DATA/PSK modes for W1 SOTA peaks?

I am brand new to SOTA and planning on hitting a 1-pointer later this week just to cut my teeth on. I’ve been doing mostly PSK work on other radio adventures but don’t see a lot of activity on either SOTAwatch or here on the reflector for anything but SSB and CW. Are there chasers who regularly work PSK or would be willing to?

I’m sure others will chime in but I suspect PSK31 isn’t used much on a peak. That’s not to say you wouldn’t get chasers but maybe not from the SOTA community.

If you want to use a computer then consider FT8 as its all the rage and you will eventually get 4+ contacts using it.

Is FM with a handheld an option? If so might go a lot quicker and be more satisfying.


My intended radio is a FT-817 and I plan on taking a 2m antenna as well, so 2m FM is certainly an option regardless.

Is there a reason PSK isn’t used as much in the SOTA community? I would think it almost ideally suited as a compromise between sensitivity and speed (aka between the WSJT modes and SSB) for those of us who are VERY rusty at our keys.

Weight to and from a peak are significant considerations for activators as is speed of deployment for many reasons (lingering on peak if weather is iffy, distance in could be long etc) and so getting a station up and 4 contacts in the log is often but not always a goal. Computers equals weight and fiddling with more wires etc and PSK could add time relative to a CW or SSB operation.

The 817 is used extensively and successfully in the SOTA world. 5 watts SSB on 40m or even 20m can nab 4+ contacts reasonably painlessly especially if you can spot your self (via a cell connection). I’m not sure where in W1 land you will be but check to see what bands and mode have been successfully used on your target peak. If 2m FM isn’t amongst them then you should factor that in. Maybe line of site to civilization is a factor.

While band conditions aren’t very favorable nowadays, QRP SSB does work as I have discovered to my joy over 3+ years of SOTA-ering.


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I certainly see your point regarding the weight and fragility of a computer. I’ve been successfully using DroidPSK for a few non-SOTA outings off of my cell phone, which mitigates many of those concerns especially if you are taking a cell phone with you in the first place.

I’ll come clean and admit that I’d be far more happy with using CW is my code skills were better (they are abysmal at best right now). It just seemed odd that PSK hadn’t been adopted more broadly here when I’ve had such success with it elsewhere.

If you are getting 4+ contacts on PSK on non SOTA outings then you should consider using it for SOTA. As shared earlier you most likely will get non SOTA chasers which is absolutely fine.

Good luck whatever you decide and I’ve been successful not being a CW guy and have 170+ activations in the log book.


Cool. Thanks! I’ll plan on starting off with PSK and might switch to SSB if the calls don’t come back. I’ll probably try to self-spot on SOTAwatch once I get up there and update based on what mode I’m actually using.

Just as an FYI, I’m planning on activating W1/NL-019 in southern New Hampshire. It’s showing success across the board in terms of bands with a strong peak on 20m (which is hardly surprising).

Thanks for the insight!


What I’ve discovered in my SOTA journey is that operating modes can be regional. For example, in the densely populated LA basin where I have activated often 2m FM is a pretty sure bet to activate a peak, try 2m SSB and you will be calling into the ether. The Pacific Northwest has quite a robust pool of 2m SSB activators and chasers and with a little planning I think they can and do russtle up 2m SSB contacts. 2m FM in the UK is much more of a used mode and at one point I convinced my self after looking at activation data that 30-50% of peaks in England could be activated with 2m FM. You will find a cadre of MGs in the UK that did it just on 2m and 440 FM.

So my point here is that you might find with persistence and awareness prior to an activation of your PSK intent you will create new interest and community. Partly bringing in non SOTA chasers into SOTA and getting existing chasers to use PSK.

Andy MM0FMF is “pioneering” 1.2 GHz and up activations in Southern Scotland using the technique of persistence and announcement of intent to use.


Haha! Thank you, Paul. I’ll see if I can’t stick to my guns on PSK and bring more people along then.


I used to use DroidPSK on my smartphone, with a Wolphi-link interface. That was adequate for SOTA portable PSK, but not brilliant. I’ve now got a Windows 10 tablet and MiniProSC interface, which is much better - though I’ve only used it for JT65 & FT8 via WSJT-X so far. I have installed Fldigi on the tablet too, but not got round to trying PSK / RTTY yet.

I would love to get into PSK31 for SOTA activations, but weight and good weather can be a hindrance. I’ve used DroidPSK before for decoding PSK31 conversations I’ve caught by just holding my phone near the speaker without any special cable. I might have to try rigging up a cable for transmit, but I think I need to figure out how the VOX settings work since I won’t have the normal PTT control I have when using my laptop.

W1 might be a little far for me to reach from W7O here, but I’d love to see if I could get a 20 meter activation with PSK31 sometime. I’ve also considered trying it on 2 meters, but I’m not sure which mode to transmit on. I believe PSK31 is designed to work directly on the band using USB to avoid double modulation, but there will probably be far more people with FM-only 2 meter rigs to contact. My understanding is that will reduce the signal power and potential range due to the power needed for maintaining the carrier over just sending PSK31 with USB.