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Trail Comms and CB Alternatives.

#1
As you know, I am an advocate for ditching the CBs and adopting Amateur (ham) radio for use as trail comms on account of CB frequently having reliability issues.
I also concede that amateur radio is a sizable investment in time and, in some cases, money. Also, it seems as though the FCC is starting to crack down on everyone's favorite ubiquitous (and somewhat legally questionable) cheap, entry level hand-held ham radio, the Baofeng UV-5R.
https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/DA-18-980A1.pdf

That being said, I need to clarify some things I said in an earlier post regarding GMRS radios.
Recently, the FCC changed 47 CFR Part 95 "Personal Radio Services." Included in those changes were changing of licensing for GMRS and power requirements of FRS (Family Radio Service, a license free service.) Prior to the change, the "bubble-pack" radios were GMRS/FRS combo radios where FRS was only channels 1-14 and limited to only 0.5 watts and GMRS was allowed to be on channels 1-7 up to 5 watts and channels 15-22 up to 50 watts. Radios used for FRS were (and still are) required to have fixed, non-removable antennas. (Please note that those inexpensive radios with the fixed antennas were usually limited to 2 watts by the manufacturers to extend battery life.)

Effective September 28, 2017 FRS is authorized to be on the full spectrum of interstitial frequencies allocated to FRS and GMRS and the power limit was increased to 2 watts on channels 1-7 and 15-22. Power on channels 8-14 are still limited to 0.5 watts. What exactly does this mean and what does it add to my previous post below? In the previous post was describing GMRS mobile mounted radios that can either be permanently or semi-permanently installed in your vehicle or home as a base station. Currently, Midland USA is the only company that offers FCC Part 95 certified mobile GMRS units and they are clearly marketed towards the off-road community. https://midlandusa.com/micromobile/
These are the ones that require the $70 license that your entire extended family can use for ten years. Due to the power output and the detachable antenna, they operate only on channels 1-7 and 15-22 and are available in up to 40 watts of power on channels 15-22. They also are capable of accessing repeaters if there is one available near you. (I see about 4 registered in the Columbia area.) The market also offers a vary wide selection of aftermarket high-gain antennas to extend performance.

Now the FRS hand held radios are license free, meaning you are not required to pay any money to operate them, but they are limited to 0.5-2 watts of power and are limited to their small, fixed antenna. These are FRS radios. https://midlandusa.com/product-category/lxtgxt/
However, they can operate on all of the channels/frequencies that the GMRS radios can, but their range is going to be limited in comparison to the high-powered GMRS models. They also operate on "narrow-band" channels so they may sound quieter when listening on GMRS radios, but this can be dependent upon the quality of the radios. I have been able to go as far as mile or so with them while in a steel-roofed vehicle (The fabric soft-tops and fiberglass hard-tops of Jeeps will be invisible to radio frequencies, so you may get better range if you drive those) which is good enough for trail work. Also, they are pretty inexpensive. Another advantage to this setup is the option of having a spotter using a hand-held to talk to the driver instead of having to shout over some of yall's straight-pipes:smokin:

Bottom line:
CBs seems to have spotty reliability, large antennas that grab tree limbs, have ground-plane issues due to the low frequencies they operate on, inferior sound quality due to using AM mode on their transceiver, SWR issues, some of us can barely get to a mile with them, they are very common and prolific, can talk to truckers, have a simple "just pick an empty channel and use it" interface.

Ham 2m/70cm requires licensing and technical knowledge that not everyone has the desire to invest the time to learn or attain. Ham radios require programming and do not offer the simplicity of CB's "just pick an empty channel and use it "interface, some equipment can get expensive, the more high-dollar Ham radios do retain resale value and can often be sold at Ham Fests, swap-meets and on-line.

GMRS offers the same benefits of Ham 70cm (very similar frequency) with access to repeaters to extend range, greater power, the sound quality of FM over AM, the "just pick an empty channel and use it" simplicity of CB, requires a license that is more expensive than Ham but is good for your entire extended family and does not require any examination.

FRS operates on the same frequencies as GMRS with less power, requires no licensing, inexpensive, shorter ranged than GMRS, cannot get on GMRS repeaters, uses rechargeable batteries and can use normal alkaline batteries, some models charge from USB, use in traditional metal-topped vehicle restricts range, Jeeps will not have the metal roof problem.

My recommendation:
I recommend to The Board of Mid Carolina Jeepers Club and its members is to transition away from CBs and into GMRS/FRS. The reliability is far greater, trying to deal with SWR issues will be a thing of the past, and there is greater flexibility in regards to the market availability of hand held units and mobile mount units. Also, no more antenna "fwapping" your window or fender.

Those that are on a budget or do not wish to invest in a license or spend a lot of money on permanently mounted radio can find several name brand (Midland, Uniden, Cobra, Motorola) FRS units available on Amazon for as little as $30-$40 per pair https://www.amazon.com/s/gp/search/...+radio&ie=UTF8&qid=1537895443&rnid=2528832011

Those that wish to invest in the GMRS license and mount a radio in their rig will have a more limited selection to choose from. https://midlandusa.com/micromobile/ However they will be afforded greater range, repeater access for extended range, more antenna options to suit their budget and needs, better sound output from the on-board speaker and the option of an external speaker.

Versatility. The FRS hand-helds are great at the camp-site and kids love them. They are also useful for outdoor activities with children as you can turn them a bit loose and still be able to communicate with them while they are away from shouting range. The more inexpensive GMRS kits that come with the cig-plug power cords and mag-mount antennas can be transferred between vehicles and your entire family can operate under your license. Literally, the regulation states "...spouse, children, grandchildren, stepchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and in-laws." Great for road trips. Great for trail-spotting as mentioned above, great for backing up trailers and RV into camp sites and RVs, etc.

I have been cruising the forums over at Overlandbound.com and Expeditionportal.com and they seem to be buzzing a bit more about the GMRS radios and a lot of posters appear to be replacing CBs with them for point-to-point communication. None of them regret their decision.

Three years ago Midland only had one model, now they have five so apparently it is profitable. It is only a matter of time until Cobra and Uniden want in on the action and throw their products into the mix. I do know that CB in Australia is eerily similar to our FRS in frequency and bandwidth, only they get 80 channels instead of just 22. Uniden is pretty big down there and they have a dozen or so models to choose from so I would suspect they might adapt a few models to get Part 95 certified. Just a speculation on my part. At any rate, I firmly believe the market is going to open up a bit in the next few years.



Original Post from a few weeks ago:

Another alternative to Amateur (Ham) radio and CB is General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). GMRS is in the UHF range (462MHz) and is not as flexible as Ham radio is, however it is simpler and is pretty much a "plug-and-play" system.

The market is flooded with small hand-held units you have no doubt seen in sporting goods stores, but Midland also manufactures a line of small mobile units marketed towards the Off-Road crowd.

https://midlandusa.com/micromobile/

Here is a model that is similar in concept to the popular Cobra 75.
https://midlandusa.com/product/mxt27...two-way-radio/

Advantages are:

1. Most of the kits (with the exception of their top of the line model) includes a 1/4 wave magnetic antenna.

2. Only requires 6 inches of ground plane instead of 8.5 feet for CB.

3. A full 1/4 wave antenna is only 6 inches tall, much more manageable to deal with.

4. Uses FM instead of AM, less susceptible to interference, noise and better audio quality. (Think AM radio when driving past power lines vs FM radio.)

5. UHF has a lower noise floor than the frequencies that CB runs at. This means weaker signals can get through better.

6. Higher power. The FCC allows greater power than they do for CB. The Midland line has units that run 5 watts, 15 watts and 40 watts whereas CB is limited to 4.

7. Unlike Ham radio, no exam is required. However, a 10-year license will cost $70.00 compared to Ham's 10-year license cost of $10-$15 and CB cost of $0.
Please note that the Ham license is for an individual whereas the GMRS license is good for the entire family, including his or her spouse, children, grandchildren, stepchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and in-laws.
 

LBarr2002

LIFETIME
SUPPORTER
#2
I dont think anyone's going to argue that FRS or GMRS isn't superior in sound quality and range within a group, but a few thoughts.

We have new people coming and going all the time. It might be a turn off if we say you need so and so radio, we dont use CBs. We can do a combination, or both. When Tripp used to go on trips :flipoff2:, he would bring a couple of hand helds because he doesnt have a CB in his truck. If a couple of people have both, important information can be relayed.

Which brings me to... keeping up with 2 radios sucks. I think it was OSCAR this year, there was a truck in our lane, in oncoming traffic, and I was yelling to get out of the way...into the wrong radio.

So, two radios would be great. Me personally, I dont have room for two mounted radios in the jeep, and I cant stand keeping up with a handheld while wheeling. Also, I use the CB on the highway from time to time if your in traffic or whatever, talk to truckers, etc... so do I want to get rid of my CB for a mounted GMRS?

One last point. Many of us have multiple rigs, a tow rig, etc. So it's not as simple as buying one $100 radio, it's a bigger investment. Again, a handheld would work, but it doesn't work for me.
 
#3
I see your point and I am in a similar situation. What I plan on doing is putting another NMO mount on my roof behind the one I use for my ham radio and then I can easily swap out a CB antenna for a GMRS antenna in a matter of seconds if needed. If you are short on room, just run one power line with Anderson plugs and one antenna cable with an NMO mount and you can "hot-swap" in less than a minute.

Midland does make a control-mic model with a remote box that can tuck away easily, similar in concept to the ubiquitous Cobra 75 if space in a premium.

I would still like for a small group of us to get together just to test stuff out. If Tripp has a 70cm radio mounted he and I can simulate the GMRS radios as their frequencies and bandwidth are similar. Almost all of us have CBs and I have a few FRS radios.
 

VOLT

SUPPORTER
#4
We’ve been running 25w dual band Rugged Radios since the beginning of the year. Everyone’s aside from mine has been working great. I can hear Bud and Wilson talk from 5 miles away in Greenwood very clear. I have only been able to receive and not transmit this whole time. I just finally got around to really trying to resolve issue after going through 2 warranted units. They believe that the KC Cyclones that I installed for interior lights and under fender lights are causing interference. I hope that’s it. It’s funny because it started with my Midland CB that worked perfect for over a decade, so then I got a Cobra, same thing, then got the UHF/VHF......same thing. The LEDs never would have crossed my mind as being the culprit but the timeframe from when I installed them makes sense. When I get home this weekend the lights are coming out.
 
#7
Ok I admit I didn't read that Long post but a guy on a all Toyota page was giving me hell about CB radios. He said that they were for Jeep clubs like it was inferior to the Toyota guys. Said I needed a ham radio. I'm so low tech I didn't know what he was talking about. I think I'll stay with the old school CB. Rubber Ducky out! And yes I been drinking a little.
 
#8
Ok I admit I didn't read that Long post but a guy on a all Toyota page was giving me hell about CB radios. He said that they were for Jeep clubs like it was inferior to the Toyota guys.
Sounds like that guy was being a bit elitist and he probably isn't going to win anyone over with that attitude. This is why I objectively included various options, to include CBs, and their various pros and cons. I included the positive aspects of CBs (i.e. their simple interface and prolific standard as a license-free personal communications device) and negative aspects about Amateur (i.e. they require programming and an exam, cost) and GMRS (i.e. their higher cost of exam-free licensing). I do this because even though I have a clear preference for Amateur with GMRS following in second place and I am "pleading my case", I do not want the discussion to be one-sided.

That being said, the fact that CBs are very commonplace and simple to operate are two very significant facts that just cannot be ignored which was also reinforced quite well by Mr. Barr's post above.
 
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