Useful Transceivers for Most Preppers, by Tunnel Rabbit

Preamble

The goal of this article to provide readers, the average preppers radio operator, with useful choices that may be capable of meeting a required level of performance. These are some inexpensive, or low power radio options that do not require an Amateur Radio License in the U.S..

Antenna choice is a very important to the part of providing reliable communications within a 10 to 20 mile radius using low powered radios. Terrain also plays an important role. If one located 50 feet higher than the average elevation of the surrounding terrain, the distance it may transmit and receive is much greater. The old rule of thumb in the Amateur Radio world is that ‘height is might’. Even though there will be additional loss of signal in a lengthy run of cable to an antenna that is mounted as high as possible, the additional height of the antenna that avoids obstacles and terrain in the radio wave’s path, easily compensates. In this example, extreme signal loss in a RG-58 cable intended for short runs only, can lose, say half of the signal strength, or 1.5 Dbd, is acceptable if the otherwise low in height antenna installation cannot make reliable communications possible.

Another configuration to consider is that a radio with only 2 watts output, using antenna that mounted at least 15 feet high, and transmits through an antenna with a gain of 1.5 Ddb, can outperform a 10 watt radio transmission that transmits through a 1/4 wave unity gain (no gain) antenna mounted on a vehicle roof. The radio’s frequency also plays an important role in how in negotiates terrain, and obstacles. Radio line of sight in not a straight line. Radio wave can penetrate, or follow the ground, and go around or deflect over hills by about 5 percent, and travel to it’s destination that cannot be seen with the eyes. The longer wave lengths tend to do this much better than the short wave lengths such are used in GMRS radios. GMRS radio using the 3 times shorter in wave length UHF frequencies as compared to VHF frequencies. So they will tend to penetrate some buildings and obstacles much better than VHF. CB radio waves are in the 11 meter band right next to the 10 meter Amateur band. CB transmissions can follow the ground much better than high VHF frequencies that is used in the Multi User Radio Service (MURS) that starts at 151.820MHz.

Three radios and antenna options to consider.

Option 1: SSB CB Radio

Pros:
– No license required.
– Affordable.
– Familiar format.
– No programming needed.
– Can talk with common CB radios.
– Semi-secure. Of the three choices, it provides the highest level of COMSEC.
It is semi-secure, as there a few SSB CBs in use, and standard CBs cannot receive an intelligible signal from SSB CB, when SSB mode is selected.
– Higher effective signal strength due the type of modulation as compared to standard CB radio.
The radio’s rated output is 4 watts, yet when used in Singe Side Band mode, this type modulation has an effective rating of about 12 watts. 12 watts that can provide reliable communications out to at least 10 miles, or more in average terrain. However, both radios in the network need to be CBs with SSB capability.

Cons:
– Large in 20 foot in diameter area needed for the ground plane of the antenna.

Option 2: High Power GMRS mobile, or 8 watt Baofeng radio

Another option is GMRS radio. Get a ‘no test’ license that covers extended family, and use two 50 watt mobile GMRS radios in the circuit, and mount the antenna on the roof. 25 watts may be needed to cover that distance reliably with a repeater.

Pros:
– Easier installation as the antenna is no more than 12 inches in length.
– No programming required.
– Major cities often have GMRS repeaters, or a licensed user can install their own GMRS repeater.

Cons:
– License required
– This is the least secure radio.
– Higher coaxial cable cost. Expensive low loss coaxial cable that should be the equivalent of 8X or LMR400 is needed to preserve, and carry the full signal strength to the externally roof mounted antenna if maximum range is necessary. Use of an inexpensive high gain Slim Jim, or other design high gain antenna can also be used to offset the considerable loss of signal if inadequately rated, and ‘lossy’ cables are use. This why a 50 watt GMRS radio might be needed to offset the use of lower quality and ‘lossy’ cables, and connectors due to it the nature of UHF frequencies.

Option 3, The combination of a 8 watt Hand held radio, and a high gain Slim Jim antenna

Use a 8 watt Baofeng with Slim Jim antenna mounted at least 20 feet above ground level. This antenna can be purchased pre-tuned for MURS frequencies. Use one of the five license-free MURS channels. Odds are this will be adequate, if both the receiving and transmitting station use a Slim Jim antenna. A Slim Jim is a high gain folded 5/8 dipole, with a gain of at least 1.5 Db. Use RG8x or heavier cable and ERP, or power out at the antenna will be at least if not more, 10 watts after a lengthy cable run. 10 watts on high band VHF can easily go a distance of 10 miles with an externally antenna mounted on a roof top. I can hit repeaters 80 miles away with this set up, even Cranbrook, Canada with a such an antenna, and a 4-watt, instead of an 8-watt Baofeng. The supply of Baofengs may however dry up given both regulatory changes and the disruption caused by 2019-nCov (Covid-19).

