Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Communication Is Key

 It's important to today's society to keep close tabs on one another and hourly updates from social media seems to be the new normal. But what do you do in those situations when a phone doesn't make for the best form of communication? Yes there are actually times when a phone is actually inept at keeping us in touch with our peoples. If you are adventurous, and you should be, you will find yourself without cell service when you get out into the back country. If you take a cruise outside of the United States you will face international charges to any call, text or cutesy selfie that you send across the cellular networks. Of course many folks don't realize that until the bill comes at the end of the month. Ouch!
  In our case we tend to do a lot of off road adventures that require to stay in touch with groups of 40 or more vehicles at a time and we tend to travel in larger groups as we visit national parks or other sites so again, a phone is not going to work for that style of travel. So what do we use to talk to all of our closest friends? We use what the youngsters would consider to be an archaic technology. It's called radio frequencies.
 Two way communications comes in all shapes and sizes and I thought I would just touch on the ones that we have found useful in the past to maybe give you guys an alternative way to talk to one another during your own adventures. Each style of radio that I'm going to talk about of course comes with different skill sets and price ranges but are by no means something to fear. All of them have there place and it is ultimately up to you to decide what type of radio fits your needs.

 The most common radio that I've seen would be a family style radio. They are compact, run on AA or AAA batteries and have a one to two mile range that can allow you to speak car to car, on a cruise ship or while your out on a hike. The small frames make them easy to stash in a backpack or a purse and most will even clip to a belt. As with all radios they work best with direct line of site and the more things (walls, trees, etc) will affect how well the radios sends and receives information and these radios have the weakest output of our radios. The trade off here to me is power for portability. The price range on these guys start around $20 and can reach $200 on the extreme side.

  The most used radios in our closet is the CB (Civilian Band) radios. If you grew up watching The Dukes of Hazard or Smoky and the Bandit you know about CB radios. From what I understand these shows help propel sales of this style of radio through the 1970's. You just weren't cool if you didn't have one. Today truckers across the country still use these radios to converse with one another to pass information to one another and to generally give them someone to talk to on those long road trips. These radios are going to be hard mounted in the vehicle and require an external antenna to use them. They come in all shapes, sizes and power and use 40 channels to give you a larger chunk of airwaves to keep your conversations your own. If you like to attend off road events like the Easter Jeep Safari or Jeep Jamboree these radios are a must. We also like to have them mounted in our motorhomes as we caravan to our next camp site. CB radios range in price from $30 to around $200. They have a much better range than your family radio and more channels to use but again, require an antenna mount and wiring to be done on your vehicle. These do come in a hand held version as well but I have never had one to offer an opinion on.

  Finally we come to the big daddy of radios. Amateur radio has the largest range of frequencies and power available to the public. They can be mounted in a vehicle or set up in your house. They also come in a small hand held unit like the family radio but these guys are more powerful. These radios require a license from the FCC to operate and can cause all kinds of judgmental facial expressions when you refer to them as their common name. These are HAM radios folks and yes, I do have a license. I joke about funny facial expressions because it's true. I used to be one of those people. When I heard about HAM radios all I could think about were a bunch of lonely old dudes hanging out in their unfinished basements eating ham sandwiches and talking about the weather. Shame on me. We were introduced to amateur radio through our CERT team (Community Emergency Response Team) which taught us the ins and outs of HAM and how useful they can be. I am currently working on a full time set up to put into the Jeep so that we have long distance capabilities when we head into the back country for days at a time. Getting licensed isn't difficult. It just take a little studying and you have to take a test. You may not need this kind of radio for your regular day travels but if you are into overland travel or emergency preparedness this is something you would be interested in. HAM radios range in cost from $35 to $10,000. Yes that's a huge range but a mobile station that you would mount in your car it will be more like $180 to $700 and you again need antenna set ups like you do with a CB radio. I'll let you do the research on that one on your own.

 So there they are. Our alternative communications for the limited cellular phone. Using radios allows us to communicate with larger groups at once which a phone just won't do. It enhances our enjoyment of each trip we take and come in handy in multiple types of situations. I hope this helps you out in your future adventures. We'll see you later this week and for those fellow HAM's out there, 73.


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