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wvracer821

Well-known member
Joined
May 27, 2020
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649
Loc
Morgantown, WV
What is everyone using now? Me and my wheeling buddies have been chatting about radio setups but we are all pretty new to anything other than typical cheap CB setups that dont work for shit. HAM isnt really that big in our area. Internet info on radio stuff seems overwhelming and I have no idea where to start. Were looking to have radios in all our tow rigs and our trail rigs. is GMRS the right choice?
 
How is Ham not an option?
No repeaters in your A.O.?

In before gmrs rocks!
 
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I have no ideal what im talking about really. Id also like to have handhelds as well as base stations in all the vehicles.
 
How much do you want spend? lot's of cheap options, but the license nazi's will give shit for running them without one. Will you get caught, probably not, but if you run on EMS/POLICE/FIRE freqs (and then you have to be really stupid to even run those freqs) you run the risk of fucking EMS OPS. Most have gone digital, but there are some still analogue. Ham test is easy, literally you can take the practice test a 100 times, with the actual questions on the test, so not taking itmeans you're lazy :flipoff2:

Ham, GMRS, used business band...Most Ham and GRMS don't need programming software and cables, but most can be and the software and cables are cheap. Business band stuff is more expensive, but used stuff is all over EBAY. You'll need brand specific software and cables, but those also can be found even with weak google-fu skills.


Boefung handhelds are still cheap, cover the all bands and don't need codes like GMRS. Use one on a external antenna/hand mic/battery eliminator to mount in the rig, carry one for when your out of the rig and your good to go...less than hundred bucks for all that crap
 
I am not a "license Nazi" but I do like to make it clear to people that CB and FRS (the frequencies the handheld walky talkies you buy at Walmart and other places use) are your only legal options without getting a license of some kind. There are way too many people in the offroad scene using illegal radios and encouraging others to as well without making it clear that doing so is illegal. Sure you probably won't get caught, but don't be "that guy".

CBs are allowed to use 4 watts and FRS is limited to 2 watts. The higher frequencies used by FRS "bend" around the terrain much better than CB frequencies do, so despite the power disadvantage, they usually work just as well if not better than CBs for small groups on the trail. FRS has better sound quality too (FM vs. AM for CBs), so transmissions tend to be much more intelligible. The biggest reason why people think CB "sucks" for the trail is improper antenna mounting. Your antenna, for any radio system, needs a proper ground plane to receive and transmit well. This means you should be mounting your antenna on the center of your roof, but you need a metal roof. The problem is finding a good ground plane on Jeeps and other vehicles that do not have metal roofs. It will take some experimentation to determine where your antenna transmits and receives the best. Frankly, CB and FRS really are sufficient for the vast majority of trail riders, but people lazy and sloppy and like to use poorly setup cheap radios. They compensate by using "race radios" that transmit with way more power and are completely illegal.

GMRS isn't a bad option, but requires a $70 license good for 10 years to be compliant (The fee is supposed to drop to $35 this year). The good news is that GMRS doesn't require a test like HAM though. GMRS uses high frequencies that work well offroad, and can transmit with up to 50 watts which is a huge upgrade from the 2 watt FRS limit (several channels are shared between FRS and GMRS, but broadcasting above 2 watts is classified as GMRS).

HAM requires a license with a test, but there are 3 different license classes; Technician, General, and Extra. The higher classes allow access to more bands and power, but also require more difficult tests. The test is $15 and a license lasts 10 years (although the rate is supposed to go up to $35 when the GMRS rate decreases to $35). HAM radios can transmit on a much larger range of frequencies (including the VHF frequencies that work well offroad) than GMRS, FRS or CB. Technician licenses are limited to 200 watts, while higher classes can go up to 1500 watts. HAM is by far the most superior radio type for offroad usage, but the problem is getting the people you wheel with to take the test and get licensed too. Also, few people you might wheel with outside your usual group will happen to have a HAM. Illegal users are much more likely to be caught on HAM since some of the HAM dorks make it a hobby to track down illegal operators for fun.

