Newcomer to SOTA & W2/WE-051 Activation

I’m not sure this is the appropriate place to post this but I wanted to share my experiences as a newcomer. W2/WE-051 is my second summit and it was a last minute activation tonight after dinner. I had everything all packed up in my car from my activation on W2/WE-043 and there was just enough time left in the day to get out and activate another summit.

I’ve come to notice a few chasers that contacted me on both summits and I wanted to thank you for the QSOs!!!

The drive to the summit was amazing. Because this was a last minute SOTA I chose not to hike the road but I parked near the summit and I walked all my gear in to the AZ.

The big tree stump in the access road was my hint that I was nearing the summit

I finally arrived at the AZ with my KX3, massive lead acid battery (this is on the list of things I need) and some random wire. The summit was in dense woods and there really wasn’t a clearing where I could set up so I found the most spacious canopy and threw up a leader line for my random wire. I use a 16oz. lead shot with 40lb fishing line. I’ve tried lighter test line and the tangles too easy and when it snags on the bark you really can’t coax it down, it just snaps.

For the random wire I use copper trolling line. It’s about 20ga and kinks a little easier than I would like it to. I would really prefer a rubber or silicone jacket on the wire. If anyone has any recommendations please let me know. The wire I have works VERY well directly into the KX3 on the BNC to binding post adapter. Today I had about a 40’ vertical and I only had a 10’-15’ section of ground counterpoise. The KX3 tuned the antenna set up to 2-1 which I wasn’t happy with at all. I had no ambitions of making any contacts and the Deer flys were not helping. I had about 10 deer flys circling my head trying to get the antenna set up.

This was my savior tree, I was able to get up on the second branch on the right hand side.

I took a seat on the ground and started a little S&P to see if I could actually get out with a 2-1 SWR and 5w. The battery pack I had was only showing 10.6v but after a little fiddling I got it to run 12.1v and drive the KX3 with a full 10w. I have the internal battery pack loaded up but the batteries weren’t charged.

My first contact was a DX station in Italy and the next QSO was the 150 Anniversary of the ITU special event station. I couldn’t believe I was breaking through DX pileups with a 2-1 SWR and 5w. My last contact before I when to work calling CQwas another Special event station, W9IMS. Talk about breaking pileups QRP style! I needed one more QSO for the activator points and went to work finding a clear frequency from my alert. .240 was in use, .288 was in use so I went with my 3rd frequency of .332. I called CQ and within 5 minutes worked 5 stations and had a mini pileup myself!

I’ve gotta say as a newcomer, I’m thoroughly hooked and will be activating more summits in and around NY/PA. Thanks so much to the chasers. You guys have totally made the sitting-in-the-mud, and battling the horse flys worth it! Eventually I’ll improve my gear and bring CW into the equation.

If you’re wondering what I’m currently using here’s my gear sheet:

  • Elecraft KX3 with ATU
  • Elecraft KXPA100 (When I need that extra oomph…Is this cheating? :slight_smile: )
  • Schumacher XP2260W (This thing is heavy - this is next on the list to be upgraded
  • Howies Tackle Wire (Random lengths connected direct to KX3)
  • Generic 16oz lead shot
  • Generic 40lb test fishing line
  • As much bugspray that I can put on, plus an extra can
  • Cheap notebook from a trade show
  • Miscellaneous cables for the KX3 & KXPA100

73’s and hope to catch you on the air!


I am planning on checking out the site at W8O/SE-009 today or tomorrow. I was going to take the radio with me but I will be working off the internal batteries as I don’t have an external battery yet. This will be my first (possible) activation and I don’t have the foggiest idea where to start.

Hopefully I’ll get some pointers by looking around on the reflector.

The best advice I could give you as a newcomer is to read the rules and do a mock SOTA at your house. Then pack up and head out. The mock SOTA will force you to have everything before you get up to the summit and realize you forgot your radio >.>

I just happen to have the 22Ah Jump kit in my car from winter so I used that. If you’re looking for an external battery you could lug around a car battery or you should even be able to find a lawn mower battery (smaller and lighter) at your local Walmart (etc.). Put some powerpoles on a cord with alligator clamps and you’re good to go.

