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#155844 - 11/21/08 03:51 AM Advice on FRS/GMRS radio
Roarmeister Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 09/12/01
Posts: 848
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
I am looking at purchasing a pair of of radios primarily for backpacking in a group and secondly as an addition to my BOB. I have narrowed my choice down to a combination FRS/GMRS hanset. Since I was a bit unfamilar with the technology, I did some browsing and research.

FRS (Family radio service)
- up to 0.5 watts power and roughly 2 mile range in theory
- roughly 1 mile range in practise in line of sight
- range affected by terrain and tree cover
- channels 1-7 dedicated for FRS
- channels 8-14 shared use with GMRS

GMRS (General mobile radio service)
- higher power and greater range than FRS
- varies from a handset to mobile station /w or /wo repeaters
- up to 5 watts with handset
- up to 50 watts with mobile
- range up to 25 miles with mobile or more with repeater
- generally requires a radio license except Canada allows up to 2 watts handsets without a license
- 2 watt handsets range has 25-30 miles in theory (mountain top to mountain top!)
- 2 watt handsets range of 2-3 miles in practise
- range over open water is roughly 7 miles for a 6' person to talk to another 6' person due to curvature of the earth and line of sight
- channels 15-22 dedicated for GMRS
- bigger, longer antenna is better because radio wave is about 12.5" tall

MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service)
- de-licensed used primarily for business for location service

Privacy codes (interference illimination codes)
- used in combination with main 22 channels to provide further division and isolation of signal; does not create a private channel but mearly eliminates a lot of the other cross-talking on the same channel to improve intelligibility
- 121 codes usually but some handsets may have more
- channel 1, code 1 is the default setting out of the box but may also be the busiest

Options:
Weather NOAA channel monitoring
Headset jacks
GPS / Radio combo ie. Garmin Rhinos
VOX activation
Noise filters
Keypad lock
Scanner
Calling and paging ability

Is it better to use AA or AAA or lithium ion batteries?
Battery life - varies from 11 to 20 hours depending on combination and type of battery.
Charger options? Double radio charger? USB charger or 120v
I have an inverter to charge items from my vehicle so it matters little to me which way to charge.

Long term storage:
Should I place one in my BOB and one in my vehicle kit or both in the BOB or both in the car kit. If AA or AAA then I would likely use Eneloop batteries for long term storage.

I am looking at a pair of Cobra LI72002WXVP radios that have a claimed range of 45 km, 22 channels, 142 privacy codes, weather channels, 10 NOAA weather channels, VOX, vibrate alert, Hi/Hed/Low Power, water resistant, 2-port charger, L-ion battery, programmable scan, belt clip.

Your opininons and advice????

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#155848 - 11/21/08 04:49 AM Re: Advice on FRS/GMRS radio [Re: Roarmeister]
Lono Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 1013
Loc: Pacific NW, USA
Well, my advice - start with a pair of $24.99 Unidens or some sort of lower range walkie talkie. See how much you use them. I think these are good for short distances and sometimes within buildings, very unpredictable out it the woods - line of site only. Frankly I don't find the range estimates to be helpful, you might hear someone clear as a bell miles from the trailhead, or just static a hundred yards up a hill. And the GMRS don't really do you much good unless you're in an area with alot of talkers. If you intend to talk to someone in a BOB type situation, stick to a common channel, if there's chatter there jump up or down 2 channels. Having NOAA weather channels is always handy. Keep it simple. A couple handsets that run on AAs is all I would suggest.

Squeezing distance or performance out of walkie talkies will only get you so far, better imo to invest in a ham license and HTs with some real reach, especially via repeaters.

