A Dozen Top Tips for SOTA

It’s raining today, so I made a video instead:

Hope you find it useful.
73 de OE6FEG


Tip #13: Don't let the weather deter you from doing SOTA

Just teasing you Matt; I enjoyed your video and agree with most of the tips. I haven’t moved to phone logging yet; I think paper logging is more suitable for beginners. I think once I get more comfortable with CW pile-ups (my main mode now), I may give it a go. I’ll also wait a few more years before using a chair :wink:


Hi Matt, great video, really enjoyed it. Thanks for your effort.

73 de Geoff vk3sq


Great point about using the phone for logging. I resisted for a while, but after getting used to it the convenience can’t be beat. No more transferring QSOs from paper to computer. I’m using RUMLogNG on a mac, which has a nice built-in SOTA export function.

And I had never even considered it before, but I may give the umbrella a try!


Amazing Matt. Well done. BTW I’ve only been doing one thing right. I have a well tested pre-actication list



No first aid kit? I carry a “stop the bleed kit” with wound packing material, gauze wrap, utility scissors, and a tourniquet. We’re in the mountains, spills happen, and a tumble on rocks can leave one with deep wounds or even compound fractures.

Then again, those are standard items I always take into the field, not just SOTA, but I think it’s useful to increase awareness.



Here’s a generic checklist from the NaSota group.io… pick and choose for personalized list.

==== Before hitting the trail:

Test equipment at home, add name and phone number to all items, use checklist at home and again when arriving at trailhead, post SOTA alert, pre-hydrate, do final weather check, call home with location of trailhead and summit plus estimated times, place everything on hood/bonnet of truck while getting organized before the climb, lock truck.

==== At the top:

Safety first, don’t run out of sunlight, watch for approaching thunderheads, leave no trash or gear behind, show the simple courtesy of taking out other’s trash, announce your new freq when you QSY and when you QRT, consider returning to original freq right before going QRT, use all your tools to find your way back down to the trailhead.

==== Back at the truck:

Put everything on the hood while stowing gear, change into dry shirt, call home, drive safely, add tips/cautions to summit resource page in database.

==== What to take:

Checklist including alerted freq’s and peak reference, backpack, radios & mini-manuals, mic, headphones, keyer paddle and backup straight key, tuner/balun, transmission line, adapters (sma-bnc), antennas (hf-vhf), tripod-base, fish-rod/mounting spike & straps, counterpoise, fully charged batteries/power cable, clip leads, cordage, tent stakes, light hammer, fishline, 2 oz sinkers, slingshot, log book, 2 pencils, Swiss army knife, cigarette lighter, chapstick, light tarp, water bladder, food, headlamp, orange survival bag, pistol (where legal), bear spray/bell, whistle, signaling mirror, binoculars/camera, altimeter, thermometer, clock, GPS/map/compass, route plan, Bushnell Backtrack or similar, locator beacon, phone, APRS, mini-stool, spare truck key, copy of radio license in plastic envelope with money/papers, layered clothing/rain gear, hat, gloves, goggles/dark glasses, sunscreen, spare socks, trekking poles, snow gear, boot traction devices, towel, mini-dictaphone, first aid kit, toilet paper, bug repellent spray, flag. Pick some items for your list.



Wow! How much does that lot weigh?


I’m glad my video has sparked off some debate. I never carry a first aid kit, although I realise that is highly contentious. I would just improvise with some torn up clothing if I had to. I do have a Garmin InReach, so I could easily summon help if it was a bad accident. No short list can cover all the essentials and I deliberately left certain things out in order to keep it under 12.
73 de OE6FEG


As stated, you have to pick and choose among the potential checklist items. I forgot to say that some chasers ask for your Maidenhead or County/Shire/Prefecture. Might as well add that to your customized list, in addition to your peak reference and alerted freq’s.



I 100% agree with this. After I cut myself on a sharp rock in Arizona on an activation and left a trail of blood all the way back to the car at the trailhead, I always carry a kit to stop bleeding.


As somebody who cannot climb summits, I want to thank those that do. I enjoy chasing SOTA. That said, I would not want anybody to take ridiculous risks, so your preparations for safety means a lot to me. One thing I might add to the list is to invite a second activator. Spending the day with a ham friend and having the added safety of not being alone, strikes me as a sensible option. Take care and thanks.


