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Overland Communication Overview

Overland Communication Overview

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By: Isaac Marchionna

@lawndartdesign

Stay Connected – No Matter Where You Roam!

Once you have an overland rig, on your first trip you’ll discover offroad communications is essential. You’ll quickly find yelling out the window only works so well. Two cans with some string works, but has its range and line of sight issues.

“Why do I need a radio? I have a cell phone.” Well, that won’t work. The point of Overland Bound (and overlanding) is to get you off the beaten path. You’ll spend a lot of time off the grid without cell service. Also, a cell phone does not give you the immediate access to a group you need on the trail. “Push to talk” is the difference, and cell phones do not provide that feature. You will not be calling or texting, you will be grabbing your mic and yelling, “Fallen Tree! Left!” to everyone within range. Everyone receives that message immediately and at the same time. 

But what kind of radio should you get? Evaluating which radio technology to add to your vehicle depends on budget and need. With all the options out there, its hard to know what the right choice is, and you don’t want to be to only guy with the Radio Shack “Realistic” bullhorn in a group of GMRS equipped rigs.

After a quick review, we’ll tell you which radios we often encounter on the trail so you’re not bringing a knife to a gun fight.

Can you hear me now?

Like cameras, the best radio is the one you have with you. And while *a* radio is better than no radio, who else has THAT type of radio will determine if it’s worth its weight or not. Radios, like tango, require two to be any fun. Someone needs to send, someone needs to receive, basic concept. So if you show up to a group using one kind of radio, but your fancy communication system can’t send/receive on the same frequencies, you might as well be yelling out your window. Ultimately one radio won’t do it all, and the reality is you’ll likely carry more than one radio type if you want to be and stay connected.

We’re going to review in order of escalating power (and cost), but keep in mind, more power is not necessarily better if no-one else has your radio type.

Just For Fun – FRS

FRS would be your most basic system, it’s a walkie talkie, using 14 frequencies with sub frequencies. These are capped at 500 milliwatt, they don’t require a license, they also don’t have much range. So within a convoy, generally within sight-lines, they’ll do the trick.

Use: Have a couple of these rattling around in your toolbox. If someone else shows up without a radio, at least they can communicate with someone in the group with a better radio who can then relay a message.

Stepping Up – GMRS and CB

GMRS would be your next step up, and can reach much further on 8 main (and specific) frequencies at upwards of 50 watts. These require a license to operate, but require no test to obtain licensing. It’s essentially a pay to play license (5 years). Certainly a step up in terms of clarity and range. The quality of radios vary, but these are a considerable step up from walkie talkies.

Use: Great for trail, with multiple rigs. clear communication with extended range. FWIW the Overland Bound rig had a GMRS radio on the dash. We use it when we can, but find adoption has been limited.

CB radio, which is 40 channels, and is usually synonymous with trucker radios. Sadly these are the most common on the trail. Everyone should carry at least a CB handheld, just as a backup for trail runs where the majority of the group is running CB. Unfortunately, CB is fairly poor in terms of range (even at 4-5 watts), and signal clarity, as it is obstructed by such things as line of sight, trees, or ya know…air. But it’s also everywhere and people opt for it because it requires no license and is better than FRS.

Use: On the trail, mostly for compatibility. There are a lot of them. We have a dash mount CB with external antenna, and often have the best range n the group. Our antenna is mounted on the front bumper – the benefits of which were explained to me in Australia, which I cant remember, but we get good range.

With Great Power – HAM

Ham Radio is a VHF/UHF system that requires a license to operate, but Ham also provides a unique callsign and, depending on the level of certification, you can talk on more frequencies, and higher power (from 5 watts all the way to 1000 watts, depending on license level). The biggest advantage is the use of repeaters, which are physical stations that groups of people can essentially connect to via their radios. These act as an amplifier for smaller radios using the power of the repeater. Think of it like a middleman who has incredible hearing and a megaphone, and can listen for your much quieter signal, and relay it to someone much further away than you could reach on your own. Normal non-repeated radio-to-radio can hit ranges of 90-100 miles away depending on power (based on using a 50 watt mobile aka vehicle mounted unit). Whereas the use of a repeater can double that range depending on geography. Ham also can send data over radio, and provide real time location tracking via APRS systems and GPS.

