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Old 05-26-2016, 04:30 PM
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FRS, CB or Ham?

Been decades since I've used a radio off-road. What are clubs using these days? If you're in Moab or Ouray, what are other Jeeps likely to have?

I presume CB still rules but with the performance of FRS and the easy-entry into 2m I wonder why.

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Old 05-26-2016, 04:57 PM   #2
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FRS is fine for communicating between family members at Disneyland but you won't find it used among Jeepers on the trail. 2m ham is great, I have one in my TJ, but not many Jeepers have it so it's not going to work in most offroad settings if it's the only radio in your Jeep.

You're better off going with a CB. Virtually all offroad events primarily run on CB radios so if you don't have a CB, you would miss out on 99% of the chatter. For every time I use my 2m ham radio on the trail, I use my CB 100 times. My 2m ham radio doesn't even get turned on for probably 80-90% of the offroad trails I do.

The reason CB is so popular is because you can buy an excellent quality CB like from Uniden for $40 and get a good antenna, mount, and cable for around another $20-30. 2m ham radios require you pass a ham test to use legally and they're too expensive enough to buy to make it a widespread choice among typical Jeepers who aren't into radios like hams are.

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Old 05-26-2016, 05:15 PM
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The reason CB is so popular is because you can buy an excellent quality CB like from Uniden for $40 and get a good antenna, mount, and cable for around another $20-30. 2m ham radios require you pass a ham test to use legally and they're too expensive enough to buy to make it a widespread choice among typical Jeepers who aren't into radios like hams are.
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I had wondered with the no-code license path if maybe it would catch on more. Back when I was in a Jeep club we always ran CB. A few of us were hams but didn't use them on club runs - no need. But that was the days before FRS. Sheesh, that was the days before the internet :-)

These days I'm thinking FRS would be a great thing on the trail for short-distance comms between vehicles. $25 per radio. No external antenna needed. But again, I suppose it just hasn't caught on because ... it just hasn't?
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Old 05-26-2016, 05:25 PM   #4
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FRS just hasn't caught on since there are cheaper (CB) and more powerful (ham) radios available. You're probably just shouting into the wind how FRS seems to make sense for offroading too.

If I wanted a radio to stay in touch with my family at a resort, I'd use either my cellphone possibly FRS. I wouldn't even consider FRS for the trail unless it was being run by members of an FRS club.
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Old 05-26-2016, 05:52 PM   #5
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I'd like to be able to use ham, I even bought a ham radio. My problem is finding a way to take the exam in my area, Toronto.... Can't find an examiner without joining some ham club and taking their courses that span a few months. I learned for the exam and tested myself. I am good to go. But I don't care for joining any club just to be able to use ham.
So for me... ham is not a real option because of that.
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Old 05-26-2016, 05:58 PM
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I'd like to be able to use ham, I even bought a ham radio. My problem is finding a way to take the exam in my area, Toronto.... Can't find an examiner without joining some ham club and taking their courses that span a few months. I learned for the exam and tested myself. I am good to go. But I don't care for joining any club just to be able to use ham.
So for me... ham is not a real option because of that.
That is sad that you don't have a simple path to getting tested. Have you approached your nearest club to see if they could help you without making you join or take classes?

I remember way back in the day before the Volunteer Exam program you had to find a local ham to give you the Novice test. It was a pain. If you wanted to get a higher class license you had to go to the FCC. It was more of a pain. I did both.
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Old 05-26-2016, 06:03 PM   #7
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I called two clubs in my area and they were cocky about it.. left a bitter taste..
I am really disappointed..
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Old 05-26-2016, 06:27 PM   #8
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That's too bad it's like that in your part, that's not the case here in the US. I know of no ham club that would require anyone to join before they would allow you to take the test.

