Multi-Purposing for SOTA

For about as long as I’ve been into hiking and backpacking, I’ve read stories in all the various enthusiast magazines and forums about sawing off or drilling holes in the handle of your toothbrush to save a little weight in the pack.  The ultralight movement has certainly helped to produce a lot of light weight and durable gear over the years.  I remember the first titanium cook pot I purchased about 15 years ago. I actually still have it and use it today.  It has survived all these years and is much lighter than anything else I ever owned.

A SOTA activation is similar to a short backpacking trip.  What we need for our trip and especially what’s required to communicate when reaching the top all must be carried to the top.  While we have options to assist us in saving some weight.  An example of this might be carrying the Yaesu FT-817 5w QRP rig versus the FT-897 100w version.  Not only is there a significant weight difference, there’s also a size or volume difference in just how much more space the FT-897 will take up in the pack.  But of course, if the FT-897 is your only HF rig, then there isn’t much you can do about it.

I’ve learned a lot in the few SOTA activations I’ve completed.  I believe this is mainly because I have a fantastic Elmer.  Steve, wG0AT has shared a lot with me and importantly….I’ve listened.  The other thing I have going for me is I’ve been hiking and backpacking for years.  While there are many similarities between backpacking and a SOTA activations, there are also just as many differences.  Being able to adjust from on-summit experiences has been crucial to me and has helped save many pounds of weight from my pack. 

Unfortunately, we can’t drill holes in our 12v batteries and HF transceivers to save weight.   But there are other ways to save weight by either replacing conventional items with alternatives or multi-purposing an item into having multiple uses on the activation.  I will share two of my most recent multi-purposing discoveries.

Multi-purposing Tip #1 – Leave the tent stakes and hammer at home.

On my first SOTA activation I carried with me three lightweight aluminum tent stakes.   I didn’t take a hammer or mallet, as I figured I would use a rock.  The tent stakes were not used as the ground was frozen hard and most importantly weren’t needed after all.  Why?  Well to answer that question, let’s first define what a mountain is made of.  Rock!  What is scattered all around on the top of a mountain?  Yep…you guessed it…ROCKS! 

Multi-purposing Tip #2 – Mast and Hiking Stick

Depending on what type of antenna you choose to use on a SOTA activation, you’ll need some way of supporting it.  While a tripod type mast works great, these are generally heavy and may still need to be guyed on the summit of a mountain. 

A valuable tip I learned from Steve, wG0AT was to use a hiking staff as the lower mast section of my vertical antenna.  You can find hiking staff models which have a removable knob or handle revealing a threaded stud.  This threaded stud is intended to allow the hiking staff to double as a monopod. 

I use a threaded adapter which allows for the Buddipole Versatee to screw down on the top of my hiking staff (with knob removed).  This means I’m not having to carry anything else along with me to support the antenna.


I hope these two tips will help you save a little weight in your pack and at the same time make for a more enjoyable summit activation.  If you have a multi-purposing idea, please contact me.   You’ll find a convenient email icon in the upper right hand corner of the page in the Follow Me section.  Alternatively, you can look up my email address on QRZ or just send an email to my callsign at ARRL dot net. 

Until next time…

73 de KDØBIK

Category(s): How To

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *