Starter Comms — What should I get for basic comms to let me start joining group runs, etc?

amongmany

Member
I need something just to get started. I do NOT want to deal with the HAM training/test right now.

I know midland is a brand that comes up fairly often. Any recommendations on a starting point?
 

prerunner1982

Adventurer
Are you running with an established group? What are they using?
Are you just wanting trail/convoy comms? Or "reach out and touch someone" comms?
There are still people/groups that run CB, while some are making the switch to GMRS. Even Jeep Jamboree has moved to GMRS, it is far better than CB except for popularity and license requirements as CB has none.
A GMRS license is just pay to play, $70, good for 10 yrs, and covers your immediate family.
Some people run both (or all 3 if you include ham) so that they can communicate with someone regardless of what the other person is using.
 

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amongmany

Member
Are you running with an established group? What are they using?
Are you just wanting trail/convoy comms? Or "reach out and touch someone" comms?
There are still people/groups that run CB, while some are making the switch to GMRS. Even Jeep Jamboree has moved to GMRS, it is far better than CB except for popularity and license requirements as CB has none.
A GMRS license is just pay to play, $70, good for 10 yrs, and covers your immediate family.
Some people run both (or all 3 if you include ham) so that they can communicate with someone regardless of what the other person is using.
Ohhh, interesting. There are a bunch of groups here in SoCal, but I've yet to connect with any of them as I'm still getting myself sorted and making sure I have the minimum gear necessary to join. I'm also more interested in overlanding than "off roading" or 4x4 culture (it's about getting to places I couldn't otherwise see, not seeing if I can make it from A to B for the sake of making it); some of the groups here seem to be about the hardcore 4x4 life.

I honestly don't know much about the differences. I don't mind paying $70 for the license, I just don't have time to deal with studying and taking the test for HAM certification. Work is too busy for that. Do you have a link with more info on how to deal with the GMRS license?
 

Martinjmpr

Wiffleball Batter
The most useless thing in the world is a radio with nobody to talk to on the other end. You'll need to find out what the group you're going to go out with uses and then make your choice. Ham radios have greater capabilities than GMRS or CB but there is definitely a learning curve.

Ultimately, having the ability to communicate is what counts and that's why compatibility is important.
 

craig333

Expedition Leader
I just returned from Panamint Valley Days. They were still running CB radio. Worked fine for a small group. I could hit one, just one repeater on 70cm and even then I got no response. Cell phone dead zone too. Good place to carry the inreach.
 
I would bite the bullet, take the amateur radio test, and buy a mobile dual band radio. If you actually want to communicate on the trail that’s the way to go. Alternatively, many still use CB, you could start with one of those. If you want to be able to communicate with the outside world reliably, then an inReach or similar device.
 

BigJimCruising

Adventurer
Ohhh, interesting. There are a bunch of groups here in SoCal, but I've yet to connect with any of them as I'm still getting myself sorted and making sure I have the minimum gear necessary to join. I'm also more interested in overlanding than "off roading" or 4x4 culture (it's about getting to places I couldn't otherwise see, not seeing if I can make it from A to B for the sake of making it); some of the groups here seem to be about the hardcore 4x4 life.

I honestly don't know much about the differences. I don't mind paying $70 for the license, I just don't have time to deal with studying and taking the test for HAM certification. Work is too busy for that. Do you have a link with more info on how to deal with the GMRS license?
IMO these are very different animals. Having spent decades doing both overlanding (as it's now called) and on hardcore 4x4 trail runs this is my take on it.

As an overlander you're looking at covering large distances over varying amounts of time from days to weeks or even years, often alone, while 4x4 clubs are looking to find a challenging trail that might take a day to several days to run then returning home.

If you're looking to get into overlanding then ham is the way to go. Ham offers the next best way to summon help in the back country or even along roads with little to no traffic to help should you break down. Also it gives you the best of long range comms by using repeaters or even HF to summon help. You'll find a lot of 4x4 clubs also use ham or will have several members with ham radios you can talk with if you're with a club. Plus the USA has agreements with many other nations around the world that will allow you to use your radio in their country with little to nothing to add. And as already covered you can buy a cheap GMRS handheld radio and get the license if the club you join is GMRS only.

If you're looking primarily to go on runs with clubs or groups that take days to maybe a week or two to complete then join the club and find out what they use and follow along. You might not even need a GMRS license if you just want to listen but you'll find that kind of sucks for more then a run or two. Or they might be one of the holdouts that still use CB.

GMRS, CB and most other of these types of comms are primarily U.S. only (not sure if either are allowed in Canada) and I've read where some countries will even impound them if you try to bring them in.

The next best thing to the above would be one of the systems like Spot or InReach, particularly if you'll be traveling alone or with just your family in very remote places then while expensive it might be your best option. Not cheap but your life is worth it!
 

quickfarms

Adventurer
IMO these are very different animals. Having spent decades doing both overlanding (as it's now called) and on hardcore 4x4 trail runs this is my take on it.

As an overlander you're looking at covering large distances over varying amounts of time from days to weeks or even years, often alone, while 4x4 clubs are looking to find a challenging trail that might take a day to several days to run then returning home.

If you're looking to get into overlanding then ham is the way to go. Ham offers the next best way to summon help in the back country or even along roads with little to no traffic to help should you break down. Also it gives you the best of long range comms by using repeaters or even HF to summon help. You'll find a lot of 4x4 clubs also use ham or will have several members with ham radios you can talk with if you're with a club. Plus the USA has agreements with many other nations around the world that will allow you to use your radio in their country with little to nothing to add. And as already covered you can buy a cheap GMRS handheld radio and get the license if the club you join is GMRS only.

If you're looking primarily to go on runs with clubs or groups that take days to maybe a week or two to complete then join the club and find out what they use and follow along. You might not even need a GMRS license if you just want to listen but you'll find that kind of sucks for more then a run or two. Or they might be one of the holdouts that still use CB.

GMRS, CB and most other of these types of comms are primarily U.S. only (not sure if either are allowed in Canada) and I've read where some countries will even impound them if you try to bring them in.

The next best thing to the above would be one of the systems like Spot or InReach, particularly if you'll be traveling alone or with just your family in very remote places then while expensive it might be your best option. Not cheap but your life is worth it!
Truckers use CB all the time in Canada

GMRS is legal in Canada up to 5 watts

The duel band radios, baufeng etc, are not technically legal in Canada
 

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