I often get questions about my SOTA activation gear, so I decided to document what actually goes into my backpack, both radio related gear as well as the other items that I typically carry in my pack. Even though I sometimes use other rigs and antennas, that usually means that just more items are added to the standard equpment list detailed here. This little exercise has shown me that I have seriously under-estimated my pack weight in the past. My basic pack load is 24 lbs including the pack, but that does not account for additional clothing, food, drinks or other odds and ends that you take with you. Most of my gear is designed or made for portable use and it is pretty light weight but as you will see below, it does add up quickly.
The Usual Suspects
This group of equipment is critical for getting on the air and running. Pulling these four items out of my backpack, I have everything I need to get on the air 99% of the time. And there is no more gear than I need either. Having just the necessary equipment at hand makes it quick to setup and very easy to do a quick visual inspection. I like to have these items stored ( minus the mast ) at the top of my pack so they are the first things I take out, and hopefully that is all I need out of my pack other than a drink and a snack. But if I do need additional items or spares to get up and running, I just have to dig a little bit deeper in my pack for them.
Tarp (370g/13 oz) - 4' x 6'. Can be used as a ground cloth or as a shelter. Wouldn't activate without one (and this one has been on hundreds! ;-) ).
Radio Bag (1153g/41 oz) - Contains Elecraft KX3, mic, ear buds and Palm pico paddles. KX3 has Side KX panels and cover installed.
Essentials Bag (717g/25 oz) - All the rest of the items to complete my basic HF station including:
- PAR Trail Friendly EFHW antenna with 10' of dyneema cord
- 10' of LMR 100 feedline
- 2.3 Ah LiFePO4 battery with short power cord for KX3
- 2 Gear Ties for securing mast to fixed objects
- Hank of cord for extending the support cord of the antenna or securing tarp as a shelter
- 1 stake to guy out support cord using a trekking pole
- And last but not least, a SOTA flag with velcro straps for attaching to mast
Mast (1313g/46 oz) - This is a 10 meter Mini Travel Mast (available from dxwire.de and SOTAbeams). I have removed several of the thinner end segments, so the functional height of the mast is now 26'. The mast is usually strapped to the side of my pack, but it is short enough (67 cm/ 27 in) to fit inside my pack for extra clearance if I am venturing far off-trail. And as it's name implies, it fits in a suitcase for when you want to go on that SOTA DXpedition!
That brings the required HF equipment to a total of 3.55 Kg/7.8 lbs. I log my contacts on a tablet (with a heavy Otterbox case) so that should be added to the tally as well, ending up with a weight of 4.2 Kg/9.2 lbs.
Extras/Spares Bag (792g/28 oz) - Contains additional items that may be needed for setting up as well as spares
- Guying Kit - Three MSR Goundhawg stakes, guying ring for mast with three dyneema guylines attached
- Paper log and pen - I have not had to resort to pen and paper, but just in case...
- 1 additional Gear Tie
- Parts/spares bag - Spare power lead and feedline, binder post to BNC for rigging up an antenna, electrical tape, velcro ties, bag of miscellaneous coax adapters
- Hank of cord
HT & MFD Antenna (730g/26 oz) - Yaesu VX-8GR with APRS and a SOTAbeams MFD 1/2 wave dipole
Total weight for all essential radio gear is 5.71 Kg/12.6 lbs.