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Switching from CB to GMRS radios

IAFFCJ

Scrambler Junkie
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#1
I just realized that we lost this thread in the data loss. As I am a huge proponent to everyone if I could get that to happen moving from CBs to GMRS type radios for Jeep to Jeep communications I thought I would start it again.

Backstory: While preparing to travel to Michigan for Sand Blast 10 the wife and I were not staying in the same campsite as most of the group. BigWalton suggested a GMRS radio as Cell phones and CBs do not work well at sand blast. As I have never been satisfied with the CB radios performance I thought I would give it a try. I purchased a 15 watt mobile unit from Midland and installed it in the jeep.

Now to be legal one needs to get a license however there is not test it is just a fee that needs to be paid to the FCC and they give you a call sign. I personally decided to do this so that I would be able to explore the network of repeaters around the country.

Here are some pictures of the radio I put in the CJ7. Very easy to install and great reception.
IMG_0887.jpg IMG_0889(1).jpg IMG_0897.jpg
 

IAFFCJ

Scrambler Junkie
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#2
Before Sand Blast JeeperDD purchased a set of handheld GMRS radios also Midlands I believe that we used to talk back and forth with each other at the event. Other radios that we were able to compare were a 5 watt Midland Mobile and by the end of the week we had three 15 watt mobiles that were talking to each other.

With all the comparisons the handhelds to the mobile unit were were able to talk from the dunes to camp if in the right location at both. This is a pretty good distance and I would say very little chance of this distance with a CB. While all the units were very clear and would reliably work in the one to two mile range once we were talking between the three 15 watt mobile units it was truly outstanding. things were clear and crisp even at long distances and BigWalton and myself were able to talk from the top of the dunes out to somewhere in the woods when half the group was on the 2 track ride. Not sure the distance but the report was that they were FAR away.

With this experience and the fact that a set of two GMRS simplex handhelds can be had for $50 at many places makes me more and more prone to not even putting a CB in the big jeep. I am even leaning towards putting a 40 watt mobile in my truck for convoy times.
 

IAFFCJ

Scrambler Junkie
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#3
Another thing that I like about this radio system is the two ways that it can be operated.

Simplex operation This is using the radios to simply talk radio to radio and is how I and those I have use the radios with have been operating. This works great when using the radios on the trail as Jeep to Jeep communications and depending on your radio and antenna you can talk pretty far this way. The nice thing about this is that anyone with a set of these radios should be able to go to the channel you are on an join in the conversation.

Repeater operation This is another way to run these radios. How using a repeater works is you talk from your radio to the repeater then the repeater transmits your message out to the other radios. Not all GMRS radios can operate this way they must be repeater capable as the will receive and transmit on different channels. As GMRS radios are line of site using a repeater extends the effective range as most repeaters are located high on a tower and line of site is much farther the higher in the air you are. I personally have not used the system on a repeater system yet but there are some in my area that claim 70 mile coverage areas. That's a pretty high claim I feel but possible i guess. Ono of the main benefits to a repeater setup is lower powered radios can be used and long distances can be reached. As long as you can hit the re[eater with you radio your message will be transmitted out at the power of the repeater.

I am pretty interested in this repeater setups and have been looking into the possibility of building one. As they are most often fixed Sand Blast may be a great location for a repeater just have to figure that stuff out. I also have been trying to figure out if I could mount on to my trailer and set it up at events and if it would be a benefit.
 

IAFFCJ

Scrambler Junkie
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#4
So since Sand Blast we have attended the VA4WDA annual trail ride at Oak Ridge. Each year we have radio issues and loose comunications from the lead trail guide to the tail gunner. As we are a pretty close group and tend to be in the same line each year we are able to relay messages for the trail guides. This year John N and JeeperDD who are our trial guides at this event each year used GMRS radios. John has installed a 15 watt mobile unit and JeeperDD is running a handheld. As I have a mobile I was also able to hand out the two handhelds that I have to folks in line who have never had radios as well as to others to compare. I think the general consensus was the GMRS radios were awesome we had no issues all weekend communicating.

Using the handhelds also proved beneficial when out of the jeeps and we had a slight First Aid need it was quick and simple to get a hold of folks.

