Dogging, Wombling and free SOTA batteries. (Part 1)

Before we go further… there’s some adult oriented humour here. Skip the first definition and video if you’re easily offended or have no sense of humour.

We need some definitions here as to what dogging, wombling mean.


/ (ˈdɒɡɪŋ) /


British slang the practice of carrying out or watching sexual activities in semi-secluded locations such as parks or car parks, often arranged by e-mail or text messages

I have a time share dog, Jess, who spends 3 days with me and Mrs. FMF and 4 days with my son. One of things having a dog does is it teaches you about where you live.

Here we are about a 1km from home amongst the wild Orchids.

I never knew of a fracton of the paths I have discovered out walking Jess. Which brings us to “dogging” and the comedy use of the term. Peter Kay is a hugely successful English comedian famed for his everyday observational comedy and he did a long sketch about misunderstanding the term.

Anyway, thanks to Peter Kay, dogging also means nothing more than taking the dog for a walk. But it gets a raised eyebrow from people who have never seen Peter Kay :wink:

So some time late January I was dogging and came across a “shiny thing” laying on a path. I put it in my pocket for later inspection. I Googled the name of the item and found it was an ElfBar single use disposable vape. So a vape is an electrically heated chamber containing a fluid that vapourises when heated. The liquid contains Nicotine (the thing people smoke cigarettes for) and is allegedly safer than tobacco. To heat the chamber there’s a battery and a pressure activated switch. Hang on battery? Yes. Refillable vapes use 18650 batteries to power the heater. Disposable vapes contain a LiPo as they can provide the current to instantly vapourise the fluid. But as they are single use so once used they are thrown away.

That has to be the most outrageous thing I have heard in years… there is a finite amount of Lithium in the world which we need for future batteries and putting into a single use item that is not recycled is just insane. Apparently sales of single use vapes is enormous as they just work and are quite cheap.

I wasn’t sure if the one I found was something someone had dropped and lost but no, people just throw them into bushes etc. when they are empty. Sadly, many people in the UK are simply scum and drop litter at any opportunity. The lack of litter in places like Germany, Switzerland, Austria is striking in comparison. So now I knew that lots of single use vapes are sold each day and people just drop them when empty. armed with this info in mid January I went in to Womble mode.


Collecting things out of skips, bins, abandoned flats and rubbish tips which can be put to good use. Named after the Wombles kids TV show, where the Wombles recycled things other people threw away.
Slang word used commonly in the squatter community who furnished their homes with wombled items.

All you have to do is walk about and keep your eyes open and you will find these on the ground. The following photo shows 17 single use vapes found within 5km of my home when walking Jess in the last 9 weeks. Actually, I found one when I parked at Scald Law, someone threw one out of their car when driving past!

9 weeks Wombling !

The most common single use vape I find is the Elfbar 600 (bottom 11 items). The others are much less common but the square blue ones have the ultimate prize, a big battery!

As it’s been winter, I normally have gloves one when dogging. (qv) You want to be careful touching these because they’ve been in someone’s mouth and then left in the undergrowth. We’ve all got past Covid so a bit of sense touching these is needed, I wouldn’t want to catch something nasty.

If you strip them down, plastic end plugs pull out, you can remove the pressure switch, battery and vape chamber. Again I wear one-use disposable gloves (like mechanics now wear) as there is often leaking vape fluid over everything inside. That contains nicotine which is easily absorbed through the skin and you don’t want that. Anyway you find typically 3 different sized LiPo batteries.

Three sizes of battery, 13350 (1.3x3.5cm) 500mAhr, 13400 (1.3x4cm) 550mAhr, and 20400 (2.0x4.0cm) 1500mAhr.

It should be noted the blue square section hi capacity vapes are illegal to sell in the UK as they contain too much nicotine by volume. These were probably sold on eBay but they have the big batteries :wink:

Here’s the current selection of batteries waiting for reuse.

And here is the 1st proof of concept at reusing these FREE batteries for SOTA. This is 6 x 13400 550mAhr cells wired as 3S2P in an Altoids tin. So this is a 1.1Ahr pack in a box the same size as a QCXmini, which is what it is intended to power. Right now it’s wired to a JST connector so it can be charged/discharged for testing. Show to the right is a 3S BMS from eBay that was £3 inc. P&P but it’s too big for the space left at the end of the case (measure twice Andy next time!) It will still fit inside but I was going to look for a smaller BMS. The inside of the tin is lined with Kapton tape (eBay). This is the yellow tape you can see on some cells. I used it because it is stable at up to 400degC and wont melt and catch fire the way PVC insulating tape or heat-shrink can. More tape is needed over each end of cell. With the BMS installed there’ll be a single connector on the lid for both charging and use.

