter
in winter also, so a single band quick offering is more likely in any case.

…and if you’re on a walk lasting a few days that’ll change requirements, too. Plenty of bits of kit I’d be happy to carry a mile or three that I wouldn’t want to carry for fifty miles (like a 10 metre pole!). Also bits of kit that might be needed between days (say a battery charger?) that wouldn’t be needed on a one day outing…

…which reminds me of http://www.sotawatch.org/reflector.php?topic=5053

73, Rick M0LEP


#14

In reply to M1BUU:
I think you have to divorce general pack weight from radio weight.
Regardless of whether I’m operating SOTA or just out for a walk, the “general” pack weight is exactly the same. I still need the same clothing, food, water, camera, phone etc regardless of activity. The ONLY extra for SOTA is my radio kit.
The bread and butter radio is the ATS4b weighing in at 180g for 5 bands (40-15) and I find no need to expand on this. This gives me total flexibility and almost guaranteed qualification of a summit.

If I want to go lighter I can save 100g by taking the mark1 MTR, but this limits me to 2 bands (60&20). Taking 2 MTR’s adds another 180gms which is 80g more than just the ATS4 and one band less!
I usually end up with just the ATS and the lightweight MTR which gives me 6 bands plus a standby radio, should one fail, for 260g.


#15

In reply to MW0WML:

“must go to the gym and eat more salad”

Don`t forget - a few leaves of lettuce on your donner kebab does wonders for the conscience.


#16

In reply to G4ISJ:

Pete, we are singing from the same song sheet. I deliberately didn’t mention weight of supporting gear, food etc, apart from the fact that if conditions require that you need more supporting gear, you can remove radio gear to maintain a reasonable pack weight.

If I had an ATS4, I would do exactly the same as you, if you have the option of more bands and great current consumption characteristics in a rig that’s extremely light, then it’s a win - win situation!

If Steve KD1JV makes another multiband rig available in the future along the ATS type theme I’d like to be at the front of the queue!

73, Colin


#17

In reply to G1INK:

Don`t forget - a few leaves of lettuce on your donner kebab does
wonders for the conscience.

Aren’t you suppose to take that stuff out before you eat it?


#18

In reply to M0LEP:

…which reminds me of
http://www.sotawatch.org/reflector.php?topic=5053

Yeah, I managed an entire winter bonus season qualifying all my summits with the same 9v battery which weighed 50g :slight_smile: Extremely hard to make those things go flat!

73, Colin


#19

In reply to MW0WML:

must go to the gym and eat more salad.

Is a gym a good place to go to for eating salad?

73

Brian G8ADD


#20

In reply to G4ISJ:

It’s interesting to see how different people approach the same problem. Personally I rather like the frisson of excitement that relying on one simple system engenders. In that respect the Rock Mite suits me quite well. While it’s a perfectly viable system you cant be certain of success and thus one lives with the real possibility of failure; I like that!

I did quite a few of my G completion activations that way and enjoyed them all the more for it.

73 Richard G3CWI