[NA] GMRS or HAM enthusiasts?

CJones

Final Approach
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uHaveNoIdea
Looking at getting back into backcountry exploring/offroading/overlanding now that the kiddos are old enough to tolerate and potentially enjoy it. Was looking at putting the trusty ol' Bearcat CB back into the Jeep or truck, but after some research, it looks like most folks have made the move to GMRS. I went ahead paid for my FCC GMRS license and ordered a Midland MXT275 to start out with.

During my research, it looks like there is somewhat of a cult following of the GMRS stuff - there are even repeater networks you can get hooked into - and surprisingly, it looks like HAM is still chugging along in the darkness.

Anyone here tinkering (or more) with GMRS or HAM these days?

Just for clarification, the HAM I'm talking about is the radio kind - not the porky goodness that is best served on a warm biscuit.
 
What do you want to do with the radio? If you want to talk with fellow offroaders, CB is probably best but find out what your locals are using.

If you want to talk with people some distance away, you'll be depending on repeaters which will mean GMRS or ham. GRMS repeaters may or may not be common in your area; check that out before you commit.

If you want emergency comms and will be out of cell phone coverage, a sat phone might be your best bet.

Ham will give you the most options, but it only works to talk to other licensed hams.

73,
AJ4CM
 
What do you want to do with the radio? If you want to talk with fellow offroaders, CB is probably best but find out what your locals are using.

If you want to talk with people some distance away, you'll be depending on repeaters which will mean GMRS or ham. GRMS repeaters may or may not be common in your area; check that out before you commit.

If you want emergency comms and will be out of cell phone coverage, a sat phone might be your best bet.

Ham will give you the most options, but it only works to talk to other licensed hams.

73,
AJ4CM

Mostly just looking to keep in contact with folks we're riding with and it seems like most folks have moved from CB (which was commonplace when I was doing trail riding stuff 10-15 years ago) to GMRS. I went ahead and with for the 15W mobile radio instead of the 5W HT. During research, I stumbled onto a few repeaters being in the area, so may listen in on them and see how much traffic there is. I already have Garmin Inreach Mini for emergencies.
 
There is still plenty of interest in amateur radio. It’s an interesting hobby, but I wouldn’t expect to drag your non-enthusiast friends into it and get licensed. For what you’re doing, GMRS or FRS would probably work well.
 
Gmrs is really good and really simple. I use them to communicate between the combine and grain cart. Mine are midland mxt115's. I paid right around $100 on sale, looks like they're $140 regularly. Using the included antennas we've gotten 7 miles of range on the 15w channels. I did have to buy the external speakers as the internal ones were a little weak in a loud machine.

Another advantage over cb is the privacy codes. The radio broadcasts a digital signal that only allows another radio using the same code to receive. I'm not concerned about someone hearing me yelling at the tractor operator, but it has the additional benefit of blocking all the other chatter on the channel, which is not insignificant considering the limited number of channels and the impressive range.
 
GMRS must be catching on somewhere. It has replaced CB radio with Jeep Jamboree. Personally, I'll stick with Amateur Radio (Ham radio). Far more flexible than either GMRS or CB.

N6TPT
 
GMRS must be catching on somewhere. It has replaced CB radio with Jeep Jamboree. Personally, I'll stick with Amateur Radio (Ham radio). Far more flexible than either GMRS or CB.

N6TPT

I started noticing mention of GMRS in a few of the YT videos of some of the overlanding families I follow. I think HAM is probably growing among the folks out west that are getting into the deserts and mountains more than we do around here - I've seen a few HAM setups in some of their rigs. As I've started lurking on some offroading groups around here again, I've noticed mention of GMRS required for some group rides. Interesting how that shifted over the past 10 or so years since the last time I was doing any offroading in the Jeep.
 
Gmrs is really good and really simple. I use them to communicate between the combine and grain cart. Mine are midland mxt115's. I paid right around $100 on sale, looks like they're $140 regularly. Using the included antennas we've gotten 7 miles of range on the 15w channels. I did have to buy the external speakers as the internal ones were a little weak in a loud machine.