Use: Excellent and prolific radio communications over long range. We recommend getting your HAM license and a HAM radio.

Going Even Further – Satellite 

We’d be remiss if we didn’t talk about satellite communication, which really shouldn’t be confused with trail communication. Satellite is critical because radio systems rely on someone being able to hear your radio communication at the time you make it. Whereas Satellite systems work just like cell phones or text messaging. This means even if someone doesn’t pick up the phone you can still leave a voice or data message. Say you’re out by yourself (which happens, but should be avoided because the buddy system is great), and you break something on your truck, or break yourself, and need to get a message out to someone who can assist.

These systems, like the DeLorme InReach, are popular for off-roaders, in providing 2-way text communication just like a cell phone (the InReach actually can text cell phones). However these are text messaging only systems. To send voice you’d want to look at a traditional satellite phone as a backup. All of these systems require line of sight, so a clear view of the sky to handshake with an overhead satellite. As such communication isn’t instant, and you may have to wait a few minutes to dial out. The phones can also be restrictive in cost, and airtime is fairly expensive. However if the situation is urgent, then money be damned.

Use: Security. This is a major fallback comms system. There are no blackout areas world wide, and you will be able to get a signal out if you have a clear view to the sky. Comms is limited to some data (location), txt, message post to social media channels, and expensive voice comms.

The Overland Bound rig has a Delorme InReach.

Communications Breakthrough

As stated earlier, no one system will do it all. What you pick depends on how far you need to communicate, and who you need to talk with on the trail. If your group is exclusively CB, then your decision is made. Keep in mind that in all the systems mentioned, the cost of entry is usually pretty low. A starter CB can be under 50 dollars, a starter Ham radio such as a Baofeng can be had on Amazon for 30 dollars. As you look for higher power setups with more features which go beyond simple trail communication, the prices go up. However outside of satellite communication to get started with FRS, CB, HAM, etc is not reserved for those with a lot of money to burn.

Get started with simple radios, learn the lingo, and best practices on the trail. You’ll quickly learn how critical communication begins while offroading. Ultimately your needs will dictate your radio type. And those needs will be determined by geography, range, and the other people in your group. Communication is an incredible thing, both in providing critical information to keep things safe, but also fun!

Our Recommended Starter Kit:

If we were to start from scratch and budget allowed, we would set up with the following basic equipment, which would cover about 90% of our Communications needs. We find that mostly, on the trail, other rigs have CB, or HAM, and you want to have satellite comms to get a message out in case things really do go bad.

  1. Handheld or Dash CB – Short range inexpensive widely used radio
  2. Handheld or dash HAM – Long range comms, license required
  3. Delorme In Reach – Satellite comms + txt off the grid world wide

What we use:

Corrie

Adventure seeker. Dog wrangler. Writer. Partner in crime to Michael. Bonus-Mom to Miguel and Maresol. Lover of nature and all things outdoors.


Here's to forging down new trails, connecting with others, and the unapologetic pursuit happiness! #outfitandexplore

Comment(41)

  1. Good article. Nice Yaesu. Purchased the Garmin orange in reach for use in the Central Asia Rally and it worked great. Many usefull and security functions that nobody else has. Tracking function and mapping system on your smart device was great. Must register for satellite service ….but easy…affordable…and more.

  2. Awesome article! This came at the perfect time for me. I'm getting ready to dig into a significant electrical project on my rig, and it will include working on my comms.

