While reviewing my gear over the past week, I realized that my only means of communication over any appreciable distance is my cell phone and the internet (signal fires and smoke signals I guess are an option too). I believe I have all of the other bases covered (weapons, ammo, maintenance gear, armor, food, water, medical, etc.). This should be the last piece of kit I truly think I need to feel good about my preparedness.
So, I am looking for comm radios should things get spicey in the not too distant future.
I am looking for FRS/GMRS radios (2 of them) and one portable HAM radio.
The FRS/GMRS will be for communications with the wife and/or neighbor for general comms. The portable HAM will be for if/when the SHTF.
I am not a licensed HAM operator and I do not intend on transmitting with the portable HAM unless things go third world. If that happens, I am not going to worry about catching a federal charge if things have kicked-off and I am seriously thinking I may have to take a life to defend me and my family.
I do intend to get my HAM license at some point in the near future.
I am looking for value and what reliability I can get from a value setup.
For the GMRS/FRS radios I have read good reviews about the Midland GXT1000VP4. I hope to stay at or under $100 for these radios (whichever I end up choosing).
For the portable HAM, I have read good things about the BaoFeng BF-F8HP. I would like to stay at $150, but would be willing to go as high as $200 if warranted.
These will not be everyday use items. They will be maintained monthly with plenty of batteries.
And speaking of batteries, I would prefer radios that I could use AA or CR123A or some other common battery if the included rechargeable batteries go down.
I look forward to your input and the discussion this may spark...
Edited to fix GRMS/GMRS foul-up...This message has been edited. Last edited by: bozman,
I have generic FRS radios that we use all the time when camping. As you know they are cheap and work OK if transmission is less than about 1/2 mile, depending on the terrain.
Earlier this spring I studied and passed my HAM test. I bought a Baofeng UV-82HP and am in the process of setting up the various stations near me. Depending on terrain and repeaters the transmission could be national or better. I think it should be in everyone’s BOB.
Our Founding Fathers were men who understood that the right thing is not necessarily the written thing. -kkina
I have those Midlands. They're $70 on Amazon. They work well up at the cabin & I'm thinking about another set for home. I've only used them out to three miles distance. A straight shot up & down the mountain; Lima Charlie.
"We're all travelers in this world. From the sweet grass to the packing house. Birth 'til death. We travel between the eternities."
If I were looking at two way radios, I would get a uhf radio set. You would have to buy these from an authorized dealer, and they program them for you. You do need a license for these, but there’s no test to take. You fill out a form and it’s granted. Motorola makes a wide array of radios and You can get some that might be a little closer to your budget, while still being much more powerful and capable than what you can buy online.
It’s about 4 times what you budget is, but the distance and clarity are worth every cent.
We used these, or a model very similar at the warehouse I worked at. There were places like the freezer (a freezer the size of a football field) that cell phones and most other communication devices did not work in. These radios communicated very clearly right through the freezer walls. There was no static or broken transmissions anywhere we went.
As far as distance, I was in the warehouse one evening and one of the supervisors that worked for me went to the convenience store. It’s about a mile away (by way the crow flies). He keyed up the radio and asked if anyone wanted anything. We heard him loud and clear.
So while they are a little out of the budget, I would seriously consider raising the budget if you can. If you need a radio “in case things kick off”, you’ll be very happy you bought a professional model.
The “lol” thread
|Savor the limelight|
We got 4 miles out of those Midlands from elevated positions across water. We've had them for 3 years, use them camping and during the summer, and they've held up to my kids. I also have the 10 year family license.
I agree that UHF radios get out better than VHF or other banded radios. My experience shows that they do a much better job dealing w obstacles.
Ham radio banded radios during SHTF conditions may be hampered if needed repeaters are down due to lack of electrical infrastructure.
CB radios, AM in the 11 Meter band, should always be on hand due to their being readily available and inexpensive.
CB radio range is line of sight, as are all radios, unless a repeater is being used.
Thank you so much for the responses so far. I believe you have confirmed that the Midland radios are good to go knowing their intended purpose and range.
As for the portable/handheld HAM... I would like something that gets decent range. Say 5 miles in a setting that is flat AG land/just on the outskirts of a major city that is spread over a large area (just outside Columbus, Ohio). As of this moment, I do not plan on bugging out, but if I do, it will be to a farmstead in NW Ohio where the land could not be any flatter.
I would like something that is readily available that most other "preppers" (I hate that word) may have, and is user programmable.
This is for comms among a small group of people for coordination and mutual assistance calls. We would like to be able to change frequencies on a moments notice with pre-programmed frequencies that we define in the units memory well in advance of anything happening.
As I am a pilot, I have a small VOR/NAV radio handset, but it is limited in what it can do and it does not really meet the intended purpose. I can speak with GA and commercial aircraft on it though... so I believe that could be helpful and will remain part of my kit of equipment.
