POTA/SOTA: Why I don’t log signal reports

Many thanks to Peter (YO8CDQ) who writes:

“Why don’t you enter in the log the received RST and the transmitted RST. I know you’re recording with a tape recorder, but the QSOs are real. If you want to send a QSL to a hunter, what kind of RST do you enter in the QSL?”

Great question, Peter, and I’ve been meaning to make a post about this because it’s one of the top questions I receive from readers (along with why I send 72 instead of 73).

The short answer is: it’s a personal preference.

When I log a rag chew or “non-OTA” contact from home–and one that’s under no time pressure–I typically record a true RST; both what I sent and what I received.

During POTA or SOTA, however, I do not log true signal reports. Some activators do, though.  Again, it’s a personal preference, but here are some of the reasons why I do not:

I typically log on paper and on my phone in real-time. This means that when my hands aren’t sending my exchange, I’m logging as quickly as I can. I honestly don’t think I could keep up with my pace if I added RST to the mix even if just in the electronic logs!

Sometimes my hands are full which makes even basic logging a bit challenging for me!

The POTA and SOTA programs do not import RST info. When your logs are uploaded the RST info is ignored.

I rarely get paper QSLs and when I do, I can always look up the RST in my recordings if I feel it’s important to the other party. For example, I’ve received paper QSLs from DX county hunters (many of those programs require paper QSLs for confirmation) and I will look up the RST from my recordings if needed (it’s actually easy knowing the time stamps from the logs).

Also, since I send an ear-accurate RST to my hunters/chasers, I feel like they’re getting value out of my report in real-time. Many don’t need or want that confirmed on paper weeks later or in other logging systems.

Recording RST to a logging app on my phone–during the activation–simply isn’t easy for me. I struggle just typing and double-checking the callsign I enter. Going back into the app or adif file to enter real RSTs from my paper logs after the fact would be time-consuming and a bit futile since, as I mentioned, POTA and SOTA does not import RST.

In the end, though, you’ll notice that most avid activators don’t record the RST because it simply takes time and it’s actually quite rare that the hunter or chaser needs a true RST even if they follow up with a QSL confirmation. If they need it or ask for it–again–I can probably provide it! Most don’t though, because they receive your report during the exchange.

Should you record RST?

Check out VE6LK’s logs with RST!

If you want to? Heck yeah!

I’ll admit that recording the RST just makes for more complete looking logs. It’s also fun to go back through your logs and give them a once-over to see how a certain antenna might have been performing that day.

Most of the activators I know that record RST only log to paper in the field, then transpose the logs back home and enter RST. That is a much more elegant way to do things if you have the time and it’s important to you.

Since POTA and SOTA are on-the-air activities designed around having fun, do what you feel makes it fun!

How about you? Do you record accurate TX and RX signal reports during your activations? Please comment!

29 thoughts on “POTA/SOTA: Why I don’t log signal reports”

  1. I typically use a little laptop running N3FJP ACLog software during my POTA activations, and I *do* log RST info. It takes no extra time, I’m tabbing right across those fields anyway, so there’s no reason not to. And for me it’s an interesting data point. When I enter someone’s call and tab to the RST field, the software pulls up all of my prior contacts with that station, and it’s interesting to me to see how the contact today compares with our prior contacts. I often think, “Wow! That guy is typically 339 and today he’s 579! The band must be booming!”

    Also, even though POTA doesn’t report RST info, I always import my .adif activation files to my master log file at home, and it *does* record that information.

    But I agree, YMMV.
    72 Skip K4EAK

    1. I use the hamars app myself. The app always displays “59” as the RST. I just leave it alone and concentrate on the callsign. Usually chasing POTA stations and usually give a 59 report. N4TCM

    2. I assume that you enter the park # when you upload the adif file at the pota app?
      N3fjp has been considering a pota/sota log, according to a recent email. Would that be helpful? I was using hamrs, but have switched to n3fjp log because that is what I use in contests. It works.

