GMRS Walkie talkies, next step up

hg1027

Member
My family has enjoyed having zastone x6 walkie talkies for a couple of years. Great for camping, and I'm comfortable sending the 9 year old around the block with it. We've practiced a bit of etiquette (don't just mash the button and yell at each other) and a bit of safety (the 6 year old turned hers off when she got lost at a camping trip). We love sending them on missions, they learn self confidence, and we get 5 minutes peace.

I understand I need a license to be using these legally. I'm planning on that in the next few days.

What I'm wondering is, can I get a handheld a bit more powerful for me and wife, that would make a difference in range to and from the zastones?

I don't plan on being more than a mile apart, but if, for example, we had a HT at home with an antenna on the roof, I think it should get much better signal for another block or two.

If I do something like a base station, I could do a mobile that would be in the house, or at the camp site picnic table with antenna in a tree, or in the car when more remote with the antenna on a mast off the roof (I don't know much about antennas yet).

My current thinking about ham vs gmrs is that the 6 year old is not likely to be legitimately dragged through the tech exam, and I don't know (haven't looked) if there's such a thing as a ham HT with minimal buttons a kid could get in trouble (off daddy's channel).

I'm looking at the kenwood tk880 or equivalent HT, under $100, if that will keep me talking to the zastones for a bit farther, until the kids can be trusted with decent radios of their own (ham or gmrs, depending on interest).

Am I doing it wrong?
 

kidphc

New member
Those frequencies. It's all about line of sight. A better radio will buy you better filtering on transmit and recieve. Maybe negligible distance due to power output differences. Not necessarily worth the money.

Every seen Lone Survivor? There is a reason Murph lost his life trying to climb higher in to the open to establish better comms.

Certainly, a portable base station will net you some more distance. You can buy/make a roll up slim jim antenna. Using a ht(handheld talkie) with a removable antenna and an adapter and coax and extend the range. But if there is a tall mountain between you and the other person you probably not going to reach them. Even vegetation will effect range. If you use a setup attached to a car/truck. You are going to want it at the highest point possible. Not always ideal in a base camp setup.

There are a lot of good videos out on YouTube explaining this. You are probably going to want to stay away from a mobile repeater. Since that is another big messy ball of wax. At least with a ham license we can crossband repeat. Which isn't possible with frs/gmrs.
 

hg1027

Member
Thanks for the reply.

I'm not going to be on the other side of a mountain, but on the other side of a loop of rvs, or half way around a sizeable pond, or up to a mile of woods. I know there's going to be something in the way, or we'd just use hand signals.
 

kidphc

New member
Thanks for the reply.

I'm not going to be on the other side of a mountain, but on the other side of a loop of rvs, or half way around a sizeable pond, or up to a mile of woods. I know there's going to be something in the way, or we'd just use hand signals.
Then the roll up slim jim on a cheap wish extendable fishing pole mounted up high as you can may fit your needs.

Sent from my SM-G975U using Tapatalk
 

BigDaveZJ

Adventurer
I have a cheap telescopic flag pole with a J pole mounted to the ladder of my 5th wheel, gets the antenna up in the air quite a bit. Line of sight really is key. Without it they won't go far, with it you can actually get the range advertised on the packaging. On multiple occasions I've been successful over 30 miles, but always had at least close to perfect line of sight. I have an antenna on my roof too, and can usually get at least several miles in each direction with it talking to HT's, but it's very terrain dependent. There's a hill to the south of me that blocks most of that area beyond a mile or so.
 

axlesandantennas

Approved Vendor
My family has enjoyed having zastone x6 walkie talkies for a couple of years. Great for camping, and I'm comfortable sending the 9 year old around the block with it. We've practiced a bit of etiquette (don't just mash the button and yell at each other) and a bit of safety (the 6 year old turned hers off when she got lost at a camping trip). We love sending them on missions, they learn self confidence, and we get 5 minutes peace.

I understand I need a license to be using these legally. I'm planning on that in the next few days.

What I'm wondering is, can I get a handheld a bit more powerful for me and wife, that would make a difference in range to and from the zastones?

I don't plan on being more than a mile apart, but if, for example, we had a HT at home with an antenna on the roof, I think it should get much better signal for another block or two.

If I do something like a base station, I could do a mobile that would be in the house, or at the camp site picnic table with antenna in a tree, or in the car when more remote with the antenna on a mast off the roof (I don't know much about antennas yet).

My current thinking about ham vs gmrs is that the 6 year old is not likely to be legitimately dragged through the tech exam, and I don't know (haven't looked) if there's such a thing as a ham HT with minimal buttons a kid could get in trouble (off daddy's channel).

I'm looking at the kenwood tk880 or equivalent HT, under $100, if that will keep me talking to the zastones for a bit farther, until the kids can be trusted with decent radios of their own (ham or gmrs, depending on interest).

Am I doing it wrong?
Looking at the brand you mentioned and reviewing the specs, I am under the assumption that those radios are FRS. With that, you are limited to 2 watts max and the FCC has ruled that they are not allowed to have an external antenna. And the antenna, as others have pointed out, is the big limiting factor with FRS.

A GMRS gives you what you would likely be looking for. However, finding a GMRS dedicated hand held that has been approved by the fcc for GMRS only is kind of challenging to find and can be expensive. A gmrs dedicated radio is allowed to have a removable antenna and power output up to 50 watts. A handheld would most likely be 5 watts max, but midland usa has some nice GMRS mobiles that are full power out.