"Race radios" transmit on the PLMRS bands for the most part which require a license for a specific frequency in a specific geographic area (75mi radius I believe). These bands are intended for commercial use and the licenses are much more expensive and less useful for off roaders since you are constrained to a single frequency and area per license. These bands don't really have any advantage over a GMRS or HAM radio.
 
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Chris (DesertDog on the old forum I believe) did a pretty good video giving the rundown on radio systems for offroad usage:

 
Thanks for the good info. I dont mind buying the GMRS license and that cost is easy enough to convince people to take on. i know there is lots of dramma over the "race radio" situation.
 
Thanks for the good info. I dont mind buying the GMRS license and that cost is easy enough to convince people to take on. i know there is lots of dramma over the "race radio" situation.

'84 Bronco II hits almost everything. The technician license for ham is almost a freebee to take; spend a week memorizing question and correct answer then tie up part of a weekend taking it. My wife who isn't technical was able to pass it first try in 2020... in fact, almost a whole club I'm a member took it and passed:homer:

Depending upon your location, repeaters open up a HUGE transmitting area especially of the "older" geekier hams. Rubicon has its own repeater that can be tied into the 805 repeater. This allows communication from the Rubicon down to Sacramento area. Also many people monitor 805.
 
I am not a "license Nazi" but I do like to make it clear to people that CB and FRS (the frequencies the handheld walky talkies you buy at Walmart and other places use) are your only legal options without getting a license of some kind. There are way too many people in the offroad scene using illegal radios and encouraging others to as well without making it clear that doing so is illegal. Sure you probably won't get caught, but don't be "that guy".

CBs are allowed to use 4 watts and FRS is limited to 2 watts. The higher frequencies used by FRS "bend" around the terrain much better than CB frequencies do, so despite the power disadvantage, they usually work just as well if not better than CBs for small groups on the trail. FRS has better sound quality too (FM vs. AM for CBs), so transmissions tend to be much more intelligible. The biggest reason why people think CB "sucks" for the trail is improper antenna mounting. Your antenna, for any radio system, needs a proper ground plane to receive and transmit well. This means you should be mounting your antenna on the center of your roof, but you need a metal roof. The problem is finding a good ground plane on Jeeps and other vehicles that do not have metal roofs. It will take some experimentation to determine where your antenna transmits and receives the best. Frankly, CB and FRS really are sufficient for the vast majority of trail riders, but people lazy and sloppy and like to use poorly setup cheap radios. They compensate by using "race radios" that transmit with way more power and are completely illegal.

GMRS isn't a bad option, but requires a $70 license good for 10 years to be compliant (The fee is supposed to drop to $35 this year). The good news is that GMRS doesn't require a test like HAM though. GMRS uses high frequencies that work well offroad, and can transmit with up to 50 watts which is a huge upgrade from the 2 watt FRS limit (several channels are shared between FRS and GMRS, but broadcasting above 2 watts is classified as GMRS).

HAM requires a license with a test, but there are 3 different license classes; Technician, General, and Extra. The higher classes allow access to more bands and power, but also require more difficult tests. The test is $15 and a license lasts 10 years (although the rate is supposed to go up to $35 when the GMRS rate decreases to $35). HAM radios can transmit on a much larger range of frequencies (including the VHF frequencies that work well offroad) than GMRS, FRS or CB. Technician licenses are limited to 200 watts, while higher classes can go up to 1500 watts. HAM is by far the most superior radio type for offroad usage, but the problem is getting the people you wheel with to take the test and get licensed too. Also, few people you might wheel with outside your usual group will happen to have a HAM. Illegal users are much more likely to be caught on HAM since some of the HAM dorks make it a hobby to track down illegal operators for fun.

"Race radios" transmit on the PLMRS bands for the most part which require a license for a specific frequency in a specific geographic area (75mi radius I believe). These bands are intended for commercial use and the licenses are much more expensive and less useful for off roaders since you are constrained to a single frequency and area per license. These bands don't really have any advantage over a GMRS or HAM radio.

