These radios are all line of sight. So terrain makes all the difference in the world. If the land is flat and nothing much to prevent the signal from reaching from one to the other most any of them will reach out a couple miles. If terrain is real hilly and there is a hill or two between you distance don't matter, even 1/4 mile might be out of range for the best of them.
I have and use the Motorola radios. We've got a pair of the Distance DPS and it is without a doubt the cream of the crop. I also have a T6320 with all the bells and whistles. Nice but less range. It is barely able to make 3 miles in ideal terrain. I'd go with the Distance or Distance DPS. I like the DPS beause I hate recharging batteries. I'd rather change out alkalies.
BTW you can see a review of both on my Product Test Page.
Remember the gmrs and the talkabout distance both require the users to have a FCC license about $100 for 3 years. my friends and I are all in the same fire department and we have 3 options we use
1) we have the Motorola FRS radios. I have 2 talk about t5400 ($22.00 each at wal-mart) they work well when we are with in a few miles this is our first choice
2) most of us have next-tel phones this works well but the phone bills get a little pricey and not everyone has one and you can only talk to one person at a time.
3) we dont use this one much! The county has several "fire ground" channels and work for about 5 miles. we all take a portable and put it on a fire ground channel then use it like the FRS radios. The only draw back is if we get an incident put on that channel we can no longer use the radios.
I would get several of the lower price frs radios with ear bud and mic. and enjoy them. [email protected]
I've had extremely good luck with Midland FRS/GMRS radios. My radios get used in hilly and heavily forested terrain here. The Midland FRS radios are definately not line of sight radios, at least in my 3+ years experience with them. Other people may have different experiences with other brands. I have heard similar complaints about the lack of distance with some radios though.
I recently started to use the Midland GMRS radios this year, with the same great results, but at longer ranges. YMMV MI VHNTR
I spent the major part of my life in a job that depends on radio communications. In the last 40 years there has been tremendous improvements in the portable market. But some of the same rules still apply, you cannot talk through a mountain, you are only as good as your battery, and the antenna on your radio will make or break you. A wildland fire fighting crew can have communications from one end of the State to the other because of Mtn. Top repeaters, and link frequences which feed into dispatch centers. A hunter does not have those tools.
At one time it was thought that rechargeable batteries would save a lot of money. The downfall is that they are expensive, the charging and discharging has to be closely managed to extend the life of the batteries. Different brands of rechargeable batteries had very different life spans. The best were the rechargeable Motorola. The poorest was the early rechargeble batteries for the Bendix-King radios. The radio were okay, the batteries were poor. I would normally startout with a rechargeable battery, and a fresh battery pack with AA batteries.
As a District Fire Management Officer one of my job was to manage the radios for the Fire organization and the other units on the District. In the fire shop we checked our batteries on a daily bases. Some of the non-fire folks paid very little attention to their radios. It was not uncommon that when those who did not work with the public on a daily bases on an emergency their radio battery would go bad.(stupid :!: Spend fifty thousand on a college education and could not change a radio battery.)
I carry AA batteries in my CB radio which is in my daypack. (Hunting) I use ACCU RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES in my digital camera. I have three sets and they hold up very good. My criteria for a portable radio battery system would be around AA batteries and rechargeable AA batteries.
I had a fire prevention patrol that worked for me. The job was to patrol deep canyon river bottoms. Even with good Mountain top repeaters I would have to send a vehicle to the canyon rim to talk to that person. At times we would have to send up a recon aircraft for communications. The point is that without other tools vhs and cb communications are a line of sight tool. I have talked on a 3-watt cb from one lookout tower to another at a distance of 78 miles, but it was line of sight. One peak was over 8000 feet and the other around 6500 feet. (Note: Lookouts may or not may not have cb radio's. They have agency vhf radio's)
Another recommendation is not to buy the cheapest radio. If you talked to a experience radio tech who job it is to provide wildland communications I suspect he would say Motorola or Midland.
I got a pair of Midland G-11s (GMRS). Very compact and full featured. I use them for hunting and also for vehicle to vehicle communication when RV travelling. The big problem was deciding on power source. Four AAA batteries provide highest output, but three AAs give longer life. I went for the AAs, selected non rechargeables of the highest output, and have been happy with that. Spare batteries can easily be carried but a charger can't.
