Dual Activation Strategy

I was wondering about the best strategy for two activators on a summit. The closest summit to me is ~3hour drive, so a minimum of ~6 hours on the road for 1 summit. This is why I usually do 4-5 summits in a day, since average drive time between summits can be ~30-60min. Carpooling seems wise, when possible - thus the question about dual activation. [And yes, we are leaving the house around 4am local time]

My criteria are that:

  1. I want to use my own radio & antenna - (perhaps this does not reflect well on my personality, but I’m comfortable with who I am. :grin: )
    As it turns out, the activator who lives closest to me, AC3B, also wishes to use his own equipment - so no problem there.
  2. top priority is to get 4 contacts for both operators - sharing chasers if needed (please work us both, if bands permit)
  3. keep things as simple as we can & not interfere with each other’s frequency

Here is the strategy we have developed - comments welcome:
For the day:

  • Operator A will use 60m or 20m or 10m (5-14-28MHz)
    *Operator B will use 40m or 15m or 17m (7-18-21MHz)
    this is to keep things simple, so each Operator knows where they can go without having to check in with the other in the middle of an activation.
    (On one trip I may be Operator A, on the following trip I would be Operator B, rotating each time)

In a situation where only one band is expected to produce results, we both set up our gear and operator #1 takes the lead and gets a frequency, spots and calls CQ. Meanwhile operator #2, listens to operator #1’s frequency until contact is made. Once contact is made, operator #1 asks the chaser to hold for a 2nd operator and then operator #2 makes contact from their own radio. Once 4 contacts are made, both operators go to independent operation per the A/B plan above. This way, if the bands are dead, both operators have a better chance. But also get to try the other bands.

We are trying to signal each other on progress (raising 4 fingers, if we have 4 contacts, or less if we are struggling), but we have not worked this out completely. So, far my husband (non-ham) walks between us and communicates hand signals from a distance. The idea being, if one of us is short on 4 contacts we can jump on the others frequency. BUT, I don’t know how long I can keep sweet talking my husband to come along.

All comments & suggestions welcome.

Jill // N3ICE


Hi, Jill.
Have you considered a pair of HTs on simplex? With the squelch on, neither radio is likely to make a sound unless it’s a summit companion.
I can usually tell quickly if a summit-mate is on a particular band so I’ll try another one. There’s usually some sign my radio is receiving a really strong signal without tuning across it.
With improving conditions I hope we manage an S2S QSO soon.
73, David N6AN

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Hello Jill

I too very rarely do just one summit… but I also have little experience with double activations.

The double activations I did, I also wanted to use my own radio!

I’m usually on the road with a vertical antenna… others are horitontal… that gives a good decoupling. We were both on shortwave.

Headphones are important. During my activations I was in cw and the others in ssb. We agreed on the bands. We were never far apart and could give hand signals or call out.

73 Armin

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Hi Jill,

I often do dual activations with MM0DHY (Adrian). We both try to get the other one to carry all their kit, but do not tell that to Adrian!

It varies but typically we use one radio, after setting up both. We both call CQ on seperate bands, then usually we use the one with the first QSO and just take turns sharing the same mike.



yes, thank you, we’re considering an HT. That may be what we do, but for now I’m resisting adding additional gear to my pack.
So you can tell that your summit-mate is on the same band without tuning around? That is good news, but I probably should have realized that… We haven’t tested that yet - maybe we should.
I’d love to manage a S2S QSO - could be my imagination, but seems like a lot fewer folks on SSB than a couple years back.

thank you. I’m realizing I have some preconceived ideas that are not valid. About how far apart were you?

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Sometimes very close… At DM/BW-640 we we sat at the same table (between the hut and the cross)

73 Armin


Including an HT does add weight yet provides more options.
On some summits in SoCal one can often get four QSOs on VHF alone. UHF can net a few, too. Four S2S QSOs is not unheard of.
Another benefit is that one operator can hike out of the activation zone, make a QSO with you, and get a Complete on the same day. You can take turns. It could be that all important fourth contact.
I do favor CW. My goal is to spend more time on SSB. I bought a Koss SB45 headset that doesn’t add much weight (1.76 oz.) and works well. It rides at the top of my pack and is holding up well. I also have a pair of Koss earbuds which barely register in the weight count.
Cheers, David

I have done the majority of my activations with one or more others. SOTA is more fun with friends! We also mostly do multiple activation days because I work and can only get out one day a week (if I’m lucky).

We have set up multiple HF stations a few times, when the summit is large enough to give us some separation. Most of the time we don’t have space for 2, so we only set up 1 HF station and we take turns. We split up the bands so that one op does 20, then the other op does, 30 and 40, etc. This has worked very well for us and if we are on the summit at a sane time, we each get loads of QSOs. Typically we both carry a complete HF station, and this has saved us a few times when one of us forgot something or had some kind of failure.

