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Old 09-04-2019, 05:44 PM
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Comms. What do I need?

I've been reading in particular about Midland FRS/GMRS hand and dash mount units. For my overall use I think this would be the route for me...

However, in my preparation for our trip from West Texas to Prudhoe Bay Alaska, I am not sure where to start. Will FRS/GMRS work for me as a means of communication in places like the Dalton Hwy and other remote places?

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Old 09-04-2019, 06:56 PM   #2
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First, find out what the locals where you will be use for comms. If, as you state in your post, the area is remote, you might find they prefer HAM to CB or FRS/GMRS.
My club (CT) uses CB primarily, but a number of us also use FRS/GMRS handhelds for scouting and spotting, and at the odd event where the CB is not the squawk box of choice.
Personally, I get better range out of my CB with an externally mounted and tuned antenna than my handheld GMRS, especially when transmitting from inside the Jeep.
YMMV, and invariably will...
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Old 09-04-2019, 07:41 PM   #3
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Will FRS/GMRS work for me as a means of communication in places like the Dalton Hwy and other remote places?

Hmmm, that's a tough question because publicly available repeaters are becoming less common. There are books and websites that provide information about repeaters. I hope someone else provides recommendations because I'm also new to comms.


In this day and age, the roads you plan to travel may have cell coverage. Otherwise satellite phone and/or emergency beacon.
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Old 09-04-2019, 08:58 PM   #4
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. . . Will FRS/GMRS work for me as a means of communication in places like the Dalton Hwy and other remote places?
Based on the comments by friends who drove the Alcan and Dalton highways two years ago, the answer would be "no" to FRS/GMRS.

Everyone in that group had a cell phone and ham radio, most had CB's. However, there were large areas with no reliable outside communications and in one location the only means of communication that worked was via Garmin Inreach text to me and return text to another Inreach device in the group. The terrain was apparently so difficult that no radio signals were getting out and they had lost contact with a group member who turned out to be only 5 miles away.
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Old 09-05-2019, 09:54 AM
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The areas we will travel through -

Head north from West Texas to Calgary (not worried about comms here. Mobile prominent.

Calgary to Prince Rupert (BC coast) Rockies will be hit or miss and I think FRS/GMRS would be preferred here so I don't have to have a Canadian mobile phone or intl plan.

Ferry hoping all the way to Whittier. FRS/GMRS

Whittier to Fairbanks FRS/GMRS

Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay - this si where I am not sure. I am thinking CB since there are only two fuel/hotel stops along the 1,000 mile route and its all truckers in-between.

On the way back we will ferry from Fairbanks all the way to Vancouver Island and then ferry to Seattle. (easier customs)

Everything else (Seattle, to eastern Washington, Idaho, Moab, ALBQ... FRS/GMRS and mobile will cover.
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Old 09-05-2019, 10:03 AM
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As for week long trips we travel to the mountains in New Mexico from Cloudcroft up to the Taos area, Red River, Durango, Silverton, Ouray, Telluride, Aspen, Denver. I like the idea of an external antennae hard mount FRS/GMRS and a few handhelds since the distance seems terrific and uber flexible plus the price point from Midland looks terrific.

My main concerns with the Alaska trip are communicating with truckers on the AlCan and Dalton for weather issues and road closures. I wasn't sure if an external antennae hard mount FRS/GMRS would be enough or if CB is the preferred means?

I think I have found what I want/need with an external antennae hard mount FRS/GMRS and portables in Midland - https://midlandusa.com/product/ormxt...le-gxt-bundle/

As for a CB, its completely foreign to me. Not sure where to start other than knowing I will need an external antennae and as much power as is available for the remote Alaska highway.
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Old 09-05-2019, 10:09 AM   #7
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FRS - no extremely limited range
GMRS - maybe, if there are any repeaters (probably not)
CB - not a lot of range, but a greater number of users especially in vehicles.
ham - better range, more repeaters (VHF/UHF) HF can have great range, but the setup is involved and very important. Also need general class license for HF.

I'd go with the CB.
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Old 09-05-2019, 04:34 PM   #8
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My main concerns with the Alaska trip are communicating with truckers on the AlCan and Dalton for weather issues and road closures. I wasn't sure if an external antennae hard mount FRS/GMRS would be enough or if CB is the preferred means?
If your main concern is being able to talk to truckers, you're gonna need to know which radio(s) the truckers use. If none of them have GMRS radios onboard--and I suspect most do not--then that Midland package is going to be pretty useless.

(Anecdotal story: a local friend of mine is a short-range truck driver. He has both CB and ham radios in his truck. He uses the ham more often than the CB, but both radios do see regular use. However, we are very far away from the Alaskan highway so I don't know what to tell you about that.)

