Short Distance HAM Alternative

Discussion in 'Communication & Navigation' started by od4x4, Jan 13, 2018.

  1. od4x4

    od4x4

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    So the short story is that I have been studying for my HAM test but have not had time to go take it yet... hopefully soon! And while looking around I came across the MXT line from Midland. https://midlandusa.com/product/mxt115-micromobile-2-way-radio/

    Since my purpose for HAM up to this point has really been just for slightly longer distance communications (compared to CB) would this be an alternative that I should look at? HAM radios can access these frequencies but I don’t know if a HAM license covers these or if you need the separate GMRS license in addition.

    My main reason for asking is that it appears that this radio is significantly easier to use which might be important if my wife ever needed and I was not around. I might be completely overthinking this, but I am so used to CB communications that HAM is a little daunting at this point.

    Sorry in advance for my lack of knowledge but thank you for also helping to point me in the right direction.
     
  2. Dharma Dude

    Dharma Dude

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    Officially a ham license allows you to operator only on ham bands, even if your radio can operate on GMRS frequencies like the Baofeng uv-5r.
    You'll need a GMRS license to operator on GMRS. However, you only need one GMRS license per family. With HAM, both you and your wife will need licenses.

    There are some very cheap GMRS radios (bubble pack walkie-talkies you find everywhere). GMRS band overlaps with FRS which doesn't require a license at all but it's only half a watt max. There are so many cheap GMRS radios out there; most people don't even bother with getting a license. Having said that, a better GMRS radio is worth it for the reliability and power.

    What kind of distance are you wanting to communicate over?

    With a good antenna, at the same power level and without repeaters, and same terrain, CB (because of its longer wavelength) will actually have more range than 2m and 70cm ham bands. Ham and GMRS will let you operate at higher power which can increase range. Ham will let you use repeaters to extend your range quite a lot.
     
  3. od4x4

    od4x4

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    Well like I said still learning!

    I am not looking for crazy distance. I would be really happy with 5 miles in mountain terrain... mostly looking to keep contact with companion travelers. HAM is probably still the way to go but a single license that covers the family and easier to use radios is still a consideration. And of course if I could get more range it would not hurt my feelings!

    Really just wondering the difference and if higher power GMRS is an option since I am very early in researching amateur radio.
     
  4. Dharma Dude

    Dharma Dude

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    5 miles in mountain terrain. That could be asking for alot. CB (11m wavelength) is your best bet because of longer wavelength which follows terrain better but it's downside is low power 5W. And even with 11m, mountains might be too much. I wouldn't expect much range in the mountains from GMRS since it requires line of sight. Higher power will help but it can't overcome extreme terrain.

    VHF or 2m ham w/o repeater is somewhere in between. Ham VHF or UHF would be the best if there is a repeater in line of sight of both the two radio.

    You could try HF ham but it requires bigger antennas, and a more advanced ham license.
     
  5. ChaseTruck

    ChaseTruck --

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    I've acquired a GMRS license since my wife doesn't want to bother with the Ham test. I'm not sure I've got the protocol down, but I've never heard anyone else on the GMRS channel we've started to use.

    Max distance in an almost-line-of-sight situation (as in: handheld 5w, from inside a moving truck at 65mph to handheld 5w, inside the living room...) we've managed was ~ 12 miles. In corrugated terrain w/o direct line of sight (again, from the truck to inside the living room...), communication became spotty at ~ 2 miles; good signal when I had the truck on a ridge, scratchy/absent comms when I had the truck in a valley.

    We generally use CB between both our vehicles when on the trail; there are tuned firestik antennas on each truck. However, for us, CB communication becomes spotty with 1-1.5 miles distance between the vehicles, even in relatively open terrain. The other day, we were ~ 3 miles apart, she was able to reach me on the GMRS radio; no go at all on the CB. Even so, I was down in a desert wash and could receive her GMRS signal, but to successfully transmit, I had to get out of the truck and walk up the side of the wash (maybe 12 feet higher) to answer. Perhaps that actually created somewhat of a line-of-sight situation, but with all the vegetation I couldn't tell.
     
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  6. Dharma Dude

    Dharma Dude

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    Thanks for the real life experience. The wash experience matches my experience for Ham 2m. I only had a handheld and usually climbing up higher helps alot even when you get clear receive.
     
  7. Joel Kasper

    Joel Kasper

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    If you purchase a GMRS licence you can use up to a 50 watt radio. The link below is for the 40 watt version by Midland. It will give you about the same range as a 70cm ham radio and is a good choice. A 40 watt GMRS will out preform a CB every time. If you want your wife to use it and she does not want to get a ham licencel why not. Most mobile ham radios have programmable channels so they are not that different or hard to use.

    Ham radio has more options including may more repeaters, larger frequency range and many others but if a GMRS fits your needs then it is a great option. That is what it is there for.

