GMRS Radio Choices

Howdy All,

I’ve been through three sets of FRS radios. None have worked for the abuse I put them through. The first set got thrown off the mountain. The last set just went into the recycle bin and they were the most expensive at 130 a set. I knew I needed to take it up a notch, so earlier this year, I got a GMRS license through the FCC. Did it online for 85 bucks…Easy as pie.

Need something that will handle back country abuse. In order of preference in terms of requirements:

  • Fairly Rugged - Not totally waterproof but will get subjected to snow, rain and dirt. Plus I’m hard on stuff, so maybe something built meeting some mil-specs? I want to have these things 5 years from now.
  • Long Battery Life - These gotta go 5-8 hours a day for at least 2 days and maybe three. Probably Li Ion? Maybe an extra capacity battery available? They could be used at higher altitudes and on glacier travel, so lower temps are a consideration.
  • Small/Light as Possible - These will go on a climbing harness so I’m hauling it up a mountain. Short as possible antenna, but I know this is directly proportional to range (see below.)
  • Separate Mic - Don’t need hands free (VOX?) but a mic @ the chest would be handy.
  • Good Parts Availability - Would prefer something kinda common so if I need to replace parts, I can.
  • Short Range - Don’t need super long range as typically we’re a rope length away. If not, we’re not climbing and it max is gonna be half a mile, but that could be in the heavy woods. Maybe lower power like a 2 watt radio?
  • Self Programmable - Do I care? Why would I ever need to reprogram a radio?

I’m willing to pay decent coin ($300 each) for these things…Anybody do anything similar? How did you decide? And what about this confusing frequency business?

Seems like ICOM and Vertex have really good warranties, Motorola is most common.

Any help is greatly appreciated.

I have been thinking about this 2 watt unit and program it to MURS and to receive NOAA channels. No license needed. I am just balking at the $130+ price for each and may go with a GMRS and buy the $85 license. Not sure how tough it is but it is a comercial radio. Some say with VHF it may work better in the woods than GMRS even at only 2 watts.

Tekk XV100


At $300 a pop, you have a lot of options! There are a great many commercial radios that can be programmed for GMRS, and are type-accepted for such. Many are way under the price limit… unfortunately, I have no experiences with them myself. I know I’ve heard more discussion on Icom being a favorite than any other brand. With Icom, though, it is easier to get the programming software to change your radio programming yourself. with Motorola, it is impossible.

All of Midland’s gmrs would fill most of your needs between $30 and $70 per pair. I have the gxt900 and get 5 days on Nimh 2900 mah rechargeable batteries at 8-16 hrs/day. 3 yr no fuss guarantee, that I have used! Heavy transmitting I imagine I could at least get 2 days. water resistant and pretty darn rugged, thick ABS. (Several bike wrecks and being run over by a car when the clip broke)

I had a set of midlands, but in order to get a mic to work, you have to push the ptt button on the mic AND the ptt button on the radio, which was a bit of a pain…

The commercial radios that can be programmed for gmrs/fms sound interesting to me, as i am in the same position as Alan, having gone through a fair amount of the “cheap” fms/gmrs radios I am also looking for something more rugged. Is a commercial radio the way to go?

Commercial radios usually have a solid metal frame and they use heavy duty plastic. This makes them much tougher than a standard consumer radio. Another thing to look for are milspec rated radios, they are required to pass several test in regards to resistance to temperature, dust, moisture, and physical punishment.

Commercial radios are also more efficiently designed, this gives them longer battery life and more “usable” transmission power. That is why a 2 watt commercial radio will last longer and transmit better than a 5 watt consumer model. (As many on these forums have noted, often a 5 watt consumer radio just uses power a lot faster - reducing battery life - with little return from the extra wattage.) What you will often not have are the extra features that are common with consumer radios (NOAA alerts, display, easy to operate controls, 22 channels pre-programmed and ready to use, etc…).

While most people looking for GMRS radios are more than happy with traditional models, if you need something a lot more durable and reliable we recommend programming a commercial grade radio to use MURS or GMRS frequencies.