How to get more chaser DX contacts during SOTA activations

Hello all,

My main motivation for SOTA is to hike, enjoy the nature, see new places and play with technology.

Since I’m 99% QRV only when doing SOTA, I sometimes like to make DX contacts, especially when the higher bands are wide open.

Unfortunately, most of the times when I spot on a higher band, very seldom I work a DX chaser or make a DX S2S. Sometimes I wonder if my setup is playing well, even after I worked a bunch of European chasers and activators. So when the WX is fine and there are no new S2S spots appearing, I sometimes tune around on the higher bands, looking for DX stations calling CQ. If the signal of the caller is good and there is no pileup going on, I give it a try. To my surprise, in about 70% of the cases, I get a reply after the first call to the CQ caller, and I just use 10W SSB into my home brew EFHW antenna. Like that I worked countries for the first time.

This weekend, during the CQ World Wide DX Contest, the bands were extremely busy, but even on 17m or 12m, where several DX stations were very loud, after spotting, no SOTA DX happened :cry:.

Last Sunday, the 30th of October, when I activated HB/BE-108, I made an experiment during the contest and worked 6 DX stations within 10 minutes, just by tuning around on 10m. My magic reply was “59-14” :grin:.

My observations using SSB:

  • When the conditions are good, it’s pretty easy to make DX contacts by simply answering CQ calls, but much more difficult by spotting only.
  • Even when chasers spot me on a DX cluster, not more DX contacts seems to happen (probably because HB9 is not an exotic call?).
  • Contests are not my cup of tea, but they are very handy when I’d like to work a bunch of DX stations with little effort. Moreover, I can give them some points.

Of course, special SOTA events like the upcoming Trans-Atlantic QSO party or the VK/ZL-EU event last Spring pose a high probability of doing S2S DX, which is the icing on the cake.

What is your experience with SSB SOTA DX during “normal” activations?
Apart of changing the mode to CW or FT8, what could be improved to increase the chances of DX contacts, both on the activator and the chaser side?

Thanks for your ideas!

73 Stephan


On Friday I was on Fairfield g/ld007 with another ham operating 20w ssb with a vertical. He was calling cq on 20m and about to shut down when out of nowhere a Japanese station came back. All other chasers were uk and Europe based.

Only dx on summit I’ve worked was 5w ssb and got VK s2s but it was during a eu/VK sota event.


Hi Stephan, I concur with everything you say. Most Chasers are on 40 m and 20 m. I occasionally pick up a few on 17 m and 15 m. As band conditions have improved coming into Autumn, I have started picking up more DX. The same happened this time last year.

Today on GM/ES-081 I worked two USA stations on 15 m SSB. 10 watts into an EFHW and 49:1. One of these KA5PNX wasn’t a SOTA chaser. So, they are out there!

Simon @GM4JXP works plenty of DX, but he spends a long time on one summit with resonant and directional antennas.




Sometimes the band conditions may improve in 15-30 minutes.
Also be sensible with your choice of band and time of day as some bands won’t be open to certain places at certain times (or everyone will be in bed).

FT8 is great for getting long distances but you get a lot of people who leave their software calling CQ and not answering others, or if your QRP signal is low then they won’t bother trying to make the contact and will go for someone with a stronger signal because it’s easier.
I’ve called CQ on FT8 from summits before and pskreporter has shown I’ve been heard all over the globe but nobody ever replied to my CQ or replied to me calling them.


Try to activate more on the high bands. Lately in my evening/night activations (approximately 0800 UTC) I have been chased by European chasers on 18-21-24Mhz.
In my last activation F4WBN and EA2LU chased me on 24Mhz. Their signals were not terrific but enough to start having more expectations on the high bands.
73, Takeo


Hi Stephan. In May, using 10-watts into a short up-and-across antenna on 20metres SSB from a summit on the Western Isles of Scotland at 7.30am, I was having contacts across Europe with no problem when suddenly up came @VK5PAS from Australia with a great signal both ways - a highlight of my brief SOTA career to date. My DX formula is patience, patience, good conditions, good antenna, more patience and a wee bit of good fortune. Sometimes I am the pigeon, and sometimes the statue!! :rofl:
That’s just one thing that makes this hobby so much fun. 73. Mike


In vk5 lately I have made DX QSO to chasers on 15m CW in my morning and long path DX chasers on 20m CW my afternoon activations. My best chance to chase SOTA ops in Japan is my morning time and 15m seems to work best. 17m can be ok too but the noise levels are higher making it a bit hard to hear at times. If 12/10m is open I can work Japan with really low signal levels as those bands a very quiet. Hang in there I hope you get more DX from summits as conditions improve.
Regards Ian vk5cz …


Hello Stephan

If you can’t get through with the HB9 callsign, how do you think I’ll fare with a DL callsign?

