Fail to prepare = ...?

…Prepare to fail.

Probably my least favourite overused pompous quote from virtually every headteacher I’ve ever worked for. But there is an element of truth in it!

So what didn’t I do on Monday 12th December 2016?

I didn’t check that my new Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 tablet was working properly in conjunction with the Wolphi-link interface and DroidPSK. Not that I had chance; I only bought it at 5pm today.

I didn’t check the propagation to see if there was a likelihood of 20m being usable after dusk.

I didn’t think to make sure I had a headtorch in the car.

I didn’t make sure I had charged up my handheld for back-up.

I didn’t check the weather.

I didn’t bother to put on my waterproof overtrousers.

This all struck me, all at once, just after parking on Cloudside. I ignored it all even so, and set off up the track, stairway and muddy path to Cloud summit.(G/SP-015), just after 6.30pm. My night vision was working quite well, but once at the summit I needed more light for setting up. I struggled through this process using the flashlight app on my HTC One Mini smartphone.

Up went the 20m vertical with GP antenna, and I set up the 817 with interface and tablet to try PSK. I found a few signals and was able to decode them, but still couldn’t trigger the rig into transmit mode. I’m pretty sure this tablet does have a 4-pin 3.5mm jack socket, so I’m not sure what the sticking point is this time.

Time passed quickly and my self-imposed cut-off time of 1930z was approaching rapidly. I connected up the paddle, but the band was dying with only weak fluttery signals left - and not very many of them.

Then it actually was 1930z, and I hadn’t made a contact. Was this to be the one? The very first failed activation? I tried to flick on my VX7R for a quick 2m contact to at least turn the escapade into an “activation” - but it was out of charge - aargh!

Finally I tuned to 2m FM on my FT-817, still connected to the 20m vertical. I found a very loud local QSO, and worked both of them easily. So no failed activation. I now just needed to pack everything up in the worsening rain, quickly descend down the hill and drive into Congleton to pick Liam up from the pub at 8pm. Which I did - just!

I must try and organise myself better for activations…


I learnt the expression from a headmaster I knew. :slight_smile:

It should have a headset interface Tom.

It was bought second hand unboxed, no accessories. My configuration is:

FT-817 rear data socket – DIN cable – Wolphi-link interface – 4-pin 3.5mm jack cable – Samsung Galaxy Tab 3.

One thing I probably should do is test the jack cable - and maybe buy a new one.

In VK we have had a couple of reports of radio gear being left on the kitchen bench, not once but twice!

Also, having spent 1.5 hours walking to a summit, one VK2 activator reported leaving the FT-817 external power cable in the car, numerous times!


Andrew VK1AD


I think that expression came from the US as part of the growing number of management training courses. In my time at school it was “Be like a Boy Scout. Be Prepared”.

The reason why this injunction is oft repeated is that it is important. I have a check list which gets added to from time to time.

Acoustic coupling and VOX might work. I need smaller fingers and magnifying good low light eyes implanted for the phoney thingys.


Sitting here, about to wrap myself around a bowl of hot porridge and honey, and reading Toms’ exploits which unfolded about 25 miles away from me last night, I wondered which would be the lesser of two evils, leaving an item on the kitchen table, or leaving an item back on the summit - whoops!

Ah well, I’ll have another cuppa, I think…

Hi Tom,
The galaxy tabs DO have a headset (rather than just earbud) 4 pin socket on them. One issue with the Wolphi-link can be the bias voltage on the audio line. If this is too low a voltage or cannot provide the current that the interface needs the Wolfi-link can have issues as it powers itself from the bias (aka Phantom power) on the line normally used for the electret mic. capsule in a headset. The fact that it works on receive does not illiminate this possiblity as more current is required for the VOX transmit circuit.

73 Ed.

This is where I’m different, before a SOTA activation I spend quite a while packing my bag, usually the night before. It’s normal for my bag packing to take 1 to 2 hours!

I’ve always preferred to have individual items rather than built in systems, I know some like to have ‘go bags’ which contain everything you need to grab at a moment’s notice. I have quite a number of rigs and antennas so I make a choice as to the band and modes that I want to do and then assemble all my gear.

I don’t have a tick list, I just mentally check stuff off as I pack my bag. I visualise my radio and it’s connectors, imagining each connecting piece and then make sure it’s in the bag.

For me, the bag packing is part of the activation, I actually enjoy the ritual!


