Sota equipment advice

Good afternoon to all.

I shall hopefully be attending the Norbreck event this weekend.

Can anybody offer any recommendations for a radio I could look for to use on future activations.

I have so far been told an FT 817 would be a good starter radio .

Any other recomendations would give me an opportunity to research them prior to the event.

Many thanks


In reply to M6RGF:




In reply to M6RGF:

Hi Russ

You need to decide how you want to activate before deciding on a single radio.

Long walks with lightweight equipment? Or short walks where you won’t mind carrying heavy stuff?

Phone (SSB or FM?) or CW or both? Or data modes too?

HF or VHF and up - or both?

The questions go on and on …

Yes, I think the FT-817 is a good thing and useful for SOTA - though somewhat expensive now. I was lucky enough to get one when they were cheaper, though I didn’t buy it for SOTA - I bought it mainly as a driver for microwave transverters and only once I owned it I had a go on the HF bands (my call gives away - or used to - the fact that I’m really a VHF and up operator). So yes, it’s good in that it allows you to try lots of things. But if you just want to get going, a 2m FM handie with a decent antenna would give you plenty contacts - provided you’re not in GM land :wink:

And don’t forget, the antenna is a key component - as is the op behind the mike / key!

There’s been a lot of discussion on the reflector about all this, but it’s not easy to get a simple answer - you need to put some pretty specific searches into the reflector “search” box to get a shorter list of possible topics to browse.

Good hunting - maybe see you at Norbreck!



In the first instance, you should find that your HT as it is will suffice (summits like Gun, Shining Tor, Moel Famau, Foel Fenlli).

You could then “upgrade” by adding a SOTAbeam 2m aerial, with the appropriate adapter for your handheld.

When you are ready for a proper SOTA radio, look no further than the top of Andy’s list. All bands all modes, kept me happy for over a decade. Just take it everywhere, with charged up battery, mike or CW paddle (or both), and antenna to cover whatever band(s) you are intending to do.

I used to find that SSB was difficult on HF bands with just the 5 watts, but on reflection that was more to do with operator ability/experience than anything else. But HF at 5 watts is nonetheless much easier with CW or 5MHz.


In reply to M6RGF:

Hi Russ… if you’re happy doing 2m FM for a while then I can’t recommend the FT-270R enough.

I still take this with a small roach pole and 450Ohm ladder line slim jim and it’s great fun.

Depends what you wanna do I guess. That lot fits in a very small backpack and the 270r is bullet proof (almost literally!) and waterproof too.

The small size (no external battery) and the durability makes for some easy activations.

Then again - there are other times I go more QRO and I enjoy that too. I’m mostly a walker with a bit of radio when I get to the top kinda guy…


In reply to M6RGF:

Can anybody offer any recommendations for a radio I could look for to
use on future activations.

You need to think about your station not your radio.

As Tom has said, go for the incremental approach. You have a handie, so improve your station based on that by getting a better antenna, either a home-brew slim-jim or a sotabeam (or maybe both).

I have so far been told an FT 817 would be a good starter radio .

The 817 is an excellent radio, not just a starter radio. It’s very versatile both as a radio and as a part of your station test equipment for checking things.

As your first step get a better antenna, you will be able to use it with an 817 too.

Then start looking for a used 817, they do come up regularly especially at rallies, that will give you ssb capability.

Next you can home-brew an HF antenna to use with the 817, for example a simple 40m dipole.

Colin G8TMV

In reply to M6RGF:

Hi Russ

Had an eye opener today. Joint activation (3 summits) with Steve MW0BBU. We decided that Steve would start on 40m cw and then I would take over on 40m ssb on all summits. The rig, Steve’s FT817 powered by a 12v 7Ah slab. I had been unsure about using my own 817 on my few activations and instead I have used my heavier IC7000 with that extra facility of more power if needed but also needing to carry 2 slabs even for a slight increase in power output and the consequent drain on the battery Rx &Tx.

The outcome is that I am now going to use my 817 for activations in the future and I am looking forward to a lighter load to carry on some of those long distant treks that I have lined up. Steve even noticed a fault and actually we had been running on two watts on one summit and still the 5/7 to 9 were coming in. There is good advice by other contributors to your request and the most important is to have an efficient antenna so you really need to research this as well.