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#155854 - 11/21/08 07:14 AM Re: Advice on FRS/GMRS radio [Re: Lono]
KG2V Offline

Veteran

Registered: 08/19/03
Posts: 1371
Loc: Queens, New York City
OK, first, so called "Privacy Tones" are generally refered to a PL Tones (a Motorola Trademark) or in technical terms CTCSS

They do NOT make your conversation "private" as anyone can listen in - what they do is make your radio quiet - picture Your party, and my party are having radio converstions on the same channel - you can't do it at the same time, - you "step on" each other, what it DOES do is prevent your squeltch from opening unless the right PL tone is received - so your party won't hear us (unless you hit the channel monitor button) and we won't hear you

Second - do NOT believe published ranges. Those numbers are under ideal conditions

FRS - nice, fun, cheap, low power, mandated maximum ERP (effective radiated power) - meaning things like the sntennas are "fixed" - you can't change out for a better antenna etc. The nice part? No license

GMRS - Now you get into fun - 5 watts for a hand held is more a "technical" limit. A 5 watt HT (again, a Motorola trademark - many many VHF/UHF radio terms in common use are Motorola trademarks) is/can be a fairly serious radio. GMRS allows for repeaters, which can give you REAL range, if you find a repeater you can use. It is very very similar to police radios, and VHF/UHF Ham Radio.

The bad part? You legally need to have a license - it's one license for your entire family. There is actually some enforcement of this, particularly on the repeater channels

As for radios - I'm a radio "Biggot" - I like big, heavy duty radios that work when everyone else around is getting "intermod" (a kind of distortion - you hear it, you'll know it), so I tend to carry "commercial" radios, The problem here is they are NOT legal for FRS (The ones I use ARE legal class accepted for GMRS), have to be programmed for the GMRS frequencies by a "radio shop" (or someone with the right programming gear), they can be expensive (VERY expensive if buying new), they tend to be heavy, etc. The advantage? They WORK, and you don't end up having to hold them to your ear to hear them

Another option? Take your ham radio license test - if you study for say, 2-3 weeks of nights, passing your Technician license exam isn't hard, and it opens a whole world of radio 'stuff' to you. The exam is currently $14 ($15 after the first of the year). No more morse code on the exams. The down part - every person who wants to use the radio has to pass
_________________________
73 de KG2V
You are what you do when it counts - The Masso
Homepage: http://www.thegallos.com
Blog: http://kg2v.blogspot.com

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#155856 - 11/21/08 09:19 AM Re: Advice on FRS/GMRS radio [Re: KG2V]
frediver Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 05/17/04
Posts: 213
Loc: N.Cal.
I have a few different types but what gets used the most are my Motorola 6220 model FRS radios.
IMO the best bang for your buck. I can normally get a dependable
3/4-1 mile range hiking in the Sierras.

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#155860 - 11/21/08 12:33 PM Re: Advice on FRS/GMRS radio [Re: frediver]
Eugene Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/26/02
Posts: 2810
We've tried FRS but in mountians and woods the range drops to where you can hand signal the other person easier.

AA or lithium ion is a personal preference, some people like the light weight of lithium ion but I on't want to have a dedicated charger or battery with a ~3 year life span, I get 10 years from NiMH AA's

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#155869 - 11/21/08 01:54 PM Re: Advice on FRS/GMRS radio [Re: Eugene]
benjammin Offline
Rapscallion
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/06/04
Posts: 4018
Loc: Anchorage AK
FRS is my grown up version of the old walkie talkies we had as kids that operated down in the HF spectrum somewhere (below 30 Mhz). They are smaller, more powerful, and generally hold up better, plus they have lots of channels, but really not a big improvement. We used to pack our old walkies around with us in the big woods once in a while. We were mindful of the bulk of our loads, so when planning a 10-20 mile excursion where we weren't likely to be any further apart than we could yell to each other, the walkies didn't always come with us. Same holds true today for our FRS, although because they've gotten so small they are a lot easier to pack along, but it seems we encounter more and more high traffic areas, where we can't find a clean channel to use most of the time. Privacy codes aren't anything more than a low frequency tone the radio transmits along with your voice, so if someone is already on the channel or is monitoring it for traffic, you will either get interference, or they will hear everything you say.

