HAM vs. GMRS - The Great Debate | OVERLAND BOUND COMMUNITY

HAM vs. GMRS - The Great Debate

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Which Platform is the best for you?

  • HAM Radio

    Votes: 5 29.4%
  • GMRS

    Votes: 12 70.6%

  • Total voters
    17

M Rose

US Northwest Region Director
Benefactor
Member

Explorer I

5,171
La Grande, Oregon, USA
First Name
Michael
Last Name
Rose
Member #

20990

Ham Callsign
KJ7MFV
Service Branch
US ARMY Retired
I commute from an hour east of Dallas into Garland every 3rd day. I keep one side of my radio set to 146.52 at all times and sometimes monitor 446 on the other side. I can count on one hand with fingers left over how many calls I've heard on 146.52 in 4 years.
I’m sorry to hear that… on an average day here I get about 5 QSO/ day from people traveling through the area, and that’s not counting the locals I talk with every day. Although I might be the exception because I keep my radios on 24/7.
 

El-Dracho

Mid Europe Member Rep Germany
Member
Supporter

Pioneer I

5,537
Lampertheim, Germany
First Name
Bjoern
Last Name
Eldracher
Member #

20111

Ham Callsign
DO3BE
Both radio applications have their advantages and disadvantages. We could also list others as well. Here, too, advantages and disadvantages will emerge. What is important to me is that in the end I choose the application with which I can achieve what I want, and that is certainly first and foremost getting in touch with those I want to talk to. In this respect, I would probably choose the radio application(s) that have those with whom I am often on the road or will be on the road.

By the way, I voted for HAM because we don't have GMRS in Europe. I use CB, because that have many people here in the rig and I have installed HAM radio for more advanced use (2m / 70cm).
 
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North40overland

Rank VI
Member
Adventure

Off-Road Ranger I

4,055
Sugar Hill, GA, USA
First Name
Mike
Last Name
Nelson
Member #

27195

Ham Callsign
GMRS - WRME413
I went gmrs for several reasons.

1. I have zero interest in amateur radio as a hobby
2. Much easier to obtain a license
3. Covers my entire family and both vehicles
4. Everyone I go with has gmrs capability

Let's go into these a bit more.

If I was interested in doing ham as a hobby, I would have gone that route. Yes, there are advantages to ham over gmrs (more repeaters, farther range, etc), but I use it strictly as trail communications, and gmrs entry is much cheaper/easier than ham entry.

License is $75 and covers your entire family for 10 years, with no exam required. My wife has taken an interest in off-roading now, so we've started taking two vehicles on trips. My one license allows both vehicles to have and use gmrs radios LEGALLY.

I have a baofeng handheld that I can use to monitor ham frequencies, and ham operators can monitor gmrs frequencies. This allows us to talk to each other legally, without getting into trouble.

That's why I went gmrs over ham.
I got a Baofeng UV-5R for exactly the same reason. I mostly use my Midland Handhelds but I like having this one for options.
 
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North40overland

Rank VI
Member
Adventure

Off-Road Ranger I

4,055
Sugar Hill, GA, USA
First Name
Mike
Last Name
Nelson
Member #

27195

Ham Callsign
GMRS - WRME413
You're right. It would take work, but it's a good thing to have. I know that it is not perfect. The wife and I have talked about getting the Garmin InReach Mini or similar Spot device. That will happen too. I also believe in having as many choices as is reasonable.
It is funny you say that because we got an in-reach mini for this exact reason. Insurance for when we take trips and don't bring our teenager with us. Piece of mind to check in and also in the event we get into a pickle.
 
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North40overland

Rank VI
Member
Adventure

Off-Road Ranger I

4,055
Sugar Hill, GA, USA
First Name
Mike
Last Name
Nelson
Member #

27195

Ham Callsign
GMRS - WRME413
We just spent a week in the San Juan mountains of Southwestern Colorado. I had both radios on (Midland GMRS MXT275 & Yaesu FTM 400XDR).I did not hear 1 other person talking on the Ham frequency of 146.460 the entire week. On the GMRS it did not matter what channel I was a on, we had chatter on every channel. I was even talking to someone 5 miles away on simplex. I could have saved the money from buying the Yaesu and put it in to my Jeep :) Maybe there are not a lot of people using the Overland frequency this year like years past.
This has been my experience as well. GMRS just seems to be taking off and people are really using it. Especially in the overlanding community.
 
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North40overland

Rank VI
Member
Adventure

Off-Road Ranger I

4,055
Sugar Hill, GA, USA
First Name
Mike
Last Name
Nelson
Member #

27195

Ham Callsign
GMRS - WRME413
Both radio applications have their advantages and disadvantages. We could also list others as well. Here, too, advantages and disadvantages will emerge. What is important to me is that in the end I choose the application with which I can achieve what I want, and that is certainly first and foremost getting in touch with those I want to talk to. In this respect, I would probably choose the radio application(s) that have those with whom I am often on the road or will be on the road.

