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Old 12-26-2023, 02:26 PM   #1
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Questions: RV 2 way Radio & Comm Experts

I am looking for expert opinions and advice for acquiring a 2 Way Radio system for my RV, for camping & hiking. All opinions and ideas or welcome.

Context:
I have T mobile home internet and thus far I have never been anywhere where I did not have Cellular or Internet service; so this has not been a priority for me. However, we are making plans next year at a State Park where we are told there will be NO Cellular service nor WIFI at the park.

Outside of streaming TV, it will not stop us. So we plan to go and just not have the service; but I got to thinking why not buy two way radios so we have some form of communications?

Disclaimer: Starlink is NOT an option (way too expensive and too much to fiddle fardle with)

I thought it would be simple to buy two way radios, but it keeps getting confusing.

i.e.
- I don't have FCC license, don't really care to get one, but can't tell if I have to have one?
- The mile range advertised are all over the board. I think 5 watt is legal and all I should look for?
- Common sense may say to go buy a Cobra or a Midland brand and call it a day, but there are so many other brands that seem to offer so much more (may be overkill for what I need) but they are often cheaper?

One brand that has caught my attention is Baofeng UV 17 Pro GPS. but I worry it comes imported with power adaptor for US Market as it is not available from US Sellers? It states to be FCC Certified, but I fear I may be doing something illegal without knowing it.

This park is about 7,000 acres and we will be there 3 days. I would simply like to have radios to call my wife, or maybe the kids as I tend to venture out quite a bit. I think once purchased it would be nice to have the radio in the house available for some true emergency? It is in part why I think the GPS is nice to have? Lot's of other uses I can think of while in the RV, like parking help, or when driving and a friend is leading or trailing you.

Any ideas or suggestions?

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Old 12-26-2023, 02:55 PM   #2
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There are 2 main radio groups/services (same meaning) that do not require a license. These are CB radio and FRS ( Family Radio service). CB can work well for longer range communications while the FRS is limited to line of sight. All the radios that you see in Walmart/Bestbuy etc that advertise many miles are true, but you will need to be standing on a mountain top with miles of view to talk that far. They will not go through mountains, thick forests or bend as the earth surface bends. MURS radio service is available but they are not nearly as popular as the 2 mentioned above. ALL OF THE ABOVE without a license are great for talking across a small town or camp ground but not to seek help from greater distances (line of sight is the limit).

CB can be OK'ish but is really falling out of popularity in most areas. At times you may talk 50 miles but can not reach out 3 miles due to what is called skip. If you go CB read about it and know what you are getting. The old channel19 is a hell hold of profanity and etc.


https://www.fcc.gov/wireless/bureau-...o-service-gmrs

Next is GMRS which are many times mixed with The above popular FRS radios. These GMRS radios are line of sight, but with a license you can use Repeaters. With a GMRS no test license...you just apply and send in your fee, you can use GMRS repeaters. A repeater is on a tower and if your radios can reach that tower, the repeater sends it on much further out since it is up high and has a longer line of sight. BUT....GMRS Repeaters are far apart in most are unlikely to be in an area of no cell phone use. That leaves HAM/Amatuer radio. With a easy to study for HAM license you can use 2 METER AND 70 CM radios that have towers with repeaters that cover Much of North America. That is your best chance of having a rtadio that will helpin remote areas. You can look for repeaters here: https://www.repeaterbook.com/index.php/en-us/ check North American Repeaters and GRMS repeaters to see if they are where you want to travel. Without repeaters both 2 Meter and 70 CM radios are line of sight. Clubs throughout the USA have repeaters in places that are the only means of communication. Many of these repeaters are linked and you can talk many miles away.

Sorry to be so long......but for longer range communication (more than line of sight) you will have to prepare and study some. But you can do it with on line test guides if you want to get the HAM license.
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Old 12-26-2023, 03:11 PM   #3
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Happy did a great job of explaining.

The radio you were looking at is a HAM radio so a license IS needed.

NO LICENSE requirement limits you to CB or FMRS for legal operation.
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Old 12-26-2023, 03:24 PM   #4
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https://www.arrl.org/licensing-education-training
https://www.arrl.org/getting-your-technician-license

More info about HAM.
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Old 12-26-2023, 03:25 PM   #5
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Use of any radio in an emergency (worse case scenario) is permitted. I carry HAM handheld as well as two handheld VHS marine radios. I will use the VHF for short, quick communications on the "public" channels (68 and a few others). The range is huge, GPS is built in and you can enable location on some of the higger end models. Technically, use of a VHF is illegal on land but who is gonna be monitoring VHF in the desert (unless you're on the ocean front property in Arizona). Just keep broadcast quick and short. I carry the YAESU for last minute, doomsday communication. Emergency use of a HAM without a license is acceptable. The range as unlimited if you know how to use one.
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Old 12-26-2023, 03:33 PM   #6
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It sounds like you're looking for a SIMPLE solution to family oriented communication over relatively short (couple miles at most).

