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First SOTA Radio?

If you’re looking for an inexpensive radio, you might check NH6T’s ad on qth.com for several used QRP rigs.

If you had the funds, I’d go for an Elecraft KX1 (with ATU) and if you had more funds, a KX2 (with ATU).

The Micro BiTX is not going to be a good performer on cw due to the wide ssb xtal filter.

73, Barry N1EU

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Hi Barry, If John is looking at that price level, there’s also the “Chinese KX3” as I’m calling it - the Xiego X5105 which appears to be getting a lot of press coverage at the moment as it’s now being imported and sold by MFJ in the states. The rigs been out elsewhere for about a year (so the bugs are out of it - hopefully). I believe it’s around the US$670 mark.
It’s only a 5W rig but apart from that it’s features are “similar” to the Elecraft KX2/3. A poormans KX2/3 if you like. The fact that it comes with an internal battery and ATU is nice.

But I think this is more than John said he wanted to pay.

73 Ed.

Sorry Ed, I consider that a questionable investment. The Elecraft radios (and the KD1JV radios) are great investments on the other hand - they are well supported and you lose little money when you sell them.

Barry N1EU

Agreed. These radios are very ideal for SOTA. Unfortunately, it looks like the prices just recently went up. I got my MTR-3B used, so bang for the buck is really high for me. Even at the new prices they’re still great little rigs.


I have 1 on order as well. I plan to run it at slightly higher voltage and mount it into a water resistant box and keep it for a spare / loaner.

Agreed, the Elecraft is better built and supported - but these alternatives are in the market place today. I just wanted to point out to John they are there.

You do need to have some technical skills and confidence when buying from a smaller manufacturer, i.e. not Yaesu, ICOM, Kenwood, Alinco, Flex, Elecraft etc.

Have you received the Micro-BitX yet John??

73 Ed.

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There is no ideal radio for SOTA. Each one has advantages and disadvantages. Start from the radio that you can afford, and then move to more expensive if you will need it.


Assuming you are thinking about an HF rig, I wouldn’t go for a single band cw only rig.
There will be days when a band/mode is totally unusable due to contest or lack of propagation conditions, so having some few bands/modes to choose will always give you better chances to qualify and also to have more fun.
Several Yaesu FT-817 are being sold now after the arrival of the Elekraft KX# and other similar rigs. The FT-817 is an excellent radio for SOTA.
I bought my 2nd hand FT-817ND in 2009 and have been using it for SOTA activating, for chasing and even for contesting without any single problem so far.
That’s my recomendation, get a 2nd hand FT-817 and enjoy it.



I agree with many here ! The 817 nd is an excellent choice for SOTA. The options to use any available band gives you options on any given day as the conditions change. It has been my experience that the little 2 M handheld is quite effective I have actually done more activations with my small wouxun uv 8g and a roll up slim Jim antenna. AKA a jpole In one case I was able to reach a station some 100 km away. So use what you have ! Pay attention to local habits and patterns in your radio community Do they often monitor the national call frequency? 146.52? When are people out doing stuff when they would be normally listening anyways? The local hikers, skiers, bikers, 4 x4 crowd
I am lucky here in the greater Vancouver area we have several 2 meter , SSB nets and a regular schedule of HF nets. So for instance BC and Alberta both have public service nets. On one occasion we checked into that net from a north shore mountain peak since we did an overnight trip. We were hoping to contact Japan but to no avail. From your location in NS you would likely reach Europe correct? So follow their habits and watch the band conditions. Try it in your back yard or a local park or School yard and work out the details. How to get the antenna up and tuned. Figure out how long your battery power will last. Cables connections and protection from the elements for you and your equipment are all essential in this pursuit. Better to find what works or does not a few feet from the back door, or your vechicle or a short walk to the park than after spending a day driving and hiking to the middle of nowhere. Good luck ! Btw. The yaesu 817 Nd is very much menu driven; it does take a bit of time to learn that. I after a year and a bit am still getting used to it. And yes I have taken it out. Back roads camping , a trip to the NWT and on several sota trips.

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I picked up my 817 with An Elecraft t 1 antenna tuner, batteries , a signal link box and all the associated cables and connectors in a pelican case used for $750.00 total. He was a boater who was simply not using his equipment. USED EQUIPMENT can be a good deal but be careful. Is there a club in the area? Halifax or Dartmouth? Join them! Get advice on what works.

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The question should be asked, how good is your CW?

OP already stated in this thread: “I am slowly learning CW and hope to have it useable for this summer.”

Oddly enough, CW is not obligatory in SOTA! The effectiveness of CW as a mode is beyond argument, but it is far from essential. If it is more difficult to play SOTA on phone, then surely that makes phone a more sporting challenge - many people do activate on phone, in fact the database contains more phone than CW contacts! For my part, I have never activated or chased using CW and possibly never will, and I have passed double supersloth on SSB so I am no mere dabbler.

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All the above is indeed true. However, in the rarer instance where the person is question was strong in CW they potentially can go with other radios like the mountain toppers, saving money, weight, etc.

I am living testament to fact that strength in cw is not required for cw based activations :grinning:

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I sensing we’re missing my point or internalizing a bit too much here.

Maybe! I took you to be saying that if a person has strong cw skills they can use radios with those benefits. I was (jocularly) pointing out that you don’t have to be strong in cw to use them. You can be bad at cw (like me) and still use it and those nice small, cheap radios.

Rules for posting on a forum #67

Never answer the question asked by the original poster, instead give the answer to the question you wanted the original poster to ask.



It was just an example :smiley:

Nothing like doing to get better at something, I should force myself to only use one of my CW rigs on the next activation.

I’ve noticed a trend (note: not all the time) of 817, KX2 & KX3s being recommended not just here but in general when talking QRP. I was just hoping to broaden the search if it met the requirements.

I think this is when it’s implied that the inquirer wants ssb capability.

No doubt the cw activator has MANY more lower cost, good options (especially the KD1JV-designed radios, KX1, HB1A, etc)

Barry N1EU