A day of Firsts

After my failed Cross Fell activation i thought I’d try a small local hill to try my first HF SOTA activation. It was also the first time I’ve let my 5 year old son join me on a hike, he thoroughly enjoyed it and wants to go on another.
I parked up at Lord Stones Cafe and it was very busy, it also has been re developed since i was last there.
We set off and headed off up the wide muddy path to the top of G/TW002 - Crinkle Moor.
My rucksack still has all the heavy kit list of my cross fell activation but it felt lighter for some reason.
We made it to the top and some view was available but it was mostly hazy.
We made it to the top and then followed a small sheep track to the cairns summit where I would set the antenna up.

As this was the first time I’ve set up HF on a SOTA it took me a while to get the pole and antenna and everything all setup and ready and some refinements will be needed to improve the time this takes.

Once on the air and found a suitable rock to sit on I fired my TS-480 up and found a blank frequency. I put out 1 CQ and got nothing.
So i put a spot on sotawatch and called CQ again. What came back was quite a shock. I havent been on SOTA activating/chasing for around 9-10 years and then it was only 2m fm i did. I was not ready for the response to the CQ I got. I felt like a rare DX station.
The first callsign I received back was AC1Z and the callsigns just kept coming, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Norway, Finland and 2 S2S, one with G4ASA on G/TW005 and another with DM/BM116 in Germany.

After around 30 minutes the pileup appeared to go as quickly as it came, my son was also starting to ask if it was time to go.
I gave a quick couple of shouts on my 2m handheld but got no response.
I set about disassembling the station and my assistant was very helpful.
We set off, this time he was the leader he said and we got back down to the car where he tucked into a packed lunch and i drove.

Operated around 1300-1330
TX - kenwood TS-480
Power: 25w
Battery: 12AH 12v SLAB
Antenna: 14mhz half wave resonant end fed with 10M fishing pole as a mast.
24 QSOs 2x S2S QSO and 2x IOTA QSOs

Kit all packed up

All set up with DIY guys

Rig with ridiculous thick and lengthy coax.

Station on G/TW002 Crinkle moor.

SOTA has definately got me ill again. I have the bug called SOTA activitus. hihi.

Although this time round i am surprised and pleased at the amount of world wide coverage SOTA has in Ham radio.



Great that it all went well this time!! It’s a complete blast isn’t it, I just started SOTAing in January and it’s a great “excuse” to walk up a hill!


jings - I just saw that coax, it must weigh as much as my whole pack!

The coax with a 1:1 balun is 1.68kg

One of the ways you learn best is by doing, such as setting up gear when it’s cold, windy and your fingers hurt. Do it a few times and you start coming up with tricks to make it easier, simpler and quicker and to do it with gloves on. Likewise reducing weight.

My 60/40/30 antenna and feeder plus my 20/17/15 antenna and feeder plus 12m antenna plus my 2m antenna weigh less than your coax. If you use an end fed you probably only need a 1m or 2 of feeder anyway.

RG-174 will do for long runs (approx 10m) for anything up to 30m band. RG58 is less lossy for higher bands. All are happy at 100W level and are easily available. If you do want to do 2m, consider by the Times LMR cables. Same size and weight as RG-58 but a fraction of the loss. I think LMR 200 is the RG-58 sized version. Gerald @g4oig uses one the LMR series.

I hope the Lord Stones cafe still serves real ale since its reincarnation. Btw the summit is Cringle Moor, 73 Inky.

I’m not sure I never went on buy a toilet/shower blocks been built. More car park space is available and field has been turned into glamping site with power sockets etc.
Yeah I have some birthday money to spend so might be investing in a 40/20m link dipole from sotabeams. My antenna weighs about 900g my coax 1.68kg and my DIY guys are around 200g. With one SB antenna I can reduce all that from 2.78kg to under 400g. I’m going to buy some power pole connectors and sort my power lead out as well. I’ll eventually get a lipo4 battery too as my battery is 4kg!

Why not just make the link dipole, 66m of wire, a BNC socket, 4 banana plugs and sockets and a bit if plastic for the joins and middle. Pennies. ( don’t buy the plugs from maplin who want £1.39 each!!)

Further to Andy’s comment - the online calculator for making a linked dipole is here: http://www.sotamaps.org/extras.php (click on “linked antenna designer”). I recommend using the 2m gold plated RC power connectors for the links (they’re cheap from hobbyking). Here’s my blog on building such an antenna Junkbox HF antenna | DD5LP / G8GLM / VK2JI blog

Tnx for the contact yesterday by the way Andy - hoping to get out again myself, perhaps Thursday this week, now that the snow storm season appears to have taken a break and roads are open again.

Anthony, you haven’t mentioned what the TS480 weighs - most SSB activators use an FT817 or KX3 but for the higher power levels FT857’s are sometimes used. I’m wondering if a TS480 is lighter than an FT857? I prefer the Kenwood approach of putting what is really needed on buttons on the front panel rather than under multi-level menus.