First, don't go down the rabbit hole of analyzing "range vs transmitting power in watts", etc. That is EXTREMELY variable depending on terrain, weather and the color of shirt you're wearing on Tuesday.

Midland makes an excellent line of simple to use FRS (Family Radio Service) specific handheld radios. No need to worry about being legal, etc. AND they will transmit/receive over amazing distance.

My wife & I have both had our HAM "ticket" for 35 years. We used to work communications for marathons and forest stage road rallies. The radios we use are primarily designed for utilizing repeaters for greater distance. This came in handy this past summer in Colorado. We typically had no cell coverage at all. I did research before the trip and programmed repeater frequencies into our handheld radios for emergency use. We just used the FRS band for simple communication between motorhomes or while hiking if needed.

Going into the nuances of frequency vs power vs range is immaterial for what use you're looking for. You just want a simple pocket radio you and your family can use for quick reliable communication. No fancy stuff about repeaters, band or power. You will likely reach a frustration point trying to use a Baofeng. For instance, with the Midland you simply turn a knob to switch channels. Most Baofeng radios use the keyboard to punch in frequencies, OR using a software called Chirp to program using a PC. You DON'T want to go there... BELIEVE ME! You just want to turn the radios on, select a common channel and talk. KISS.

FRS radios have 22 channels, easily selected. Although nearly all are Chinese made now, I've found Midland to be decently reliable for a reasonable price. I suggest sticking with a name brand... there's a TON of Chinese junk out there that are ALL THE SAME radio under the plastic cover. One drop and they stop working. I recommend the Midland simply because I'm familiar with them.
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Old 12-26-2023, 04:11 PM   #7
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Wow this is all good information.

What is not clear thus far...

1) FRS vs GMRS? Are there certain frequencies set aside for FRS that you can use without a license besides simple names like Channel 1,2,3 ... 22? If so; if you own a HAM radio ( one that does use GMRS) can you just program (save ) in those 22 frequencies and only use those and not require a license?

2) I don't think, I would ever need a repeater, but that may be because it is still a bit fuzzy for me on what it does. I am not looking for real true long range communication. Obviously I would like to talk as far as possible, but I foresee only talking to someone in my party and I would think 5 miles would be kind of extreme limit. This park may be 2 miles long. It has been 4 years, and I have never been without service ( technically, I still haven't, but I am told that it does not exist).

3) I will pay $35 for 10 year license if required to get a neat 2 way radio even If I only use 20% of it's capability, but I am not taking any exams nor do I plan to be a true HAM Operator. I think Chateau size it up pretty good about being simple.

Let me lay out what I think I would want

At least 2 radios that can be set to some frequency or channel all the time by default. You turn on and you transmit and receive on that channel all the time no matter where you are. I think some have Privacy where it blocks out others that may be using that frequency / channel, but I think they can hear you? Having it show your GPS location should you ever need it for emergency.
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Old 12-26-2023, 04:18 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chateau_Nomad View Post
It sounds like you're looking for a SIMPLE solution to family oriented communication over relatively short (couple miles at most).

You just want a simple pocket radio you and your family can use for quick reliable communication. No fancy stuff about repeaters, band or power. You will likely reach a frustration point trying to use a Baofeng. For instance, with the Midland you simply turn a knob to switch channels. Most Baofeng radios use the keyboard to punch in frequencies, OR using a software called Chirp to program using a PC. You DON'T want to go there... BELIEVE ME! You just want to turn the radios on, select a common channel and talk. KISS.

FRS radios have 22 channels, easily selected. Although nearly all are Chinese made now, I've found Midland to be decently reliable for a reasonable price. I suggest sticking with a name brand... there's a TON of Chinese junk out there that are ALL THE SAME radio under the plastic cover. One drop and they stop working. I recommend the Midland simply because I'm familiar with them.
You think if I sprayed the Baofeng UV17 Pro GPS with a good wax sealant I would be okay?


I had no idea the options would be so complicated.

If you were buying a new Midland today, is there a model that you would suggest? I want simple, but I wish to have as may bells and whistles as possible. I think I saw some unit that did something like 5 animal calls? They didn't explain what that meant though?

