I’m a dyed in the wool Elecraft guy and subscribe to their email reflector.
Wayne, designer of the K2, K1, KX2,KX3, K3…sent this email out to the reflector. Its a great call to action for wilderness radio and specifically SOTA. Here is his text…
*Every day, hams worldwide, young and old, summit mountains and hills carrying the lightest possible load. They earn every calorie burned, and are rewarded with vistas most people never see. Like all adventurers, they proudly display nature’s merit badges: scrapes, bruises, and stings. *
And then they go back for more. The number of peaks “bagged” by some operators is staggering, as is their level of fitness and endurance.
In addition to those formally pursuing peaks (via SOTA, or Summits on the Air), there are many others who operate casually from hiking trails and parks. Some operate while they walk (pedestrian mobile, HT-style or HFpack). Some operate bicycle-mobile.
I’m writing this out of admiration for, and in solidarity with, all of those who commune equally with nature and the ionosphere.
There’s one thing these hams have in common.
Upon arriving at their destination – tired, sweaty, hungry, elated, or some combination of these – they hope to make a few QSOs. To experience a synthesis of the outdoors and the radio art.
But it isn’t always easy.
*While many hams have transitioned to computer-based digital modes such as FT8, others have not. This includes ultralight travelers, as well as those who seek the satisfaction of home-building simple gear and putting it on the air. *
*For portable operators in particular, simplicity and pragmatics often dictate the use of CW and SSB. It may not be desirable or even possible to lug a laptop in your pack, find a place to set it up, and attach its myriad cables. You might struggle to see a washed-out LCD screen in direct sunlight. High winds might capture an open laptop and sweep your gear away. *
Many, instead, choose traditional modes. These allow for small, integrated gear that can often be hand-held. And there’s the bonus of immediacy such modes offer, without mediation, without constraints on duration or content.
To put yourself in their shoes, imagine that you just trekked several miles, much of it uphill. To accommodate the need for food, water, clothing, and safety gear, you’ve brought a minimum amount of radio equipment. It might be a 3-ounce CW QRP radio; an HF-VHF-UHF portable, an all-band/all-mode HF HT (like a KX2), or your latest home-brew transceiver.
When you arrive at your peak, you survey the spot for a suitable operating position. It might be a large, flat rock; a patch of ground not infested with ants and spiders; or a shady spot with a downslope in a favored direction. You might climb a tree. Shelter beneath a ridge. Or dangle your legs and antenna from a cliff.
*Speaking of which, deployment of antennas presents another challenge. You could spin-cast or toss a wire, hoping for a good landing, without snags. You might wedge the feet of a tripod into rocks, then attach a small magnetic loop. Or you might use a simple telescoping whip. *
*All that effort. Now it’s time to turn on the radio. *
*Virtually every time I’ve gone on such an outing, I’ve made contacts. At times I’ve been lucky. Maybe it’s operating experience: knowing who to call. *
*But sometimes there’s no one around on CW or SSB. Is it propagation? Or is everyone swimming in the digital sea, not paying attention to you, on your remote island? *
*You can spot yourself on RBN (reverse beacon network), or prearrange skeds. But what many of us hope for is that burst of contacts. Feeling like a rare DX station. Feeling that slap-on-the-back-at-a-distance that says: *
“We hear you.”
You can, of course, partake of this experience yourself.
Whether you do or not, though: Please consider listening for those who do. Formal activations are announced in advance. See for example:
The band segments used are very small, or even a single frequency, making it easy to monitor them while you engage in other activity around the shack or on the air. You can use SOTA spotting websites, or just keep a receiver on one of the watering holes. (The Elecraft K3/K3S/KX2/KX3 make this easy, with built-in scanning. You can set the rig up for either muted or live audio scans, the latter making it easier to hear weak signals when they pop up.)
One final thought. In this pandemic era, some of us have had more time to get on the air, and some of us have had more chance to get outside.
Let’s do both. At the same time.