I agree with the others, that Co-ax and SLAB battery need to be replaced with something lighter but we all start with what we have and then see what we can improve. What you have obviously works well but is a little heavy.

73 Ed DD5LP / VK2JI / G8GLM.

The specs say the TS-480 weighs 3.7kg including the panel. I agree with you in the sense that I prefer how kenwood layout everything thats needs on the front panel instead of in menu’s. I currently have the base and the panel of the rig on the adapter plate thing that comes with the EU package which probably adds at least 300g to the rig s overall i’d say 4kg for the TX. I’m thinking of removing the metal plate and thats one reduced weight.
As for the antenna, I am thinking of making one but I don’t have any sort of SWR analyser kit so not sure if that makes the setting up of the antenna difficult?
Changing the coax as well as the antenna would reduce nearly 3kg of weight to less than 1kg. The battery can be reduced from 4kg down to less than 500g wiht a lifepo4 RC battery pack.
But its a start, its better than nothing and its better to be on the air than not.

I think my total radio kit list for SOTA at the moment comes in at 12.63Kg excluding rucksack and normal walking kit.

apparently a Ft857d is 2.1kg. according to a radio website.(i just googled it) so it is about half the weight of the Kenwood. The Kenwood was designed to be vehicle mobile with the base put out of the way and the panel remotely put somewhere nice. therefore the weight and size are bigger than the rest of the portable market.

Geoff G6MZX put me on to these connectors. I’ve already rebuilt my link dipole using these to replace Lucar connectors. I used some smaller pieces of acrylic sheet to replace the insulators. The dipole isn’t really any different in weight but the it packs away in less volume now and the connectors are much easier to work when wearing gloves. Big thumbs up from me, I’m just a satisfied customer: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/10-x-PAIR-Of-RC-2mm-Gold-Bullet-Connector-INC-Heat-Shrink-For-Motor-Plane-ESC-UK-/330953712677

No it’s no problem without an analyser, I’m assuming you do have a standard SWR bridge though? The link Ed posted is neat, I just used one of the standard tables based on 468/f in feet and subtracted the differences to get my link piece lengths and then added 6 inches to each one for trimming to resonance. Expect the SWR to dip towards the bottom of the band and nibble a wee bit off each end until you get it where you want, folding it back works too.

If you don’t know what I’m on about with these feet and inches (do people under 30?) you’ll have to google that :smile:

my separators are a couple of inches of 15mm spare plastic water pipe, the banana plugs are from the junk box, every expense was spared.
For coax I use an old bit of yellow RG58 salvaged ethernet. it comes with crimped on BNCs!

I actually use 5D-FB cable which I think is equivalent to LMR300 - it’s about 7mm diameter. The downside is that it requires special BNCs, but they are fairly easily obtained. I use a 4.7m length (375g with connectors) which suits where a standard Sotabeam sits on the ubiquitous 7m mast and allows sufficient to operate the rig in the backpack when it is wet. The upside is that being semi-rigid it is easy to coil up when it’s cold - none of that ridiculous tussle that can happen with RG-58 when it is sub-zero.

BTW, I used to carry 6m of RG-213 when I first started! We all have to start somewhere.

Re the 2m gold plated RC power connectors: Antenna rebuilding seems to be catching - mine are under review. With a new antenna on the cards for the next outing I will probably give those connectors a try.

I am also reviewing the kit weight which has got out of all proportion… equivalent to mission creep!

Glad you had a successful activation of TW-002. Always nice to hear, especially when you are the G/TW Area Manager as I am… Sorry, I didn’t catch your name, but that is a fine callsign you have M0VED…

You shouldn’t be put off by radio’s such as the FT-817 or FT-857 for portable use, although I wouldn’t like to use either on a daily basis in my shack, they are perfect for SOTA /P work. To be truthful once either radio is set up to your liking and you have trained yourself how to use it (preferably at home in comfort - not in the cold outdoors) you will rarely need to access any menus.

The only settings I need to change of the hill itself other than band and mode with these two radios is the power level on the FT-857 (Menu No.75), and I may switch out the CW filter on occasion depending on the level of band occupancy. I rarely adjust the CW sending speed as that admittedly is a fiddley thing to do in the heat of an activation, instead I tend to leave more spacing between the sent characters when a lower sender calls me. If I reduce my sending speed down from the usual 26 wpm I use for SOTA I have to turn it back up again after the slower QSO. That is the only thing I find fault with on these two menu driven radios. I’m not prepared to carry an external keyer… with a rotary control, which I use in my shack. Of course if you don’t activate in Morse this menu item will never be a problem for you.

The TS-480, as is the TS-2000 from the same era, is an old design. I bought a TS-2000 myself two years ago and sold it on as I found it to be an ergonomic nightmare myself compared with yaesu gear! Each to their own, I say this admitting that I am rather bigotted towards Yaesu equipment both inside and outside the shack. I find dealing with their service dept on the 3 occasions I have needed to use them in over 30 years experience to be exemplary with repair costs at a reasonable hourly rate.