Hope this is of some help to you Russ and thanks for all the contacts on my past activations.


Allan GW4VPX

P.S. Picked my 817 up for £200 second hand (in A1 condition)

In reply to M6RGF & GW4VPX:

Hello Russ,

“There is good advice by other contributors to your request and the most important is to have an efficient antenna so you really need to research this as well.”

This is absolutely right about the antenna. You can have the most wonderful radio in the world but unless you get the antenna right then you will not get the results. You need perhaps a bit of kit to check the resonance of what you have made, so you can then tweak it and then try it.

Good luck

Mike G6TUH

In reply to M6RGF:

Hi Russ

You cant go to far wrong starting with an 817 as it will pretty much do anything you wish!

Ideal for HF, VHF or UHF and will happily run all day on a 5000mA/h Lipo.

In all honesty, looking at where you’re based it may be worth starting with VHF and FM or SSB will both allow you to qualify summits.

And dont go buying any expensive antennas from dealers. As Rob says the easiest antenna to get you started is a slim jim. Mine cost about 5 pounds to make and rolls up and goes into the rucksack. My 4m variant has done over 500 points on the band with one slight service to check that no water had got into the coax.

There are plenty of designs online that use 450 ohm ladder feed.
I.E - 450 Ohm Slim Jim Antenna Project by KE4NU However be aware this is an American website so may not be great for 145 MHz FM.

A better site maybe

Type in 145.500 into the frequency box and low and behold you will have the dimensions for a slim jim that will work very well in the FM portion of the band.

Here are some photos of mine in action, this one is designed to work on 70 MHz



Finally get yourself some guy wires and a 7m fishing pole and you can have some excellent results!

Alternatively have a go at a dipole, this design by John M0JDK


All John has done is get a bit of coax, has taken 19 inches of the plastic outer off and separated the inner from the outer and has put it in a tube. Like John I use mine Horizontal, but you could drill a hole at one end and put a cable tie through and attach this to a fishing pole!
In addition at the feedpoint you could turn 7 turns of coax to make a choke balun. Its dead simple and wont cost you more than 5 pounds, where as you could go online and buy the same product for 25 pounds!

A no brainer in my opinion!

So an 817 will serve you very well, but that saying any of the yaesu single band VHF/UHF radios will be fine!

Hope that helps, save your money on antennas and spend more on the radio!!!

Matt G8XYJ

In reply to MM0FMF:

First may I take the opportunity to thank everybody who has responded and say I have digested everything that has been said…I am not going to respond to all replies but hopefully will mention everybody concerned during the course of this response.

Thanks Andy MM0FMF for the list of radio options…must admit I was recently reading the Peter Hart review about the Elecraft KX3 in Radcom…undeniably an excellent piece of kit…think this will have to be one to work towards to in the future…having a 2 year old little girl, I think my xyl may have something to say about me even suggesting I was about to outlay £1000 on the KX.

Darius M0KCB the Icom 703 one of Andys recommendations…and you possess 2 of them!!! Been trying to work you on the summits in the last 2 weeks but unfortunately keep getting trampled on by the big boys Hi Hi.

John GM8OTI I think I will combine the 2 of your suggestions there and go for the short walks lightweight…hope to see you at the Norbreck, I will probably be the only one carrying a 2 year old around.

Tom M1EYP…well if you recall it was you who first recommended the 817 to me and that appears to be endorsed by a lot of people.

Rob G7LAS …will look at the FT 270R as I am not familiar with that radio…also the slim jim as I have yet to see one of these.

Colin G8TMV…am interested in what you said about the 817 being part of the station test equipment…tell me more sometime please as I havent quite grasped that.

Allan GW4VPX…looks like your enjoying the activating…must be honest I dont want to be carrying slabs up with me, I have enough to contend with just carrying myself…mmmm 2 watts 57 … 59… thats good to hear…looks like the 817 is getting the vote so far.

Mike G6TUH…yes researching antennas a whole new topic for me to get my head around…had some good advice so far and will start doing my homework very soon.

Matt G8XYJ…well this response deserves more than two sentences…an absolutely fine response with some very helpful info on the attached links…thank you for those and thanks for the photos…must admit I do like the toys…oh another thing , I love the antenna on G/HWB-031 Oakley Mynd…must have taken more than just you to carry that one up…some good info here Matt…will be revisiting these links next week when I have some more free time…so far everything seems to be pointing towards the FT 817.
I think the thing that grabbed my attention was Allan picked up a minter for £200…I have set myself a goal now to get one for less than Allan did Hi Hi.

