Couple Questions about Ham

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FrozenPhoenix

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Hello All,

I am very new to the Ham Radio scene and had a few questions that I was hoping to get some insight on. I have always been interested in Radios and decided to start studying for my technician exam so I can use some radios on an upcoming road trip. We will be driving 3 vehicles for about 1500 miles. We plan to use the radios to communicate between vehicles. I am ordering 3 Baofeng UV5Rs for this purpose. I unfortunately cannot set up any external antennas, so we will be using the included antenna.

1. Will this radio have sufficient range to communicate between 3 vehicles? (I expect we will not be more than 2-3 miles apart at any given time)

2. Given that we will be using the included antennas and be inside our vehicles, what is the maximum range we can expect?

3. What channels would you all recommend for this? Is there certain channels that would be less crowded?

Thanks for all of the help in advance.
 

elk2370bruce

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Please be aware that the rado operator in each vehicle must be licensed at the technician or above. There are no channels - just a spectum of frequencies within a given range as specified in your liensing manual. This is not FRS or GMRS so no single license can be used for the three vehicles - even if they are in the same family. Don't buy radios until you understand what you can, and cannot do with them.
 

mmckenna

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I agree. Unless you are going to have at least one licensed amateur radio operator in each car, you would want to look at a different radio service.

GMRS might be a better choice, as one license would cover your immediate family.

Using hand held radios inside a car with the stock antenna is going to severely limit your range. The steel of the vehicle body, metal film/tinted glass is going to block a considerable amount of your signal. The flexible antennas are quite limited, even on their own.
Kind of hard to give you an exact range, since other factors will play in, like topology, etc. I'd say don't count on more than about 1/2 a mile range. You might get better, but don't expect anything much more than 1/2 a mile with the set up you are describing.

The best way to improve things would be to use an external antenna. Getting the antenna outside the vehicle is going to improve reception and transmitted signal. Using that would get you a few miles under normal conditions. Even a basic magnetic mount antenna is going to work well for this.
 

DeadMike

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As stated, the easier (although limited) route is to go FRS, or GMRS.

If you are set on the UV-5R then license up with all operators. Fines are steep!!

As for "channels" that would be "less crowded" keep the following in mind; on a 1,500 mile trip what's clear or open here may not be clear or open there. Have a programmed list in the radios that you can roll through.

Give FRS a try. It's affordable and it's performance may both surprise you and satisfy your requirements.


Hello All,

I am very new to the Ham Radio scene and had a few questions that I was hoping to get some insight on. I have always been interested in Radios and decided to start studying for my technician exam so I can use some radios on an upcoming road trip. We will be driving 3 vehicles for about 1500 miles. We plan to use the radios to communicate between vehicles. I am ordering 3 Baofeng UV5Rs for this purpose. I unfortunately cannot set up any external antennas, so we will be using the included antenna.

1. Will this radio have sufficient range to communicate between 3 vehicles? (I expect we will not be more than 2-3 miles apart at any given time)

2. Given that we will be using the included antennas and be inside our vehicles, what is the maximum range we can expect?

3. What channels would you all recommend for this? Is there certain channels that would be less crowded?

Thanks for all of the help in advance.
 

FrozenPhoenix

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Jul 18, 2014
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Please be aware that the rado operator in each vehicle must be licensed at the technician or above. There are no channels - just a spectum of frequencies within a given range as specified in your liensing manual. This is not FRS or GMRS so no single license can be used for the three vehicles - even if they are in the same family. Don't buy radios until you understand what you can, and cannot do with them.
Ah yes, sorry I meant frequencies. I have told all the other drivers to also get their licenses, this should not be an issue.
 

Ed_Seedhouse

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The UV5R is a decent little radio especially at the price, I have one myself. But four watts into a dinky little rubber ducky is not going to go very far at VHF or UHF. Maybe five or ten miles on flat topography standing outside. Keep in mind that GMRS radios have as much power.

I can hit repeaters on mountaintops around ten miles away fairly reliably.

If your local topography is hilly then expect less distance. VHF signals don't go through hills, although the do bounce off and sometimes the reflection will get you connected.
 

FrozenPhoenix

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I am seriously considering FRS for the purpose of this trip. (Cheaper and less licensing issues) Does anyone have any experience using these in vehicles? Realistically a mile or two of range is enough.