    I am somewhat supersized GMRS has not become more popular in the off-road community considering so may find the test to be a deal breaker. The licence for GMRS is $90 for 5 years and no test needed.

    https://midlandusa.com/product/mxt400-micromobile-2-way-radio/
     
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  8. od4x4

    od4x4

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    I am not worried about the test. I know that is I study I will be able to pass it.... and no matter what I decide I will probably do it since it is not crazy difficult and of course there is that whole legal thing that seems to be a bit of a hot button topic.

    It sounds like this may still be an option since my wife will more than likely not take the ham test....at least not right away. There is always the fact that some of my traveling friends carry FRS/GMRS radios to communicate while traveling and this would make it easier. Of course I don’t want that many antennas, but the GMRS antenna is small and could just be stowed in the back drawer until needed.

    My brother in law has a GMRS license so I convince him to get one too and then we can try it out on an upcoming camping trip.
     
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  9. Joel Kasper

    Joel Kasper

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  10. Dharma Dude

    Dharma Dude

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  11. Joel Kasper

    Joel Kasper

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    Interesting graphs but the radio powers are not real world

    CB is has a legal limit of 5w not 100w
    VHF/UHF ham mobiles are between 50w and 85w. Hand held's (HT) are 5w
    With a licence GMRS limit is 50w many radios are 40w

    This error makes the graph just wrong!!!!

    upload_2018-1-15_22-44-11.png

    upload_2018-1-15_22-41-46.png
     
  12. Dharma Dude

    Dharma Dude

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    I think this site does pirate mods to their radios. I believe you can get a 12w CB SSB legally but almost everybody uses AM on CB.
     
  13. Joel Kasper

    Joel Kasper

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    Yes you are correct CB has a 12w limit on SSB and a 4 w limit on AM. Like I have said many times amateur radio is not that hard to get into and you can do so much why keep trying to get around the rules?
     
  14. Dharma Dude

    Dharma Dude

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    I have a ham license KZ6LSD

    When I wheel with hams I much prefer 2m or 70cm. Even though the license is easy, there are lots of people who just don't think it's worth getting the license such as my wife, and my kids, and some friends. So with them I use GMRS/FRS. I also wheel with a deaf friend and we use the goTenna texting dongles (which is UHF). I am radio gearhead, so I always plan to carry three or four radios to make sure I cover all folks.

    The ham test is easy for even the minimally technically inclined. When I took it, it had one question about ohms law and one on "P = V * I". But for some people, even this will challenge some.. not on this forum but relatives of.
     
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  15. Elbert

    Elbert SILVER Star

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    to the OP...pick one of the simple 2 meter radios and you'll be fine. You might want to practice so that you and whomever else might need need to operate the radio understands the basics. How to turn it on , how to change the frequency etc. Like many things in the electronics world you have many options and certainly a person could easily get over their head with some of the ham gear.

    Not sure why you are studying for the test and looking for alternatives at the same time? The tech test only requires a maybe a few hours of study across a couple of days. eham.net and many ohter places have practice tests etc. ARRL has a study guide. as noted stay with the simple 2 meter ham radios, geI the tech license and you'll be good.

    I took the online practice test a number of times until I was satisfied I understood my mistakes and I felt good about the content. I did not run down every answer to every question, but I felt confident I had a handle on 80+% of the content and I understood the logic. Test material comes right off the practice content as put out by eham.net and others.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
  16. od4x4

    od4x4

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    To answer the question why am I studying and looking for alternatives? I like to learn!

    To answer why am I taking so long to study? Because all the friggin tests in my area have been while I have been on work trips. Looks like March will be soonest... why can’t they do this online? Seems like more people would take the test and pay the fee if it was actually easier to do!

    Again, the origional question was really just is GMRS a viable alternative. There are so many opinions and no true consensus, but right now feeling is that the different radio types are preferred as follows:

    Road Trippers / RV : prefer GMRS because the FM transmission is clearer and don’t need long distance.
    Off-roaders: prefer C.B. because that is what most of their buddies have.
    Overlanders / Expo: prefer ham because of flexibility and the ability to communicate at longer distances.

    I think that for my current desires, 2 meter with a CB backup is the way to go but I really find it interesting that there is not one technology that rises to the top as the best. I guess that is why there are still so many options and so many difference in what people are adopting.

    And now back to studying! By the time a test date comes around I might just take general too!!
     
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  17. Joel Kasper

    Joel Kasper

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    Just an FYI the question pool for the current Technician test expires at the end of June. I guess I wold recommend that if you have been studying the existing pool questions make sure you take the test before the end of June.
     
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  18. od4x4

    od4x4

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    Thank you. I did not know that it was June but if I haven’t taken the test by then, the questions will probably be the least of my worries!
     
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