Jump to content
  • 0

Handheld most likely to succeed in the forest?



Since there a few knowledgeable HAMs on this forum,and my issue spans GMRS and HAM radios, I figured I'd take a shot here.  I’ve been struggling a radio suitability issue for years and haven't found much discussion on the topic. 


I'm a big hiker and hike leader in the mountains of New England.  I have had several instances where handhelds have become necessary.  Cell phones are entirely unreliable, since the mountains are tall and the valleys long and sometimes deep and the trails are circuitous.  I have at least three choices as I see it - GMRS/UHF, MURS/VHF, or VHF/Amateur.


I've had incidents where the hiking group splintered for various acceptable and unacceptable reasons.  The "why" is for another discussion. 


GMRS @ 1 WATT (me licensed) - blister pack radios

Three scenarios usually play out.  a) When we were under the forest canopy, with a slow and fast group, they work pretty well, up to about a half mile, since we're on the same trail, going up the same side of the mountain.  B) the splinter group decides to down another path.  Even though I was on the summit, I could not reach them or they me.  As my party hiked down towards the base, (about 2.5 miles), we only made contact again when we were about 1/2 mile from them.  Even then it was sketchy.  We were still upslope, they were in the valley.  So the line of site was obstructed only by the trees immediately overhead.   c) the party that goes down the opposite side of the mountain  - helpless, I know. 

While I have Moto Talkabout distance, GMRS @ 2 watt, I opted for the blister pack because pack weight is an issue.  I am also dealing with different people each hike, so they are wildcards.   Well, I’m deep sixing the blisters.


GMRS @ 2 Watt (licensed) (Talkabout Distance)

Is this a worthy option?  I’ve tricked it out with a longer antenna since this radio allows for interchangeable antennas.  I’ll carry it next time even though every ounce of weight adds up.


MURS @ 2 Watt

Pros:  Seems attractive since its VHF and can probably punch through the foliage better. Not particularly worried about interference in the middle of nowhere!  Cons: Big and bulky, not cheap.  Runs on a rechargeable pack which is more expensive than a handful of AA batteries.


GMRS or VHF (HAM Licensed) @ 4-5 Watt

Pros – stands the best chance of success.  Cons: While I’m going to be Amateur Tech licensed in a couple weeks, it’s impossible to expect these random hikers have any qualifications.



Fuggetaboutit.  Not happening where I hike.  I’ve been known to run up to hill tops to reach people with checkered success.

I realize that none of these options are very good, but I really need to minimize someone getting hurt or injured.


Your thoughts?



Link to comment
Share on other sites

15 answers to this question

Recommended Posts

  • 0

Hi, Bill and Welcome to MyGMRS...


There is another option for you. I'll just mention this and then others will have suggestions for you regarding all of the options...


You can get licensed as an individual for a business radio service (IG) VHF ITINERANT frequency such as 151.6250 Mhz and use 5 watt portables.  License yourself for the max number of portables that you would ever need and everyone under your supervision can operate under YOUR license as authorized persons.


In similar conditions to those that you face while on disaster responses, I have had reliable comm out to about 6 to 6-1/2 miles portable to portable at 5 watts with Kenwood TK-280G units.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 0

     On average VHF travels farther at 5 watts than UHF at 5 watts, but UHF has MUCH smaller dead spots than VHF.  Dead spots on VHF can be 5 to 6 feet long where UHF dead spots can be 4 to 6 inches long.  I would use UHF for it's much better foliage penetration also.  I do like the idea that you get licensed for commercial so you can use 5 watt UHF radios for everyone in your group under your license.  The radios will be a little heavier, but weight versus life makes it a mute issue.  You'll spend a bunch of money to get set up, but will feel great when you can keep an eye on everyone much better.  Have each group carry GPS equipment so you can get locations if things go wrong.  I like that you are really thinking about safety and security this hard.  Keep up the good work and let us know what you find out.  It will help all of us out to learn from you. 



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 0

Jerry - Thanks for the reminder about range and dead spots.


If Bill would choose commercial UHF, there are good ITINERANT frequencies on 464.5000 and 464.5500 narrowband that are pretty much clear channel once you move out of urban areas. I am also licensed for these and have also used these successfully in the past - not quite the distance of VHF, but not bad.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 0

David - Thanks for posting your question and for joining us here at the Forum.... Welcome.


In general terms, the first step is to secure a Federal Registration Number (FRN). If you already have an FRN, then you can disregard this first link.  This first link below will take you to the page that discusses FRN:




Securing an FRN is required so you can do financial business with the FCC in paying fees. The second link below has click buttons for FRN registration as well as on-line license applications and procedures.


Once you have an FRN, you can go through the licensing procedure in the second link below. In order to get a NON-Itinerant license, contact an FCC authorized frequency coordination company in your area. They will evaluate possible frequencies in your area for existing traffic and coordinate between you and the FCC for the most interferance free channel or channels before you apply. This is REQUIRED.   If you choose either 464.5000 mhz or 464.5500 mhz ( 35 watt max itinerant - USA) no frequency coordinator is needed, but you will be subjected to many other licensees on those frequencies wherever you go in the US.


FCC FRN and  Licensing: http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/index.htm?job=home


Please let us know if you have any additional questions.... that's what we are here for.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 0

I have filled out the application for the MOI (mobile itinerant) license up to the point of antenna specifications and frequency specifications. I plan to use handhelds only.


Questions on the antenna:

AAT (meters)

Antenna Ht. (meters)

Azimuth (degrees)

Beamwith (degrees)


Gani (db)


Questions on the frequency

Lower or Center Frequency (MHz)

Upper Frequency (MHz)

Frequency Carrier (MHz)


I know that 464.5000 is brown dot and 464.5500 is yellow dot.  Please help me with these questions for the application.  Many thanks in advance.




Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 0

What kind of frequency(s) was that?

For all interested members:  IG class Business Radio Service can be set up on the dedicated frequencies listed in the link below. Click on Subpart C,  90.35 Industrial/Business Pool -


Note:   MOST need to be approved by a frequency coordination service as part of the licensing process.


I got around that by licensing on Itinerant frequencies in Lowband VHF, Highband VHF and UHF for the entire US, but in large urban areas, there can be many other users on an itinerant frequency...



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Answer this question...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Guidelines.