03 November 2016

Current SOTA Kit

When it comes to portable operations, there are unique challenges with regards to assembling the best amateur radio station.  In addition to the usual cost considerations, planned uses, and operating style and ergonomic preferences, it's necessary to think about minimizing weight and size.  A portable setup that can be transported in a car may have some flexibility (see my previous post regarding my amateur radio Go-Box), but a ham station that will be carried in a backpack on a long, strenuous hike needs to be planned much more carefully.

As I've become more serious about the Summits On The Air (SOTA) program, I've learned more about ways to create a very small, very portable station.  My first experience with a tiny QRP rig was when I activated Heliograph Peak with my buddy Quinton, NU7Y, who introduced me to SOTA.

Much of my current setup is modeled after Quinton's rig.  I liked the clipboard idea, but for mine I decided on a bamboo cutting board that I purchased from Bed Bath & Beyond.  The wooden board allows me to drill holes to use for holding things securely during operation.  I also purchased a plastic waterproof case from Walmart to carry the gear (except antenna) in.  Here is the equipment that I take along:

I put some of the smaller items in plastic bags (bolts, clip for log and mic, earbuds, keyer cable, and spare battery) just to keep it tidy.  I also use microfiber sunglass carrying bags to wrap the Begali Traveler Light paddle and the microphone in, for a little protection while carrying.

I also wrap up the KX2 in a thin sheet of packing foam, to protect it from scratches.

Here's the plastic box - it's very similar to some expensive brands but it's a cheaper brand found in the camping section of Walmart.  I added a SOTA window sticker that I got from SOTABeams - it's perfect for this because it sticks from the inside so won't get rubbed off in the pack.

I also used packing tape to stick a copy of my FCC Amateur Radio License on the inside of the bottom.  This turned out to be a very helpful item when I went through airport security with the kit last week - they were quite interested in the contents of the box (and even swiped the KX2 with some sort of chemical sniffer), but showing the agent my license was useful.

The box came with an orange rubber divider inside.  I place my log notepad under it, and it also gives a slight padding for the other gear.  But it could also be pulled out and left behind.

I place the wrapped KX2, paddle, and microphone in the box on top of the notepad.

Then I fill in the remaining spaces with the plastic bags with the accessories and spare battery.

The final step is to fold up the SOTA flag, which I also purchased from SOTABeams,   This serves as a slight padding on the top of the case.  Then I snap it shut, and everything is in nice and neat, not to tight but also not jostling around, and ready to go out for another activation!

I have not weighed the loaded kit yet, but my guess is that it comes in around 3 - 4 pounds.  It's not feather-light, but for my hiking it has been a very nice way to transport my gear and feel safe about it in the pack.  I would love to see how others have designed their kits!

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