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How do you stay comfortable during a long activation?

Nice to find another “normal” person! - I am also naturally left-handed at writing, but right-handed for the key, mic, knife & fork, etc……

  1. Find the most comfortable sitting position possible - but not at the expense of shelter.

  2. Use two or three squares of closed cell matts/karrimat etc., I also have a longer thinner length (2 or 3 mm thin) which will keep my legs off the ground in wet weather

  3. If the summit is rocky I’ll re-arrange stones to make sure I’m sitting comfortably and ensure my morse key is on a heavy bit of rock and close by. I will arrange a good seating position.

  4. Before I get cold I put on overtousers, duvet/belay/gillet jacket - and I also carry an extra extremely /light windproof jacket. If its cold/winter I wear the lot!!! In very cold wx I’ll wear the lot whilst rigging the aerial and sorting myself out. Its easier to keep warm than get warm once you’ve got cold!! I’ll also wear fingerless gloves fo avoid numb hands!!

  5. If the location is too windy, cold and/or wet then I have a ‘bothy’ bag.

Below:- Overlooking Buttermere - English lakes

Inside the ‘office’, in cold/wet or windy conditions.

Outside - Rogan’s Seat, Northern Pennines. I

But sometimes you just can’t avoid getting cold and cramped.


As I seem to get leg cramps when sat directly on my painters PVC sheet on the ground of late, I have just ordered one of these collapsable stools to see if the help it gives can be justified against the extra weight and space it takes up. if not, its so cheap, it can go into the general camping equipment “store”.



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The aim is to not get those.


That’s the first thing I do when I arrive on a summit.

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Same as me too. Much more efficient…
73 from Gerald F6HBI


I have Raynaud’s Syndrome, so not only do I have cold feet most of the time, but also cold hands. Getting replumbed in 2018 unfortunately didn’t improve matters as the situation is exacerbated by taking a beta blocker.

As for operating for long periods, I quite often crouch, sometimes sit and sometimes lie. It depends on the situation at the summit. Getting up and moving around when making band or mode changes certainly helps avoid cramps. I’ve found that the worst case scenario is an open flat top summit with no natural shelter. A tarp comes in very handy and can be rigged in a multitude of ways using my walking poles. An inflatable seat pad helps insulate the backside from cold ground if I choose to sit and I prefer this to a foam mat, but often I forget to pack anything. :grinning:

Operating, I usually clip my key to the clipboard my log is on, sometimes keying while holding the pencil, hence some of the rubbish morse sent. Putting the pencil down sometimes results in a frantic search for it. Maybe it is time to come into the 21st century and log electrinically. :joy:

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This is something that I need to work on and there is definately room for improvement in my approach. Up to now ( …and I’ve just had the letter confirming my progression to retirement in September …) I have usually been in a hurry to get back down again to start on the list of tasks, so hopefully that will change…

I plan to be organised but it usually does not seem to work as well as that - possibly to to my canine companion who can sit for hours without any problems in the office / shack but on the summit he has the attention span of a small fly. … So I usually use a small sit mat and having set the antenna up, sat the dog down I usually find that whatever I need is just beyond reach, so I stand up to reach the phone, the sit mat blows away, I put the pencil down when retrieving the sit mat only to discover it is just beyond reach, however I’ve also discovered that the sandwiches are within reach of the dog and by the time I’ve retrieved the phone and pencil I’ve not only forgotten how to format the spot text message, I’ve also realised that the glasses I need to check that I have the right format of the text are also beyond reach and the whole process starts again… so I suppose to summarise I’ve never reached the giddy heights of making myself comfortable, but I suppose on the plus side I do somehow manage to make contacts and find both the log and a pencil and so far I’ve not lost anything on the summit (*) (*Other than part of a ham sandwich when I was not fast enough…)

(Woody is with me - the Photographer)

… sandwich hunting …

PS It isn’t always as disorganised as this … sometimes it is worse…

PPS I often take a 80/60/40 linked dipole and I find the short hike to the end of the antenna solves the problem of getting cramp.

73 Paul


Well that’s your SOTA career trashed! Everyone will want a piece of your time, so much so that you’ll wonder how you ever found time to go to work! :frowning:


Spot the common feature!


