Hamradio across mountains,
islands and parks...Discover the freedom of sparkle in nature
Constantly sitting at home, motionless at the radio station or in front of the screen, wrapped in clouds of soldering fumes all day, squatting over the soldering iron in the tinkering cellar, is probably detrimental to health and family life in the long run. So it's time to move the amateur radio hobby out into the sunlight and fresh air.
On the following pages we present outdoor radio activities organised by various interest groups and accompanied by diploma programmes. The attraction lies in the opportunity to combine spending time in nature with radioing. The awarding of points for the number of radio connections achieved and the diploma programmes are a further motivation. Whether it's a sporty trip to the mountains, to an island, to a castle, a fortress or a more leisurely trip to a park: the motto "Out into nature" is a good balance to spending time in the craft room and the family can definitely be involved in these activities. Furthermore, beyond contests, there are special radio activities with an outdoor character that take place on special occasions, on single days or weekends.
The original form of all outdoor radio activities is likely the self-sufficient fieldday. Members of one or more local organizations gather at a designated fieldday site in the open air, such as tents, caravans, and mobile homes, to engage in undisturbed amateur radio pursuits. The available space and existing guy wires make it possible to set up larger antennas. For those who, for whatever reason, cannot establish and operate an amateur radio station at home, a fieldday provides a welcome opportunity to participate fully in amateur radio. Apart from the organization, setup and dismantling, and radio operation, the social aspect is particularly cultivated. Understandably, fielddays mainly take place during the summer months, on weekends, and during holidays. The activities range from casual radioing to experimental antenna construction and participation in major contests. However, organizing multiple fielddays per year is uncommon.
IOTA - Islands on the Air
The origin of the probably best known of all current amateur radio diploma programmes is IOTA, Islands on the Air. The aim is to promote worldwide radio operation with amateur radio stations on inhabited and uninhabited islands with the help of the competition idea. As with many other activity programmes, participation in the IOTA programme is possible in two ways. As a so-called "chaser", one collects the island points, the "activator" on the island operates the station and thus makes these contacts possible.
The British shortwave listener Geoff Watts, editor of the DX news sheet DXNS, laid the foundations for this later extremely successful amateur radio activity as early as 1964 with the IOTA programme. This interest group was initially supervised, organised and administered by the IOTA management and since 1985 in significant cooperation with the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB).
The responsible IOTA manager is Roger Balister, G3KMA.
In the IOTA rules, the RSGB has precisely defined the term "island" and has compiled and published an extensive list of valid islands. Each island is assigned its own IOTA number. The IOTA management has grouped all ocean islands worldwide into approximately 1200 "IOTA groups". Of course, connections to islands with a valid IOTA number count all year round. In order to revive the IOTA programme again and again and to enable as many radio amateurs as possible worldwide to collect island points, the IOTA contest organised by the RSGB takes place as a highlight every year in July. For this purpose, uninhabited islands and those on which no radio amateur is resident are also activated by radio amateurs or contest groups who have travelled there. Currently, at least 21 IOTA diplomas are announced for connections with islands worldwide. The achievements of the participants are published in an Honor Roll and annual list on the Internet, as well as awarded with diplomas and trophies.
The fascination of mountain radio programmes
Nothing describes the fascination of mountain radio programmes better than letting an active participant in this radio sport have his say:
Silvio Kunze, DM9KS, on www.hamspirit.de
What I like about mountain radio programmes is that as an activator you are simply out in the open. I could do pure radio at home, but with such portable activities there is simply more to experience. Besides, you can test and optimise your equipment during such activations. For me, the attraction lies in the combination of sporting activity, the experience of nature and the joy of technical experimentation. And my scouting skills in navigation with map and compass are also refreshed.
SOTA - Summits on the Air
The SOTA programme was founded in March 2002 by radio amateurs in England and Wales. "Summits on the Air" loosely translated means "mountain tops on the air" and is another successful amateur radio diploma programme, which aims as a kind of radio sport at radioing from mountain tops, operating portable transmitting and receiving equipment, antennas and power supplies. A more or less athletic workload, ranging from leisurely mountain hiking to challenging mountaineering, is required before successful radio communications from lofty heights. Nevertheless, SOTA is not primarily intended for high-performance athletes and summit strikers, as the following examples of SOTA destinations with different levels show: For starters, even a walk up a hill of 150 m satisfies the minimum requirements of the SOTA rules. Advanced participants will set themselves the goal of a mountain hike in the low mountain ranges. Anything beyond that should be reserved for radio amateurs with some mountaineering experience.