Another advantage over cb is the privacy codes. The radio broadcasts a digital signal that only allows another radio using the same code to receive. I'm not concerned about someone hearing me yelling at the tractor operator, but it has the additional benefit of blocking all the other chatter on the channel, which is not insignificant considering the limited number of channels and the impressive range.

I noticed when I was shopping around that there were several 'farm packages' that included mount and antenna, etc. Didn't realize that was the 'thing' in farm equipment these days. We just had cell phones and really poor walky talkys of some sort that barely cleared 1 mile across an open field when I was running commercial ground spraying rigs and working for the farmer that I did. Back when my dad was farming in the 80's, they had private band radio, but it was shared across a few groups in the area. My mom still talks about how she was running the grain drill one day and was asking dad on the radio how to do something and some knuckleheads across the river chimed in saying 'get that woman out of the tractor before she breaks something!'.. So yeah.. Privacy codes would be nice.
 
There is still plenty of interest in amateur radio. It’s an interesting hobby, but I wouldn’t expect to drag your non-enthusiast friends into it and get licensed. For what you’re doing, GMRS or FRS would probably work well.

It's funny... I started asking on a few local offroad/overlanding groups about radio recommendations based on our local terrain, etc. and a handful of folks jumped in and said "just go HAM and be done with it". Whey I would genuinely ask "I'm listening.. What's the benefit of HAM" all they could say was "It's just better.." :rolleyes:
 
There is nothing stopping you from using all and any radio bands available. Pay the fee and get a GMRS and also get licensed and use amateur VHF/UHF bands as well as HF for long distance stuff.

The limitations on CB have made it lose favor with mobile operators when compared to the FM modes. There are some pretty cool ham digital voice modes, such as DMR, D-Star and System Fusion that have definite advantages for communication range.

FRS with the $20 Walmart radios works fine for short distances and no licensing.

Kevin
K4IVE
 
So is "HAM" radio any different from "ham" radio? What do the letters H A M stand for? ;)

-KO6JK
 
It's funny... I started asking on a few local offroad/overlanding groups about radio recommendations based on our local terrain, etc. and a handful of folks jumped in and said "just go HAM and be done with it". Whey I would genuinely ask "I'm listening.. What's the benefit of HAM" all they could say was "It's just better.." :rolleyes:

In my opinion that’s a common response from an amateur operator. Some can be kind of snobbish when it comes to the less restrictive bands. For what you’re doing I don’t think there is going to be a lot of difference between 2 meter or 70 CM operations and GMRS other than that the amateur option is more stringent on the licensing. If the rest of your off road group is on the amateur bands then I’d head that direction. If not, then I’d stick with GMRS.

FWIW, there are a lot of inexpensive hand held radios that cover 2 meter, 70 CM, and will also cover GMRS. It may not be legal to operate on all of them but if you wanted to monitor local repeaters and see if it is something you wanted to pursue it is an option.

There is nothing stopping you from using all and any radio bands available. Pay the fee and get a GMRS and also get licensed and use amateur VHF/UHF bands as well as HF for long distance stuff.

The limitations on CB have made it lose favor with mobile operators when compared to the FM modes. There are some pretty cool ham digital voice modes, such as DMR, D-Star and System Fusion that have definite advantages for communication range.

FRS with the $20 Walmart radios works fine for short distances and no licensing.

Kevin
K4IVE

I believe CB got opened up to some FM operations in the last few years. I really haven’t been following it however, so I don’t know what is available or if it would be better. I’d guess there aren’t many folks that would be equipped to use it however.

The digital modes in the amateur bands are interesting and there are some simplex options but it is mostly repeater or hot spot based. Anything repeater or hot spot based probably is of limited use for off roading, but perhaps the off road adventures are being done in fairly civilized areas.
 
So is "HAM" radio any different from "ham" radio? What do the letters H A M stand for? ;)

-KO6JK

I have yet to figure out which is the 'correct' way to note it.. I've seen it noted as ham, Ham, and HAM - even across supposed 'experts'. I'm open to correction. ;)
 
I have yet to figure out which is the 'correct' way to note it.. I've seen it noted as ham, Ham, and HAM - even across supposed 'experts'. I'm open to correction. ;)
The way I was taught, based on the English rules of capitalization, "Ham" is ruled out because it's not a proper noun, and "HAM" is ruled out because it's not an acronym or initialism (and it's not part of an FAA NOTAM :D).

