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11/26/2020 12:24 PM
 

Hi,

 

Looking for recommendations and could not find a search function on the page.

I'd like to get some handheld radios to use backpacking to talk to the "base camp" and maybe SAR teams if I leave a freq on my trip plan.   Also when convoying on the highway and, probably most of all, when we are or grandkids are running around our property or in the vicinity (3 mile actual range would be nice).

Ideally I would get 4 of them with a charging station, so cheap would be nice but want to pay enough to get something that works well and it durable, especially with the kids using them.

Thanks!

 

 
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11/26/2020 5:28 PM
 
CCO45ACP,

First I think you should determine your requirements a bit more, as there are a number of options:

FRS (Family Radio Service) radios - typically found at Walmart or wherever. Shortest range and fewest options of the choices, in general, but they do NOT require any licensing to operate. Also a limited number of frequencies.

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) - not hard to find, and a slight step up in price. Typically has a bit more range, clear signal, and a few more options in terms of frequency use. However, these require an FCC license ($70 for your immediate family for ten years).

HAM (Amateur Radio) - the rabbit hole of communications, but gives you the most options. Even at the "starting" level you can access far more frequency bands, meaning potentially far greater range. Depending on your location local exam coordinators run anywhere from free to about $50 for a typical license session; this is good for ten years, but does require an exam and is per individual. Radios run from the ubiquitous Baofeng UV-5R for about $25 up to several hundred dollar multi-band high end versions.

From your base description and uses, I would look at GMRS first unless the license thing is really an issue, then I'd look at FRS. Just accept that either is more apt to be line-of-sight in terms of range, particularly in the mountains.
 
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11/30/2020 8:39 AM
 
My experience is that the blister pack FRS radios work pretty well they just don't last very long. When that is what we used it seemed like we had to replace one of two each year. We have been using the Baofengs for a long time now and they work great. Sure radio snobs will sneer at them, but they are like a stock glock, plastic sights and all, in my opinion. The problem is that a lot of folks bought baofengs and didn't begin to learn how to use them or get any advice on what channels to use so the FCC cracked down. I am not sure where they are these days in availability. If you do get them for goodness sakes talk to a radio guy about channels and know your local area so you aren't stepping on emergency/business/first responder/etc... frequencies.

Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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12/1/2020 3:09 PM
 
Thanks Smb and Scot,

I may pick-up some cheap FRS radios to experiment with...

That said "mission creep" is starting to set in and I'm thinking about going the Baofeng/Ham route. None of my adult kids have landline phones. In the day, the landline system seemed more durable than the cell network is now. Overseas, I experienced times when after an incident, it was impossible to get a cell call through. Natural disasters seem hard on cell towers.

So...in addition to backpacking, around the property, road trip convoy use, a Baofeng would seem to allow comms with kids that live relatively near but far out of line of sight or GMRS range. Now just have to get them to take and pass the HAM test (along with me).
 
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12/1/2020 5:20 PM
 
cco45acp wrote:
Thanks Smb and Scot,

I may pick-up some cheap FRS radios to experiment with...

That said "mission creep" is starting to set in and I'm thinking about going the Baofeng/Ham route. None of my adult kids have landline phones. In the day, the landline system seemed more durable than the cell network is now. Overseas, I experienced times when after an incident, it was impossible to get a cell call through. Natural disasters seem hard on cell towers.

So...in addition to backpacking, around the property, road trip convoy use, a Baofeng would seem to allow comms with kids that live relatively near but far out of line of sight or GMRS range. Now just have to get them to take and pass the HAM test (along with me).



HIGHLY recommend www.hamstudy.org for practice tests and preparation. It's online, free, and does a great job of giving not just the feedback on your practice, but explaining the "why".

For most people, I've been able to recommend about 20-30 minutes of practice a day on the site and then when you consistently score in the 90%+ range go take your "real" test - depending on your focus and interest, it can be accomplished in anywhere from a week to less than two months.

There are formal courses out there in most areas as well if you prefer instructor-led learning, but I don't have the experience to recommend any one over the other.
 
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12/18/2020 3:18 PM
 

Unfortunetly the FCC has not done a good job in this area with defining clear lines when it comes to licensing in my opinion. So most of the channels in the FRS & GMRS frequencies are the same and within the same frequency band. The license issue comes into play when you transmit above 2 watts. Thats also why some folks got into trouble with the Baofeng radios. As well as the frequencies that are outside the "band plan" that are available on those radios. So basically you "have or had" a HAM radio that could transmit a higher power on the FRS frequencies. Baofengs also tend to have a little "bleed over" outside the set TX frequency. Thats why radio snobs don't like them. I guess I'm in the "radio nerd" category so...Personally, I do like them and have a few.... You can get them on amazon. Like Scott said be AWARE of what frequency and power you are transmitting at. If you want to just run & gun hasstle free I would look at the motorola talkabout radios or Midland GXT series. They have a 3 or 4 pack available I beleive....I have had pretty good luck with them while hunting and in pretty heavily wooded areas. They can be either recharged or take AA batteries as well. Remember though the TX/RX is subjective to line of sight. So when they say "35 mile range"!!.... In the woods or mountains you may be down to 5 miles depending on the density of cover. Hope this helps

 
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12/28/2020 2:58 PM
 
I don't think the problem lies with the FCC and how it defines who does and doesn't need a license for different radio services, if you bother to read title 47 the FCC makes it very clear in parts 95 (Personal Radio Services, for FRS/GMRS among others) and 97 (Amateur radio service). The bigger problem is twofold: nobody bothers to read 47CFR aside from hams and radio professionals, and global trade coupled with e-commerce has made access to non-type-certified transmitters cheap and easy.

Which is a good segue to my real point, if you're feeling any mission creep when looking for a walkie talkie, just get a ham license. The knowledge you'll gain will be well worth it, and as a amateur radio operator, you won't have to worry about radio type-certification as long as you are operating within the bounds of part 97. Being able to take advantage of a larger band selection, more efficient antennas, and higher transmission power will make it more likely that you'll be able to communicate when you really need to.
 
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HomeHomeDiscussionsDiscussionsGeneralGeneralWhat handheld Walkie Talkie?What handheld Walkie Talkie?