What can I do with UHF radios?

Odd question here but I do not know much about radios. I work for my state’s park service as an interpretative ranger, and my park is extremely underfunded. The kenwood radios we have are mostly non-functional/not charging.

Last weekend I went to a local yard sale and ended up with a $10 box of goodies. I got a Kenwood TK-360, TK-360G, and TK-370G along with a base unit Kenwood tx-880. All of these radios communicate with each other on channel 5 but no others it seems.

I was given permission to use these but our band is in the 150 range, so these will not work/be useable, correct? So far I have not been able to connect the handhelds to a computer with the Baofeng cable (was told that would work, but maybe not). I have cable for the tx-880 on the way.

So if I can not use them at the park, what can I do with them? I am no stranger to online selling however I was curious about the actual civilian use of these radios. I see this and that online but no one can really give me an answer on what my specific type of radios can do for me. Mostly I see “the world of ham is…” with all sorts of “ham is cheap” and “people have ham radios in cars”. With a license can these be used as that? I always have seen massive in-house setups.

Thank! I know these may be odd questions but I have asked on other places and have gotten no response.

Ham radio is a hobby, for people who enjoy chatting with strangers and friends. Some just use it as a sort of local CB, but others are into data, or digital, or pushing boundaries, or experimenting with antennas. Most folk who do a course, learn the technical stuff required and take the test, just to chat, get bored very quickly. Channelised radios are limited. A local repeater if you have one would get you into the network. The essence though, is that you like fiddling with radios. UHF, assuming that is what your system is, might also be licenced as a proper business radio system with your Government, assuming your laws (I’m a Brit) permit. Or you apply for the other radio systems you have for the public or small businesses to use, again, if your equipment is permitted. For work, radio systems are usually determined to be safety focussed, so even your small underfunded organisation should determine if radios are needed or not, and then funded. Some are faulty and others have duff batteries, and you cannot fund repairs? You want radios but have to fund it yourselves? In rural areas, range requires high up antennas. So if you have a building on a hill, that’s great. If you don’t, they’ll never work well. Hams have gone off channelised radios in favour of radios with keypads and screens. The other radio users FRS and similar usually buy brand new systems. A pile of old radios with potentially poor battery condition simply isn’t worth much. I have a retired but excellent condition pile of UHF radios, very good ones actually. Kenwood 340s and similar, but nobody on ebay will pay what they’re worth, and for most people, phones are better.

First, WELCOME to this forum❗️Personally, I don’t think communicating on “ham” bands is appropriate when the need is to conduct official government business using 2-way radios! Amateur radio enthusiasts, better known as “hams” provide a valuable service, especially during times of civil emergencies. Severe weather causing a loss of normal communications, is an area where “hams” make their greatest contribution.
Having said that, what country are you in, and what is the exact nature of the radio communications you’re involved in?
GMRS would be an excellent form of communications that is reasonably priced, even for a government agency, pinching pennies.

I think we’ll need a lot more specific information before any useful information can be provided.
Clearly, “yard sale radios”, is not a good solution for official government business communications.

Once again, welcome aboard to this excellent forum.

Welcome to the forum!

You mentioned it was a state park service, so it sounds like you are in the US, so I’ll base my response on that.

To answer your questions, The Kenwood TK-360G and TK-370G are business radios that were discontinued quite a few years ago. The TK-880 is a mobile trunked/conventional business radio that was also discontinued and is no longer manufactured. All of these models operated on UHF frequencies. Most likely these radios were programmed on channel 5 to a frequency licensed to a specific business in the US.

You stated that the band used by your state’s park service is in the 150 MHz range, which is the VHF band, so these radios will not work with theirs. You would need the VHF version of the TK-360G, which would be the TK-260G.

Even if you had the VHF versions of these radios, re-programming them may be problematic since you would need the Kenwood programming software for them. The programming cable is only one part of the programming process. You would also need the software for the radio, which for a radio of this type and age may be difficult to find. Also, some business and commercial radios are locked with security passwords to prevent them from being re-programmed by anyone other than the individual or company that initially programmed them. If these are in that category, You may not be able to program them at all.

