Radio Comms - Multiple Sources (Beginner wanting to learn and get started)

MAG00

New member
I currently have a President McKinley CB installed but have been considering having multiple comms options. I know a lot of folks like the HAM options and that GMRS has gained a lot of popularity as of late.

If you were looking to have multiple comms options on your rig what combination would you go with? Type and a specific make/model you would go with. For example, HAM and GMRS or CB and GMRS, or all three, etc.

Obviously in a jeep space it limited, so maybe things like....a small CB unit like the midland 75-822, or Cobra 75; small GMRS unit like a midland MXT275; a HAM with a remote head (not sure I am using the right reference but meaning to mount the display with the "brains" installed elsewhere).
 

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MAG00

New member
Who's on the other end is what determines your communication gear, so who do you plan to talk to?
Well, right now it seems CB is still used around here, but GMRS is gaining popularity. I think HAM just gives more range and potential users in different parts of the country when traveling. That's why I was considering the possibility of some sort of combination of the three.
 

prerunner1982

Adventurer
All 3 and if you often run with a particular group of people try to get them to switch to GMRS (or ham, but many aren't willing to study/test).
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
Well, right now it seems CB is still used around here, but GMRS is gaining popularity. I think HAM just gives more range and potential users in different parts of the country when traveling. That's why I was considering the possibility of some sort of combination of the three.
Amateur radio of course has a built-in audience. There's 3/4 of million of us around the U.S. and probably a couple of million globally. But most of are not 4wd enthusiasts, at least in the typical ExPo sense. But compared to GMRS and CB the likelihood of finding someone to talk to is of course much better. OTOH it's a hobby suited best for someone willing to tinker and it helps if you're a person who likes obsessing over the minutiae of things technical. We can chat on the air about the most odd details of things.
 
Is this strictly to communicate amongst the convoy and on the trail, or any interest in talking to someone 500-5000 miles away sitting around the campfire?

Look at the AARL site for good info on taking the two written test needed to get VHF/UHF and HF. They produce good test books and even have the questions online for practice tests. There are other resources.


Look into cross band capable radios and cross band repeat. Can possibly extend your range beyond the legal limits of CB and GMRS.

I'll mention ICOM as an example, certainly other brands out there, and buying used is also an option. The ICOM IC-5100A for VHF/UHF, step up to the IC-7100 gives you also HF. For a HT look at the ID-51A .

No mention of a budget so you could splurge on the soon to be released ICOM IC-705 or even an Elecraft KX-3.








 

GlenStanley

Member
I purchased handhelds in all 3 categories and didn't spend all that much. I figured I'd have the opportunity to listen & learn with the HAM until I decided if I wanted to take the test or not. It also would allow me to use what everyone else on a run was using. I figured that later on down the road when I finally decided on fixed mount radio(s) in my van, I'd keep the handhelds to loan to others on runs, use as back-ups, for spotting, and when away from the van.

I'm fairly new to all this & I've only been on a handful of runs, but on every run so far there was never a case where all participants had the same type. We made it work by having the ones with multiple radios relaying necessary info. to the others. I think it's also important to think about what you'll be doing, at least most of the time. As others have stated, if your going out with the same group & they all use one type of radio, that may be your starting point. You can always add/upgrade as you go along.

What really sold me on HAM was thinking about what I wanted a radio for in addition to being able to communicate with others on a run. I plan to do a fair amount of solo trips that will take me quite some distance from anyone else. On a lot of these trips I plan to hike, fish & ride my MTN bike. Even though I carry a SPOT with me, If I get stuck or hurt, I have a much better chance of reaching help via a HAM radio due to the range, but also due to the fact that there are a lot more people on the HAM frequencies a lot more of the time & a whole lot of HAM enthusiasts are also volunteers in search & rescue. If you're "yelling for help" and no one can hear you, it ain't coming... I also like that I can get real time weather alerts & info. without having to carry another radio.

I know everyone says this, and I didn't necessarily believe it when I kept hearing it, but the testing isn't really all that hard for the Technician class HAM license. I signed up for a local test that was about two weeks out and studied a little each night up until the test. $5 & about 20 minutes (they give you more time than that...) to answer 35 questions was all it took. Now I'm good to go for 10 years.
 

BigDaveZJ

Adventurer
The groups I normally wheel with use CB, but we're working on moving over to GMRS. I have CB and GMRS in both Jeeps and the tow rig, although the installs are not as clean as I would like.

