Over the last year I’ve been working on getting in better shape in part so I could do SOTA. I did a few practice runs by activating a few parks for POTA. Now that I’ve lost around 80 lbs and over the year I"m finally in good enough shape to start doing some day hikes. Now that I have all the gear and am in shape I decided to activate my first summit… For the fourth of July holiday this weekend I hiked from my partners house to Lilley Mountain which is about a mile and a half from their house. The hike was a little rough at parts but nothing horrible, it was hot but the road up the mountain was mostly shaded and I brought extra water. Most (99%) of my HF has been digital modes so I made a real effort to do as many voice contacts as possible during my activation. It was a bit windy up there so I’m glad I brought my headphones with me which made hearing people in the small pile ups a lot easier.
When I got to a nice shaded spot on Lilley Mountain I was able to set up my linked dipole on to my mast and leaned it against the tree I was under. The ground was a little too hard or soft for the tent stakes to do much other than hold the wire. I had cellphone service so I was able to self spot myself which helped out a lot. I managed to make 30 voice contacts on 20 and 40 meters, 4 FT8 contacts on 20 meters, and one FT8 contact on 15 meters. I tried to make contacts using JS8Call but wasn’t able to get anyone even when I self spotted. One of the things that surprised me was how little power I really needed to make contacts. Most of the time I run 50 or 100 watts but about half of my contacts were made using 10 watts, I only had to turn the power up to 50 watts towards the end of the activation.
For this activation I used my FT-891, a Sotabeams band hopper 3, and a 15ah LiFePO4 battery from Bioenno.
Huge congrats on reaching your SOTA and fitness goals! The SOTA sport is quite addicting and I find it incredibly rewarding.
I wanted to share a few things for you to take a look at.
@K6ARK (K6ARK) is a true master of creating lightweight antenna and radio systems that weigh ounces. He has created several YouTube videos on the topic that are very worthwhile and fun to watch. I occasionally carry the FT 891 and a 10 ah battery, but I save those for easier hikes. For any involved expedition, the LNR Precision MTR radio is my go-to with either an enfed or the linked dipole that you use.
I’d also consider looking at some of Julians videos on YouTube. While Adam, K6ARK, focuses on ultralight mountaineering rigs, Julian has great options involving the FT818/817 or the FT891 and digital modes using the Raspberry Pi.
I forgot to mention, a favorite of SOTA operators is CW, and learning CW will not only increase the total number of contacts you make but is a significant factor in reducing pack weight associated with radios and radio gear. For CW I highly highly recommend CWOps www.cwops.org - you will go from no code to know code in 8 weeks.
Lastly, for spotting, I’d recommend researching APRS and APRS2SOTA for spotting. That and/or a Garmin Inreach will help for those times when cell service is nonexistent.
Again, huge congrats, I get very happy seeing folks getting into SOTA - it is quite a bit of fun and addicting. Feel free to reach out if you wish. Best wishes and 73!
Thanks! Yeah I forgot to mention that little bit, I think it’s kind of underwhelming compared to other sumits. That’s going to be a goal of mine going forward, trying to activate some of the sites nearby that haven’t been activated by others yet.
Thanks for the resources! I’ll give them a look, I’ve been following Julian for awhile now but didn’t know about Adams channel. What is your opinion on the endfed? I got DXCC using a 67ft EFHW but I knew that the losses were pretty high. That was a concern I had when I was looking into what type of antenna I should use. I went with the linked dipole because it was easy, didn’t require a tuner, and was efficient. Any insight you have would be greatly appreciated.
You know someone I really look up to advised me to use the setup that was easiest for me and simplest to deploy given the conditions because the sun has more to do with propagation than the antenna I select. I really agree with that. Most of the time I carry a linked SOTA Beams dipole; however, if I’m doing an expedition where elevation gain and distance are challenging - I’ll opt for the much lighter and easier EFHW. And, like you, I’ve worked the world using 5w and a tuned monoband EFHW (that you can opt to add bands with traps). I know there is a lot of science behind takeoff angles, loss, gain, radiation patterns and etc. but the reality is you won’t catch DX on every summit, and you only need 4 contacts to earn points Lastly, I’d highly advocate for CW literacy, it’ll really change the way you SOTA and will do more to increase your antenna efficiency than the difference between a dipole or EFHW. Best wishes and I look forward to getting a S2S at some point. 73!