    I have to wonder why GMRS hasn't picked up. Not that I know anything about it, but at 50 watts and a pay to play license, it seems like it could be easy to get into longer range communications prior to moving into ham. It could simply be because many of us already have the CB, and HAMs are the next biggest thing in the area.

  3. I learned some new things from the article. Coming from Jeep rock crawling in my younger days I'm accustomed to seeing CB's on trail runs where everyone is bunched together. I own a Cobra CB radio simply because I favor the brand and enjoy listening to long haul truckers during road trips. My budget determines what my gear is so I'm saving up for a satellite radio for my long range emergency communications. I'm not familiar with HAM radio use but have used satellite communications while in the military. For me it's more of what I know so I'm more comfortable at this starting point.

  4. Awesome timing, I have a CB radio installed in my Jeep, and have begun taking some practice tests and exams for a HAM radio lisence. What are your thoughts on the Yaesu? I have been looking for a non-handheld HAM radio. Also what antennas do you use/recommend (if any).

  5. Has anyone used the SPOT device- A satellite tracker device that sends regular signals and also has an SOS function? I am thinking of getting one just because I do head out on my own (i refuse to sit around because there is no one else to go with). Just wondering if it is worth the money.  it can be found at http://www.findmespot.ca (or .com in US)

  6. Has anyone used the SPOT device

    I think we have a couple of members use Spot. I've looked at both the Spot and InReach, but haven't done either, yet.

    Initially, the Spot is a cheaper option, with a lower cost of entry. But the subscription runs all year, whether you are on an adventure or it is in a drawer. The InReach cost more up front, but they offer a subscription option that you can turn on and off a month at a time. I'd have to do the numbers again, but I think I remember that, assuming I use the InReach two months, I would break even in a bit over two years. From then on, the InReach would be the cheaper option.

    If I lived somewhere that had more, closer adventuring options, that might be different. I tend to take one or two ~month long trips a year instead of several weekend trips.

  7. I think we have a couple of members use Spot. I've looked at both the Spot and InReach, but haven't done either, yet.

    Initially, the Spot is a cheaper option, with a lower cost of entry. But the subscription runs all year, whether you are on an adventure or it is in a drawer. The InReach cost more up front, but they offer a subscription option that you can turn on and off a month at a time. I'd have to do the numbers again, but I think I remember that, assuming I use the InReach two months, I would break even in a bit over two years. From then on, the InReach would be the cheaper option.

    If I lived somewhere that had more, closer adventuring options, that might be different. I tend to take one or two ~month long trips a year instead of several weekend trips.

    Thanks Steve! I will look into InReach and compare. I do travel regularly for work and many areas have no cell service so the year round subscription is not necessarily a bad thing

  8. I've been an Amateur Radio Operator since I was 14, since around 1987. I was a geek before it was cool. Ha ha.

    Just a few things to mention, for the benefit of all:

