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Self-Spotting from a Smartphone a Fair Means?


You’re not referring to Walt, surely?


This is not a troll.

I genuinely do not know anything about APRS or what it does. It is not something I have ever had occasion to use in the 57 years I have been on the air. I had to do a Google search a few minutes ago just to find out what the abbreviation APRS stands for. It appears to be some sort of American invention.

Walt (G3NYY)


I wouldn’t worry about it, Walt. Let the wizz-kids play with it while you (and I!) stick to traditional ham radio. We are not obliged to be bang up to date with everything, in fact it is probably impossible!



Not sure I would call Bob Bruninga, WB4APR a wizz-kid :wink:

From Wikipedia: (He) “… implemented the earliest ancestor of APRS on an Apple II computer in 1982. This early version was used to map high frequency Navy position reports. The first use of APRS was in 1984, when Bruninga developed a more advanced version on a Commodore VIC-20 for reporting the position and status of horses in a 100-mile (160 km) endurance run.”



Whether I self-spot is dependent, for me, on two factors:

  1. How much time do I have?
  2. Do I have a means of self-spotting?

If I have little time, I will self-spot if I am able. Otherwise, I will likely make some kind of contact with my radio(s) and maybe remember to ask for someone to send a spot.


But I can always tell where I am by using my SatNav (GPS) system. I understand that! I don’t think I need “APRS” as well.

Walt (G3NYY)


That sounds to me like a classic example of wizz-kiddery!

Note that the definitions of a wizz kid vary a lot, some people now use it in a disparaging sense, but I stick with a much older meaning of somebody (of any age) capable of and up to date with technological wizardry. We have several examples on the Reflector!



An awful lot of APRS is sending realtime position reports so that you could, if you wanted, plot the locations on a map. You could do the same for someone climbing a summit and watch their progress,

However, APRS is capable of much more than that. Think of it as a way to get some data from where you are to another location without you having to specify how to route to the destination.


APRS is Automatic Packet Reporting System and NOT Automatic Position Reporting System! Almost every lecture I have heard on APRS has always started with this statement as SO many people think of APRS as only the tracking system using GPS coordinates that can be viewed at APRS.FI. It is in fact an over the air data transfer network.Think of it as what Ethernet should have been “over the ether”.



If you have any kind of cellphone with you and GSM network on the summit you can use one of these SMS gateways.
It’s simple and cheap.


Hi Martin,

Good question. I always post alerts with estimated timings and frequencies usually two days before my activation.

Usually my method of operating is to scan round the band 40m or 20m to see what activity exists then call cq. If I get contacts I ask if they can spot me. If no contact after 5 to 10mins I will self spot via SMS.

I operate qrp 5 watts ssb sometimes 10 watts with external battery and on many occasions I have not had a phone signal and this has resulted in no contacts which is frustrating radio wise although the hike is always enjoyable.

Considering there are many chasers out there I work as many stations as I can and continue calling cq until either my time is up or my bones get cold before going qrt. Without self spotting I believe i would not have activated many summits since I started sota in 2015.

Thus in my view it is a fair means to get noticed when activating summits.

Neil G0WPO


You could just do what I did when on Snaefell on the Isle of Man on Sunday - after a 2.5 hour hike up from the sea at Laxey I realised that I had no internet connection on my phone in the isle of man and I hadn’t sent an SMS spot from this phone and couldn’t remember the format of the message.

Only about 10 minutes ago I remembered that the SOTAspotter application has been setup with the SMS gateway number - I’ve used it several times before.

The -15 degC windchill dig a good enough job on my brain to make me get the contacts that old fashioned way. 2m FM wasn’t an issue - half a dozen chasers, 40m SSB was more of a challenge but yielded around 10 contacts after 10 minutes of calling CQ, then one 20m contact hunt-and-pounce but by then I was getting seriously cold and it was time to leave!

Regards, Mark.


I don’t think of SOTA as an exercise to just get contacts, which perhaps that is the goal of some contesting.

Rather I think of SOTA as a means to test my equipment and ensure that it works as well as learn new things along the way. It also allows me to promote ham radio to others that might not be hams (yet).


So do you share my concerns wrt self-spotting?

73 de Martin, DK3IT


I have absolutely no problem with it, Actually I always self-spot. In part I do this so that people, and perhaps newbies, can see that there is activity in my region, when they first learn of SOTA and are trying to determine whether it is something they wish to do as an activator or a chaser.


The thing to remember is that if the spots facility was to stop, somebody will start another spotting service. Spotting is now a standard part of the majority of hams operating, not just SOTA hams either. People still have radios on monitoring and people still sit in shacks playing radio. But spotting allows people to go and do other things and watch spots. Then when that ZD8 activation is spotted, you can stop gardening, decorating or whatever, join the massive dog fight of a pileup, work the summit and go back to whatever you were doing. Spotting allows you to still be active on the air but not devote 100% of your time to that.

The genie is out of the bottle and will not be going back in ever. We have to live with the fact that operating has permanently changed.

With that fact in mind, if I carry my gear up a hill and lose some sweat in the process then I want to work as many chasers as I can in the time I can spend on the summit. My reward is not the points or the uniques or the completes though I thoroughly enjoy collecting them. My reward is working as many chasers as possible. I get to be the DX with my own pile of people trying hard for a contact with a GM station. Hell, we’re so common on the air, nobody would give me a second glance. But when I am on a summit, then to chasers I’m special and spotting lets me tell the chasers I’m on a summit and on the air.


Hi Andy,
I never had any problem with spotting in itself. I was only challenging Web-based spotting that depends on a much more sophisticated, layered network architecture than the subsequent ham radio contact.

For my part, I solved the conflict by training CW, as I can get spotted without depending on mobile Internet etc. I have abandoned the idea of PSK31 or other digital-mode based spotting for SSB contacts, since I have not done SSB for almost a year now.

73 de Martin, DK3IT


I agree whole-heartedly.


Actually, it’s more of the other way round. APRS is about you using your GPS to announce where you are to others. You feed your GPS into an APRS device to send out your location so others can find you. It’s just a standard language for announcing the position of people or objects. As a secondary feature, it can also be used to send text message over standard ham frequencies.

For me, I have the Yaesu FT1D handheld radio. Besides just being a regular HT, it has a built-in GPS and APRS module and can transmit my location as a beacon while I’m out and about climbing summits. I like the idea that, if something did go wrong, they should be able to help locate me from my beacon as an additional safety measure.


Hi All,

Back to Spot or not to Spot, is it fair?

I have done several joint activations with a friend. I self spotted, he relied on the alert. He used 40 m the usually most prolific QSO band, I used 80/20.
Peak 1, I had well qualified and packed up before he managed 4 contacts.
Peak 2, I struggled but got 5 contacts, he got none. Too late in the day to retrieve his failed activation.
Peak 3, I qualified and went to check how he had gone. Nil. Walked him back to my station, spotted him and he qualified.
Peak 4, exactly the same as Peak 3.

Peak 5. Last Sunday, I did not alert but spotted once set up. Had an enjoyable hour on the peak as an eremite but spotted activator.

Hunting and pouncing does not go well here, you may not be heard well and are ignored, you might be considered an outsider and be ignored, you might be acknowledged and told you will be called in but nobody gives you a report and maybe you aren’t called in anyway after 15 minutes of listening to how to prune the roses.

For me, spotting via SMS is essential. Almost any old phone will do. YMMV.