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larryC
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[*] posted on 5-15-2021 at 07:01 AM
Off road 2 way radio


There is a group of us that are doing more off roading in the BoLA area and we are using marine vhf radios. They are less than ideal and I was wondering if anyone here has experience with a radio that would be better suited for our use? Probably any radio would be better, even a CB. I would like to have a radio that I could program some marine frequencies into so that those people in our group that are resistant to change can still communicate. I could also use some suggestions on antennas that work best.



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advrider
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[*] posted on 5-15-2021 at 07:14 AM


I use the Rugged radios in our SXS's and have been pretty happy. I know you can program them but we use the pre set channels. I don't know much about HAM radios, so I'm not sure if you need repeaters or not for long distance?
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aburruss
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[*] posted on 5-15-2021 at 07:20 AM


Why do you feel they are less than ideal?

VHF radios are what all the race teams use to communicate while off-roading. But, it’s all about a your antenna and the wattage of the radio. A small handheld VHF radio might have 5w of power to transmit. The VHF radio in my boat is 25w. A lot of the typical hard-mount VHF radios (kenwood 281,etc) are 55w, and then there are some high end ones that have a built-in amplifier and can use 110w for transmitting.

You can then also use these to communicate with the guys still running the “marine” radio (I’m adding there’s the programmed channels (14, 16, 68, etc). Those marine “channels” all correspond to an actual frequency... so you can just lunch that in and still talk to them. (For example, marine channel 16 is 156.800)

If you’re not racing or needing something super blingy, I’d recommend the kenwood 281. Relatively inexpensive and works well (though you will have to have it modified or modify it yourself to “open up” transmission ability on all frequencies). You can also check Amazon for other options.

The handheld baofeng radios work great too, and are super cheap and convenient, but are only going to be 5w-8w of power when transmissions, so they won’t have great range.

[Edited on 5-15-2021 by aburruss]
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[*] posted on 5-15-2021 at 07:42 AM


Consider a Yaesu FT-2900R. A ham license is required but easy to get. 75 watts. Can be modified to transmit on the marine frequencies.

Or, you could look for used FT-8800 or 8900. These are 2m/440 radios that can be modified very easily to transmit on just about any frequency you want. I have mine programmed to use all the common VHF marine frequencies, as well as the GMRS and CB frequencies. It will transmit/receive AM or FM. 50 watts max, but you can also transmit at 25/10/5 watts. Ham license required.

FM transmission will have line-of-sight limitations. But increased power will improve some line-of-sight situations.
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[*] posted on 5-15-2021 at 07:57 AM


how much range do you require?
i think that's the first question to consider.
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JZ
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[*] posted on 5-15-2021 at 08:15 AM


Here you go op: http://forums.bajanomad.com/viewthread.php?tid=90605


Baofeng for HH. Yaesu if mounting.



[Edited on 5-15-2021 by JZ]




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larryC
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[*] posted on 5-15-2021 at 08:24 AM


Thanks for the suggestions. I'm guessing in most situations a 5 to 10 mile range would cover most all of our needs when looking to talk to someone that may have made a wrong turn and end up going the wrong way and gotten away from the group. Most of our riding is in the hills and the marine radios, and especially the handheld radios suffer for range in the hills. Most of us are using the Tram 6db whip antennas. Maybe there is a better choice for antennas also. If just 2 or 3 of us had the better radios we could probably keep the group under control in most cases.



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[*] posted on 5-15-2021 at 08:50 AM


Quote: Originally posted by aburruss  
VHF radios are what all the race teams use to communicate while off-roading. But, it’s all about a your antenna and the wattage of the radio.


That would be my suggestion as well. I have a 50w race radio in the truck and we use it all the time -- super clear transmission. While distance is generally restricted by terrain (canyons, mountains, etc.), we have experienced hilltop-to-hilltop transmit/receive distances as far as 60+ miles.

Now, if you have really deep pockets, there's always Satcomm.

For years, I've purchased race radios at PCI -- they are awesome people, super helpful, excellent service.




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larryC
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[*] posted on 5-15-2021 at 09:22 AM


In my original post I now see that I wasn't very clear, but most of us are using panel mount 25 watt vhf marine radios. I find that the HH marine radios are pretty much worthless at any distance over a mile unless talking hilltop to hilltop. The 25 watt radios will power through some hilltops but not always. So that's why I was asking if there is a better choice of radios, ones that will work up and over hills. It has been suggested that maybe a CB radio will be better in the hills because the signal will bounce off the atmosphere and might be better in hilly terrain.