I am still personally interested in getting my Ham license and will still go for the technician exam. If VHF/UHF will provide significantly more range than the FRS, it may be worth everyone getting a license. Is there a huge range advantage with Ham? (Compared to FRS)
 

mmckenna

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True FRS, as in 14 channels, 1/2 watt, is going to get you a 1/4 mile or so from inside the car. Might be a bit more, might be a bit less, but no way you are going to get 2 miles. Even standing outside, you'd be lucky to get 2 miles if there were no topographical obstructions.

You can certainly try it, couldn't hurt, but don't expect much.

While FRS is allowed 1/2 watt, when the things roll off the assembly line, and they have their little inefficient antennas, they are often putting out a 1/4 watt or less from the antenna.

Consumer GMRS radios are not much better. A few more watts advertised, but inefficient antennas really limit this.

To get anything close to reliable "miles" range, you need to have the antenna outside the vehicle. There really isn't any shortcut around this, unless you are going to be driving 1500 miles in convertibles with the tops down all the way.

For what you want to do, and given the limitations on licensing, this is a really good issue that good old consumer CB would solve. Not glamorous, but it'll get you 2 miles with good external antennas outside the vehicle.

Other options:
MURS, 2 watt VHF with external antennas. No license application needed.

GMRS. Each family will need a license. Still need external antennas.

Amateur. Each vehicle will need a person with a valid amateur radio license in it to act as a control operator (so others can use the radio). Still need external antennas.

Marine VHF. Not an option, not legal for what you are doing. Still, would need an external antenna.

Bootleg/Freeband/Rules be damned: Still going to need an external antenna, and risk the wrath of the feds.

Cell phone: Depends on carrier coverage. No external antenna needed, but it would help on the fringes.

Go without: No radio license needed. No external antenna needed. Don't even need to buy a radio.

There is no easy solution to make this work without external antennas. Cars/Trucks/SUV's act as Faraday cages, and that makes it hard for the RF energy to get in/out of your car. Getting the antenna outside of this Faraday cage is what is going to make it work reliably. You might get a hand held to work if vehicles have a perfect line of site with no obstructions in between. The rest of the time its going to be noisy, staticy, crappy communications. Trust us, we've tried this. Put antennas on the outside of the vehicles, can usually get reliably 10 mile range talking radio to radio. Even with that, my brother used to like to use his handheld inside the car. Usually couldn't understand what he was saying unless he was within a 1/4 mile.
 

zz0468

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For my two cents worth, I'd suggest that this is a lousy application for ham radio, UNLESS all parties involved are interested in taking on ham radio as a hobby unto itself. Driving 1500 miles cross country with minimal or no knowledge of local bandplans and frequency use, you're likely to cause problems along the way to repeaters and links unless you know specifically where you can talk.

I'd suggest GMRS. You buy a license, and radios can be had for minimal cost, you can use an external mag mount antenna with a 6" whip, and performance is about equal to what you would have on a ham band, just fewer frequencies to get yourself into trouble with.
 

FrozenPhoenix

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True FRS, as in 14 channels, 1/2 watt, is going to get you a 1/4 mile or so from inside the car. Might be a bit more, might be a bit less, but no way you are going to get 2 miles. Even standing outside, you'd be lucky to get 2 miles if there were no topographical obstructions.

You can certainly try it, couldn't hurt, but don't expect much.

While FRS is allowed 1/2 watt, when the things roll off the assembly line, and they have their little inefficient antennas, they are often putting out a 1/4 watt or less from the antenna.

Consumer GMRS radios are not much better. A few more watts advertised, but inefficient antennas really limit this.

To get anything close to reliable "miles" range, you need to have the antenna outside the vehicle. There really isn't any shortcut around this, unless you are going to be driving 1500 miles in convertibles with the tops down all the way.

For what you want to do, and given the limitations on licensing, this is a really good issue that good old consumer CB would solve. Not glamorous, but it'll get you 2 miles with good external antennas outside the vehicle.

Other options:
MURS, 2 watt VHF with external antennas. No license application needed.

GMRS. Each family will need a license. Still need external antennas.

Amateur. Each vehicle will need a person with a valid amateur radio license in it to act as a control operator (so others can use the radio). Still need external antennas.

Marine VHF. Not an option, not legal for what you are doing. Still, would need an external antenna.

Bootleg/Freeband/Rules be damned: Still going to need an external antenna, and risk the wrath of the feds.

Cell phone: Depends on carrier coverage. No external antenna needed, but it would help on the fringes.

Go without: No radio license needed. No external antenna needed. Don't even need to buy a radio.