All true, but cb’s suck no matter what you do to them🖕
but reality is your chances of getting caught using a ham radio without a license is less than trump getting impeached or getting struck by lightening.
PLMRS isn’t regulated any more and the FCC is more interested in selling white space to cell companies than chasing a roque radio. Ham nazis are hilarious and they do try to self regulate but no one really gives a shit.
Most teams aren’t legal once they leave the geographic area of their license and nobody is getting STA’s for use.

it used to be that you needed a license to buy a radio for its intended use but that went out the window with fleabay. Be smart and creative and you’ll never have a issue

like I said, take the test, a 7th grader can pass it after studying.
 
All true, but cb’s suck no matter what you do to them🖕

Meh, I have been pretty happy with my CBs for communicating with small groups on the same trail, and like I said, most of the issues people attribute to CBs are related to shitty equipment and shitty installations.

If you want to communicate to people that are outside your line of sight, or further than a few hundred yards away then there are certainly better options you should look into, but for general trail wheeling with 10 people or less (really more about how spaced out the group might get rather than the actual number of people), I think CBs work just fine.

but reality is your chances of getting caught using a ham radio without a license is less than trump getting impeached or getting struck by lightening.
PLMRS isn’t regulated any more and the FCC is more interested in selling white space to cell companies than chasing a roque radio. Ham nazis are hilarious and they do try to self regulate but no one really gives a shit.
Most teams aren’t legal once they leave the geographic area of their license and nobody is getting STA’s for use.

it used to be that you needed a license to buy a radio for its intended use but that went out the window with fleabay. Be smart and creative and you’ll never have a issue

If you want to break the law, that is your choice, and I am certainly not going to turn you in. I personally don't care. I do personally however, try to break the law as little as reasonably possible, so it frustrates me when I am on a trail ride and everyone wants to illegally use "race radios" on the PLMRS bands and I can't talk to them because none of them have CB, FRS, or HAM radios.
 
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So if we start witch hunting illegal ham usages, will you guys stop encouraging non licenced usage???
fukkin lame to say "you won't get caught pissing in the camp coffee pot, go ahead" why give the idiots free range?
 
Meh, I have been pretty happy with my CBs for communicating with small groups on the same trail, and like I said, most of the issues people attribute to CBs are related to shitty equipment and shitty installations.

If you want to communicate to people that are outside your line of sight, or further than a few hundred yards away then there are certainly better options you should look into, but for general trail wheeling with 10 people or less (really more about how spaced out the group might get rather than the actual number of people), I think CBs work just fine.



If you want to break the law, that is your choice, and I am certainly not going to turn you in. I personally don't care. I do personally however, try to break the law as little as reasonably possible, so it frustrates me when I am on a trail ride and everyone wants to illegally use "race radios" on the PLMRS bands and I can't talk to them because none of them have CB, FRS, or HAM radios.
Ha...like I said take the test, but please get off the off moral porch. Not condoning the behavior but in reality there’s really not a lot you or I are gonna do to change it. Get a cheap quad band Chinese radio, do 3 mods and you can use it across all the above bands.
Do I care if you get a license, nope,just throwing out info, if you do try and fly under radar, you alone are responsible for the ramifications of your actions.
 
Where do the big brick like Motorola walkie talkies fit into the frequencies? I know they have 15 different channels on a radio and have heard talk that they are programmed with different crystals so different groups can all use them in close proximity with 15 channels per group.
 
Ha...like I said take the test, but please get off the off moral porch. Not condoning the behavior but in reality there’s really not a lot you or I are gonna do to change it. Get a cheap quad band Chinese radio, do 3 mods and you can use it across all the above bands.
Do I care if you get a license, nope,just throwing out info, if you do try and fly under radar, you alone are responsible for the ramifications of your actions.

Not so much a moral porch, as like I said, I don't care if you or anyone else wants to illegally transmit on unlicensed frequencies, just don't expect me to be okay doing the same. It is really a nuisance more than anything because 10 years ago everyone had CBs and all was good. Now, no one has the same radios, and the majority are operating illegally all because of marketing and people being to lazy to do a proper CB installation.
 
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Where do the big brick like Motorola walkie talkies fit into the frequencies? I know they have 15 different channels on a radio and have heard talk that they are programmed with different crystals so different groups can all use them in close proximity with 15 channels per group.
Wow...haven’t put crystals in a radio for literally 20 years, if you have one that does take it and use it a paper weight.