[quote=“N8NCR, post:1, topic:10930”]
This thing is heavy
[/quote]Heh! That sort of thing makes SOTA much more of an effort. Definitely worth trying to figure out how to avoid carrying large lumps of lead around. :wink:

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Congrats on a successful activation and having fun!

I recommend using teflon insulated wire.

If you want to move on to longer summit hikes, lose that 16oz anchor of a throw weight (4oz should suffice), lose the KPA-100, lose that battery in favor of a LiPO battery, and lose the fishing line in favor of 1.5mm braided nylon rope or something similar. If you just want to continue with drive-up summits, the weight of your equipment doesn’t matter much because it’s only a short walk.

If you have any interest in learning/using cw, I’d highly encourage that as well but many successful activators just use ssb. And long term, a resonant end-fed half wave antenna oriented horizontally or sloping will get your signal out better. The KPA-100 certainly is partly responsible for your success using ssb with a less than ideal antenna.

73, Barry N1EU

Thanks for the tips!! :slight_smile:

  1. I’m going to order some wire samples from thewireman, I’ve got 531,532,534,544 and 546 on order in 1 foot sections for a whopping total of $1.38. They are PVC and Polyethylene Jackets. Is there a better source for the wire you were referring to? Ideally I’d like a wire that is tangle resistant and has a good memory to it. I don’t want it to kink or bend and stay that way.

  2. I was looking for an 8oz weight which would have been ideal, unfortunately the local sporting good store only had 3oz elongated trolling sinkers. In my past experiences 4oz doesn’t have enough mass for me to give it my all, it’s kind of like throwing a feather, too much arm, not enough mass.

  3. The KXPA100 is with me until I can find a better bag for hikes. Right now the KX3 is in a Cannon lens case and all my stuff goes into one bag. I want to get the KXsides and a case that will hold a 4S1P 5800mAh battery pack, a RAPCAP microphone and some random wire. I’ve been happy with the random verticals thusfar. Thankfully NYS is full of tall trees. I don’t know what I’m going to do when I go to a summit without trees :confounded:

  4. The braided nylon rope, is that like the stuff used in miniblinds? I decided on the fishing line because it was cheap, lightweight, didn’t have much friction at all so it wouldn’t get caught in the bark. I don’t feel bad only using it once and it’s available locally. What’s the advantage of the nylon rope vs the monofilament?

  5. I actually haven’t had to use the KXPA100 to date. Like I said I’ve been carrying it around to stabilize everything in the bag. I obviously don’t need all the cords and cables when I have the KX3 charged up properly and a spare battery pack.

The nylon rope is easier to handle and easier to coil up after you’re done. I also suspect it’s more bio-degradable and easier on the environment. Trust me, eventually you will eventually get a line snagged and have to cut it and leave it behind in the trees.

I don’t understand needing to take the KXPA-100 but whatever floats your boat. I assume you’re not hiking up any major mountains.

Barry N1EU

Since nylon is a thermoplastic it has a similar makeup as monofilament, the nylon cord has more fibers and more surface area to speed up the degradation process but it’s still going to be a long time. I’d just curious to know if anyone uses twine like jute twine, butchers twine or another natural fiber based cord.

I have no problem with a 1 time use solution unless there is an easy way to wind up 150ft of cord. Fishing reels seemed to work the best but I eventually ended up with a rats nest during deployment. The nicely factory wound spools had the least deployment tangles.

Arborist throw line is light and designed to not get stuck in trees. There are several varieties, but you can get 50 feet of it from Gossamer Gear, where they recommend it for bear bagging.

Instead of carrying a weight, carry a small bag that you can fill with rocks or dirt at the site. I stow my throw line inside. You can make your own or get this one.

Those together weigh 46g, well under two ounces. I use them for bear bagging and for SOTA.


The SOTAbeams wire winders would work fine for cord. You could also look at winders used for kites.


thanks for the tips!