I want something with as broad a spectrum as possible. This will allow the radio to communicate with more people that may have more limited handsets.
Lastly... I would like a radio with accessories and features like compatibility with headsets, VOX (or something similar) and other features/accessories that will make them able to be used while my hands are occupied.
I am not trying to be that guy, but for illustrative purposes, I am thinking of it being capable to be used in a way like is depicted in the movies Lone Survivor or SWAT. Again... not trying to be an "operator", but there may be times when they need to be used in a tactical environment.
Again... BIG THANK YOU to all of the responses so far...
Amateur portable radios aren't reliant on repeaters. That's a "bonus" over the frs stuff. They will transmit simplex and many of them are capable of transmitting frs frequencies.
"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."
Okay... been doing a little more research on the GMRS side.
I am now looking at a pair of these Baofeng or "BTECH" for the GMRS over the Midlands.
They appear to be more flexible with more options for batteries, accessories, etc.
Anyone have experience with these?
|In the yahd, not too|
fah from the cah
FRS doesn't use repeaters, GMRS does. FRS radios that claims "1, 5 or 10 mile range" usually don't work that well. Hell some barely work in line of sight.
UHF is better in urban environments as it has better penetration through obstacles such as buildings, VHF has longer range and is better in wider open areas. CB works even better over a longer range than VHF. Your best bet might be a good CB.
|In the yahd, not too|
fah from the cah
Stay away from Baofeng, they're garbage. I'd use them MAYBE as a receiver only if you were looking to listen to your local police/fire, but I'd never use them for transmitting. I had a member of an old department that I was on buy one of those and I literally couldn't hear him on my Motorola portable while looking directly at him from 500' away.
The reviews say they are decent for the money. I am looking at other brands, but they are well outside of what I think I want to spend on "just in case" comms platform. I have looked at Kenwood and Motorola specifically.
Me personally, I would pick a band and then get actual commercial radios. UHF is probably ok, but I don't know your terrain. Assuming you prefer UHF I have had a zillion set of FRS radios for the kids and they have all ended up in the junk pile. I still have a set of commercial Kenwoods programmed for the same frequencies that are as good as new two decades later. There are pretty modestly priced commercial radios.
“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.”
|Back, and |
to the left
All I got is Icom IC-4008's from over twenty years ago. A friend has the twin. They are FRS/14 channels but they also have coded subchannels that are a nice thing to have. FRS is really short range. We bought these for hunting and scenario paintball games. Very well built and tough.
I think they were replaced with a IC4088 model and then discontinued. Icom makes some good stuff.
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. -Ecclesiastes 9:11
|It's not you,|
I recently felt the need for some coms as well for the same reasoning.
I picked up some BaoFengs off Amazon.
I have the F8HP and the model below it. Both seem like they work well.
GMRS is legally ALLOWED to use repeaters... but the vast majority of available GMRS radios are not capable of duplex repeater operation (when I looked, the only one I could find AT ALL was a big vehicle-mount unit), there are vanishingly few active repeaters, and as far as I can tell (I spent a day looking because there's a place I'd like to have one), there aren't any commercially available GMRS repeaters, where they exist they are either cobbled together from two modified radios chained together or modified, reprogrammed salvaged commercial equipment.
Thanks again all...
I have further evolved in my thinking...
I am now leaning towards the following for a low cost, yet capable comms system. The advantage being that I can use li-ion batteries or AAA batteries for "grid down" situations (our power went out of 4 days after Ike and it would have been nice to talk to the neighbor when things went bump in the night). Also, the batteries are common between the 2 types of units.
GMRS Only Units:
I do not have kids and I am not hard on my emergency gear.
The HAM and 2 GMRS units all use the same batteries and accessories. All get very good reviews for the their price and features.
I am looking at the Motorola, Icom and Kenwood brands, but the cost to get into them is substantial and it appears there are more hoops to jump through than getting a GMRS license now and later a HAM license.
I guess the question is... do I want something like the low-cost Baofengs now or something more expensive next year? I THINK I would rather have at least a basic setup before the election and have some time to learn how to use it rather than after.
Does this rationale make sense?
I am all for buy once, cry once... But these are "just in case" not everyday use items.
Again... I appreciate and value your input (especially those who are experienced radio people and those that currently own these products).
First I don't think the election will make a hill of beans on radio equipment. When we are talking FCC compliant systems it probably doesn't make a bit of difference really in the FRS/GMRS area. The HAM arena I can't help on advise. The big advantage of using commercial radios to me in the SHTF arena is that if you have programmable ones you can then can make changes to match the cluster f*** that you are actually in. Like get the heck out of FRS/GMRS frequencies that are now junk, or whatever. Increase power or whatever. Or scramble. Or etc. etc.
