Ham, CB, GMRS: Handheld vs. Mobile transceivers. Get one, get the other, or get them all?

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Charlie W2YBX

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Hello!

I bought a new vehicle recently for my overlanding shenanigans and am in the process of deciding what I should have as far as group comms go. My travels will take me from the center of the busiest cities, to the middle of nowhere (hopefully =) ). As of now, I have/am getting the following:

Handheld radios:
UHF/VHF Ham (have)
GMRS/FRS (getting)

Mobile radios:
CB (have)
VHF only or UHF/VHF Ham (getting)

Any advice on if I should pick up a hand held CB and a mobile GMRS to round everything out/cover all the bases? Is this overkill? I don't mind picking up a few more radios considering that I already have the licenses and the radios I need aren't that expensive.

As I've only been on a few trips, mostly using my Ham ht, I'd love to get some feedback from those with more experience!

Thanks =)

On a side note, I'm also researching ham radios with APRS. I'd love to hear from anyone that uses it during their travels.
 

brien

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As long as you have one radio (HT or mobile) of each of those "big three" you'll be good to go. I would only recommend getting a mobile GMRS if you prefer the usability over that of using just an HT. I have mobile 2m/70cm, mobile CB, and some Cobra GMRS HTs. I'm actually likely picking up a mobile GMRS just because I really can't stand using the HT in the vehicle. Using the mic on my mobiles is just so much easier and natural for me to use. So, long story short, it's mostly personal preference.

As for APRS: I've used it in the past and it's great. I'm planning on upgrading to a new UHF/VHF mobile with built in APRS as some point so I can use it again, I just have to stop spending money on HF radios and gear first, hah!
 
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Prerunner1982

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If you are travelling to many different areas I would get a dual band. A mono band VHF would probably do you fine but in some places UHF may be useful. When I first looked at getting a mobile radio I thought a VHF would be fine, until I found out that the largest linked repeater system in the state (Oklahoma) is on UHF.

As far as APRS, there are really only a couple mobile radios that can do voice and APRS at the same time, the Kenwood TM-D710G and the Yaesu FTM-400. I personally run two separate radios a dual band for voice and a mono band for APRS.
 
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Charlie W2YBX

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W2YBX
If you are travelling to many different areas I would get a dual band. A mono band VHF would probably do you fine but in some places UHF may be useful. When I first looked at getting a mobile radio I thought a VHF would be fine, until I found out that the largest linked repeater system in the state (Oklahoma) is on UHF.

As far as APRS, there are really only a couple mobile radios that can do voice and APRS at the same time, the Kenwood TM-D710G and the Yaesu FTM-400. I personally run two separate radios a dual band for voice and a mono band for APRS.
Thanks @Prerunner1982


Yeah, I think I'm leaning towards a dual band, they're not much more money and some can do cross band repeat (not sure if I would need that tho).

As far as APRS goes, I was thinking of having it for emergency use, i.e. if I had to find someone that's stuck/lost without cell service.
 

Charlie W2YBX

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W2YBX
As long as you have one radio (HT or mobile) of each of those "big three" you'll be good to go. I would only recommend getting a mobile GMRS if you prefer the usability over that of using just an HT. I have mobile 2m/70cm, mobile CB, and some Cobra GMRS HTs. I'm actually likely picking up a mobile GMRS just because I really can't stand using the HT in the vehicle. Using the mic on my mobiles is just so much easier and natural for me to use. So, long story short, it's mostly personal preference.

As for APRS: I've used it in the past and it's great. I'm planning on upgrading to a new UHF/VHF mobile with built in APRS as some point so I can use it again, I just have to stop spending money on HF radios and gear first, hah!

