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  • CB vs UHF/VHF for traveling as a group and playing on the dunes?

    Recently our dune crew has been plagued by CB radio problems. Lack of range, squealing, antennas knocked off on tight 2 tracks, etc... Talk of switching to FRS has rekindled. Problems seem to be cost and the question of whether it would solve our current issues without creating new ones.
    1992 Champion EuroPremier 38', 1984 Ford Bronco, 2010 Australian Shepherd - "Coby", 2012 Pomeranian- "Bella" --- Twitter @ClassicRVNet

  • #2
    Possibly something like this that has the ability to charge from vehicle with mini USB and could have an external mic/speaker like this Probably easy to make up a mount in vehicle but would the built in antenna give us the range we need from inside the vehicle? If we were gonna make a switch it would be nice to have the ability to talk between the campground, beach and dunes.

    The 3 pack for $125 would put us at less than $50 per vehicle if we bought together plus $40 for mic and $15 for mini USB car charger. About $105 per vehicle. Possibly cheaper models to consider? If it solved all our comm issues and allowed for guests to use the cheapo ones it would be worth it.
    1992 Champion EuroPremier 38', 1984 Ford Bronco, 2010 Australian Shepherd - "Coby", 2012 Pomeranian- "Bella" --- Twitter @ClassicRVNet


    • #3
      Checked out the Rugged Radios booth at the Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari and learned a few things about radios. They specialize in communications for racers, mostly off-road and recommend the Vertex VX2200 Dual Band 50 Watt Mobile Radio for longer distance in vehicle setups and the RH-5R Dual Band Handheld Radio for portable applications.

      Not sure what would be the best for us. The portable is much easier on the budget and can be taken out to the beach or carried on walks, runs and bike rides but may be limited on range. The big mobile radio would be great for comm between the dunes, seasonal roads, campground and town for sure. They had a package deal at the event that I don't see on their website but I'm sure they would give us if we asked. It was the portable radio with the extended range antenna, cigarette lighter plug in, "CB" style hand mic and mounting bracket for around $140 I think. They also had a package deal on the VX2200 with antenna for around $350. Don't quote me on these prices though, emailed for more detailed info, will keep ya posted.

      Check out the video on the portable RH5R:

      Racing radios and communications for offroad, racing, circle track and aviation. Exclusive technology in headsets, intercoms, radios, and complete systems for Circle Track, NASCAR, IMSA, Peltor, Sand Cars, UTV's, motorcycles, police, fire, industrial, and more.
      1992 Champion EuroPremier 38', 1984 Ford Bronco, 2010 Australian Shepherd - "Coby", 2012 Pomeranian- "Bella" --- Twitter @ClassicRVNet


      • #4
        From some email conversations:

        "Getting into a proprietary system that:

        a. Leaves anyone new or “part time duners” out of communications unless we keep extras for them OR they have money to burn to buy their own

        b. Can’t be easily replaced if fails for $35 at Walmart or Meijers or, etc.,etc.

        c. Likely will have its own irritations and nuisances that will require as much research that we don’t seem to bother doing on the C.B.s we already have…"

        This is actually NOT proprietary. They operate on the VHF and UHF bands and can be programmed to work on any of those public channels. Soooo someone could buy a Walmart GMRS radio and if we all tuned to a frequency that came on that radio we could all talk.

        "Spending dough that could go towards vehicle performance improvement vs. replacing 4 CBs and 4 antennas that I already have (3 mounted in vehicles) that I also use driving to and from dunes and on other trips… so I would still be keeping them going (i.e. storing and maintaining two diff sets of equipment)."

        If the handheld gave us the capabilities that we need then you could just get 1 handheld and use it in all your vehicles and on the beach, in town, etc…

        1992 Champion EuroPremier 38', 1984 Ford Bronco, 2010 Australian Shepherd - "Coby", 2012 Pomeranian- "Bella" --- Twitter @ClassicRVNet


        • #5
          Hey Josh, Hopefully we can be of some help with deciding what would be the best option for your group, and the forum as a whole.
          First of all, You have it mostly right. We have two major options when it comes to two way radios.
          The first is the Mobile Radio. We carry a couple different radios that run at 50 watts and provide about 25 miles of coverage (give or take depending on your terrain). As far as the bandwidths they operate on, we do not currently carry a Dual band mobile. You will have to make the choice between VHF or UHF.
          VHF is a Line-Of-Sight style bandwidth that gets the best range in wide open riding areas, such as desert or dunes and is the most popular choice among off-roading enthusiast, as well as exclusively used in almost every off road racing organisation. When you start to get obstacles between you and the group, you will start to notice signal degradation. As you get into more condensed terrain such as forest or canyons, You're not going to get the best range from VHF.
          Which brings us to UHF. This bandwidth has more power when it comes to signal strength due to the higher frequency of the signal. This allows you to broadcast transmissions through dense areas as UHF has better penetrating power. UHF is also the bandwidth utilized in GMRS/FRS radios such as those found at walmart or costco.
          In essence, VHF will transmit further than UHF in wide open terrain, and UHF will transmit further than VHF in dense, obstacle filled terrain.