If you live in the boonies and don't have any competition for the frequencies you need a couple of high quality GMRS radios will get the job done and inexpensively.
“So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong, and strike at what is weak.”
|Telling cops where to go for over 25 years|
I have my HAM ticket as well as my GMRS license, I’ll give my two cents...
For emergency comms, get multiples of one radio that does it all. Of course the caveat is that you would technically be an FCC violator. However being smart means no one would ever know nor likely care. In a true SHTF situation, FCC rules allow for unlicensed use of frequencies for “emergency communications” - not sure if that is specifically defined anywhere. It is a safe bet that if you are not blasting away with excess power, operating on frequencies in an appropriate fashion, and not causing trouble no one is going to show up and want to inspect your radio for the proper FCC stickers.
What gets people in trouble is the obvious - “broadcasting” (as defined by FCC vs “transmitting”), too much power, being on out of band frequencies, not following transmit “rules” (such as identifying by Call Sign as required, etc.)
As for specific radios, the BTECH GMRS1 is the same radio as the Baofeng UV-82 HAM radio except it is pre-programmed and accepted for GMRS use. Less functionality at a higher price (in order to comply with FCC regs)
Any of the “Chinese” HAM HT’s will transmit and receive on UHF/VHF ham bands, FRS/GMRS, and MURS freqs. Ham and GMRS require licensing, GMRS is test free, just pay the license fee. HAM is a free license, just requires testing for a small fee. No license required for FRS or MURS. The Chinese radios also wideband receive on aircraft bands, FM radio, weather channels, and more, definitely the better choice over a FRS or GMRS radio in my opinion.
Don’t be fooled by the 8W radios, I have tried several and none of them put out 8W. My BF-F8HP “8W” radio was lucky to put out 6.5W. Very little functional difference between 5W and 6.5W into a stubby antenna when it comes to range.
The “trick” to staying out of trouble with the FCC is to operate the radios within the respective power output and frequency rules for which ever freqs you are using. FRS/GMRS/MURS all have relatively low power output limitations, however FRS and GMRS recently raised the allowed output. Use the low power setting and you shouldn’t draw any attention.
Multiple identical radios make for easier use (not swapping between different features/functions/operation), all use the same batteries/accessories, and you can carry a single radio instead of three.
I have multiple Yaesu and Icom HAM radios, base/mobile/HT. My first HAM HT was a Baofeng and I never had a problem with it. They are affordable and an cheap way to get into Ham radio. They may not have the best specs when compared to Icom, Yaesu, or Kenwood there absolutely work and I believe they are directly responsible for the big HAM names HTs becoming much more affordable over the past few years.
Sold my BF and even though I have two Yaesu as well as two Icom handhelds, in a SHTF situation, the first thing I’ll go for are my “Cheap Chinese Radios” (CCR) as they have a much bigger range of capabilities. Try to program a FRS, GMRS, or MURS frequency in a name brand radio and it might let you listen but not likely that you will be able to transmit.
For my “cheapo” emergency radios I settled on the Retevis RT87. They are IP67 waterproof 4W HAM HTs that are easily programmed by computer for FRS/GMRS/MURS/Weather/Aircraft frequencies, HAM frequencies/repeater settings as well as direct keypad entry for selecting freq/CTCSS Tones/Repeater offsets/Output power, etc.
Mine all put out an honest 4+W on high, within the 5W max for simplex (non-repeater) GMRS use and the low power setting is 1W which is below the max 2W output for FRS (and double the old 500mw limit). The better antennas on the HAM ht most likely make up for the lower output when compared to the non-replaceable and much smaller fixed antennas on accepted FRS radios.
Antenna height is everything for range, in a SHTF situation having a radio that lets you take off the rubber ducky antenna and connect a cable to an antenna 25’ up in a tree or such can instantly increase your range many fold.
The RT87’s are definitely in your budget, actually below for a total cost. The RT87s are as little as $53/ea if you buy the three pack on Amazon, $60/each in a two pack. They are definitely a big step up over the Baofeng BF-F8HP ($70 on Amazon) in build quality for less $$$. They also have a much better display than the BF and BF clones.
128 programmable channels, set up Weather channels, FRS channels, GMRS channels, “standard” VHF/UHF simplex calling channels, etc.
As far as your concern for the batteries, AA or CR123 batteries go fast, even rechargeable ones and their limited current/power delivery makes it hard to hit full output power for very long. The RT87s have rechargeable Lithium batteries and the three pack comes with threee chargers and can charge battery on the radio or alone. While they come with a regular wall wart transformer for the charger, there is a USB power cord that works with the chargers and would allow radios to be charged in vehicle or with a power brick.
What part of "...Shall not be infringed" don't you understand???
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