my experience with GMRS so far

BigDaveZJ

Adventurer
I've used CBs for 20 years or so and have always been a bit disappointed. I've tuned antennas and all that, but never bothered with doing anything further than that. They work great on trail rides, everybody has one, no license, low cost of admission. I had looked for a while into getting a Ham license, and probably still will eventually, but have been quite happy with GMRS so far in my specific situation.

My family owns 10 acres in the mountains of CO, and we wanted a way to communicate while we are up there as cell phone coverage is non-existent. We also wanted to be able to travel off the land and still be in contact with those at the land. My dad wants to spend some time hunting up there and him having a way to get ahold of someone back at camp would be very nice. I started by purchasing the Midland GXT1000 handhelds and getting my GMRS license. The GMRS license is easy because it covers my whole family, not just me. And the cost of admission is pretty low. We have used 4 of the GXT1000 units now and I am quite impressed with their range and quality. Range is obviously a finicky thing, but I have tested the handhelds to be reliable for comms within 3-4 miles through hills and trees, and up to 10 miles with light obstruction. My main concern with the handheld units at this time is battery life. They do not seem to last very long, and they take quite a while to recharge. Another issue specific to my situation is I don't have a simple way to recharge them right now, but will be resolving that by adding a 12v outlet into my RV so that I can easily charge them with the docking station they come with. We usually only run our RV on 12v, so the 110v outlets are dead and won't charge the radios. That is 100% an issue on my end and has nothing to do with the radios themselves.

With how well the handhelds have worked for us so far, we will be expanding our GMRS arsenal. Last night I ordered the MXT115 with the tractor bundle to mount to our camper. I plan to mount the antenna to the ladder on the back of the 5th wheel to get it as high in the air as possible. I expect our ability to communicate from the camper to handhelds and vice versa will improve over the handheld to handheld we have been using. I'm looking forward to see how much it actually improves.

Once we test out the "base unit" and get a feel for its performance, we will likely purchase MXT275s and appropriate antenna combos for our vehicles. We'll still keep CBs in them, but as my wife and I each have modified Jeeps as well as a tow rig, we will probably end up using the GMRS to communicate with each other and then CBs for communicating with those in the group who don't have GMRS.

So far I have found GMRS to be a lot less intimidating than Ham, and easier/cheaper to get started. I am not in any way saying that Ham is an inferior system or anything like that, and I am by no means an expert in any of this. Just wanted to share my experience so far with GMRS when I have 7+ people needing to have access to a radio system where CB doesn't seem to quite cut it.
 

prerunner1982

Adventurer
Nice Dave, glad GMRS is working out well for you.
If you really wanted to try and increase your range you could mount a mast on the side of the latter of your 5th wheel and then mount the antenna to the mast.
I use an extendable painters pole as part of my portable antenna mast, extended is 12' so you could get another 10' above the top of your 5th wheel.
Just something you might consider since after all antenna height is king.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
Your experience is exactly why I do honestly wish 5 or 10 years ago we'd have pushed GMRS instead of amateur radio. GMRS is pretty much perfect as the substitute for CB, most of the benefits of using amateur radio while still being simple channelized like CB.

Don't misunderstand, I absolutely love having all the new hams but it's been a learning curve and something of a give-and-take getting everyone licensed and educated on operating.

The one thing ham still and will probably always excel is with repeaters. We have several decades of head start building them out and they are located just about everywhere they can reasonably be. GMRS repeaters are allowed but from what I've seen there aren't many and many are closed to general use (or at least not well advertised), which is unfortunate.
 
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BigDaveZJ

Adventurer
I have definitely considered a mast, and will likely install one at some point. Our land sits at a pretty high point as it is (we can see from Spinney Mtn Reservoir to Kenosha Pass for those familiar with the area) but a little extra height will certainly help, especially when using the handhelds.

As for the repeaters, I don't see us really needing them for our purpose, but certainly agree that Ham is a much more established network. Something I would really like to see is an ability for the handhelds to connect to a vehicle based unit and have that act as a repeater back to the camper. Usually we'll drive somewhere and then be out of the vehicle on a hike or something and the extra range the vehicle based units would be nice to be able to access.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
A mast doesn't have to be complex, especially for GMRS since the antennas are short and light.

For example you can use a fiberglass painter's pole clamped to a ladder or even just make a simple base for it.

519391
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
As for the repeaters, I don't see us really needing them for our purpose, but certainly agree that Ham is a much more established network. Something I would really like to see is an ability for the handhelds to connect to a vehicle based unit and have that act as a repeater back to the camper. Usually we'll drive somewhere and then be out of the vehicle on a hike or something and the extra range the vehicle based units would be nice to be able to access.
Repeaters are the key to mobile and portable communication, it's a game changer. I'm guessing you have not had someone demonstrate just how useful they are.

