by Don Privett
This article was written a few year ago so it may need some updating to make it more current. The complete forum post can be viewed here.
First and foremost, If You Like Your Radio You Can Keep Your Radio. Nothing is changing!
If you are interested in a more powerful radio with a much improved battery and clear communication then continue reading.
Okay, so the normal bubble-pack radios work pretty well but what about going to the next level? How about reaching from the run leader to the sweep with 30 cars in between and never losing contact. That would be great!
We need a radio that has more power out with a better antenna and receiver? I started researching this, so I have some info to share. This is not so that everyone goes out and gets a new GMRS radio. Those that do want to upgrade to the GMRS radios or the higher power output can with some knowledge of the law and what the benefits are going to be.
This is about the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) level instead of the Family Radio Service (FRS).
I know it is against the law to transmit in the FRS frequency in high power which in reality is operating in the GMRS band since channel 5 is shared by FRS and GMRS.
So, if you are worried about the radio police, get a license, there is no test of any kind. It is kind of expensive at $85 but it is good for 5 years (comes out to $17 per year). The price is dropping soon to $65. A couple of us did, I was approved and had my call sign the next day. There is an online licensing service at http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/index.htm?job=home. In the list you are looking for ZA-GMRS for your license. Once you have a license, all members of your family are also covered. Bluebonnet members, if you get your license let me know and I can create a couple of laminated cards with your information.
Normally, the GMRS radios are quite a bit more expensive at over $100 per radio but one company has been making a very affordable GMRS radio that works well. The Baofeng (pronounced bow fung) UV-5 or UV-82 are two of the radios that I would recommend, there are plenty of variations. I just purchased 2 of the UV-82s while Paul in Austin purchased the UV-5 and a UV-82. We will have to experiment and see just how far of a range we can get with the more powerful radios. Some people are reporting the Midland radios get about 1.6 miles and in the same area, the Baofeng radio getting 3-5 miles. People are reporting hitting repeaters from over 20 miles away. The newest Baofeng UV-82HP (high power) can hit a repeater over 50 miles away.
I live in a bad area for reception, my house is in a valley surrounded by hills, cell phones barely work here so I tried my Midland radios from inside my house to the mailbox and it was starting to break up (300 ft), then I tried the UV-82’s again inside the house and I was able to still talk from the entrance of the subdivision over 1.3 miles away. I think car to car in a straight line they will be a lot more impressive.
These radios are programmable with up to 128 channels of changeable frequencies – the FRS/GMRS radios have 22 set channels. The UV-82 can transmit and receive on 2 different channels without changing anything, it has 2 push-to-talk (PTT) buttons. One channel could be for the group and another could be to talk to the run leader or sweep directly if they have dual transmit and receive capabilty. The radios charge in about 5 hours and can last up to 30 hours in standby mode and the battery is more like a cell phone battery. The UV-5 costs about $30+ while the bigger UV-82 costs about $40. They come as single radios so if you want a set you have to buy 2. They do communicate with the bubble-pack FRS/GMRS radios that we currently use, they just work better.
Amazon has the radios, extra mics, earpieces, antennas, etc. at great prices and Amazon is starting to stock the radios and accessories so they come fast, 2 days if you use Prime. I got one of the security earpieces for $3 (Midland’s price is $39.99), 2 extra Nagoya antennas for $5 and $11 as well as a microphone/speaker like the police have on their shirt for $8 and a spare battery for $14. One thing that I have found since I received the radios is that they are very loud and I can adjust the volume to suit what I want to hear. The squelch works very well with 9 levels of adjustment. The UV-82 is the same size as the normal Midland GXT-1000 FRS/GMRS radio but feels more sturdy and well made, much like what firefighters or police would carry. It is more of a professional or commercial quality radio.
You can program the radio from the keypad or by computer and upload your channel sets to the radio. They also receive the FM band 65-108 Mhz and can transmit & receive VHF 136-174 Mhz (marine radio) and UHF 400-520 Mhz (amateur radio). To talk to the FRS/GMRS radios – FRS is 462 Mhz and GMRS is 462 & 467 Mhz. Channel 5 which we use exclusively is 462.6625 Mhz. This opens up a whole new world for the handheld radio to do more than just be able to communicate with the car club and if you are a prepper then you will have a better radio for communication in an emergency.
My goal is to keep the radio simple to use, but work like we need them to.