Sota Gear

This page is related to equipment that I have used for my activating.

KX3 Mt Stirling smallPrevious postings refer to the Elecraft KX3 and how it has performed thus far.
The main antenna used has been an open wire fed doublet that is an extended double zepp on 20 metres. Supported by a 7 metre heavy duty squid pole, it is typically in some form inverted V formation.
The length of 5/8 wave length on 2o metres for each leg provides a theoretical gain of 3db over a dipole in ideal conditions. It has sharp front and back lobes plus useful side lobes at 35 degrees. With the KX3 internal tuner, it works a treat on all bands between 80 and 6 metres without having to make any physical changes. The radiation pattern does change however. I found that on 10 metres the best radiation lobe was about 45 degrees off broad side. This is as expected as the antenna will act more and more like a long wire with the increase in frequency.

I have even used this antenna with 1/2 the wire still wound up on the winders (To Hell and Back) and practically on the ground from The Bluff.

The other frequently used antenna has been the Alex Loop. This is a magnetic loop, commercially made.

The simple set up meant I could pull it down to get under all the low bridges!

The simple set up meant I could pull it down to get under all the low bridges!

In my opinion, the quality of build does not support the purchase price.
It works well enough and is very convenient when travelling or in tight locations.
I find the tuning on 10 metres to be less than desirable, a better match can be had by distorting the main loop to provide more coupling to the drive loop.
The coaxial cable joint to the drive loop broke and required repair.
I purchased this antenna principally for our France Trip where only a compact unit could be used on our canal boat!

For 2 metres VHF I have used a 5/8th vertical ground plane antenna for FM and a 4 element yagi for SSB. Both systems coupled up to the 30 watt amplifier have worked very well. My first activation of Mt. Torbreck was on 2 metres FM using the FT470 and this set up.

Now for the other stuff. What you use and / or need to get to a summit!

Walking Boots.
20160308_182503[1]I like something that provides excellent ankle support and started off with my trusty AKU Gore-Tex boots. These served me well but, after our Alaska and Canada Trip, were finally beyond being worn out – holes and bugger all tread. Still, they were well over 10 years old but really started to get a work out with SOTA.

20160308_182442[1]The replacement boots are a La Sportiva High GTX Gore-Tex & leather insert boot. They are quite a bit lighter than the AKU which is great for traveling and also reduces fatigue when walking. They have a Vibram Sole.

I selected these over many others principally on comfort and that they were in my price range – about $300 AUD I think.

I like Gore-Tex for its weight and toughness. It is very water tight & does not get heavy when wet. Quick to dry, easy to clean.

Follow up November 2016:
These boots have now had a solid work out over a multitude of surfaces varying from roads, rocks, mud, snow, very fine lava type gravel and more.
They remain very comfortable and I am yet to have had a blister. Original laces remain in good condition.
I have taken to wearing Merino socks and, at times liner socks as well.

Back Packs.

We approached Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate. Wayna Picchu in the background.

We approached Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate. Wayna Picchu in the background.

In 2013, I purchased Black Wolf Tempo 40 litre packs complete with hydration bladders for Nan and I to use on our South American Adventure. Part of this was a day walk into Machu Picchu along part of the Inca Trail. These packs had a light weight frame, allowing air flow across the back which is really great when you start to sweat. Loaded up with our requirements for a few days plus boxed lunch for the walk in, they performed admirably.

My pack became my Sota Pack and I had been reasonably happy with the following exceptions.

The water bladder has inadequate support where it ties into the pack; the mounting holes not being reinforced and thus tear easily. Gaffer Tape to the rescue.
The top external zipper failed in April last year. More gaffer tape but the stitching supporting the zip is also failing. More like a bonding glue than stitching.
In Canada, the zip on one of the side pockets got stuck, had to cut the pocket open in order to retrieve a pocket knife prior to going through airport security.
At Mt. Hotham, the sternum strap clip failed on numerous occasions. I will retain this pack for light duty or tight access activations.

Osprey Atmos 5o

Osprey Atmos 5o


Bothy Bag & Bladder

I have just purchased an Osprey ATMOS 50 pack. This is more than a day pack, has an excellent “Anti Gravity” Harness and thus far is extremely comfortable.

I have also purchased a Sea To Summit Siliconised Cordura Pack Cover plus a 2 litre Osprey Hydration Bladder – this unit, whilst being a little heavier than a Camelbak, sits very flat and thus much better in the pack. It has been superseded by a yet to be released (now released) in VK 2.5 litre variant. Features are a plastic backing plate, plastic protection strip for the hose that also acts as a handle plus a magnetic clip for the hose to stick on the pack.

I intend to use this mostly without the removable top hood, making it a bit smaller and lighter.

The Bothy Bag shown above is a 2 person shelter. I discovered a local supplier in Melbourne CBD Back Packing Light
Mine is the cheaper version. A light weight version is also available at more than 2.5 times the purchase price. It was not in stock at the time of purchase. Benefits are lighter weight, better waterproofing and tear resistance. Being a silicon coated fabric, it should be less breathable.


Purchased specifically for the Hells Gate activation, I now wonder how I went without them?
I have always used ankle gaiters that are great for keeping grass seeds out but these Sea to Summit Quagmire gaiters are like wearing light weight body armour. Walking through long wet grass, boots, feet and lower legs are kept dry as a bone.
Great to deflect the bush and the odd rock. Protection from snakes and other bity things. I even use them to store maps that are protected in a plastic cover but easy to access from the gaiter.