Bronco, don’t take my comments wrong...we see things exactly the same
 
Some great info in the first couple of posts... I would like to hit on a couple of things mentioned...

- GMRS license is currently $70, but wait until the end of march and it is going down to $35 (and ham licenses will be going up to $35). Just passed by the FCC at the beginning of January.

- Just my personal opinion, but "race radios" (that operate on PLMR bands as before mentioned) are the absolute WORST option for rec-wheelers to use. Simply because you are sharing those PLMR frequencies with BUSINESSES that are using those in order to conduct their business, and pay their employees and secure jobs for people. And a lot of times, offroaders will blast more power than the businesses that are licensed to be on those frequencies. I would 10000000% rather see offroaders talk illegally on ham simplex or GMRS than see everyone using race radios. There are a lot of businesses that rely on radio comms to do a job and pay their employees. Someone else laid out that PLMR frequencies are licensed per business, per 75 mile radius. So just because a frequency is clear from being used by a business on one trail, doesn't mean it is clear on the next trail. Also, keep in mind that if you are caught operating illegally, it is a $10,000.00 fine. You weigh your own risks.

Another way to look at what radio communications you want to use, in a very very simplified form is:

- Want to talk 100 yards with lots of white noise and a wild wild west range of slang and cursing and no license? Get a CB.

- Want to talk half a mile on clear signal and no license? Get FRS (Family Radio Service (UHF spectrum), or MURS (Multi Use Radio Service, similar to FRS but in the VHF spectrum)

- Want to talk anywhere from 1 mile to 100 miles (line of sight), with a license, and have access to repeaters in populated areas? Get a GMRS ($70 currently, will be $35 at the end of March)

- Want to talk theoretically any distance (assuming your local repeater has EchoLink), on a license (currently free, will be $35 at the end of march), have GPS tracking availability and be able to text people? Get a Ham license.

- Want to talk any distance, from anywhere, text people, have GPS tracking, and spend a lot of money, but know it will work 100% of the time? Get satellite.

P.S. Would love to see a dedicated COMMUNICATIONS forum setup on the website :) Seems like pretty much every other topic is here except communications... I run My Off Road Radio and get quite a few different and off the wall questions every week about radio communications for off roaders... it would be cool to see more of a dedicated place to accumulate answers other than my email :P

Cheers!
 
First, 84 Bronco II. Great job.

Let me add in my personal experience/$0.02 with the CB in my JKU.

Grounding a CB is everything. I bought a Bearcat 680, co-axial, 4 ft firestik antenna and a metal bracket (jk specific).

Took some sand paper and removed coating on the bracket, where the antenna attached to and where the bolts went through. Just putting the CB in my jku it worked well. Easily a few miles between friends and I and they were loud and clear.

Then I had my radio's SRW adjusted and it was 1.2:1 when it was all said and done. I could talk (loud/clear) to the truck stop at Cheyenne and I-15 and I was down at Tropicana/I-15. That's 8.7 miles as a bird flies.

I just bought a baofeng uv-5. I'm currently studying for my tech and general test. I used CHIRP to program my radio and just listen to conversations to see how things are done. No transmitting (Tx) yet. All in good time.

Hope this helps.
 
Once again, not condoning anyone running illegal shit.
 
Where do the big brick like Motorola walkie talkies fit into the frequencies? I know they have 15 different channels on a radio and have heard talk that they are programmed with different crystals so different groups can all use them in close proximity with 15 channels per group.
We have the Motorola CP200 radios at work:
Click image for larger version Name:	CP200d-series-mototrbo.jpg Views:	0 Size:	8.5 KB ID:	311617
4-16 channels (depending on the unit), can be had in UHF (shorter range, but the signal "bounces" around buildings and rocks better) or VHF (longer range, but more prone to dead spots), built heavy enough to withstand bouncing off the ground or a near miss from a forklift, but they require Motorola's software to program and you cant (legally) get that easily. Most any frequency they can transmit on you will need either a Ham Radio license or a Business license to (legally) use.

You might look at something like the Kenwood TK-272G (VHF) or the TK-372G (UHF), or most other TK series radios by Kenwood. They can be programmed with the free CHIRP software and are much better built than the Baofengs. Again, most any frequency they can transmit on you will need either a Ham Radio license or a Business license to (legally) use.