Off grid, 12-190 watt evergreen solar panels on solar trackers, 2-3648 stacked Outback inverters, 3 Lifepo4 100ah Lithium iron batteries, FM 80 Outback charge controller, X-240 Outback transformer for 220v from inverters, 6500 watt Kubota diesel generator.
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John M
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[*] posted on 5-15-2021 at 09:47 AM
PCI gets my vote


As StuckSucks wrote, PCI has the answers - you simply ask them the questions. Great customer service.

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[*] posted on 5-15-2021 at 09:55 AM


CB is line of sight, just as the other platforms already mentioned.

The CB signal might "skip" from your location to Arkansas but it won't bounce off the atmosphere into the adjacent canyon, and because it is AM rather than FM you will be dealing with static. CB is outdated technology and there are better alternatives at the same price point.

GMRS is becoming very popular among offroaders as an alternative to CB. Midland has a line of readily available, reasonably priced mobile GMRS units that may suit your group's needs.


The key with any line of sight radio platform (CB, GMRS, 2m70/cm ham, commercial VHF, "race radios," etc.) will be the antenna and the quality of the antenna installation.

Under the right conditions I have been able to Tx/Rx 25+ miles in Baja using GMRS and ham 2m simplex and a 37" Larsen NMO 2/70 antenna. I tried a shorter 18" Larsen NMO 2/70SH and was still able to Rx long distances but only Tx 15 miles.* CB was 5 miles maximum even with a properly tuned roof mounted 4' Firestik antenna.

______________
* Note: Both antennas are tuned for the 70cm ham frequencies, about 20 MHz lower than the GMRS frequencies. An antenna tuned for the GMRS frequencies would likely have transmitted farther.

Here are two:

https://www.amazon.com/Midland-Antenna-Durable-Connection-Mi...

https://www.pulselarsenantennas.com/product/nmo4503cs-2/

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larryC
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[*] posted on 5-16-2021 at 07:16 AM


Again thanks for sharing all your knowledge with me, I do appreciate it. So far from what I gather basically is that I should get a good 2 meter radio and a good antenna for it, properly install the radio and antenna, program in the marine channels that I might use to communicate with the other riders and that's about as good as it gets. One more thing if I end up with a radio in the say 50 to 80 watt range will all the channels I transmit on be at 80 watts or will the radio limit the marine bands to 25 watt? This question just shows how little I know about this stuff.
One more question, the local ranchers around here have repeaters in the hills and use the 2 meter radios also for ranch to ranch comms. Will we be able to tap into there repeater system, hopefully without interfering with there comms?




Off grid, 12-190 watt evergreen solar panels on solar trackers, 2-3648 stacked Outback inverters, 3 Lifepo4 100ah Lithium iron batteries, FM 80 Outback charge controller, X-240 Outback transformer for 220v from inverters, 6500 watt Kubota diesel generator.
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[*] posted on 5-16-2021 at 08:06 AM


CB channels are 26.965-27.405 MHz.

The ham 2 meter band is 144-148 MHz.

Race Radios operate in an FCC "grey area" using the VHF commercial band and are typically programmed for frequencies between 151.625-154.515 MHz.

Marine VHF channels are 156.050-157.425 MHz.

The ham 70cm band is 420-450 MHz.

GMRS channels range from 462.5625 MHz to 467.7250 MHz.


Generally speaking, there are no radios that will transmit on CB and also ham, marine and also ham, commercial VHF and also marine, etc. The FCC will not approve such devices. Everyone in the group needs to standardize on the same radio platform whatever it may be and be appropriately licensed for that platform.

Although there are some Chinese made dual band ham radios (2m/70cm) that can be hacked to transmit in both the 70cm and GMRS frequencies, and it is possible to hack some of the Yaesu and other better made mobile units to do so, it is not legal for a licensed ham to operate such a radio.



I prefer ham, GMRS and even CB over marine and race radios. The problem with using marine radios is you can only talk to your group and perhaps some boaters if you are near water. You will also be operating illegally if in the U.S. The problem with race radios is also that you are limited to communicating with other race radio owners.

These articles may be of use to your group in deciding which radio platform to use in the future:

https://myoffroadradio.com/what-are-race-radios/

https://myoffroadradio.com/ham-radio-vs-cb/

https://myoffroadradio.com/importance-of-staying-on-ham-radi...




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[*] posted on 5-16-2021 at 08:12 AM


Don't discount the fact that these are line of sight communications. A 100 watt radio in the bottom of a hole will still have limited range. Mountain top repeaters can help immensely IF both parties can see them.

