Other SOTA sites: SOTAwatch | SOTA Home | Database | Video | Photos | Shop | Mapping | FAQs | Facebook | Contact SOTA

Ad-hoc day-to-day VHF SSB activations

Yes, or a flurry of unscrewing and screwing up antenna plugs amonst the dead flies at the back of the rig!

At the moment I only have a horizontally polarised set-up, 2m and 70cm on one boom with one run of coax. Before the 70cm “flavour” I intend to add a similar pair on one boom but vertically polarised, with a two way antenna switch to select polarisations. I should have done it a long time ago but I depended on a three band white stick which has gone deaf on me, probably the weather got into the coax. The point is that I believe in flexibility, but a lot of hams have become creatures of habit, with a limited palette of bands. Galvanising them into changing is an uphill task!

This is an interesting topic to me. I have used verticals for various modes and there is no doubt in my mind that using ssb on 2m is more effective than fm. However getting people at the other end to switch to ssb when they see your spot for a ssb signal is sometimes tricky.

I’ve mentioned before (many times, perhaps too many) that I have also experimented with polarisation comparisons on FM, even with just horizontally tilted HTs. The horizontal wins every time.

However if people have slim Jims, flower pots, collinears or even beams erected for vertical polarisation, either on a summit or at home, asking them to try ssb instead of, or as well as, fm should be relatively simple. Don’t change anything at the antenna, just move to ssb (with appropriate frequency changes to avoid enraging the band police). (Come to think of it, get the band police to give you a signal report, one more contact in the log). Sadly, some will have forgotten how to move off their favourite fm channels, even on a multimode rig. Some will be afraid to upset the stored setup, even more sadly.

Opening people’s eyes to the possibility of ssb operation and how good it can be, is something that is worth trying. So even if the fm contact is easy enough, try ssb anyway.

2m SSB MG award, anyone?

73 Andrew VK1DA/VK2UH


I think that this phenomenon might not be limited to NW England, as I’ve also been considering a foray into 2m SSB here in Canada. Because of my fast and light style I also leave my FT817 behind if I’m in an area where I can get away with a 2m HT. I’m lucky enough that I can get a great signal out with an RH-770 1/2 wave clone mounted directly to the HT and it’s very convenient to be able to walk around while making contacts (helps to stay warm.) What tickles my interest is finding/building a 2m SSB rig that could fit into same 10cm x 10cm x 5cm space (or smaller.) I don’t think any commercial versions of what I’m talking about exist, but I have stumbled across a couple of old articles that might be of interest to somebody pursuing a project like this, they certainly helped me while working on my own HF phasing SSB transceiver design:

High-Performance Single-Signal Direct Conversion Receivers

A Multimode Phasing Exciter for 1-500 MHz


Generally you don’t even get a callsign, let alone a signal report…


Worked a bloke on 70cms SSB from a summit once and asked if him he wanted to try 23cms? Yes please was the answer. When I told him I only had 23cms FM he was concerned because “I don’t have an FM antenna just SSB”. This could mean 2 things, he knew his 23cms antenna would have an unsuitable SWR in the 23cms FM bandsection or that he didn’t think FM would work/ was allowed on a horizontal Yagi. He was using a TS2000 or TS790 so he had all modes on 23cms. I told him to tune to 1296.500 (300kHz up from SSB centre) and switch to FM. “But it’s a horizontal antenna, it wont work on FM only SSB or CW”, this from a ham who had passed a proper GPO run CW test and had held a licence for 30+ years. “Just put the damn switch to FM and work me, it’s not hard.” So we had a QSO and he went off astounded that FM worked on horizontal antennas.

/me shakes head and walks off silently


Hi Andy, I confess that I’m one of those who has drifted away from 2m SSB. (I was never very active on it :anguished:). My primary reason for this is that I tend to carry a small HF Tcvr that won’t do VHF and a dual band HH, that won’t do SSB. I should really get around to selling my 817, as I never use it now. Or I could start using it again and playing with 2m SSB. n+1 is indeed the correct number of radios to have - sorry Mrs PJZ.


Hi Andy (G6PJZ) [Andy/Andrew is a popular name on this thread]

I was thinking the former for a long time but now I’m thinking the latter.

As an ‘icebreaker’ I took my Ft817 out this morning for the first time in ages combining a regular dog walk on my local SOTA summit, Arnside Knott (G/LD-058) with a portable op, and worked two SSB stations (the latter a break-in caller). Local guys, one 40km, no distance records but getting them 5/9 they getting me 5/6 with my 5W on RH-770 whip - all three of us V-pol.

The point is, it was easy - and it’s not patronizing to say - it needs to be easy to encourage FM operators to try SSB again. There’s no conflict here with other ways of encouraging SSB ops, e.g. via contests.

Regards, Andy

Well we can agree to differ about whether “patronising” is the appropriate word.