I am not trying to break FCC laws, but it just seems like if you buy these radios it may be easy to unintentionally do break the law?
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Old 12-26-2023, 05:34 PM   #9
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Here's a good read about choosing between GMRS and FRS...

https://midlandusa.com/blogs/blog/gm...-how-to-choose

As to knowing your location, use your mobile phone... as long as you have a charged battery and GPS signal, you're good...

https://www.onxmaps.com/hunt/blog/do...without-signal

If you're looking for true off-grid long distance comms, you'll need knowledge of how repeaters work, AND the equipment and license to access them. Then you're getting into the Amateur Radio realm... which doesn't seem like you're wanting.

EDIT: In terms of having EMERGENCY SPECIFIC communications, it's very unlikely and therefore IMO not reliable, that either GMRS or FRS radios can reach a broad enough audience to get immediate help. Even 2-meter repeaters can be sketchy without pre-planning. But as I said, that technically requires a license.

Can you transmit on "HAM" frequencies without a license? Definitely - IN AN EMERGENCY. Otherwise, it is illegal. Will you get caught? Do you feel lucky? Just like exceeding the speed limit or anything else, it depends on your tolerance for risk. Consider it's up to a $10k fine IF CAUGHT, you be the judge.
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Old 12-26-2023, 07:52 PM   #10
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Here is another place showing FRS and GMRS channels and the frequency that channel is using. https://wiki.radioreference.com/inde..._channel_chart
Some of the channels are both for FRS and GMRS....with GMRS having more power.



Midland, Motorola, Cobra all make nice and simple FRS/GMRS radios that combine all the channels in one place. Turn the knob to the same channel on both radios and you can talk. Lots of other brands that require more complex tuning but for the basics of talking to others within range of your radio those that have 5 watts or so of power will get you started.

A 2 pack of Motorola or Midland FRS/GMRS radios will be a great place to start. They will most likely have a few bells and whistles that the owners book will explain if you want to use them.

I use my Ham radio fairly often and to be honest they have become too complicated to be fun. The GMRS handhelds or ones mounted in your vehicle are still simple enough to be both fun and helpful.
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Old 12-26-2023, 08:02 PM   #11
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Interesting thread.
Looks like the best for the least is this:
https://www.amazon.com/Midland-GXT10...e17e03685&th=1
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Old 12-26-2023, 08:30 PM   #12
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Lots of bang for the buck as the saying goes!
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Old 12-26-2023, 10:14 PM   #13
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Interesting thread.
Looks like the best for the least is this:
https://www.amazon.com/Midland-GXT10...e17e03685&th=1
We bought the Black/Yellow pair 6 years ago for $62. The base is "permanently" mounted in the RV and the radios travel well in the base.
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Old 12-27-2023, 12:31 AM   #14
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Here is another place showing FRS and GMRS channels and the frequency that channel is using. https://wiki.radioreference.com/inde..._channel_chart
Some of the channels are both for FRS and GMRS....with GMRS having more power.

Midland, Motorola, Cobra all make nice and simple FRS/GMRS radios that combine all the channels in one place. Turn the knob to the same channel on both radios and you can talk. Lots of other brands that require more complex tuning but for the basics of talking to others within range of your radio those that have 5 watts or so of power will get you started.

A 2 pack of Motorola or Midland FRS/GMRS radios will be a great place to start. They will most likely have a few bells and whistles that the owners book will explain if you want to use them.

I use my Ham radio fairly often and to be honest they have become too complicated to be fun. The GMRS handhelds or ones mounted in your vehicle are still simple enough to be both fun and helpful.
What does HAM stand far?

I think you are right, this does seem overly complex than what it needs to be. If I follow your table in the link, it seems like FRS and GMRS uses same frequencies but different bandwidth. So if I bought one of those newer fancier radio with GMRS, programmed / save the 22 frequencies naming this CH 1, CH 2, ... CH 22 etc. Then wouldn't it be just like the basic radios if I didn't try to do anything else? But if I were able to do that, I would technically be illegal because the radio would transmit at 5 watt and I don't have a license.
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Old 12-27-2023, 12:37 AM   #15
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Interesting thread.
Looks like the best for the least is this:
https://www.amazon.com/Midland-GXT10...e17e03685&th=1
What about this radio? https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...970E0U757&th=1

Looks like you get the microphone transmitter / speaker to use as an option? Looking at Battery life etc.

