My POTA Activation Guidelines

Joyce/K0JJW and I have been doing Parks On The Air (POTA), in addition to our normal Summits On The Air (SOTA) activations. Sometimes we do both simultaneously.  (See More on SOTA and POTA.) SOTA will probably continue to be our top priority because, well, you just can’t beat operating from the summit of a mountain.

Bob/K0NR doing a SOTA plus POTA activation on Threemile Mountain (W0C/SP-107) and Pike National Forest (K-4404).


The programs have a lot in common but still have some significant differences. One of the key differences is that SOTA inherently puts you outdoors and away from your vehicle. This happens naturally if you hike some distance to get to a summit. But even on a drive-up mountain, the rules (W0C ARM) say:

Operations must not be in, or in the close vicinity of a motor vehicle, cannot use a permanent electrical power source, nor use a fossil fuel generator in any fashion. No part of the station may be connected in any way with the motor vehicle. All equipment must be operated from portable power source (batteries, solar cells, etc).

I have come to appreciate the wisdom of these restrictions as it helps keep the program “backpack portable,” without being overly restrictive. POTA does not have these restrictions, so it is common to see POTA activators operating from inside vehicles, inside RVs, even inside buildings using commercial power. Quite different from SOTA and I suppose that’s just fine. It does provide a higher degree of flexibility and radio hams can choose to participate in a manner that works for them. Certainly, this is a good thing for physically challenged individuals.

Joyce/K0JJW operating from a park picnic table, using the FT-991 and a Bioenno battery pack.

Here is a definition of “park” as it applies to national, state and local parks.

Park (noun):
an area of land, usually in a largely natural state, for the enjoyment of the public, having facilities for rest and recreation, often owned, set apart, and managed by a city, state, or nation.

The main idea of visiting a park is for people to enjoy being outdoors in a natural setting.

My POTA Rules Guidelines

Everyone gets to decide “how to POTA” as long as they stay inside the POTA rules.  We’ve adopted these guidelines to keep POTA oriented towards outdoor, portable radio operating.

  1. Set up outdoors Get outside the vehicle and find a place to set up outdoors. At a picnic area or campsite, this might be using a picnic table or it might be setting up on a stump, on a rock, or on the ground. Whatever works. Even a tailgate-style operation is better than just sitting in the car.
  2. Take a hike Before or after the activation, take a hike. Get some exercise and explore the park. A mile or two of walking in the forest is usually a good thing.
  3. See the park Some parks are not very hikeable, but you can still explore what is special about the place. Look around to see what is interesting about the park and why it exists.

Note that these are guidelines and not strict rules. This is what we try to do for a POTA activation. There will be times when this is not practical and that’s OK, too. Sometimes we’ll do a Drive-Up/Drive-By activation when time is limited or the weather is bad. For example, I recall a recent winter activation in K-4407 where the temperate was -3 deg F. We stayed in the truck for that one!

So keep on POTAing and having fun with ham radio.
These are my thoughts, what do you think?

73 Bob K0NR

The post My POTA Activation Guidelines appeared first on The KØNR Radio Site.

Bob Witte, KØNR, is a regular contributor to and writes from Colorado, USA. Contact him at [email protected].

4 Responses to “My POTA Activation Guidelines”

  • David, KJ4CMY:

    The only problem with SOTA is getting up on the mountain. I have bad legs, and could only manage a drive-up to a mountain site. At least with POTA, it is easier. Either way, getting out to play radio is fun.

  • Jim kn4rcc:

    Here in Florida the mountains are very difficult to climb so there is more POTA than SOTA. Have fun and I like your articles…..

  • Howard AC4FS:

    Generally good guidelines, except I live in Florida, and the medicine I have to take makes me quite susceptible to heat stroke, so if I want to do a POTA activation any time from June through the end of September, it has to be in my car, with the air conditioner running.

    73, Howard

  • Tom W6TSJ:

    How do you assign a park number or ID. I have a small city park near my home and would like to start there with portable operation and park activation

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