backwoods communication

3:27 a.m. on April 21, 2010 (EDT)
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I read some other info on some two way radios and some sat. phones. while i have a Gzone rock, which has a very good batt. life and is waterproof amoung many other things, id like to have some redundancy (spelling) and would like to have some sort of two way radio. Im not sure if im looking for a HAM or just something a like talkabout but im looking for someone whos knowlegable on the subject and might be able to give me some insight on the topic. I think that for what i want im outside of the two way radio range, over 30 ish miles....i found some 35 mile two way radios from midland. I have had some of the 5 mile deals before and they never seem to make it more than a mile or so before loosing the other end.

Anyone with some sort of portable two way push to talk ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Rob

7:36 a.m. on April 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Interesting thread. Be curious what input others have.

Personally backpacking is my way of getting away from the noise (cell phones, ipods, and such) and just enjoying the quiet. But my wife and daughter freak when I'm gone a few days hoping I'll be able to call at some point and tell them everything is OK.

A compromise for us was a Spot satellite tracker. Other than a few missed signals in a canyon in the Chisos Mountains, they were able to follow me on a Google map my last trip to Big Bend.

I would send an OK signal at night before turning it off and an OK when turning it on before leaving camp in the morning.

randy

10:42 a.m. on April 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Are you talking person-to-person in the backcountry... or person-to-family outside the backcountry? Two ways are for the former. SPOT is for the latter. Knowing which form of communication you are looking for will help answers.

11:09 a.m. on April 21, 2010 (EDT)
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I think there have been other threads about this topic, but two way radio distance ratings assume a clear pathway - like from one end of a lake to the other. with mountains, canyons, trees, their ability to communicate drops very considerably. many have additional features, like picking up NOAA weather transmissions, that can be a real benefit.

I have four - two of them rated to 13 miles, the other two rated to 26, but i'm conflicted about using them much. my issues:

1. you often don't get much transmission distance due to natural obstacles. that's true not only in remote areas, but where people live. I have taken walks near my suburban home, wooded area but not mountainous, where i'm lucky to get range of 2 miles.

2. it's very tough to use them when the wind blows hard - hard to hear what anyone is saying.

3. weight and batteries.

4. expense

on the other hand, a set of inexpensive whistles can be very, very useful and serve the same basic purpose. They are loud, they encourage people to stick a little closer to each other, no batteries, enormously beneficial to signal rescuers if someone gets lost, and very simple to work out a basic code that's well short of morse code. 1 blast to say "i'm here," 2 to say "slow down, i'm catching up," and three to say "i'm in trouble, get over here." something like that.

2:18 p.m. on April 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Im not necessarily going to ever carry anything other than my phone, i just would like some options and maybe for someone else wanting to carry some sort of radio i was trying to get some sort of break down for which does what in which situation. If it were me id most likley say person to person. but the people at home to me in the woods sounds preety neat too. I like gadgets and things so radios interests me. Although it seems very primitive to cell phones that i could call just about anywhere anytime i please.

2:35 p.m. on April 21, 2010 (EDT)
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That must be an east coast thing. Cell phones are a unnecessary weight backpacking around here because of coverage unless you're in a city park. They don't put cell towers in the boonies here in flyover country. :-) Towers cover main cities and interstates. Beyond that it's a crap shoot.

2:40 p.m. on April 21, 2010 (EDT)
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just about every mountain top here has some sort of tower on it. Things are a little more cramped around here. although where i live is the country. I still have decent reception where i live but im out pretty far.

7:27 p.m. on April 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Cell Phones

I carry a cell phone along with an extra battery for emergencies, and to let my family know I'm okay. Any other use of the cell phone is a bother to me. I enjoy a pure wilderness experience as much as possible, keeping in mind that checking in with family is the considerate thing to do when I'm able.

Most areas of the Southern Appalachians I've been in now have cell coverage, if you are at the higher elevations. I have actually had to stand on a picnic table before, phone held high, to get one bar. Sitting in the truck I had no signal at that particular spot.

Two way radios

I have used these before, and as others have said the reception is going to be nothing like the advertised range, unless you are talking peak to peak, or over water. They are handy for short range around camp, or if you are hiking with a split group. Just don't expect too much in my experience, maybe the newer ones are better.

Ham

Bill S can tell you a lot more than me about hand held 2 meter radios, I want to get one but currently have no experience with them. I do have experience with 10 meter mobiles (vehicle mounted) and while that doesn't help on the trail I find them very useful for communicating with the locals here in the Southeast. You can get lots of good info from the older guys who spend time talking on the Hams. Many of them are avid outdoorsmen. Just mostly stuff you won't find in Trail Guides.

Last time I was at high altitude (Missionary Ridge TN) I was able to talk to anyone local, and several guys in other states including one in NY. All that on 350 watts with good conditions.

But I digress, I often drive quite a ways into watersheds, gorges, etc. before setting off on foot, and have no cell signal, but I can get ahold of someone on the Ham. So that has the potential to provide a patch in case I ever need to.

Spot

Don't have one yet, but it is on the list. This seems to be an excellent option for staying in touch with family, and for emergencies.

What will they think of next?