No - joking aside

That could be a reason, but I don’t really want to believe it.

Basically, a weak SSB signal is harder to get than a weak CW signal. But even here I sometimes think, why can’t anyone hear me. Especially when I get wonderful RBN reports from DX.

In the DX cluster, you may not be in demand as HB9 or even as DL. As a SOTA station, DX chasers must also be available. For them, it is often rather working or sleeping time.

I assume that many DX stations have the same problems with local interference as we do. With QRP as a DX station, you get lost.

As a CW station, I have the problem that many DX stations do not know / do CW. One morning I heard a lot of VK stations very loud in SSB. But I could have got blisters on the Morse key without success. I then answered CQ calling VK and had my QSOs. Some could not do anything with SOTA. Almost everyone could not believe that I was active in SSB with 10 watts on a wire antenna.
One was even very cautious and checked the callsign DL20SOTA/P first. Many DX stations also have high transmit power and even if you hear them here in the quiet of the Summit with great signals, that is no guarantee to be heard yourself.

With increasingly good conditions - especially on the higher bands - DX will also be increasingly possible… not only because the conditions are getting better, but also because more DX chasers think a QSO is possible and come to the QRG of activators because they think it is possible to hear them.

I think all the SOTA DX events are doing good there too.

73 Armin

  • Activate at local dawn/dusk on 20m.
  • Use a single band vertical antenna with elevated groundplane.

Depending upon where in the world you are hoping for a contact with, time of day is everything and quite often, long path will give a stronger signal possibility than short path (which normally occur at different times of day).

The band you chose to use also affects which countries you may get contacts into at certain times of day.

Then of course don’t forget Greyline propagation at dawn and dusk on 40m and below.

All of this only if the propagation gods are on your side of course!

Then again - some folks are happy when the conditions are not good for DX, or skip distance is short and the critical frequency is high. Not so much in SOTA but WAB Square hunters are happy when they can get NVIS contacts into closer-in locations within the UK.

73 Ed.


As others have said, early morning / late evening, rather than midday is better. I’ve had good results with a delta loop on 20m, 5W SSB from EI to ZL for a S2S. See here

Note that there is a transatlantic session planned for this weekend, so it may be a good time to try without having to get up very early in the morning.


Thank you all for your answers and proposed solutions!

I think my starting point and my questions were not clear enough.

When there was a special S2S event that I attended, I also could make numerous S2S DX contacts with VK, ZL, N, etc. I also make sporadic SOTA DX contacts with chasers and other activators, but not as many and easily, as I explained in my initial post.

Furter, I think it’s not about the mode, the antenna, the power or the time of the day, since around the same time and with the same equipment, I make DX contacts, just not SOTA-related ones.

Let me explain it with an example: After I made the chasers happy, e.g. on 40m and 20m, I tune around and hear some loud DX stations on the higher bands. I spot myself, work maybe a few more European stations (also very interesting!), but no DX.
I repeat the procedure on an even higher band that is also wide open, but again, no DX. After maybe a quarter hour I give up and tune around. Within a few minutes I make a DX contact with a non-SOTA station and get a reasonable good report.

I repeated this pattern several times since last summer, when the conditions where good. Last Saturday, for a test, I even reduced my power to 1W and worked a DX contest station easily.

So to me, it seems that relying alone on SOTA-spotting is not very productive for working DX.

This I guess, could be the elephant in the room :wink:.

Is it really because there are not enough SOTA chasers? Should I also spot for GMA, FF, Parks on the Air, etc. when possible? Any experience with such approaches or other ideas?

73 Stephan

We’re just coming out of a longish sunspot slump during which DX propagation has not always been exactly great. Maybe chasers don’t always think to try chasing DX activators?

Usually, when chasing CW activators, I just tune to the frequency spotted on SOTAwatch and listen for the activator, but if the activator’s DX then sometimes I use RBN directly, rather than only relying on the spot RBNhole has copied to SOTAwatch. That way I can see where an activator is being heard, and decide whether to try chasing. If only skimmers an ocean away are hearing the activator then my chances aren’t so good, but if a skimmer relatively near to me is hearing the activator then maybe I stand a good chance, too.

Occasionally I have cause to look at one or other of the more general DX Clusters. From time to time I see a SOTA activator spotted. Presumably those spots outside of SOTAwatch could bring in callers who don’t normally chase SOTA. If you’re after more chasers from further away, maybe getting a spot on a general DX cluster will help?

Some thoughts:

  1. My first thought relates to the capability of the DX stations that you hear from a summit and that you are able to work with 10 watts. Are these not in the main well equipped? I am thinking of high power and antennas with gain positioned on high towers here… such as may be deployed by contest stations. Most of the hard work is being done at their end. You may hear a lot of DX, but only the better equipped stations.