One of the contacts in the below link should be able to help you.

http://www.cnib.ca/en/living/learnin...s/default.aspx
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Old 05-26-2016, 06:50 PM   #9
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I'll try that. Thanks Jerry.
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Old 05-27-2016, 01:43 PM   #10
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A couple local clubs are going Ham. One usually has an annual session for people to challenge for Tech liscence. Myself and five others have got our licenses recently, I challenged for General so I can play with HF on vacation trips to the hinterlands.
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Old 05-28-2016, 07:16 PM   #11
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Here is an expanded comparison I wrote up a while back that compares and contrasts various Jeep-to-Jeep communication options:


CB (Citizen's Band) benefits:
1) very inexpensive; new radio/antenna/cable/mount setup can be had for ~ $75
2) no license required, so everybody can use one
3) due to #1 and #2, CB radios are very common among Jeepers

CB downsides:
1) because everyone can use one, there are thousands of a**holes out there actively trying to ruin your experience
2) 4 watt maximum output limits legal users, keeping range very short
3) CB uses scratchy, static-filled AM operation

FRS (Family Radio Service) benefits:
1) uses handheld radios which are tiny, cheap, and widely available
2) no license required, so everybody can use one
3) FM operation for clearer sound and little interference

FRS drawbacks:
1) limited to .5 watt output, which keeps range extremely short
2) handheld radios must have fixed antennas, also keeping range extremely short
3) only 14 channels available

MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service) benefits:
1) no license required, so everybody can use one
2) FM operation for clearer sound and little interference
3) 2 watt maximum output provides slightly further range than FRS

MURS drawbacks:
1) even though external antennas are allowed, range is still very short
2) repeaters are not allowed, also keeping range very short
3) only 5 channels available

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) benefits:
1) FM operation for clearer sound and little interference
2) allows up to 50 watts of power output, increasing range (but most handhelds only put out 4-5 watts max)
3) can use repeaters to increase range even further

GMRS drawbacks:
1) requires a license for use (no exam; just a fee)
2) range for a handheld radio without a repeater isn't much better than MURS
3) repeaters are very scarce (Utah has only 6, for example)
4) only 15 channels available (22 on hybrid FRS/GMRS radios)

Ham radio benefits:
1) has far better range than all the above options (50 watt output is common for mobiles; some have 75+ watts)
2) handheld ham radios can use upgraded antennas, further increasing their range.
3) thanks to repeaters, the range gets even better (especially with linked repeaters)
4) repeaters are very common (Utah has 129 on 2m and 179 on 70cm)
5) ham operators tend to be much better behaved than CB operators
6) ham uses FM operation for clear sound

Ham radio drawbacks:
1) you must earn a license by passing a 35-question test
2) equipment costs more; a quality 50w 2m radio/antenna/cable setup runs ~ $225
3) because of #1 and #2, many Jeepers don't have a ham radio

Once you've had a taste of ham radio, you will forever look down on CBs due to their significant shortcomings. But does that mean CBs are entirely worthless? Of course not. If all you want to do is talk to other vehicles in your caravan and you'll always be very close to each other, CBs would be a simple, cheap way to achieve your goals. On the other hand, if you're really thinking you may be in a remote area with no phone service and you might need to make an emergency communication with the outside world, CB will very likely be completely useless in such a situation... and if you're counting on it to save you, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.


In summary: ham is the best method for Jeep-to-Jeep communication. If for some reason that just isn't an option for you, CB is likely to be your next-best choice.
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Old 05-29-2016, 01:02 PM   #12
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I called two clubs in my area and they were cocky about it.. left a bitter taste..
I am really disappointed..
Sorry to hear that. Another option might be to hit up a hamfest as they sometimes offer the Basic and Advanced exams. I know the Ham-Ex event in Brampton does this.
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Old 05-29-2016, 02:37 PM   #13
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That's a good idea. I'll check what hamfests are in the area this summer. Thanks!
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Old 06-01-2016, 04:04 PM   #14
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The people I wheel with all got ham licences and have never looked back. The communication is clear and we can talk over pretty much any normal distances that we will find ourselves in.
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Old 06-01-2016, 05:06 PM   #15
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On the other hand, if you're really thinking you may be in a remote area with no phone service and you might need to make an emergency communication with the outside world, CB will very likely be completely useless in such a situation... and if you're counting on it to save you, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
The safety aspect is what made my decision. Taking the wife and kids out into the forest to explore is great until there is some kind of emergency. I use the HAM radio and a GPS so I can give my exact coordinates. The test is not that hard (all the questions and answers are given, you just need to study them). It's comforting to know if you need emergency service, you have a way to contact the appropriate people.

Also, living in California with potential earthquakes and the loss of cellular service, HAM radio is the go to for emergency services. There are a lot of good people that are prepared that have their HAM license, and that is a good club to be in.
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Old 06-05-2016, 02:33 PM   #16
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I realize I'm both late to the conversation and new but I use all three. I've got a CB and HAM installed in the Jeep and I just throw two of our FRS/GMRS radios and my HT (a Baofeng UV-5R with FRS/GMRS channels programmed in so I can monitor) in the back when we go out.