If you look at the ARRL website, it's capitalized when it's part of a title, but not when it's part of a sentence.
 
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I have always used ham or Ham. Just renewed for the second time. Advanced Class. I keep is, as it is the only class that exists that has always required a code text. Although, I have done the WAC, WAS, DXCC, and WPX certificates without ever doing a single Morse code contact.
 
I dabble with amateur radio & have a Yaesu FTM-400 in my truck.

There is no such thing as a radio that can do both amateur bands & GMRS (FCC won't legally certify such a thing). That said, you can make many amateur radios do GMRS (it just isn't legal to transmit).

So this really comes down to who you are talking to. If the people you are riding with are licensed hams running on 2m or 70cm or something, then you will need a ham radio & license. If they are chatting on GMRS, then you will need a GMRS radio and license. If you are needing to talk to both, you either run an illegal setup, or you run two radios.
 
I had a GMRS license for a few years, never got any equipment and allowed it to expire.

A few things that are interesting about GMRS vs. ham:
- you can use it for a business purpose
- all members of your family (but not your employees) are covered under your license even if they are not under your direct control.


The main limitation is that it's UHF. There are now a few repeaters you can buy that come configured in a box. So if you have some high point or tower access, you can cover a larger area like a farm or a valley.
 
It's funny... I started asking on a few local offroad/overlanding groups about radio recommendations based on our local terrain, etc. and a handful of folks jumped in and said "just go HAM and be done with it". Whey I would genuinely ask "I'm listening.. What's the benefit of HAM" all they could say was "It's just better.." :rolleyes:
Maybe because it opens up other options (equipment, frequencies, repeaters, etc.)

Scott
W6EDS
 
As far as the tech goes, CB is pretty lousy for mobile communications for a few reasons. It's AM and low powered, and the frequency is low enough that antennas are inefficient or unwieldy, or both. But for close distances it can be fine. For handheld use it's pretty miserable.

I don't think there's much technical difference between 2m ham and GMRS mobile, which is really VHF vs UHF FM. For handheld radios, GMRS is probably a bit better unless you have a long antenna on the HT. For forested areas, 2m probably works a bit better than GMRS, all else equal. As Scott points out above, ham gear is probably more available used and new, and certainly with more options for antennas and other equipment.

As others have mentioned, GMRS can be used for family and business, where ham is licensed per person. People will notice violations of that regulation. What effect that has, I have no idea.
 
Good 2M hand held antennas are not that long. And many HTs are dual bsand 2m and 440MHz, where a short antenna doesn't hurt that much.

The per person limitation of the ham ticket does cause issues if you want to talk among family, as each has to become licnesed.
 
So with ham, are we referring to DSTAR or analog? I have played with DTAR and local repeaters and it works pretty well but you can't ignore the low prices on the Baofengs.
 
Good 2M hand held antennas are not that long. And many HTs are dual bsand 2m and 440MHz, where a short antenna doesn't hurt that much.

The per person limitation of the ham ticket does cause issues if you want to talk among family, as each has to become licnesed.

I guess it depends on what you consider "long". I try to get everyone to use something in the 12-14" range or so, and they're pretty OK with a full size radio. The 6" things that most radios ship with really aren't much good for 2m. Fine for 440, I agree.

I was speaking about FM. I use digital on HF but don't really find a purpose for myself for 2m.
 
I guess it depends on what you consider "long". I try to get everyone to use something in the 12-14" range or so, and they're pretty OK with a full size radio. The 6" things that most radios ship with really aren't much good for 2m. Fine for 440, I agree.

I was speaking about FM. I use digital on HF but don't really find a purpose for myself for 2m.

It depends on what you are trying to do.

