Are you embarrassed for chasing in public areas? Holiday style chasing

When I started in amateur radio I wasn’t brave enough to operate a radio on a park or any other recreational area. I felt shy and got nervous: what people would think of me using that strange equipment?

As years have passed I am confident and feel happy to operate the radio in public. There is nothing wrong with it, and if anybody is interested on what I’m doing I’m pleased to explain and give some brief info on what ham radio is, and about the magic of radio waves propagation.

What I do is to choose a quiet spot on a public area, far from any important attraction, I extend the antenna away from people or paths, avoiding noisy environment, and far from childs if I can.

Holiday style chasing

Chasing SOTA activation at home is great, but when I’m far from home for holidays I’m excited about chasing with my portable SOTA gear.

This is challenging because you are operating low power and simply wire antennas, as the activators do, and logging a SOTA chase in that situation is a real joy.

You have to put an extra effort to choose when to call and squeeze your operating skills, as you hear the rest of chasers calling with huge power and better antennas. I never call using /P after my callsign not to confuse the activator with a S2S.

A few days ago I visited some relatives in North Spain, in the Cantabric sea at the village of Castro Urdiales (EA1/CT region).

I decided to spend a bit of time near the beautiful lighthouse, located right at the high point in front of the sea. Is there a shack more beautiful than this, to operate greeting your SOTA mates, feeling the breeze in front of the sea, hearing the signals and watching the small fisherman boats work nearby?

  • My setup: Rig LNR LD-5, three 18650 LiIon batt and a multiband EFHW inverted vee.

Activity was intense, jumping up and down the bands as the spots scrolled in Sotawatch.

I felt rewarded logging 10 stations in the hour I stayed in the park. I received lower signal reports than at home, and I blessed the activators for hearing me in the crowd.

Have you ever tried that or do you feel embarrassed?
Try chasing outside if you can: lots of fun and rewarding.

73 Ignacio


I love the way they seem to have combined the new structure with the old in that lighthouse Ignacio.
I’m not a great chaser, but do a reasonable amount of operating outside. I do feel self-conscious operating in public and try to keep some distance between me and crowds. We speak a lot of gobbledygook (good luck with Google translate on that! :wink:) - “CQ”, “SOTA”, “59”, “73” etc which must sound strange to bystanders. Even my loving wife refers to my hobby as “playing 10 4 big buddy” :man_facepalming:.

It is one of the ironies of amateur radio and SOTA, that a hobby which is so closely linked with the art and science of communication, is in practice such a solitary activity.


Well said! :+1:


I’m afraid that’s one of the sad myths of our hobby.

General people know few details of amateur radio and just have a slight idea of us: they concentrate on our bizarre languaje used in our contacts.

They don’t know about the “art” of building transmitters and antennas, or the science behind wave propagation, or the chemical process of ionosphere ionisation, etc…

That’s why I don’t mind to spend some minutes with the curious people that stop and ask me what I’m doing, so that they leave me with a deeper idea on what is going on, much more scientific and interesting than the strange languaje we use.

In my opinion, if we want our hobby has a future and to get new operators involved we would need to spread a different and detailed idea on what is a Ham and why it make sense to do this activity.

73 Ignacio


Yesterday I was in the Vosges and actually FL/VO-002 was also on the ToDo list.

Currently, the “Route des Crete” is so busy because it’s vacation season and on Saturday the Tour de France passes through here. Just FL/VO-002 and its surroundings was very crowded.

Since I have denied myself an activation, especially since I am often in the area.

I have often made an activation near “muggles”. sometimes there are nice conversations - sometimes oblique looks.

Usually I sit down at the edge and use the headphones. That shields a bit… in CW I don’t disturb anyone either.

73 Armin


I had the exact same fears. Then I quickly realized that people didn’t take me for a crank, but showed interest and appreciation. At first I was afraid that the official forest workers would drive me out. Now we happily greet each other.

73 Chris


There is no need to be shy about using amateur radio in public in most cases. Wouldn’t want to do it in the midst of a crowd of excited soccer fans, if you get my drift, but as a tourist on some scenic place, why not. Let common sense rule, EA2BD has the right ideas. I’ve also had some nice conversations with interested bystanders, and even dared to operate /m from a train on some occasions - never had any complaints.

However, if you operate portable, I recommend that you use the /p suffix even if you aren’t required to do so. In my experience, it gives you that one extra “psychological” S meter point. Besides, your portable location may be good for some other award program, it’s not only the SOTA people who operate /p :wink:

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Yesterday I had used some time exploring Kendal Castle, I had been to Kendal many times but not been to castle before. Being a radio ham, the first thing that struck me was what a good place for radio it would be! Kendal Castle is sat on top of a little hill in a public park.

I had a few hours to lose this afternoon whilst my son was at college, so I packed my MTR-5B into my little backpack. I set up my radio near the castle. I’d seen an alert for Richard @G4TGJ and thought I’d try to work him. I figured that it would be quite difficult on 30m, but I hoped that my take off would help me out a little. I heard Richard very weakly on 30m but we did just about manage a QSO. Strangely, and as I’ve noticed before, the signal was a bit stronger on 20m and we managed a more solid QSO on this band.