    1. HAM isn't an acronym, by the way. You don't need to capitalize it. Ham is just slang for Amateur Radio Operator. There are stories of why that is, but none are proven. I like to "ham it up" aka "talk a lot", so that definition works for me.
    2. I'm also surprised GMRS hasn't really taken off. Last I looked it was something like $65/5yrs per family which means all your vehicles can have GMRS radios in them.  You can do fancy things with GMRS like build repeaters, which extends communications significantly. And you can have heavy duty, commercial radios, which high output power and good external antennas, which are all game changers. You can also share frequencies with those folks that are just carrying little FRS radios around. They may still have a hard time getting to you, but you can easily get out to them. I think GMRS should be the primary trail rig and frequencies. It's catching on, but CB is hard to dislodge from the culture.
    3. CB is limited to 5 watts which means there isn't much output power. And given the frequency, antenna size on a vehicle is going to hamper the ability to really do well on CB frequencies for "mid" distances. AND CB frequencies, to do well, are really, really dependent on the sun spot cycle, oddly enough, which is why CB was super popular in the 70's (high point in the 11year sun spot cycle) and why they pretty much suck now (low point). There are more technical reasons why CB is aweful, but I guess if you can hear the other person and they can hear you, to each their own.
    4. Ham radio is kind of overkill for trail communications, but not if you want to do fun radio things once your'e on a mountain top. There was a year long "event" in 2016 called National Parks On The Air. People would drive out to a national park, set up a temporary station for the day and see how many people they could contact. This is with a small, but very capable ham radio that operated on many frequencies and typically with 100 watts or less, intu a portable antenna. You can talk across the country easily on many frequencies and a portable antenna. You can't call someone specifically,  unless you both agree to be on that frequency at that time, but if you just want general, or emergency long distance communications (with some limitations), ham radio is the way to go. The only thing two people need is radios and an antenna. Easy.
    5. Studying to get a license for ham radio is trivial, but you will want to learn a little about electronics. With the entry license ($15 and then take a test), you can talk on a few different frequency "bands" including those most commonly used for offroad adventures: 2m and 70cm (refers to the length of the radio frequency, 2 meters and 70 centimeters, ~145mhz, just above the FM radio band, and ~440mhz). You can also talk on 10m (28mhz) which is in the same neighborhood as the CB frequencies. 10m is also not good right now because of low sun spots.

    I'm president of the local amateur radio club in Maple Valley, WA. Ask me anything, happy to help.

    Chris

    Ham radio (FCC issued) call sign: KA0ZRW

    GMRS call sign: WQXR317

    Maple Valley, WA

    2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport, manual, 4" OME lift, JKS adjustable trackbars front and back, JKS sway bar quick disconnects, on 33's.

  9. I've been an Amateur Radio Operator since I was 14, since around 1987. I was a geek before it was cool. Ha ha.

    Just a few things to mention, for the benefit of all:

    1. HAM isn't an acronym, by the way. You don't need to capitalize it. Ham is just slang for Amateur Radio Operator. There are stories of why that is, but none are proven. I like to "ham it up" aka "talk a lot", so that definition works for me.
    2. I'm also surprised GMRS hasn't really taken off. Last I looked it was something like $65/5yrs per family which means all your vehicles can have GMRS radios in them.  You can do fancy things with GMRS like build repeaters, which extends communications significantly. And you can have heavy duty, commercial radios, which high output power and good external antennas, which are all game changers. You can also share frequencies with those folks that are just carrying little FRS radios around. They may still have a hard time getting to you, but you can easily get out to them. I think GMRS should be the primary trail rig and frequencies. It's catching on, but CB is hard to dislodge from the culture.
    3. CB is limited to 5 watts which means there isn't much output power. And given the frequency, antenna size on a vehicle is going to hamper the ability to really do well on CB frequencies for "mid" distances. AND CB frequencies, to do well, are really, really dependent on the sun spot cycle, oddly enough, which is why CB was super popular in the 70's (high point in the 11year sun spot cycle) and why they pretty much suck now (low point). There are more technical reasons why CB is aweful, but I guess if you can hear the other person and they can hear you, to each their own.
    4. Ham radio is kind of overkill for trail communications, but not if you want to do fun radio things once your'e on a mountain top. There was a year long "event" in 2016 called National Parks On The Air. People would drive out to a national park, set up a temporary station for the day and see how many people they could contact. This is with a small, but very capable ham radio that operated on many frequencies and typically with 100 watts or less, intu a portable antenna. You can talk across the country easily on many frequencies and a portable antenna. You can't call someone specifically,  unless you both agree to be on that frequency at that time, but if you just want general, or emergency long distance communications (with some limitations), ham radio is the way to go. The only thing two people need is radios and an antenna. Easy.
    5. Studying to get a license for ham radio is trivial, but you will want to learn a little about electronics. With the entry license ($15 and then take a test), you can talk on a few different frequency "bands" including those most commonly used for offroad adventures: 2m and 70cm (refers to the length of the radio frequency, 2 meters and 70 centimeters, ~145mhz, just above the FM radio band, and ~440mhz). You can also talk on 10m (28mhz) which is in the same neighborhood as the CB frequencies. 10m is also not good right now because of low sun spots.

