Newbie after some starting tips etc


I’m really excited and interested in trying some chasing or activating. I’ve never done anything like it and even though I have my intermediate call sign I’m still very new on the air ! I’ve read all the info on the sota site and found another great site with some newbie info on getting started. Today I tried listening to few contacts using the spots and alerts page but no luck in ssb only cw but as I don’t really know a lot cw I wasn’t sure if it was the activator/chaser or some other qso :slight_smile:

I’m very close to Butser Hill, am I correct in saying I could only activate it once per year ?

Is it best to start as a chaser ?

As I never heard any qso between activators/chasers how does the qso go ?

Is there anyone around my way that I could tag along with either as an activator or chaser ?

Any other tips/tricks I need to know ?



In reply to 2E0SNJ:

I’m really excited

So am I but for different reasons. Welcome to SOTA.

I’ve never done anything like it

Chasing is normally done for the warm shack and is normally safe. Activating is done from hills, if you have limited hill walking experience, gain experience on the little hills first.

found another great site with some newbie info


am I correct in saying I could only activate it once per year

Yes and no. The easy answer, for classic SOTA yes, once a year for points*. For some other SOTA awards you can activate it more than once a year. You can learn the fine detail later.

Is it best to start as a chaser ?

Chasing and activating can be totally separate activities. Best isn’t the right answer. Easier maybe. Depends on your circumstances.

how does the qso go ?

Depends on the mode and who is involved. As an activator, maybe in -10C, wind and snow, I don’t want to know your inside leg measurement, life history or hear you list the contents of your shack but I do want a signal report of some kind. So listen to the activator and see if (s)he is chatty or not. For an activator it’s up to you but the chasers will want a signal report and a summit ref at least. Maybe they would like to know my inside leg measurement, I’ll try giving it on my next activation! :slight_smile:

Is there anyone around my way


Have fun and stay safe.


  • Pedants please note: we can give Simon the full chapter and verse at a late date. :wink:

In reply to 2E0SNJ:
Dear Simon,
My advise is:

  • you start as a chaser after having spent some (sufficient) time listening how other chasers do.
  • you start as an activator after having gone out to a summit at least once with some sufficiently experienced activator you may know.
    You can activate a summit as many times as you want and you will always give the summit points to all hams chasing you, but you will only get activator points once in the current year. You’ll get points again from activating that summit the first time you’ll activate it the following year.
    Looking forward to copying you soon, as a chaser or activator.
    73 de Guru - EA2IF

In reply to MM0FMF:
Thank you.

Link for the newbie guide is

As for the how does the qso go I meant do you give the sota ref. of the summit then your call sign ?

In reply to MM0FMF:

Ok excited was probably the wrong word to use lol

In reply to MM0FMF:

  • Pedants please note:

That’d be me then :-s

Simon, welcome to SOTA. Don’t worry, we’re a very friendly bunch and are happy to gather anyone into the fold!

If you’re chasing, listen to the type of exchange taking place, take your cue from the activator and go with the flow.

We have a saying “activator is king” so you get to make the rules* when it’s you that’s made the effort to get to a hilltop. Highest priority is looking after your own safety so go with what works for you. You’ll very soon develop your own inimitable style!

But above all enjoy it :slight_smile:

Look forward to working you soon

73 de Paul G4MD

  • Fellow pedants note SOTA general rules take precedence at all times :wink:

Hi Simon and welcome.

The link you give is of an independent site, so bear that in mind.

A more general overview of both chasing and activating can be found on the official website here:

By clicking on “Summits” on this site, you can surf into information about every summit in the SOTA programme. On my site you can find a page about every summit I have activated, which includes every summit in England. Therefore you can find out more about Butser Hill and others within driving range of your home QTH as well.

There are lots of recommendations and advice about how to go about “doing SOTA”, but ultimately you just make some QSOs, like any other pursuit in amateur radio. As a chaser, one QSO with an activator on summit gets you the points. As an activator, four (or more) QSOs with chasers gets you the points. The format of the QSO is essentially up to the activator, but you would generally exchange a minimum of callsigns and signal reports, plus whatever else you do (or don’t) fancy.