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As for a CB, its completely foreign to me. Not sure where to start other than knowing I will need an external antennae and as much power as is available for the remote Alaska highway.
By law, that is 4 watts standard (or 12 watts in SSB mode).
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Old 09-05-2019, 05:01 PM   #9
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A ferry from Fairbanks will be tricky.
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Old 09-05-2019, 05:10 PM   #10
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For the Canadian portion of your trip.. A lot of truckers use what is known as the VHF LADD service. In a lot of places it has replaced CB. I think you need to license the radio you plan to use, but you don't need an operator's license as you do with ham radio. Here's a brief overview: https://radiofreeq.wordpress.com/201...-channel-list/
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Old 09-05-2019, 07:34 PM   #11
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This looks like a good answer for Canada


Forgive the newbie question, but the Canadian frequencies in that link appear to be outside the US ham bands ?


Does HF work well from a vehicle-mobile station, say 50 or 75 watts, or is more power and a ginormous antenna required to send a long-distance signal ?
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:36 AM   #12
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It can as long as the antenna system is done properly.

Here's a primer: KBG.COM
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Old 09-06-2019, 09:56 AM
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A ferry from Fairbanks will be tricky.
LOL. I just abbreviated. Whittier I believe is the terminal for the inland island routes. We will be in Ketchikan on the way up for a few days but probably will sail all the way to Vancouver Island on the return trip.
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Old 09-08-2019, 02:32 PM   #14
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Sounds like it's going to be the trip of a lifetime!


Great reading in that link! For a sweeping generalization, it looks like one might aim for an HF antenna in the range of 9' to 11'. Thinking in terms of quarter-wave it should be efficient at least up to 10 meters, but I can see that I have some reading to do.


Most of time the HF antenna would be disconnected, lying on the floor of the garage. Would mount it up for special trips.
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Old 09-08-2019, 07:22 PM   #15
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FRS would be the LAST technology I'd choose for my sole means of communications. It'd be like bringin a French translator when you're visiting Russia. If you can't speak the language (radio frequency & type of modulation) of those around you, you're going nowhere where communications are concerned.

I'd recommend a 2 meter/440 Mhz ham radio transceiver together with a CB. Those are, by far, the most popular ways to communicate. I have both and use the CB 90% of the time since it's more commonly owned by Jeepers but the ham radio gives more options.

Think of FRS as a great way to communicate with your family while visiting Disneyland or within a club if the club agrees that everyone will have FRS. Otherwise I wouldn't even consider FRS for what you're planning.

And private vs. public ham repeaters is not really an issue. Most repeaters are open and easily accessed. There are even Android and iPhone apps that via GPS determine the closest repeaters to you and all of the information needed to access and use them.
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Old 09-09-2019, 08:18 PM   #16
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Yes, I didn't know this before, but we don't have to pay an arm and a leg to get a 12 watt ssb cb. For some reason I used to think these were expensive. Now I'm enthused about studying that antenna set-up website.
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Old 09-10-2019, 06:57 PM   #17
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Yes, I didn't know this before, but we don't have to pay an arm and a leg to get a 12 watt ssb cb. For some reason I used to think these were expensive. Now I'm enthused about studying that antenna set-up website.
There's nothing more worthless, 99.999% of the time, than a SSB CB. For the owner of a SSB CB to be able to talk with anyone using its SSB mode, they have to have a SSB CB too. I haven't seen a SSB CB in a Jeep in 20+ years. I use SSB in my HF ham radio but I wouldn't even consider buying a SSB CB radio.
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Old 09-10-2019, 08:51 PM   #18
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I use SSB in my HF ham radio but I wouldn't even consider buying a SSB CB radio.

Cool beans. Ham is the way to go!
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Old 09-11-2019, 10:54 AM
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thanks for all the info. sounds like CB is my best option. In all reality the primary actual use will be communicating with truckers on the Dalton, especially if the weather turns to shit. The rest primarily will be safety factor. We will have a Sat phone as well for texting. Those services are getting cheaper and much more functional as well. Lots of options out there now.
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Old 09-11-2019, 09:22 PM   #20
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thanks for all the info. sounds like CB is my best option. In all reality the primary actual use will be communicating with truckers on the Dalton, especially if the weather turns to shit. The rest primarily will be safety factor. We will have a Sat phone as well for texting. Those services are getting cheaper and much more functional as well. Lots of options out there now.
I use my Ham radio with APRS for texting when I have no cell signal. No monthly payments unless you consider all the mod money I spend on my Jeep mods.
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Old 09-12-2019, 08:29 PM   #21
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Nice - texting via APRS should continue even if the ham email service is discontinued in response to FCC rules?


I imagine that any truckers who still use CB are on SSB. I don't want the OP to spend $100 more than he has to, but range could be a factor in areas with less traffic.
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Old 09-13-2019, 08:15 AM   #22
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Truckers are still on AM, mostly channel 19.
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Old 09-13-2019, 09:23 AM   #23
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As a point of interest.. It seems that most people see ham radios only as a improved GMRS or FRS radio that operates in the VHF or UHF bands.... They're seen as just another type of walkie talkie or small boxy radio that fits under the dash. Most radio service comparisons view ham radios this way.