    I'm president of the local amateur radio club in Maple Valley, WA. Ask me anything, happy to help.

    Chris

    Ham radio (FCC issued) call sign: KA0ZRW

    GMRS call sign: WQXR317

    Maple Valley, WA

    2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sport, manual, 4" OME lift, JKS adjustable trackbars front and back, JKS sway bar quick disconnects, on 33's.

    Thank you Chris,

    That was  a very informative post. I'll definitely be asking you questions. So, due to the position of the sun spots you're basically saying that CB is not going to be great, period, until sun spots are in a different position? Other than trail comms with people next to you. Do you have any suggestions for what or where to learn about the Ham radio. (ie. websites/books) I'm a complete newb so forgive all the dumb questions.

  10. What a great thread, started by @lawndartdesign's (@LawnDart  ?) article, with some terrific add'l info from @VociferousSky .

    I've been a CB user for decades, though radio stuff started for me with a Heathkit SW radio when I was a kid. Now I want to fit my rig with good comms for both safety on solo runs and communication for small group gatherings.

    Looking forward to see how this thread develops.

  11. Thank you Chris,

    That was  a very informative post. I'll definitely be asking you questions. So, due to the position of the sun spots you're basically saying that CB is not going to be great, period, until sun spots are in a different position? Other than trail comms with people next to you. Do you have any suggestions for what or where to learn about the Ham radio. (ie. websites/books) I'm a complete newb so forgive all the dumb questions.

    What's strange about how CB (26.9650 MHz to 27.4050 MHz) works compared to how hams use the 10m band (28.000 MHz – 29.700 MHz) is that a ham would never try to use 10m for local or close communications. It really doesn't work that well for close comms, and neither does CB, as I'm sure we've all experienced.

    Sun spots create affects in our atmosphere that allow the CB/10m signals to get reflected back to travel further.

    To learn about ham radio, and getting licensed, there's a bunch of options, depending on how you want to approach it:

    • You could check out some YouTube videos. (https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=introduction+to+ham+radio) There's a number of introduction to ham radio videos that each take a different perspective on the topic. I'm a fan of taking a few in and then making my own judgement calls on what makes sense to me and what doesn't.
    • Find a ham and chat him/her up. Odds are there are hams in an overlanding group you may come across, in one of the local offroad groups, or just in your neighborhood. Most hams would love to talk more about the hobby one on one. Or, hey, this forum is a good way to ask questions and get familiar.
    • Depending on timing, you could hit up a local ham radio club. (http://www.arrl.org/find-a-club) This one is kind of risky, though, you just never know what the club "culture" is going to be like. Like any group, there are personalities that can dominate a conversation and end up really turning people off, or on, to the hobby. I think it's worth trying though, and maybe you even have a few clubs to choose from in the area. I like our club, ha ha, but I know that there has to be a match, and there isn't always.
    • Every June is national Field Day, (http://www.arrl.org/field-day) which is an event that puts hams in local parks, typically, operating temporary, off grid (again, typically) radio stations. These are typically put on by clubs, and they're usually measuring the success of those temporary stations by trying to get as many contacts from as many places as possible. The event last 24 hours and people are typically operating that entire time. It's a lot of fun! In many clubs, including my own, we hold it in a park so that way we can interact with folks that aren't hams to help educate folks on the many benefits and fun that can be had in this technical and social hobby.
    • Use the ARRL.org website. (http://www.arrl.org/what-is-ham-radio) The ARRL is a national amateur radio advocacy group that does a pretty good job at both supporting the hobby, and advocating for the hobby in Washington DC, which is critical, since radio frequency spectrum is limited and finite, and commercial interests are always looking to do something new and creative and trying to step on those frequencies that are allocated to amateur radio.