I much prefer the Slim Jim over the J-pole, as a 4:1 air choke is not required, and it has 8 to 10 Mhz of bandwidth, as compared to the 4 Mhz bandwidth of the J-pole. It probably has higher gain close to 3 Dbd, but it must be mounted at least 20 feet up to use the potentially higher gain out of it, as compared to the J-pole (1.5 Dbd). The Slim Jim sends concentrates the signal in 20 degree pattern, and sends towards the horizon. I would not use a J-pole unless the SWR (Standing Wave Ratio) could be confirmed and the user can create an 4:1 air choke. Otherwise the SWR exceeds 2:1 with J-poles without such an air choke.

This is the Slim Jim antenna.

Meet it’s maker, KB9VBR. Excellent customer service with prices I cannot beat. Yet I’ve made piles of these, and can do fine tuning to take advantage of it’s considerable and advantageous bandwidth. The J- poles do have their place though.

Pros:
– Least expensive option
– No license required
– Common Prepper frequency
– Dual purpose as the radio can act as a slow scanner of Emergency Services to GMRS/FRS radio traffic, and Ham Bands.
– More secure than GMRS
– The Baofeng or other hand held can be used as a scanner to monitor the Ham bands, Emergency Services, VHF Land Mobile, and GMRS/FRS.

Cons:
– Relatively easy programming of at least one frequency, using the VFO (Variable Frequency Oscillator) mode required.
– Additional programming to access the full potential of the radio can be problematic without the use of Chirp software, and a programming cable with the proper chip set.
– Less secure than SSB CB.
– License free channels limited to the 5 MURS frequencies as compared to the 80 upper and lower side band frequencies of the SSB CB.

Improving range and (Communications Security (COMSEC) with a 3 or 5 element Yagis.

Using low power radios is already a good start to making communications secure. Low power is your friend. Always use the lowest power setting the radio offers to reduce the potential of being overheard. However, we may also wish to extend the range further that the low power hand held or CB radio is capable of. To retain the security benefits of low power, and still make contacts with stations that would normally require the higher power levels available in mobile/base station radios, we can use a high gain directional antenna. Directional antennas are made for all frequencies, yet the lower the frequency, the larger that a directional antenna must be. A yagi not only magnifies the power out, it also hears the weak signals of lower powered radios better, greatly extending the range of the lowered power station should it be talking to the station using a yagi. The smaller 3 element yagi transmits and receives in a footprint of about 45 degrees, and block signals coming from behind and from the sides of the antennas elements providing low noise floor. Yagi antennas are ideal for point-to-point communications, and are almost impossible to direction find (DF), and can be permanently mounted just like many other antennas.

A directional 3 element yagi antenna for CB, or SSB CB.

In the case of the SSB CB, a 10 meter yagi can be adapted, and tuned to CB frequencies. This however requires some prior experience. It is better to buy, or special order a yagi specifically made for CB frequencies. A horizontally polarized yagi transmitting on upper and low side band in CB frequencies at 12, or less watts is far off the beaten path, and could be considered the most secure that the average prepper might obtain. it is more secure that using any of the Ham bands. Even scanners would not receive side band intelligently, and the receiving station would likely interpret the garbled voices as ‘skip’. Use a SSB CB on a 3 element yagi with a gain of 7.5 Dbd, and the ERP (estimated radiated power) can be around 67 watts, if line loss is not deducted. If the standard CB portion of the radio is used, and transmits on 4 watt, the ERP would be 22 watts. This means the range in a roughly 45 degree foot print is greatly extended to at least 20 miles.

To improve COMSEC (Communication Security), without using an inconveniently large and expensive yagi, make your own dipole antenna, and mount it horizontally to significantly increase the odds that your communications are secure. Both receiving and transmitting antennas must be mount in the same way. This is inexpensive to do, but does require and a SWR meter, 20 feet or more feet of coaxial cable with a PL259 cable end, or 18 feet of wire, and a some time. This a bi-directional antenna. The broadside of the antenna should be perpendicular to the intended receiving station. This is a 72 ohm antenna connected to a 50 ohm system, yet the impedance mismatch is negligible given the considerable advantages of this type of antenna when used in a horizontally polarized configuration. They tune up with a low SWR and broad bandwidth.

A directional 3 element yagi antenna for GMRS mobile radios.

