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GMRS HT Round Up


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I wanted to find a pair of handhelds I could give to my young kids while out hiking and exploring. Something that will help them feel more confident going out of sight, while remaining in contact with Mom and Dad, and not having to worry about losing / breaking an expensive radio. Keep in mind they are 5 and 8 years old doing 7+ mile hikes while carrying their own food and water. Keeping gear weight down is important.

My requirements are (in order of importance):

  • Small form factor and lightweight
  • Relatively cheap, but decent build quality
  • USB rechargeable

 

What I looked at:

  • Baofeng UV-5G
  • BAOFENG G11S
  • Radioddity FS-T1
  • TIDRADIO TD-H5
  • Midland x-Talker (existing radio)

 

Size Comparison:

1631915095_PXL_20220418_231922203_MP2.thumb.jpg.12bb6cfa36b6c70974ea4ba8bb7d4e1b.jpg

 

Radioddity FS-T1

Weight: 4.25 oz

Battery Capacity: 1500 mAh, 3.7V

Size: (see comparison pic)

The only new FRS radio, and also the cheapest at $35 for the pair. And you get what you pay for here. This one was easily the lowest quality of the bunch and just felt cheap and plasticky. The belt clip was terrible and looks like it will snap in no time. The flap covering the charging port ripped off during the first charge session. And micro-usb!?? Come on man … bummer. Not impressed at all.

Verdict: Hard pass.

 

BAOFENG G11S

Weight: ?? forgot to do this stuff

Battery Capacity: ??

Size:??

I liked this one, good build quality, durable feeling. But it was simply too big and heavy for the kids. I would recommend this if you want to get a decent GMRS HT that is simple to use for adult friends who are not radio dorks.

Verdict: Returned.

 

TIDRADIO TD-H5

Weight: 8.75 oz

Battery Capacity: 1500 mAh, 7.4V

Size: (see comparison pic)

The only one of the bunch with an actual USB-C charging port on the battery! Dang, why is this such a hard thing to find? Not sure, but moving on … You get a lot of stuff in this package, 2 radios, extra batteries, microphones, and more. But you also get what you pay for as well. Smaller battery capacity and while the radio felt decent in my hands, it had one really annoying issue that won’t bother most people. The channel selector has ~ 5 millisecond delay between when you press the button and when the radio responds. I work in software and performance issues like this drives me nuts, no way would I be happy using this. Interestingly the radio is much more responsive in menu settings. So the delay issue, larger / heavier form factor, smaller battery out-weighed the benefit of USB-C charging.

Verdict: Returned.

 

Baofeng UV-5G

Weight: 7.6 oz

Battery Capacity: 1800 mAh, 7.4V

Size: (see comparison pic)

I was really impressed with this one. It’s not the smallest or lightest, but it has a small enough form factor that when the kids wore it on their packs they did not complain. Has all the awesome features you already know about and love. Not much else I can say that hasn’t already been said by others. The only draw back on this is the standard battery still requires a charging cradle. Some other users pointed out that the upgraded battery pack comes with a barrel charger that can work on a USB adapter. That’s cool, if only we could do that on the standard size battery.

Verdict: Will keep this one for Mom and Dad!

 

Overall Conclusion:

Unfortunately, I was not able to find what I was looking for and will continue using the Midland x-talker FRS blister pack radios for the kids. It’s small and light weight and gets the job done. I’ll just have to be diligent about bringing extra set of fresh batteries. On the plus side, Mom and Dad got an awesome pair of repeater-capable radios with the UV-5G!

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I don’t know what kind of range you’re expecting out of the radios. The two with antennas close to a full quarter wave, around 6 inches, would have been on my list. The other two with munchkin sized antennas I doubt will perform as well range wise to the other two. That’s assuming they are all equal, in power output, another area where manufacturers don’t generally put that in the specifications.

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Faced with the same issues I bought a pair of Retevis RB26s. They are simple radios. No screen, no keypad. You turn a knob for in/off/volume and there is a rocker switch on the side for channels. Basically you tell the user what channel to keep it on and that’s it. Only the basic GMRS channels and 8 repeater channels, and they have to be programmed via computer (they come with codes in every channel 😞. They use the usual k type programming cable, not included) and they are only 3 watts (although they seem to have the same range as my 5 watt HTs), and the antenna is not replaceable (no hex screw) but the battery lasts all day, and they are dead simple to use. And they can be inexpensive. I bought mine for less than $20 each. 

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Good point about power output. I don't need much range for this scenario; up to 1/2 mile is plenty. The kids need to go over the hill and around the bend and be able to call in a "bear report" and that's about it.

 

15 hours ago, Lscott said:

I don’t know what kind of range you’re expecting out of the radios. The two with antennas close to a full quarter wave, around 6 inches, would have been on my list. The other two with munchkin sized antennas I doubt will perform as well range wise to the other two. That’s assuming they are all equal, in power output, another area where manufacturers don’t generally put that in the specifications.

 

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On 4/19/2022 at 12:47 PM, WRPCinci said:

Good point about power output. I don't need much range for this scenario; up to 1/2 mile is plenty. The kids need to go over the hill and around the bend and be able to call in a "bear report" and that's about it.

½ mile over a hill and around a bend may exceed the capability of GMRS 

 

 

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On 4/19/2022 at 9:47 AM, WRPCinci said:

Good point about power output. I don't need much range for this scenario; up to 1/2 mile is plenty. The kids need to go over the hill and around the bend and be able to call in a "bear report" and that's about it.

 

On 4/20/2022 at 5:55 PM, AdmiralCochrane said:

½ mile over a hill and around a bend may exceed the capability of GMRS 

In both cases, it depends on the obstacles in the way.

Over a small hill may not pose much of a problem, but a big hill or mountain will almost certainly pose a problem (unless you can go around it instead of over it).

The same is generally true for "around the bend." If that bend involves a hill or mountain, you would likely be okay to a point, then it would drop out completely.

The only way to really know if it's going to work for you is to try it.

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  • 2 weeks later...

i bought a pair of the TIDRADIO TD-H5, for the price was like $85, got 2 radios, 2 lapel mic's, 4 batteries that charge via usb-c, couldn't beat it.  they push ~4.35watts and work well.  you can also swap antenna's on these with a small allan key.  I put a 15.5" Nagoya whip on them, and can now make the repeater 3 miles away (couldn't hit it with the OEM rubber ducky)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I didn't read the whole post, sorry if this had been covered but my kids, 3 and 5, get Retevis RT22 radios. 1/2 watt on low, 2 watts on high. Battery lasts a long time. They get limited buttons to mess with (basically on/off, volume and channel up or down).

They come in pairs and six packs. A pair is about 30 bucks.

They charge via USB which is nice for extended hikes if you need to charge them off a battery pack or solar charger.

 

The built in antenna isnt horrid, yes a 5 watt radio with a better antenna goes further but I found these are impressive.

 

These radios are small enough you can attach them right to the shoulder strap of a backpack and there is no need for a shoulder mic. This places the radio near the ear so they can hear and also places it close to their mouth so they can key it and talk.

The radio programs with Chirp.

I was using one today on a solo hike.

20220509_160437.jpg

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