    Alright, I should probably stop and folks take this in, and ask questions. I can go on and on and…well you get the point.

    Happy to help and/or answer where I can.

    Chris

    Edited: to add links

  12. Images of my setup:

    The Jeep, as it sits.

    Daily ham radio antenna on the driver's side. A Comet 2x4SR. Great if you aren't going through close-in trails. I have a Comet SSB-1 that goes on if I do plan to go down trails. The 2x4SR is wideband receive and transmit, so I can use it on GMRS too. Connected to the Icom ID-5100.

    Obligatory, spare tire mount (Evo) CB antenna, a Firestick, on a quick disconnect mount. Not typically on the Jeep since I can't get it in the garage when I do. 🙂

    The shorty GMRS antennas. I swap this out for a larger one to get better range when I need to.

    Here's a shot of where the ID-5100 control head is mounted. I'll have to get another picture with it actually on there, ha ha. This is a 3d printed (from a friend) mount I found out on one of those 3d plan websites. Works pretty well so far. I had this mounted on a glass mount cell phone holder, which worked too.

  13. ancy things with GMRS like build repeaters, which extends communications significantly. And you can have heavy duty, commercial radios, which high output power and good external antennas, which are all game changers. You can also

    I would have put GMRS above CB in this article. The reality is CB is a step up from a walkie talkie, not the other way around. CB audio quality is pretty poor compared to GMRS and has a limited power output. It's everywhere only because the radios are dirt cheap, and people don't know any better, and everyone uses them right?

    But if we want to educate people on better options, I think GMRS is the strongest contender for OVERLAND communications in general. As stated, a license covers a whole household.

    But not only that, most HAM radios can do FRS & GMRS channels. This makes it a great intro tool to HAM communications, as long as you follow some basic rules.

    Several of the ham operators in my group used FRS/GMRS overlap channels to lead a 10 day group in Moab. This allowed people without licenses to pick up cheap FRS handhelds and still have coms with the group. A few people had the wonderful Boafeng handhelds and a one person had a dedicated GMRS radio. While several others had full ham setups.

    Everyone in our group with a variety of gear was able to communicate and hear each other. You can't do that with a CB.

  14. "Normal non-repeated radio-to-radio can hit ranges of 90-100 miles away depending on power (based on using a 50 watt mobile aka vehicle mounted unit)."

    This is simply inaccurate, you may want to consider revising this.

  15. When I lived on the flat Northern Plains, and the repeater was on a 1000ft tower, 75 miles was possible. Not typical because it's highly dependent on 1) terrain, 2) receiving radio/antenna configuration, 3) transmitting radio/antenna, as you pointed out, but possible.

  16. When I lived on the flat Northern Plains, and the repeater was on a 1000ft tower, 75 miles was possible. Not typical because it's highly dependent on 1) terrain, 2) receiving radio/antenna configuration, 3) transmitting radio/antenna, as you pointed out, but possible.

    Exactly. I should have quoted more context:

    "Normal non-repeated radio-to-radio can hit ranges of 90-100 miles away depending on power (based on using a 50 watt mobile aka vehicle mounted unit). Whereas the use of a repeater can double that range depending on geography."

    Simplex or non-repeated VHF/UHF between two vehicles is more like 5-10 miles max.

    Sent from my iPhone using OB Talk

  17. Exactly. I should have quoted more context:

    "Normal non-repeated radio-to-radio can hit ranges of 90-100 miles away depending on power (based on using a 50 watt mobile aka vehicle mounted unit). Whereas the use of a repeater can double that range depending on geography."

    Simplex or non-repeated VHF/UHF between two vehicles is more like 5-10 miles max. To get 90 miles, one radio would need to be at about 4000' higher elevation with otherwise unobstructed line of site to the other.

