Matt’s “Ultra-Lyte” Hydration Vest QRP Field Kit

Many thanks to Matt (W7MDN) who writes:

When I was first getting into Ham radio a couple years ago, I ran across a slide presentation done by Fred KT5X on “Ultra-lyte” QRP. In it, Fred has pictures of a trail running hydration vest that contains a complete SOTA station, water, snacks and a jacket. I was sold on the idea, and made it my goal to start making my own ultralight setup.

Click here to download KT5X’s original presentation (PDF).

As time went on, I really got into the ultralight approach to SOTA, taking every opportunity to reduce weight and shrink my pack down. I enjoy some trail running, mountain biking and combining SOTA/POTA with either is the ultimate combo of adventure and ham radio.

To replicate Fred’s approach, I started with the basics. I already had a Elecraft KX2 for SOTA but I wanted a smaller rig that was still capable.

Enter the LNR MTR-4B.

I love this radio because it’s a proven design, lightweight, multiband and sips power from a tiny 450 mAh battery. Being able to use this radio was also the main reason to learn CW, a more efficient way to communicate.

In addition to the MTR4B, I got a hydration vest and equipped it with things I would need to do SOTA and POTA miles from the car. Water filter and bladder, a durable case for the MTR and its accessories, a lightweight running jacket, a tiny headlamp, a micro Leatherman, some snacks, arborist’s throw weight and line and one my APRS HTs. The same kit goes into my hydration backpack if I’m mountain biking, along with my spare tube, pump and tool kit.

In all I’ve got the kit down to around five pounds before adding water.

Going Ultralight is not without a few compromises. The MTR is a 5 watt radio so I’m accepting my signal may not go quite as far as I’m used to the with my KX2 or TX500. I also don’t have the ability to do SSB. Other compromises might mean I don’t run or bike into areas where I think I’ll run into predators, which can happen in the Pacific Northwest. Also, if I’m doing a longer more serious ascent of an unknown peak, I’ll take my full hiking setup with complete fire starter, Garmin InReach Mini and first aid kit.

Lastly, the ultralight setup allows me to run if the trail is runner-friendly. That means trail-running shoes, moisture wicking running gear, and maybe a light hat. All of these weight-saving measures allow me to move faster and cover more ground, activate a summit or park and move on.

Matt, W7MDN

This is fantastic, Matt. I love the idea of having such an incredibly lightweight setup.  It looks like you’ve put a lot of thought into this, too. I think the Mountain Topper series of radios have inspired many of us to learn CW. In fact, my MTR-3B was a gift to myself for completing my first CW field activation a couple years ago!

Thank you again for sharing your kit with us, Matt!

8 thoughts on “Matt’s “Ultra-Lyte” Hydration Vest QRP Field Kit”

  1. Matt,
    That is a great minimalist field kit! I am working on something similar and would appreciate some more details on your kit. What case did you use for the MTR-4B? I don’t see an ant tuner, so I am assuming you are using resonant antennas. Also, what key are you using?

    Thanks and hope to hear you on the air!
    Steve WD4CFN

  2. Steve, it looks to be a BaMaTech TP-III paddle in the image (I have one coming, though it is still between Germany and here). I would also be interested in knowing what soft case you are using for the MTR and accessories.

    Douglas K1GC

  3. Great, a kewl post and an encouragement to some of us, who are talking and dreaming about hiking with gear in order to do activations. Currently, I drive to a parking lot and set up my gear. I may do a quick hike before hand, though I am not ready to carry the gear with me, yet. The time will come, hopefully by fall time.
    So thank you for an interesting setup and article.


  4. The hydration pack is the Hydra-pak Shape-shift, the MTR case is a Thule Subterra PowerShuttle from REI, and the hydration vest is the Ultimate Direction Adventure Vest 5.0.

  5. Very nice. Could you go into more detail about the various rig components? Antenna/ tuner? Key? 72 de NC4RT

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