What makes SOTA better than other portable operating award schemes?

There are many other portable operating award schemes as well as SOTA, for example WWFF and RADAR, so why is SOTA “better” ? In my “not so humble” opinion, I can list the following reasons

  1. the ability to communicate ones intentions in advance to a hoard of willing chasers
  2. the ability to indicate when you are operational and on what frequency and mode, which almost guarentees more than enough contacts after your fight to get to the top of the hill.
  3. the ability to centrally record and produce reports on your achievements and if you wish to, compare them against others.
  4. the camaraderie between all involved (at least until recently)

The first three of these points would not be possible without a group of willing, unpaid volunteers, their time and their finances.
The Management Team have to make hard decisions from time to time that you may not agree with, but without the MT the first three items on the list above simply could not happen and SOTA would not be the addiction that it is to most of us.


Please do not extend the current P100/150 discussions here, rather lets be POSITIVE. What do you all think is good about SOTA? I’m sure my list only covers part of the attraction of the scheme.



I’ll play!

Besides the obvious one that it enables me to combine a lifetime love of the mountains with amateur radio, it has led me to climb hills that I would have otherwise ignored. Mainly minor summits near to major summits or in areas where in my younger days I went to laze on beaches or climb on sea cliffs rather than stroll up minor hills.



Great topic Ed and I agree with what you say.
I know what I did in the quest to get vk5 active in SOTA I payed for my own flight to Melbourne to visit Wayne VK3’s AM.
I needed Wayne’s Help to find the summits and he gave me accommodation and fed me for free when I was there . Wayne did all the work towards proving the summits and I did the spread sheet work for the submission to MT when I came home.
I can try to imagine the work MT do to get such a great data base up and running and keep it going and modify ETC.
All those AM’s around the world beavering away to find all those summits and prove prominence is a big task but they have done it and others are working towards a new association, what a great past time SOTA is. For me personally I am like others who would have not even looked to the hills while driving around, let alone climb up them. So I have seen my state from many different angles now, and liaised with so many Farmers and land holders who mostly give us permission to access their land. Local Permission to summits is a on going task for every activator who wants to go to a new summit or add to the list of summits locally to activate.
73 Ian vk5cz …

Can you imagine my current task to evaluate a submission of 10575 new summits which you will appreciate is a increase of 17% of active summits for the database, for what looks like 4 new far east associations. Any one else willing to give up about a month of their free time.

Until the programme came along (and a long time before I was associated with the management of the scheme) I was suffering health problems, fighting a losing battle with my weight and had just about lost interest in what had once been an all abiding passion - amateur radio. For me it has reactivated a love of hill walking AND amateur radio and has probably put years on my life expectancy.

I will always be grateful to the two founders and the little scheme which “would have limited interest” that they hatched up over a pint or five.

Barry GM4TOE

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I could spare an hour or two a week! :grimacing:

Without SOTA I would just be climbing hills at a nice leisurely pace enjoying the view (not often in GM) but now because of SOTA I have to humph a radio, a battery, a few antennae, some coax, a mast and all the other bits and bobs that go with it.

BUT I still think it is a wonderful scheme and my hat off to the volunteers that give their spare time to running the scheme - without them my backpack would be a lot lighter. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

Thank you for all the responses to my post. A couple of people have also pointed out to me that the extended team - that of the Association managers and their support groups are essential. I am proud to say I was one of those support people when the VK2 association was formed and my hat goes off to the vounteer work done by AMs, Region Managers and the support teams in each of the associations. My apologies for not mentioning them.

I have thought of another point to add to my short list above.

-5- SOTA allows you to hone both your equipment and operating skills to make you more useful if you ever need to take part in emergency radio communications after a disaster of any kind.

Long live SOTA and the volunteers who support.

Well done guys!

73 Ed.

These responses seem to answer the question “What is good about SOTA?”, which is fine. However, the original question was “What makes SOTA better than other portable operating award schemes?”.

The answers to specifically that question, in my opinion, are:

  1. Database
  2. SOTAwatch
  3. Objective criteria

Only remark is that individual scoring based on ASL is not objective, nor can it be.

However, in any event, SOTA is a nice program, thanks for it.


ED :wink:

What a refreshing change to the reflector up beat and positive.
Sota for me is a wonderful side to the Ham radio scene I have recently discovered since last august. And got into and was warned it is addictive. Yep they be right.

The main bit that caught my eye was the fact that many a person known as activators, do take there spare time and the cost out of own pockets to provide us chasers with on air entertainment to which I am grateful.

To me its worth getting out of bed. For being semi retired and looking after the other half in her declining health. And also have met on air people to whom I must improve my memory of names. The times one is called back by your own personal name and call sign kinda make you feel part of a community to which is Sota. But like said its not just the activators its also the team behind the scenes as well ourselves the chasers. And also feel part of a family here to me is important

Yes Sota is certainly a better one than many Portable awards schemes I have come across and certainly intend to enjoy for the fore see able future.