  2. I keep it simple and only write the odd numbers down. So if I receive a 599, I don’t write anything. For a 559 I only write down the 5 (for the “S”). For a 339 I write down 33 (“RS”). When logging later on on my computer/phone, I simply complete the number. 599, 559 and 339.

    73, Martin, PE1EEC/PE6X

    1. I do much the same thing- writing down only a single digit from the report I send A 559 report is logged as a ‘5’. A ‘229’ is logged as ‘2’. I can later safely assume that I didn’t send a ‘529’.

      Out of thousands of POTA contacts, I’ve been asked for a QSL card only twice. Otherwise, the signal report exchange goes completely unneeded. POTA doesn’t ask for it. 73- K1SWL

  3. I only work cw and paper log in the field then manually enter on the web.
    I write down most received rst reports, sometimes I am too busy to get it down.
    I do like writing down the state if I have time but never enter it on the web.
    My sent rst reports are mostly by ear, again too busy writing to watch S-meter.
    Things can get moving pretty fast at times.
    On the web I never record sent or received rst.

  4. Ear- accurate has always been just as good as a relative signal strength meter for past 50+ yrs. yes, i write both S/R rst down during pota.
    running 4w or less i’m rarely that “busy”. tho i’ve often wondered why bother since that info doesn’t matter to pota.

    ‘really like Martins’ “KISS” method !


    1. Portable ops for me are minimalist generally and paper logging is the best that I can manage. I should practice logging on a phone but if it gets busy fat fingers, old eyes, and juggling things on my lap aren’t my forte. I try to write down the first two numbers of the exchange as I like to form a map of propagation in my mind. The fluid and rapid changing nature of propagation is interesting to me. RST by ear is all I have ever done because watching and analyzing the flashing bar indicator stops my brain from copying code. I apologize to those who expect better logging from me, but I am having fun with a finite skill set.

  5. I don’t and it seems many who I send QSLs to don’t care.

    It’s only important for QRPers or those milestone contacts so I will do that but normally it’s not done because I won’t get a card back.

    I do find it interesting that sometimes with a big pile up and a short operating window they will ask for a report if I don’t give them one. I give them an honest report but don’t log it.

    For DX contacts it’s more relevant but a guy 300 miles away sitting at home running 100 watts into his dipole working me in a park will give me an honest report rather than me giving him one but I do verbalize it but not mark it.

    Chasers know I will ask about station setups so I can understand my signals being received at their end.

    I guess this doesn’t apply to FT8
    John VE3IPS

  6. I send what I believe to be accurate reports during POTA exchanges and am interested to hear my report from the other person…but I don’t log them for POTA activations. I believe that RST’s are only meaningful “in the moment”. I have never looked back in my log (POTA or otherwise) to learn how I received a station, or was received, days or years after a QSO. It just doesn’t matter.

    John AE5X

  7. To me, it’s user preference. For me, if POTA/SOTA I pay no attention to it. It’s 599 or 59 and I move on to the next. From my logbook everyone gets a digital qsl card email and if they want a hard card it’s gonna say the same. But that’s just me.


  8. I don’t log the RST and, to be honest, am not too concerned about the RST either. I have had way too many hunters/activators say something to the effect of “oh, you just came up there to a 59” when I was originally given a 55. There are just too many variables for me to go back and look at the reports and try to figure out what I did right or what I could change.

    If the activation was successful, the I must’ve done something right. hi hi

  9. I do like to have a record of signal reports and always try to record them, whether you call it tradition or personal preference. My paper logging in the field tends to be very haphazard — no two entries might be written down in the same order. So, at the end of a contact I’ll run a mental checklist: “call time frequency reports QTH” to make sure I have everything. One shortcut I use both in the field and at home is to write down the signal report and then put a line under it to indicate a report given to me, and a line above it to indicate a report I’ve given. If, say, we’re both 579 then I write that once with a line above and below. When I get home I transcribe all data into my (paper) ARRL Logbook.
    I do try to give accurate reports. If I get a 599 from a 100 watt station for my QRP signal and that station is 539 to me, I suspect that I’ve received a _pro forma_ report. That’s OK, at least I know I was heard. 🙂