There is no easy solution to make this work without external antennas. Cars/Trucks/SUV's act as Faraday cages, and that makes it hard for the RF energy to get in/out of your car. Getting the antenna outside of this Faraday cage is what is going to make it work reliably. You might get a hand held to work if vehicles have a perfect line of site with no obstructions in between. The rest of the time its going to be noisy, staticy, crappy communications. Trust us, we've tried this. Put antennas on the outside of the vehicles, can usually get reliably 10 mile range talking radio to radio. Even with that, my brother used to like to use his handheld inside the car. Usually couldn't understand what he was saying unless he was within a 1/4 mile.
This is what I thought. I have a CB and often use that to monitor traffic conditions, etc. I have always used the external antenna with that. I was telling the other drivers that we would need external antennas, but they insist on not buying them. I would personally prefer to use an external antenna, as this seems to be the best option, but I do not think it will help if I am the only one who has it. I guess I will try to talk them into using external antennas, or we will just be boring and use cell phones. :p

Anywho, thanks for all of your help and clarification. I still want a Ham and will still pursue the license and use it on my own.
 

kd2goe

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I would program the FRSch useing Baofeng 888s there 16ch radios that you can get for $15 each...
 

kd2goe

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Yes it is. But it is better than using a radio design specifically for ham use.. and you can program them to use low power.
 

mmckenna

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Yes it is. But it is better than using a radio design specifically for ham use.. and you can program them to use low power.
Still against FCC rules. FRS is limited to half a watt and no external or removable antennas. Using GMRS allows more power and removable/external antennas.

Key issue the OP is having is the refusal of the other parties to use external antennas on their vehicles. It's not really going to matter what frequencies are used if they can't get past that.
 

FrozenPhoenix

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For my two cents worth, I'd suggest that this is a lousy application for ham radio, UNLESS all parties involved are interested in taking on ham radio as a hobby unto itself. Driving 1500 miles cross country with minimal or no knowledge of local bandplans and frequency use, you're likely to cause problems along the way to repeaters and links unless you know specifically where you can talk.

I'd suggest GMRS. You buy a license, and radios can be had for minimal cost, you can use an external mag mount antenna with a 6" whip, and performance is about equal to what you would have on a ham band, just fewer frequencies to get yourself into trouble with.
I'm inclined to agree with you. I am the only one in the party who has any interest in Ham outside the purposes of this trip.
 

BamaScan

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1st get a Technician Class License then you can take a road trip using simplex. I would stay off 146.520 and 146.55 rest of simplex is ok. I would pick a simplex frequency in the 147 MHz range. You may get to close in the car and Desense the other radio. When you desense another Ham Radio your to close and need to back away a couple car lengths. So you can hear them. I do it when I am following another Ham in a car ahead of me. Family Radio Service is a good choice also.
 

pinballwiz86

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OP, you should buy some FRS radios for the trip and get an amateur radio license too! Welcome to the hobby.
 

rapidcharger

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You remind me of my younger self.
Always handing out radios to other people in the convoys.

FWIW, I often scan FRS when I'm on the road. A lot of people use it. It's fun to screw with them like making a funny face at them and then hear them talking about you which is something I derive a great deal of pleasure from. You can forget about any range beyond a half mile but you're not going to be beyond that most of the time anyway.

1500 miles is a good two days worth of driving. It would be handy to have comms for that. Baofengs (or as they are now called, "Po-fungs" or "mo-dung") can only be legally used on the ham band. Will anyone ever find out about that you used them on FRS or GMRS for your 2-4 days of use? Probably not. But if you'd rather get off to a good start with your new license and do things right, just use the frs.

Now if everyone does want to get their ham license there are certain frequencies that are used for simplex, itinerant use in the band plan adopted by all of the repeater councils. You don't have to worry about keying up repeaters on those frequencies.
 

ericingersoll

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MURS with Baofang / Ext Antenna / Low Power

Still against FCC rules. FRS is limited to half a watt and no external or removable antennas. Using GMRS allows more power and removable/external antennas.

Key issue the OP is having is the refusal of the other parties to use external antennas on their vehicles. It's not really going to matter what frequencies are used if they can't get past that.
I agree, you need to go with the external antenna. What about the Baofang on MURS frequencies? Still need the external antenna, but they are allowed on MURS, other than that the power would be an issue, but one watt should be fine on the open road with external antenna.I have MURS programmed in my Wouxon, don't use them much, I am licensed, but they have come in handy at amusement parks and on trips with non-licensed members, like my wife! Hope you find a successful mode of communication and have a safe trip.
 
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