Some activators carry everything but the kitchen sink. Others travel light. In this month’s column, we’ll take a look at virtues and techniques for travelling light.

The Wrong Way

I used to think, “If I might need it, I’d best carry it.” On my first activation, I carried a 65 pound pack. In addition to camping gear, I carried:

  • An Elecraft KX3
  • A way-too-big Pelican case.
  • A slingshot, fishing line, and heavy sinker - in case I wanted suspend my antenna from a tree.
  • A Jackite mast.
  • 31’ of antenna wire
  • 4 x 31’ radials
  • An HT
  • Internal batteries, external batteries, and a battery cable
  • A feed line and a BNC-to-binding post connector
  • Extra food and water
  • A big first aid kit
  • etc.

My pack was so heavy that when I fell over, I was like an overturned turtle. I needed help to stand up!

Light Begets Fast Begets Light

The less weight you carry, the faster you can move. The faster you can move, the less time you spend on the trail. The less time on the trail, the less you need to carry. It’s a virtuous cycle.

It isn’t a disaster if you get to the summit and something doesn’t work. Improvise. One activator arrived at a summit without a short wire, critical to his setup. He used a twist tie from his sandwich.

It isn’t a problem if you’re hungry and thirsty when you return to your car. It means you didn’t carry more weight than you needed. (Don’t overdo this one.)

A couple of index cards and a pocken pen are all you need to log your contacts and they weigh much, much less than a netbook or tablet computer (and a waterproof case to carry it).

Carry less radio; carry less antenna; carry fewer provisions. Ask yourself whether you really, really need an item. You need to carry an adequate radio and an adequate antenna. If dry weather is predicted, a large ziplock bag is all you need to keep your gear dry.

A Minimal Pack

Total weight, excluding pack is less than 4 pounds.

(Tie a rock to the string and throw it over a branch. Tie the other end to your antenna wire and haul it up.)

WS0TA doesn’t even carry a pack. He stuffs everything into the pockets of his clothes and wears a water belt.


I usually carry a few more items such as a cell phone and an HT, but these are non-essential and I’m a wimp. As I revisit summits with a lighter pack, I’m finding them much easier than I did 3 years ago, and I’m finding that I can often visit multiple summits in one day because I can move faster.

See you on the summits!

73 DE K4KPK / Kevin

Where can I find out more?


K4KPK, Kevin Kleinfelter is Georgia’s first SOTA Mountain Goat. He has completed more than 150 activations.

This story is Copyright 2016 Kevin P. Kleinfelter. A non-exclusive right to redistribute in electronic or printed form is granted to amateur radio clubs operating in the metro Atlanta area. All other rights reserved.