By the way, I voted for HAM because we don't have GMRS in Europe. I use CB, because that have many people here in the rig and I have installed HAM radio for more advanced use (2m / 70cm).
I totally agree with your thoughts there. Also, I won't hold that ham vote against you :-)
 

North40overland

Rank VI
Member
Adventure

Off-Road Ranger I

4,055
Sugar Hill, GA, USA
First Name
Mike
Last Name
Nelson
Member #

27195

Ham Callsign
GMRS - WRME413
That's assuming anyone is listening on the particular frequency you are calling on. Even repeaters aren't a guarantee there are many in my area that are as dead as simplex. You can call all day, no one is answering. Not to mention having to know what frequencies and repeaters are active in the area you are in. If you are traveling this becomes even more of a crapshoot as there's no guarantee that repeater info you got off of repeater book is any good anymore.

IMO the only true emergency option is a PLB.



The Fee drop is coming, it's on the books they just have to implement it. I'm actually due for GMRS renewal this year. I got my GMRS license when it was still a 5 year license. I'm holding out as long as I can before renewal so I can get in on that 35 dollar goodness.




I completely blanked out on the family aspect of GMRS licenses. Another point to the GMRS column.
That is true. I do like that you can have one license to cover up to 5 people in your family (if I remember correctly). that is nice when we go camping/hiking with my sister. Both vehicles are covered under my license.
 
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Martin333

Rank I
Member

Contributor I

233
New Jersey, USA
First Name
Martin
Last Name
Kavanagh
Member #

23252

This has been my experience as well. GMRS just seems to be taking off and people are really using it. Especially in the overlanding community.
GRMS seems to be the favorite, other than the Baofeng mentioned earlier in the post can anyone recommend a particular hand held model that is reliable and with a decent range for communication?
 

Downs

Rank V
Member

Member III

2,827
Hunt County Texas
First Name
Joshua
Last Name
Downs
Member #

20468

Ham Callsign
KK6RBI / WQYH678
Service Branch
USMC 03-16, FIRE/EMS
GRMS seems to be the favorite, other than the Baofeng mentioned earlier in the post can anyone recommend a particular hand held model that is reliable and with a decent range for communication?
Wouxun KG805G
Wouxun KG905G
Radioddity GM-30
Retevis RT76P

No handhelds made by Midland will do repeaters.

That is true. I do like that you can have one license to cover up to 5 people in your family (if I remember correctly). that is nice when we go camping/hiking with my sister. Both vehicles are covered under my license.
There is no limit.
 

Punk'n_Willy

Rank V
Member
Adventure

Enthusiast III

1,886
Linglestown, PA, USA
First Name
Steve
Last Name
Riss
Member #

28977

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Navy Veteran
Just saw the soon-to-be-released 50W Midland radios this weekend at the Jeep show in Carlisle PA and they both look like nice units. I will probably do the all-in-one mic unit so I can hide the box. Looks like there is a fan on top of the unit and it was running USB C for its on port upfront. The lady I talked to says she's hearing possibly October is when they are going to release it to the public.
 

Downs

Rank V
Member

Member III

2,827
Hunt County Texas
First Name
Joshua
Last Name
Downs
Member #

20468

Ham Callsign
KK6RBI / WQYH678
Service Branch
USMC 03-16, FIRE/EMS
Do they do split tones? That's been a common complaint of the more serious GMRS users.
 

Martin333

Rank I
Member

Contributor I

233
New Jersey, USA
First Name
Martin
Last Name
Kavanagh
Member #

23252

Wouxun KG805G
Wouxun KG905G
Radioddity GM-30
Retevis RT76P

No handhelds made by Midland will do repeaters.



There is no limit.
Thanks for your suggestions. The wouxuns look great and I would have bought either one but both models are out of stock. I ended up buying the Midland MXT 275 plus a handheld B Tech GMRS -V1. I'm also looking into getting the Kenwood TMD71 10GA ham radio. I watched an installation video from Mike and it looks like a solid piece of equipment. If anyone has better suggestions I would like to hear them. I'm currently in the process of studying for my ham license.
 
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MOAK

Rank V
Member

Member II

2,835
Wernersville, PA, USA
First Name
Donald
Last Name
Diehl
Member #

0745

That's assuming anyone is listening on the particular frequency you are calling on. Even repeaters aren't a guarantee there are many in my area that are as dead as simplex. You can call all day, no one is answering. Not to mention having to know what frequencies and repeaters are active in the area you are in. If you are traveling this becomes even more of a crapshoot as there's no guarantee that repeater info you got off of repeater book is any good anymore.

