Firing Order: Two Way Radios for 4x4s
What’s Your Favorite Two-Way Radio Type For Off-Road Communication?
Cell phones don't always have service where we wheel, so I'm working on a story that digs into some options for off-road communication. Nowadays, we have more choices than ever when it comes to moving our voice via radio in the backcountry, with options including FRS, GMRS, MURS, and amateur (ham). As I've been working on this story for the past few months, getting hands-on time with the various radio types, it has got me thinking about the two-way radio wheelers have been using for years, the CB (citizens band) radio.
CB Has Been a Staple of Off-Road Communication
I'm old, and thus have watched the evolution of the CB radio. I got into CB around 1975 when my dad bought an ancient tube CB radio. I remember that it was enormous and took up a lot of real estate under the dash of our Rambler Ambassador. I recall that the tubes took their sweet time warming up, so we had to turn it on a minute or so before we actually wanted to use it. It only had about eight channels. I remember being in awe of how much farther it transmitted than my 500mW two-channel walkie-talkie. If I remember correctly, the next CB we had was a 23-channel solid-state unit that was much smaller than the old tube CB. As a matter of fact, it looked tiny under the dash of our '76 Ford LTD. Shortly after I got my driver's license, I bought a CB radio for my car. That radio was quite the deal. It was small and had 40 channels and a digital display. Yeah, buddy. I owned that radio for years, and it, along with a high-quality fiberglass antenna on a magnet mount, was moved from vehicle to vehicle as I transitioned from Blazer to Scout to Cherokee XJ. Back then it seemed like every 4x4 had a CB radio. I chatted it up with buddies before, during, and after off-road forays and events. In the late 1990s, when I was a busy freelancer working for 4x4 magazines, I bought a handheld 40-channel unit from Radio Shack, and this radio traveled with me when I utilized air travel to attend off-road events. The thing was huge by today's standards, but I could simply put it in my checked bag. It had a power cord with a cigarette lighter plug, which was good because I remember it could trash a set of batteries rather quickly if I got chatty.
CB Radios for 4x4s
CB radios are still used by many wheelers. Because of low radio cost and no license requirement, it's common to see 'em in 4x4s everywhere. I still have a CB, but nowadays I have a slew of different types of radios and antennas that I use depending on how far I need to transmit and what type of radio everyone else is using.
Which Off-Road Radio?
What's your go-to two-way radio for your 4x4? Are you using a CB, or have you transitioned to a different radio type like MURS or FRS? Or are you using repeater-capable GMRS? Or have you acquired your amateur radio license? Has your club adopted a specific radio type for trail runs? I'm interested in what you are using and why, so drop an email to the address below and tell me about it. Oh, and keep the shiny side up and the dirty side down.