2M has lots of repeaters, and with a reasonably good antenna, you can reach a LONG ways. I have worked the Columbia MD repeater from almost DE to around Fredericksburg VA with a mobile and mag mount antenna
 
Keep in mind that amateur radio operators (hams) can use a wide range of frequencies, something that CB and GMRS operators cannot. That said, when I was active in my Jeep I had a dual band radio (2 meters and 70 cm bands) that I used often. Our first Ford Escape was similarly equipped. The new one that I've had for about a year and a half I'm still fiddling with (off and on). I would also put the HF rig in the Jeep now and then. The two times I went on a Jeep Jamboree event in northern Idaho I'd use a hand held CB rig as that met Jeep Jamboree's requirements at the time. If I were to go on another I would have to set it up with GMRS as that is the requirement now.

I can easily hit 2 m and 70 cm repeaters on Gold Mountain (about 35 miles) from our house with 5 Watts from an HT. Line of sight. My old 2 meter multi-mode running SSB has made it into Canada running 10 Watts into a 3 element Yagi antenna (located low to keep my wife happy).

Different strokes for different folks.

73

N6TPT
 
I just discovered that my ham license expired last month, so I went to the FCC Web site to renew it. People who complain about the FAA Web site don't know how good we have it. Holy cow, the FCC site is downright user-hostile! :rolleyes: :eek2:

KO6JK
 
As far as the tech goes, CB is pretty lousy for mobile communications for a few reasons. It's AM and low powered, and the frequency is low enough that antennas are inefficient or unwieldy, or both. But for close distances it can be fine. For handheld use it's pretty miserable.
When I was doing the offroading thing 20 years ago we all used CB and it was quite adequate; we weren't spread out that much. Fortunately there wasn't the traffic there was during the 1970s CB craze; I assume it's even less busy nowadays? Breaker breaker good buddy...

Around the same time FRS radios were the go to for paramotoring, if we bothered with radios at all. The privacy codes weren't much use.
 
I've been a ham since 1971 or so. I've been an Amateur Extra since 1988. I also hold General Radiotelephone and Radiotelegraph operator's licenses.

WN3SBS, N3AGV, KE2LG, WO2L (Should have kept that one, caused mini pileups of foreign prefix hunters on HF), N1RN
 
Have held KA5MSS, HL9CA, and N0XAS… but 100% of my contacts have been with the last one.

FRS has been nearly useless and n my experience. Amateur Radio can be used for virtually any need, but only if everyone is a licensed ham. Haven’t ever used GMRS or MURS, but I have heard there’s a lot of GMRS users and repeaters out there.
 
Another Extra class here. My FCC callsign has always been AJ4CM. Rather boring, but after a while a callsign just becomes your name.

73
 
My first ham license was in 1961 while a senior in high school. And while I was reading the above posts I had one receiver on here in my "shack" tuned to the 40 meter (7 MHz) CW (Morse code) band so CW is still alive. I have had my Extra class license for about 35 years now and have had various "rigs" that cover the frequency bands that permit communications ranging from local to world wide. Simply talking with fellow hams around the world expands one's understanding of different cultures which is something GMRS or CB or FRS cannot and never was designed to do. I even put my HF rig in my Skyhawk at one time plus a 2 meter "hand held" transceiver. The ham bands permit far more transmitting power than either CB, FRS or GMRS which can certainly help when required to overcome poor signal propagation situations. Hams can communicate through satellites and have actually "bounced" signals off the moon. So, for overall connectivity in emergency situations or just local communications ham radio is generally a far more flexible and useful tool.

73,

KC0EL
 
I had N3AGV for around 10 years before I got shamed into upgrading to Extra. I've been N1RN since 1989 or so.
 
I keep my Advanced, as it is the only one that proves you passed a code test. :D

That said, I have never made a CW contact.
 
I keep my Advanced, as it is the only one that proves you passed a code test. :D

That said, I have never made a CW contact.

I stopped at General Class. I did pass a code test but it was a struggle and I don't even try it now. I really respect the guys that can though and found this video extremely entertaining ...

 
5WPM Extra here. Don't think I've made a CW contact in 20+ years. Was away from playing radio for maybe 15 years, returned a month ago. Thought for sure PSK31 would be dead, so tried out FT8. What a miserable experience. Sure, lots of "QSOs" in the logbook, but there's no interaction. Switched back to PSK31 and was surprised it's still alive. Olivia is interesting, too. Just received an FTDX-10 today, so figure I'll mess about with other digital modes and maybe an SSB QSO while I'm at it.
 
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