The scenario you describe, turning your truck mobile radio into a local repeater, is easily achieved but you'd need a ham radio. :) You can build a repeater for your camper (@dreadlocks has, for example) but there are a few ham radios that do it out of the box but they are not legal to use for GMRS.
 

BigDaveZJ

Adventurer
The local repeater would be sweet, and really my dad and I would be the ones who would want that functionality, but there's no way I'm getting him to take a Ham test lol. At 66 I don't want him too far away from help when he's out hiking/hunting. But I think he'll be close enough where the base unit in the camper should be able to receive his handheld transmissions.
 

dreadlocks

Well-known member
I love my GMRS repeater, finishing installing it in my trailer after a few test runs last season.. its not gonna get super insane long ranges like a fixed mountain top repeater but it extends the range around camp dramatically and it lets handhelds near camp talk to my vehicles with high power and big antennas in both directions.

I never thought Id get my wife to get her HAM, but I'm getting my oldest son a dirt bike and going to get mine back in good running order again here soon and when I told her that we could almost always remain in communications if she got her license Momma bear was suddenly much more interested.. I can already imagine her freaking out because we ran out of fuel and missed checking in because were hoofing it back out on foot.

Mamma bear really likes the radios overall, she screws with the kids all the time with em and is alot more relaxed about letting them wonder off to play in the woods unsupervised like they should be.
 

Billoftt

Active member
I, like many hams (K4WGA) also have a GMRS license (WRCY713). I view GMRS basically as CB's with less noise, and they are good for family and vehicle communications. Plus I can get a phantom antenna on my wife's minivan without her getting pissed at me.

I do own a Midland MXT115 and an MXT275. Both have pretty bad "Picket Fencing" issues above 15 mph though.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
What is "Picket Fencing"?
Picket fencing is slang for selective or multipath fading, which is when a signal strength jumps from high to low. It sounds like you'd imagine it would if you were driving by a picket fence, where it goes in and out.

 
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Billoftt

Active member
Your experience is exactly why I do honestly wish 5 or 10 years ago we'd have pushed GMRS instead of amateur radio. GMRS is pretty much perfect as the substitute for CB, most of the benefits of using amateur radio while still being simple channelized like CB.
I agree, but there wasn't really a good market for GMRS radios to choose from back then. Midland didn't have their mobile units available yet and these cheap Chinese UHF mobile and HT units weren't really that prevalent either. Ten years ago the GMRS options were virtually limited to getting a used Part 90 LMR radio from eBay and reprogramming it or the 2 watt blister pack HTs. Plus the license was still $85 for only 5 years.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
I agree, but there wasn't really a good market for GMRS radios to choose from back then. Midland didn't have their mobile units available yet and these cheap Chinese UHF mobile and HT units weren't really that prevalent either. Ten years ago the GMRS options were virtually limited to getting a used Part 90 LMR radio from eBay and reprogramming it or the 2 watt blister pack HTs. Plus the license was still $85 for only 5 years.
Certainly all true, a chicken-and-egg problem. Unfortunately we are now in a situation where GMRS (e.g. UHF CB as the Australians say) could be reasonably suggested but getting everyone to switch again I think is an uphill battle.

Maybe Midland can keep up the effort getting people to buy in, I know most of us hams won't have no issue using whatever everyone settles on. I for one will have no problem removing the 11m CB and replacing it with a GMRS if it gains widespread use.

Until then I think we're still in the "Use whatever your group uses" place. Most of the people I drive with, who have moved from CB anyway, use ham. Of them I think about half would stick with ham if given a choice (they have become proficient and it's some level of a real hobby for them) while the remainder probably would grumble but spend the money for GMRS if the "comm guys" say that's the way to go.
 

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prerunner1982

Adventurer
Certainly all true, a chicken-and-egg problem. Unfortunately we are now in a situation where GMRS (e.g. UHF CB as the Australians say) could be reasonably suggested but getting everyone to switch again I think is an uphill battle.
A small handful of us in the local Jeep groups have pushed for GMRS or ham to no avail. The groups still push CB and then complain about poor performance. I have kind of pulled back from pushing for better comms though as it seems the groups use CB more for playing music, farting into the mic, general asshatery. They can keep all that crap to CB.
 

Billoftt

Active member
...while the remainder probably would grumble but spend the money for GMRS if the "comm guys" say that's the way to go.
Mod the 70cm radio to transmit on GMRS, keep mouth shut about it. Besides, it is really isn't any more illegal than using a Part 90 radio on GMRS after the reg update 2 years ago...*

*I am in no way shape or form condoning an act that may be interpreted as illegal.
 
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