Up the mountain...

Hi. Older hunter here. I find myself up the mountain solo very often, using tree stands, on bad terrain in all weather. There’s no cell service. Ive been using FRS for years with a neighbor up on the mountain, which pretty quickly showed its limitations. Principal of which is that my neighbor has a life and wont always be around if I hurt myself.


What is a simple, straightforward and legal handheld radio protocol suitable for my use? Something I can use to either reach emergency services myself, or communicate with publicly monitored bands where a good samaritan can call 911?

Cheers, and thanks.

You know, I’ve had enormous luck on web forums. Figured out how to fix cars, bikes, found help, hunting friends, all kinds of good things.

But not here.


Hi Rusty, this is an open, public forum, so the responses largely depend on who reads your posts and when. Your question isn’t an easy one to answer because based on your stated requirements there is a lot more to the answer than just picking a radio or service.

Some radio services have emergency channels or frequencies, others do not. Some radio bands are publicly monitored on emergency channels in urban or suburban areas with some degree of assurance that an emergency call will be picked up, but in remote areas those same bands may or may not be monitored well or at all. Mountainous areas are particularly iffy because the chances of getting heard are also going to depend on location of both stations and the terrain (what side of the mountain you or the other station is on, for instance).

Some radio services will have better range in open areas than others (FRS will be rather limited no matter where you are) and some services may not be monitored or used by others at all in your area. It will also depend on what country you are in. (Our forum is not exclusive to the US, so we try not to make assumptions.)

Even within the US, the answer to your question will also depend on who or what is available is in your specific area and what radio services they generally use. If there are other hunters using GMRS or MURS, a radio operating on one of those services may be a consideration. If the locals are ham radio operators or there are amateur radio repeaters on top of one or more of those mountains, you may want to get a ham license.

Since I don’t know exactly where you are, what, if any other facilities nearby or who else is located your area and what they use for radio communications (local residents, US Forest Service., etc.) it is not a question with a simple answer.

Here are some resources that may help you figure out what is best for your particular situation and needs:

30 Miles? The Truth About Range

Getting The Most Range From Your Radio

TWRS-75 - Types of Two Way Radios

TWRS-47 - Hunting With Radios

Radio 101 - The truth about FRS / GMRS two way radio range

Tips For Using Motorola Two Way Radios While Hunting

Rusty, the problem is that you posed a question that has no solution for you. The problem with two-way radios for emergency situations when you are by yourself, is not just the line-of-sight range but also that, before you can get help, someone must be listening.

This will always be the downside to two-way radios for solo communication.

If you need something exclusively for an emergency and not a communication device when solo, you need to forget about two-way radios that are not designed for this use and look at something that is. That means a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or something like the SPOT messenger.

PLBs are expensive, but they are professional life-saving gear. In a real emergency, they broadcast a distress signal to dedicated search and rescue satellite systems around the world. They don’t require a subscription; you buy the unit and carry it with you.

One problem is that a PLB is for true life-threatening emergencies. Push the button and you will get search and rescue over your position in as fast as an hour. They are NOT designed for you to signal people that you are delayed by weather but still safe; if you call out the troops for help, and it is not a true life-threatening situation, you may be fined or worse. Plus, you are diverting search and rescue resources that might be needed elsewhere.

The SPOT messenger is different. It can communicate tracking information and status reports as well as true emergencies. It communicates to a system of communication satellites, not search and rescue satellites. It is only as reliable as the private company that owns the system can make it. You will also need to pay a subscription fee to use one. If you need help, the signal goes to operators at a private company who, you hope, will notify the appropriate authorities.

Personally, I think in addition to researching two-way radios - that I don’t think are appropriate for solo ventures in the wilderness - I think you should also research PLBs and the SPOT messenger. The SPOT is a bit of a toy, but PLBs are serious gear.

buy or rent a satalite phone. works everywhere.