Using APRS and Ham Radio In Remote Locations

Using APRS In Remote Locations, While Competing In SOTA, All With Ham Radio!

– Jordan, WC6J

If you took our Online Ham Radio Class then you know a few things about APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) and SOTA (Summits on the Air)! In this article, we follow Jordan, WC6J through one of his SOTA activations. He also talks about how he plotted his journey to the 5 summits with APRS. Without further ado, we give you Jordan and his adventure!

 

During the last weekend in August I wanted to escape the local heat for the cooler temperatures of the high desert in Nevada. There I spent a couple days climbing and activating some mountain peaks for Summits On the Air. I decided to head to the old mining district of Aurora which is about 20 miles South West of Hawthorne, Nevada.

The now abandoned town of Aurora once had a population as high as 10,000 people and by 1869 its mines had produced $27 million in gold. There is little to indicate Aurora’s important past which is partially due to the fact that during the early 1900’s its brick buildings were dismantled by contractors and shipped to southern Californian to build chimneys for new homes.

 

Campsite

 

Summits On The Air is a radio sport where amateur radio (ham radio) operators (Activators) take radios to the top of designated mountain peaks to make contacts with other ham radio amateurs who are either at home or on other mountain peaks (Chasers). In order for the Chasers to find the Activator it is very helpful to use the SOTA Watch website to post or spot your correct ham radio frequency so that you can be found.

A text is all that is required to use the SOTA Spotting network. However, in many remote locations cell coverage is unavailable. To deal with this situation I use a 2 meter ham radio handheld capable of accessing the Automatic Packet Reporting System (APRS).

 

Corry Peak from Buller Mt.

 

The APRS is a worldwide network which allows you to send and receive text messages in addition to showing your realtime location on internet based maps. Because the worldwide APRS repeater systems (digipeaters) are primarily located on mountaintops, I can always access the APRS network when I’m in remote locations as long as I am on or near mountain ridges.

The APRS system can be an important backup communications system in the backcountry where cell coverage is limited. There are online terminals available which will allow someone who does not have an APRS enabled ham radio to still exchange text messages with you.

To be able to use the APRS system you will need an APRS enabled radio and a Technician Class Amateur Radio License.

 

APRS Beacons

 

The screenshot above shows my APRS beacons while I was on the five mountain peaks I activated during my trip.

 

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Also, if you don’t have your Ham Radio Technician License, head over to our Online Ham Radio Class and study up! Remember, 15% of your registration goes back into keeping our trails open!

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