I know it isn’t what you were hoping to hear, but the bottom line is that these are the risks of buying used radios, especially for business or public service operations. It is usually best to first find out what specific type of radio your park service is using, then matching it with a new radio programmed to the specific frequency(ies) the park is using, You will get a radio that is fully compatible, is supported and gives you peace of mind.

Rick’s suggestion make great sense - it does seem odd a Government linked authority has to buy old kit? Business wise, radio purchases for a proper commissioned system that will work in your area for your need, is a legitimate expense, so the cost is budget friendly - and if there is a safety aspect to what you use it for, then surely that puts it up the funding importance list.

I’m in the United States, specifically Tennessee State Parks. I think I made a mistake regarding the channel requencies since we do not use ham bands, but are in the 150 range with a licensed system and repeater. Each park has an individual licence I believe, but the bands across the parks seem to be the same, at least in my area.

Our radios we use are a mix of Kenwood, Baofeng, Motorola, and something else. This is generally speaking across parks. My park has no Baofeng, while another park nearby has a bunch of them.

What seems to happen is we get communications funding in waves, and everything takes a million steps. I am without a radio and am often running an educational program a little away from everyone. I kinda would prefer to have a radio and to quit having to say things like "hey, if I’m not back by x time I’m hurt/dead/found a critter.

Thank you! This was exactly what I was looking for and it confirmed some concerns I had about locked radios. It sounds like I need to just sell off all of mine for something I can use…

I do have programming software and a Windows XP machine that I have opened this software on, so that should be good to go.

I may have to just buy a cheap Baofeng radio and hope that works. They’re just well known in the park service for having issues picking up/ behaving.

If you are thinking about a radio like the Baofeng UV-5R, tbh I wouldn’t use those in the field such as a state park for several reasons. They aren’t really built for rugged environments, have a reputation for spurious emissions, and may or may not be Part 90 type accepted for business and public service use (depending on the model).

Sure, the Baofengs are cheap, but you will also need to weigh the costs in ROI over time of replacing cheap radios frequently or one that will last for a long time.

Although not as cheap as the UV-5R, there are other radios out there that are very reasonably priced and do check all the boxes. We’ve carried the UV-5R and several other Baofeng models for years, but only as an inexpensive radio for the ham community. We don’t recommend them over business or commercial grade radios for business or public service use.

We actually use UV-5R radios. My last park had some newer ones and a park some buddies of mine work at has some. They are known for not picking up well and your description sums it up perfectly. Despite the reputation I do have a bid on a cheap one just as a mild risk. Even something that works half the time works 50% better than having no radio. I am certainly open to anything better and more reliable. I really did like the basic kenwood radios I had.

As for regulations, if it saves money they turn a blind eye to it. Since I’ve seen these around the parks it should either be okay, or ignored.

Greetings from a fellow Tennessean. I’m guessing you’re in the “pretty”, Eastern part of Tennessee😂 I’m in the Memphis area.
I think I’ve read that the Smokey Mountains National park is one of the most visited in the United States. It is a Jewel, to be sure. I fully understand your frustration having to deal with the lack of dependable communications in such a huge and remote area that describes Tennessee’s park system.
Providing you and all the park employees with dependable communications should be a top priority of the Legislature, AND Governor Bill Lee.
Tennessee rakes in a huge amount of tax money from the millions of tourists visiting here each year, so the money IS there. It’s all about priorities❗️
You and all the other park employees need to be able to radio for help when a park visitor or an employee is involved in an emergency situation.
I wish the state AND 2way radios.com could work out solution.
Best wishes👍

Funny thing, I have actually met the Governor when he was promising some money for a project, though it seemed to be passed around like a political football. We’ve learned to not get our hopes up.

The money is there in a sense. All parks I’ve worked with have had cabins that pull revenue, but what happens is every cent goes back to Nashville where it is redistributed. Not all parks make money, especially ones with no cabins, gift shops, camping, etc. But a lot of money goes to buying fancy toys for parks other than your own. Sometimes these toys are needed, sometimes your standing in a park and wondering why on earth they have a sawmill and nothing to use it for.