    Sent from my iPhone using OB Talk

    Sent from my iPhone using OB Talk

  18. Great article!
    I have two things to add:

    First, you missed a frequency band that’s very similar to GMRS and CB: MURS – Multi-Use Radio Service, designated by the FCC in the 151 – 154 MHz spectrum range. There isn’t a lot of advantages over GMRS, other than it’s less used by most folks since the radios are more expensive, since most of what’s been available is based on radio companies’ commercial lines.

    https://www.fcc.gov/wireless/bureau-divisions/mobility-division/multi-use-radio-service-murs

    Also new are the various data based systems, some of which can mesh to extend their range which operate in various license-free areas of the spectrum. Some of these will carry voice, others just short text messages and location, similar to SMS. All require pairing with a smartphone to operate.

    On the market now: Gotenna ( various models, including some that use mesh networking, Gotenna Pro requires an FCC license ) and Beartooth ( text and voice ) in the 900 Mhz ITS band.
    In the startup phase: GoTele and Sonnet. Sonnet is the most interesting to me since the price is pretty good ( $89/pair in startup ) and they have some neat options, like an external antenna.

    I got a chance to play with a pair of Beartooth radios and found their range to fall very far short of their claims. Voice range of <.1 mile in near line of sight conditions and <.2 miles for text. Line of sight range was better, but failed communications started at .2 miles ( voice ) and .5 miles ( text ).
    My full review: http://www.jenericramblings.com/2017/08/20/hands-on-review-of-the-new-beartooth-smartphone-radios/

  19. Has anyone used the SPOT device- A satellite tracker device that sends regular signals and also has an SOS function? I am thinking of getting one just because I do head out on my own (i refuse to sit around because there is no one else to go with). Just wondering if it is worth the money.  it can be found at http://www.findmespot.ca (or .com in US)

    Meeh, had a SPOT…fundamental problem is that its based on the GlobalStar network…which is niether global nor a star. It not only lacks true global coverage, but also tends to be unreliable. Ive had SPOT fail to deliver messages many times. Also know of a SAR case where many SOS messages were sent and not delivered…bad, very bad.

    SPOT is also limited to oneway, unverified, comm.

    Sold my SPOT, got an InReach…much happier.

    InReach is much better bang for the buck and has two way verified comm and lots of other nifty features. InReach is based on the Iridium network which has true global coverage and is way more reliable.

    I use my InReach often (offshore sailing, biking, kayaking, overlanding, etc) and have yet to exceed the basic plan which costs about $17/mo.

    The new Garmin InReach Explorer even incorporates a full function GPS.

    You can also suspend your InReach plan when not in use for a while. You cant do that on SPOT (at least when I had it).

    My 2c, dont waste your money on SPOT.

  20. Sold my SPOT, got an InReach…much happier.

    InReach is much better bang for the buck and has two way verified comm and lots of other nifty features. InReach is based on the Iridium network which has true global coverage and is way more reliable.

    I use my InReach often (offshore sailing, biking, kayaking, overlanding, etc) and have yet to exceed the basic plan which costs about $17/mo.

    The new Garmin InReach Explorer even incorporates a full function GPS.

    You can also suspend your InReach plan when not in use for a while. You cant do that on SPOT (at least when I had it).

    My 2c, dont waste your money on SPOT.

    Which InReach Unit would you recommend & why?

  21. I've heard it's helpful to have a mentor with HAM experience.  Are there volunteers out there willing to be a mentor?  Don't know what they do exactly but I'm interested in becoming a HAM operator.  Thoughts?

  22. Nice to see a couple ham radio operators in here + new ppl interested in the amateurs radio hobby, im a ham radio operator from Kuwait, and my rig is equipped ICOM IC-7100 all band mobile transceiver

    de 9K2KA

    73's

    Sent from my SM-G950F using OB Talk mobile appThat is a slick looking little radio. I assume thats just a control head and that the main transiever and tuner are mounted elsewhere?