Let me just say again a big thankyou for all the constructive replies. Hope to meet some of you on Sunday.


Russ and family

In reply to M6RGF:
Hi Rus
I got myself an 817 after getting my license mainly for hill topping, protable operation and then i found the SOTA group a great little radio for what it does not perfect but what is, if you can find a decent 2nd hand one save you money as you may want upgrade to a 857. I mainly use it for for PSK, HF and recently 2m SSB, haven’t had any problems apart from remembering which antenna socket I am meant to be using front or back.
My biggest/heaviest problem I had on my first activations was caring an antenna farm in my rucksack and a spare for everything that could possibly go wrong, always best yo choose a few easy activations to start with, after the second or third activation your pack will be half the weight. As some one mentioned before depending on the activation location, or the larger summit activations you can reduce the weight by operating on the 2m band, which could help to keep a low profile on the busy peaks in the summer.
If you can find a close easy to access summit near your QTH get out have a try with that backpack of antennas/wire entanglements, I am sure any of the chasers would be happy for the summit points and to give a few reports on your antenna setup. That’s what I will be doing soon I have been using this cold weather to build two new antennas to try out so once the snow melts I will be off to my local hill top G/NP024 Hoove to tune and try, it’s easy to access short walk from the car and doesn’t get many visitors.

To you Rus and good luck

In reply to M6RGF:

Colin G8TMV…am interested in what you said about the 817 being part
of the station test equipment…tell me more sometime please as I
havent quite grasped that.

There are occasions around the shack when you need to monitor something, e.g. transmitted audio quality, so the 817 with a bit of wire in the antenna socket works. Or when building something you need to determine/set an oscillator frequency, rather than use a counter (which you can’t afford) you can use a general coverage receiver like the 817. Or you might need to generate a signal to test an Rx, again, 817 into a dummy load and use the leaked signal. Lots of uses, even as a backup to the main home station rig!

Colin G8TMV

In reply to M6WKR:


Thanks for the response…yes I have some easy to access local summits…shall be looking for a backpack once I have decided the quantity of kit I am to carry…think it will be less kit on the smaller summits as its easy to walk back to the car…wont be ready to do any high summits for a while as I wish to undertake some training/safety awareness.


In reply to M6RGF:

shall be looking for a backpack once I have decided the
quantity of kit I am to carry

Don’t forget you may need to carry shelter, extra clothing, drinks and food etc as well as radio kit. If you are buying a backpack then get a much bigger one than you initially think you need.

Colin G8TMV

In reply to G8TMV:

Thanks for the responses Colin…must admit hadnt considered shelter…also see what you mean about carrying out tests at the station.


In reply to M6RGF:

In reply to G8TMV:

I have a 80 litre thing (that’s BIG)… however, it has straps and the like that you can tighten that allow you to reduce it right down to the size of what you’re carrying.

It’s one of these :

I paid a lot less than that for it though in some sale somewhere.

I like the many pockets which allow you to think you have an idea where everything is and then on the summit lose everything… awesome!

In reply to M6RGF:

must admit hadnt considered shelter.

Sometimes you don’t need any, but on most summits at least a wind break or sunshade will be needed. I use a very cheap fishing shelter which I got on Ebay for about 6 quid similar to this: it stops the wind blowing stuff away, keeps light rain off the kit and gives you a little bit of shade from the sun.

Colin G8TMV

In reply to M6RGF:

Another option, “Youkits”, they are preparing the TJ2B. It seems interesting to SOTA.


In reply to EA4WT:

Another option, “Youkits”, they are preparing the TJ2B. It seems
interesting to SOTA.

But only covers half of the HF bands and No VHF or UHF.

Colin G8TMV

In reply to EA4WT:

In reply to M6RGF:

Another option, “Youkits”, they are preparing the TJ2B. It seems
interesting to SOTA.

If you scroll down on you’ll see a couple of videos featuring the TJ2A. It seems to have about the worst rx audio quality I’ve ever heard. Unless they make big improvements, I’d be hesitant to purchase the TJ2B based on what I heard.

Barry N1EU