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I recently purchased a pair of Motorola 5820 radios. They were outstanding for a deer and elk hunt in UT this past season. They were $99.00 at Cabelas witha $25.00 rebate. Can't go wrong for that price. You can buy more expensive modles that have more bells and whisles like clock stop watch alarm ect. I found the 5820 to be simple to use and easy to change channels. This becomes important when you hunt with new guys and need to give directions in the morning before you hit the trail. I had originally ordered the 6400's but found them not to be user friendly. Plus they turned on/off with a botton on top. It frequently turned on in the fanny pack. Sent them back for the 5820's and am very happy. You just have to understand they do have limitatins.
Went into the Big Box Store yesterday and bought packaged T6400WX radios on impluse. :-D Now those radio's come in that new super strong packaging so one cannot check the manual before buying. After reading the manual I believe I am going to return them. Why?
Handheld CBWX Radio has a 7 watt imput, a 4 watt out put.
The T6400 FRS has .5 watt output. The GMRS mode has 1watt of output.
I am not impressed with the case on T64OOWX. It does not appear to be very rugged.
I should have paid closer attention to Tracker's post. Maybe a light would have went on. Is there performence improvement from GMRS mode at 1 watt over the CB radio at 4 watts?
Another advantage my cb has is that I can use an external magnetic antenna on it and use the roof of my pickup as a ground plane. Out in the woods we have not had an enterference problem with cb's. If there are conflicts we have a pre-set plan on other channels. While GMRS/FRS prices have dropped big time it appears the price of good handheld cb's has gone up. FRS price is so low I suspect they will start coming in boxes of Cracker Jacks.
I am addicted to transmitter output. The handheld cb's along with the vehicle mounted cb's have served us well. With my back ground with fire/LE radio's you would expect me to know better. I can remember when we were dissatisfied with 2 watt radio's, and went to 5 watt radio's on the job. The radio tech said the 5 watt radio's might cause brain damage, now that I look back on it, he may have been correct.
If somebody has some experience with the FRS/GMRS radio's and good CB handhelds I would like to see what you think are the pro's and con's.
We've been using various FRS radios for about 4 years. We found that there is no difference in performance between a $15 GE from WalMart and a $79 Motorola. You get to pay for the extra features, thats all. I have gotten as much as 5 miles and as little as 3/4 mile from these radios. Terrain is the key. Dad lives on a ridge and I can talk to him at 5 miles with the 1/2 watt FRS.
Something else, I found a pair of Cobra FRS/GMRS for $49 at Sam's so I bought a pair. With the GMRS radios you need a FCC license. I went to their (FCC) site and downloaded all the forms to apply. I hunt with alot of folks depending on where I'm going and they all have radios. Some of my hunting partners have told me that they didn't apply for a FCC license but use the GMRS frequency anyway. I am going to go the distance for the FCC cause I don't need any hassle from a govt agency, (know what I mean?). Anyone know what will happen to my partners if they get caught? Can they get caught and how? and last but most important, if I'm communicating with them and they have no license, does that get me in hot water? :?
We use Marine Band VHF a lot. Of course, the bigger tournaments don't allow radios or cell phones in boats, but at the club level, all of us have them and use them. The guys with the boat mounted radios and 25W get out pretty good even on hilly lakes. Range is normally 4 or so miles in rugged terrain. I have a handheld in mine since I would otherwise have to take it out for tournaments that don't allow them. Mine will transmit about 2 miles most of the time 5 Watts, I can normally hear the others talking. Normally I can get a closer person with a mounted unit to relay a message for me. We also use the handhelds in our trucks on the interstate going to and from. Probably not legal, but we do it anyway.
The Canadian's and the USA folks use the marine band VHF a lot on Mexican waters. Down off the Sea of Cortz somebody needs a tow about once a week. It is important to help your fellow boater down there in the winter. Killer winds come up in the afternoon making things very rough. Line of sight of about 10 miles is common communications from a small boat.
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