Definitions and SOTA rules
Activators are those who are QRV from a summit. All other participants who attempt to contact the station on the summit from any other location are called chasers. To recognise the achievement of both, there are separate diplomas for activators and for chasers. A prerequisite for the recognition and registration of a mountain peak in the IOTA list is a minimum altitude of 150 m. As of July 2019, there are 129,431 peaks registered in the SOTA programme worldwide. Of these, 420 are in the German Alps and 422 in the German low mountain ranges. For an activator's participation to be recognised as a valid radio activity, further requirements must be met. Very important: The way to the summit has to be done on foot, without motorised assistance. The equipment must be carried by the activator or his team. The power supply for the radio equipment may only be self-sufficient from rechargeable batteries, batteries or solar panels, but not from grid-dependent sources or generators.
Separate points will be awarded for summit-to-summit radio communications, i.e. between the stations of two activators. Furthermore, in some regions: The higher the summit, the higher the score. There is no differentiation and classification according to amateur radio bands and operating modes. In additional special contests, such as the 6 m/10 m challenge for summit-to-summit connections between two activators, both participants act as activators and hunters at the same time and are scored separately as Summit to Summit in addition to the hunter and activator scores. Further details on the rules can be found on the SOTA website.
There are now (as of July 2019) 163 SOTA Associations worldwide, including in the following countries or regions, which allow radio amateurs to participate in the SOTA programme: Australia, Azores, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Denmark, Germany (two associations German Central Mountains and German Alps). Falkland Islands, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Canada, Canary Islands, Corsica, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Macedonia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Sardinia, Sweden, Switzerland, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, South Korea, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Hungary, USA and the United Kingdom.
Mehr zu SATO:
GMA - Global
Since the beginning of 2009, the SOTA management team has removed a large number of mountains from the German SOTA programme that did not comply with the general set of rules. These and numerous other mountains that do not meet the SOTA criteria have been included in the GMA - Global Mountain Activity (formerly German Mountain Award, Deutscher Bergwettbewerb). The reference numbers of these mountains start with the prefix DA and also count for the SOTA and other mountain programmes! At www.cgma.de there is a map as well as a list of GMA-compliant elevations. The data contained therein are provided as KML and GPX files and can be taken over and used directly with outdoor navigation devices. This means that even residents of the North German Plain have the opportunity to participate in a mountain programme without having to travel too far.
Of course, the GMA mountains that are accepted for evaluation must also fulfil certain requirements: According to the GMA rules, a mountain only has to be at least 100 m high, but it has to stand out clearly from its surroundings and have a name that is registered on a map (Google Maps, Open Street Map, Wikipedia, Topographic Map, or a local hiking map). Merely elevation points and elevation data, a QTH locator or the reference itself are not yet valid mountain names. References from other mountain programmes, for example from SOTA, can be activated, logged and entered in GMA, taking into account the rules mentioned above.
The ascent of the Aktvierer to the mountain summit is only permitted on foot without vehicles or aids of any kind. The power supply is provided by batteries, accumulators or solar panels, but not by generators or the mains. In the case of so-called "drive-on" mountains, i.e. where a drivable road leads to the summit, the station must be set up and operated outside the vehicle. The power supply must also not come from the on-board network. Connections via terrestrial relay stations are of course invalid.
Awarding of points
All named elevations 100 m or higher can be activated. One point is awarded per 100 m height. At least four radio connections with stations of different call signs are required for activation. Of course, connections with operators who are on the same summit do not count. If a certain number of points is reached, several GMA diplomas can be applied for online and downloaded as PDF files. In addition to the regular mountain diplomas, special GMA diplomas for other outdoor programmes can also be developed and applied for. The complete GMA rules can be read at www.cqgma.org.
Tips for activators and hunters
Before activating, you should find out whether the planned target is on private land or can only be reached via it, is in a nature reserve or an area used by the military, and whether the area may be entered.
Normally such locations are not included in the database, but one should not blindly rely on their entries. Before setting out on an activation, Google and Wikipedia provide helpful hints on hiking trails and places of interest. A final check of the equipment for function and completeness before setting off cannot hurt.
