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Discussion Starter #1
I recently got a pair of cheap walkie-talkies just to test them out. The last time I had a a walkie-talkie was probably 30 years ago, and they had a range of about a half a block.

Times have changed.... The cheap ones I have are listed at 18 miles (over a flat surface like water), and a lot of models are listed at 35 miles (over a flat surface)r.

Since I'm not much a big off-roader, and my overlanding is usually no further than Costco....I'm not going to purchase a C&B or ham radio. However, I would not mind investing in a set of compact, high quality walkie-talkies.


Does anyone have any recommendations or know what I should look for? A lot of my "limited' off-roading is near my wife's parents house....which is in a location that has spotty cell phone coverage (especially right where they live). So a good set of walkie-talkies seems like good all-around insurance.

I'd like a 35 mile range, and for them to float, and to be able to use multiple types of power supplies. But as far as different bands and frequencies (and what I need a license for) I'm lost.

http://walkie-talkie-review.toptenreviews.com/
 

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Mine are rated at 15 miles and it's more like 3/4. I can't give a recommendation but I can say it's good enough for a group ride.
 

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If you want walkie talkies, get the ones with little pictures of little princess or some other kids show because it doesn't matter, they all don't work out in the bush. Even CB's are useless unless talking to the vehicle in front of you. Get a Ham radio License and get a real radio.
 

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Motorola MT352R FRS are good for close groups. Don't expect the advertised range, or anything close to it.

If you have the time, get an Amateur Radio license. Check in at ARRL.ORG to find your local Ham (Amateur) radio club.
 

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Check out HAM radios. Getting your license is a bit easier now with the study guides on youtube(and mobile study guide apps) and the fact that you don't need morse code anymore for the tech (entry level) exam. Buying a mobile HAM setup can be done for under $100 as well and you'll have much better range.

I followed this guy's HAM Tech License Study Guide one week for my evenings and took the exam that weekend and missed just two questions. Think you need 70% to pass.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jomk_c9LLa4
 

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The 18 mile rating is theoretical. Expect 1000' in open urban terrain, and maybe 1/2-3/4 a mile in the desert at night where there is no buildings or RF sources.

FRS/GMRS won't go through concrete so it won't go through most buildings.

There is a reason most Jeeps still have a cb in them. Different frequency and longer antenna means more distance.

Better then CB would be a ham setup, but that is a hobby into itself in both time and money. Each user of the Ham radio needs a license so you can't just hand a radio to your buddy on the trail.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I really didn't want to have to go the HAM route, but not having to deal with Morris Code would help. That is something to consider.

After doing some more research, I'm still looking into walkie talkies, I'd just make sure I get a repeater capable, high quality set, and get a GMRS license. No need to be a bubble wrap pirate.

There is a high power (41 mile) open repeater in Grundy County, which blankets the area of wife's parents location. Being that the GMRS license is good for families, it would work great for their boat. When they are out on the water, cell phones don't work...and that is is the area where I look for trails.

There is also a 13 mile open repeater in Aurora, and another in Oswego.
There are several open repeaters in Chicago and a 26 mile open repeater in Joliet.
Plus several others that require permission to use.

Who knew there was this much to Walkie-talkies?
I'm thinking maybe 3 or 4 units in total would suffice.
 

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I believe the FCC dropped the Morse Code requirement for an Amateur license. Most use of CW is during Field Days.

General radio knowledge, some math is most of the hurdle to get an Amateur license.
 

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I have the technician license, and keep a Baofeng UV-B5 (cheap dual band Ham hand-talkie) in the Jeep when traveling. Pretty easy license to get, but means someone on the other end has to have a ham license as well, so practicality isn't too great.
Radio works well for what it is. I use a repeater app on the smart phone, that tracks where I'm at, so if needed I can get a local repeater, and reach out for help.

The one advantage to Ham is, in an emergency there is no license needed. I'm trying to come up with a way to explain how ordering a pizza and beer to be delivered to camp, would come under "emergency communications"... ;)

Midland makes a portable CB radio that can be used handheld, or plugged into the vehicle.
My buddy has this setup with a magnetic antenna, with the cigarette lighter plug. Keeps it bundled together so he can throw it in any vehicle quick.
He's pretty happy with it.
Midland 2-in-1 40-Channel Handheld CB Radio : Cabela's
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I have not looked at the details of a mobile HAM radio, but can you have multiple hand units, and do those users needed to be licensed?

I'm thinking that for $300, I can get 4 decent quality walkie-talkies and a GMRS license (no studying, and the entire family is covered). Just have to make sure I find the right units.

For the area that I'm in, multiple people will have a legal means of secondary mobile communication.

