What's best for camping?


We are looking to purchase radios to use while camping. They will be used at campgrounds, usually in mountain areas, to keep in touch with our teenage children while they wonder around. What would work best?


The most important thing to remember before you purchase a two-way radio is whether or not you plan to get a license to use GMRS channels. No matter how cheap or expensive a radio is, you must purchase an $80 license from the FCC in order to use the GMRS frequencies (typically channels 15-22). If you do not want to get a license, you should purchase some 14 channel FRS-only radios. These are very hard to find, so I posted links to places where FRS-only radios are available online in the online store section of my website. You could also get some MURS radios. MURS is located in the VHF band. MURS radios typically work well in the woods and they do not require a license to use; however, these radios are often more expensive than the typical FRS or GMRS radio. If you are willing to pay $80 for a GMRS license that opens up a whole world of possibilities. You could spend under $100 on a pair of Motorola Talkabouts or Midland GXT-series “25 mile” radios only to find out that the range claims are nothing but marketing hype and that the radios only communicate up to 2 miles at the most or you could spend a little extra money and get a 4 or 5 watt handheld from a manufacturer like Kenwood or Icom. These radios perform much better than the cheaper radios and some models can be programmed to talk on repeaters which can significantly increase your range. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Willys: For camping/hiking, I would recommend a more high powered radio. Terrain is usually rough, and since it sounds as if your kids may be going off by themselves I think you would want the most range possible. I would recommend either the Motorola T9500R or the Midland GXT800VP4. Both deliver great range and have support for NOAA weather channels, which can come in handy if you’re going to be outdoors.

ltng92: You make some great points, but I want to make one clarification. In order to use the license-free FRS frequencies, you do not have to purchase a FRS-only 14 channel radio. Most manufacturers have now moved to producing dual service radios (GMRS/FRS). If an individual purchases a dual service radio and doesn’t want to use GMRS, all they have to do is use channels 8-14, or channels 1-7 in low power mode. (Channels 8-14 are FRS only and the radio will automatically switch to low power).


OK, so my wife bought a GRMS radio for camping so that meant I needed to buy one. She bought a Garmin Rhino 530. I bought some Midlands since I am not as well heeled. So now, we have agreed to use channel 7. Would it be better to use channel 15 or higher for use out in the woods? Oh we are FCC legal and I understand that what the manufacturer claims is not neccesarily what we will expereince in the woods. But is a higher channel better than a lower channel?

Thanks for any assisstance you can offer newbies like us.

in beautiful Gold Bar, best town this side of Mayberry RFD


The channel you are on is important for range, but higher channel numbers don’t make a difference. Channels 8-14 are “FRS-Only” channels, which means that when you use these channel numbers the radio will automatically drop to low power mode. To get the most range out of the radio, you want to be sure you are on a GMRS channel. The GMRS channels are 1-7 and 15-22. You also want to be sure your radio is setup to transmit in high power mode, which is typically the default.

Hope this helps.


Danny. thanks. As I have said many times, I learn, sometimes slowly, but I learn. THanks