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5 mile + portable radios


Guest Letz_go_ride
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Guest Letz_go_ride

I'm sure this question has been asked many times, but I can't find the thread.  I'm with a mountain biking patrol group that monitors cross country runs and bike rides with support and first aid.  Our group usually operates within a particular county in GA, but we're struggling to find an appropriate radio for our use.  Naturally the GMRS radios without a repeater doesn't work b/c of the terrain, woods, etc.  I'm not familiar with MURS so I don't know what that is at all.  What I'm looking for is a unit that we could use to communicate between the team over a trail system in the woods.  Is there any such animal out there without breaking the bank with high dollar motorola radios with repeaters?  Any help is greatly appreciated. 

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a mobile repeater could do the trick, if mounted in your car or truck in a parking area, can increase coverage nicely. add a small mast and improve coverage even more. murs is VHF and I hear its signal can travel with the terrain. GMRS is UHF and requires line of sight.

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Most SAR teams utilize VHF for this exact reason. Our SAR team assists with multiple trail runs thruout the year and VHF is the only way we can cover the terrain effectively. We have access to UHF, VHF and 800 and by far the best bang is VHF. Depending on the amount of territory a VHF repeater is a bit more involved to set up and use but will be easier once complete. We run on Public Safety frequencies (have about 12 channels licensed to us) which allows any one on our team use a radio. The issue we had with GMRS was people not wanting to pay for another item. We still use MURS randomly for close by stuff but rarely as we have a car-car channel. MURS will not allow repeaters but depending on distance may be ok for your adventures.

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Guest Letz_go_ride

Thanks so much for the info.  In reading above, do I understand correctly that I could use my (older) VHF radios I currently have (Motorola XTN series radios) and find someone to make a repeater setup and this would be the best?  I haven't tried the VHF radio to radio but now after reading this, I may need to try those.  Sorry I seem so "radio dumb".. .but that's the reality.  I'm a mountain biker.... radios are foreign to me....

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Thanks so much for the info.  In reading above, do I understand correctly that I could use my (older) VHF radios I currently have (Motorola XTN series radios) and find someone to make a repeater setup and this would be the best?  I haven't tried the VHF radio to radio but now after reading this, I may need to try those.  Sorry I seem so "radio dumb".. .but that's the reality.  I'm a mountain biker.... radios are foreign to me....

 

There are no VHF frequencies that are license free outside of MURS which is limited to approved 2 watt radios and simplex only. Your group may be able to obtain an FCC license for a repeater pair of frequencies. But that will cost several hundred dollars for frequency coordination and license application fees. And you still have to acquire the radios and repeater. Any repeater you might use in any frequency band or radio service has to be portable and battery operated. That will add to the cost of your system.

 

What may be an option is to talk to a local two-way radio shop and see if they can get you pointed in the right direction. You really do need to be using 5 watt VHF portable radios and possibly a low power VHF repeater. Since you operate throughout your local area, the solution needs to be flexible based on distance and terrain. That's why I am urging you to talk to a local professional. Some of these radio dealers have systems available for rent, too.

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Just to toss another $0.02 into the mix... we use MURS frequencies for the course marshals for my kids' school cross-country races. We're not out to 5 miles, but we have a max separation of maybe a mile or so (as the crow files) through a hilly, wooded area. I've tried MURS and FRS, and have found that MURS tends to be a bit more reliable. (I'm sure the extra power helps a bit, too.)

 

Nice thing about working simplex is that each station only has to be within range of one other station, who can then relay information if needed. We have one spot on our course where the coverage is spotty back to the finish line area, but no problem for the marshal on either side of that spot to hear and relay. If using a repeater, you require a bit more technical prowess on the part of the user to either manage switching between a repeater and simplex frequency, or "listening on the input". For our volunteer parents, this would be a no-go.

 

Another thing you could do is ditch the stock "rubber duck" antennas on your portable units and upgrade to a better antenna more closely tuned to your frequencies (and/or longer). This becomes a bit less convenient on VHF (e.g. MURS) since the antennas need to be longer than UHF, but may be an option if radios are mounted on a waistband or backpack with a speaker-mic. Just watch your eyes.  :D

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As Steve pointed out you need a license for pretty much any frequency. As a Public Safety agency you need to pay for coordination fees. Expect to pay around $300+ to get a VHF pair coordinated. The other this that was mentioned was talk to a local radio dealer. When our team started out with radios we got free air time on a local LTR trunk system donated. We had to purchase our own radios but the shop gave us a great deal on some lease and rentals that where in poor shape. It got us thru until we could get repeater sites, frequencies and equipment. In another county we operate we actually found a school district that had a VHF repeater system. They allowed us to use the channel on off school hours. Being 95% of our calls where on weekends and night it worked great until we could get our own site.

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