I decided to take a break from panic buying gun stuff because frankly it is expensive, I'm well (enough) stocked for now, and it is getting old.
I've been thinking about ways to improve our other situations with fairly minimal cost and comms is an obvious answer. I found a bunch of enthusiasts on radio forums talk about how their radios were handy in Katrina and Sandy, and Even Forbes talks about how alternatives to the typical comms (cell phones) are useful.
First, I plan on reliably carrying my cell phone. I'm pretty terrible about it but I do vow to get better about at least having it in the car. Hands down a cheap phone is the easiest way to stay in touch 95% of the time and a Tracfone isn't that expensive.
We currently have 2xGMRS handhelds (decent quality), 2xFRS handhelds (cheap). That's pretty good for vehicle-to-vehicle communications, comms when hunting or camping (where/when legal, of course -- more for safety and emergency use than anything else, like when one of us goes off on a side hike to get water alone or something) and so on. They really max out at around a mile though, less in restrictive terrain or around buildings. And of course you need a FCC license to use the GMRS channels and features which is a pain.
We also have 1xVHF Marine Band handheld for emergency use, boating, fly-in hunts, etc. It was handy on Kodiak.
I am thinking about getting into CB. GMRS UHF radios will lack longer ranges due to physics and because I don't feel like getting my ham license.
I basically mapped out two options.
Option A is the cheap route. I could get a $30 basic CB for one of the cars (or the house), a $50 handheld unit, and a pair of the magnetic car antennas for $30 each. For under $150 that should be a setup that allows talk from 1-5 miles. That should cover the neighborhood and may actually reach to one of our common work sites from the house, which is handy.
Option B is the pricey route. Here's I'd go for single side band (SSB) units which put three times the power onto one sideband. I'd get at least one full-length base station antenna and a magnetic car-style antenna. I've heard ranges of 15-50 miles being possible with a SSB unit and a quality antenna, which would potentially reach from home to both of our places of work, which could be handy. This setup would cost around $400.
Right now I am looking at messing around with Option A. It is a lot cheaper, and later on if the SSB capability looks useful we can always add on that capability. All the radios should be compatible (except the cheap ones can't use SSB, obviously).
Obviously electricity is an issue. For vehicle use, not a big deal -- just plug in. The handhelds can be run off of 9xAA batteries. I see some major manufacturers advertising 20 hour battery lifes which realistically means more like a typical 8-10 hour day tops, but that is still pretty good given that I have a bunch of AA's on hand already. For non-AA radio, we do have a battery jump pack which could run a radio for some time if used carefully. Long term a small generator or solar setup should be enough to recharge a handheld type unit.
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