Type radio handheld for rescue while hunting?

Hello to all. I’m new on this forum. I’m not a amateur radio operator but have had some experience using radios in the USAF in Combat Search and Rescue using HOOK2, PRK 112’s and a few others but as an aircrew member only so it’s been a while now since I retired and my knowledge on radio use is limited other than turning it on, talking. lol! But jokes aside. I’m interested in figuring out what would be a good handheld radio I can have on me for rescue emergency situations if I’m out hunting?

I hunt in northern Nevada where it is vast and mountainous. I have looked up some local county fire and police frequencies I would have dialed in before hand but I’m afraid with such terrain, I’ll be limited to line of sight obviously so got that issue I’d have to work around in case of needing to get rescue assets out to my location. I’ve read up on MURS, HAM, CB, etc. and although still pretty confused on it all. It sounds like either a MURS or HAM radio might be the better option.

I do have a FCC license but again, this would only be for an emergency situation requiring rescue assets while hunting in such areas. I also have a aviation radio I fly with that I can communicate on 121.5 air emergency freq which obviously only if someone is monitoring that would I maybe be able to communicate with them if they were overhead. But I guess big question is, what radio type would I best be equipped to broadcast on to get local fire/rescue? Thanks!

A two-way radio is only as good as the person listening.

Public service handheld radios can only cover a wide area with a system of repeaters. With everyone going digital and most police agencies being encrypted, the chances of you raising anyone in a remote area on any band farther away from you than 1/2 a mile is pretty much nil.

With a PLB, there is ALWAYS someone listening.

Plus, a PLB will show your location within meters, making the carrying of an aviation radio with 121.5 capability pretty much redundant.

Leave the aviation radio at home, forget the idea of a handheld radio (unless you need it to communicate with friends within 1/2 mile), tuck a PLB into a pouch, and save the belt space for your IFAK and bear spray.

Bear spray, IFAKs and PLBs do not replace common sense and wilderness survival skills, but a two-way radio when solo will provide a very false sense of security. Much as I am a fan of two way radios, when I am in a remote area, I wear a wide, padded, battle belt with bear spray and spare slugs on my strong side, bear bangers and spare buckshot on my weak side, an IFAK where I can grab it with either hand and a PLB in a pouch around my neck.

I have never needed any of those items and never will.

But on the other hand, I have never needed a parachute but if I ever did … nothing else would do at the time. :):slight_smile:

Best thing would be to buy an Emergency Locator beacon.

Hey thanks for the reply. Yeah for sure a 2-way is a false sense of security. With all the limitations on range, terrain and who’s listening. I do have a IFAK kit always ready and armed. No bears in this area but future hunts could bring me in such areas. Can you suggest any Personnel Locator Beacons worth looking at? I’ll google some in the mean time. Thanks!

ACR and McMurdo are the two most common ones sold today. If you don’t need one that floats, then the McMurdo Fastfind 220 or the ACR ResQLink will both do. I prefer the antenna system on the McMurdo, but they are very similar in price, performance and cost of replacement batteries. (Which must be done every five years or so.)

Note that ACR, McMurdo and other PLBs (personal locator beacons) are the personal-sized hiking versions of EPIRBs (that are designed to float and are attached to boats and ships.)

PLBs use the public safety series of COSPAS-SARSAT satellites that cover the earth. It transmits a 406MHz signal that goes directly to the government rescuers. You ONLY activate it in times of life-threatening emergency. There is no two-way communication capability on most, and when you activate it, you will get ships, helicopters, snowmobiles, ATVs or troops to you in hours or days, depending on the weather. There is no subscription costs but each PLB must be registered and you MUST buy one coded to your country.

When you push that button, you must really need help because every possible resource is going to be mobilized to help find and rescue you.

The alternative is a satellite messenger system like the SPOT Messenger or the Garmin InReach. These use private, for-profit satellites and for-profit companies who will hopefully call the most appropriate response for you. You can also do messaging on most of them, and are possible to use just to say “I’m okay” or in event of an urgent situation but not an emergency.

The difference between SPOT and Garmin is that Garmin uses the Iridium series of satellites that are also designed for Iridium sat phones. SPOT uses the Globalstar series of satellites. Iridium covers the world, while Globalstar only covers major continental areas. (The U.S. military uses Iridium.) Few people in Canada rely on a Globalstar sat phone, even though it is cheaper, and no one in northern Canada uses Globalstar.

Quite frankly, for all the above reasons, I would never trust my life to a satellite messenger. Satellite altitudes are lower and performance is hit-and-miss. I use a PLB.

Satellite messengers are very expensive and subscription costs are horrendous. Plus, being for-profit companies, they are primarily focused on billing your credit cards whether you want them to or not. SPOT has a particularly bad record of poor customer service, cancellation policies designed to trick you into paying every year and few ethics in what they will do to keep billing you. They have even charged credit cards that have expired by creating their own new expiry dates and not telling the customer. You cannot cancel easily and they charge your card a month after your expiry date, giving users a VERY narrow window to cancel.

I always wonder how focused SPOT will be on rescuing you when their billing policies and customer service is so bad.

As my friend also says above, trust your life to a PLB, not a two-way radio or a satellite messenger.

Carrying a radio able to transmit of local first responder frequencies is really not a good idea. Your concept of an emergency might not be in line with theirs and using the frequency might get you in a world of trouble with them.

The idea of a personal locator beacon is probably the best for the situation you outline. However, you might investigate amateur repeater coverage for the area you hunt. If the coverage is there, getting your ham license might be a good alternative. and you could always chat with other hams if the game is elusive.