Things to Have on a SOTA Activation

Etienne Scott, K7ATN

Here's a sort of minimalist list of all that you should have for a successful and fun SOTA activation. 
  • Ten essentials - see
  • The "lapse rate" or drop in temperature as altitude increases is about 3.5F per 1000 feet and wind speed is usually higher with an increase in elevation. Warm, windproof clothing, including gloves and a hat, can be good to have any time of year.
  • A checklist of gear, reviewed in a practice session in a nearby park or the backyard. There are many stories of first activators leaving behind a battery, adapter, feedline or antenna.
  • A quality HT and enhanced antenna (MFJ 1714, RH-770, roll-up j-pole, small yagi, etc.). A Rubber Ducky is often inadequate for all but the closest in-town Summits. Extend your gear checklist for your favorite portable HF rig and antenna.
  • It can be helpful to have your intended Summit Reference written down where you can find it (in a logbook, sticky note, in your phone). And in case you can't make your intended Summit, having a backup Summit plan can save the day. 
  • Not always required, but for summits where the peak isn't obvious or with bushwacking involved, a GPS can help you be sure you are on the summit or in the Activation Zone, and when you are done, to get you back to the car. Otherwise, a map, compass and directions to the Summit are essential.
  • A method for logging - using your cellphone can be okay, but waterproof paper and pencil is a reliable choice under all conditions.
  • A good attitude to represent SOTA and ham radio to the public should you be on a Summit where there are other folks. Many fellow hikers are curious and relate well to the idea that you are practicing emergency communications using ham radio. 
  • Permission to be there.