Thanks @brien

I've been using my Ham HT in the vehicle and desperately need to get a mobile! As far as a GMRS mobile, I agree, it's all about ease of use. I just applied for the GMRS license over the weekend. The truth is, I really didn't want to bother with GMRS. I like the idea of what Ham is, it's all about learning about communications and radios/frequencies and all that. I get it tho, some people just want to plug and play, they don't want to take a course or study a manual, they just want to talk to their kids at the camp site! So, if some folks are only using GMRS, I'd rather have the ability to communicate with them.
 

brien

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some can do cross band repeat (not sure if I would need that tho).
One use case I had that I think mobile cross band repeat would be good for is that you can leave your vehicle radio on, take and HT, then go on a hike. Use your dinky 5-10W HT to connect to the vehicle, then the vehicle repeats at 100W for super extendo range in the case of an emergency when hiking.
 

britz

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I have Ham and CB, mobile and handheld, the latter is nice for changing rigs or loaners so at least folks can listen. I debated the mobile GMRS, but settled on handheld, again for multiple rigs. But at least I can receive from members of my group rides who don't have other capabilities, and more importantly loggers up in Canada (h/t @Captain Chaos ) til I decide whether or not I want to cough up the license for something I personally would rarely use. YMMV
 
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Charlie W2YBX

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One use case I had that I think mobile cross band repeat would be good for is that you can leave your vehicle radio on, take and HT, then go on a hike. Use your dinky 5-10W HT to connect to the vehicle, then the vehicle repeats at 100W for super extendo range in the case of an emergency when hiking.
Great Idea! I've hear of folks using x-band when volunteering during marathons and such if their HT's cant hit the closest repeater.
 

Charlie W2YBX

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Off-Road Ranger I

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W2YBX
I have Ham and CB, mobile and handheld, the latter is nice for changing rigs or loaners so at least folks can listen. I debated the mobile GMRS, but settled on handheld, again for multiple rigs. But at least I can receive from members of my group rides who don't have other capabilities, and more importantly loggers up in Canada (h/t @Captain Chaos ) til I decide whether or not I want to cough up the license for something I personally would rarely use. YMMV
Thanks @britz

I'm glad to see folks here with multiple radios of ht and mobile types.

The license fee or GMRS is a bit high if you ask me. Ham is $15, GMRS is $70. At least GMRS lasts 10 years now (instead of 5). CB is still free.
 
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markwths

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In Australia for general public communications a favorite for Truckies and 4WDer's is UHF CB (477.000mhz) Radio.

To keep an ear out for whats going on out there with other drivers in the area a CB is a must have. Even though we have 80 channels to work with it still gets busy and finding a free channel can be a challenge especially on the long weekends in the mountains. We also have 40 channel (27mhz) CB as well but not used much anymore for mobile use.

When I travel with the group down here we use 2 mtrs 146.600 mhz, it has 5 times the range on simplex as a UHF CB and works well in heavy bush land. I have an ID5100 duel band radio for this. The UHF CB radio is running on scan to monitor what is going on in the area and to communicate to other drives outside our group if necessary.

I also have HF radio IC7100 and it sits on 14,116.00 mhz which is the Australian travellers net frequency to find out who is out and about tripping around 4WDing in the outback and call in on occasions and have a chat with them.

Having different radio's to access different services leaves you more options to call for assistance in case an emergency. If radio communications fail I always carry my Spot Gen 3 messenger to call in the Black Hawks.

Hope this helps

Mark
VK3ASC
 
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When my buddies ans I were looking at radio coms, we ended up settling on CB for two major reasons: cost and simplicity.

Canada has some pretty restrictive rules around ham radio and the test to get the license is stupidly complex and difficult. My buddies and I looked at getting our ham licenses but dumped the idea when we discovered you basically need a degree in radio science and be able to build a radio from scratch. It seemed like a lot more hassle than it was worth just to talk to each other while driving a few hundred meters apart.

Also, you can get uhf without a license but there's a yearly user fee (lame!) And the units are SUPER expensive compared to CB.

By contrast, I got a cb radio, antenna and tuner for like $50 bucks all-in and got a working setup with no license cost. One of our group already had one, and the other guy got his radio and antenna for like $40.

I wish UHF was more available here like it seems to be in Australia, but sadly no. If you have the money and time to spend, sure, go get licensed and buy a UHF/ham, but for me, 3-5kms range in the bush out of a $25 radio is good enough.
 
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Overland Commander

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For me, its Ham installed, backed up wiht CB and GMRS handhelds for interoperability purposes.