IMO the only true emergency option is a PLB.



The Fee drop is coming, it's on the books they just have to implement it. I'm actually due for GMRS renewal this year. I got my GMRS license when it was still a 5 year license. I'm holding out as long as I can before renewal so I can get in on that 35 dollar goodness.




I completely blanked out on the family aspect of GMRS licenses. Another point to the GMRS column.
I agree about the PLB. We carry one all the time and everyone knows where it is located. I’m an old CB guy, my Cobra 25 is peaked and tuned and I use a good noise canceling mic. Unfortunately relatives and club members are jumping on board with GMRS. I say unfortunately, because if a CB is set up correctly, as mine is, one can get out 10-12 miles or more, which as I understand, 50 watts of GMRS has roughly the same range. Repeaters for GMRS are pretty much non existent in the back country, and if you’re down in a canyon, or behind a butte, forget about it. A CB will get out well enough to communicate with others in your party in spite of said obstacles. If it’s ever a dire emergency, deploy the PLB and the black helicopters will soon be seen on the horizon.
 

Punk'n_Willy

Rank V
Member
Adventure

Enthusiast III

1,886
Linglestown, PA, USA
First Name
Steve
Last Name
Riss
Member #

28977

Service Branch
Navy Veteran
Anyone that is going to be in the Carlisle PA area this weekend (Aug 6-8) the Midland Jeep is supposed to be at the Carlisle National Truck show. They will have both of the new 50W GMRS radios on display for you to fondle.
 
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Prerunner1982

US Southwest Region Member Rep
Member

Member III

3,372
Navina, Oklahoma
First Name
Jon
Last Name
B
Member #

16274

For simple trail/convoy comms GMRS is what you need.
Sure ham is more capable but for the non-nerdy type and the fact there is a move away from CB to GMRS in the offroad community, GMRS is your best bet.
And that's coming from an Extra class ham radio operator and GMRS licensee. :laughing:
 

Michael Golden

Rank V
Member
Adventure

Influencer III

2,258
Tampa Fl
First Name
Michael
Last Name
Golden
Member #

28987

Ham Callsign
KG4BCN
I have both a Ham License KG4BCN and a GMRS license WRFJ569 and here in Florida I try listen on 146.520 or 462.675 since I have both radios mounted in my truck. My biggest issue is since we have a very large senior population down here I would rather not listen to people complaining about how long their toe nails are 24 hours a day. So I turn down the 2 meter most of the way. If I hear someone break squelch I turn it up to see whats going on and turn it back down real quick.
 
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smritte

Rank V
Member

Member III

2,827
Ontario California
First Name
Scott
Last Name
.
Member #

8846

Ham Callsign
KO6BI
I think I'll jump in with what I do and why.

First I need to say that when it comes to my hobbies I can be really OCD.
I run all three, CB, Ham, GMRS. I got into CB in the early 70's before it became popular and got my ham license later. I have been using both off road and on road my whole life. By the 80's I had learned how to tune antennas and had experimented with CB and ham to find what worked best, where on my vehicles.

After decades of running in groups, in everything from dry lake beds, to narrow canyons, 2m with a center mounted 1/2 wave antenna won out. CB would have been better except for the noise level killed distance. The advantage of the 2M is the wave length. It bounces off things. I can go around a corner in a tight canyon and still talk. The advantage of the 1/2 wave is the signal comes off flat where as a 5/8 wave goes slightly up. Sitting several miles apart on a dry lake, swapping diffrent antennas, this becomes obvious.
Side note: I played with 10m mobile, 11meter (CB), 2m, 70cm. Antennas 1/4 wave, 1/2 wave, 5/8 wave in varying lengths, coil types and position on vehicle.

Two years ago GMRS started becoming popular and I started comparing. GMRS is in the 450 meg range. The wave doesn't bounce as well as 145 meg (2m) I already knew this from the 70cm ham band experiments. I played with a 6db gain half wave and a 6db gain 5/8 with the same antenna results as 2m. I run GMRS in my rig because most of my new group does. When we lose each other due to corners and sometimes tight woods, I am still able to talk to the other end of the group with 2m.
In the last 6 months out here, I have been monitoring GMRS on scan on the weekends. I hate to say this but what I hear is what I heard in the late 70's when CB became a fad. People being rude.

I'm not against GMRS and due to the noise level in CB, GMRS wins out over CB. There is no comparison to 2m though. In my opinion, off road in general 2m with as long of a 1/2 wave antenna you can get wins out. I'm not counting repeaters because, lets face it, their repeaters. The areas I go wont have repeater coverage.

As for 146.520, that's on my second band all the time. I hear people there more than any other but, as someone already pointed out, NO radio is any good if no one is listening.
 
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