Careful what you write Colin - you’ll be labelled OCD like others such as myself. :wink:

The key fact is that against his better judgement, on receipt of the new tablet Tom rushed up his local summit without any preparation whatsoever, thus totally abandoning the 6P principle. [quote=“M1EYP, post:1, topic:14319”]
This all struck me, all at once, just after parking on Cloudside
And still you went ahead! :grinning:

Have you defined what it is to be a “SOTA Wild Child”?

Planning is definitely a good idea, but don’t forget the companion “never, never, never give up” (Winston Churchill, who probably got it from a headmaster…)

There is great satisfaction to be had from coping with the unexpected. Indeed, life would be pretty boring if it all went to plan.

I have yet to forget a critical item on the way up. I have twice left my walking stick on or near the summit. That was early in my SOTA career, and in each case I walked back up to retrieve it. A lesson well learned, if rather slowly, I now make a point of doing a careful visual sweep before moving off!

Yes, my instinct was to find a way of getting up the hill and getting on the air in the small time window available, against all the odds and against better judgement. That sort of challenge amuses me, plus my stock answer to any family member getting miserable and pessimistic at QTHR is “There’s always a way…”. Well I now felt honour-bound to put my money where my mouth is.

Only thing is I now appear to have lost two good headtorches.

Hi Colin,
I must be somewaht pedantic, but I pack my bag and charge batteries ready to go on the same day that I come back from an activation. It is a real “Go bg”. That is … unless I decide I want to add something new to test out - and that where I have been known not to get it all packed right, but then (despite the extra weight) I still have the “standard setup” with me in any case.


Earlier this year I climbed Ben Nevis and only managed 3 contacts on 145-fm. I wasn’t too concerned because I thought I had my hf equipment in the rucksack. I erected my 5 metres mast and then to my horror I found I had put in the wrong tupperware box so I didn’t have my KX-1! I then tried to no avail to get more contacts on 2 metres. Nothing for it but to go back down completely gutted! Three days later I tried again with my FT-817 and again managed only 3 contacts on 145-fm but 36 contacts on hf. That was quite an interesting couple of days on the Ben!

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Don’t worry Tom, it’s a reaction to the mega discipline that activators must go through over and over again.

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Ed, that would never work with me, it’s a bit like asking me what socks I’ll be wearing on a Tuesday in 4 weeks time!

I have three different MTR rigs, each with different band combos, I have the FT817, a gazillion RockMites etc. I can’t possibly pack them all with accompanying antennas, power cables etc. I did at one time write each rig down on a piece of paper and then I put the pieces of paper in a jar. For each SOTA activation I would draw a ‘ticket’ from the jar and then use the selected rig for my activation!

I do leave stuff on my pack ready for next time, but generally it comes out again and gets put back in during the packing process. My summit shelter, spare gloves and first aid kit tend to live in my pack. Trouble is, I have a lightweight pack (Mammut Lithium 32)and a heavyweight pack (Osprey Mutant 38) depending on the activation!

I did once have a preparation failure - I’d used hex bolts to hold my MTR-5B case together and when the rig’s uProc crashed during an activation, I had no way to reset the rig. I didn’t have amy means of removing the screws to get inside the case. Luckily I’d packed a spare rig! :smile: I called in at hardware shop on the way home and bought a hex key that now stays with the MTR-5B at all times!


Tom & all,

I forgot to take my telescopic pole on one activation - activation cancelled.

I wouldn’t mind but how can you forget a pole 1.2 metres long - derhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

I now have a checklist to ensure I don’t forget anything.


We’ve all done something like that. Upon reaching the activation zone I found that my coax with PL-259 ends did not connect to the BNC fitting on my KX3. I had forgotten the adapter. Now I have checklists for different types of activations.

Easy, you think you’ve packed it and you haven’t. :wink: I’ve managed to activate a summit without a pole - I left it in the car. Thought I had lost it on the ascent and spent all the descent looking for it!. I can’t quite recall how I got around leaving the batteries at home on one occasion, but I did… I must dig out my activation report for a good laugh! Leaving your main feeder in the car does present a challenge. Thankfully, I’ve never forgotten the rig. :smiley:

I have. But I did remember the SLAB. I wish it had been the other way round. That experience prompted me to get a LiFePO

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Ah yes, my BC221 has one of those in a clip in the compartment where the spare valves are stored. Not that I’ve ever needed to dismantle it on a summit though :wink: