OB Approved Baofeng radio configuration and methods

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aearles

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Influencer II

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Hi guys, I know a lot of you may have (or be interested in picking up) a Baofeng handheld radio such as the UV-5R for cheap effective/quality FM voice communications, but may not totally understand what they're capable of, the radio services they can support, or how to properly configure them. So I thought I'd put together a quick guide on the various services, limitations, and share my configuration for others to use.

First, I should state that technically these radios are only FCC legal to transmit on the amateur radio 2M and 70CM bands, they are not type-accepted for any other service in the US. However, they are capable of receiving and transmitting on the following common/consumer radio services:

  • 2 Meter Amateur Band | VHF 144-148 MHz
    • Amateur technician license required (easy test, ~$15/10yr, covers single user)
    • 0.5-5w typical with a handheld / Up to 50w typical on mobile style units / Up to 200w possible on base station units / Higher outputs possible with amplification / All operations must adhere to RF exposure safety guidelines and FCC regs.
  • MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service) | VHF 151.82-154.60 MHz
    • Open consumer unlicensed use
    • 2W TX limit
  • 70CM Amateur Band | UHF 420-450 MHz
    • Amateur technician license required (easy test, ~$15/10yr, covers single user)
    • 0.5-5w typical with a handheld / Up to 50w typical on mobile style units / Higher ouput possible on base station units / Higher outputs possible with amplification / All operations must adhere to RF exposure safety guidelines and FCC regs.
  • FRS (Family Radio Service) | UHF 462.5625-462.7125 MHz, 467.5625-467.7125 MHz
    • Open consumer unlicensed use
    • 0.5W TX max
    • Integrated antenna only
  • GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) | UHF 462.5500-462.7250 MHz
    • GMRS license required (no test, $65/5yr, covers immediate family)
    • 5-50W TX max (varies by equipment and channel, see frs/gmrs combined chart below)
I configure all of my amateur VHF/UHF radios with the same basic configuration.​

My configuration contains 37 2M ham simplex frequencies that have been “channelized” based on the ARRL Band Plan and popular regional channel spacing plans of 15kHz, 20kHz, and 30kHz. The 2M frequencies that happen to fit into all three of the common spacing plans are in memory locations 3-8 and have shortened names for simplicity, using one of these “channels” should safely match any regional spacing plan in the US, and makes for a quick way to choose a "private" channel instead of tying up the calling frequency (146.520) or the unofficial "overland calling frequency" (146.460).

X640 (146.400)
X646 (146.460)
X658 (146.580)
X742 (147.420)
X748 (147.480)
X754 (147.540)

Memory locations 9-36 contain the rest of the possible frequency “channels” when you take the available 2M simplex frequency range and divide it up by 15, 20, and 30kHz chunks, the spacing is indicated at the end of the memory name with a /1 (15kHz), a /2 (20 kHz), or a /3 (30kHz) since the Baofeng limits the name to 7 characters. I do this mostly for scanning purposes, I can quickly monitor the whole simplex range without scanning every possible frequency.
Band Plan

Ham radio has a huge benefit over the other services here, and that is the prevalence of 2M/70CM repeater coverage across the US. Repeaters are radios typically installed on antenna towers, tall buildings, or mountain tops that an input frequency and repeat that transmission over a far greater area than possible direct. Many national parks and other areas that do not have cell service do have ham repeater coverage which can be very useful for group comms, hiking with handheld radios, checking weather or other local info, or calling for emergency help. I highly recommend you consider getting your license, and I'm happy to help anyone that's interested!
You can lookup repeaters for a destination using RepeaterBook, they also have an app that uses GPS to give you the nearest repeaters: Repeaterbook.com - Home

You can create an FCC ULS account and apply for a GMRS license in about 10 minutes here: Universal Licensing System

I configure all of my radios using CHIRP, which you can download for Windows, Mac, or Linux here:
Index of /chirp_daily/LATEST

Oh, and you can buy the Baofeng programming cable here:
Amazon.com: Baofeng Programming Cable for BAOFENG UV-5R/5RA/5R Plus/5RE, UV3R Plus, BF-888S, 5R EX, 5RX3, GA-2S: Cell Phones & Accessories



Hopefully this helps some folks get started or improve their backcountry/group comms. We can certainly continue to build on this or make any corrections if you have any input, please feel free to share!

I have lots of radio recommendations and love talking about this stuff, so if you have any questions, I'm happy to help. Let me know if you have any questions!
 
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Barton Fink

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Influencer I

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Here
This is perfect timing. I've got a Baofeng UV-5R V2+ coming tomorrow. I've been working on studying for my Technician's exam, and wanted to listen in the meantime.

I use a Mac, but I think I have found a good resource for getting CHIRP set up on it.

Thanks!
 
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aearles

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Influencer II

2,586
USA
Cool @twin magnolias, hope it helps you get started. I had a JK previously and used StrikeForceZebra's CB mount to mount the head of my old icom IC-208h up near the footman loop... in case you're interested. I mounted the antenna to the drivers side fender under the hood but that later got ripped off by tree branches so I wouldn't recommend...

https://www.strikeforcezebra.com/cbgpsradar_detector_mount

I have a Kenwood d710g in the truck now, but I'd recommend looking at the Baofeng mobile units for cheap too, if all you're after is trail comms and repeater access I think the UV2501+220 is hard to beat. I like the +220 model because it has an external speaker jack that the standard 2501 does not have. Just something to think about: http://amzn.to/2fQKtPo http://www.miklor.com/COM/Review_UV2501-5001.php
 

Disco_Berty

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Excellent write up. I have bought four of these as they are incredibly cheap, but very useful. I am taking my Ham radio licence, but have been using them on the PMR channels. They came in very useful on my trip through the pyrenees and several trail trips in the UK. I also bought a CB as these are also still popular here and I need to be able to swap them out depending on what the group has that I am travelling with.

Not only are the baofeng very cheap, but there are also a lot of accessories for it that are equally as cheap. 12v battery packs that connect to your in car charger for £6. Aerials for the roof that connect to the UV5R for £8. The other thing about these being cheap, is that you can buy them in multiples. That way, when someone in your group has to get out to spot, or is walking ahead to check out the trail or even setting up all the camera and video equipment, then they can also take a radio with them to speak to the rest of the group. More than anything, if one of them gets damaged or broken, you have only lost £20 at most. Which in the grand scheme of things (particularly for overlanding kit) is pretty cheap.

thanks for posting.
 

aearles

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Influencer II

2,586
USA
You looking at the Nagoya whips for the Baofeng handhelds @dghcruising, or mobile?

Handheld, I highly recommend the Nagoya NA-701 over the longer variants. It's way more manageable to carry on hip, in vehicle, and to store/charge and the difference in performance with the NA-771 is negligible. (I have both)

Mobile antennas is a whole different conversation. ;-)
 
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WJ - Firefly

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Pretty much the way mine is set up. I have both a UV-5R and a Btech dual band. Use CHIRP with both. I recently added the five MURS channels for some additional options...

8>D
 
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Michael

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This is a very useful post, thanks for your effort and time.
@Michael or other mods, can we also put this in the boot camp section? Or another way to have this as quick reference?
Yes! Perfect suggestion! I am going to approve and move this to the boot camp section! Thank you for the reference! I will keep a permanent link in this forum as well.
 

Mad Garden Gnome

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Remember, per the FCC, in the event of an emergency you may transmit on any frequency necessary to reach help.
I just went and reviewed the FCC regs on this one. All I can find is where a licensed amateur radio operator may operate on amateur radio frequencies outside of their privileges in an emergency. Would you mind posting your reference? Sincerely.
 

aearles

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I just went and reviewed the FCC regs on this one. All I can find is where a licensed amateur radio operator may operate on amateur radio frequencies outside of their privileges in an emergency. Would you mind posting your reference? Sincerely.
Hmm, you're right it does appear to be specific to licensed amateur operators, as far as I can tell. I've always read "by any means necessary" and would fully plan to do so myself if required, but I should change my wording. Thanks for pointing that out @Mad Garden Gnome.
 

Mad Garden Gnome

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Off-Road Ranger I

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As asinine as this sounds, during the San Diego fires about twelve years ago, an individual transmitted on law enforcement frequencies because they felt they were in danger. They weren't fined by the FCC. They were jailed.

§97.5 Station license required.
(a) The station apparatus must be under the physical control of a person named in an amateur station license grant on the ULS consolidated license database or a person authorized for alien reciprocal operation by §97.107 of this part, before the station may transmit on any amateur service frequency from any place that is.............(physical location info).

Parts 97.1xx and 97.4xx go further into how a licensed individual may communicate with other modes/systems during declared emergencies.
 

dghcruising

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You looking at the Nagoya whips for the Baofeng handhelds @dghcruising, or mobile?

Handheld, I highly recommend the Nagoya NA-701 over the longer variants. It's way more manageable to carry on hip, in vehicle, and to store/charge and the difference in performance with the NA-771 is negligible. (I have both)

Mobile antennas is a whole different conversation. ;-)
Thanks
 
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