Nothing to do but order myself a radio, and buy my own stuff for programs I want to hold (because I enjoy it and guests enjoy it). It’s all about the guests and I’ll gladly eat the cost to make my time and their time in the park better.

Anyways I did order a Baofeng UV-82 after reading on them. Might as well give it a shot since I have only seen the UV-5 hanging around the parks. It’ll be here in maybe a week.

Only foreseeable issue is that my laptop does not have a disc drive, and since the state charges to have a state computer (dumb), I don’t have one. If I can download the software I can deal with it possibly, though I only have Linux mint and Windows XP.

I hope you ordered the BaoFeng UV-82HP. The UV-82 is manufacture discontinued and outputs less power!
Are the park employees operating on ham frequencies?
I would think the FCC would require State employees to be assigned a Tennessee Government frequency. They have plenty of them!
It’s regrettable that Governor Lee doesn’t put a higher priority on the work you guys do. Especially considering how much tourism money flows into the State every year.

Please let us know how the BaoFeng works out? I’m not sure the programming will work on Windows XP.
I’m sure someone on this forum will know.

We need to be realistic here. Lots of people like to buy their own radios for various reasons, but mostly because they simply want one! If you have the repeater spec, then you can programme almost any radio. If you can find a decent, well loved commercial radio, then all will be well. Keep in mind that new, commercial radios can cost ten time the price of a Baofeng. Earlier Rick mentioned the Kenwood 240 - these were small, powerful and batteries are still available and they are really tough. Motorola is probably out because of the software - virtually all legitimate sources have dried up, so unless you are a dealer - avoid Motorola. If you want better hobby style radios, then there are good and reliable radios from lots of sources - I’d check it with Rick - he can probably source you something that will work at your budget

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UV-82 radios are programmed using CHIRP software. Chirp does not work on XP but it does work on the latest version of Linux. Try a download from chirp.danplanet and see if it works. If not, you will need to borrow a laptop.

You will need a programming cable. PLEASE don’t buy a cheap one. It will drive you crazy with frustration. 99.9% of all programming problems that users are having where the computer does not read or write to the radio is because people buy the cheap cable with the cloned prolific chip and need to downgrade drivers. Get a cable with a genuine FTDI chip. Trust me. You will thank me. (Our forum hosts sell great FTDI cables.)

Next step is that you need the list of frequencies. Those you should have already, but if you don’t, you can borrow a Baofeng from another park and use that to read their radio, then enter the frequencies on your own radio model.

In CHIRP, use the UV-82 model if your radios are the older model UV-82 or the UV-82C. If you got the UV-82HP, use that model in CHIRP. (They have two different models because the HP has different power settings from the regular UV-82.)

Ignore anyone who recommends or tries to sell you an “upgrade” antenna. I have tested nearly everything on the market, and there is little to be gained (and sometimes, lots to be lost) with any antenna other than the factory one. Again, you will thank me. (I have the advantage of dozens of UV-82C radios at my disposal, so I can easily test them back-to-back in real world conditions.)

The UV-82 is pretty good as far as range and clarity is concerned. Like most cheap Chinese radios, they desense easily and are not very selective in their receiving, so if they get too close to each other, they won’t talk to each other. If you seem to lose a signal when a few feet away, move farther apart.

If you are disappointed at the quality of the UV-82 (and they are one of the best of the Baofeng line) then I suggest looking at Wouxun. They are much higher cost, but higher quality. The UV6D works with CHIRP and is licenced for Part 90. The newer UV7D (that I love) is also a Part 90 (business band) radio, but only works with Wouxun software. (I had no problem programming a UV7D from buytwowayradios for business bands.) Both are rated for basic water resistance too; a plus when outdoors.

