A Recap of the 2023 W4 SOTA Fall Campout

Another W4 SOTA Fall Campout is in the books! What amazing fun.

This year, the campout was held at Lake Rabun Beach Recreation Area in north Georgia.

Once again, Joshua (N5FY), and I shared a campsite. He arrived Wednesday afternoon and I showed up Thursday afternoon around 2:30 PM.

There was quite a lot of wet weather in the forecast, so I opted to bring my large 6 person tent (the orange one above) instead of my two person ultralight tent. My thinking was that, if need be, we could us the large vestibule on this tent as shelter while eating and cooking.

Joshua was way ahead of me, though, and brought a canopy for the picnic table.

After pitching my tent and setting up, Joshua and I discussed how we should spend the rest of the afternoon. One thought was to try to squeeze in a SOTA activation, but we would have been fighting sunset at the end of it.

Instead, Joshua suggested that we build some antennas.

It was then I noticed that Joshua’s picnic table canopy had a built-in spool of 26 gauge wire!

I shouldn’t have been surprised. Joshua is the fellow behind the Tufteln brand of antennas. Turns out, he brought along a full antenna-building station.

I built a long random wire antenna and started a 30M EFHW.

That evening, we had friends pop by the campsite, ate dinner and fit in a quick POTA activation.

We didn’t have to drive to the activation site because our campground was in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest (K-4473).


Friday morning, Joshua, his young son, and I hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail to reach the summit of Rocky Mountain (W4G/NG-011).

We reached the summit and it didn’t take long for both of us to deploy our radio gear–putting a little distance between us.

I deployed my new Mountain Topper MTR-3B field kit that’s built into a Pelican 1060 case. It’s fully self-contained and designed around the MTR-3B,  my K6ARK 40 meter (counterpoise-less) end-fed half-wave, a 25 meter throw line and 8 oz weight, and N6ARA’s TinyPaddle Jack.  I took advice from Adam (K6ARK) and powered my MTR-3B with one of these 9V Li-Ion rechargeable batteries which I assume gave me somewhere between 1.5-3 watts of output power.

In short? It was a very successful activation.

I didn’t make a video of this activation, but I will feature this kit in our Field Kit Gallery soon!

I checked in on Joshua after packing up. I found him activating without a knee board! Even though Joshua makes the knee board I use for SOTA and POTA, he’d forgotten to pack his own. I was impressed with how well he managed to balance the KX2 without one!

After the activation, we made our way back to the car and later dropped Joshua’s son off with his wife. I must admit that his son was a real trooper and tackled that hike to Rocky Mountain like a champ!

That afternoon we did pop by Don Carter State Park (K-2171) for a very quick hit-and-run activation. I will post a field report and video for that one in the coming weeks!

After Don Carter, we drove to a brew pub in Clayton, Georgia to hang out with some of our friends at the SOTA campout.

Shortly after the pub gathering, it started raining and didn’t stop until sometime around 6:00 AM Saturday.


Saturday morning, we ate breakfast at the campsite (thanks, Joshua!) then drove to Yonah Mountain (W4G/NG-048). As expected, Yonah Mountain’s parking lot was full! The trail was quite busy.

The fog eventually burned off and the views from the summit were pretty outstanding.

I deployed my Elecraft KX2 and hooked it up to my Tufteln 20M vertical delta loop antenna. In short? The results were outstanding!

I worked 20, 10, 12, and 15 meters. The DX was loud!

I did film this activation, so look for a full field report and activation video in the coming weeks!

I did pause in the middle of my activation to look at the partial eclipse. The open field on the summit made for a perfect viewing spot. I brought along eclipse viewing glasses, but there were at least five groups of people trying to view the eclipse only using their sunglasses or with the naked eye. I passed around my viewing glasses to everyone on the summit. I’d like to think I might have saved a few retinas that day. Ha ha!

After the activation, Joshua and I hiked back to the car then drove back to the campsite.

That evening, we joined everyone at the group campsite for food, homebrew coffee stout (thanks, N4DCW–!),  fellowship, and tall SOTA tales.

A small group of the SOTA campers hanging out by the fire pit.


The next morning, Joshua and I dropped in on Dean (K2JB) who made a delicious breakfast casserole in one of his dutch ovens–we then broke down camp and took turns with my Venus SW-3B headrest field kit to activate K-4473 one more time!

N5FY checking out the SW-3B. He knows he wants one!

We left the campsite a couple minutes before noon–basically, right at the checkout deadline.

We decided to fit in one more activation on the way back to our homes: Tallulah Gorge State Park (K-2202).

Joshua used his Elecraft KX1 and I used my KX2. Our antennas were only about 15-20 meters apart, so we worked non-harmonically-related bands. That seemed to work pretty well.

I did film this activation as well, so look for that field report and video in the near-ish future!

Thank you!

I’d like to thank all of the folks that make our W4 SOTA campouts a reality–especially Pat (WW4D)! I’d also like to thank Joshua for sharing the campsite, making many a tasty meal, and bringing a full antenna-building station along! You’re a class act, OM!

It was also great re-connecting with so many friends. I’m already looking forward to the next SOTA campout!


Thomas (K4SWL)

13 thoughts on “A Recap of the 2023 W4 SOTA Fall Campout”

  1. Looking forward to the full reports on the activations! One phrase above was an epiphany for me. I did a dual POTA activation with a fellow radio club member a few weeks ago and struggled to get my 10 contacts, mostly because I was trying to avoid interference with him on 20m. If only I’d thought about being on a “non-harmonically related bands” instead of 40 and 20! Next time I’ll know to choose my band to avoid this! So simple yet an important piece of a dual activation. Thanks!

  2. Sounds like a great outing! I was happy to get you in the log a few times, even for a P2P (or maybe it was a P2S).

    1. Actually, it was a P2P and P2S! In fact, a three-fer P2P. Sadly, I didn’t have my park numbers written down, though, which is why I didn’t give you a designator. 🙂 I only scheduled it as a SOTA activation.

  3. I was unable to attend this year’s campout. However, I did work quite a few of the activators over the course of the week. Chasing was a lot of fun but I am still a bit jealous of those at the event!

  4. Thomas, I was optimistic we might make a P2P or P2S QSO this past weekend during your SOTA campout. However, the calls coming in to my Marconi SHP and Pt. Reyes NHS activations showed propagation favoring The West. Oh well, maybe next time.

    So, I must say it was a thrill to finally get you in the log during an ordinary Monday night after-work activation from The Presidio of SF (K-7889).

    What radio, antenna, and power we you running? I was on the MTR-4B with 4 watts into the quarter-wave vertical and using the reflection off San Francisco Bay to help launch the signal to the east.

    Thanks for the call and 72!

    1. I was using the TX-500 connected to a 40M EFHW. I had to raise the power to a whopping 10W for you to pick me out of the other calls. There were some strong stations calling. And, yes, a P2P or S2S next!

  5. Thomas,

    How is the 9V rechargeable battery performing with the MTR-3B? That link is for a 2pk @ 650mah and was curious how much op time do you get out of one batt?


    Todd KH2TJ

    1. So far, quite well. I’m sure I logged at least 1 hour of activating time between two activations on the one battery. It never budged from 9V.

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