I am not certain of the legalities, yet a in austere environment, a mobile 50 watt GMRS radio could obtain similar benefits that such an antenna provides any radio. The advantage of a yagi designed for GMRS frequencies is small and portable size, about 20 inches square. Here we can power down the output to 10 watts, conserve battery power, and reach longer ranges, as previously discussed. Using 50 watts, the ERP would be an excessive 281 watts. More sensible choice would be a mere 10 watts, putting the ERP at about 57 watts. Here we can also use a 8 watt Baofeng, that will actually transmit close to 10 watts on UHF frequencies that includes GMRS. In my experience in wooded areas, it is best to double the ERP when using UHF frequencies to effect the same range as a VHF radio would have. All the security benefits apply here, except GMRS is not SSB, and is a commonly used set of frequencies, and more likely to be intercepted. Fortunately using a yagi would reduce the potential audience size by 75%.

One might choose a 5 element, and higher gain yagi to reduce the radio wave foot print even further. A 5 element yagi can also allow us to use the next lowest power setting as well. 4 watts out of aoafeng into a 5 element yagi with a gain of 9.5 Dbd would put out about 35 watts. For additional security, use the antenna in a horizontal polarization configuration, and select the next lowest power setting and see if that works, as horizontally polarized antennas have a greater range in some wooded environments than do vertically polarized antennas of any kind. The radio wave can actually travel around many of the trees, whereas vertically polarized waves must travel through most of the trees.

A directional 3 or 5 element yagi antenna for MURS frequencies.

Assuming we will be using MURS, there are few antenna restrictions, and so a yagi can be used here as well, and to the same effect already discussed. However, the Baofeng will use 2,4, or 8 watts. Plugged into a 3 element yagi, the ERP for 2 watts would be 11 watts. For 4 watts, the ERP would be 22 watts, and for 8 watts, the ERP would be 44 watts. A 11 watt VHF transmission can cover up to 20 miles in many situations, so begin testing using the lowest setting. The battery will last much longer and the radio’s life will also be extended. A standard 4 watt Baofeng though this yagi will have an ERP of 22 watts, easily covering a 20 mile in diameter AO. A 5 element yagi with a gain of about 9.5 Dbd would improve COMSEC further, if the lowest power setting is used, and it has a much narrower foot print. Pushing 4 watts through an antenna with a gain of 9.5 Dbd, the ERP would about 35 watts out the door. Use only 2 watts, and the ERP 16 watts, and plenty of power for VHF, in our Area of Operations (AO).

There is a balancing act between power out, and footprint. A VHF radio using a horizontally polarized antenna will travel further than a UHF signal in wooded areas, and require about half the battery, and radiated power to achieve the same distance. Such signal is also attenuated by about 20 to 30 Decibels if received by a vertically polarized antenna, thereby making it very quiet and hard to hear. In an experiment, using a 4 watt Baofeng on a directional antenna 20 miles away was pointed at two different receiving radios that were placed side by side. One was vertically polarized, and the other horizontally polarized. By rotating the directional antenna from vertical to a horizontal polarization, the signal would be received by one radio 20 miles away, but not by the other radio. In other words, the vertically polarized radio could not hear the horizontally polarized directional antenna. It was silent.

If the power setting was at 8 watts instead of 4 watts, there is the possibility that the vertically polarized radio might pick up the signal, yet is it would be so hard to hear that we would still have a useful level of COMSEC, and a 20 miles range. The signal received would be less than S-1 on a strength meter, and be interpreted as signal that is far away, and not to be a threat. It would be so weak that a direction finding effort would be very difficult.

Regardless of the type of radio used, if we only need point-to-point communications, our Comms will be far more secure, and our range will much greater. Use yagis horizontally polarized on both stations for maximum effect.

Yagi antennas can be special ordered in your frequency choice at Arrow Antennas.




35 Comments

    1. Yes, to those in the know, in general, they are junky compared to most radios. There are also Baofeng clones out there that are garbage. I relegate the lemons to receive only radios that sip power, and would be eventually parts doners. Parts is part, and a spare battery is almost half the cost of the radio that comes with a battery, and a charger, and an antenna. Buying bulk from a reputable dealer better ensures better quality as these radios can be easily returned, therefore the dealer isn’t shoveling garbage out the door.

  1. Most who buy a Baofeng as their first radio do so because they are cheap. They would be better served to join a ham radio club to learn about the commitment necessary to operate the proper gear. What kind of gear is required. How to proceed.
    That Baofeng comes with vague instructions that don’t even provide the user with enough information to break the law. This is what you are doing when you operate one of those things without a license.
    This just gives everyone the impression that all radio operators are bad apples. Buying a Baofeng is the cheap and fast way. Iceman is right, one should start at the beginning and get your license to operate, and then decide what radio you need. A Baofeng ain’t it. You would be better served with a CB.

  2. The Baofeng criticisms remind me of arguments about cheap guns (i.e. Hi-Points) vs expensive guns (S&W, etc.). Each has their place. Just as a gun can be misused to fire at an innocent person, so can a Baofeng be used to transmit outside an authorized frequency. But just as I don’t shoot my gun at an innocent man, I don’t use my baofeng to transmit outside authorized VHF / UHF frequencies. I have an amateur radio license and abide by the rules. I’ve gotten good performance for 2 years now from my Baofeng. For simplex or repeater voice communications, they do well for me.

