Getting your antenna into the trees

There are a lot of ways to get your wire up in the air for a successful SOTA activation. You can use a collapsible pole, a handy structure, or use nature’s poles that we know as trees. Poles and structures don’t present much difficulty - but trees? Well, they just stand there and dare you to get your antenna up in them, offering no help whatsoever. They are patient and have no skin in the game - it is up to you to meet them half way.

So what’s an activator to do? Sure, you could carry a pneumatic spud-gun like the ones you see at hamfests.

Heavy, attracts the wrong kind of attention, probably illegal in many places. So… no. Same goes for slingshots and bows an arrows in most spots.

Climb the tree? Not at my time of life thankyouverymuch! Besides, trees compete amongst themselves to be as unclimbable as possible, especially on summits. Unless you plan to pack along a rhesus monkey to do your climbing for you (hey, goats shouldn’t get all the SOTA fun, right?), climbing is out too. What’s left?

“Throwing!”, I hear you shout.

Now you are on the right track. But there is throwing and then there is throwing. Raring back and making a baseball style throw seems the easiest approach, yet it falls short. You’ll blow out your shoulder if you throw too light a weight. Too heavy and you won’t get much distance. It’s exhausting. The attached line tends to wrap around you after the release, too. It’s a mess. I know, I’ve tried it many times over the years. There must be an alternative, right?

If you’ve never seen an arborist/tree surgeon at work, you’ve missed a treat. They do a lot with a little, and much of it involves ropes used in cunning ways. Throwing line into trees is their bread and butter. How do they do it? They use what’s called a “throw bag”. It’s a weighted sack, usually about 4-10 ounces (120-300 grams, approx). The throwline attached to the bag is light, slippery stuff to slide through the tree easily and return to the ground.

Let’s look at the throwing technique first, then cover the equipment in more detail (there are some adaptations specific to SOTA needs, so don’t take the equipment you see as gospel). Here are a couple of videos on how to use the throwline. This stuff really works! It’s accurate with a bit of practice, and can throw a line an amazing height. All this without stress and strain on the joints or exhausting yourself.

Alternate “between the legs” technique (I use this one for preference if circumstances allow)

That throwing line bag in the vids looks like a hassle, doesn’t it? Who would want to pack that up the mountain? There’s a nice alternative that works beautifully on the summit.

You can buy this type of reel on eBay for small change.

You can buy or make the weight yourself, or even use a small plastic soda bottle with some water in it. I’ve decided on a weight, because my plastic soda bottle shattered on landing. Weights are slimmer and less likely to hang up. If you are the DIY sort, you can make your own weight. Some people just carry an empty weight sack and use local sand/rocks to fill it once on site. There are lots of ways to go. Take a look at this supplier to get an idea. The “chain weight” style is very DIY friendly if you have some tubular nylon webbing and some hand stitching skills. A 6 ounce/170g weight seems about right for me.

(chain weight style for DIY shown here)

Arborists use specialized throwline, but I’ve gone lighter for less bulk. The reduced diameter makes it a bit harder to hold when throwing, but using loops seems to control that. I use fluorescent colored braided dyneema/Spectra fishing line. 200 pound test works fine, and 300 pound should get you a little more diameter for handling if you are concerned. 100 meters will be plenty, but it’s useful stuff and you might want more.

So there you have it, a lightweight, simple way to get your antenna into the trees. Practice at home before taking to the field, of course. Hope this helps.

Post Script:
Here is a fun video of an intrepid arborist rescuing a cat from a very tall tree. He’s braver than I am!

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For SOTA, I have had success using a 2.5oz lead sinker and braided Mason line purchased from Lowes (here in the US)… but… a 16Fl oz waterbottle works better and at least you can drink the water after,

For home wire antenna installs I use a 8ft Sea Fishing rod with 30lb line (about 14$ at Walmart) and again the 2.5oz sinker… that works really well and you can get quite accurate with a little experience…


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To be really minimalist, I suppose if you have found yourself on a summit with a suitable tree and you have some cord with you, one of your hiking socks turned inside out with some soil or stones in it, should do a similar job, but don’t get the “weight” stuck in the tree or you’ll be hiking back down the summit with one cold foot!


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I use simple sling shot. Works very well.

Image link deleted due to possible malware on domain Mark G0VOF.

Bostjan, there is no graphic displayed and clicking the block where it should be brings up the following message:

This web page at has been reported as an attack page and has been blocked based on your security preferences.

What is really strange is that I cut the link out of the post source and pasted it into my browser directly and it works. Given that I am protected by Avast Permier, Malwarebytes, Spybot, Ghostery and a few others, if there was something wrong one of these would have blocked it. Anyhow here is the picture uploaded and embedded


Better safe than sorry :slight_smile:

Thanks Jim

Whenever I use trees for support, I always include a weak link made of simple sewing thread between the line and the antenna. That way, if anything gets jammed I don’t lose the antenna. I prefer poles to be honest; just lost too much gear up the trees, and I don’t like leaving non-biodegradeables hanging from branches. I bought some 200lb dyneema thread from Ebay for guy lines. I tried it out with a catapult for tree hanging, but I found it rather heavy; lighter seems to be the way to go. I also found that the yellow colouring comes off on my fingers, which makes me wonder if the cheap stuff is 100% genuine. Some nice ideas here though.
OE6FEG (Matt)

One of my friends here in Colorado has been using a slingshot with a fishing reel attached with pieces of PVC pipe. He uses the slingshot to send a fishing weight through the trees.