The Lord Stones is a fantastic venue. I was invited to their opening day last year. Previously the hygiene conditions of the place when John Simpson had it left a lot be desired, especially the toliets with the smelly open urine drain (no wonder he never fixed the lights in there!) and the flies swarming around the uncovered cakes on the counter of the cafe. The local family who eventually bought it after it closed for two years, have spent a small fortune in creating a lovely venue right underneath Cringle Moor. They farm their own Galloway Beef and cook it for the cafe by day / restaurant by night on a special charcoal grill. The steak literally melts in your mouth… They don’t mind walkers parking on their car park without permission but expect you to buy at least a drink before or after your walk. I can’t answer Steve’s INKYs question about whether they serve local ales at Lord Stones as I’m a wine, whisky and lager drinker myself, so last time I was there I didn’t check.

73 Phil G4OBK
QTH Pickering North Yorkshire

I wouldnt say I’m put off the ft817 or ft 857 for portable use as i know i wouldnt be using the menus much on the hill. its costs of a new rig that prevent me buying a new portable oritenated rig(at the moment) has anyone used the X108 20w HF rig?
The ts2000 I hated using it. I was on eof the operators at GB5EJ and we had a mark 5 field, kenwood ts2000 and a kenwood ts570. Out of all of them i prefered the 570. The ts2000 has a million buttons and each one had about three different options. the ts480 is more like the ts570 which i liked but it added the small size and auto atu in, which was why i ended up with that one.

Yes I have one of these and I will try to get an antenna built, I may add 6m into it for this new challenge just announced. As for sizes for a link dipole is a dipole that works 40m prohibitive as to which hills you can deploy it as you don’t want to take over a whole summit with a long antenna. I’m only saying this as I can’t get a 7mhz antenna up at my home qth so my views are based around my experience at home.

Yes i chose it when i got my full license, I was younger and thought it would be fun.

I do understand them actually. Most of my mates don’t but my dad always used feet and inches until he started working as a woodwork technician in a school and then learnt millimetres.
I use feet and inches in heights and lengths of antennas and metres for everything else lol.

As for making my own link dipole antenna I can also try and get my brother to cut some acrylic into shape as he has a nice machine he can use :smile:


Hi Anthony

Welcome to the world of activating! Wish I’d caught you on TW-002 need it for a complete…

My “standard” HF antenna is a doublet (I match it to 80, 60 and 40 with an ATU) each leg is approx. 17m long with 3m cord tails and I have yet to find a summit that I couldn’t set it up on with a bit of thought and consideration (though I have to admit I didn’t even try on Snowdon, conditions demanded a quickie on 2m FM!). The 25m vertically AZ rule can be a big help in this respect, enabling you to move away from the summit on the more popular hills. Very useful for finding a sheltered spot in a gale too - never underestimate the chill factor when you’re sat still on a mountain top for an hour or more…

Good luck with your next activation,

73 de Paul G4MD

OK Anthony…buyer beware… I would be very wary about buying one of those chinese HF radio’s. If you buy one new make sure you get it on sale or return - normal buyers rights if you purchase from a reputable UK dealer. I bought an X1M last year, new from a well known and trusted emporium from the south east. After one hour trying it out I returned it. The receive performance was a nightmare, there was no AGC and trying to read the display was nigh impossible. I decided activating presented enough challenges without trying my chances with it so I sent it back next day and spent a few pounds more and bought a second hand FT-817 instead (I paid £325 with case). I had owned an FT-817 before and it’s been brilliant for when you want to climb the hills and keep the weight down.

PS Noted about the TS480 being a different animal to the TS2000. I didn’t know that. Thanks for the info…

73 Phil

Crickey! Heavier than my entire rig :smile:
The lightest HF set up that I use is 240g complete. (dual band MTR 80g, Lipo 47g, key 28g, tuner and feeder 85g).

My normal HF radio kit, including redundancy, is 2 transceivers covering 5 though to 21Mhz, tuner, 2xLiPo batteries, 2 keys, feeder, phones and spares all fits in a plastic box which weighs in at less than 900g.

Even that is way over the top most days.

Hi Pete

Your station is only of any use if you are a dab hand at Morse Code which of course you are! I think you may have omitted to mention that hihi

73 Phil

As i am effectively just starting out on HF activation this 12.6Kg is a good point to start reducing the weight from. One positive thing is that as its over 12kg there is lots of room to reduce the weight and size of the equipment, except my ts480.

current list is
10m pole -1.42kg
ts480 - 4kg
antenna + power lead - 944g
DIY guy set - 155g
Log - 250g
mic - 180g
headphones - 79g
coax + 1:1 balun - 1.68kg
12AH 12V SLAB battery - 4kg