AS this is my push for change I have purchased 4 handheld radios that I loan out during rides to try and spread the word. Having 4 radios it was getting difficult to keep track of them. Well Harbor Freight has just started carrying Apache watertight cases. (Similar to pelican) so I thought I would test one out and see how it held my loaner radios. I was able to get 4 radios, 2 chargers along with cords.

Case seems pretty sturdy for the price.
IMG_2226.jpg IMG_2227.jpg

Everything nice and secure. Now I can throw these in the jeep and hand them out to others when we go to events.
IMG_2228.jpg
 

bigwalton

Picture cravin' AK Postal nut
Staff member
SOA Member
#5
First, it sucks that we lost that thread :banghead: there was great discussion in there. Thanks for bringing it back though.

Second, FYI, there's a Verizon tower that's going up at Silver Lake that's supposed to be active early next year, so the cell phone issues should be permanently cured, HOWEVER, for general group comms and trail rides these will still be awesome.

Third, it's interesting to point out that the antennas that all of the non-handeld units discussed here run are simple, tiny 6" magnetic base mounted antennas with a very small wire running to it. No giant coax, no antenna mounting effort (I actually just slapped the antenna on top of one of the metal toolboxes on by rear storage shelf for the SandBlast weekend)

I had a meeting with Midland at SEMA about a new radio that looks like a KILLER choice for Jeeps. It's a new 15-watt unit that has all the keys and readout on the hand unit like the ever-popular Cobra 75 so you can mount the box out of sight. The interesting thing is that there's a speaker in both the hand unit and the base unit and you can use one or the other or both. They're sending me one to test when it's available along with an external speaker to compare what's possible with one speaker or the other, both speakers and then the external speaker.

P1020794 copy.jpg

Can't overstate how happy I've been with even the 5-watt unit I first tried out and how great these were at the Sand Dunes. Yes, any unit over 2 watts needs a license, but they're easy and cheap and good for 10 years. I was told specifically by Midland that you only need one per "family" to use these.
 

Randyzzz

Scrambler Junkie
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#6
That looks awesome, Eric! Thinking about installing one in the J20 to start, it has a hole in the roof for a vintage cell antenna. Might as well make it useful instead of welding it up. So- any advice/tech on antennas?
 

bigwalton

Picture cravin' AK Postal nut
Staff member
SOA Member
#7
That looks awesome, Eric! Thinking about installing one in the J20 to start, it has a hole in the roof for a vintage cell antenna. Might as well make it useful instead of welding it up. So- any advice/tech on antennas?
You need not bother or research, they come with a tiny little antenna that's all you need. Slap it on something steel and go.

 

John N

Addicted....Ex-SOA VP
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#8
You need not bother or research, they come with a tiny little antenna that's all you need. Slap it on something steel and go.

That's the same unit that I installed in my Scrambler. It works great. A bonus is that you get a USB port too.
 

Randyzzz

Scrambler Junkie
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#9
I was thinking one of these mounts-
mount.jpg

With one of these on top.
mobile-antennas_1.jpg

There was one of these in my J20 when I bought it, so I might as well make use of the hole it left.
 

IAFFCJ

Scrambler Junkie
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#10
https://midlandusa.com/product/micromobile-mxta11-6db-gain-antenna/

Something like what you are looking at would increase the efficiency of the radio for sure. Since you already have a hole I would go the route you have reasurched

FYI while looking into the step up 40 watt radio I figured out only the 15 and 5s come with antennas.

From the things I have read on the GMRS forum the larger external antenna makes a huge difference. Add that to the difference the radio already made and you’ll be cooking with gas for sure.
 

bigwalton

Picture cravin' AK Postal nut
Staff member
SOA Member
#11
https://midlandusa.com/product/micromobile-mxta11-6db-gain-antenna/

Something like what you are looking at would increase the efficiency of the radio for sure. Since you already have a hole I would go the route you have reasurched

FYI while looking into the step up 40 watt radio I figured out only the 15 and 5s come with antennas.