This was I can cover all the bands if necessary. I've considered picking up a MURS radio just because that's what we use at the range I manage though I can't really justify the limited use for the cost.
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Old 06-06-2016, 10:02 AM   #17
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Kurtvl, you can program your Baofeng for monitoring the MURS channels as well.
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Old 06-06-2016, 10:07 AM   #18
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I found that most clubs of any kind suck.

As for a radio, some if not most have a CB. Others do HAM (I prefer Bacon myself). The FRS/GMRS are on the cheap now days. pick up a 2 or 4 pack. That said, if you are going out and no one has a radio you can let some one us your spare. I have been on trail rides where both CB and FRS/GMRS were being used because one or the other had it. Having comms. is better than nothing in a group ride. but at the same time.. the radio chatter can get crazy, so the peace and quiet of no radio or turning it off is nice also.

That's all I have. Carry on.
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Old 06-20-2016, 10:56 PM   #19
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@Sherpa great right up.

My local amateur radio club is very friendly. We offer exams at least once a month at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside CA. Many times more often. Email with Bruce to make arrangements to get through security if you're interested. Let me know and I'll come and VE for your exam.

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Old 07-06-2016, 07:21 PM
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OK, I have a couple of FRS rigs now. Audio quality is sub-par considering they're FM. Also, range between cars was less than impressive. I guess the best use I can see would be for a spotter to talk to the driver.

Still, I could easily see a dash mount combined with a headset making these things easier to use and install than a CB with hand mic and the hassles of an external antenna

The problem is CB has such huge momentum that it just isn't gonna be dethroned anytime soon.
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Old 07-11-2016, 10:10 AM   #21
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I'd like to be able to use ham, I even bought a ham radio. My problem is finding a way to take the exam in my area, Toronto.... Can't find an examiner without joining some ham club and taking their courses that span a few months. I learned for the exam and tested myself. I am good to go. But I don't care for joining any club just to be able to use ham.
So for me... ham is not a real option because of that.
If you're still looking, PM me - A friend of mine is an examiner (In Pickering) & will test you without club membership. Alternately, most Hamfests have examiners on site as well for testing.
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Old 07-18-2016, 01:46 PM   #22
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Ham radio benefits:
1) has far better range than all the above options (50 watt output is common for mobiles; some have 75+ watts)
2) handheld ham radios can use upgraded antennas, further increasing their range.
3) thanks to repeaters, the range gets even better (especially with linked repeaters)
4) repeaters are very common (Utah has 129 on 2m and 179 on 70cm)
5) ham operators tend to be much better behaved than CB operators
6) ham uses FM operation for clear sound
Do any of the hams on this thread have trail experience with 2m on both handhelds and mobile rigs? If so, how much better did the mobile perform out "in the wild" over the handheld?

The small group I normally go off-road with all have ham licenses, so we've always used our 2m radios for communication. Out in the open with good LOS the 2m handhelds have always worked well, as would be expected. However, we have a lot of mountains in Idaho, and when we get around bends and lose LOS the reception really degrades. You can tell someone is keying the mic, and trying to transmit, but the voice doesn't come through.

Given that same situation, would a good 50+ watt capable mobile radio work much better? Would the extra power and larger antenna help, or are we SOL without LOS?
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Old 07-18-2016, 02:28 PM   #23
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Handheld 2m radios are poor communicators for anything other than short distance line-of-sight communications. Their stubby antennas are too small and inadequate for anything other than short distance 'easy' communications unless there is a repeater within line-of-sight that is close enough for the handheld to reach.

For your difficult Idaho mountainous conditions, a good 50-75 watt fixed mount radio with a larger antenna like a 5/8 would be your best bet.

My Hustler SF-2 5/8 antenna combined with my 75 watt Yaesu FT-2900R radio works well but even it is no match for mountainous non line-of-sight communications if there's no repeater in the area.
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Old 07-18-2016, 06:59 PM   #24
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Handheld 2m radios are poor communicators for anything other than short distance line-of-sight communications. Their stubby antennas are too small and inadequate for anything other than short distance 'easy' communications unless there is a repeater within line-of-sight that is close enough for the handheld to reach.

