Two Way Radios for big kids...

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rescue54

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Hey guys, I have been doing a lot of research on this subject and have come to a conclusion. My back-country climbing and skiing partners and I have been split up in the past up to 5 km over rugged terrain and our $100 radios don't cut it. I am looking for 5watt GMRS or VHF radios for the back country that will work over a little more rugged distance not just LOS (line of sight). I am leaning towards the Icom vhf two way (my conclusion). Any one got any comments or know if the states sells higher powered ones? It's hard to find the wattage on the american sites. As usual all input is appreciated.
 

beeperboy

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All VHF is line of sight. A 5W radio wont talk 10X as far as a 0.5W radio. It doesn't work like that.

BB
 

kayn1n32008

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Vhf is the way to go, BUT, there is nothing that is license free in Canada. Ham would be a good one if you can convince yourself and the rest of your friends to get licensed. Otherwise renting when you go out is probably your only real option. If you buy lOok at Vertex VX-231 (what ever the VHF version is) I use them for work and they are tough, last all day even in the cold with its Li-ion battery and are light, plus the speaker mic (Mh-65?)I have is not the typical 'ham crap' speaker mics that Icom seems to like. Big loud audio out of the one I have, plus the plug is held in with screws to the chassis of the radio. Stay away from uhf in the woods.

Vhf will work better in the bush, but if your on one side of a mountain and your friend is on the other forget about it with out a repeater, no matter what band your on. Not sure if you could get a commercial license for something like the 'Alberta Open' channels, LAD 4 or 169.71 (seems to be a commonly assigned simplex frequency in the survey industry) but that might be an avenue to look at if your going to be spending lots of time in the bush.
 

SCPD

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Get licensed you won't regret having your amateur ticket so useful for situations like this.
 

kc9cra

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Does Canada allow unlicensed operators on 49mhz. If vhf is better, lowband might be the best solution. That's why some rural counties in the states and CA still use vhf low simplex. You could also try cb. Some of those don't get out very far, but I know that I reached Reed, KY with 25 watts a bunch of times and vhf/uhf would need a repeater for that distance. That was still los though. I'm just sayin, the lowband signal might travel further.
 

rescue54

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Some great info here. I understand how radio works but Beeperboy says .5w goes further? I figure being on the other side of a peak is a problem but then so is talking everyone into a license. I will likely get mine this year as I am a bit of a radio nerd but the real need here is not buying 4-5 packs of radios till you find a good one. I guess we just have to buy the most expensive ones and hope for the best? The worst case senario (which caused a heli rescue for another one of our crew) is 5km over hills and trees. If I had something good for that I'd be great. In Canada do you need a license for VHF Marine?

Thanks for your help guys, appreciate the input.
K
 

kayn1n32008

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No but Vhf Marine should not be used as I believe that some of that band is licensed for LMR on the praries. What BB ment is .5 to 5w is 10x power increase, but does not mean 10x more talk distance. If you have to rent radios from a shop, specify that you need Vhf and 5w of power. There are options, stay away from GMRS/FRS/Marine, they are the WRONG tool for the job, it would be like taking a 1" line to fight a house fire when you would probably need a few 3" lines
 

UPMan

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5W hand held 27MHZ CB radios, if legal in the frozen north, would be a better choice than FRS or GMRS.
The need for a dozen or so batteries and a 3-foot antenna might be a bit of a hindrance when trekking.

As mentioned, VHF and UHF are all "line of site." More power will get you a bit more coverage within a rugged area, primarily due to some additional fill-in from reflected signals. But, range is still going to vary from several hundred feet to many miles.

We routinely get 50 miles from less than 2-watt UHF (GMRS) radios. However, this is when one radio is at the top of Mt. Scott in Oklahoma, where there is a 50-60 mile horizon. Those same radios get only 2-4 miles on unobstructed prairie (because the horizon is about 2-4 miles away, depending on whether the users are standing up or sitting in a vehicle).

What a more expensive radio will get you is bettery battery technology, more rugged construction, and maybe a few more features. But range is limited by physics, which you can't overcome with more $.
 

kayn1n32008

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Let's take this in a bit different direction. Rescue54 where are you going that you are looking for better comms? If it is in the western part of Alberta, along with with good Vhf radios there should be a ERP that has a contingency for losing contact with your groupos members, that in the event that you lose contact you have a plan to find high ground to aid in re-establishing comms. And if comms cannot not be established then calling rescue services via a sat-phone or PELT or SPOT. If you are going to western Alberta in the rockies Cellular will be pretty much useless.

Take simples 5w Vhf commercial radios, but not marine as you are probably not on water. Stay away from bubble pack GMRS/FRS, they are junk and almost useless, nor will you see 5km in the mountains. Same for CB. VHF *can* give that kind of range but do not be suprised to see less or more depending on terrain.
 

rescue54

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So what I am hearing is 5W VHF with a radio license is the way to go. I agree Kayn that we need an ERP. At this time there is likely only 3 of us on these trips and the other two are savy enough but I doubt they'd get a license. I think most of the time a good GMRS (ive seen a few aluminum body units with great batteries) will suffice and a plan to make an effort to re-establish comms is a good idea. We are looking at skiing (kite skiing) in the US at some of the old volcanoes on the coast and maybe a trip to alaska. Just tired of buying **** radios. Unfortunately I am limited by the group but at least I can bring them up to speed. I am a little nervous as one of the group has had to be rescued due to poor choices. But being a rescue pro maybe he'll listen to a good ERP. Thank you for your help guys!

K

BTW, looking at the new "insight" sat comm. looks pretty attractive at this time.
 

kayn1n32008

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I would recomend SPOT, I use it at work and they get the signal usually with in 5-10 minutes. If you are going to be needing comms in ablerta or bc look at renting radios.
 

beeperboy

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I would recomend SPOT, I use it at work and they get the signal usually with in 5-10 minutes. If you are going to be needing comms in ablerta or bc look at renting radios.
Sorry to thread hijack, but you like the SPOT? Any dislikes? I've been trying to talk my employer into getting a few for the field techs that work alone in remote locations. Any thoughts?

BB
 

kayn1n32008

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Sorry to thread hijack, but you like the SPOT? Any dislikes? I've been trying to talk my employer into getting a few for the field techs that work alone in remote locations. Any thoughts?

BB
I would strongly recommend any of the SPOT products? The latest has the ability to send text when it is paired to a Bluetooth cell phone. Any dislikes? NONE. Although I have not used it recently, due to being in cell coverage for my work. I can say that when I have used it, it has been my experience, that when I send an 'ok' message or a 'track' message, I get confirmation on my BlackBerry usually with in 5-10 minutes. My company uses SPOT as part of a multi-layered field crew tracking system. Our trucks have a MDT system that uses the voice transponder of the Globalstar satellite system and as such is not reliable anymore. We also have. A dedicated company written BlackBerry app that emulates our MDT system but uses the cellular network to move the data, and finally SPOT to fill the gap between leaving our trucks (I survey in the oil patch) and the actual location of where we are working.

I believe that SPOT is the greatest advance in personal protection for lone workers or people that work in remote areas with out cellular/radio coverage. It is a great system, and for the second generation of devices idiot proof... As long as there are good batteries in the device and when triggered the device is facing up to the sky, it WILL get a message through.

You could probably make a case for adopting it from a health and safety point, they are not that expensive to buy and I think service is like $100/yr for service (3.65cents a day) is pretty cheap insurance to get help if the sh*t hits the fan.
 

LowbandGuy

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I have 3 SPOTs, in my experience it has taken as few as a couple minutes to as long as 20 minutes to receive OK reports. I believe they work off the Globalstar Satellite System so that could explain some of the varying times. The antenna is in the back of the unit so better to have the back facing outwards if inside a vehicle. In my situation I have machine operators working in remote locations sometimes moving to new locations several times a week. SOP is they send a SPOT message from each new location, if they don't have communications with 2 way radio or with text messaging they use the SPOT. They check in every 2 hours on the odd hour then when they are in the truck at the end of the day.

Although I like the SPOT and it does work, my preferred method of communications is something that is 2 way. I have the SPOT messages sent to my Blackberry and to my office computer.
 

kayn1n32008

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Correct Lowbandguy, but they use the data transponder, not the voice transponder. SPOT claims 90+% chance of a SOS signal being received with in 20minutes. They are great devices, and I AWAYS have mine with me, even if I do not use it while I am in cellular coverage.
 

beeperboy

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Thanks for the SPOT info guys. Very interesting. My worry is when I go to really remote locations to service my radio system. If the system is partially working, I can check in with my comm centre. If the system is down, I could be out of radio comms for an entire day. If I get hurt, nobody even knows where I am. Definitely going to work the safety/welfare angle with the management. Peace of mind is always a good thing.

BB
 

mjw357

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Not to derail all this, but maybe planning a rendevouz point at a certain time would be a lot easier than trying to get a radio system that will always work. Depending on terrain, any terrestrial radio system will fail under certain conditions.

And I second the vote on personal ELT's. In your situations, every person or group should have one.
 

rescue54

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Ran into a guy from a radio rental place in YYC (coincidence) today and rates are reasonable and he also mentioned that if I contact the parks in advance, I may get permission to use their repeaters. So if we need the VHF we may rent. But when we are all separated but need to comm we will likely use GMRS.
As far as the spot goes, I will be getting one this winter but all the climbers and skiers I talk to say the insight is better. Anyone used one yet? (since we're hijacking my thread : ) )
 

kayn1n32008

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I have heard of being able to use parks repeaters for emerg comms. Best bet if seperated is VHF, I strongly recomend staying away from GMRS. I have not heard of insight so I'm gonna have to do some research now
 
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