I want all 3, CB, GMRS, and Ham, in at least my Jeep and tow rig though. And fitting 3 radios in one rig can be a challenge. That's where the remote mount units really come in to play. My plan is to mount the 3 radio units remotely, and then run a cable up to the dash where I have a plug in for each of the 3 mic/control units. This way I don't have unnecessary clutter, but still have access to all 3 radio types. I can then plug or un plug and stow the mic/control piece as needed based on the group I'm with. I haven't looked into the Ham stuff too much, but the CB and GMRS units I'm currently using have a standard RJ45 (I think that's right) plug in that should be super easy to remote mount the radio unit and run a cable up to the dash.
 

pagero

New member
I use a Garmin Inreach Mini for emergency comms and for texting those that might be joining up with our group later. I'd imagine the spot can do the same thing, but I'm really happy with the Inreach for that purpose. As a bonus I also use it put down breadcrumbs. I figure my family can look at that if I suddenly disappear in the woods...

For radios, I have a Kenwood TM-D710GA mounted in the truck full time, usually with one side on APRS and the other on the group simplex frequency when traveling with a crew. I also have a second NMO mount on the truck that I switch between a CB antenna for my Midland 75-822 or an antenna for one of my HTs. I can use my HTs to listen to anyone using FRS or GMRS, but typically wouldn't transmit unless critical. Hardest part when using multiple radios quickly becomes recognizing right away which one to respond with when someone calls out for you...
 

dreadlocks

Well-known member
Yeah what are your ambitions here?

Do you want to just listen in for info operations like Fire/Weather/Rescue? You can monitor all of em pretty easy with a wideband receiver/scanner and single antenna.. from Shortwave radio up to local stuff like forest service chatter.
Are you wanting to rag chew with Strangers in an OTA Partyline? Ham for back country and CB for highways.
Are you wanting Emergency Comms or Remote Check In/Tracking for those left behind your adventures? Satellite Beacon First, HAM w/APRS Second.
Are you wanting reliable real time comms among a party/caravan? GMRS if starting out or whatever is already established as the party's choice if unswayable.. HAM w/APRS if knowing others positions is important (ie, Hunting, Bushwacking, Rallying on a point)

Are you wanting a lil bit of everything? HAM License + GMRS License w/Knowledge AND experience to correctly operate less than kosher rigs unlocked for multi-use as a good citizen and being fully responsible for your actions operating between the margins.. So basically a bunch of time and money..

Personally I use HAM for Tracking, Remote Check in, Rallying on a Site.. I'll try to raise other travelers in bad conditions, traffic or weather just to get info.. My Party (Me, Friends, Wife, Kids, Other Family) all uses GMRS.. for now, Imna license up my son soon so I can attach a APRS transmitter to him.
 
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No need to license the son just for attaching a tracker. No different than putting a tracker in the car or on a dog. As long as he is not a control operator.
 
I must be a rebel or whatever you want to call me. I have no use or desire for CB 11 meters. I can always receive it if my arm was twisted enough and a sharp stick in my eye.

I have a vhf/uhf mobile radio mounted in every vehicle, each one capable of being used for ham frequencies and GMRS. I do plan on adding HF in the truck. Two radios and done.

I wore my body armor while posting this in preparation of the scolding. Do it and don't speak of it, keep your signal clean, and don't do anything goofing that draws attention. Some say your ham license gives you privilege to do it. No it doesn't because it is outside the ham bands. Yes get your GMRS license it's easy peasy. CYA thing.

Handhelds get a few of the easy to operate Midland top of the line GMRS radios to pass out to family and friends. You will know who your true friends are when they hand them back before going home.
 

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Billoftt

Active member
Start off with Ham. Use an NMO mount for the antenna, use Anderson Power Poles for power and leave the radio in an accessible location. That way you can easily swap out the radio to whatever you need.

I have two NMO mounts on my roof and just power it with a Y-splitter I made with Anderson Connectors.


Sent by electrons or some crap like that.
 

BigSwede

The Credible Hulk
My club uses ham, so that is what I have permanently mounting in my dash. If I need CB for an event or group that requires CB I throw in a Midland 75-822 with a mag mount antenna. I don't have GMRS but if I had a club or group looking to improve on CB for trail comms I would push for GMRS these days.
 
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