For REAL ham communications, you want to get your general ticket (or higher) so you can use the 'heavy lifting' frequencies on HF. On the 20 meter band, (14 mHz) talking from Alaska to Texas is a breeze. Talking to Hawaii from anywhere in the continental US is no great feat either. On a good day Europe and South America aren't hard to reach from the driver's seat.

On the 80 meter band (3.5 mHz) you get a ~300 mile radius during the day. No repeaters required. I chat with a friend on 80 the odd morning. He drives a tanker rig between Montana and North Dakota trucking the alcohol that they use to make E15 gas. He's been as far as 250 miles from me...

Note that the long haul stuff only occurs under normal to good conditions. Storms on the sun can reduce or black out long haul radio communications for hours, days or sometimes up to a week.

The only downside is that obtaining the General ticket requires a fair bit more study. Plus, HF mobile radios can be expensive.. (In the $800 -$1000 range).

I run an Icom IC-7000 in the Jeep. It has VHF/UHF as well as HF. (The IC-7000 has been out of production for a few years now). But, there still is a decent selection of HF mobiles available: https://www.radioworld.ca/mobile-hf/z-ar-tran-mhf (Note that this is a Canadian site. I couldn't find a US site that lists mobile radios this way along with pictures. The US prices for these radios are quite a bit lower).
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Old 09-13-2019, 12:27 PM   #24
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I have an HF SSB rig at home but for 99.99999% of us Jeepers who simply want offroad communications to talk with those we're offroading with, I don't see HF as something to recommend for Jeep use.

Would I mount an HF rig in my Jeep for trail communications? Nope. If it's for ham hobby stuff like DX'ing from remote areas sure but for normal Jeep communications like this thread is about? Nope, I wouldn't even consider it.

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Old 09-13-2019, 12:59 PM   #25
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I have an HF SSB rig at home but for 99.99999% of us Jeepers who simply want offroad communications to talk with those we're offroading with, I don't see HF as something to recommend for Jeep use.

Would I mount an HF rig in my Jeep for trail communications? Nope. If it's for ham hobby stuff like DX'ing from remote areas sure but for normal Jeep communications like this thread is about? Nope, I wouldn't even consider it.

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Agreed. The fact that you need your general ticket in order to use the lower frequencies means there are far fewer people to talk with. It's hard enough to find people who are able to talk on FM 2m/70cm as it is. It's even harder to find people using SSB on HF or CB.

Radios are only useful if there's someone else listening. That's why CBs, with their laundry list of flaws, are still the predominant radio of choice for Jeeping.

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Old 09-13-2019, 01:41 PM   #26
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. . . Would I mount an HF rig in my Jeep for trail communications? Nope. If it's for ham hobby stuff like DX'ing from remote areas sure but for normal Jeep communications like this thread is about? Nope, I wouldn't even consider it.

Actually, this thread started with a question about a specific circumstance - driving from Texas to Prudhoe Bay - rather than "normal Jeep communications."


Quote:
Originally Posted by USStrongman
. . . [I]n my preparation for our trip from West Texas to Prudhoe Bay Alaska, I am not sure where to start. Will FRS/GMRS work for me as a means of communication in places like the Dalton Hwy and other remote places?
There is an excellent suggestion for the Canadian portion of OP's trip in Post #10:

Quote:
Originally Posted by jwt873
For the Canadian portion of your trip.. A lot of truckers use what is known as the VHF LADD service. In a lot of places it has replaced CB. . . .
@jwt873 's suggestion in Post #23 to at least consider HF ham when traveling in remote areas of Canada and Alaska in addition to 2m/70cm and CB has considerable merit.

I contacted a friend with a ham General license who was in a group that drove from California to Prudhoe Bay two years ago and asked him what worked and what didn't. His response was that CB was iffy in many situations and so was 2m/70cm with large areas offering no repeater coverage, but that he used both CB and the 2m/70cm ham bands frequently. He was aware of Canadian VHF LADD service but had no personal experience with it.

Significantly, my friend volunteered with no prompting from me that the only two modes of communication that were effective 100% of the time en route to Prudhoe Bay were the Garmin Inreach with 2-way satellite texting and HF ham.

My friend will be in a group I am traveling with on a 3-week overlanding trip to Cabo San Lucas and back starting after Christmas. Everyone will have cell phones, CB, and 2m/70cm ham radios. In case of emergency, or when we are in cell, CB or repeaterless ham "dead zones," between my friends's HF ham rig and my new Garmin GPSMAP 66i with inReach capability we should never be without emergency communications.

I will also be carrying a Baofeng handheld as a backup that operates on the FRS/GMRS frequencies in addition to 2m/70cm ham (not FCC compliant). I doubt I will need to use it but it takes up almost no room.

That being said, 50 years ago at the ago of 18 I drove a CJ-5 from Nogales AZ to Mazatlan and back with an old Johnson Messenger 323 CB and a 102" steel whip antenna. It didn't work worth a damn but I survived.
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Old 09-13-2019, 07:46 PM   #27
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Hmmm, HF and satellite - it looks like I'll be aiming for that general ticket

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