It was nice to catch Kjell @LA1KHA on LA/TM-049 on 30m. I’ve only ever worked Kjell once before. It was Kjell’s 9V battery SOTA challenge that got me into activating with CW.

I spent a couple of hours in front of the radio, responding to the spots on SOTAwatch. There wasn’t a lot of activity this afternoon but I worked several SOTA stations. I also worked GB4PVM on IOTA EU-011.

I finished off my afternoon in a cafe.

73, Colin


Hi Colin
Thanks for the QSOs today. I was going to ask if you were in a park in Kendal and you were!
73 Richard

Saludos, Ignacio.
I can relate to feeling out of place while operating in public. After some practice I feel it less and less. My gear, especially the antennas, has sparked some interesting conversations. Two activations were achieved while standing in the street in front of someone’s house so I used VHF only. On W7O/WV-138 one of the owners came out to check his mailbox. We had a short conversation and he had no problem with my presence. if I’d really been thinking I would have asked to erect my HF antenna in his front yard. I think he would have said yes!
One of two chaser locations I use frequently are along the LA river channel in Studio City. The other is in the Tree People park area above Studio City. It has a much better signal takeoff.
I use headphones and mostly CW so my noise production is limited to the faint sounds from mechanical movement of my paddle. I think most people think I am doing some sort of government or scientific testing and don’t want to disturb me, hi!
73, David N6AN


Hi Colin, I don’t think you do Wainwrights on the Air (WOTA) but there are two very nearby Wainwright summits the parking for which is only seven minutes drive from Kendal college - Scout Scar and Cunswick Scar - which not only have great views but a better low-angle takeoff than down in the town. Perhaps next time you are killing time in Kendal.


Mine doesn’t. Mo gets it, particularly this aspect of it. Despite being completely non-technical, she gets a buzz out of the buzz I get from it, particularly when getting qrp dx, or some 2m action.

To the original question. My hobbies since youth have been “nerdy”. Trains, modelling, radio etc. Stuff I kept quiet, despite winning awards in railway modelling in my youth.

I am more confident now and proud to speak about my hobby, and I’m non-phased by operating in public, which has happened a few times recently. The American public seem to be more supportive than the Brits too, from my limited experience.


Remember some people’s hobby is hitting a small white ball with a funny shaped bat and trying to get the ball into hole 450yds away. If you want the ball in the hole why take it out in the first place, and in the second why start 450yds away?

Makes amateur radio look quite sensible.


“A good walk spoiled”, surely applies to both activities?


Same here, my wife tolerates, nay, actually encourages me to do my oddball hobbies because she knows I enjoy them. I don’t want to over-generalize but men tend to go in for more quirky pastimes than women, a difference between the sexes recently on show in the gentle TV comedy drama, The Detectorists.


I was admiring your socks Colin :smiley: (Not the MTR as I have seen loads of them before in photos!)

I imagine the Kendal QTH was nice and quiet RFI wise…

73 Phil

We also got into watching that series this year via iPlayer Andy. The enthusiasts Andy, Lance and fellow club members can be likened to radio hams in many ways. The club nights in the village hall are similar to the natter nights at the local ham radio club!

Lance’s TR7 sold at Bangers & Cash Mathewson’s auction’s near us for £30,200 recently. It wasn’t as nice as this picture shows when you got close up. Quite rusty in places. The Detectorists TV programme has a cult following it seems.

Detectorists Yellow TR7 (youTube link)


Unfortunately, it’s typical of many BL products.

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Some people climb mountains, do nothing but touch the trig point and go down again. How silly is that?



In my early childhood, my (biological) father had a small boat which was kept on the Isle of Coll, Inner Hebrides. (I was named with a nod to Coll BTW.) My father was friendly with a local family on Coll, and they would use, and look after the boat, and we would stay with them during holidays. My father would catch lobsters with home made creels, sometimes I went out on the boat with him. Probably as a result, I’ve always been fascinated by lobsters and the sea. My father left home whilst I still very young and had very little contact.

I was in Carlisle with my wife and sons a few years ago and we went in a shop selling Jellycat soft toys. Knowing my fondness for lobsters, my son had insisted that my wife should secretly buy a Jellycat lobster and I was surprised to receive it once I’d left the shop!
Larry the lobster (he came with that name) is kind of our family mascot and he’s even been to the top of Ben Nevis GM/WS-001. Last month Larry went to the Isle of Iona.

Larry on Iona with his Iona tartan sash.

Upon seeing the lobster socks in the Fat Face shop, my son bought me them as a gift.

So in conclusion, I like fun stuff and I don’t care what ‘normal’ people think, if I want to play radio in a park, I’ll go and do it!

Life without fun isn’t life!

Oh, and yes, Castle Hill was wonderfully RF quiet!

73, Colin