MURS in Real World for Family / Camping Use

I was thinking of getting some MURS handsets to use while camping when cell service is unavailable, backing up a travel trailer and family comms.

My understanding is that grandfathered businesses have MURS channel priorities and even if I use PL codes, I’ll still interfere with their transmissions if they are around me.

Is MURS too much of a hassle to find find a usable channel for family and campground use that isn’t going to step on someone else’s signals and toes?

The other thing is I understand GMRS has less range in the great outdoors, but would probably penetrate a stick and tin travel trailer better than the MURS freqs. I would also have more channels to choose from with GMRS.

Any perspective and/or advice appreciated!

Good morning!

MURS and GMRS would both be solid options for family/camping applications. There are a few differences that you need to consider before making your decision. You are correct in that the license-free designation for MURS radios makes them popular with businesses, but the range of these types of radios is very limited. Unless the campground itself is using MURS radios for their operations, it’s very unlikely that you will encounter any radio interference on these frequencies, and very unlikely that you will step on anyone else’s either.

GMRS will be the much more common frequencies in these types of scenarios. GMRS radios will actually get better range than MURS, due to the fact that you can use these frequencies at a much higher power output. The max allowed for GMRS is 5 watts on handheld units and up to 50 watts on mobile-style radios. However, keep in mind that if you plan on using them at anything over 2 watts, you will be required to obtain your GMRS license from the FCC.

The benefits of MURS are them being license-free, and a typically more durable radio (Motorola RMM2050). The benefits of GMRS would be more channel options and more power/better range (again, only if you are licensed to do so).

All things considered, both options would likely work fine and with very little chance of experiencing any unwanted interference, especially when using PL tones. If you have any other questions, just let us know. Thanks!

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Thanks Rob.

Two follow on questions:

  1. I thought that the UHF GMRS signal had a harder time getting through trees and foliage than VHF MURS?

  2. I know this is a totally different price point, but how would a DLR work for this use?

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Here’s the typical rule of thumb with the two different frequency ranges - VHF is better-suited for outdoor use with minimal obstructions (trees included). UHF is typically the better option when dealing with obstructions. However, if both radios are transmitting at the same wattage - 2 watts for example - the range difference will be minimal. MURS is limited to this 2 watt maximum, no matter what. GMRS can be used at a much higher wattage, increasing the actual range of the radios, regardless of obstructions. In MOST cases, the higher wattage is much important than the frequency itself when determining range.

A Motorola DLR radio would likely not be ideal for this application. Although they are license-free and use an extremely high 900 MHz frequency range, the transmit wattage is only 1 watt. These are ideal for buildings with thick concrete or steel, but not very well-suited for long range in outdoor environments.

That was all good advice. Just want to add that it is also dependent on where you live. If you live in Canada, for example, MURS is not allowed because of all the legacy business frequencies. Your choices for licence-free are GMRS and Motorola DLR/DTR.

I have tested DTR and DLR radios against the best business, MURS and GMRS radios for range in real world conditions. While VHF may provide slightly better range in rural areas, much of that is outdated information. Range is more related to power, quality of the radio and quality of the antenna. A good GMRS radio will have about the same range as a good quality MURS radio, and a DLR or DTR will beat almost everything for range, rural or urban.

The big difference between a MURS or GMRS radio and the DLR radio is not just the higher price but the much greater quality of the signal. Your transmission is always 100% or 0; there is no in-between scratchy sound that is hard to understand. This is where a GMRS might have slightly better range in fringe areas than a DLR radio, but you are so far into the outer edges of reception that it will be almost impossible to understand. A DLR radio, being digital, won’t transmit at all at these outer edges.

This is why there is no easy answer to your question. Millions of users are more than satisfied with good-quality GMRS radios. Some users want a better quality radio (and are willing to pay a higher cost) and choose MURS. A few users want the best quality sound, the longest range and the most privacy that one can possibly achieve with a licence-free radio, and they are willing to pay for the much higher priced Motorola DTR or DLR radios.

Chickenhawk, thanks for that information and the results of your range testing! That’s very helpful.

I’m moving toward DLRs, but have a question about the 1/2 second delay.

My wife and I will be using them while backing up a travel trailer. She needs to give me directions including STOP. Is the 1/2 second delay always present? 1/2 second might not be a big deal I guess. With my current GMRS set we have to hold the PTT button down at least a second or first part of the transmission gets cut off.

The delay is the normal latency of digital radios. It needs to send a handshake signal to ensure the other radio is within range. You can’t get away from it and calling instant stops will always be the downside to digital radios. But I have also tested some analog Part 90 (business) radios that don’t have a delay in transmission but you do need to hold the PTT for at least one second first. A bit frustrating. I guess you are the only one who can decide if latency is a deal breaker or not.

I think a 1/2 second is probably better than what I have now with the PTT button.

Would there be any advantage to getting the two channel DLRs instead of the six channel? It would seem the more channels the merrier, but I could be wrong about that.

There is no difference between the two DLR models, other than the number of channels. The number of channels you need is ultimately up to you, and will depend on how you want to use the radios. For camping use, it’s very unlikely that you will need to use more than one channel because, as Chickenhawk mentioned previously, these radios are the most private radios you can own, so it’s nearly impossible that you will encounter any radio interference on your channel.

Quite frankly, in all the years I have used DTR radios and the new DLR radios, I have never used more than one channel. If I was using them for a business that needed multiple channels, it would be different but in my line of work, everyone needs to hear everyone else. It is handy to have a second channel to take longer conversations on to, but for your purposes, the two-channel one will be fine. But for only $10 more, the 1060 would be better, even if you never use the extra channels. If you don’t like the radios or find the latency to be a problem, they will be easier to sell on the used market.

This is all accurate (in the main) information but the real problem us that these services that use hand held radios are designed for local area use where signal strength is not an issue. If you want longer ranges then you also need decent antennas, at least at one end. Nobody can have long range and radios that will work sitting your pocket. At ANY power. Capture effect on FM ensures that a signal strong enough is usable, but instead of going from say 500mW to 5W to try to get good signal, pulling the radio from the pocket and holding over your head works better. A radio on your lapel, and a speaker mic better than one in a pocket shielded by the body.

Radio systems with repeaters work amazingly well when the repeater is high and in the clear, antenna wise - even with low powers. Two handhelds of high power will always struggle. Short range hand held work great for what they are intended to do. long ranges suit hand held very badly. Increasing power really doesn’t work that well.