Using 2M FM for Activations

I realize that I’m stirring up a hornet’s nest but here goes…just one person’s opinion. I find it extremely irritating to see an alert / spot for a 2M FM only activation. In addition to activating, I really enjoy chasing. I view an activation using only a 2M handitalkie as somewhat a joke. By nature, FM is a LOS mode which greatly limits its range. For S2S contacts with activators on nearby summits, 2M FM has its place. Perhaps my mindset is totally different but when I activate, I want to work as many stations as possible. To accomplish that, I operate hf on lots of bands - normally on CW but I carry a microphone too. I am eager for the time when I can routinely work into EU and beyond during my activations. One further comment - most of the activators in my area have discovered that 40M is frequently too long for local chasers to work them and, consequently, have started using 80 or 60M as well. I also realize that some folks simply don’t own hf equipment and 2M/ 440 is either their only venue or their choice - and I respect that but I hope that you will give hf a try. I’m eager to work you.

Not everyone can afford a HF rig, much less one that’s portable.

2M is completely legit. Rather than trying to rain on someone’s parade since they aren’t doing SOTA how you want why not instead be a bit more welcoming that they are growing the SOTA community & ham hobby? If they can make 2M work, more power to them.


The 2m handheld is the entry point for newly licensed folks. When I did my first SOTA activation, I was still a technician and only owned one radio, a 144/440 handheld. I was thrilled to get a couple of chasers. Since I’ve been getting more involved, I’ve seen other newbies joining in the fun. Like me, they all start out with a simple handheld radio.

Also, there are some pretty hardcore peaks where dragging the weight of a HF rig is unreasonable. But a handheld could absolutely be carried the top of Mt. Rainier without issue and more than likely have the range to get enough contacts.

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Yup, also a good point. Half of the QSOs on Rainier are 2M and the two tallest activated(2km+) peaks on the Olympic Peninsula are 2M only.

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Gee wiz you’re a bit hard on us newbies. I did my first activation with a club member and my second I did solo; both on 2M FM. I muddled through setting up an aerial in the wrong spot and found a better site after a bit of experimentation. If I had to do HF as well it would have left me struggling and spoiled the fun. When I get a few activations under my belt then I’ll try HF.


Hi Derek, loads of reasons why some activations may be “just” VHF. Some have already been given. I’ll add that my handheld is the only waterproof radio I own and I don’t particularly enjoy risking expensive Hf sets in very wet conditions.

Please don’t get irritated; this is just a hobby. It doesn’t matter why the activator chose only VHF, that’s their choice to make. You’ve identified why alerts and spots are so helpful for VHF operators. Getting 4 contacts on VHF alone can be a real challenge in some areas

Arguably, without people here in the north west of England doing exactly what irritates you, SOTA would not exist in its current form at all. Activities using 2m HTs are an excellent way to get people interested in SOTA. They hear you on a local hill; hear you working stations they cannot hear then they call in and ask you what it’s about and next weekend it’s them you hear on the same hill with their own HT. 2m HT activation are a great gateway into the wider aspects of SOTA.


Having tried to activate a couple of Scottish mountains this winter with HF/CW and failed due to the imposibilities of setting up in atrocious conditions I can see why many folk just use hand-helds -its much easier.

Perhaps we aught to get more points for an HF activation?

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Look up the SOTA - L’Oreal award with the search facility.


If you are lucky enough to be on summits where 2m FM handheld activating is feasible - then do it. It is the most low-impact, considerate, environmental, lightweight, quick and easy way to activate.

It is everything that we would wish to encourage in lightweight portable amateur radio, and I am most uncomfortable with any “peer pressure” not to do it, or suggestions that HF is “worth more”.

The much improved availability, quality and affordability of VHF handhelds in the late 1990s, was one of the influential factors in devising the SOTA concept. The Founder and President - John G3WGV - has mentioned this in the past.


The logic from that is surely that if anything it’s the VHF/UHF activations that should get more points, because it can be harder to net your four QSOs!

That’s an aspect which makes it especially rewarding to take VHF/UHF to a summit, experiencing the vast increases in range, to both home stations and /P.

Each to his or her own - no need to let it irritate you.


I may be wrong, but I think that the largest license class in the USA is the Technician class. Technicians only have limited HF privileges, and it is said that many of them lose interest when faced with the limitations of the FM handy that is typically their first rig. From that point of view, the opportunities opened up to them by SOTA is a good way of keeping them in ham radio rather than falling by the wayside. Operating on 2m FM from a SOTA summit can give them a range of perhaps a hundred miles, this is pretty small beer by HF standards, but we shouldn’t knock it if they can qualify a summit and get contacts in the database - and in favoured locations during a weekend or holiday they can get ten or twenty contacts, which is enough to keep the flame burning!

I spent nearly forty years doing nothing in ham radio but V/UHF, but it was HF short wave listening that got me into ham radio, and in my later years I returned to HF, so I have a clear understanding of the attractions of both HF and V/UHF. Both are great fun, but there is no compelling reason to choose one over the other, and I am sure that a 2m FM activation is just as fulfilling as a 20m activation.

It is informative to look at the “Facts and Figures” menu in the database. It currently gives the total number of CW QSOs as 2,020,412, SSB QSOs as 1,669,782, and FM as 815,912, so FM contacts (which will be mainly V/UHF) only make 18% of the total. This 18% is a small price to pay to keep beginners, the impecunious, light weight enthusiasts and V/UHF enthusiasts involved in SOTA.


Do you carry a legal limit amp and batteries to power it to the summit? Do you work all digital modes? Do you have antennas which cover the whole spectrum of RF you’re licensed to use?

If not, you’re not working as many stations as you could be. If you list the reasons why you don’t do some/all of those things, I’d bet they’re similar to the reasons someone would give for using only FM to activate. Time, weight, licensing, knowledge, funds etc etc.

Btw, if anyone deserves extra points for Qs it’s the people who manage to get an HT programmed allowing a QSO to be made with it. I am a bona fide IT guy and my heart sinks when I think about using the one I have.

(thanks for Q on High Knob last week btw!)


Most apps that show SOTA spots (like SOTA Spotter, Rucsack Radio Tool, VK port-a-log) have filters, so you can hide bands or modes that you’re not interested in.
This hobby is very complex and everyone finds in it something that they enjoy. To each his own, I don’t think what they like is “a joke” compared to mine (well, unelss they use Hamsphere :slight_smile: ).



A Yaesu and a Beofeng. I am not sure which UI is more obtuse but I think it might be the Yaesu’s.


I did a software upgrade on an FT2DR. It was the most trying experience that I have had with a radio in many years.

You’ve never listened to Nigel Farage on LBC then…


Why? Does Nigel answer IT questions as well ?

I imagine so. He has an answer for everything.