What are you using for commo on the trail?

CBs / FRS / GMRS / MARS, radios, stereos, computers, tools, etc. The stuff you use to support wheeling or use of your PW.
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DiazOsos
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What are you using for commo on the trail?

Post by DiazOsos » Thu Nov 01, 2018 9:26 pm

I have Zero expirence in this but I’m enamored with the idea of trail communication. Can anyone give me the good bad and ugly of it? I don’t know if I need a walkie talky, sat phone or some special agent orange James Bond shit.

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Mule
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Re: What are you using for commo on the trail?

Post by Mule » Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:11 pm

Budget? :cash: :lol:
Who do you want to chat with, and what do they have? (Go with that.)

Cellphones have their obvious limitations of requiring infrastructure to do anything. Boosters help.

Satphones, expensive... both hardware and minutes. They're not as fast/easy as a cellphone, so don't think that you're just going to dial a number, press send, and talk. Latency and dropped calls are still a major problem with them. And did I mention they're really expensive?
That said, they're a great emergency tool to have if you're way back innawoods and out of any service area.
PLB/Communicators are also good emergency tools, but for the most part they're one-way "I need help here ASAP" (Two-way devices do exist, google "InReach" for more info. Probably beyond the scope of this thread.)

CB's are still popular in some groups. Antennas are huge, co-channel users are ... interesting, at times. Power requirements and antenna size make portables miserable to use; mobile's really the only way to go with that. Which is fine, till you want to get out of the truck.

FRS/GMRS is my typical recommendation. Radios are cheap, offer a shitload of options/accessories. Good range. In the snowmobile/moto world, damn near everyone has one. Radios are small, get great battery life. Downside, due to regulations they're only available in a portable/handheld unit (no mobiles (legally)).
GMRS is a $70/10yr license, covers immediate family members, and grants you legal permission to use the high-power (2W+) modes on portables, up to 50W for a single-site repeater.

MURS is a VHF license-free business band that some people use. Great if you're in one group and don't need comm with anyone else, but be aware in an emergency situation, they're really limited due to the lack of interoperability. Recommend keeping at least one FRS/GMRS radio in the group if you go this route. I don't advise using this.

Amateur gets you a ton of power, a ton of options, a ton of equipment choices. While this thread will probably drift to an amateur discussion, i'm going to keep it short for now. Downside is the license requirements (Easy, but still a time/study commitment) and <$20 exam fees.
A baofeng (shitty chinese radio) will get you the basic equipment you need for under $50. Personally, I'd pony up the $200-ish on a decent Kenwood/Icom/Yaesu portable if you're somewhat serious about it... get something that's going to last.

Commercial/Part-90 stuff ... is great, you get your own private frequency (or frequencies), but $$$$$$$ and administrative duties.

tl;dr: For a radio, I'd go FRS/GMRS. If you're looking for something "more better", step into the world of amateur radio.
Last edited by Mule on Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What are you using for commo on the trail?

Post by DamageWagon » Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:13 pm

It all comes down to who you go on the trails with. If you go alone you don’t need anything at all. If you go with friends or a club you can figure it out with them.

CB is common for some reason. CB sucks, don’t buy CB unless you NEED it for who you go with. If your friends use CB you can pretty much tell them they’re wrong.

HAM is cool but a little more complicated (and can be way more complicated depending on the radio).

FRS (walkie talkies) and GMRS are pretty good all round options. We use these for the Power Wagons in Moab event and they work well, are clear, and cheap. Some radios *cough* $25 Amazon Baofengs *cough* do HAM, FRS and GFRS in one unit for a very good price. Baofengs are the shit as long as you stay away from HAM purists. And learn to use the Lock button.

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Re: What are you using for commo on the trail?

Post by Mule » Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:25 pm

XPR5550e mobile with HCH for me, along with a fleet of portables (XPR/XTS's).
Guts mounted under the back seat
Image

Cable runs under the carpet, pokes out behind the transfer case
Image

to the control head stuck to the dash with a Magnetic Mic.
Image

Bluetooth or USB programmable, has WiFi for Radio Management.
Image

and a fleet of portables... VHF, UHF, 800.
Image

Garmin Rino (middle) is my "spare" - keep that on my sled as a backup GPS+radio. For the groups that use the Rinos, it's nice to have.
Why? Since it's a GPS and a radio, they have the ability to send their location over the FRS/GMRS radio to other Rinos, where the location will show up as a contact on the map page. So you know where others in your group are.
On the left is my 7550 (UHF) radio. ACR ResQLink (yellow) is my emergency beacon.
Image

Remote speaker-mic ("RSM") on the shoulder of my pack. Works great, and just about everyone else on snow does the same (FRS/GMRS).
Image

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Re: What are you using for commo on the trail?

Post by Low_Sky » Fri Nov 02, 2018 10:03 am

Mule's second line of text in the first post really covered this topic well. Get what the people you want to talk to are already using.

If you go solo in places without cell coverage, get an InReach. Of all the satellite devices, an InReach bluetooth paired to a smart phone is the best you can get. I don't go into the Alaskan bush (or take long road trips) without it.
John
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DiazOsos
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Re: What are you using for commo on the trail?

Post by DiazOsos » Sat Nov 03, 2018 8:07 pm

Low_Sky wrote:
Fri Nov 02, 2018 10:03 am
Mule's second line of text in the first post really covered this topic well. Get what the people you want to talk to are already using.

If you go solo in places without cell coverage, get an InReach. Of all the satellite devices, an InReach bluetooth paired to a smart phone is the best you can get. I don't go into the Alaskan bush (or take long road trips) without it.
I usually am solo unless you count the “ House Dragon “ thanks for the solid advice.

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Re: What are you using for commo on the trail?

Post by LagunaH1 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 11:20 pm

Mule wrote:
Thu Nov 01, 2018 10:11 pm
Who do you want to chat with, and what do they have? (Go with that.)
-Probably the single best / most important question to ask. -Especially if you ever want to be able to use a radio for emergency comms.
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