  3. One comment I hear from people not wanting to get their Ham license is that, “I don’t want to be on a government list”. My response is, if you have a drivers license, credit card, firearm, you are already on a “list”. I am a VE and also help teach a Technician class at a local community college a couple of times a year. And I know of several people who took the class, passed their Tech test and got a Baofeng as their first radio. Then got discouraged because of not being able to use their 4/5 watt radio due to the terrain where they live to hit repeaters. Yes, I do have/use a Baofeng but they are limited of what you can do with one. I always recommend to my students that their first radio should be at least a 50W mobile that they can use both in a vehicle and at their home as a base station. Also I tell the students to use their radio and get on the air and learn how to communicate with other Hams.

    1. In times of war, such as was done in WW2, all amateur licenses were suspended. With a full blown draconian government, spare radios, and along with spare rifles, along with spare everything else, is a necessary and should be in our Contingency plan, ala’ P.A.C.E., aka., Primary, Alternative, Contingency, and Emergency plan. This is yet another reason to have spare radio sets, be it Baofengs, or CB’s, FRS/GMRS, what radios one can afford to stock pile. For years I piled up CB’s for only 5 buck a piece. They will not be wasted as they apart of a contingency plan that includes FRS for security work. FRS can be ideal when set on low power that is less than the maximum ERP allowed of 250mW. These are very short range and that is just what is needed for security, that unless it could or is about to go hot, should not otherwise be used. We would not loose our ‘tactical surprise’ when using this radio in this way. Don’t worry if all you got is FRS, it may be the best option for you. Use a PL tone to avoid being jammed. Also have an alternative frequency in case there is an open mic. For example, an injured person in great pain may stay on the mic, or ‘keyed up’, calling for help, inadvertently jamming up the security operation that can help him. Have a separate a frequency each for medical and transportation, along with alternates for those as well. Some one not well suited for defense might fill this roles.

  4. Thank-you Tunnel Rabbit for this information. It was understandable for a not even newbie like myself. I have not prepped in the Comms. category because I thought it was too technical. Now I will get a SSB CB and begin my education!

  5. Thank you TR.
    Being a ham with my extra ticket I was surprised when my mentor (Elmer) purchased a Baofeng radio. Several years ago he showed me a new inexpensive radio that he was excited about. It was an early version of the Baofeng handheld.
    He noted it was clumsy to program and in some cases difficult to operate as he happily played with his new radio.
    Hams generally like a challenge and enjoy figuring new stuff out.

    I personally do not own a Baofeng. I certainly do not see anything wrong with owning one if you have the license and patience to become proficient. The recommendation to hook up with a ham club is great. Many hams have used gear available for sale to newly licensed amateurs.
    I got my first radio, an Alinco hand held for 50.00 from a fellow member.
    73s

  6. I have a baofeng and a license, they are not exclusionary.

    To the readership:
    You can obtain the study materials for the (technician) license for free online, and take free practice tests online. If you pushed you could do it in two weeks.

    A lot of what TR is talking about here boils down to the way radio waves interact with the world, and how they are transmitted and received.

    I’m going to disagree with TR on one point: If you have a handheld radio, while things are “normal” leave it at the higher watt setting. If you were to come across a vehicle accident, for example, and were trying to reach a repeater to contact EMS, you don’t want to have to remember to up the power. For those of us less experienced, you probably won’t remember in the heat of the moment.

    I love my handhelds. When I helped a neighbor blow in insulation, we each had a radio. When I re-wired a room, there was someone at the breaker box with a radio. When I travel with a group, each vehicle has a radio. Helps immensely.

    I’m going to wax philosophical here: As a whole, our society is conditioned for instantaneous and effortless communication. If you’re working on a project and you need some information, you just call. Did you want us to use 2×6 or 2×4? Did you need me to pick up milk and eggs while I’m out? Etc., etc. If all of a sudden you can’t just call, there is going to be a lot of decision paralysis. Even cheap radios will help keep things going in the short term.

    1. No worries. My programs always have the setting on high for the Ham bands, but only 25 watts on the mobiles. No need to have a long winded user heat up the finals. 25 watts will cover the repeaters in the area and simplex.

  7. Not to start an fight but I am going to have to call you on one thing. With 10 watts and that dipole 80 miles possible but not likely.
    Then using a 4 watt Baofeng that’s where I have to call you it’s not going to happen the curvature of the earth alone and 4 watts is not going to happen, unless you are up in a Cessna. By the way I have my ham ticket And it does not matter what power and antenna you use if you are transmitting you can be found.