  2. I would think very few SOTA chasers are equipped to the level outlined above, so probably will be unable to hear the activator. I know from experience that my modest home station rarely hears DX activations, whereas I often hear EU chasers that I know to be better equipped make the contact.

  3. The reason why S2S events work is that the noise levels at both ends of many of the contacts are low enabling relatively low powers to be used. Contacts between DX chasers and activators are probably greater in number as the activity is concentrated with a higher number of both activators and chasers on air. The activators may be running a little more power than normal to antennas that favour the direction between the activator and DX chaser. Under normal circumstances, how many of us align our antennas to favour potential DX or use more than 5 to 10 watts?

  4. The issue of time on the summit has been mentioned. When time is limited, the activator will generally work the stronger chasers first. If they are being heard by a DX chaser, the chaser has to break the pile up. I am sure that some get frustrated after making a few calls and go to look for contacts elsewhere. So, if the activator continues until the entire pile up has been worked, the DX chaser will probably have left the frequency.

There are so many variables in play when making DX contacts, that I am convinced that outside of the S2S events, chance plays a very large part. I am usually surprised when I am called by a DX chaser when it runs against expectation… for example when I have worked across the Atlantic on 10MHz CW while running 5 watts to an inverted vee dipole.

I had a strange result in the Trans-Atlantic S2S event held in April this year when I did not work any DX chasers, but made a reasonable number of Trans-Atlantic S2S contacts. Were conditions marginal, such that a low noise environment played a large part in what was achieved?

As far as spotting is concerned, in my experience the DX cluster has been a mixed blessing. It usually increases the number of contacts, but not necessarily the DX… a matter of quantity rather than quality. I certainly feel SOTAwatch is best suited for our purpose.

73, Gerald


I once worked Bill W4ZV using a RockMite on 30m! That was a shock!

I think the draw of POTA and other schemes has thinned the chaser crowd a little.

73, Colin


Hi Stephan,
It is absolutely fine to spot yourself on one of the many DX Clusters as well as SOTAWatch and as you say, this is more likely to attract DX calls.
73 Ed.

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This could be a good idea… to spot yourself wherever possible.

This might attract some people who would otherwise not turn to your frequency - and the number of chasers might increase overall.

And if the conditions are right, then you can also bring this hint as a spot to SOTAwatch3… “good to hear in…”. Also this could cause chasers to listen to EU activators.

During the last weeks there are some activators from NA to hear my at home… it was too weak for a QSO … but the time is coming!
When I activated the lowland summits in northeastern Switzerland in August, I was chased by JH2MXV several times in the early afternoon… that wouldn’t have happened last year

73 Armin


Maybe they are not confident in their stations and so just don’t try?

Looking at my SOTA log, there are 259 QSOs made from DM/NS and DM/TH with 166 unique G/Gx stations on 144 MHz. As far as I can tell, none of them is a dedicated SOTA chaser. If there is a chance of tropo condx, I mention it in my alert or even post a note on the Reflector. When I’m out and there actually is tropo, I spot something like “beaming UK” or “tropo condx to …”. Nobody seems to care. Or do they just think I’m joking?

Similar experience with other entities (PA, OZ…), even Bavaria. Tropo isn’t even needed to work average Bavarian home stations from DM/NS summits on VHF (not even talking of DM/TH), but SOTA chasers are absolutely rare.

Tja… :man_shrugging:

Edit: numbers corrected

Thanks again for your input!

I think there are many valid points:

Very well possible.

I thought self spotting on a DX cluster is discouraged, but maybe I’m wrong?

Yes, they usually use at least 100W, and their antennas are likely better than mine.


Yes, possibly another reason.

I assume you mean other scheme spotting facilities like FF, POTA, etc., since one shouldn’t spot on a DX cluster, but maybe I’m wrong.

Making more noise brings definitely more attention, but as @G4OIG mentioned, not necessarily more DX. Of course, making more noise makes only sense when there are really good conditions!

In this context: I really like the SOTA infrastructure and the easy and well thought out procedures. I guess I have to check again GMA, FF, POTA etc. about their spotting possibilities, but last time I checked with FF, it seemed to me overly complicated and tedious.

Also, in summer, I can spend a long time on a summit, but not when it’s chilling cold. Therefore, applying these recommendations makes only sense when there is nice weather.

I tried that a few times, without success. I think that very few chasers and activators read the comments. When I activate, I usually also just quickly glance over the spots.

Definitely, especially on the higher bands!

This could be another possibility.

See above, only a few seem to read the comments.

73 Stephan

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Hi Stephan,

I‘m usually posting Sota activations also with GMA and if possible with WFF or COTA. If conditions are good I use to work DX. VK in the morning. ZL sometimes at around 10:00 UTC, and North and South America from around 11:00 UTC to 16:00 UTC.

Not sure if all the programs are the reason for DX. However, it helps in the afternoon or evening to reach the requested number of qsos quite fast.


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