For your difficult Idaho mountainous conditions, a good 50-75 watt fixed mount radio with a larger antenna like a 5/8 would be your best bet.

My Hustler SF-2 5/8 antenna combined with my 75 watt Yaesu FT-2900R radio works well but even it is no match for mountainous non line-of-sight communications if there's no repeater in the area.
In the terrain around here a 1/4wave does better on 2m because its nothing but close in hills and valleys. The steeper take off angle helps working people who are close but at vastly different elevations. Out west where the land might be flatter or mountains farther away the gain of a 5/8wave would be of greater benefit.

There are a few affordable duel band mobiles out now with built in "cross band repeat" . That would give you the best of both worlds if you want to have a small handheld radio for working outside around your ride.. You could use the little potable radio that talks on 70cm back to your jeep and your jeep repeats out at 50-75watts on 2m with a fullsized antenna.

I plan on just putting a CB in my rig because it seems thats what everyone has around here. I am going to use an NMO antenna mount so I could switch out to something easily if need be.
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Old 07-18-2016, 07:40 PM   #25
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No need to go with an NMO mount which makes CB and 2m ham antenna selection more difficult. A standard SO-239 with a 3/8-24 thread on the top works fine for both ham and CB antennas. That's what I'm using for all of my TJ's ham and CB antenna mounts. Antennas with 3/8-24 threads on the bottom are everywhere.

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Old 07-18-2016, 08:44 PM   #26
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Ya CB selection would be much harder on NMO. The only one I know of that would work on that band would be the Larson nmo27. Anyone know of something else?

But for 2/70cm there is plenty of choice on that mount. I will be sticking with it just because everything I have is for NMO.
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Old 07-20-2016, 08:56 AM   #27
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Handheld 2m radios are poor communicators for anything other than short distance line-of-sight communications. Their stubby antennas are too small and inadequate for anything other than short distance 'easy' communications unless there is a repeater within line-of-sight that is close enough for the handheld to reach.

For your difficult Idaho mountainous conditions, a good 50-75 watt fixed mount radio with a larger antenna like a 5/8 would be your best bet.

My Hustler SF-2 5/8 antenna combined with my 75 watt Yaesu FT-2900R radio works well but even it is no match for mountainous non line-of-sight communications if there's no repeater in the area.


Thanks to both of you for your insight. I think we're going to look into installing mobile radios and larger antennas as you've suggested.


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Old 07-20-2016, 05:33 PM   #28
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Thanks to both of you for your insight. I think we're going to look into installing mobile radios and larger antennas as you've suggested.
This is a great idea, of course. Does this mean you don't yet have any sort of mobile radio, and only have an HT right now? My reason for asking is this: I am curious if you can hit the War Eagle Mountain repeater down near Silver City (145.230-, 100.0 tone). I'm told it offers coverage into the Boise area, though I don't know if an HT is going to be able to hit it. If you can reach it, we may be able to talk--that repeater is supposedly connected to the Intermountain Intertie system.
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Old 07-21-2016, 01:02 AM   #29
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This is a great idea, of course. Does this mean you don't yet have any sort of mobile radio, and only have an HT right now? My reason for asking is this: I am curious if you can hit the War Eagle Mountain repeater down near Silver City (145.230-, 100.0 tone). I'm told it offers coverage into the Boise area, though I don't know if an HT is going to be able to hit it. If you can reach it, we may be able to talk--that repeater is supposedly connected to the Intermountain Intertie system.
Correct, my only radio currently is the Kenwood TH-K2 handheld, and I think it maxes out around 5 watts on the high power setting. Most of the Treasure Valley should be within line of sight of that mountain, but it's showing about 50 miles distance between War Eagle Mountain and my location in Meridian. I'm sure most mobiles would be able to reach it, but I doubt my HT is going to be able to hit that repeater.
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Old 07-21-2016, 01:50 PM   #30
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Most of the Treasure Valley should be within line of sight of that mountain, but it's showing about 50 miles distance between War Eagle Mountain and my location in Meridian. I'm sure most mobiles would be able to reach it, but I doubt my HT is going to be able to hit that repeater.
I agree, unless you got some sort of awesome antenna (like a directional Yagi) for your HT.

If you'd like to try a QSO some time, let me know when you've got your mobile rig installed and can hit the repeater.

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