From the things I have read on the GMRS forum the larger external antenna makes a huge difference. Add that to the difference the radio already made and you’ll be cooking with gas for sure.
:eek::huh:

I did realize just how much larger the 40-watt unit is compared to the 15 watt at the SEMA display. Probably double the length and half again as wide but I'd guess still smaller than most nice CBs.
 

IAFFCJ

Scrambler Junkie
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#12
:eek::huh:

I did realize just how much larger the 40-watt unit is compared to the 15 watt at the SEMA display. Probably double the length and half again as wide but I'd guess still smaller than most nice CBs.
I knew it would be bigger but wasn’t sure how much. From what I have read it most likely has to do with cooling. Still think I want more power though. 😂
 

Ron84cj

Scrambler Junkie
Lifetime Member
#13
Shortly after sandblast I bought some Motorola t465 gmrs handheld radios. I used them with my group when we went to the cliffs in Illinois about a month ago. They worked great. Really handy to have.
 

Jeeper_4_Life

Scrambler Rookie
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#14
Does antenna placement matter? Can I put it on the tab I currently have my CB antenna mounted to or on my tire carrier behind the tire? Both of those locations will be basically at the top of the bed of the jeep and not above the cab. Behind the tire will be blocking the antenna as well? I just upgraded my CB antenna to a firestick then ended up doing research on GMRS and wish I had changed to that, but my friends still running CB's too. May end up with both I guess or convince them to change.
 

bigwalton

Picture cravin' AK Postal nut
Staff member
SOA Member
#15
In the situation where Jake mentioned talking to me clearly from miles away my antenna was inside the Jeep stuck on top of a toolbox. It was fully inside the roll cage and barely higher than the tub edge. I wouldn't worry much at all about antenna placement.
 

IAFFCJ

Scrambler Junkie
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#16
I am running the little antenna that came with the radio just stuck on the stock tire carrier behind the tire. Well protected and great reception. Have yet to find a need to move it up higher. I will most likely use a fixed antenna on the big jeep and a higher positioned location but that is mainly to keep it protected and the extra range will just be a bonus.

IMG_0896.jpg
 

Bad Karma

Captain Sarcasm
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#17
At Sandblast, I temporarily installed the antenna inside the tub by the drivers side tail light. Far from an ideal mounting location but I still had a range of many miles.
 

Jeeper_4_Life

Scrambler Rookie
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#18
I didn't know about the midland MTX radi'so until I saw this all popup. I bought the GTX1000 hand held a few months ago. I take it the MTX versions are same basic function but the extra features and repeater use. Do you know how they differ from the rugged radios or the Chinese version they are rebranding? I thought those were HAM style radios, but not real familiar with it all, been reading, need to read more.
 

IAFFCJ

Scrambler Junkie
SOA Member
Lifetime Member
#19
I didn't know about the midland MTX radi'so until I saw this all popup. I bought the GTX1000 hand held a few months ago. I take it the MTX versions are same basic function but the extra features and repeater use. Do you know how they differ from the rugged radios or the Chinese version they are rebranding? I thought those were HAM style radios, but not real familiar with it all, been reading, need to read more.
Yes essentially the MTX is the same as your handhelds with some small differences. One the handheld is a GMRS and FRS radio due to sharing these frequencies the power is limited to I think 2 watts for some channels and .5 for others, these are also not able to use repeaters. The MTX mobile radio does not have the channels that are only FRS system rated due to it being a GMRS radio only. This means that these radios are able to be up to 50 watts and can have removable antennas they also are repeater capable.

With that said the handhelds and mobiles are compatible when using them in Simplex modes.

AS for the rugged radios and the Chinese ones on the market. Most of them can use the GMRS system if programed for the frequencies. They also have capabilities to do many other frequencies as well in both UHF and VHF arenas. The Midland GMRS radios are certified to use the GMRS system and you would have no worries about legality once you get a license which is very easy to get. Once you start playing with these "Open" radios it seems quite easy to end up on a frequency that you are not licensed to use and the possibility of trouble with the FCC comes into play.

The GMRS Radio system is pretty basic and beginner friendly. I can see how people will move on from this to HAM things but for car to car communications while wheeling it seems to be a very nice system.
 
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