Sunday, February 23, 2014

"SOTA Activation of W0/SP-101" my 100th Summit Activation and "Whats in your Pack"

This SOTA stuff is addictive, fun and good exercise. I am lucky in that I have a great SOTA Elmer in Steve, wG0AT and a wife, KC0YQF, that also enjoys this crazy SOTA fun.

Some may note that my SOTA score may be low for activating 100 summits but that is because I have just as much fun going up summits that I have already activated as the ones that give me points. That is how I know I will be doing this for a long while after reaching the 1000 points required for Mountain Goat status in a few years. At least I hope to be.

W0/SP-101 is an easy four pointer near Guffey Colorado and the last time wG0AT and I activated this summit we did Three Mile first, then this one second. I remember it being a lot harder back then but I had just returned from sea level and of course we had already done one summit that day.

I allowed myself plenty of time to summit and actually came out ahead of my activation alert. When I started up the summit I decided to take a picture and promptly dropped my camera in a snow bank and the screen started to act strange so I powered it off, removed the battery and SD card and am waiting for it to dry. If it is ruined it will be camera number three that I have sacrificed to the SOTA Gods!

The setup today was my MTR and linked EF for 30 and 20 meters. It worked well and I netted the following stations:

30 Meters:

20 Meters:

Interesting to note that I worked my first QSO on 20 meters (Glenn, N4MJ) without calling CQ. I just threw a QRL? DE K0JQZ and Glenn was right there.... Thanks Glenn.

I was kind of bummed out about my camera as it was a great day for pictures. It was cold and windy so I did not spend the whole day up there. I was hoping to get a few S2Ss but no joy. It was a rather uneventful activation and not as fun as it is when KC0YQF and/or wG0AT are with me.


When I got home I started thinking about my pack weight and some of the items I carry. Everyone is different but I am reading a few Mountaineering books and they always get me thinking. 

Just for fun here is my contents.
My Pack is a Golite Jam 35
My pack is a Golite Jam 35, (read about it here).  I just bought this pack and have used it on a few activations. I am really liking it and I can carry two coats on the inside (unlike my Gregory) and it has big pockets for water bottles and anything else. The only CON is there is no hooks or loops to add webbing in the back. Other than that I love it.

My preferred SOTA HF station consist of the following:

Antenna: EF linked for 20, 30 and 40 meters with matching unit, rope, weight (ever try finding a rock on a snow covered summit).

Radio: MTR for 30 and 20 meters, ear phones, micro paddles, 11 volt and 9 volt battery (backup), pen, pencil, log book, recorder and external speaker and required cables. Of course I usually also bring my "goat paddles" in sunglass carrying case.

If I am going to a summit with no way to support an antenna I bring a fishing pole:

Fishing Pole
All of this save the fishing pole is just under 2 pounds at 1 lb, 15.5 oz without the fishing pole which is 8 oz.

My station weight can be further reduced by eliminating some redundancy like the recorder, external speaker, two sets of paddles, 40 meter link for the EF (I just keep it in the bag so I do not loose it) and extra battery, that would bring my total station weight to 1 lb 7.4 oz (with fishing pole)!!!!! However, I am unlikely do do that until I start tackling some 14ers this summer.

The station ready to be packed
In case anyone is wondering, I save all those high quality bags that Elecraft and Buddipole use to package their products. The antenna is in one such bag and it is water proof and thicker than a ziplock bag. The MTR and accessories is in a bag that I get from my dentist every visit that has various items in it. I like it because it is about the right size and it has a slot for a business card that I insert my license in along with contact info. I then tape over it making sure I can read it. Of course it would take an honest person to return it if I leave it somewhere. The odds of having it returned are better than having no contact info on it at all. I would say it is water resistant but not water proof and I would not dunk it underwater for any amount of time.

The normal contents are my pack are pictured below. I recently added a dual band HT and thermometer/compass.

My pack contents save the radio/antenna
This is my winter pack so I have two pairs of gloves, two hats and scarf. Weight is 12.07 oz.

The emergency pack which includes matches, wet fire starter, light stick, TP and wipes aka "Mountain Money," hand warmers, space blanket and two bandanas weights in at 12.05 oz. Other items I always carry are:
Dual Band Radio = 5.5 oz
GPS = 6.7 oz
Camera = 6.6 oz
Clock = 5.5 oz
Thermometer/ Compass = 1.1 oz
Multi Tool = 2.4 oz
Flashlight with beacon function = 2.8 oz
Tripod = 1.6 oz
Sit Pad = 4 oz
SOTA Flag = 2 oz
Mace Spray = 1.6 oz

NOTE: The flashlight is a little heavy but I wanted one that had the beacon as I think that would work better for a rescue effort in day and night, if required. The only problem is it uses a non-standard battery so I can carry a spare or just change it out every so often. I am still on the look out for another flashlight that meets my size, weight and functional requirements.

My pack itself weights in at 1 lb but I have a few things added like hooks etc that bring it to 1 lb 6 oz.

Not in the picture are two jackets, one outer and one inner that come in at 1 lb 4 oz and 13 oz, respectively. 

My energy water weights in at 2 lbs 4.3 oz.

If Lynn is not with me I do not carry her radio but just for grins I weighted Lynn's KX3 with 58 foot LW and battery plus paddles with case and cover and it came in at under 4 lbs at 3 lbs, 14 oz. Amazing, a contest grade station with built in tuner, mic, 13.8 volt A123 battery and antenna at under 4 pounds! Last summer we used that setup for over 3 hours (operating time) at 10 watts SSB and 5 watts CW on six SOTA activations without a recharge. There is simply nothing out there that can match that! 

If I could have just one radio the KX3 is the one. 

Please do not take what I carry as gospel. The only thing I would say that you should always carry is the ten essentials as outlined in any good Mountaineering book. I do welcome comments about backpacking, weight and new products. 



  1. Very interesting to see the contents of your pack, Frank. I suggest you add a loud whistle to your gear. They add little in weight and may save your life some day (mine possibly did last year).

    73, Mike W5RST

  2. Mike, great point!. Actually the pack has a built in whistle in the chest strap similar to a REI bag however, I have a better one somewhere and misplaced it when I got the new pack. It will show up someday but rest assured I do have a whistle. Something else I may throw into the emergency bag is a signal mirror/camp mirror. There is always room for improvement either in quality or weight. Thanks gain for your comment and experience from last year.

  3. Great article Frank! I too like redundancy, but over time I have been removing items from my pack. I use an Osprey Mutant 38 pack, I seem to think that the brand is from the US. I picked the pack because it's very strong but fairly lightweight.

    Would a headtorch be worth considering? I have a Petzl E+Lite, it's a great little device, it weighs very little and is actually quite bright. You can set the unit to flash in either white or red light for signalling.

    A piece of yellow chalk is good to carry, you can scribe on rocks if needed - might be useful to signal to rescue aircraft.

    73, Colin, M1BUU

  4. Great idea on the chalk Colin. I just ordered another light made by ThruNite called a T10 but also have a few headlamps that I take if I am planning to be out over night. Thanks for the ideas Colin.