Aaron Z
 
One of the biggest ease of use things I have done for communications in our group was being able to program the radios. We don't use the race radios as I have never felt like that was a solution, but we do use the baofengs and I have a cheap mobile unit in my 4runner. We've been using MURS recently and I did get my GMRS license so I'd like to use that too. Having the MURS, GMRS, FRS channels all programmed in to the radio helps a ton with trying to get everyone in the group on the same channel. It wasn't too hard to figure out how to setup the Chirp program and once set it only takes a few minutes to program each radio.

Kevin
 
People are quick to throw out MURS as an easy solution but there are still restrictions. Like a 2 watt max power output. Baofeng handhelds are 3 to 5+ depending on which version. see part 95.2767
Also while they dont say specifically who is grandfathered in in this link, There are still businesses that use it that way. Depending on how close your trail is to an old walmart, they would have authority over you to use that freq.

most home brew setups, (baofeng) are still illegal. closer to legal than some other solutions, but still technically illegal. Your best bet is to buy a specific MURS radio. It would be part 95 compliant. Problem is they are not $35 on Amazon like the china radios are.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/part-95/subpart-J
 
People are quick to throw out MURS as an easy solution but there are still restrictions. Like a 2 watt max power output. Baofeng handhelds are 3 to 5+ depending on which version. see part 95.2767
Also while they dont say specifically who is grandfathered in in this link, There are still businesses that use it that way. Depending on how close your trail is to an old walmart, they would have authority over you to use that freq.

most home brew setups, (baofeng) are still illegal. closer to legal than some other solutions, but still technically illegal. Your best bet is to buy a specific MURS radio. It would be part 95 compliant. Problem is they are not $35 on Amazon like the china radios are.

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/47/part-95/subpart-J

If the power part is the only thing not fully legal, then its not an issue.

Guys have been running 10m radios modded for 11m for years without issue.

And to the guy that equated unlicensed HAM use to pissing in the bean pot or whatever, where's the victim in the "crime" of running unlicensed? You're a fuckin retard if you think your analogy is anywhere close to truth.

Stay off the EMS frequencies, stick to GMRS frequencies with a Chinese dual band running less than absurd power and nobody will bother you.
 
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I'm pretty sure the baofengs aren't legal for anything.

Kevin
 
What about this? We have a trip planned for windrock and a 12hr drive to get there. We would like some kind of coms other than a cellphone the whole time.

https://www.amazon.com/Cobra-HH50-W...m90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ&th=1&tag=91812054244-20


also if you do the beofang deal, theese are cool

https://www.stinkyfab.com/collectio...feng-uv-5r-rugged-rh-5r-radio-bracket-bolt-on

Personally I would just get a $20-40 set of "bubble pack" FRS radios for communicating between tow rigs on the highway. I haven't seen a handheld CB that wasn't a total POS, whereas the cheap handheld FRS radios work pretty damn well.
 
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People are quick to throw out MURS as an easy solution but there are still restrictions. Like a 2 watt max power output. Baofeng handhelds are 3 to 5+ depending on which version. see part 95.2767

https://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text...t-95/subpart-J

I'm pretty sure the baofengs aren't legal for anything.


I see all this sorta like pulling out the DOT handbook and picking apart the rigs people drive on the road. Oh are those lights SAE rated, fine and public shaming for you.

And the race radio stuff isn't legal either. Vegas to Reno is 1000 miles, a team is going to pay for 10 licenses? I think not.


I don't understand the texting/GPS portion of the HAM radio usage, it still require access to an internet network so why not just use that to begin with? And that doesn't seem like something that is fully reliable?

And I think you can limit the output watts on the BF radios? Field programable still but.
 
The couple mobile units ive been looking at are FCC compliant. even though they are 50W capable they will only do 50W on the GMRS frequencies. I plan on getting a license once the price dropps to $35. Thanks for all the great info. Ive already got a couple of the 8W baifengs that i picked up a while back to listen in on the guys at work and I will probably use them in my rig for spotters or other group members without radios.
 
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