I remember that day well Adrian!
I think I was taking part in an RSGB 70MHz cumulatives contest on a Sunday morning.
My set up has been made lighter with the addition of LiPo batteries rather than SLAB, (Walt I know your opinion on LiPo )
Now it is an 817, Spectrum Comms Transverter, 2.2Ah 11.1v LiPo for the 817, 5.0Ah 14.8v LiPo with a Diode dropper for the Transverter. Then a simple dipole if back packing, or a collapsible 3 ele beam if the walking is not too far.
However as per your sentiments, if there is no contest on then it is hardly worth going out.
Normally it is a 7m fishing pole with a 450ohm ladder feed slim jim suspended from it with the Wouxun HH on about 4 watts FM only! 700 odd activator points using this so it does work, you’ve just got to be on when you have the best chance of working people, Saturday and Sunday Mornings seem the best bet. Good in WB/CE/SP as well as SW/MW and NW in my experience. Would not fancy it in more isolated areas, it was hard work in SC and I daresay would be tricky in DC.
I think my best was from GW/SW-001 or G/WB-002 where I got into double figures on 4m FM.
I have been on this band since I was first licenced so have a fondness for it, but you would never want to solely rely on it for an activation. Mine was always backed up with 2m SSB or FM, plus if I was feeling really stupid I would take 23cm FM as well! There was one occasion where that worked well
In terms of lightning your gear, has anyone thought of making one of these (below), they’re so small! I know that John MW0XOT has one as does Rob G7LAS and have had good success with them