    Additional thoughts of no particular importance:
    I’m impressed at how well some operators can integrate a computer in their operation. Recently I called a DX station and in less time than I could have moved my hands from the mic to the keyboard, he came back with “Hello, Bill…”. I just can’t do it! I find that turning from the radio, mic, or paddles to a keyboard and screen is a huge distraction. Trying to enter data on a phone would be a nightmare for me. In the field my paper and pencil are right in front of the radio and either my mic or paddles are in my left hand. I can hold a pencil and send CW at the same time. I never have to break focus. But again, I’m very impressed by those who can manage to “keep all the balls in the air” and manage multiple interfaces!

  10. I always log RST, both sent and received. I believe in giving an honest report to the station I’m working and hope they reciprocate. I like to get the reports so I can get an idea as to how my signals are propagating and how my setup is working on that day. When activating, I either use a small netbook with N3FJP on it or a small Android tablet with a Bluetooth keyboard and HAMRS to log. Quick, easy and effective. Of course that’s the nice thing about POTA and our hobby in general, not one size fits all, nor is it required to.

    Have fun & 73!

    1. I am not sure what the point of discussion. I am an old timer. Radio communication requires delivering information 100% accurately. We used to consider QSL complete if the call signs are exchanged and RS/RST. Everything else is optional. Also “72” is 73 with 50% accuracy. It is not the matter of preference. You may go with 62 or 59 but neither are 73.

  11. I always send and log real RS/RS(T) reports when activating and hunting. In fact I do this all the time.

    The only time I give 59 or 599 reports by default is during contests that require RS/RST.

    73 Kevin N2TO

  12. Apparently SOTA/POTA is some kind of competition. Since I have not participated in such programs and am always indifferent to references, the main importance for me is the very fact of portable work, especially QRP. That’s why I always add /p to my call sign and give a real report.

  13. I’m an active POTA activator. I do record the RST signal reports and I also log all the calls with LoTW later. I don’t use a computer or smartphone during the activation, just a small notepad and pen. I don’t find that adding the RST slows me down, it’s just additional info that I record.

    The reason I record the signal reports and move everything to my LoTW main log is to help improve my skills. When I reenter each call and exchange info into my logging program I find it reinforces the Call Sign and helps me remember repeat caller’s names. Also, when I run across a call sign that is not ‘legal’ I can search my full log database on the first few characters or last few to see if I mistyped something or whether the caller sent his/her callsign wrong.

    What does slow me down is putting the time stamp in for each call. I have to look up and get the correct time and write it in, but it is not that big of a deal.

    I also key all the CQ’s and exchanges by hand and don’t use the memory recording feature of the radio. This has definitely improved my sending skills due to all the practice.

    Jerry AC4BT

    1. Jerry AC4BT commented:
      “What does slow me down is putting the time stamp in for each call. I have to look up and get the correct time and write it in, but it is not that big of a deal.”

      I agree! Although I don’t have the clock module in my KX2 I did discover that it’s very easy to set the internal clock at the start of an activation and then leave the “B” display set to the time unless there is a need to run split. It really does help with maintaining concentration.

    2. Hi Jerry

      Time I also keep simple. I write down HH:MM for the first contact, and for the next ones only the minutes. If there is no pile-up MM, but if there is a pile-up, only the last number, and if it rolls over, the last two, then just one: E.g.
      15:16, 17, 18, 8, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 9, 10, 0, 0, 0, 1 etc etc.

      73, Martin, PE1EEC/PE6X

  14. There’s a well known activator in Nebraska that most of us have worked more than once. He offers very true RSTs both at the time of the QSO AND in his logs. By the way, he often works more than 100 QSOs per sitting and his logs are always posted by the end of the day to POTA, LoTW, QRZ, ClubLog, and HRDLog. The HRDLog shows RST info.

    I care about RSTs as only a VERY rough indicator for which of the many antennae I use. I keep written logs for that info. … and yes, one of my antennae can be relied upon for a 119 report.