So to end this slightly over run little bit said by myself. Thank you to all for your time and effort for making this a good one. But most of all, Please be safe out there on your hikes and walks up and down the hills and peaks.

Your with mike ready in hand and awaiting the next one to air

Karl M3FEH 73s

Allows me to combine a few hobbies. Radio, 4WD activities, enjoying the Australain bush/outback plus fishing. An excellent program. Also lets me try a few new things with portable operation eg: new bands, new modes, new antennas, fiddling around to get the “perfect” portable set up. Buying new toys as well of course.


Hi Ed,
thanks for the post. I have been thinking exactly about the same question many times since I got involved in SOTA. What makes it so attractive compared to other schemes?

Your list is great and covers the importan points. Agree.
Let me add another point that I find it contributes too:

6.- the ability to communicate and share technical info to improve your gear and the way you operate portable.

I find very interesting sharing inventions, methods for deploying the poles, homebrewing antennas, rigs and accesories. Even sharing ways to create shelter or to stay warm…

Contrary to what happens in contest, etc, where people hide their own skills to be able to battle and earn more contacts that count towards a good position in the score, I like to share with others the things that help me doing a better activation and to facilitate a safer and better operation. I think this contributes with the real spirit of amateur radio: the experimentation and the support with the ham community.

Besides to my own contribution, I learn a lot from other’s contribution in the reflector.

For me all these reasons are a plus in SOTA scheme.

Take care and VY 73

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For me:

  • Being able to participate both as a chaser and as an activator.
  • Logging, spots, alerts, maps, and the rest all online.
  • QRP portable operating…
  • Encouragement to learn Morse :wink:

73, Rick M0LEP

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Great training in pile-up handling too so might have a spin-off in contesting or dxpeditions

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I try to keep my SOTA practice in WWFF (not WFF!) program also - I mean QRP, destination reached by foot, ski or bike. Then WWFF is in my opinion - often, but not always; nature reserves are often less accessible and very interesting hills - more difficult than SOTA. Even in difficult terrain one has to do at least 44 QSO while spotting does not work so perfectly like here. Once your callsign appears in the WWFF DX cluster, the pileup is perhaps even larger and one must use - and tranfer as well - also a larger battery to do all QSOs required.

That’s my problem, because I do not like to ride deep into the countryside by car and this is the basis for my comparison:

positives for SOTA:

People I meet
SOTAwatch, Alerts > robotic spotting. It makes SOTA activation much easier (controversial question is whether easier equals better) and much faster (only 4 QSO needed)
Excellent work of chasers in spotting
Database system with online access


I’d add also the Reflector, which helps building the SOTA family spirit and provides a lot of fun too.
Best 73 de Guru

Hear Hear.
Radio; hills
Plus the (free) database/Sotawatch etc is better than several commercial programmes that I am forced to use at work.
I don’t fully understand all the intricacies of P100/P150, but that’s partly because I don’t care and can’t be bothered to read it all.
5 activations down - I think there are enough summits left to keep me happy. I just hope my knees last. Looking forward to the next personal challenge

(sorry I forgot to add that all good things need people to organise them - in this case volunteers. It’s the volunteers, activators and chasers who make SOTA what it is. The mountains will be there long after the politics dies down - until the next issue of course - that’s life!)

Last PS! To answer the original question- I don’t know whether SOTA is “better” than anything else. It works for me and I enjoy it. My thanks to all who help me enjoy it. To those who are unhappy with SOTA at present I hope you can find pleasure soon (either within SOTA or not). pontification over I promise :innocent:


Definitely, the KU6J feature, which spots CW activators CQing on a frequency as long as they have previously raised an Alert is also a key factor for SOTA success.
As an example, I raised an Alert this morning for a short activation of Mt. San Cristobal (EA2/NV-119). In my Alert I stated I would use 14MHz SSB and so I tried but, unfortunately, I was unable to selfspot due to a silly problem consisting in having the bright of my smartphone set to minimum and not being able to see anything on its screen when I tried to use it for sending a selfspot.
Without a spot and not having skimmers on SSB, after calling CQ for about 10 minutes on 14.275 without any single chaser coming back, I QSYed to CW as I knew I would be picked up by the skimmers and spotted by KU6J feature. So it happened and after 2 CQ calls, I got a small pile-up calling me.
I worked 9 stations in 10 minutes, one of which was a S2S.
I’m pretty sure I would have consumed all my available time in the summit (15-20 minutes) calling CQ on SSB without having logged any single QSO, so thanks Sotawatch and KU6J.
Best 73 de Guru.

I hope this is just an unfortunate coincidence, but the SOTA Mapping Project site is now redirected to

Maybe we’ll soon realise it was taken for granted but definitely contribute(s/d?) to “make SOTA better than other portable operating award schemes” ;-(

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