We found that the radios worked well for us on tours when we're in open terrain but if in mountainous areas and with any distance between parties (i.e. ride group and chase truck) a satellite phone or communicator is better. An InReach is relatively inexpensive but a bit limited if you need to have an extended conversation.
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[*] posted on 5-16-2021 at 08:18 AM


Quote: Originally posted by larryC  

One more question, the local ranchers around here have repeaters in the hills and use the 2 meter radios also for ranch to ranch comms. Will we be able to tap into there repeater system, hopefully without interfering with there comms?


For the U.S., you can easily get a list of repeaters, both open and closed, for specific areas.

In Mexico there is not a current reciprocity agreement for ham radio and GMRS operation with the U.S. so it is unlikely that you would be able to use local repeaters operating in the 2m ham or GMRS frequencies even if you have the access code. That doesn't mean it is impossible, just unlikely. Best to count on simplex Tx.

Finally, don't get fixated on the wattage of the radio. A quality antenna and proper installation will do more for you than raw power. 5 watts is usually enough in most group convoys. 25 watts is plenty.

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[*] posted on 5-16-2021 at 10:06 AM


Quote: Originally posted by larryC  
Again thanks for sharing all your knowledge with me, I do appreciate it. So far from what I gather basically is that I should get a good 2 meter radio and a good antenna for it, properly install the radio and antenna, program in the marine channels that I might use to communicate with the other riders and that's about as good as it gets. One more thing if I end up with a radio in the say 50 to 80 watt range will all the channels I transmit on be at 80 watts or will the radio limit the marine bands to 25 watt? This question just shows how little I know about this stuff.
One more question, the local ranchers around here have repeaters in the hills and use the 2 meter radios also for ranch to ranch comms. Will we be able to tap into there repeater system, hopefully without interfering with there comms?


NOPE! Don't even try. They will chase you down.
The repeaters even supply internet to some of the remote ranchos now.




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[*] posted on 5-16-2021 at 10:10 AM


race radios work so well (during the race) because the organizers have mountaintop repeaters and airplanes as repeaters (remember Weatherman?).
Once the repeaters are gone, they are as good as any 2m radio.




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[*] posted on 5-17-2021 at 02:50 AM


If you really need to stay in touch in difficult terrain some form of Iridium Satellite based voice or text based system is the best choice until Starlink is available.

I have a Zoleo text system. It tracks location does and receives texts plus has an SOS feature. It also displays local weather. It costs money but it works.

https://www.zoleosatellitecommunicator.ltd/
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[*] posted on 5-17-2021 at 07:06 AM


I have a feeling he is looking for general, instantaneous communication to/from multiple parties. Some type of radio is best for this situation, rather than any person-to-person device like a cell or sat phone. Yes, you can set up "groups" for texting or even conference calls, but cell service is the limitation.

With most all programmable 2 meter radios, you can program in the power level that you want to use when you go to that frequency IN MEMORY OPERATION. So, if you program in conventional marine frequencies that you use, you can limit it to 25 watts, the legal limit in the US for that band. Even outside of that, the typical Yaesu mic has four programmable function buttons on the mic itself. The default setting of one of them is moving up and down in power level, as you depress the button. No need to go into a menu or depress buttons on the unit itself, which can be a hassle while driving.

Yaesu 2m radios (and probably other mfgrs like ICOM) have a feature where you can enter a mode Yaesu calls ARTS (Auto Range Transponder System). Do a search about this feature. It might be valuable as a backup plan if anyone gets separated from the group. Once the "lost" party realizes he is lost, he/she engages ARTS and someone is sent back to look for them while also engaging ARTS. The radios will determine whether they are in range or out of range by sending a subaudible signal. It will do this automatically every 25 seconds and/or every time the mic on either radio is keyed. Supposedly used by search and rescue teams to make sure they stay in radio range.

I think you should go with a modified 2 meter radio. Certainly in Mexico, if it is even illegal (not sure), it's not an enforced thing. Gringos and Mexican fishermen have been using these radios since the 70s (at least) and I cant recall ever hearing of someone getting hassled about over power transmissions.
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[*] posted on 5-17-2021 at 07:57 AM


Just setting up my new wrangler for VHF and CB and here is what I have on the bench.
VHF:
Yaesu FT-2980R with Mars mod from Giga Parts.
Software + cable from RTsystems
NMO fender mount bracket from Topsy
Coax with NMO from Browning
Antenna - High gain no ground plane from Tram (kinda tall so that choice may change)
I also have a pair of low power Baofeng 5R multiband handheld units which we often use when out of the vehicle like when spotting to get someone unstuck. Programmed with the same frequencies and the main radio. Note that the oversize battery is needed for reasonable use life.

CB no details due to lack of interest for Baja.
I use a CB in the states with the Jeep club
I consider GMRS and Marine to be inferior just like CB. They just do not have the transmit power we need in Baja.
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