But I may look into the HAM course as well. I think it is only 35 questions.


Edit: The other user part was just answered....yes, the other user would need a HAM license.
 

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Get your HAM license and put a 2M/70CM unit in the Jeep hard-mounted.
Get your family some FRS radios to play with.
You can talk to the FRS from the 440 band on your real radio.
FRS/GMRS combined channel chart - The RadioReference Wiki

It really does work well and I've gotten quite a few others to get licensed since I took the plunge. I even went back and upgraded to General after farting around on the 20 meter band.
See: Expedition Portal

I also have a CB with SSB in the Jeep and a 2M/70CM HT for SAR volunteer work. Very handy to have a good radio when you're overlanding.
 

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Hi Bill,

"technically", transmitting on FRS with a radio that is capable of transmitting at a higher wattage than legal for FRS "could" get a person in trouble.
It would probably be a good idea to explain that caveat.
Someone goes out and starts pushing 50W or 100W on an FRS freq' at a campground, and they could end up in a fist fight with an overzealous parent.

Here's the quick overview on FRS:
https://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/family-radio-service-frs

And on GMRS:
https://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/general-mobile-radio-service-gmrs
 

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Motorola MT352R FRS are good for close groups. Don't expect the advertised range, or anything close to it.
I have the similar Motorola MR350R. I've always been pretty happy with them.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Right now I'm looking at the Motorola MS350R and MS355R (Also trying to figure out some of the differences between the numbers and MS, MT, MR, etc...).
Consumer Two-way Radios (Walkie-Talkies)

They are between $60 and $70 a pair (shipped) on Amazon. I think the GMRS fee is now $90 for 5 years.

I'm tempted to order a pair and test them out in my area and before I pay the FCC fee. If they work well enough at home and at my wife's parents, I may order a 2nd pair, pay the fee to cover the family, and call it a half decade.
I need to see if these repeaters are still in operation.
https://www.mygmrs.com/browse?name=&location=&state=IL&frequency=&output_tone=&input_tone=&type=&network=&ori=&travel=&sort=State&step=25
 

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Right now I'm looking at the Motorola MS350R and MS355R (Also trying to figure out some of the differences between the numbers and MS, MT, MR, etc...).
I believe the 350 and 355, it is that the 350 are black and the 355 are brown-camo.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
OK, I'm registered with the FCC, and my application for a GMRS license is filled out and saved, I just need to click submit and pay. I have a couple of different Motorola units in my Amazon cart.

Before I go there....does anyone have any experience with repeaters?

Thanks....

It also looks like the $90 fee could be going away very soon...or at least reduced. Gotta keep an eye on that.
 

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I have first hand experience with Ham repeaters, but not GMRS repeaters.

From what I *understand*, to access GMRS repeaters requires a specific type of GMRS radio, and it will state that in the specs. Commercial GMRS radios, and some of the higher end Motorola radios will do this.

Please double check this info, as my knowledge is limited and dated on GMRS.

Good luck which ever way you go. :beerdrinking:
 

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I have first hand experience with Ham repeaters, but not GMRS repeaters. From what I *understand*, to access GMRS repeaters requires a specific type of GMRS radio, and it will state that in the specs. Commercial GMRS radios, and some of the higher end Motorola radios will do this. Please double check this info, as my knowledge is limited and dated on GMRS. Good luck which ever way you go. :beerdrinking:
Some of the gmrs repeaters need the tone to activate them, but the same problem arises: your hand held has low power and the repeater may not hear it.
 

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Hi Bill,

"technically", transmitting on FRS with a radio that is capable of transmitting at a higher wattage than legal for FRS "could" get a person in trouble.
It would probably be a good idea to explain that caveat.
Someone goes out and starts pushing 50W or 100W on an FRS freq' at a campground, and they could end up in a fist fight with an overzealous parent.

Here's the quick overview on FRS:
https://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/family-radio-service-frs

And on GMRS:
https://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/general-mobile-radio-service-gmrs
Sorry; I should've mentioned that.
My radios all have adjustable power output. I've never used the FRS frequencies anyhow...

Repeaters are awesome.
Just go HAM and declare victory. It's very easy to pass the test and the benefits are worth it. Get a decent radio for the Jeep and a cheap-o HT for walking around.
I think that it's pretty cool that I can arrange to meet with my buddy from Greenback, TN and we can communicate with each other the whole route via repeater. He comes from the north 2 hours and I come from the south 2 hours. The range/function/utility of it can't be matched.
There's no cellular service where we go...
 

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If you live in an metro area or in an area with businesses, GMRS frequencies will be crowded with plumbers, delivery drivers, and any other business radio traffic.

Good luck with it.
 
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