How to operate in the rain?

A friend and I attempted the first ever activation of a local summit a few days ago. Of course, we’re new at this; it was his first summit ever, and only my second (my first actually having been quite pleasant and successful). The weather forecast called for some rain, but it was warm and sunny when we decided to make the attempt.

Unfortunately, the rain arrived and became quite heavy by the time we decided to give up, neither of us having made a single contact. We should have been better prepared, but it was a good learning experience, and definitely has not prevented us from planning to try again.

This brings me to my question. The timely thread about logging in wet conditions was a great start, as the suggestions there provided good alternatives to the standard paper tablet which became virtually useless even before we stopped trying. What I now want to figure out is how to keep my radio going in such conditions. I’ve done some research, but haven’t yet found an ideal solution.

I have a variety of Pelican (Peli across the pond) and similar cases which work fine to protect various items, though I had not brought any with me on this occasion (lesson learned). Unfortunately, the backpack (rucksack) and tactical pack in which I carried all of my gear both soaked through pretty thoroughly, and even some items which were inside two or three layers of cases/pouches/packs became wet. This was a good learning experience to see just how much protection my gear had not received. :wink:

The most worrying part was my FT-817. I covered it with a thin, non-waterproof jacket when the rain hit, but it didn’t do much good. I’m pretty sure it survived OK, but I don’t want that to happen again. I’ve read about several possible ways to protect such a radio, but none which strike my fancy. Placing the radio inside a Ziploc bag would protect it, but it isn’t exactly elegant. That method works well for equipment which is not in use, but I am looking for something which would actually allow the radio to operate (preferably conveniently) during significant rain.

I have similar concerns for the microphone, antenna tuner (if used), and other such accessories. What comes to mind is using resonant antennas to eliminate the tuner (obviously a good idea anyway; I did use a resonant dipole for my first activation), and building an adapter to use my waterproof VX-7 speaker/mic. Does anyone make a waterproof hand mic, preferably condenser (rather than a muddy-sounding dynamic like the MH-31), and preferably with the correct RJ-45 connector for the FT-817?

Then there is the question of clothing, but that is another topic, and one which I see has already been discussed extensively. It is an interesting tie-in, however, as I was already planning to look into such for purposes not specific to SOTA.

Any thoughts?

—73 Karl KA3RCS

In reply to KA3RCS:

Dry bags… buy many.

Keep the important stuff in dry bags. Everything else can get wet.

My 817 mike survives all weathers and has been going on summits for 8 years.


In reply to KA3RCS:

Hi Karl,

My 817 always stays in the backpack on the hills and is stored in the backpack at home as it dedicated solely to SOTA use. Over the years, having sat on many summits in the worst of weather conditions, I have developed the protection around the rig, such that now I have all elements of the station encased:

I can confirm that the 817 is definitely not waterproof. I found that out some years ago and had to have it repaired at considerable cost. It wasn’t hit directly by rain, in fact it was in the backpack in such a dry bag as Andy suggests you utilise, but the swirling sleet and hail I was operating in managed to get into the backpack when I went to close down the station. A small amount sat on the face of the rig and as the 817 runs warm, so the hail became water droplets…

In my opinion, one of the best pieces of kit you can take up the hills is a plastic tarpaulin - mine is 4 feet by 6 feet. Add some re-useable tie wraps, a couple of pannier straps and some ground pegs and you have the basis for a rudimentary shelter for yourself and the kit. Larger tarps are difficult to handle in windy conditions.

I always try and make sure my hands are as dry as possible when touching the rig; a towel placed in a dry bag stored inside the backpack helps with this. Also, I avoid running the coax directly down to the rig. Forming a kink in the lead ensures that any rain running down the coax is shed before it gets anywhere near the backpack, let alone the rig.

As for microphones, I did get my MH-31 so wet on one occasion that it failed and the only way to work sideband was to shout loudly into it. Thankfully it recovered fully once it had dried out. I now carry a spare in the car so it can be changed before the next activation.