I’m expecting easily to get 2hrs QCXmini operation out of such a pack.

But that doesn’t really matter as much as getting the cells for free and also cleaning up my environment is so much more important!

If you do collect these and use the cells then wear gloves till you have cleaned off any fluid and for heavens sake, CHECK THE CELLS for any damage. If they look squashed or mechanical damaged, then don’t use them. Take them to your recycling depot.

On air reports to follow.



… a great write up with very necessary explanations !!

I prefer cats… but find myself a reluctant ‘dogger’ as my wife took on two rescue Frenchies during lockdown and have also found these abandoned Vapes whilst walking the dogs. However, more often that not… they have been squashed flat by a car driving over them in car parks. When I found one in good nick, I was taking it apart (wearing gloves and on lots of old newspaper) and felt the battery getting hot - it appeared that I had somehow shorted it so quickly disconnected a wire. A check with a voltmeter revealed it still had a full’ish charge of 3.63v so I think they are disposed off when the Vape runs out as opposed to when the battery has gone flat.

Unfortunately, I’ve only ‘wombled’ one decent 13400 550mAh battery to date so I’m also on the lookout for more !!

73, Lea M0XPO


I too have a fine selection of wombled batteries

I am sure the XYL wonders why I sometimes smell of some weird potion when I’ve just been out dogging…
. the innocuous version that is.

I find a week or so in the garden shed reduces the smell sufficiently and doggy bags are ideal for the collection and transportation aspect.

Best ones are collected in dryish weather as if too wet the cells will have shorted out and be useless so obviously test before wiring them in.



I found another Elfbar 600 tonight out on a similar route to this morning. It’s not been there too long !!

The pack made so far used the best batteries that were all above 3.2V. I had a 13400 that was sowing 1.1V and careful charging from lab PSU brought it up to 4.2V and it seems to be OK despite that fact it should be ruined.

Yes, I’ve used them for this. Best in the Winter is people don’t take off their gloves so you often find many unused doggy bags that were dropped by people too idle to pick them when struggling in gloves. Being a miserable tight-fisted ham, I pick them up for later use. I can normal find 2 or 3 per walk.

The disposable vape’s days may be numbered in Scotland as I believe the devolved government is considering banning their sale. Need 1x 20400 1500mAhrand hopefully today’s 13400 will be in good condition.


I find it incredible that these haven’t been banned. How or earth can any government on this planet sanction the sale of anything containing a lithium battery that is disposable. It makes me very angry.

So, well done Uncle Bulgaria !!


Several shops also sold disposable power banks, not sure if they still do. e.g.:

(He’s also covered wombling for free lithium cells)

Glad I’m not the only one who uses the term.


Yup, they are just as bad. I was equally furious when I saw these for sale in my shop. Thankfully no more.


Hi Andy,
I’ve been collecting the plastic tubes from the centre of doggy bag rolls thinking that they will make good insulating sections for my next link dipole. I’ve seen some of those vaping tubes when out walking Moxie, the station dog, but until now didn’t realise what they were. So I’ll start collecting them now as well. Always keen to “re-purpose” things and I’m of the right vintage to “Remember you’re a womble” !


Brilliant article Andy. Now you’ve done it… I will now be forever looking down when I’m out for a walk. I can’t say I have ever seen these single use vapes, but will certainly keep a look out as I really hate waste. Not as though I need any more LiPOs… my original 2009 vintage packs are still powering activations. :grinning:


And you’ll realise how much crap people just throw on the ground.

Dogging today and I found an empty and squashed flat tube no contents and a recently squished Elfbar 600. The LED was still lit but the battery was not cylindrical but very elliptical. So no new swag today. It’s been raining heavily on and off the last 18hours so anything cardboard is soaked. I found 17 empty cardboard vape wrappers that were not sodden, so today’s litter :frowning:


Hi Andy,
So sad to notice there are single use vape that are thrown on floor with LiIon cells inside, doh!

Unconscious waste, way down we go…
Clever recycle you do, thanks for sharing.