          The other option in radios we carry is of course a handheld radio. Handheld radios are limited by the FCC to not transmit with more than 5 watts of power. This of course drops the range you can transmit. With 5 watts, you can get about 2.5 miles of coverage. That, again, is of course affected by terrain. One major plus to the handheld radio, though, is the ability to sport a cost effective Dual band radio. This will allow you to transmit and receive over VHF or UHF bandwidths, so you're prepared for all terrains you can encounter, as well as being able to communicate with those in your group that may be running "walkie talkie" style radios mentioned earlier. If you're often in groups that don't get much further apart than a couple miles, the Handheld radio would be the way to go. Another bonus to the handheld is all the accessories that you can get for them.

          For example, our RH5R dual band radio (Linked Below) can be outfitted with long range or external antennas that can boost the range by more than 30%. You can also get our trail rider kit (as you mentioned earlier) that includes a dash mounting bracket, a long range ducky antenna, battery eliminator (replaces battery with a 12 volt cigarette lighter adapter so you don't use the battery when in your car), and of course a hand mic.

          If anyone is interested in individual or group pricing, or just have any questions or concerns, feel free to give us a call. We'll be able to get you all set up with any help needed transitioning from CB.

          Rugged Radios
          Rugged Radios: RH-5R Rugged Radios 5-Watt Dual Band (VHF/UHF) Handheld Radio [RH-5R] - Introducing the new Rugged Radios RH-5R dual band (VHF/UHF) Handheld Radio. The RH-5R boasts powerful 5 watts of performance in a compact unit that packs a long list of features! The RH-5R can operate on both VHF and UHF bands making it do the job of two radios
          Rugged Radios - The Authority In Communications - - (888) 541-7223


          • #6
            A big THANK YOU to Rugged Radios for joining our forum and taking the time to provide some good information and offer us a discount!

            My initial thought is that maybe we should get a few of the handheld RH5R's and then we can try UHF and VHF and see which works best for our needs. We would also be able to see if just handhelds will work for us or if the more powerful mobiles would be needed.

            Another question that has come up involves licenses for use of these radios. Is a Ham radio license required? Any limitations?
            1992 Champion EuroPremier 38', 1984 Ford Bronco, 2010 Australian Shepherd - "Coby", 2012 Pomeranian- "Bella"
   --- Twitter @ClassicRVNet


            • #7
              Josh, I'm in for one of the handheld models! Do you recall from KOH the track workers had similar radios which had very narrow & flexible ducky antennas that were about 24" long? I wonder if those are better (because they are longer), or were they for a different frequency? or other?


              • #8
                How long is this antenna? Am i missing the dimensions info on the product webpage? Also, if this is a 5/8 wave antenna, maybe those ones we saw at KOH are 1-wavelength, which I would assume it much better performance?



                • #9
                  The one that comes with the Trail Rider Package that Lance recommended looked to be about 16-18 inches long. Probably the one you are referring to above. The RH5R is dual band but this antenna is advertised as a VHF antenna so we may have to decide which frequency band we prefer and get the proper antenna?

                  Seems from the Rugged Radios post above that we have a dilemma. The VHF would have the best range for the dunes and most of what we do but the UHF would give us the ability for guests to join in with less expensive GMRS/FRS family type radios. Hmmmm...???

                  This is another option-->>
                  1992 Champion EuroPremier 38', 1984 Ford Bronco, 2010 Australian Shepherd - "Coby", 2012 Pomeranian- "Bella"
         --- Twitter @ClassicRVNet


                  • #10
                    That VHF external antenna kit is interesting, but good grief it's more than the entire radio!!!??? that makes no sense. also, it seems shorter than the ducky antenna we have been discussing, so not sure how it's better?


                    • #11
                      Hey guys, let's see if I can answer some questions you guys have.
                      First of all, the FCC does require a license to broadcast over certain VHF and UHF bands. We of course encourage you to look into getting a license when using these radios. To a few people this may seem like a hassle, but there's a couple things to consider. First, the FCC primarily looks out for anyone abusing the airwaves. If someones transmitting on VHF, using a linear amplifier, and blasting on wideband enough to bleed through to other frequencies, they're going to be more of a focus to the FCC than some small group of people using the radios to simply coordinate their group. I can't tell you not getting your license is an option, but there are plenty of people who respectfully use the airwaves and get no grief from anybody, including the FCC.
                      Secondly, getting your license can be as easy as popping into a community college one day, taking a quick test, and getting your cert. It really is that easy. You will need to research online the sort of information you need to know for the test, but it's very straightforward.

                      Now to the antennas. When an antenna is labelled as 1/2, 5/8's wave, or full wave, the "wave" they are talking about is the wavelength. For example, that external antenna you linked above, this guy:

                      That antenna is actually about 40" long. (it looks shorter but that's just photo magic) That 40" antenna is a half wave which means it is half the size of the actual wavelength. If you could see radio waves, they would resemble water waves in the air and a VHF broadcast at 150Mhz would be about 80". Hence why the 40" antenna is half that wave, i.e. 1/2 Wave.