    1. This was done using the first 70CM slim jim built. One fellow there was an Extra Class who builds antenna for a living said the antenna was no good. The General class ham ran the analyzer while I held the antenna. He was impressed by the numbers. Using 4 watts, it was able to hit a repeater at 6,000 feet, 80 miles with good strength and full quieting. My General Class friend bought the antenna from me.
      I have built, and use these antennas for years. Some claim that it has a gain of 3 Dbd. It might. Other thinks that they are not good antennas. Most are happy and do well with quarter wave antennas and a mobile, and never test the limits of what they can do with a low powered radio on excellent antenna. A low power network can be organized using the ubiquitous Baofeng, or CB radios, or whatever radio, and appropriate antennas. My style of radio is heavily influenced by military manuals on the topic.
      Amateurs can be instrumental at putting networks together if they were aware of the possibility. A local net can help the locals defend themselves. It would be in the best interests of all involved, including the guy who set up the net that is good for a 10 mile radius. I will seldom need a repeater, and will tend not to use the crowded Ham bands that will be monitored by friend and foe. MURS is good for that and most others, licensed or not.

  8. @anyone…

    I purchased Baofeng and really like them. However there’s too many features and they are too small. They don’t fit into our radio pouches in our body armor rigs for training. But they are reliable, durable, and are useful for our type of region. That’s the key, is your particular region… do you need a repeater, short/long wave radios, radio license, et al. It’s all customizable to your particular neighborhood “stomping grounds.”

    My question is, are there any matrices out there which depicts the forbidden frequencies or good frequencies. Something that is accurate as the frequencies change and modify all the time.

    Thanks and regards…

      1. @ Mr. Pink… Dunka-sheen!

        Clarification, if you’re referring to my comments as negative, I’m just garnering feedback, and possibly a workaround to my issues in prepping. I mean, that is what this website is all about…. finding solutions. Thanks again!

    1. COMSEC can be improved by using the dual watch feature on the Baofeng. Talk on one frequency, and listen to the other guy on another frequency. This requires the scanner to listen to two frequencies. Keep transmissions to less than 5 seconds, then break for a two seconds, and transmit again. Use brevity codes, authentication methods, a commo window, and other military SOP. And use a directional antenna from at least the base station, if not on both ends.

  9. This is a very good article by Tunnel Rabbit, but my perspective is a little different. I am an Amateur Extra license holder and sold Baofeng radios at the Phoenix gun shows for many years until the FCC put their foot down. The quest for antennas and radios matched for optimal performance isn’t necessary. It’s a noble intent and a good goal, but there is a reason that every manufacturer from the very best radios to the worst sell their products with what ham radio people call a rubber ducky (short) antenna.

    They work. They’re not the best and certainly not optimal, but they work. It’s a starting point. My goal, in addition to making a little money, was to get more people involved in the radio world. It’s pretty important; move, shoot, communicate! I was always amazed by how many people had no problem dropping hundreds of dollars for another rifle, but didn’t see the need to be able to communicate if the SHTF. Once you get a radio (or several), hopefully that will get you going. Then you can apply the techniques Tunnel Rabbit is talking about.

    As for the other commenters, they are right, but there is a big problem with the better radios. The cheaper Chinese radios can transmit on all of the frequencies that they listen on. The better radios can listen on those same frequencies, but they can only transmit on ham frequencies. That means no FRS, no GMRS and no MURS. For people new to the radio world, that is a huge problem.

    1. Yes, the rubber ducky, or OEM (original equipment manufacturer) is often the most appropriate. Many purchase longer antennas will longer ranges, yet these antennas may broadcast at ranges that can be easier to intercept. And the darn thing getd in the way, and is prone to break, and costs more. It is better to put that money into a good head set. If the purpose of the radio is to be used for security operations, and the original antenna can cover the limited range need for a patrol operation outside your perimeter, then that is a good antenna for the job.

      To improve COMSEC further, I would do an survey of the area, and determine if the range could be shorten more with a shorter, and less efficient antenna to reduce the chances of intercept. If one cannot conduct patrols, then the 1 to 5 acres that can be defended, are best covered with a stubby antenna that reduces the radio range more, and it will also fit into your web gear with great ease. If we can use UHF to reduce our foot print, and use the rubber ducky antenna, all the better. Use the alternate frequency in your common plan that is a VHF frequency to almost double the range if far enough away to justify it’s use. Base should monitor all frequencies in the commo plan, with both horizontal and vertical high gain receiving antennas up high as possible. Whatever antenna used as a primary antenna, a second antenna that has a much longer range can be carried in the pack. I also make dipoles for handhelds that roll up tight for carry that can be deployed if extended range is needed. This can be mounted on a pole from the woods, and carried, or slung up high in a tree. They can be horizontally polarized as well, to further increase range, and COMSEC. LPOP’s can use a directional, or omni-directional horizontal polarized antenna on UHF, including 70CM if that is all you got, to further tighten security, even if on a popular band such as GMRS.

