GMRS base station in the trailer?

Started by Mitch, October 11, 2012, 01:24:10 PM

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Anyone have a good recommendation on a 5W, external antenna, part 95A type accepted radio I can use as a base station?

FRS won't cut it because we like to camp where there are hills, trees, and otherwise beautiful scenery. I like to hike with the boys and I want to be able to reliably reach homebase sometimes several miles away.

I already have a base antenna I can put up 20ft above ground (or above the trailer if I can find a suitable mast) so my signal can get out.

I have the GMRS license so my whole family can talk.

Just need a dang radio!

Most of the GMRS radios these days are hybrid FRS/GMRS so they don't have removable antennas and are <500mW power.

I was looking for something that wouldn't break the bank, isn't a boat anchor (don't want my little ones frying themselves on plate voltages), and won't take 20amp to run.


Maybe after Jan 1st when type 90 commercial radios are required to be narrow banded I can pick one of the "old non-compliant ones" up cheap!


Many of the options I have found to meet my trailer requirements are part 90 radios that happen to also be part 95A accepted, therefore insanely expensive (new or used).


<As of right now GMRS radios will not be required to be narrow banded.>


Even though it's legal, I haven't seen many GMRS radios that are rated to 5W. Most of them seem to be just FRS radios with the GMRS frequencies tacked on, and put out maybe 1W tops. At 5W, most of those little handhelds would run out batteries pretty fast.

The only place I've seen 5W GMRS radios was at Gander Mountain, and they were made by Cobra (the CB people). I'll bet Cabela's would have them as well. A sporting goods retailer, hiking supplier, etc. would probably be your best best, since those users would be the most demanding.

Also, if you're not concerned about the privacy codes and are only needing a few miles of distance, CB handhelds and a base station might be worth looking into.

Oooooor...... your family could get Technician-class ham licenses and have a whole world of frequencies to use at 5W (or higher) power.  :) 8)

EDIT: Found it! Here's the 5W Cobra I had seen, this is at Cabela's:



Without an unduly long discussion, it will be difficult at best and probably impossible to communicate with any UHF equipment in the terrain you described. The VHF/UHF frequencies are line of sight, or mostly so. If you put a hill between two radios, the signal is gone. Even ham equipment at 5 watts won't work very reliably in such conditions. That is why hams have so many repeaters. You can have greater line of sight range to the repeater. Having an antenna up 20 feet will not help. 200 feet might work, if the hills are not too high. Of course, repeaters for FRS/GMRS are non-existent.

Search and rescue teams use aircraft carrying repeaters to keep widely seperated teams in contact. Hams can use HF and NVIS antennas, although such antennas are not carried readily. Check to see if there are any ham repeaters in the area where you are going. If so, that will be about the only method that will work - providing you can get a line of sight path to them.


Cobra PR 2000 Microtalk (2 W ERP)
Cobra PR 950 DX Microtalk (1 W ERP
Cobra PR 330 Microtalk (300 mW ERP)

^These are the only cobra radios that are part 95A certified.  :-\

You know the technical requirements for GMRS aren't that hard to meet... It's the type accepted part that kills it.

Most of those bubble pack radios aren't on the list either!

I'm sorely tempted to wideband my FT-817ND and use it since I already take it camping. (I was waiting to see if anyone else was going to suggest it!)

I also realize some of the difficulties of UHF in the woods, I was just hoping a good 20ft high antenna would get me a few more miles. It's just how I wanted to experiment (play) with radio for now. Luckily most of the state parks we frequent are situated around a lake. That's a nice bowl shaped depression with higher ground on each side where the trails run. The FRS radios we use now work surprisingly good in this situation but just a bit further into the woods/hills would be real nice.

Getting my kids used to working a radio (even FRS) is a good prep for later in life even after SHTF. You can cultivate good habits right from the beginning!


As a short update on my search:

It is apparent that I can easily pick up one of the older business radios that are GMRS approved they are coming down in cost a bunch and showing up on Ebay now.

What is hampering this is I need the programming cable and software to set up my desired channels. These still aren't within my budgetary requirements... :-\