  15. Good evening Thomas, thank you for this answer, which interested many people. I also understood from other activators that the transmission and reception of the RST for POTA and SOTA are not mandatory. However, when you need an electronic QSL for a new DXCC country, ask for ” pse QSL “. Dear Thomas, i have watched you in many videos and i saw that you use a small speaker for reception (when you make videos), a method not very recommended, because you do not receive the call signs the first time, especially when 3 or 4 stations call you at once. You used the phrase ” pse call agn “, or only ” C ” or ” D ” agn. About me, I can tell you that i had a long activity as a receiver and i am used to recording the RST in the log. Currently, i am an old radio amateur, i use telegraphy at a speed of 50 WPM, i am a member of the YR0HQ team for Romania and i am a contest-man with good results. At the YR8I competition base, we have the best conditions and facilities to work. I will use for POTA the entry of the RST in the log, sitting down, at a work table.
    72′ Peter.

  16. My log format is very similar to VE6LK’s and I always try to give a true RST report when possible.

    I log to paper during the activation and then transfer the log to N3FJP when I get home.

  17. I have no preference for logging rst, or not logging. I am not sure why it is in the exchange, although I have perceived that a few hams seem to think that it is required. All that is needed is an acknowledgment of the two-way contact. Call and a 73/72 is fine. Pots/sota has no exchange requirements. Not required to exchange park reference, either. But this is supposed to be fun, so have fun. Record if you want. I don’t, and don’t put it on a qsl card. I get about 3 cards per week, usually eQSL from dx.
    Logging-I find paper logging and transferring to a computer/logging program to be a waste of time. I will frequently do hundreds of QSOs. I try to log into a computer as an activator, if possible. I bought a $69 gateway windows laptop just for that reason. Runs on 12v. Runs n3fjp and hamrs. I use n3fjp in contests, where my rate is much faster than most pota activations. Just need to have it positioned well. I am comfortable with the software. Because the hunter relies upon me for QSO credit, I also keep a paper log. I don’t record my ops, and fear a computer failure. I have a routine that I follow that makes it easy.

  18. I got my Novice ticket in 1979 when logging was legally required and all data was recorded as QSL cards were very commonly exchanged for many QSOs as most every contact bright needed states, countries, & counties for awards. In the 80s I was into weak signal VHF/UHF & Hamsat stuff. When I got into Packet Radio that was when logging lost its luster somewhat. Fast forward to now & suddenly what is this SOTA/POTA stuff? My first intuition was to log everything, but I am having real issues with arthritis of which after an hour I was making many mistakes sending code & writing illegibly. Upon realizing that a limited subset of my electronic log is sucked into the website, I was able to send longer if I wasn’t writing so many notes with each contact. I do have a scratchpad as some hams will includes a special mention & I like to write it down so it makes it easy to refer to later once the short term memory fades. My hand speed is up to 14 wpm again now, but if I push it faster I get cramps in my hand. It took 4 years as a Novice to pass my 20 wpm Extra code test, I feel that if I am having fun with POTA my speed will figure itself out. I record every activation so far with 11 activations I received one QSL card & I was still writing RSTs when I worked that one. Cheers, Davey –KU9L

  19. My only comment is that signal reports are required for WWFF, the other parks program. I do admit that I make most of my reports by ear, but I do record them since my logs go to both POTA and WWFF. They are great parallel programs. 72/44 Chas NK8O

  20. I log digitally almost every time, but even on paper I log the RS(T). Most of my signal reports are by ear, and watching my videos they actual S is almost always way off. I’m just not watching the S meter. But I do log everything that I can. I get SKCC numbers too on occasion. Thats when things get crazy behind the helm because I frantically switch my radio into straight key mode to complete the exchange. Then panic trying to get the radio back into the keyer mode again.

    72! -Rob W1RCP

  21. I give, receive, & log the RST only or of habit. I could really care less, just as long as I can hear them, that’s all that really counts right?

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