When hiking or camping, two-way radios can be extremely beneficial. They are not only great for ensuring that your family or friends don't get lost in the woods with no way to communicate, but they are also fun and efficient camping tools. In fact, being able to communicate between base camp and a group in the field can make for a much more enjoyable camping experience. Besides, who doesn't like to say 'over and out' once in awhile? Below you'll find an overview of the main types of camping radios and the features they offer.
Family Radio Service (FRS)
There are two primary types of radios that can be used in camping situations. Family Radio Service, (FRS) is the most common. FRS radios don't require a license and are generally very easy to use.
Family Radio Service is essentially a walkie-talkie radio system that uses ultra high frequencies (UHF). These radios are useful for communicating within a 2-mile radius and are meant for use during recreational activities, though use of FRS for business-related matters is permitted. There are no age or citizenship requirements associated with the Family Radio Service, which is yet another reason that it is a great choice for a weekend of camping.
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)
GMRS radios are also walkie-talkie style radios, however they do require a license (valid for five years) and are therefore less practical for your average user. Their main advantage is that they are much more powerful than FRS models.
The license fee for GMRS models is currently $85 and requires an application form. You can only apply for a license if you are 18 years of age or older, however family members of a license holder can operate a GMRS radio even if they are not 18 years old. Additionally, GMRS radio are not allowed for business use, though enforcement on this matter is rare.
The FCC has more information on GMRS radios if you'd like to learn more.
'FRS/GMRS' or 'dual-service' radios allow for the user to decide which radio system to use at any given time. This is very useful for those who would like access to both radio services, however, the same rules apply to each respective radio service. For example, if you operate a FRS/GMRS radio as a GMRS radio, you are required to have a license.
The Bottom Line on Two-Way Radios
In summary, if you're going out for a quick camping trip, or even many camping trips, FRS radios requiring no license, no license fee, and being subject to very few regulations are often the best choice of two-way radios for you and the rest of your group. However, if you need a more powerful camping radio option and don't mind paying a small fee, GRMS is also worth considering.
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