Some thoughts on radios for overlanding....

CB: low power, sometimes crowded, although the throngs seem to be fading....

GMRS: Much higher power, relatively new, not in widespread use yet...

2M: distance limited, but useful, higher power...

UHF 70cm: Also distance limited, but higher power

All the ham bands can be used through repeaters to get out, depending on where you go.

Handhelds and CB can be very useful within the group/convoy/camo/expedition. Probably a good idea if at least one truck in the group has a ham setup to reach out over long distances, in case assistance needs to be called in.

Based on the previous thought, handhelds are very useful for the local area comms within the group. For that use, does brand or band really matter?

You can get a good CB at Walmart for about $35, so that pretty much takes care of itself for its usefulness. Who needs more? Again, handhelds can also be useful for intra-convoy use.

An ideal setup for those into the coms might be a mobile dual band ham setup (about $150, give or take, as a minimum), a handheld CB and some handheld dual bands to hand out in the group to people without radios. I guess a GMRS would also be useful in that context, whther mobile or handheld.

For everything except the CB listed here, licensing is a factor. There are threads on here on how to get licensed. In my thread "Getting Licensed" I gave out a link for ham band study guide (it gives all the basics including theory - enough to make the license understandable) and flash cards/practice test. It will get someone going nicely.
 
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Plasmajab

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When my buddies ans I were looking at radio coms, we ended up settling on CB for two major reasons: cost and simplicity.

Canada has some pretty restrictive rules around ham radio and the test to get the license is stupidly complex and difficult. My buddies and I looked at getting our ham licenses but dumped the idea when we discovered you basically need a degree in radio science and be able to build a radio from scratch. It seemed like a lot more hassle than it was worth just to talk to each other while driving a few hundred meters apart.

Also, you can get uhf without a license but there's a yearly user fee (lame!) And the units are SUPER expensive compared to CB.

By contrast, I got a cb radio, antenna and tuner for like $50 bucks all-in and got a working setup with no license cost. One of our group already had one, and the other guy got his radio and antenna for like $40.

I wish UHF was more available here like it seems to be in Australia, but sadly no. If you have the money and time to spend, sure, go get licensed and buy a UHF/ham, but for me, 3-5kms range in the bush out of a $25 radio is good enough.
I do agree with the Canadian test being difficult as hell to complete. I'm an Examiner for Industry Canada, we have heard you all and new testing is on the way to make it easier. If you happen to be in my area, shoot me a PM and I'll help you get your exam sorted out, free. Examiners are permitted to rephrase the questions to make it easier then the 18 character herp derp nonsense electronic engineers put into it.

No charge.

Same for anyone else around. Give me a PM, and we will sort it out.
 

Plasmajab

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Oh.. And all you guys will need for overland stuff is included in the Basic with honors liscense.

The questions for the test are randomly selected from a list of tons.

It would be a shame if someone left the questions and answers lying around.

*coughcoughcough | http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/025.nsf/eng/h_00043.html | cough*
 

whitneysc

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I have a dual band vehicle HAM and 4 x waterproof HTs (Baofeng UV-9R+) which is what I prefer. I also have a remote handset CB (Uniden CMX7650) and CB Handheld (Uniden PRO401HH). Also, we were given a tub with four old Mototrolla GPRS Handi talkies. My key thought point is that whatever we decide to use that we have enough for everyone. If we're in a larger group, we can fit into whatever they require.
 

KyleGrant

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I'm a bit of an equipment nerd, so I have multiple. With the caveat this is used for fire service and storm chasing so a lot of this is multi-use.

110 Watt UHF
110 Watt VHF
800MHz P25
Dual band VHF/UHF HAM
CB
Scanner

You can do a lot with a nice little dual band HAM and a quality external antenna. If you can swing a mobile dual band, that's ideal I'd say. Just depends what your intentions are when you arrive at a destination, I personally carry my portable on a hike. With a vehicle adapter, antenna and remote mic you can turn a portable into a low power 5 watt mobile that'll kick the pants off a CB any day. Screenshot_20181125-123030_Instagram.jpeg
 
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