The TYT radios are also nice, and higher quality than Baofeng. The new TYT TH-UV88 seems like a good substitute for the UV-82, BUT (and this is a big but) it is not licenced for Part 90. CHIRP supports the UV88, but there is no guarantee you can “open up” the frequency range to include the business band you need. Most Ham radios (even many of the Part 90 radios) now come from China “locked” to Ham bands only in firmware, and are difficult and sometimes impossible to “unlock.” Personally, I would stick to radios listed as Part 90 approved, and the vendor can guarantee they are open to the full spectrum of VHF, or can be “unlocked” to the full spectrum. (Your radio licence is in the 150MHz band, but the Ham band stops at 148MHz.)

One other approach is to look at DMR radios such as the TYT MD-UV380 or the VHF version of the TYT MD-390. They are Part 90 digital radios that can also be programmed for analog frequencies. (Which is what you will need.) The MD-390 is particularly attractive because it is water and weather resistant (that most other handhelds are not.) Why digital when you are only using them on analog channels? Good quality; good sound in analog, and easy to program (once you stay away from the digital frequencies) plus they come with the cable. The downside is that you will need a Windows 8 or 10 laptop.

Bottom line. Get an FTDI chip programming cable; borrow a laptop; borrow another Park’s Baofeng to read the frequencies if you don’t have them already, and see how you like the UV-82. For the price, they are hard to beat. If you eventually want better quality and more weather resistance, look at Wouxun or TYT.

The TYT’s I can confirm are tough radios, have decent battery life and good quality audio. They’re actually quite cheap for what they do!

I think one thing that is often being missed here is you have to be careful buying used radios in the US due to narrowbanding. Narrowbanding made a lot of otherwise great radio equipment useless to anyone aside from amateurs and GMRS operators (those Kenwoods all have Part 90/95A grants by the way so they are legal for GMRS). Also, some radio software won’t run in Windows but instead requires true DOS such as Windows ME (DOS 8.0 once modified for realmode), Windows 98 (DOS 7.1), Windows 95 (DOS 7.0) and DOS 6.22 or earlier.

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As an update I did buy the plain 82 apparently. I don’t expect to have to use it for many years or anything like that since if all goes well I’ll eventually have a state issued high-end unit (if I move up the job chain). i’ll update after I get it and see if it works.

I got the channels from looking at the screen on one of the baofeng radios from my last park, though they should all be the same. When I had my kenwood it would work in other parks, which is the normal way we do things. That way a ranger can go from one park to another and call in.

As a fun side note and better motivation to get the ball rolling, I went to scope out a trail in an abandoned group camp I will be leading people through. I ended up getting lost in the dark, no phone service, and a tiny flashlight. Someone had to come find me after a couple hours. Not a good time for sure.

Volvo, yard sale finds can be a great catch. While the radio’s you have are older and the condition of the batteries and the radios themselves is unknown, you still did pretty well for $10. As for what you could use them for, my first thought is GMRS with a license. I have a Kenwood TK-370G and use it for GMRS, have had to replace the battery and antenna so parts are available. The software can be purchased legally for about $35.00 and alot of the older Kenwood radio’s use the same 2 pin cable as the Baofeng’s, Wouxun’s, and several of the other China made radios. Since your park service is on VHF and you have UHF radio’s you could probably find someone who has a Kenwood VHF radio that they’d be willing to trade with you, or you could just sell them and buy one. They are older radios, but as long as they aren’t too beat up and still work they are still used and go for about $50 - $100 depending on condition.

Late to the party here, just rejoined this board after a long absence.

Volvo, if you go to radioreference.com, and in their Database section, you can see what is supposed to be for your State Parks; try this page: Department of Environment and Conservation (Tennessee) Scanner Frequencies and Radio Frequency Reference

Seems to say that your parks have a mix of VHF & UHF.

With any luck there is a state office to handle communications for the whole Parks. That should be the ultimate ‘authority’ for what you can do, getting replacements, etc. In the For What It’s Worth Dept, I can tell you that your neighbor to the east, North Carolina, has a couple radio engineers for their whole State Park system (a friend used to work for them for a few years, and he often called me for tech support that was beyond his experience when he started) Their system is all VHF, so they don’t have to stock but one band’s of units.