When choosing a location and the route to these activations, attention must be paid to all aspects of environmental protection so that flora, fauna and people are not adversely affected. Noise pollution is to be avoided by not talking excessively loudly on the microphone and by using headphones. After finishing the activity and leaving the position for good, it should go without saying to leave the place as you found it.
Mehr zu GAMA:
COTA - Castles on the Air
This variation of outdoor radio activities takes a more leisurely approach and is particularly suitable for involving the family for a day out. Instead of extensive hikes and strenuous scrambling on the mountain, you can set other accents besides radio operation. To promote and activate amateur radio operation of German castles and palaces, the COTA Group Germany together with the DARC local association Stiftland, U23, issues the COTA Diploma. For the COTA diploma, only those links recorded in the COTA database since 01.01.1995, which were operated by German castles and palaces, count. It is certainly optimal to have a location directly on site. Nevertheless, the activating station does not necessarily have to be located directly on the castle or palace, but may also be operated at a distance of up to 1000 m from the respective object. However, all locations must have a German COTA number as well as an international WCA number. All diplomas in this series are issued exclusively in electronic form as PDF documents, in three different versions:
COTA Hunter Diploma
The diploma is to be applied for in steps of 25 confirmed castles or châteaux each. Each diploma class bears a different motif (German castle or palace).
The COTA-SWL Diploma is awarded in groups of 25 heard castles or palaces each. Only connections that have also been entered into the COTA database count.
COTA Activator Diploma
For this diploma, at least 50 connections must have been made from the respective activated object. Connections from several activations on different days also count. The activator diploma is awarded in different classes, graded in steps of five activated castles or palaces. The logs must have been sent in to the COTA database.
The COTA programme is becoming increasingly popular. Thus, the number of connections in 2022 has increased significantly, although the number of activated objects has slightly decreased. With a share of 95 %, the shortwave range is used for COTA.
Due to propagation, during the day and for Germany, the 40 m band alone carries the main share with almost 70,000 connections.
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POTA - Parks on the Air
Parks on the Air" is an amateur radio activity in the form of many small "fielddays", where radio amateurs with portable amateur radio equipment go on the air in publicly accessible parks and establish worldwide radio contacts from there. In this outdoor variant, too, the attraction lies in combining the hobby of amateur radio with an outdoor activity. POTA in particular is easy to activate and also suitable for older and less athletically ambitious participants. In the context of a family outing, POTA is probably the most family-friendly outdoor amateur radio, in which the whole family can participate and everyone can pursue other interests beyond amateur radio. Thus, regardless of the organisation, willingness and time of others to participate, any day can be turned into a mini-fieldday at short notice. By setting up and operating portable amateur radio stations, the practical skills of emergency radio operation are also trained and promoted.
Originally, POTA is an offshoot of the National Parks on the Air programme launched in the United States in 2016 and thus a relatively young outdoor activity. Meanwhile, more than five thousand parks, mainly in the USA, Canada and many other countries, including Germany, already belong to the programme. While in the USA and Canada these activities take place in the larger dimensions of the national parks, by German standards you have to look at things a little smaller. For the city dweller, for example, the English Garden and the Ostpark in Munich are ideal for this.
As with almost all amateur radio competitions, POTA also offers the possibility to register and thus officially participate in a competition in order to earn amateur radio diplomas, either by being QRV yourself as an activator from a park and "activating a park", so to speak, or as a chaser or hunter trying to contact stations in other parks.
Mehr zu POTA:
WWFF - World Wide
The WWFF grew out of the Russian WWF diploma and is essentially the same as the activities of the POTA programme. Here, too, participants can choose between participating as activators or hunters. The activator sits in the wild at the station in a national or nature park, while the hunters try to reach the activators' stations from random locations. This often leads to uncontrollable pile-ups, mainly of Eastern European stations.
