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Emergency travel radio?

SvenGolly

Newbie
Joined
Dec 7, 2020
Messages
2
Noobish questions alert....

Occasionally, I make long drives (for skiing) that go through places without cell coverage. I'm wondering what sort of radio one might use under those circumstances. Cheap CB? GMRS? I bought a couple of those Baofeng UV-5R radios awhile back to fool around with and programmed them up with basic channels from a couple of sample freq lists. I have an old Maxon handheld CB but it doesn't broadcast worth a damn. Should I get a cheap mobile CB and mag mount? Would the Baofeng's communicate with anyone / anything other than each other out in the boonies?
 

DaveJacobsen

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Oct 24, 2015
Messages
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Location
Moving...
HF frequencies are more likely to be your friend. UHF & VHF are mostly "line of sight" unless you use repeaters.
"baofeng" (or any other HAM radio) requires a license to legally operate (check your country's laws) and will communicate with any other HAM radio.
So, do you have a ham license? if not, skip the ham radios, ham's tend to be self-policing.
That leaves FRS,GMRS (license required, at least in the USA), MURS, & CB.

I would think CB is probably your best option, just because you would want to contact random people passing by. Radio's for this sort of use really depend on someone else listening. FRS & MURS tend to be (at least in my experience) used for family member-to-member, or friends on road trips. GMRS too; with slightly better range due to higher wattage allowed.

CB: A good (tuned) antenna & a cheap radio stands the chance of getting out farther than the other free options. Legally limited to 5 watts, GMRS with a proper radio or amplifier might get farther out, but again, more line of sight.
 

mmckenna

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These radios are only useful if there is someone on the other end to answer you.

I'm guessing since you are talking about lack of cell phone coverage, you are looking for something to use in an emergency?

I'd not rely on any of them. CB range can be very short. To get any sort of decent performance, you need to have a really good antenna, not some cheap magmount thing. Even then, the chances of someone useful/coherent being able to assist you is slim to none.

GMRS is about the same. You would need to get a license for this, but again, only as good as the people on the far end. GMRS hasn't caught on as much as they'd like you to think. It's still a niche use radio service. Yeah, there are a million of the little consumer grade radios out there, but they all have very inefficient antennas. Add in that the end users rarely know how to utilize the functions of the radio, they'll have extremely short range, likely have a CTCSS or DCS tone set, will have their radio off, and it all adds up to being pretty useless. Repeaters are an option, but they are not quite like amateur radio. Many GMRS repeaters are private. They are also sparsely spaced.

If emergency use is your concern, don't waste your time on hobby radios and relying on hobbyists to respond when you have an emergency. Go direct to the professionals. Get a Garmin InReach device and get the basic service plan. It'll actually work in an emergency and someone will answer. Yeah, $12 a month, but if you are serious about emergency use, then it's worth it.
 

SvenGolly

Newbie
Joined
Dec 7, 2020
Messages
2
@DaveJacobsen - If it's an emergency, I'll contact anyone I can reach in any manner available, FCC license or not. I know the licensing requirements (and hams LOVE to quote them every chance they get). I had a Novice license decades ago as a teen and had two merit badges in that stuff. ;-) It's not like I'm big on talking to random people from my car in the middle of Idaho. So the question would be, could anyone anywhere hear me on a Baofeng UV-5R (which I bought specifically for possible emergency use two years ago). Note that I have never transmitted on it except once to test with a friend in my backyard. And it does do GMRS.

@mmkenna - Interesting thought about the Garmin. I'll check it out. Another one I just looked at was SPOT.
 

robertmac

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Jun 6, 2005
Messages
2,250
And with Solar Cycle 25 starting up, a CB will be useless during the day with all the skip. And skip conditions are unpredictable except will be daily towards maximum.
 

KK6HRW

Member
Joined
Sep 29, 2018
Messages
32
These radios are only useful if there is someone on the other end to answer you.

I'm guessing since you are talking about lack of cell phone coverage, you are looking for something to use in an emergency?

I'd not rely on any of them. CB range can be very short. To get any sort of decent performance, you need to have a really good antenna, not some cheap magmount thing. Even then, the chances of someone useful/coherent being able to assist you is slim to none.

GMRS is about the same. You would need to get a license for this, but again, only as good as the people on the far end. GMRS hasn't caught on as much as they'd like you to think. It's still a niche use radio service. Yeah, there are a million of the little consumer grade radios out there, but they all have very inefficient antennas. Add in that the end users rarely know how to utilize the functions of the radio, they'll have extremely short range, likely have a CTCSS or DCS tone set, will have their radio off, and it all adds up to being pretty useless. Repeaters are an option, but they are not quite like amateur radio. Many GMRS repeaters are private. They are also sparsely spaced.

If emergency use is your concern, don't waste your time on hobby radios and relying on hobbyists to respond when you have an emergency. Go direct to the professionals. Get a Garmin InReach device and get the basic service plan. It'll actually work in an emergency and someone will answer. Yeah, $12 a month, but if you are serious about emergency use, then it's worth it.
If the need for coverage is only seasonal (as in this question), the Garmin inReach service subscription can also be activated for periods of 30 days at a time for $15 each, plus a fixed annual fee of $35.
 

WB9YBM

Active Member
Joined
May 6, 2019
Messages
1,392
Occasionally, I make long drives (for skiing) that go through places without cell coverage. I'm wondering what sort of radio one might use under those circumstances. Cheap CB? GMRS?
My first question is: who're you trying to communicate with? If it's only members in your group and you're relatively (<1mile) from each other, FRS should work. On the other hand if you're looking to reach out to someone during an emergency, there's unfortunately no one universal frequency that a lot of people monitor so even if you pick something popular (CB channel 9, ham radio calling frequency on any of the VHF/UHF bands, etc.) there's no guarantee that someone's listening. If you do decide on a CB, stay away from the off-brand/low price garbage; you'll just get disappointed.
 

kb2ztx

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751
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South West Virginia
I have this issue a lot while traveling and I have multiple public safety radios. My go to is my Garmin InReach. Its cheap insurance.
 

FiveFilter

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Joined
Jan 1, 2016
Messages
297
Quote: "And with Solar Cycle 25 starting up, a CB will be useless during the day with all the skip. And skip conditions are unpredictable except will be daily towards maximum."

With the limited range of CB and the likely number of people listening within that range in any given isolated location, skip may represent a better, albeit desperate, chance for emergency communications. :)

As noted earlier, all of our mobile options, whether ham, CB, family radio service or whatever, are very poor choices to depend on during emergencies. If someone is outside of cell phone range, a satellite-enabled service is the only sure option for reliable emergency communications. All the others are pretty bleak.
 

rescuecomm

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Jun 20, 2005
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Travelers Rest, SC
As far as CB goes, next time you are out driving, take a minute and count vehicles with CB antennas. For that matter, any two way antennas discounting long haul truckers, EMS, and COPs. Nobody is running mobiles in cars.. Should make decisions much easier.

Bob
 

TailGator911

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I did exactly this last year when I took my RV up thru Canada to Alaska. Didn't want to be caught with no cell signal or trying to raise a fellow ham out in the boonies on that AlCan Highway. If I remember right it was about $75 a week. Well worth the peace of mind. I made calls with it just to test it when I had no cell signal and it performed flawlessly. Choppy conversations one day during a storm but it never dropped the call.
 

FiveFilter

Member
Joined
Jan 1, 2016
Messages
297
As far as CB goes, next time you are out driving, take a minute and count vehicles with CB antennas. For that matter, any two way antennas discounting long haul truckers, EMS, and COPs. Nobody is running mobiles in cars.. Should make decisions much easier.

Bob
Many truckers still have CB, but many of those don't turn it on until at a shipping dock or when the traffic is clogged for some reason. When at a dock or some other location that uses them, or when they want info about the traffic problem, then they'll turn the CB on. To most truckers that have CB, it's a tool for work, not a toy for pleasure anymore, and even that is increasingly being supplanted by the cell phone.
 

WB9YBM

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May 6, 2019
Messages
1,392
Many truckers still have CB, but many of those don't turn it on until at a shipping dock or when the traffic is clogged for some reason. When at a dock or some other location that uses them, or when they want info about the traffic problem, then they'll turn the CB on. To most truckers that have CB, it's a tool for work, not a toy for pleasure anymore, and even that is increasingly being supplanted by the cell phone.
Yeah--and even though company drivers have their business-band radios to talk to each other with (talking to dispatchers is mostly done through their CAD system), CBs are still needed to communicate with drivers of different companies (who have different business band frequencies) and/or the independent drivers, so don't give up on CB entirely. And if channel 19 seems quiet anyway, it's because either drivers have their hands full (maneuvering a rig especially in traffic definitely takes both hands) or they're just board with mindless chatter.
 

slowmover

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Fort Worth
I drive over the road. Thirty or more states on a regular basis. My CB radio is always turned on. You’d find that brains = radio use to be a useful parameter for knowing who’s listening.

The kicker is this: some ordinary guy in his ordinary car is well-served only if he’s gone to some trouble:

1). A quality installation where details are respected Install Guide

2). He’s spent some time listening to what’s to be heard on-air. What he does or doesn’t like about it is irrelevant As this barroom is a thing of its own.

To sum up: Gear that’ll get out and that’ll hear what’s available. Hear, and be heard.

To have a feel for how conversations go while on-air. Requests for emergency assistance aren’t common. I’ve answered some over the years. Relay a phone call, etc.

Guys flying past at 65-mph have a SHORT window of signal interception.

Im currently using a UNIDEN 980 in the Peterbilt. The least expensive radio to be considered seriously (AM/SSB). Paired to an RM ITALY KL203. WILSON 2000 antenna pair (at 14’ tip height; trailer needs 13’5” clearance; 14’ almost a minimum as is a 5’ antenna or longer). West Mountain Radio DSP Speaker. Ferrites & filters at every cable end.

Here’s your motivation: Be the man who himself answers the call.

Isa: “Whom shall I send, who shall go for us?”
“Here I am, Lord, send me”.


Don’t ever confuse that which is dead for that which lives. (Tech, for spirit).
.

Experience with the gear and conditions affecting RX are huge.

What radio settings work as I’m sitting prior to departure in rural countryside (o’dark-thirty) is different than mid-day in a major metro area. Mobile is NOT a base station.

Road traffic heaviest in daylight hours.

But TX/RX best when sun is down

Skip (sunspot activity) a whole other complication.

Dead engine? How to monitor battery is then critical. Short use. Scheduled times? A plan.

CB has the greatest likelihood of reaching those nearby. Rural areas feature a higher ratio of users. Those folks have heard the stories.

Note I’m not saying “best”. That’ll shake out according to whom owns what. And decides if your access is granted (payments made or not).

There’s garden variety CB. And there’s those who have an Eleven Meter Radio.

The Install Guide linked above is for Mobile Amateur Radio Operators.

Take the step up.

.

Yeah--and even though company drivers have their business-band radios to talk to each other with (talking to dispatchers is mostly done through their CAD system), CBs are still needed to communicate with drivers of different companies (who have different business band frequencies) and/or the independent drivers, so don't give up on CB entirely. And if channel 19 seems quiet anyway, it's because either drivers have their hands full (maneuvering a rig especially in traffic definitely takes both hands) or they're just board with mindless chatter.
Business band radios is pretty much only local guys. On road at 0400 and out of the truck by 1500. Some use by specialized haulers (oversized)

Regional OTR truck fleet is Qualcomm or PeopleNet satcom. Unlike phones or radio, is a legal record.

CB is how we talk to those around us. Before cell phones, it was a direct line of comms for truck routing and road hazards. AM-19 most of USA, some changes to that on West Coast and isolated areas. 15,17,21.

Some radios will auto-monitor CH-9, and a few states still do. For this reason alone is CB worthwhile.

.

95% of truck drivers haven’t a clue of what is a GOOD radio system. Don’t assume “truck driver” = “relevant experience” as a judgment about radio.

Prevalence is higher west of the Mississippi as exposure to good systems
is greater.

Experience, though, is that conversations of interest garner listeners.

Some old boy gets on past you and you wonder what it is he’s laughing at, mic in hand.

.
 

Louie1961

Member
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Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
33
Location
Thomaston CT
Onstar is satellite based, so as long as you can see the satellite you can call out. Its not 100% perfect, as there are "shadow" spots here in New England where the XM signal cuts out and by default you know the SOS button is likely not to work as well. You can get onstar in any vehicle now for about $299 for the hardware, plus the monthly plan cost. If that's too much money, I would invest in a good 2 meter mobile setup and get your amateur radio license. I hear a lot of over the road truckers on 2 meter band, sometimes on simplex and not even on a repeater.
 

slowmover

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Aug 4, 2020
Messages
408
Location
Fort Worth
Forgot about snow skiing.

There are bound to be logging companies operating. What CB channels those guys are on is what to learn. And topographical maps of the area to have on hand.

On the log roads they probably have business band radios AND a general CB hailing channel (what 19 used to be). Once on public highway, either 19 or what other locals use.

Same for construction companies. Concrete. Utility contractors.

A truck stop in the area is how to find out who is on what.

Snowplows have a priority system. Sooner or later in a storm, everyone needs fuel.

All roads lead to diesel.
.
 
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