Besides the Silva Ranger Compass, I now use a Garmin GPS Map62S running Garmin VK & ZL Topo V5 with 10 metre contours. The mapping has some minor improvements on the V3 software plus 10 metre rather than 20 metre contours.
It is much easier to use than the old Garmin GPS 2 plus that dies not have mapping functions. It also has a velcro harness that attaches to the pack sholder gharness for easy use.

I recently purchased a Garmin Nuvi 2797 navigator for the Land Cruiser. This runs the same mapping as the Garmin Map 62SGarmin nuvi 2797LMT
7 inch screen, robust construction and a good receiver. Has an SD card input for additional maps.
This replaced a much cheaper Windows CE Navigator purchased off EBay. This was also a 7 inch screen and sub $100.00
This came with IGO mapping and could also run other WINCE applications such as OzExplorer.
I found the unit would practically stall when running OzExplorer off the micro SD card – taking forever to acquire satellite lock making it useless. Satisfactory performance was had when overseas IGO map data was deleted and OziExplorer and associated maps were loaded directly into memory.
The satellite receiver was still not great and would often loose signal. In the end, the receiver failed within 12 months of owner ship but little use.
Have also used a Navman (WINCE) operating via Mio Pocket which is a Shell that allows native WINCE applications to be used. This worked quite well until the on off switch on the Navman died.
The Navman was replaced by a “Response” GPS Navigator from Jaycar. Quite cheap but needed to install your own mapping. After 3 replacements I gave up with this heap of junk and got my money back. No longer sold by Jaycar!
A world of difference in product quality (and price) between the 4 units.

EBAY WINCE Navigator

EBAY WINCE Navigator

The Garmin product using Garmin Base Camp on a PC is a good trip planning and mapping option. Not available in Android.
There is a considerable range of FREE maps available to use on Garmin Products, I have used such routable mapping when in France, Alaska and Canada.

Nothing flash here. Use a travel clock that also shows temperature and has alarm functions. Set for UTC.
Handy for Sota activations and holiday travel.
Cheap from Dick Smith Electronics when they still existed.
I find a digital clock easier to work with than either a wrist watch or the clock on the KX3.

Could be considered a bit heavy. I use a spiral bound journal, an odd size closer to A4 than A5. I did start off with an A5 journal but find the bigger one easier to log with.
I use the RHS for logging and the LHS for note making, very handy for DX CW contacts where I may not pick all of the call first go.
Have a variety of pens, a pencil and sharpener available.

What else.

You may have picked the SPOT Tracker on the back pack. This is linked to the APRS network.
This is a Spot 3. The buttons etc are not as robust as the Spot 2 and thus the gaffer tape.
There will usually be a jacket of some sort, fingerless gloves and the head phones are wrapped up in a beany hat.
These are full cover over ear noise cancelling head phones.
Always take some snacks such as fresh fruit and muesli bars.
A map can be handy in unfamiliar areas.
Copy of my amateur licence and a SOTA brochure plus the SOTA flag.
Telephone, probably an essential item for spotting and messaging?
Samsung Galaxy 5 using Sota Spotter rather than Rucksack Radio plus Sota Watch.
If Telstra is your service provider, use a “Blue Tick” model!

New addition. (March 2016)
Mont Raindance Jacket. This is a waterproof and breathable rain jacket.

raindance-jacket“The Raindance jacket is a no fuss rain shell offering excellent value, quality and performance. It is ideally suited to outdoor education programs or the budget conscious looking for value and performance at an affordable price. Made from mid weight Water Lab 3 layer fabric it offers good breathability and waterproofness. The nylon face fabric has a high abrasion resistance.”

  • Made from durable 3 layer laminated Water Lab waterproof breathable fabric
  • 3/4 length cut to protect thighs
  • Fully adjustable 3 piece storm hood with wire visor that rolls away when not in use
  • Hook and loop closures secure double storm flaps over full length
  • 2-way #5 YKK zip
  • Hook and loop cuff closures
  • Large cargo pockets
  • Waist draw-cord to seal in heat
  • Fully seam sealed
  • Relaxed fit
  • Weight 600 gms (MD)
  • Waterhead: 15,000mm
  • MTVR (breathability) 10,000g +/24hrs

Mont is an Australian Company. Jacket made in China

Sherpa Polypro iGlove
A stretch fit glove. Light weight and breathable. Sensors fitted to the thumb & fore finger fore use on phones and tablets. Should be light enough for cw use. Time will tell!
Purchased from Out Sports Hiking in Nepean Hwy Hampton East / Moorabbin Junction $29.00

To me, being a SOTA activator is more than accumulating the points. The thrill of an adventure is also a major part of the activation.
That can start with research into unknown territory, studying maps, traveling information from others, Google Earth and the like.
Then there is accessing the area and the activation. Balancing available time against other objectives such as working different bands, S2S contacts, DX and S2S DX contacts.

I am now starting to get a bit more experienced and looking to further these adventures by doing overnight hikes (all single day activations thus far albeit vehicle based camping at times).
In order to do this, I have been building up some new kit!
First there are the aforementioned items such as the Atmos back pack, gaiters, boots and jacket.
Next is a tent (now in use). I decided on a Wilderness Equipment Space 2 Winter hike tent. Weighs in at 2 kg and rated at 4 seasons. Must get a couple of extra pegs. Recently used in the USA. Set up at Cascade Locks Oregon in pouring rain all day and night, no leaks and not too difficult to enter and exit.

160 Metre Sota day is set for April 1st 2017
I have made up a portable 160 metre vertical antenna for the occasion and will trial it at Mt. Hotham on the 24th of February 2017.
Details here.160-metre-portable-antenna


To be continued…..

Well, that is it for now. A work in progress! 19/02/2017

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