Another option is Multi Use Radio Service or MURS (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-Use_Radio_Service) This is license free and in the VHF range, just above ham radio 2 meter band. In theory, this should have slightly better range. The radios are limited by the fcc to 5 channels which makes this nice so you won't get lost in channels. There is no license for this radio. Another good thing about it is that while you mostly find these radios in retail, I doubt you will find them on the trails so you won't have too much interference.

A gmrs or murs radio with a mag mount on the outside of your vehicle, based on my experience, should get you a few miles range. Even here in the hills and valleys of East Tennessee, I've seen 2 miles of range between vehicles.
 

hg1027

Member
Thanks for the replies.

Poking around a bit further, based on @axlesandantennas post, yes, it appears the retevis rt22 is certified, the zastone and wln rebrands are not. So I'll plan to replace with legal.

As for the removable antenna and the idea of a radio with more functionality, the idea is that a little kid can handle something like the zastone/retevis/wln without getting lost in the buttons, and I don't have to worry about them dropping it as much as with a more expensive radio. I do realize these radios can't have antennas upgraded.

I originally got these based on a few posts by @dreadlocks. They seem to do what I need them to do, just need to get the legal flavor.

Before I knew about the certification, I was ready to go for the uv5r, but with the btech gmrs1 available, that seems like the way to go.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
For anyone considering use of GMRS radios, the fee for the FCC license (which is good for 10 years) will drop to $35 effective 19APR021.
I think the effective date is still TBD.


Later in the publication they say "It is further ordered that Commission’s rules are amended as set forth in in the back of this summary, and such rule amendments shall be effective 30 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register, except for §§ 1.1102, 1.1103, 1.1104, 1.1105, 1.1106, 1.1107, and 1.1109, which require notice to Congress and also require certain updates to the FCC’s information technology systems and internal procedures to ensure efficient and effective implementation. Sections 1.1102, 1.1103, 1.1104, 1.1105, 1.1106, 1.1107, and 1.1109 will not take effect until the requisite notice has been provided to Congress, the FCC’s information technology systems and internal procedures have been updated, and the Commission publishes notice(s) in the Federal Register announcing the effective date of such rules."

Sction 1.1102 shows the fee schedule for Personal Radio Services, which is GMRS, ham, etc. The ARRL's lawyer have said from a ham perspective they expect the new fees to be in place "sometime this summer" is all.
 
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I use the BTECH GMRS-V1, referenced by @Weeds above, with my family. They work well for the purpose. Power is decent, there is some convenient functionality, and they work consistently. Programming through CHIRP works fine, if you want to add some listen-only FM channels with labels fairly quickly. They can also be programmed manually on the built-in keypad. They work with repeaters, though there aren't a significant number of GMRS repeaters available. The repeater functionality can be a bit annoying, though, since they are locked down heavily.

GMRS is an interesting idea in its infancy. It's sort of an "in-between" offering from the FCC with the idea that slightly-more-organized families can grab a few handhelds and communicate with each other under one license. The expectation is that users will treat it with more respect than FRS, but it doesn't require the amount of dedication HAMs need to get started, which is a daunting task for many. My experience so far is that the majority of users are either HAMs who bring a bit too much stringency to the idea, or uneducated and unlicensed newbies who don't really understand what they're doing.
 

SBSYNCRO

Active member
For a pretty good HT with a full five watts of power, check out the Radioddity (weird name, I know) GM-30 unit. Its a $40 HT, and comes out of the box ready to use with all GMRS and FRS channels. Its made by the same manufacturer as Baofeng, and they claim to have an FCC registration 2AJGM-GM30 but it doesn't show up (yet) in the FCC database, so not sure if it is Part 95 certified. But I have one and have tested it in very hilly wooded country and was able to talk between it and a Baofeng quad band HT about 3 miles apart shooting through dense oak forest and over low hills. I compared it directly against a pair of Motorola T800 GMRS radios that crapped out after about 300 yards in the same terrain. For a base station, the Beotech is a nice unit, but unless you want separate repeater in/out tones and some other advanced features , etc you might be better off with one of the Midland MicroMobile products for ease-of-use. If you want a full-power base station (and don't mind spending $300) the Wouxun is a high quality 50-watt radio with a TON of features (I just got one and am installing it in the Jeep this weekend).
 

Heading Out

Adventurer
We use the Midland Micromobile MXT115 15w radios in the vehicles
and a pair of Motorola HTs <1.5w
along with an old Audiovox GMRS base of unknown power, suspect <5w

I'm in a High Desert valley with small Buttes .

With the Micromobiles we have talked clearly over 15 miles and 13 mi across town.
A Micromobile to the Audiovox base is good for about 3mi
The HTs are good for only about 1-1.5 miles at best.

Remember the Antenna is very important. I've upgraded the antennas on the Micromobiles
and on the base as well,

But with the base being so low on power, the cable run needs to be kept
very short or there will be little or no power at the antenna.
 

Bill Ruttan

New member
Thanks for the replies.

Poking around a bit further, based on @axlesandantennas post, yes, it appears the retevis rt22 is certified, the zastone and wln rebrands are not. So I'll plan to replace with legal.

As for the removable antenna and the idea of a radio with more functionality, the idea is that a little kid can handle something like the zastone/retevis/wln without getting lost in the buttons, and I don't have to worry about them dropping it as much as with a more expensive radio. I do realize these radios can't have antennas upgraded.

I originally got these based on a few posts by @dreadlocks. They seem to do what I need them to do, just need to get the legal flavor.

Before I knew about the certification, I was ready to go for the uv5r, but with the btech gmrs1 available, that seems like the way to go.
Two thoughts in regard to your post:
1. A GMRS License would cover use of your radios by members of your family (e.g. kids).
2. Cheaper FRS radios are still “interoperable” (on simplex) with GMRS units (again a plus for kid use).
 
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