Have fun.


In reply to 2E0SNJ:
Hello Simon maybe some helpful information for you on top of all the rest .
Before I activated any summits I used my SOTA gear antenna and rig and all the other stuff you need in my back yard first to make sure it all worked .
Not saying Murphy can’t take over once on a summit but chances are if its radiating in the back yard or local park then it probably will work once you get on the summit. I always take 2 antennas a dipole and an end fed that way if the dipole or feed line fails the end fed is a different set up or Vicki Versa. Clothes for the occasion, water and a small flask of coffee is worth the extra grunt needed to carry it. I have a big feed at home and a snack before I leave the car and just take a couple “trail bars” more as reward than sustenance HI. We do it tough here in VK with flies and heat rather than blizzards and snow like the N H . Good luck
73 de Ian vk5cz …

In reply to VK5CZ:
I don’t recommend it, but my first QSO was an activation on a backpacking trip. You don’t have to do a practice expedition to the back yard, but it’s a good idea.

I had lot’s of beginner mistakes and beginner’s luck. I ran an EFHW into my radio’s ATU without a special half-wave impedance matcher. I neglected to turn on my external power supply, so I ran with only the 8 NiMh cells inside the radio at 5 watts. I went on the air in a dense fog that turned to rain in mid-activation. OTOH, from the southern US, I made contacts in the US, Canada, Germany, and the UK on 5 watts SSB. (Yeah, I had a lot of beginner’s luck.)

It certainly can be challenging, but so long as you don’t take on wilderness beyond your stamina, you can learn it as you go.

Make a checklist. Activate. Make notes on what when well and what didn’t. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Welcome to SOTA!
Kevin / K4KPK

Thanks for the help and tips etc.

I did try my high hopper III portable antenna in the garden yesterday and was really pleased with it, really easy to put up even in my postage stamp size of a garden !

I think I’ll try some chasing first just to get me used to making a few sota contacts.

Hopefully I can get my first points today, may have to go mobile or take my ht out as my garden doesn’t have the best hf antenna.

In reply to M1EYP:

The link you give is of an independent site, so bear that in mind.

Wasn’t that written by the chaser who got activating and chasing confused at one point in Rombalds Moor?

In reply to 2E0SNJ:
Hi Simon,

My recommendation for first time activators would be to pack everything you think you might need and set up your station in the garden. If you have to go back into the house to get tools, cables, ropes, connectors,… you obviously missed something when packing up. This procedure might save you from a disappointing experience on a summit.

I would then make a check list of what has to go in the backpack. Next step would be to evaluate every piece of equipment if it can be omitted or substituted with something less heavy and smaller, a never ending quest…

Have fun in the mountains,

73 Heinz, OE5EEP

In reply to M0KCB:

As I only activate HF, I also made sure my antenna is self supporting,

Darius, would you like to expand on that?
Pictures, description?

I’ve never been caught out yet, but a self supporting antenna sounds interesting.


In reply to 2E0SNJ:

Just noticed this post. Hope you’re still alive.

I just finished my first SOTA ‘year’, and it’s been a lot of fun. If the purpose of the hobby is to get people into the fresh air to play with radios then it worked for me.

Fundamentally it’s hiking + radio.

Step 1: Hike to your chosen peak
This is absolutely no different to planning any other hike. Know your route, know your capabilities and limitations, and pack appropriate gear. If you have never hiked before then choose an easy hike. Always tell someone your plans, so they know where to look for the body. Obviously you’ll need a little more space for the radio gear, and it will add some weight.

Step 2: Set up and use your radio
You need a radio, power supply, and antenna. That’s it. Set it up, try to talk to four people. Write down the time and callsign for each contact and enter it into the SOTA database later.

Step 3: Pack up and go home
That’s pretty much it.

The subtle difference between SOTA and ‘just a hike’ is that you need more space for your radio gear, and you spend more time at the top.