      Antennas are a very important part of radio usually underappreciated and underutilized, as there is little current need. Hams have a jump start in this area if they see the need. Make them now while it is easy. We should have at least one 5 element yagi in the bag, even if it is only on 2 meter. Hit a repeater with it, and you’ll be very hard to DF. Handhelds can be even used to talk or listen to satellites, and distant, or repeaters near by with a yagi, yet there is more they can do. A net using directional antennas is hard to mess with as these antennas also reject signals and limit the foot print. Use tones to futher prevent jamming. And we can be use handheld or mobiles with a Raspberry or laptop, with digital modes to CW, and in other ways few consider. The more clubs we have in the bag, the more better we can play the game. And this game is for keeps.

  10. I have been hearing the BaoFeng is a great, cheap radio vs. BaoFeng is a piece of cheap, Chinese garbage that violates FCC regs for a number of years. I’ve only been a ham for about 5 years, but I’ve been hearing this argument the entire time. I agree with Tom S. Just because your hardware doesn’t restrict you from doing something stupid does NOT mean that it violates FCC regs. Anyone with a license can tell you that building and operating a receiver in any band is perfectly legal. The issue comes when you press that PTT button. And if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s just like pulling the trigger on a gun. You might be ok, but you might just put yourself in a huge pile of deep do-do. And if you think getting your license will put you on a list, try committing a federal crime. Get trained. Get the license, if that’s your thing. But don’t go buying hardware that you don’t know the ramifications of using.

  11. I have used the Baofeng for receiving and here in Mohave County Arizona I am (clearly) hearing transmissions from Lake Havasu (60+miles), Needles Calif, Bullhead City (45miles)…here in Kingman folks sound like they are right down the street. My brother and I are seriously looking at the Uniden 980 SSB CB’s for each of our vehicles and then some sort of SSB base station. 12 watts isnt anything to sneeze at and as Jim has pointed out before in TripleAught (throwback!) it does afford you a certain amount of privacy (SSB). Best regards to all.

    1. I should have listed ‘portability’ as one of the limitations of CB radio. It can however be put into a back pack (man pack radio), and a short antenna tuned up with a ‘tiger tail’ as the other side of the dipole. This will work with SSB. The short antenna will not radiate near as well as a full length, yet with a nominal 12 watts, or lower setting, the range might be adequate for a patrol out to several miles. Full size antennas can also be permanently stationed at points along the various patrol routes, and at LPOP’s, but these should be well hidden so as not to found, and used as ambush opportunity. These antennas can be horizontally polarized to greatly improve privacy, in addition to the benefits of SSB. Running horizontally polarized will also make it more difficult for other SSB CB’s to hear your traffic. That is if there are any in use in your area.

      We may have to do the best we can with whatever we might have. It pays to be able to innovate. Hand helds in the UHF business bands may have enough range for your AO. One can obtain a license for a particular frequency for their business as well, but then that information is in the public domain. Motorolla produces hand helds pre-programmed on UHF/VHF business bands, and their licenced frequencies. And one can also go with digital on 900mhz. These are good quality radios than most cannot afford. I should have discussed this in the article, yet I was focused on radio for the common man, such as myself.
      https://www.buytwowayradios.com/motorola.html

      Use portable hand helds on the lowest power setting on UHF/VHF for short distances, and the SSB CB for longer distances that are more susceptible to intercept. This will keep them guessing too. It pays to have experience monitoring traffic as it helps one know how to reduce their chances at being monitored.

  12. Hello all,

    TR thank you for the effort to produce this article. I think you did an excellent job with your presentation. I’ve an Extra ticket and hold a Radiotelephone w/rdr endorsement so I’ve been round this RF thing for a while; point being this article along with your continuing helpful comments get a double thumbs from me.

    A side note that among my radios I have a Yaesu triband handheld, however I typically carry a Baofeng UV-5R….simply because one can drop his radio and quite possible, it’s all she wrote as the saying goes. No tears over the loss of the Baofeng, but then I was able to get a dozen Baofengs for what the Yaesu cost.

    I found a mil surplus flash bang pouch to be ideal carry pouch for the Baofeng as it allows for adjustment for standard battery or extended/AA adaptor battery packs and it’s already compatible with most harnesses.

