Determining SOTA Activation Zones in Google Earth

The Flood Tool

Google Earth is a remarkable resource. It’s free, for starters! Google Earth is embedded with altitude data. As such, a programmer called Bernard Sterzback in Germany has come up with a clever .kmz extension file that can be installed, and used to access that embedded altitude data to show ‘flood’ maps, in order to show what land projects above a user-input elevation level.

This is useful for determining the ‘within 25m of the summit’ Activation Zone for SOTA, as well as for hillwakers in determining likely paths and ridges, and the widths of such ridges.

To use the tool, first you will need to download this .kmz file link – KMZ Flood Tool for Google Earth

When it has downloaded, run it, and it will associate itself with Google Earth automatically.

Next, open Google Earth and head to a point of interest. I’ll use a SOTA summit – VK2/CW-050 – Caloma Trig Point for this example.

Caloma Trig

Next thing we need to do is determine the elevation of this summit. We can either click on the Google Earth placemarker, or move the mouse cursor to that point and read the elevation off the info bar at the bottom of the screen. Make a note of the summit altitude.



In this case, the reported elevations are pretty close, but I’ll go with the ‘official’ SOTA elevation of 774m.

Next, looking in the ‘Places’ collapsible dropdown on the left hand side of the Google Earth window, you should see your new ‘Flood’ tool you installed. Hover over it with the mouse, click the right mouse button, then left click ‘Properties’



In the window that opens, you can now edit the ‘Link’ data, which is the flood level you want to set to view. In my case, I want to see what area of land is available within 25m of the summit, so I edit the number to become 749 (ie. 25m less than 774). You must leave the ampersand ‘&’ symbol in at the end.


Then, click the [OK] button.

Now, you can enable the Flood Tool by clicking its check box, and the area will be ‘flooded’ to the level you just set, showing only the land remaining from 25m below the summit, to the summit. This is the SOTA Activation Zone. Easy, wasn’t it?! Once you’ve done it a few times, it becomes quite intuitive.


To clear the Flooded area, simply un-check the Flood tool.

See you on the summits, within the calculated Activation Zones!

Hiking and expedition gear – ultra lightweight

Although my recent SOTA summit activation was an easy one, others will no doubt be more challenging and more exposed, with conditions perhaps changing quickly.

To that end, I can recommend a range of lightweight hiking and expedition gear from Terra Rosa Gear. The owner, Evan, is both an experienced expeditioner and mountaineer (and a History Channel TV star of ‘The Curse of the Frozen Gold’), and also manufactures a range of hand made ultra lightweight tarp shelters, Bothy shelters, custom made packs and bags, and a range of other useful gear including gaiters. The quality is staggeringly good and gets great reviews among the outdoors fraternity.

Check out his site at

Terra Rosa Gear on Facebook

Terra Rosa Gear hexagonal ‘Exploring‘ tarp