I’m sure others will add their recommendations. Just one warning though - if you ever come over to the UK and do some activating, check the alerts to see whether I am out on the hills and if so, keep as far away as possible from where I am! :wink:

73, Gerald G4OIG


Jimmy M0HGY has the perfect technique. He carefully checks the weather forecast and if there is any chance of rain (however remote) he does not activate. Works every time.

73 Richard G3CWI


In reply to G3CWI:

Yeah, okay Richard - so he’s pre-ordered the sunshine for his forthcoming GI outing - I think not! If I’m wrong, please let me in on the secret as, contrary to common belief, I do prefer to activate when it’s sunny. :wink:

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to KA3RCS:
Hi Karl,

Most of the answers you get on this will come from UK operators… think that speaks volumes for the weather over here. (I’m reminded that someone once said to me that Britain doesn’t have a climate, we just have weather).

I have two approaches this.

Firstly, if it is going to be really horrid I just use 2M FM with a fully waterproof 5W handheld. Add in a good antenna and I can usually activate hills in my “local” area, except for some low ones in west Wales. I use a non waterproof speaker mic on this though. I’ve never had any trouble, even in torrential rain. It is really fast to set up too.

Secondly, if I do use HF on an 817 or 857 I use dry bags (lots) and also use a variation of what Gerald recommends, i.e. a Tarp. I in fact carry what we call an emergency shelter/KISU/Bothy Bag over here. These are made out of lightweight tent flysheet material. These are a good safety item too (in fact that is their original purpose). As you sit on the edge of these they close off the outside right down to the ground and have the advantage of keeping the warm air inside.

Here’s a bothy bag activation from Tom M1EYP

And one from me too

I have the advantage that my wife usually accompanies me, which makes “filling out” the bothy bag simpler, so it doesn’t flap too much.


In reply to G4OIG:

I’m with Andy on the dry bags. Never had them leak. I even keep a load of clothes in a big one which spent 3 weeks in the garden in winter. The clothes were still clean and bone dry.

I use a ft270 which is waterproof. But I appreciate vhf only is not for everyone.


When the rain comes so easily resolved - I have the old hard plastic raincoat that draped over my head and there is quite a funny tent with a peak at my head … all things - backpack, briefcase with knacks for transmitting and food I will insert below the fishing chair on which I sit. It was certainly very surprising look at me in the amount of 993 meters asl. but mostly that I, log and rig were dry. Here is my working position: SOTA OM/ZA-073 Mravečník 993 m.n.m. – Igor – album na Rajčeti It was so cold that I had to use special SOTA gloves, hi.

VY 73 and GL on the hills, Igor OM3CUG Home pages OM3CUG/QRP - Welcome!

In reply to G3CWI:

if there is any chance of rain

Aye, I’m rather that way inclined, too. There are limits. I carry a bothy bag for emergencies, but I’ll leave the rig packed away if it’s not pleasantly dry at the summit (or wherever).

73, Rick M0LEP

In reply to G4OIG:

I’m sure others will add their recommendations.

This question was covered in the Foundation Licence exam, Gerald.

Q) In the event of a sudden electrical storm while operating /p, should you?

a) Stand under a tree to stay dry…

b) Quickly take down your Antron-99, replace it with a kite antenna then seek advice on top band

c) Go QRT and head for the nearest pub…

d) Carry on working your pile-up…


73 Mike


In reply to MW0WML:

Hi Gerald,

I have always carried a two man size bothy bag for safety, but have never used it to activate from, preferring to stay out in the open air despite what the elements are throwing at me. Bizarrely, often after an activation I have to drive the car with the window open or have the air vent blowing on my face - must be an element of claustrophobia there.

73, Gerald G4OIG

In reply to Mike 2E0YYY:

Surely option c depends on what ale is on tap!

c) Go QRT and head for the nearest pub…

By this point, I fully agree.
It is necessary to equalize the state of wetness …

73 de S58R - Rado

In reply to G4OIG:

often after an activation I have to drive the car with the window open
or have the air vent blowing on my face

I’d ask Paul to change his diet if that was the case.


In reply to G4OIG:

In reply to MW0WML:

Hi Gerald,

I have always carried a two man size bothy bag for safety, but have
never used it to activate from, preferring to stay out in the open air
despite what the elements are throwing at me.