  13. I am a licensed Ham.
    I own Baofeng radios
    I own the CB pictured in article
    I own FRS and GMRS.
    I own high end Icom/Kenwood and Yaesu.
    All have there place.
    I can tie my Baofengs into my antennas.
    I have my CB linked to a 43 foot Vertical with 32 ground radials and a tuner on an A/B switch with my HF rig.
    All of my radios were “opened” per factory specs at time of purchase.
    Whatever floats your boat, as long as you are content.
    Post SHTF, I do not expect the FCC to come a knockin’

  14. Baofeng radio is best radio ever.
    Old hams get mad because a 27-40$ radio has more capability then their expensive set ups. and look at the company man comments about oh it doesn’t pass regulations. who cares!? in a grid down u will want the Baofeng radio. its the AR 15 of radios.
    Stop whining and reconcile the fact preppers want inexpensive robust kit and the Chinese radios provide.

    1. I certainly wouldn’t call them “robust”. But if one dies or gets dunked, then it simply goes in the spare parts bin to be later cannibalized of its antenna, earphone, extended battery pack, knobs, or whatever.

      Up until last year, folks could buy as many as 15 of these for the cost of one comparable Yaesu.

  15. This was a very useful article. I’ve been a prepper since 1972 and always learned more and did more as my family grew. As they’ve grown, needs change. My background as firefighter/paramedic in LA, and law enforcement in SF bay area have given me useful skills. I’ve depended on radios in those jobs and the need to communicate is a priority. Most of my family is local to me (5-8mi radius) so I use things that we can all operate. I don’t have enough time left on this earth or interest to learn more technical stuff that always changes, and it angers radio guys I know (small bay area city). We use CBs and Baofeng 8w and TYT 10w GMRS/2M hand sets, and Marine band mobiles. They work well for our needs. We also use scanners to monitor emergency services in our area. Very useful in the last fire evacuations and power cuts. While I can understand that Ham guys don’t want untrained people crowding “their” airways, and they ARE an important part of Emergency services in disasters, my family and friends will use what we need in an emergency when nothing else works. Kind of like a guy telling a cop how HE would make a citizen’s arrest for something.

  16. When I was in the business, I carried a $2,000 dollar state of the art Motorolla. If one can afford the best, make sure it is water proof. If the Boafeng gets wet or frozen by super cold, one can pull a spare Boaofeng head out of the pouch that is in a water tight package where it can stay warmer than the ambient temperature. Most cannot afford to do that with even moderately priced and better quality radios. I see Baofengs as a semi-disposable radio that can supply parts to another Baofeng. Have at least two per person. With the cost so low, I can also have a spare set for all, programmed differently. If patrol looses a radio in the field and cannot quickly find it, a second stable of radios with different frequencies can be issued until it the missing radio is found. Can anyone afford to do that with even FT-60’s (Yaesu)? Do we have a plan, if our frequency list, and commo plan is compromised? Can we afford to have extras buried at rally point, or cache? Burdened by the extra expenses of prepping, it is a sensible choice if a larger view is taken. I love high quality radios too, but I will put money into other areas of my prepping to make sure that the approach is well balanced, and stronger where it needs to be. Amateurs talk tactics, professions talk logistics. Think strategically.

  17. Any and all radios have a place in your preps and/or everyday use. Which is actually how they SHOULD be used; EVERY DAY! Too many preppers buy and store radio equipment as if it was long-term food storage. But I guarantee you that if the first time you reach out for information or help with your new radio is AFTER TSHTF, you will be shunned because everybody will be suspicious of that ‘New Guy’. Most CBers and HAMs have a long standing relationship with the friends they have made over the air. We talk to each other every day, NOT JUST DURING EMERGENCIES! We recognize each other’s voice, we know each other’s call sign, location, interests, allergies, spouses names, etc. When a new person joins our conversation we welcome them and help them out with radio checks or advice if they ask. Sometimes they even become friends too. After all, that’s how we all started out, dumb and friendless. I met my wife over the CB radio 43 years ago when she was just 17. She’s a HAM now too. But my point is, unless you use your radio regularly, learn how it works and your transmitting capabilities NOW, you will be suspect if you decide to make new pals when we’re all freaking out, suspicious and jumpy. Your welcome at that point will be no different than a stranger knocking on the front door in the middle of a alien invasion. LEARN TO USE IT AND MAKE FRIENDS NOW.

    We use our BAOFENG radios to keep in touch while I’mmoutsude plowing the driveway, while shopping at Walmart, or just when driving separate vehicles. There is NO cell service out here so we don’t even own one. The BAOFENG UV-5R also serves as a portable FM radio receiver as well as a Police/Fire scanner. It has a built-in flashlight and emergency strobe light as well as a fairly loud siren if you can’t yell for help. They have 2 separate receivers so you can monitor them both at once. But you can also operate them in ‘Split Frequency Mode’ or ‘DUPLEX’ which is required to access a VHF Repeater. But this feature can also be used between two of these radios for more privacy. You can transmit in one frequency and listen on another. Your partner transmits on the frequency you are listening to, and he/she listens for your transmission on the opposite combination. Most people trying to monitor you will only hear one side of the conversation.