    My experience with HAM/SSB is on boats offshore…big clunky workhorse radios.

    Enviado desde mi SM-T820 mediante Tapatalk

  23. I've heard it's helpful to have a mentor with HAM experience.  Are there volunteers out there willing to be a mentor?  Don't know what they do exactly but I'm interested in becoming a HAM operator.  Thoughts?

    Yes, even after you get your initial license its good to have a mentor for building experience. Basic operation is pretty simple, but there are a lot more technical aspects you can get into.

    Ive only used HAM/SSB as a comm tool. Never gotten heavily into it, but there are folks who are serious radio geeks (in a complimentary sense). I expect a few are here on Overland.

    AARL is the primary organization for amatuer HAMs in the USA so its a good place to start. You will find lots of info and learning resources there.

    http://www.arrl.org

    Enviado desde mi SM-T820 mediante Tapatalk

  24. That is a slick looking little radio. I assume thats just a control head and that the main transiever and tuner are mounted elsewhere?

    My experience with HAM/SSB is on boats offshore…big clunky workhorse radios.

    Enviado desde mi SM-T820 mediante Tapatalk

    Yes your right here a pic of the main unit along with ctek dual battery set up and fuse box for all the camping acc. Fridge, lights, and even jump start the main battery

    As hams their are 5 classes in the USA of ham licenses as my memory recalls, as here in Kuwait are only 2, and i hold class A which allows me to use HF/6m/VHF/UHF almost all bands

    As they said arrl.org is a good start to know what type of license u need and they have alot of materials + exam preparations  tests

  25. I started playing with a free iPhone app. Took a sample test right away and scored 60%… from my understanding the test is pulled from a pool of 300 MC questions, so I think the quickest way to get up to snuff is to keep taking the sample tests until you've nailed all 300 q's by memory. Common sense, a little bit of electrical knowledge, and repetition… I'm guessing a few hours is all you need to ace it.

  26. I started playing with a free iPhone app. Took a sample test right away and scored 60%… from my understanding the test is pulled from a pool of 300 MC questions, so I think the quickest way to get up to snuff is to keep taking the sample tests until you've nailed all 300 q's by memory. Common sense, a little bit of electrical knowledge, and repetition… I'm guessing a few hours is all you need to ace it.

    I didn't have the phone app when I took my test years ago, but same principal, I took an online test over and over agian until I could pass it every time. Then went down and took the test and Aced it.

    We did a run 2 weeks ago to Colorado with 18 rigs. Before we left the decision was made that we would use strickly HAM for comms, our last big trip was communication cluster of CB's that didn't work and a few guys running HAM trying to relay back and forth. This trip was a communication dream! Everyone could hear everything, and it made the trip so much easier.

    I'm running a cheaper TYT quad band radio in my truck now, it was under 200 bucks but works really well. Programing software was free online and I paid under 10 bucks for a programing cable. I also have a Baofeng as a back up/spotter radio.

    Both these radio's will work on the GMRS/FRS frequency bands, but does anyone know what the legality is of using a HAM radio on the GMRS frequencies? Seems like I read someplace the radio was supposed to have some kid of certification to operate on those frequencies.

  27. I have my heart set on that Yaesu 400. Love the remote display. Costs a pretty penny that's for sure.

    I suspect if you broadcast on GMRS frequencies, then you need to be licensed to use frequencies (but I have no idea). I can't imagine the type of radio you're using makes a difference.

  28. I wrote a post on this a while back, but it got modified by admins for FCC legality. In short, Part 95 FRS/GMRS radio services require type accepted hardware which includes antenna, transmit power, and programming limitations. Some refer to it as a gray area, as you're not likely to ever have a problem but legally/technically it's simply illegal to use an amateur radio to transmit on FRS/GMRS frequencies.

    The old post is here, but most of the relevant useful info was stripped: https://www.overlandbound.com/forums/threads/baofeng-radio-configuration-and-methods.3330/

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