11:32 p.m. on April 21, 2010 (EDT)
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maybe next they can think of not making sat phones not so expensive. they work everywhere rite?

12:11 a.m. on April 22, 2010 (EDT)
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You can always considering renting, I dont know if they have Sat phones, but I do know you can rent a SPOT from them. www.lowergear.com

7:05 p.m. on April 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Plus 1 on the Sat phones, they are pricey

How about smoke signals?

7:47 p.m. on April 23, 2010 (EDT)
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only smoke im dealin with are those little smokies sausages, man are those things good. Im no indian and even if i tried, i doubt my signals would make much sense, im one of those guys that when theres a fire around the smoke enguls me and just follows me around the fire ring all night.....

I was kinda hoping someone would invent one of those Batman lights maybe i could shine my message up in the sky how he does. Maybe even some cool buttons like they have on their uniforms on star trekk. You know those radio things they get beamed up with.

Ohh and as far as sat phones go. Why are they so much, i mean im sure they use a different kind of sat than a gps, but a gps is free. it just seems stupid that they charge so much when sat technology is starting to get primitive, theyve been around since what like the 50's.

8:57 p.m. on April 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I don't know the details on the sat phones, things like this (SPOT, SAT, etc.) have been discussed here before though.

I'll see if I can find that thread and post a link to it.

Here's one from 2007:

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/gear-selection/topics/40924.html

Here is another from 2009, this one wandered into the rational of carrying something like a SPOT:

http://www.trailspace.com/forums/backcountry/topics/59543.html

Seems to me there was another one, but I couldn't find it.

I'm sure one of the other members could answer your questions about Sat phones.

11:36 p.m. on April 23, 2010 (EDT)
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trout,

You would link that second thread. That was a case where one poster never actually read what you and I (and others) said. Basically, electronic gadgets, and indeed any technology, new or old, are no substitute for experience, judgment, skills, and knowledge. Technology can, and does, fail. And technology can be, and all too often is, misused.

My advice is to leave the electronic toys at home, and instead, develop your skills and experience one small step at a time.

Yeah, have spent many years developing the technology people are asking about, having a ham license, etc etc, I could give the correct answers instead of the misinformation that is being bandied about on the web. But I have better things to do right now. Like running a training course for people who want to actually get out there and develop their human skills, experience, judgment, and knowledge in a safe and responsible manner. They are ones who realize that there is no magic wand, no silver bullet. It takes a real effort, and no technology, modern or old school, can substitute for that.

12:12 a.m. on April 24, 2010 (EDT)
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Yes, essentially it is a person and their basic skills, not technology, that keeps people safe. Technology is helpful, but relying on it to fill the gap between what you should know, and what the gadget can tell you, is potentially dangerous.

I'm sure that with your knowledge it is very rewarding to see people who are willing to take the steps necessary to learn what you can teach them.

As someone who has learned a lot the hard way, I can say there is no short cut to learning the basic skills I have eventually learned are essential.

Leaving the beaten path is very humbling, at least that has been my experience.

9:10 p.m. on April 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Yes, essentially it is a person and their basic skills, not technology, that keeps people safe. Technology is helpful, but relying on it to fill the gap between what you should know, and what the gadget can tell you, is potentially dangerous.

I'm sure that with your knowledge it is very rewarding to see people who are willing to take the steps necessary to learn what you can teach them.

As someone who has learned a lot the hard way, I can say there is no short cut to learning the basic skills I have eventually learned are essential.

Leaving the beaten path is very humbling, at least that has been my experience.

Ditto!Here in the pnw i have hiked,when limited by time,on some of the more popular Columbia Gorge trails and have been amazed by how many folks are talking on their phones about nothing.Some of these trails are both beauty full and great work outs but come on folks we survived well before the advent of cell phones.Cell phones,Ipods and GPS,GPS can be handy,all need batteries and can also fail.Compass,topy map and altimeter mixed with the ability to use them are much for full proof.Also to those Ipod users on the trails.Do you know how much you are really missing?ymmv

11:05 a.m. on April 26, 2010 (EDT)
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Ham radios are pretty useful, if you have a group that does not want to walk at the same pace. You can still stay in touch. There are some very lightweight ham handhelds with remarkable capabilities.

Generally speaking, you will get better service from ham radio HTs than from the FRS or GMRS radios -- those "25 mile" radios you are talking about are probably GMRS.

For both GMRS and ham radios you need a license. If I were going to bother to get a license, I'd go ham. Better selection, better gear, and a lot more people around on ham frequencies in case you need one in time of trouble.

If you are talking about being separated by no more than a quarter mile, then FRS radios will do pretty well and are a lot cheaper. No license needed.

All of these radios are basically line-of-sight. So distance estimates are worthless, except from someone who has used that kind of radio in that particular terrain. Sure, I once made an 80 mile communication with 5 watts from a 2 meter handheld -- but I was on the top of Pike's Peak and he was at his base station, with a very nice antenna. I don't expect to ever duplicate those conditions. Would I recommend that radio as an 80 mile radio? It is to laugh, as Bugs Bunny says.

My Scouts and I have used ham radios very effectively while backpacking. It gives us a lot more options because we are not so tethered by having to stay within shouting distance.

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