Michael, I’m envious of your fancy leg strap for your paddles. Looks nicer than my homemade one.

I’m left handed so I learnt to straight-key with my left but years later I taught myself to twin-paddle with my right hand, so like you I no longer need to drop the pencil or move it to other fingers.


Andy - here is the link to the supplier:

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When I remember some of the belays that I have sat on, teetered on or hung from, I wonder what this comfort is that you guys speak of! :wink:


Yes you can do that when you are activating a summit with a great activation zone. But when the summit is a piece of rock o when there are others visitors is practically impossible.
Or what about the guys who activated the Aconcagua (7000m asl) after walking kms and kms between 5000 and over 6000m I don’t think that they wanted to walk around the summit


In the Amateur homebrew tradition here is my solution. Some bubble wrap and a bit of tarp fixed together with duct tape. Weight 220g. It is mainly used for contests and wet summits.

73 de

Andrew G4VFL


Too true - I think it is mostly because I am slower doing things. Also Whoever’s Law - tasks expand to fit the time available.

However, on topic I find standing to use the HH, whether the dipole is connected or using just the stick aerial makes a change. For solid HF ssb operating I avoid the actual summit area - partly so others have easy access and partly so I have less difficulty with the long linked dipole. I head to the lee side and look for a suitably shaped bit of ground with a raised part with room for my air filled sit mat and a suitable drop for the lower legs - ie a natural seat. The radio either sits on the tump beside me or on the rucksack - preferably after removing ALL the activation kit. AND the waterproofs! A peat hag as mentioned above is often good - apart from the natural footbath so often provided :unamused: - a tiered one (drain, footrest, seat and windbreak) is worth looking out for in suitable terrain. The Brecon Beacons area and Southern Uplands are good for these. A locally assembled stone seat is comfortable when padded with the air mat and spare clothing (if any). Combine this with a big rock or mini cliff as a back rest and I am good for the long haul. I should add that I rarely linger for more than 45 minutes - the other-half and the next summit combine to keep things short.

EDIT Looking for a comfortable spot does sometimes slow things down and M6BWA/P is already in QSO before I have sat down.


Yes, this is usually true but not always as my (incredibly heavy) 3 (cross) legged stool (with sitmats for padding) is sometimes very difficult to position. I have to carry it unless I know there will be a suitable cairn that I can perch on or a good slope with a terrace for the sitmat as my back will not let me sit unless I am almost in an ‘upright chair’ position. However this stool, which I’ve now used for a few years, has 3 legs/feet and also 3 corners of the seat and they are not in phase and I still seem to be unable to cope with this (doh!). Hence I position the seat on sloping ground so I can comfortably (?) sit on it but there is no foot underneath me so I start to make an unscheduled descent! When the foot is in the right position then I can’t sit in a comfortable position, etc, etc, usw, usw! then I hear ‘CQ SOTA, CQ SOTA’ and know he has triumphed again! This is always assuming that I have persuaded the dipole to go up vaguely in a vertical direction and am not still untangling the guys or moving the pegs yet again.

The real snag with the seat is that it won’t fit under a low tarp or shelter or boulder so my top half is still exposed to whatever the weather brings while my feet and legs can be slightly sheltered. Of course HE is usually in the lee in some cosy sheltered spot but with 2m fm I have to use whatever height is available and be near the top of the ridge.

Anyone any ideas for a lighter stool to carry? - I’ve tried the odd fishing stool but they are usually too low for my back or they collapsed!! :cry:
Viki M6BWA

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Hi Viki, I also have a 3-legged stool. I don’t use it much now as:

  1. the legs sink into soft ground
  2. the helicon i mentioned above is about the same size/weight packed, but adds a back. It’s also lower; which can be both an advantage (fitting under tarps) and a disadvantage (harder to get out of!).
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I don’t get this! Why would you key and write in your logbook at the same time? I do one or the other. It is transmit (keying) or receive (writing). This I can do with one hand, holding the pencil while I key the paddle. With the other hand I hold the paddle and notebook together.

73 Heinz


I’m not sending and writing at the same time. I’m either A) writing, B) sending and holding my notebook down from being blown away :slight_smile:

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