                      In order to get increased range from smaller radios, antenna manufacturers have found out that you can basically "coil" an antenna to get closer to full wave, in a smaller package. That is why the ducky antenna, this guy:

                      can be a 5/8 wave antenna, but shorter than the 1/2 wave whip antenna above. That ducky antenna, same one included in the trail rider kit, is 10" long. Notice the thicker, coiled looking part near the base? That creates an electric boost to the antenna, giving it the ability to "mimic" a longer antenna that's actually 5/8 the size of the 80" wavelength. This is why you will see antennas (like the ones at KOH you were mentioning) that are almost 20 inches that are 1/4 wave, but the smaller antenna we sell for the RH-5R can be much shorter yet boast 5/8 wave.

                      The reason why the longer antennas are still available, and they haven't all just switched to the "coiled" ducky style, is because the higher up your antenna reaches above the ground, the further range you're going to get. Therefore some people prefer to run the external antenna (the "expensive" one above) because of the increased range you get from a full whip antenna mounted as high as possible on your vehicle.

                      If you're not going far apart from each other, a 5/8 ducky antenna will be very clear and lower priced, but not as much range. Meanwhile the 1/2 wave antenna that's longer will have further range, but the price starts to go up. That's why we provide the option for you to get the external antenna if you really want it for your vehicle, but a lot of people are fine with the ducky, especially since you're limited to 5 watts of power with the handheld. Also, walking around with a 40" antenna on a handheld is a bit ridiculous, so the ducky's are best suited for out of vehicle comms, whereas the external is designed to give you more range when inside a vehicle.

                      Something to keep in mind, if you guys are going to be using the radios in your RV's, it would be in your best interest to consider investing in the external antenna. Vehicles are basically giant Faraday cages. The metal frame, aluminum paneling, and glass does a very good job of blocking RF signals. Using a handheld inside a vehicle is going to very noticeably affect the range of that radio, compared to one hooked up to an antenna on the roof. Feel free to let me know if there's anything else you want me to explain or answer.
                      Rugged Radios - The Authority In Communications - - (888) 541-7223


                      • #12
                        Different antenna for UHF vs VHF? Yes , they are specific to each frequency range so you must decide which band you plan to use and order that specific antenna. So even though the RH-5R is a dual band radio you need two antennas if you want to make use of both bands.

                        Typically off-roaders like VHF for the longer range in areas with no obstacles to the signal.

                        As for the issue of licenses... any radio with more than 2 watts of transmitting power apparently needs to have a license even if on the FRS or GMRS frequencies in the 462-467 Mhz UHF band. At this time I believe the license is $85 for 5 years and extends to all immediate family members. VHF appears not to require a license for two way land mobile radio equipment, at least not a commercial license however there may be a personal license of some kind required, I keep finding conflicting information. Anyone have a better take on all this FCC crap?

                        As for range with the extended range ducky antenna it may only be a few miles especially if the antenna is inside the vehicle. It would be better with the radio up higher like on the dash or to have the external antenna hooked up.
                        1992 Champion EuroPremier 38', 1984 Ford Bronco, 2010 Australian Shepherd - "Coby", 2012 Pomeranian- "Bella"
               --- Twitter @ClassicRVNet


                        • #13
                          General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) License Info

                          Family Radio Service (FRS) Information

                          Good news on VHF, this is straight from the FCC website-->>

                          You do NOT need a commercial radio operator license to operate, repair, or maintain any of the following types of stations:
                          • Two-way land mobile radio equipment, such as that used by police and fire departments, taxicabs and truckers, businesses and industries, ambulances and rescue squads, and local, state, and federal government agencies.
                          • Personal radio equipment used in the Citizens Band (CB), Radio Control (R/C), and General Mobile Radio Services (GMRS).
                          Wait, this just means no commercial license but what about some kind of personal license or fee?
                          1992 Champion EuroPremier 38', 1984 Ford Bronco, 2010 Australian Shepherd - "Coby", 2012 Pomeranian- "Bella"
                 --- Twitter @ClassicRVNet


                          • #14
                            Josh, the GMRS, FRS and MURS links you included above indicate: a license IS needed to transmit on GMRS frequencies, FRS transmissions are limited to 500mW power and radios with non-detachable antennas, and MURS is limited to 2W power... so it seems we will need at least Technician level FCC ham license to utilize the frequencies that we would likely want to use (GMRS, FRS, MURS or otherwise) for the VHF/UHF radios we are considering. Do you concur? Regarding "commercial license," yes, I agree no commercial license is needed, but the amateur radio license (ham) is needed.


                            • #15
                              Yes, it seems you are correct. Looks like basically if you want to transmit more than a mile or so with anything other than a basic CB you need to get licensed. Dang! I can see a few of us getting the bacon, oh wait, errr...ham license but for the whole group I don't see it as a viable option at this point. Hmmm....
                              1992 Champion EuroPremier 38', 1984 Ford Bronco, 2010 Australian Shepherd - "Coby", 2012 Pomeranian- "Bella"
                     --- Twitter @ClassicRVNet