In recent years, the RSGB Contest Committee imposed a restriction on antennas for the newly introduced FMACs. It limited antennas to omnidirectional verticals.

This failed spectacularly. Experienced contesters were annoyed that they had to change antennas at 8pm ready for the main SSB event in which horizontal beams were allowed. Moreover, the newbies that the RSGBCC were trying to encourage - felt patronised. After all, things like beams and polarisation are techniques covered in the Foundation syllabus, and the newcomers to contesting were ready - and able - to deploy them!

Let’s encourage people with best practice, not with dumbing-down.

Hi Tom,

You said my statements were patronizing without explaining why they were patronizing. In my original post I acknowledged the work of contesters in encouraging newcomers but you chose to write that off as being ‘defensive’.

Your last two postings suggest to me that you are being elitist – that there is only one way to do SSB and that’s the way the contesters do it, and anything else is sub-standard and dumbing down. In my opinion, that’s just the kind of remark that puts off newcomers coming into amateur radio.

I completely understand why contesters use large horizontally-polarized Yagis on big poles but SSB isn’t all about contests. There is (or use to be) casual ad-hoc day-to-day use too, and I’m surprised and disappointed by your hostility to a few of us who would like to relieve the everyday use of the mode.

BTW: Casual SSB ops using V-pol doesn’t affect contesters using H-pol.

This encouragement, such as it is, seems to have failed dismally. Andy’s suggestion may fail, but it offers a way forward that otherwise is singularly lacking. Personally, I remember with great affection my time on V/UHF with AM in the 1960’s and SSB in the 1970’s and 80’s and would like to see at least a modicum of the fun of those days return to fill the silences.


I didn’t explicitly say that your words were patronising. I do feel there is a danger that taking the attitude that we can get more people on 2m SSB by making it easier can be considered patronising. I still feel that the best way of getting people on SSB is by encouraging them to do it the conventional way, whereby they are most likely to encounter more response. Where we agree is in the idea of a movement of more VHF SSB SOTA activations to stimulate more general activity.

Back in the early days of SOTA, the “Birmingham Mafia” encouraged 2m SSB use really effectively. These prolific chasers - Graham G4JZF, Don G0NES, Peter M0COP and Brian G8ADD encouraged activators to use 2m SSB, horizontal polarisation, simple beam antennas and correct operating procedure. I remember learning so much from these chasers about VHF operating and protocol in those first 3 or 4 years that I was licensed. I am now a very active and reasonably successful VHF SSB activator/operator, so that good influence on me - combined with the failure of the Contest Committee’s experiment to restrict to / encourage vertical antennas as a way of increasing participation - informs my present view.

It is not elitist. I know from experience that people are much more attracted to someone showing them how to do something properly - and well - than someone trying to make it easy for them.

BTW, unlike most contesters, I don’t use a large beam. Mine is a small lightweight thing I carry in my rucksack and set up in less than 5 minutes.


I don’t have 2m SSB capability currently, just FM handhelds. But I’m going to get it this year and give it a go.


Want to buy an 817 Tony :wink:?

It will probably be cheaper than the silly prices people are asking for FT-290 Mk II radios!


Apologies for the blatant (and commercial) hijacking of the original Andy’s thread :wink:

Sorry Andrew, not quite when I attained MG, but I should be able to claim it now. I’m afraid a few outings on 70cm SSB got in the way. My certicate says “All Unique Summits 144/432MHz”. :grinning:

Ha, that happened to me when I was on The Begwns GW/MW-025… and you wouldn’t believe who the other station was - only a certain GM group operating portable from Dumfries and Galloway that you know very well! Unfortunately I was not able to persuade them to try to make contact… and I did offer to call on their frequency. :grinning:

Yes indeed, and there were many others around the country that were active on a regular basis, some unfortunately now SK. A decade ago I could pre-write my 2m SSB log and tick the chasers off in order as they called in. Logs of more than a dozen were commonplace on the mode, with ease. I used to get a right kick out of whistling into the mic at the start of an activation and hearing a response which went something like “you’re 57 Gerald”. :grinning:

Anyway, I will be out on the hills again soon and vertical polarisation will be part of the arsenal to try to get more contacts on 2m SSB. Let’s see what happens.


I don’t know about the Mk 11s but my Mk 1 cost me a fiver - and it was working!

Admittedly nice and clean looking but £240! :astonished:

Seems, the discussion is missing an important point: FM is a high quality local natter mode while SSB is a narrowband DX mode. When operating SSB I wouldn’t give a bunch of dB’s away just by using a less effective polarisation.
On a summit any QSO is appreciated but I don’t want to miss the distant stations, so the usually close-by stations with white sticks have to get along with getting small numbers reports.



I can probably guess who was operating. A few of my chums refer to FM as feeble mode.

But please don’t consider them “mode snobs”! :slight_smile: