The Off-road Adviser

OFF-ROAD ADVISER

It’s a way of life – not just a hobby

Two-way radios for off-roading

Two-way radios for off-roading
Two-way radios for off-roading

Off-roading is surely a popular sport across the globe.  People who love to explore what they see on the road up close and personal form clubs.  These clubs normally have their own set of rules and regulations, but all share one common interest: off-roading!

Now, you might be thinking about how this relates to two-way radios.  The short answer is that if you are an avid member of any off-road club then having two-way radios will provide you with some excellent benefits that I will discuss after this paragraph.

If you are not an avid member or know someone who isn’t then this article about two-way radios for off-roading is probably of no value to you at all.  However, if you are considering getting involved in this sport then read on because my next few words will help you decide whether to get two-way radios for off-roading.

Off-road clubs normally split their members into groups.  There are often small teams that consist of only one or two vehicles; there might even be bigger groups that have their minibus or van to carry all the equipment they may need.

These small teams like I mentioned earlier do things together throughout the year (they meet up regularly) but they also attend events where hundreds of trucks and people gather to camp out overnight at designated areas throughout the country.  Most of these events happen during special occasions such as memorial day, the 4th of July, etc.

The point is that if you are a member of an off-road club then two-way radio communication will be very important because inevitably everyone gets separated or split up during the event.  This however doesn’t even have to happen for two-way radio communication to be considered essential when attending these events.

Let’s say, for example, 3 members of your group are out exploring the backcountry and you suddenly need them to come to help you fix your flat tire at your campsite.  If these three were not equipped with two-way radios then what would they do?  There would be no other option but for one of them to drive back while another waits with you until their arrival.

This situation is a no-brainer, but the example I made might seem very exaggerated.  Let me give you another example that is more realistic, but still not as common as the one above:

You are attending an off-road event with your club and everyone has been separated from each other for a long time because there were just too many trucks going in all sorts of directions.  Suddenly, one person notices smoke coming from a nearby campsite and alerts everyone else about what he/she has seen.  Everyone scrambles to try and find out who was camping at that site – it turns out their friends have been having some car trouble and need assistance.  If all members of this group were equipped with two-way radios, this whole mess could have been avoided.

These examples are not made-up situations I think about only when writing an article.  They are things that happen and become more common as time goes on and the sport becomes even more popular.

So now you know the benefits of using two-way radios for off-roading!  Honestly, it’s a no-brainer to me.  If you own a truck and plan on attending any event in the future then get yourself some nice handheld or mobile two-way radios and save yourself some trouble before it ever happens!

How To Choose A Two Way Radio System For Your Business?

When it comes to choosing a two-way radio system for your business you need to consider a few things. First and foremost how many radios do you think you’ll need? Are they going to work in multiple buildings or just one? Do your employees roam around the warehouse a lot or stay in one spot all day? The more questions you can answer before making a purchase the happier you’ll be with the results.

Choosing A Two Way Radio System

Many people assume that when their company grows they have to switch from using walkie-talkies to a spectrum two-way radio system, but this isn’t always true. If your workers are staying in one general area and not roaming about then investing in a higher-end walkie-talkie can be the way to go. These radios are more expensive but they are built better and will last longer.

You shouldn’t choose a two-way radio system without knowing how many channels you need, either (and what kind of range you’ll need). If your company is small then using one channel for all of your communication is fine; however, if it starts to grow then you may want to consider different options. For instance, if you’re trying to communicate with ten people who work in the same office building as you do then one channel should suffice since everyone will be able to hear each other. However, if those ten people work all around the warehouse and are not in one general area then having one channel for all of them to use may cause problems (dead spots, etc.).

Choosing One Or The Other

At the end of the day, it comes down to how your employees communicate with one another daily. If they are constantly roaming around then investing in a high-quality two-way radio system makes sense; however, if they tend to stay put most of the time then using walkie-talkies is just fine. When you’re choosing one or the other be sure that you take into consideration what kind of range everyone will need as well since this can affect what type of radios you purchase.

What 2-Way Radio has the best range?

How important is a range in a two-way radio system? Well, I can tell you from experience that it’s pretty darn important. When I was with the US Forestry Service we primarily used Motorola T-Series radios. We were required to have them mounted in our vehicles and on our uniforms when in the field so they had to be sturdy.  Often the radios would drop a call in a very short distance but never fail.

In most cases, vehicle or marine radios will have a better range than your typical handheld units because of their large antennas that are built into the unit itself instead of an aftermarket antenna attached to it. In any case, you should be looking for 500-3000 feet of 2-way radio range in any given radio system.

We opted to put an aftermarket antenna on our two-way radios that are in the fire trucks. We used a 0dB rubber duckie with a magnetic base which worked out great when we were in the station or at home but it would drop calls if not attached to the vehicle or kept close by.

Of course, most people don’t want to have their handheld two-way radios mounted in their vehicles so they can use them wherever they go. These people typically will opt for non-magnetized antennas so they can place them on the visor or windshield of their car or truck and then still walk around with them in their back pocket without losing connection with one another. The range is less but it still beats having a conventional cell phone plan where you can’t hear or be heard half the time.

in your daily operations, knowing how to pick the right two-way radio for your specific application takes some research and consideration.

Which is better GMRS or FRS?

The typical FRS radio operates on frequencies that are between 462 and 467 MHz. These frequencies are set aside by the FCC for “private land mobile radio systems” which means, like cell phones, you can’t use an FRS radio outside of your property (unless you go through the licensing process to get special permission).

Since FMS radios operate on different frequencies than FRS units it gives them better range because they aren’t hampered by the 2-watt power limit that most FRS units have. GMRS radios will typically operate at about half a watt which is five times more powerful than an average walkie-talkie! For example, instead of having to be within 1/2 mile of each other with normal FRS radios, you can be 5 miles apart with GMRS.

When you’re looking for a good two-way radio system to use at home, on the job, or even during outdoor activities it’s important to know what channels are free and clear in your area. For example, if you live near an airport then the FAA has control over certain frequencies within a 25-mile radius of the tower. This is to make sure that no pilots are talking on their cell phones while flying over residential areas! So if someone accidentally keyed their mic while they were flying overhead then there would be a massive pileup because everyone would hear them yelling into their speaker “WHAT DID YOU SAY?” It’s pretty important stuff when you’re trying to prevent mid-air collisions.

 

How important is the battery life?

Several factors go into how long your radios will last on one charge. Having more channels has the potential to drain the batteries faster because each channel takes up power. For example, if you have 4 FRS/GMRS channels then that’s 12 watts total of power used which equates to roughly 12 hours of run time. If you upgrade to 50 channels then it will cut the battery life down by half because now you’re using 60 watts valued at roughly 10 hours of use per charge. So as you can see, having more than 14 or so FRS/GMRS channels isn’t worth the extra money since they offer an hour or two of extra battery life.

Another thing to consider is if you’re using lithium batteries instead of alkaline ones. Lithium batteries are capable of holding a charge for about 8-10 years whereas an alkaline battery will lose about 1% of its power every month meaning that after 5 months they’ll be at 80% capacity and then 40%, 20%, 10%, etc over the next few years until finally, the radio won’t work anymore because there isn’t enough power in the battery to turn on the radio! That’s why most people go with lithium-ion rechargeable batteries so they don’t have to worry about their radios not working when they need them.

Just like anything else in life, 2-way radios are no different so before you buy your next set of radios make sure you do your homework, research what’s available, and find out where you can get the most value.

 

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