I like to cast bullets and have a bunch of lead ingots made by pouring lead into old muffin tins. I have drilled a hole in the center of a few of those and tied a loop of paracord through them and throw those through the branches.


Wish I could use something as simple as a slingshot. Here in New England, the police and park rangers get all silly when they see one.

Good advice.

My throwing arm never was much good although I did pitch at baseball at school for a couple of years. No surprise that I did nor get picked up by a league club. throwing horizontally is easier for me that at a high angle even with the illustrated methods in you post.

I am favouring a vertical on a telescoping pole with one or two radials as its the best option for me in dense forest. I have used the pole to toss a sinker over a branch to hold up an antenna in more open woodland.

Arrows and sling shots (we call them shanghais) and potato guns are banned here. However an arborist’s tool (a big slingshot) would be OK but they are bulky and not light or maybe a bait caster (smaller slingshot) might not be a problem.


Yes, sometimes happens to me 2. IDK why, but it looks that our domain is somehow blacklisted. is S5 1st PR/INET gateway, forum runs on it and a lot’s of S5 hams homepages
are there. Sorry for false alarm. If you put link direct in browser always work.

Sure, I use stone and not lead when shooting into tree. And you do not have to
carry extra weight.

I got a stern letter from the customs officials and the item confiscated (luckily nothing more than that), when I ordered a catapult (slingshot) over eBay from China while living in Australia. A bit “over the top” in my opinion but “rules are rules”. If it had been shipped, labelled as an arborists tool, it could possibly have got through without any issues as Arborists are allowed such devices.


I always take my roach pole with me, using it like a walking pole, but if there is a suitable tree on the summit I fit a stiff wire hook to the end of the pole and loop the end of the W3EDP antenna, with a small weight attached, over the hook. I then use the pole to drop the antenna over a suitable branch. This can gain as much as a couple of metres of additional height. The weight that I use is a small whisky flask, about 50 ml, and it makes for a suitable celebration at the end of the descent!


I use a weight like a fishing sinker and nylon lacing twine. The twine may be rather hard to get now so a heavy guage fishing line would suffice.

Don’t throw, twirl the sinker/weight and let it go and am surprised as to how high the weight will go.

Takes a bit of practice and snags can be a pain.

Cheers, Nick

I’m in favor of using a support pole or Brian’s method of carefully placing the line over a branch.

I did well over 100 activations using just trees to support my wire antennas. Trees are plentiful on all but the very highest summits in NE USA. I like to pack very light and this seemed perfect. However, no matter what method I used to sling the antenna over/through the tree, I realized there’s an unavoidable small chance of snagging something, resulting in leaving rope or wire or weight hung up in the tree. That happened to me a handful of times. Sorry, no matter how careful you are with a weighted line, slingshot, bow/arrow, spud gun, etc, something WILL get snagged a small percentage of the time. To me, this is unacceptable and that’s why I no longer rely on trees to support my antennas when activating. I don’t want to be “that guy” responsible for that man-made crap hanging in the tree on an otherwise pristine summit.

73, Barry N1EU

An alternative, lightweight solution, often used by our club for field day / jota, etc is to use a cheap bow & arrow to launch the antenna or fishing line over a tree.
A bit of practice needed, but can get the antenna over some pretty large trees.
(not to be done on a busy summit)

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I’m with Barry on this issue. Using the trees saves carrying a pole etc. as long as you can be sure you wont leave lines etc. hanging in the trees.

Perhaps this should be renamed from “Getting your antenna into the trees” to “How to get your antenna and lines out of the trees when you’ve finished”. :wink:


There is a SOTA “peak” in Ohio with a 6 mile activation zone where height matters, but on anything that meets the usual definition of a “peak,” height may not matter much if at all. I have had no trouble working around the world at QRP power levels with one end of an EFHW #28 wire just five feet high, the supporting thread anchored at the ground, and the other three meters up on a fishing pole. - Fred KT5X ( WS0TA )

Before SOTA existed I operated QRP portable on various walks in the Clwydian Hills as MW0AWC (1997-2000). Then I used nylon fishing line and a lead weight to put up my dipole into trees. Now I use 150lb very slick and inexpensive dyneema equivalent fishing line on a ready reel and an 8 oz throw bag. This works much better for me and its amazing how high I can get it if my pendulum swing is good and accurate. I have yet to have it snag after perhaps > 20 throws. I carry thin leather gloves in case I ever really need to clear a snag (yet to happen). The antenna is a lightweight full 1/2 wave 40m dipole made with 22ga insulated wire and fed with 300 ohm TV twin-lead to a BLT tuner. I have been using that antenna successfully on 7-21 MHz. I’m quite new to SOTA so have yet to hike to the top of a treeless summit - awaiting and extendable fishing pole from China for that situation!