SOTA – The Basics

In this page, you’ll find some basic information about SOTA, Summits On The Air, and information to help get you started.

What is SOTA?

SOTA SummitSummits On The Air is a scheme that encourages amateur radio operators to go portable and work from high places around the country, and around the world – You don’t need to be a mountaineer to take part, and if the idea of climbing mountains and hills in the name of amateur radio doesn’t appeal, then you can be a ‘chaser’ sitting comfortably at home working the more adventurous SOTA operators.

There’s a large number of qualifying hills and mountains around the world that are valid for SOTA activation. Each summit has a unique reference, and is awarded a number of points from 1 to 10.

There are a number of rules for a valid SOTA activation:

  • Access to the final part of the summit must not be by motorised transport.
  • A portable power supply has to be used (batteries or solar) – no mains or generators!
  • A minimum of 4 QSOs with different stations is required for the activation to count towards SOTA points
  • Any mode (Voice, CW, Data) is permitted – No use of repeaters though
  • You can use the maximum power allowed by your licence – although many work at 5 watts

SOTA relies on spotting and reporting using SOTAWatch (a SOTA-specific cluster), and it’s worth a look on this site to see what’s active and where.

What kit do you need?

For many SOTA activators, the Yaesu FT817 is the rig of choice. Although limited to 5 watts, this is usually enough for SOTA work, the rig is portable, and with the addition of a cheap SLAB (Sealed Lead Acid Battery), a day’s operation is easy.

The Yaesu FT-817 - Ideal for SOTA activators
The Yaesu FT-817 – Ideal for SOTA activators

For VHF and UHF, antenna-wise, the SOTA Beam is ideal, and a slim-jim for 2m operation also works. For HF, options include tuned dipoles, linked dipoles, delta loops and fishing poles.

Other equipment can come in handy, such as a GPS device, a decent compass and set of maps, a first aid kit, torch and waterproof clothing. Logging is important, so pen, paper, clipboard and a way of keeping everything dry is handy too.

SOTA – Why do it?

It’s all about Awards – The “Mountain Goat” Activator being a common one – Four QSOs are mandatory for SOTA points at a summit. Chasers stay at home in the warm, and they can get awards too. There’s also a “Summit to Summit” award.

Video: SOTA Explained

If you’re looking to find out more about SOTA, take a look at the first episode of TX Factor, the new TV show for amateurs. From about 12 minutes into the show, there’s a feature showing what SOTA is all about and looking at a typical activation


Handy SOTA Links:

Thanks to Annie M6NHB and Nev M6FNR for asking about SOTA, and James 2E1GUA for suggesting this page

One Comment

  1. Mike KB7YVM 26 July 2022 Reply

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