GMRS works much the same, except for the inclusion of repeaters, which makes a whole world of change. We've set up GMRS repeater system on mobile platforms up in the hills and used GMRS handhelds to talk to each other from 25 miles apart. You can't do that with FRS handhelds. The beauty is no one else gets to use that channel while we are, so no interference, although they can still listen to our traffic (unless we switch on the encryption mode. Then they won't know what we are saying).

FRS are getting so cheap now I wouldn't waste money on lower power stuff. For $100 you can get a pair of rechargables that run at the maximum ERP and last a good 4 hours of regular use per charge. Heck, you can even get FRS radios that transmit GPS data so you can see where your buddies are on an LCD display. How cool is that?!!!
_________________________
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

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#155879 - 11/21/08 02:42 PM Re: Advice on FRS/GMRS radio [Re: benjammin]
Nishnabotna Offline
Icon of Sin
Addict

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 512
Loc: Nebraska
You can encrypt in GMRS??? Why can't amateur radio then? Sheesh!

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#155883 - 11/21/08 03:20 PM Re: Advice on FRS/GMRS radio [Re: Nishnabotna]
GoatMan Offline
Journeyman

Registered: 08/17/07
Posts: 98
You can't encrypt radio communications with commercial radios. It's illegal and commercial equipment isn't capible of it. That is only something the military and select government offices can do. Even the police can't do it. It is prohibited by the FCC. Most people who think they are using a encrypted, secure, private, etc channel are simply using a digital filter or trunked frequency.

FRS, GMRS, MURS, HAM (VHF/UHF) etc are all in the clear. The digital "filters" or "voice privacy scrambler" is only the CTCSS or DCS tone. It helps you filter out others communication. It doesn't keep yours private. If you are set to the same tone you can hear the communication. But so can everyone who is not using any tone (ex. channel 5 privacy channel 0) or anyone with a scanner.

Even police, airports and most government communications that may be on digitally trunked frequencies can be monitored with a digital trunking scanner. Again, the FCC prohibits anything encrypted from going over the airwaves and most radio equipment can't do it anyway.

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#155892 - 11/21/08 04:56 PM Re: Advice on FRS/GMRS radio [Re: benjammin]
Eugene Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/26/02
Posts: 2810

"FRS is my grown up version of the old walkie talkies we had as kids that operated down in the HF spectrum somewhere (below 30 Mhz). They are smaller, more powerful, and generally hold up better, plus they have lots of channels, but really not a big improvement."


The walkie talkies we had as kids were CB's and they actually worked. I remember talking from the valley to someone up on the side of the mountain with those cheap 9v battery powered walkies and am extermely disapointed that FRS can't do that with more modern technology. Yes GMRS can and most people just buy the combos and talk on the GMRS channels without the license.

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#155893 - 11/21/08 04:58 PM Re: Advice on FRS/GMRS radio [Re: GoatMan]
Eugene Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 12/26/02
Posts: 2810
Originally Posted By: GoatMan
You can't encrypt radio communications with commercial radios. It's illegal and commercial equipment isn't capible of it. That is only something the military and select government offices can do. Even the police can't do it. It is prohibited by the FCC. Most people who think they are using a encrypted, secure, private, etc channel are simply using a digital filter or trunked frequency.

FRS, GMRS, MURS, HAM (VHF/UHF) etc are all in the clear. The digital "filters" or "voice privacy scrambler" is only the CTCSS or DCS tone. It helps you filter out others communication. It doesn't keep yours private. If you are set to the same tone you can hear the communication. But so can everyone who is not using any tone (ex. channel 5 privacy channel 0) or anyone with a scanner.

Even police, airports and most government communications that may be on digitally trunked frequencies can be monitored with a digital trunking scanner. Again, the FCC prohibits anything encrypted from going over the airwaves and most radio equipment can't do it anyway.


Actaully police can. There are many people on the scanner forums that complain after uying the r$500 digital scanner that ther area started encrypting so they can't listen again.

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