73 Ignacio


I have been looking for these things, but hardly ever see them. Guess being out in the “boonies” means we dont see them as often?

Kent K9EZ


I don’t recall having ever seen an abandoned eCig. Different class of people round here I guess.


A friend has done this too, he puts them inside PP9 9V battery cases that go in the old Transistor Radios. I see these e-cigs in the bins at work and keep meaning to salvage them. The e-cigs do need to be banned or at least have a collection point so they can be recycled properly instead of ending up in landfill.

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I find most around the train station which is 1.5km away. But the rest of my neighbourhood is slim pickings as it’s mainly NRS social grade AB and those people don’t smoke or vape. Instead they drive their sliver/grey Audi/Merc/BMW/Lexus like an a**e! If I cross the railway and move towards the town centre, the frequency of found vapes increases as the NRS social grade of the streets changes to C1/C2 and DE. There’s normally a good number to be found around park benches where today’s Yoofs hang out when drinking Buckie etc.


Not found any disposable vaping apparatus but the canal towpaths around New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton (where I’ve spent a lot of time lately) glisten with the silvery glint of discarded 8g Nitrous Oxide whippits… any good ideas for the radio related upcycling of these :rofl: :rofl:


When leaving the house to setup for a SOTA chasing session from the car or sat on a bench I often tell my wife I’m going ‘radio dogging’.

Whilst sat on a bench at a little spot about 5 mins drive from home I heard a lass on the phone to her mum walking past. She was trying to explain where she was. “You know mum, that place where they go dogging”. She didn’t know I was there.

I’ve had some very memorable times in my local radio dogging spot. Suriname was a highlight, getting Colin @M1BUU on HF groundwave from Helvellyn (IIRC), transatlantic straight key QSOs, etc. etc.

Regards, Mark.


Sort of mixing up threads I thought I would try pasting the title into chat GPT and see what happens. It turns out that Chat GPT is a bit prudish and doesn’t want to talk about dogging, so at least I have probably proved that Andy FMF is real and is not a product of AI…

However the response it gave to “Explain Wombling and Free SOTA batteries” is (worryingly) good…
*“Wombling” is a term used to describe the practice of collecting discarded or abandoned items, particularly those that are still usable or valuable. It originated from a children’s book series called “The Wombles,” where the main characters lived in Wimbledon Common and collected and repurposed discarded items.

In the context of free SOTA batteries, “SOTA” refers to “Summits On The Air,” a radio amateur program that encourages amateur radio operators to operate portable radio equipment from designated mountaintop locations. The batteries used to power the equipment can be expensive, and some amateur radio operators practice wombling to find discarded or abandoned batteries that can still be used.

By collecting these free SOTA batteries, amateur radio operators can save money and reduce waste by reusing batteries that might otherwise end up in a landfill. However, it’s important to note that using discarded batteries does come with some risks, as the batteries may not be in optimal condition and could potentially malfunction or cause damage to equipment. Therefore, it’s important to test and verify the condition of any batteries before using them to power sensitive equipment like radios.

I have only seen one discarded vape on my regular dog walks ( in a posh bit of Teesdale which has a large number of people with a university education and mostly very retired ), so far more shotgun cartridges and a reasonable chance of being hit by a speeding vehicle which is …
a) a dog walker
b) an amazon driver ( do they play Grand Theft Auto for real in their vans - some have more dings than a stock car… )
c) a shooter. these come in two varieties. Rabbit shooters that have old Discoveries and dogs that chase anything or posh shooters who arrive in a convoy of cars probably worth over a million quid…

But in the village things are quite a lot different and I’m sure there is a large number of disposed vapes in the right places…along with the usual signs of drug and alcohol usage…it’s just I’d rather not walk there!

PS one final thought I’d be a bit careful of the Altoids tin approach, it does look rather “explosive” and could be rather difficult to explain…officer…



It turns out that my daughter and her partner both use these big square section vapes and I have been promised a regular supply. Faced with the first one I find it is of rather solid construction and the end caps resist removal, perhaps I shall have to be brutal with it! Is there any special trick to getting out the goodies?

Incidentally, an older use of “dogging” is in the phrase “dogging his footsteps” and since my tripe hound likes to be in charge and lead the way I suppose that I am dogging her footsteps!


A vice and a larger pair of pliers and some force is needed. They’re harder to remove than round plugs. You can always drive them out with a gash screwdriver and hammer. Once loose they come out easily. The round ones just pull out.

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