We tend to chase S2S before we start doing runs, and we will typically both work the S2S. If an S2S calls one of us during a run, we will try to hand it off to the other OP. The S2S OP sometimes doesn’t understand what is going on, but it works about 80% of the time. If you are having an S2S with me or WW7D, chances are you are about to have another S2S =).

Here is a tip for new CW ops: the prosign ‘AS’ (letters A and S run together ‘didahdidididt’) means ‘stand by’. If you dropped your pencil, need to change to a new log sheet, need everyone to be quiet so you can hear a weak S2S calling you, etc… send ‘AS’ a few times to let the chasers know you need a second.

When we are handing off an S2S we will send ‘AS AS AS NEW OP AS’… then the other OP will take over the paddle and send (for example) ‘N1CLC DE WW7D S2S BK’.

If we are doing a hurry-up VHF activation, then we just pass the H/T back and forth, both of us working each station.

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The majority of my activations have been with Paul G4MD. Paul usually takes 80/60/40m SSB and I take 2m SSB and 30m CW. Only on the odd occasion have radio conditions been so poor on one or the other combination of bands that we have had to make use of the other’s station in order to quality the summit. I can only recall one occasion where we have purposely set up just one station and shared a rig, Paul operating on 60m SSB and me following with a session on 30m CW. That was entirely down to attrocious weather conditions.

As for communication between us on the summit, we have tried several things including 70cm FM, but quite frankly we are normally concentrating so much on our own activations, that we have no time for communication between us. Sometimes one of us has actually got up and gone over to the other’s position to relay a message or even check how things are going, but not very often. Sometimes weather have dictated that we take whatever shelter is available and that has meant sitting sidd by side. Usually we have our HF antennas end on to one another which minimises interference.

The main bonus for joint activations is companionship, both when walkjng and also on the journeys to and from the hills. Safety on the hills is also a major plus point. I can thoroughly recommend joint activations to anyone who has not experienced them. Getting 6 activators on a summit is another matter, but good fun nonetheless. :grinning:

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Everyone -Oh, so very helpful. I feel I was on the right track, but now I have more confidence and some good improvement ideas.

I’m envious. Here in W3, we don’t have much luck with VHF activations, at least I haven’t heard of any great successes. I chalk it up to having too few summits, thus too few chasers nearby maybe?? (I haven’t scoured the data.) So the HT may not be as useful here.

My husband (non-Ham) says that a herd of wild buffalo could go past & I wouldn’t notice when I’m on-air. :rofl: (no actual buffalo in US East Coast) So, I think you have an excellent point. In fact, part of the reason I like him with me (besides that I love his company) is for security.


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You may need to take care chosing rigs. The popular SW-3B is a bit splattery.

That applies to many summits all over the world Jill. I use an FT-817ND and a small linear putting out around 25W to a 5 element yagi on 2m SSB. Even so, the number of chasers is relatively small and I tend to change antenna polarisation and run FM at about 10W output. when the SSB contacts dry up. All this takes time, so on the more remote summits it is very much a labour of love and on some summits a waste of time.

Just a note about the choice of rigs, the only problem I’ve experienced is when I have been running a little more power. I used to own a FT-857D which I ran at between 30W and 50W output in the Trans-Atlantic S2S events. Paul G4MD used to get some bleed through on his FT-817ND when we were on adjacent bands, usually him on 20m and me on 17m. I later purchased an IC-703 and ran a small linear at around 25W output and the situation was definitely better. I think it is a case of suck it and see. For a one-off joint activation it is probably less of an issue than for a regular arrangement.

73, Gerald

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Hi Jill
This is a good topic for activators. Myself, I’m only doing SSB on HF (lost my CW skillls long ago) and FM on 2m. I always have a 2m HT with me as there are is always a good chance for an S2S QSO, particularly as some of my Swiss Ham friends only do 2m on a summit. Doesn’t add much weight either.
For a joint activation with 2 poeple we both take our own rigs and antennas along and set up our stations as far apart as the summit conveniently permits. To start we agree on a separate band for each of us, usually 20m for one and 40m for the other (the most popular bands around here), with the idea to switch bands after a while (i.e. when we both have completed our pile ups :smiley:). Later we might try other bands such as 60m, 17m, 15m, 10m as per verbal agreement as well. Each one does his own spotting so we don’t have to ask a chaser to hang on for an additional operator. Communication between us is either by 2m FM or by walking to the other operator.
I have 2 buddies with whom I often do a joint activation. One of them is HB9DST, Paul, who only does CW. There is usually no problem even when we both use the same band him being close to the lower end and me being at the higher frequencies. The other buddy, Ralf HB9GKR, only does SSB like myself. So we need to be on different bands, which usually works well. After a few activations you know the drill! No problem there. Only if the activation zone is very small we occasionally use just one antenna and take turns each connecting his own rig to the antenna or at least using his own microphone.
Actually a joint activation makes sense in another way too: It is obviously advisable not to go on a long hike on your own!
73, Fritz

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