    So go get some radios and learn to use them and make friends now, don’t wait.
    Get your Amateur Radio (HAM) Operators License and learn how all this stuff works.
    Try to get your ‘General’ level license so you can operate in the lower HF (High Frequency) bands where you don’t need a repeater to transmit further. HF uses the different layers of the Earth’s Ionosphere as a mirror or reflector to ‘bounce’ your signal to far away locations. If the conditions are right, it’s possible to use your HF radio on low power, combined with a used car battery and a length of wire strung between two trees and talk around the world.
    Learn Morse Code and you’ll be golden.

  18. In a WROL situation, here are some alternatives that are slightly off the beaten path.
    Most Boafeng come with the AV-85 antennas that are only good for transmitting between 144 and 153.000 Mhz, and about 440 to 460 Mhz on the UHF side. Use the Nagoya 107 antenna, or a Tram 1181 magnetic mount antenna on the car, or other metal surface that acts as the necessary part this antenna needs, even if it only a coffee can, to access more of the business band , and Marine band that is 156 to 158 Mhz. The Tram 1181 has a usable SWR between 136 to 161Mhz, and 420 to 480Mhz, and usually does not require adjustment as sold. Stay in the middle and you’ll have a very low SWR. 151.625 Mhz, red dot, and 151.955 are often used by emergency services, police and fire in rural areas for over flow traffic if they have not gone P25 digital. Monitor all frequencies with a scanner that you intend to use continuously, especially during hunting season for traffic.

    Business Band, UHF High
    151.505 M
    151.5125 M
    151.625 M Red Dot
    151.64 M
    151.7 M
    151.76 M
    151.955 M Purple Dot
    154.5275 M
    158.4 M
    158.4075 M

    UHF Itinerants
    451.8 M
    451.8125 M
    456.8 M
    456.8125 M
    464.5 M Brown Dot
    464.55 M Yellow Dot
    464.6 M
    464.625 M
    464.65 M
    464.7 M
    464.725 M
    464.75 M
    467.75 M
    467.7625 M J Dot
    467.775 M
    467.8 M
    467.8125 M K Dot
    467.825 M
    467.85 M Silver Star
    467.875 M Gold Star
    467.9 M Red Star
    467.925 M Blue Star
    469.5 M
    469.55 M
    469.6 M
    469.625 M
    469.65 M
    469.7 M
    469.725 M
    469.75 M

    Alternatives if thing get real busy:

    Motorola UHF Radios
    461.0375 M
    461.0625 M
    461.0875 M
    461.1125 M
    461.1375 M
    461.1625 M
    461.1875 M
    461.2125 M
    461.2375 M
    461.2625 M
    461.2875 M
    461.3125 M
    461.3375 M
    461.3625 M
    462.7625 M
    462.7875 M
    462.8125 M
    462.8375 M
    462.8625 M
    462.8875 M
    462.9125 M
    464.3250 M
    464.4875 M
    464.5125 M
    464.5375 M
    464.5625 M
    464.8250 M
    466.0375 M
    466.0625 M
    466.0875 M
    466.1125 M
    466.1375 M
    466.1625 M
    466.1875 M
    466.2125 M
    466.2375 M
    466.2625 M
    466.2875 M
    466.3125 M
    466.3375 M
    466.3625 M
    467.7875 M
    467.8375 M
    467.8625 M
    467.8875 M
    467.9125 M
    469.2625 M
    469.4875 M
    469.5125 M
    469.5375 M
    469.5625 M

    Film/Video Production
    152.87 M
    152.9 M
    152.93 M
    152.96 M
    152.99 M
    153.02 M
    173.225 M
    173.275 M

  19. The no brainer method is to push the orange VFO button, and attempt to enter a MURS frequency such as 151.820, and an alternate,`151.840 after pressing the blue A/B button. Look for the tiny triangle symbol on the left hand side of the display. It will move up and down between the top and bottom lines. Because this is not stored in memory, when the battery is removed, you’ll have to plug those numbers back in, so use a sticker or marker to record the frequency some where on the radio where is will not get rubbed off. Laminate over the frequency recorded, on say the back of the battery, with transparent tape. Packing tape is the best, and can be trimmed with a sharp knife.

    To program without a computer, find one of the many YouTube channels that demonstrate how to program it by hand. This is relatively easy if one is using frequencies that talk directly to a radio and not a repeater.

    This way requires a laptop, a programming cable with the proper chip, or driver, and CHIRP software from dans planet. This takes awhile to figure out, but makes it quick and easy to program lots of radios. There are many YouTube video on this method as well.

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