In the WWFF programme there are also some national WWFF diplomas to be worked out, such as the "W DL FF", where activator stations especially in German nature parks are to be reached
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ARDF - Amateur Radio
Amateur radio direction finding, also called "fox hunting", is not directly related to making radio contacts, but to listening to radio signals - but it is the pure sporting outdoor experience. This radio sport requires a unique combination of physical fitness, sense of direction and technical understanding. Amateur radio direction finding - known internationally as ARDF (Amateur Radio Direction Finding) - involves finding transmitters hidden in the forest on the 80 or 2 m band in the shortest possible time with the help of a direction finder, map and compass. The bearings are taken on 80 m with ferrite rod antennas integrated in the receivers and on 2 m with separate HB9CV antennas or antennas built into the direction-finding receiver. For a bearing competition, five transmitters of low power are hidden in the forest. The competitor determines the presumed transmitter locations and sets his running route. Depending on the competition and the class of competitor, a distance of 5 to 10 km must be covered. All transmitters to be located use the same frequency on which they transmit for one minute every five minutes in succession. To distinguish them, each transmitter has its own short Morse code MOE, MOI, MOS, MOH and MO5, which even a newcomer can distinguish. There is a marked control post at each transmitter. With a punch, a stamp or an electronic control device, you can mark the start card to prove at the finish that you have really found the transmitter. The amateur radio associations DARC and VFDB organise numerous national and international direction finding competitions every year.
Mehr zu ARDF:
ILLW – International
Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend
The International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend is held annually on the third weekend in August. Its origin was the Northern Lighthouse Award Weekend held in Scotland every two years since 1993. The Scottish Ayr Radio Group (AARG), around John Forsyth and Mike Dalrymple, founded the present International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend (ILLW) in 1998, in which more than 95 countries worldwide now participate. The organisation and management of the ILLW is currently the responsibility of the Australian radio amateur Kevin Mulcahry, VK2CE, who is also in charge of the website set up for it. For the duration of these weekends, the activators, individuals or groups, operate an amateur radio station for a period of 48 hours, on or near a lighthouse or on board a lightship. A list of participating stations will be published in time for ILLW. The hunters will try to contact as many of these stations as possible during the ILLW weekend. The ILLW is not intended to be a contest and does not count as a year-round competition. The ILLW and the IOTA programme can be combined perfectly. Especially on islands there are numerous lighthouses which are preferably used as station locations. This often offers the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Besides several diplomas around lighthouses and lightships, the DARC local association Emden, i06, issues a particularly interestingly designed Lighthouse Diploma.
Mehr zu ILLW:
JOTA - Jamboree on the Air
When you hear the general call "CQ Jamboree", you have the opportunity to learn more about the Scouts first hand in a QSO with one of these stations. The JOTA is a worldwide gathering of Scouts on the amateur radio bands. However, it is not a contest. The topics of conversation should mainly be about the work, life and getting to know each other of the scout groups. The decisive factor is not the number of radio connections, but the intensity of the exchange of information. The aim is not necessarily DX connections, which are always kept quite short anyway. Already inner-European connections with the immediate neighbouring countries are likely to be much more interesting, especially if they are longer radio conversations with a lot of information exchange. Each scout group that is QRV with a station confirms these connections with a specially designed, individual QSL card. Only licensed radio amateurs are allowed to operate the radio at these special stations, under whose supervision word contributions by non-licensed participants are permitted. With a training callsign, the young people can become active themselves and this offers the opportunity to introduce young people to amateur radio. The annual Worked All Germany WAG contest takes place at the same time as the JOTA meeting, which indirectly provides an additional band boost for JOTA.
Mehr zu JOTA:
From the radio shack into the field: diverse activities and fellowship in amateur radio
Have you taken a liking to one of these "varieties" of amateur radio? There is a wide field of activity out there outside the radio shack - far more than you think! The requirements of these radio activities can be very different, but what they all have in common, apart from the fun of amateur radio, are the motivations of outdoor, sporting activity, the idea of competition and sociability. There should be something for everyone.
IOTA stands for Islands On The Air and is an amateur radio program where radio amateurs work from various islands around the world and collect rare islands. POTA stands for Parks On The Air and is a similar program where radio amateurs operate from national parks. SOTA stands for Summits On The Air and refers to radio activities from mountain peaks.
WiMo offers a variety of amateur radio products for IOTA, POTA, and SOTA, including portable radios, antennas, accessories, and much more. You can browse the WiMo website to discover the entire range of products for these activities.
Yes, there are some recommendations for participating in IOTA, POTA, and SOTA. For example, it is recommended to use portable and lightweight equipment as these activities often take place outdoors. It is also important to adhere to the respective rules and regulations for operating radio equipment in islands, parks, and mountains. For more information and advice, you can visit the WiMo website or refer to relevant amateur radio forums and communities.