I know what you mean, it can be claustrophobic. But I’m just lazy… I want my kit to have several purposes if possible. So I won’t carry a separate tarp as an “activation shelter” .


In reply to KA3RCS:
I had an old vango 60l rucksack that was coming apart and ready for the bin, I recycled the rucksack for spare parts and cut the hooded section of the top.
It has three zipper compartments that stores the ft817( in a waterproof bag) along with battery and coax in two compartments, the third compartment has a rucksack cover that I use to pull over the radio and myself whilst out portable if needed.
On longer days or poor weather forecasted I bring an army basha/tarp with me, weighs aprox 800g and the size is 2.4m by 2.2m. It can get a bit noisy to operate under on windy days along with a few complaints of poor audio, but does the job.

Nothing worse than having booked a day off from work only for the weather spoil to it.


In reply to KA3RCS:

Hi Karl,
thats a good question and let me tell you what I’m using.

1- Protect the rig:
I already described in the following thread my own pack to keep the FT-817 inside the rucksack:

With it I no longer need to take it out of the rucksack: it’s a plug & play, connect the antenna coax and mic/cw and that’s it.

My rucksack is watertight but just in case,I can add on top one “rucksack rain cover” It will resist all water for sure… So rig protected.

2- Protect the microphone
As said in the attached thread,I don’t use the stock hand mic anymore, I wear a cheap PC headset plus and adaptor, as described in my article.
I settle the 817 to VOX mode and I just talk and annotate all qso. Easy.
If I’m protected against rain, the mic is indeed.

3-Protect yourself.
Others in the thread proposed bothy bags… tarps… It’s ok with that.
I simply carry an umbrella. If it starts raining I operate with my rucksack besides and no worries of getting wet.
Of course, if the rain is so heavy then I stop and goes to the pub to have a pleasant talk with Mike 2E0YYY and Rado S58R, and a beer!

4- End of activation
At the end I collect my antenna and store it on a plastic bag, hanging out of the rucksack.
When at home I dry everything, including my fishpole opened…

Hope it helps, cheerio
Ignacio EA2BD

In reply to MW0WML:

Hi Gerald,

I like a tarp as it makes a very useful wind break when fixed to a fence on a fair day… a summit without wind is a rare thing indeed. Also being not a pre-determined shape, a tarp can adapted to suit the situation.

Generally I find that if I can get a bit of shelter so that I am reasonably comfortable, I can ignore the cold and wet while operating. It’s when I stand up at the end of the activation and find that I have been sitting in a pool of water for the past half hour that I give thanks for the Paramo trousers I am wearing! :slight_smile:

73, Gerald G4OIG

I have always carried my lightweight one person tent (1760 gr; very small pack size, able to withstand a hurricane >32.7 m/s !) and off course a waterproof backpack (+ rain shield), rain coat, rain trousers and hiking gaiters. Summit operation during heavy rain / storm inside the tent. During light rain out of the waterproof backpack or bicycle pack.
On DM/HE-015
73, Jakob DK3CW

Here my fishing tent… Buy for the “DM tour” VERY USEFULL !!!

Configuration when yet raining

And when the rain come too quickly during operation hiii !!!


Never noticed this thread before!

so he’s pre-ordered the sunshine for his forthcoming GI outing - I think not!

Well maybe not, but the alerts we put on were nothing more than general guidelines and subject to change.

And change they did. On the first day, the wx was damp in the morning and dry in the afternoon. So we headed first for Black Mountain EI/IE-021 - a “drive to the top” summit. This meant we could sit in the car if needed, and wait for a gap in the rain in which to jump out, walk the 150 yards or so to the summit, and grab a snap activation. As the wx cleared in the afternoon, we ventured into the Southern Mournes.

When there was a FB wx forecast, we brought forward our long walk and traverse of two of the highest Mourne Mountains. In the end, we only had to use the bothy bag once for the first few minutes on an early morning activation. We did suffer some heavy rain on the descent of Slieve Muck, but the strong wind and presence of a substantial wall on the summit meant that shelter during the activation was easy.

So a bit of “ducking and diving” with our itinerary and careful watching of the forecast, and we got 14 summit activations done in the week. Most of the time it was like this though!