When Christmas is over, I may have to call Midland. I can't tell which product is newest or which ones are very old. I am sure the old technology still works, but when I buy one of these things, I would like it to handle all of the new stuff.
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Old 12-27-2023, 01:10 AM   #16
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What about this radio? https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...970E0U757&th=1

Looks like you get the microphone transmitter / speaker to use as an option? Looking at Battery life etc.

When Christmas is over, I may have to call Midland. I can't tell which product is newest or which ones are very old. I am sure the old technology still works, but when I buy one of these things, I would like it to handle all of the new stuff.
Ever hear of Retevis? I haven't, nor do think I care to.
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Old 12-27-2023, 02:12 AM   #17
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Ever hear of Retevis? I haven't, nor do think I care to.
Not until last week, I must have watched 30 videos, the name Retevis and a number of others keep coming up. They are sold on Wal Mart so I figure a product at Wal Mart and Amazon is somewhat safe. But I don't know.

The problem I have, is I want latest technology bells & whistles but simple. Some companies selling the same radios for 10 years, that may mean good for longevity, but I would like to see a brand new 2024 design of Motorola, Cobra or Midland that is simplified to help someone with a little savvy but facilitates not running afoul with the FCC.

It looks like I can get something for well under $100 so the risk is minimum based on where purchased. The units (model) I was looking to buy before creating this thread are not sold in the US. Only on that AliExpress site, I have never bought anything from them, With that said the Midlands is prolly all I need, but I am still learning what these do and are capable of do with some learning.
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Old 12-27-2023, 02:27 AM   #18
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What about this radio? https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...970E0U757&th=1

Looks like you get the microphone transmitter / speaker to use as an option? Looking at Battery life etc.

When Christmas is over, I may have to call Midland. I can't tell which product is newest or which ones are very old. I am sure the old technology still works, but when I buy one of these things, I would like it to handle all of the new stuff.
So are you still looking at HAM radios? You can't just "buy" a HAM Operators License. You have to pass examinations of skill and knowledge.

Quote:
"A little station called HAM"
This widely circulated but fanciful tale claims that, around 1911, an impassioned speech made by Harvard University student Albert Hyman to the United States Congress, in support of amateur radio operators, turned the tide and helped defeat a bill that would have ended amateur radio activity entirely by assigning the entire radio spectrum to the military. An amateur station that Hyman supposedly shared with Bob Almy and Reggie Murray, which was said to be using the self-assigned call sign HAM (short for Hyman-Almy-Murray), thus came to represent all of amateur radio.[17][18] However, this story seems to have first surfaced in 1948, and practically none of the facts in the account check out, including the existence of "a little station called HAM" at Harvard in the first place
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Old 12-27-2023, 03:15 AM   #19
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So are you still looking at HAM radios? You can't just "buy" a HAM Operators License. You have to pass examinations of skill and knowledge.
If I am still looking at HAM radios it is because I don't know how to distinguish very well. I think the FRS & GMRS is clear to me now based on table sent by Happy. What is NOT clear is if a radio can do both FRS/GMRS and I buy it, and I never go to a GMRS frequency or dedicated frequency / bandwidth, then I don't need to take an exam or a HAM license.

With that said, I my belief is that I can buy a license for $35 ( no exam) and get a license for 10 years and use GMRS. I get a call sign that I should periodically use. It will allow me to use GMRS. There are some restrictions, but this is why I asked about the HAM meaning, because I have no intent to be a HAM Operator or whatever it is they do. I just want a modern two way radio, to keep in RV to use if there is truly no WIFI or Cell Service. I can pass on GPS based on what Chateau Nomad provided, but if I can pay $90 and get all of that on 2 radios why not? (simplification not withstanding).

You know if you wish to buy Freon, you have to show your license BEFORE you buy. If the Radios themselves are restricted regardless to how you may use, they should make you show license before you buy radios where license is required?
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Old 12-27-2023, 03:25 AM   #20
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FRS never needs a license.
GMRS needs a license but it is a no test license...just a fee to the government. I believe the 10 years for $35 is correct. Used to cost more so it is now a bargain!!!

I've never heard of anyone getting busted for using GMRS without a license.
Some people drive without insurance and never get caught. I'm fairly sure I'd get caught on the 1st try.

One story about the word HAM is that the radio license and use is really Amateur Radio. The British were very much into Amateur radio in WW1. They shortened it to AM.....pronounced it HAM and the US soldiers also called it HAM. It could be a true story???


This is a good shopping site because they list the radios by what type they are.
I don't know about pricing, but it is a good place to look. https://www.buytwowayradios.com/
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