I second the suggestion of having a checklist, and the suggestion of setting up in the back garden (or a local park) is excellent. If you have to go back to the house for something then add it to the checklist. When you are 2 hours into a hike you can not go back for something. Having said that, don’t be afraid to cut a trip short for any or no reason. It’s nice to get the points, but if the weather’s closing in or you’re getting past the point when it will be daylight during the hike down then pack up and leave.

Most of all, have fun!


In reply to 2E0SNJ:
Hello Simon,
if you will try activated hills, maybe my self supporting antenna will be useful for you:

and here is small L-atu for QRP levels, no only for this antenna:

please, use Google translate from slovak language.

I wish you good hiking and playing with radio on hills, VY 73 de Igor OM3CUG
Home pages OM3CUG/QRP - Welcome! G QRP club 5976

Thank you all for you help and suggestions. is just down the round from my house, ok it’s not much of a summit but probably an ideal place to start as I’ve been there plenty of times.

What size lipos should I use 3000mah, 4000mah etc ? I know it will be 3s.

When you make the call from the summit do you also give the summit ref with your call sign, and is it before or after your call sign ?

In reply to M0KCB:
Hi Simon

It might be a good idea to try whatever battery you have from home, and see how long it lasts.
I carried a SLAB up and down a lot of summits just because thats what everyone seemed to do!
But recently, I have just used the 817 with its internal battery (which lots of people joke about :o) A couple of weeks ago, I took it to four summits on the same day, operating 2m FM with 5 watts O/P, for about 20 minutes and 12 QSOs on each. I have used it at home since, and the batteries still have capacity left.

As Darius commented, it really depends on how much power you run, and how long you want to operate.
Its a good idea take some sort of spare / reserve, though!


In reply to 2E0SNJ:

Hi again Simon is just down the
round from my house, ok it’s not much of a summit but probably an
ideal place to start as I’ve been there plenty of times.

Wonder if you’ve ever found the trig… its well hidden… or it was when I was there !

What size lipos should I use 3000mah, 4000mah etc ? I know it will be

Depends on the radio. 817 is fine on the 3s LiPo’s 11.1V nominal but other radios struggle. Not tried them myself but 4s LiFePO4’s have some very notable activators as their champions for FT857’s etc. May also be worth considering for an 817 at VHF/UHF too, although they give full output at HF down to about 9V on 2m/70cm full output requires around 12V.

With my FT817 I get 3 hours of solid full power (approx. 5W) SSB operating out of new 2200mAh 3s LiPo’s, FM would be somewhat less though again no practical experience as I very rarely use the mode.

When you make the call from the summit do you also give the summit ref
with your call sign, and is it before or after your call sign ?

My standard call is of the form “CQ CQ CQ this is G4MD/P Golf 4 Mike Delta Portable on the summit of Walton Hill; G/CE-002 for Summits on the Air. G4MD/P listening for any call” and it seems to work

Good luck with your activating, hope to work you soon!

73 de Paul G4MD

In reply to G4MD:

also be worth considering for an 817 at VHF/UHF too, although they
give full output at HF down to about 9V on 2m/70cm full output
requires around 12V.

Interesting. I get full output on 2 metres at 9 volts: the 817 defaults to 2.5 watts (nominal) but you can push it to 5 watts using the menu.


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:

Hi Brian

I have two 817s, purchased about 2 years apart, and both exhibit virtually identical behaviour so I had assumed this was inherent in the design. Maybe this has not always been the case.

When powered on internal batteries they default to half power but that can be over-ridden with the power setting menu.

With an external power supply this does not happen. Below about 8.6V the radios just stop working. As you increase the supply voltage above this, power output increases till for HF a maximum (about 4.5W with my radios) is reached at around 9V and above this the output is virtually constant. At 2m, ISTR that power out starts at about 2W at 9V and increases more or less linearly to a maximum of about 4.5W at 12V applied and above.

Must look out my notes on the tests… I seem to remember this being discussed at considerable length in another thread some time ago, no doubt Andy is already referencing it :slight_smile:

73 de Paul G4MD