After reading this blog, if you feel inclined, please subscribe to NotARubicon’s YouTube channel. I learned about GMRS there. Very informative, and guaranteed to make you laugh. 🙂
Ever since Jeep partnered with Midland Radio, GMRS has become the new
standard mandate for off-roading and overlanding. I like this direction, but frankly I’m not a fan of Midland Radios. They spend a lot on marketing, yet their radios are crap. Wouxun is eating their lunch.
Without diving into the weeds, the FCC has a ridiculous set of rules for GMRS (including their license requirement). For example, GMRS handheld radios are restricted to 5w, while GMRS mobile radios can go as high as 50w. Sounds reasonable, until a GMRS mobile user wants to talk to a GMRS handheld radio user on channels 8-14. That’s when things get ugly…read on…
- Channels 1-7 are restricted to 5w, so those are the best channels to use when you’ve got a mix of GMRS mobile and GMRS handheld radio users.
- Channels 8-14 are restricted to .5w and the FCC only allows you to transmit on these channels using a GMRS handheld radio. So while some of the better GMRS mobile radios can only listen on these channels, crappy Midland radios remove those channels because they think you’re stupid.
- Channels 15-22 allow up to a whopping 50w. This is great for GMRS mobile radio users, but not so great for GMRS handheld radio users since they’re restricted to 5w. This might sound trivial, but will become more of an issue the farther away GMRS mobile radio users get from GMRS handheld radio users. If you get far enough away from each other, the GMRS mobile radio users won’t be able to hear the GMRS handheld radio users. So channels 1-7 puts both on a level playing field.
- There are 8 repeater channels that can be used by GMRS mobile radios or GMRS handheld radios that support repeaters (unless you have a crappy Midland). These are also restricted to 50w. If a GMRS mobile radio user and a GMRS handheld user have repeater capable radios, they should be able to talk fine.
Here is a good website that breaks down the FCC restrictions:
This stuff can get confusing if you’re not into all the tech, these examples might help clear the air:
- If everyone has a GMRS handheld radio, wattage is restricted to 5w, so stick to channels 1-7.
- If everyone has a GMRS mobile radio, wattage is restricted at 50w, stick to channels 15-22 (we tend to use channel 16, since 4×4=16 <wink>).
- If some have a GMRS handheld radio, and some have a GMRS mobile radio, stick to channels 1-7. This will prevent GMRS handheld radio users from being able to hear GMRS mobile radio users, but them not hearing you.
You may have picked up on the fact that channels 8-14 are not very useful. At .5w, they’re pretty useless channels unless everyone is using handhelds and you’re not too far away from each other. Or if you all have FRS handheld radios.
The best advice for those users, go back to Walmart and ask for a refund, then buy a real GMRS handheld radio or GMRS mobile radio. GMRS mobile radio users will be able to hear others on channels 8-14 (unless you have a crappy Midland), but they won’t be able to transmit.
Most of the folks I go off-roading or overlanding with have GMRS mobile radios in their vehicle. The few that think they can get by with only a GMRS handheld radio, well, they soon learn that they need to get a GMRS mobile radio.
However there are a few good reasons for having a spare GMRS handheld radio in your vehicle. If you need someone to spot you over difficult terrain, hand the person the GMRS handheld radio. If you decide to get out of your vehicle, a GMRS handheld radio will come in handy. If your GMRS mobile radio dies, you have the GMRS handheld radio as a backup.
When I wheeled with Cumberland Crawlerz a year ago, I had my first GMRS mobile radio, a crappy Midland XMT115. Most of my buddies had GMRS handheld radios. For some reason they were using channel 11. Who knew? None of us. We were so used to CB. Now that we’re getting up to speed, I figured a blog would be a good idea.
Midland is crap. Why? Because they think consumers are stupid. So they remove channels 8-14. Why is that bad? Just because you are using a GMRS mobile radio that can’t transmit at the measly .5w cap, shouldn’t mean you shouldn’t be able to hear GMRS handheld radio users’ transmission. Midland also lacks many basic feature. You can’t toggle between narrow/wide band. They don’t support repeaters with split tone. The list is long…don’t waste your money on Midland…they’re crap.
Wouxun is widely known to make the most capable and feature packed GMRS handheld radios and mobile radios. Do yourself a favor, don’t make the same mistakes I made…buy once, cry once:
To summarize, avoid Midland Radios, a complete waste of money. I wrote this blog hoping to help my buddies wrap their heads around GMRS. I know it would have helped me a year ago. Hope it’s helpful.
PS, Dear FCC, you would do well to hire a teenager to fix your horrible license site.