Hi Matt,

good point with the Inreach especially for those activating alone. Make sure you have the right cover (insurance).

The checklist cannot be emphasized enough…

Thanks for all hints!


Hi Matt @OE6FEG

I too enjoyed your video and interpreted it to be SOTA centric versus the 10 essentials for a well prepared hiker which includes a compass, blah blah blah.

I carry my Garmin InReach diligently irrespective of going to a local easy up hike to some “monster” in the remote wilds of Western USA.

Jamie @N6JFD is part of the Tahoe (Sierra Nevada area, CA) S & R team and was sharing some horror stories of people being rescued. Hope it never happens to any of us and that my inReach turns out to do double duty as an instance policy and spotting device (for non CW types …), nothing more.

Your flight deck intrigues me. I presume the size is such that it easily slides into a rucksack but maybe not.



I still use paper logging, but for other reasons, I can write on pen/paper faster then I can single finger type into the phone keybad (and i’m more prone to errors typing on the phone). While 80-90% of my chases are by the same group of people, those odd ones that I could transpose wrong into the phone prevent me from bothering to go full digitial. And this next bit is a bit of an extreme case and was/is preventable, but I went out on a SOTA mission with a non sota person once, and he was trying to take a picture of me, and dropped his brand new iphone (as in < 36 hours old) right on the rocks… Before he’s even had the oppty to take a picture with it, he’s already destroyed it…in that case IF that had been me, adn that was how I’d been logging I just lost that log (and I know you covered this, but…). My .02 on the whole “digital logging” thing…

So on th epoint of the whole First Aid Kit. If you carry a kit, it does not need to be that big ol honking thing you buy at REI, or whatever your local mountain shop may be. At the end of the day most of that stuff will expire before you get the chance to use it. I carry a very pruned down FA kit (personal use kit that IF I did manage to wander up on a fellow injured walker) I could make it work, but Wilderness medicine is more of a creative art then it is a kit you carry (ie…trekking poles and a sit pad go a LONG way to stabilize/splint a twisted ankle etc).
My personal FA kit is some Ibuprofen, Athletic tape, 2 sharpies, some aspirin/paracetamol, some of hte larger gauze pads, scissors, and an emergency breather in case I have to do assisted breathing (you can buy really small lightweight versions of these that take up minimal space). Beyond that I tend to carry enough supplies for me to survive 24 hours if it comes to it (ie…it wont be comfortable, but I will make it), and that tends to be season/location/wx dependent.

Good video, enjoyed the watch!


Great video. I’ve been logging on a phone or tablet since 2013 and just love it. It’s not just the logging, it’s also the sending and receiving of spots through SOTAwatch and the support of other programs, like WWFF, that makes electronic logging the way to go.
I have put a lot of time into VK port-a-log and it makes me smile when I see it mentioned in a video like this.

73 Peter VK3ZPF


It’s just an A4 size sheet of clear acrylic. By coincidence, it fits in most rucksacks. I have thought about making a slightly longer one that will accommodate my KX2, which currently has to sit on the ground.
73 Matt


And rent a Sherpa ! :rofl:


Thanks Matt. Some interesting ideas there. Also it is clear to see from the comments that kit “must haves” vary from country to country. In Scotland I would never venture into the high hills with an umbrella instead of waterproofs, but I guess my Bothy Bag is your umbrella!

Weight is always something that comes to the forefront of any SOTA kit list. I was intrigued that you valued the comfort of your chair despite the weight penalty. It’s certainly worth considering on a shorter hike with a planned longer period of operating time. Of course the best way for most of us to save a kilo is to shed excess flab!

Finally, as a morse operator using a CW only radio, do you carry any radio capable of voice as well? I would say this would be necessary for emergency purposes. There are numerous examples where a Ham has called rescue services via another station where no phone signal was present.

Thanks again for a thought provoking video. I’m off to make myself a carabiner pole topper…

73, Fraser


your link seems to be wrong. Did you mean main@nasota.groups.io | Home ?
But the list is good! How many backpacks do you carry on your back :slight_smile: ?

73 de Martin / HB9GVW