Radios for Biological Consulting

I am a field biologist and do most of my work in remote areas (USA) that are often hilly (WV, KY, VA, TN, etc.). I have been in this profession for 4 years with two different companies and I am agian dealing with a communication issue that arises every year. How can we communicate between multiple teams (both in trucks and on foot) when cell phones do not work. We have a license for GMRS two way radios, but we often find we are not able to communicate when line of site is not optimal, and when we are miles apart. We are thinking of outfitting all vehicles with perminate radios and then haveing mobile radios for when we are on foot. Would CB’s be the best bet for vehicle to vehicle communications, and what is the range of CB’s? Should we got to VHF radios when we are on foot? Any suggestions would be great! I know repeaters extend transmission distances, but we are never in the same ares for more than a few days, so I don’t think this would do us any good? Are repeaters easy to set up and mobile (i.e. can they be mounted to trucks?). Money is always a issue, but communication is important for our line of work (saftey and data transmission), so we don’t mind investing in something that will work. We do a lot of work for the Forest Service, and they often let us use their radios, wich seem to get good ranges. Any idea on what kind of radios they use (I assume they use repeaters since they get long ranges in remote areas)? I’m sure some of these questions come up a lot, so i appreciate any help.

CB Radios may be the best tool for your needs. CB radio frequencies are lower than VHF so they are even better suited for outdoor use. If much of your communication is done from within vehicles you could install a CB and an external antenna, which would add considerably more range than a handheld radio. Handheld CB radios are also available, which you could use while not in the vehicles. These are larger and heavier than two way radios, but you may be OK with that if you want the most range possible.

Hope this was helpful.


Danny, thanks for the information. I will do some more research with CB’s. Do you have any idea what the average range is with hand held CB’s? I’m sure it depends on a lot of factors, but just curious on a be guess. Thanks!

Unfortunately I can’t give you a great estimate on the amount of range to expect with the hand-helds. I have a lot more experience with two-ways than CBs :frowning:

The Cobra handhelds that we carry are 4 watt units with antenna’s about 50% longer than typical VHF radios. I would expect that you would see a 25%-50% improvement in range over a similarly powered VHF radio. I’m not basing this on experience, but on the difference in antenna size, and the fact that the lower frequencies will travel better outdoors.


thank again, will look into it.

PLEASE be somewhat tentative about the encouragement you’re getting, regarding CB Radio. CB performance is compromised by power restrictions built into the eqipment, by FCC rules, by “skip” interference, by its vulnerablity to immature, or even malicious interference, and other factors. Antenna size is NOT an indicator of anything, of itself. (It is always related to the operating wavelength and type of antenna design.)
I’m not familiar with uhf, but have worked for many years with business band vhf (151 MHz) and ham 2 meter radios (144-147 MHz), as well as CB, and even with no repeater the vhf is far and away superior.
As for your “repeater” question, simply having one on a truck is no advantage. Understand, they receive on one frequency (on which the other radios transmit) and they (almost simultaneously) put the received audio onto, and re-transmit it on, a second frequency (on which all the other units
receive). While there can be a difference in POWER, the main advantage is in the LOCATION of the repeater. If it’s up high (mountain, tall building, tower, etc) it has an ideal receiving location. By the same token, it’s thereby an equally advantageous transmitting location. (Units on opposite sides of a mountain, for instance, can talk rather than be blocked by the mountain.) To just have it on a truck is no better than any other radio of equal output power being on the truck.
As for H/Ts (handheld radios), they are all limited by power output, antenna compromises, terrain (obstacles), and battery life. As a system, however, I wouldn’t expect CBs to be as good as vhf. CBs are also heavier and bulkier.
Don’t just settle for opinions, though. Do some listening and transmitting for yourself before you invest in CBs.

i guess thats probably what i need to do, im acostom to PD radios, come in, sign it out, get the job done, bring it back beacuse i know it will work when i need it to work

I dont know what you are using for two-way radios right now, but the problem may just be that the channels you are using are programmed to a power setting thats too low. Perhaps they are programmed for only one watt of output when maybe two, three, four, or five watts would do a more effective job of covering the area you need to, without resorting to using a repeater.


How many miles range on average do you need for these radios?

Yes, while it may not be the best answer to your specific problem, a repeater will extend your range. The General Mobile and Family Radio Services, as mentioned in your subject line is NOT where Id look for a solution.