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Getting The Most Range From Your Radio

Hiking through the mountainsOne question that we are frequently asked is "how can I get more range out of my two way radio?" In the case of consumer (FRS / GMRS) radios the amount of range you can expect is usually not even close to what the manufacturers advertise. There are, however, several things that you can do to be sure you are getting the most range possible from your radio.

If your radio supports GMRS channels, be sure that you are using one. Most consumer radios support 22 channels, some FRS and some GMRS. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) does not allow transmission on an exclusive FRS channel at more than half a watt of power. This means that if you are on an FRS-only channel, your radio will only transmit using "low power" mode. The FRS-only channels are 8 through 14. Channels 15 through 22 are exclusively for GMRS, and channels 1 through 7 are shared by both FRS and GMRS.

Most consumer radios support two or more power modes. To get the most range, be sure that you are using high power mode. Lower power modes will not use all of your radio's possible output power and will reduce range.

Be sure to fully charge your battery. The transmission power of two way radios tends to weaken if the battery is low. Always be sure your batteries are fully charged before using your radios, especially if you will need maximum range.

Finally, if you still find yourself pushing the range limits of your radio you can try the "monitor channel" feature. Enabling this feature will cause the radio to open the channel, allowing you to hear static and transmissions too weak to be received by the radio in normal mode.

Related Resources
30 Miles? The Truth About Range
The Two Way Radio Show TWRS-05 - Radios in Range
The Two Way Radio Show TWRS-45 - The Truth About GMRS Radio Range
Radio 101 - The truth about FRS / GMRS two way radio range
How To Optimize Range for Motorola Talkabout Two Way Radios

11 Comments

hello, can u tell me whats the most powerful 2 way radio i can get, is a 5 watt 18 mile the limit thanks so much !!

Hi,
First time visitor to your blog. Useful info.
I tested a 0,5 watt set in my urban environment and only managed to TX and RX up to 100 meters because of densely populated area and buildings.
Regards,
Brian

Will a half watt be enough to get coverage within a concert hall environment?

I need a good 2 way for Skiing in Park City UT. I am looking at the New Motorola T9500XLR it's claims are upto 25 miles in good conditions. What do you think I would really get out of it, skiing?
thanks

I would like to talk to someone about buying 15 sets of GMRS / FRS radios for the Pinellas county Health Department,
we Currently have 15 Radio Shack sets model 21-1917 ( that are out of stock /sales) that we use in the shelters,
We are looking at the New Cobra radio PR 190-2VP
being GMRS / FRS are they compatible to talk to each other..?
are the frequency the same if they are GMRS/FRS?
Noral

We have two GMRS hand held radios from Radio Shack (19-903). We can't find a 2-pin ear bud with lapel mic anywhere that works with them. Radio Shack doesn't carry these radios or accessories for them anymore. We purchased a Midland set (AVP-H4) to try. The ear buds work but the mics do not. We have to key the mic on the radio to talk.

Do you have or know of something that might work? Any assistance possible would be a great help.

Roberta

The thing to remember about any 2 way radio is if it doesn't have the a large capacity battery you will not transmit very far. These little FRS radios do not have the capcity to transmit very far because of low wattage and tiny battery packs or AAA batts. If you notice anyone who has a good proffesional transceiver, the batteries are huge or half the size of the rig itself! That's because a 5 watt radio which is more than likely what most pros use, draw a lot of current and you need a battery that will last with lots of juice.

The bigger the battery, the more power you will transmit provided the radio is not governed by a curcuit that limits it's transmit power to little more than 500milliwatts to one watt. Plus the antenna is key too and most FRS/GMRS radios do not let you change the antenna unless you rip it off and make your own which I don't recommend unless you know what you're doing. It really is a joke that these manufacturers can get away with telling us these little units can transmitt 18 t0 35 miles. I can't even transmit that far using two 5 watt handie talkies in the VHF/UHF band!! Plus if you talk for any length of time on a rig that has 5 watts output it will get very hot. Look around for anything with 2 or more watts and VHF is better for distance, UHF is better for indoor use such as buildings and a lot of obsticles in the way. Good luck and happy transmitting, Scotty

we have a couple sets of radiods one set is a cheaper set one ois a little
more money both sets get about the same range on low power apx.1 to
1 1/2 miles the more expensive set has a ptt.high power button and when conditions are right we get about 7 miles of range.

we have 10 vertex standard vx-160 vhf/uhf potable radio's, we have 240 acres, we have trouble communicating from one end of the property to the other. the antenna is mounted on roof of our building the antenna is 24inches long and mounted on a steel roof. any body got any solutions.

I am looking for radios that transmit at 5 watts with lithium batteries. I have used the cobra brand befor and like the batteries as they do not require special attention for charging. The head sets work reasonably well but a finger push to talk or big remote button would be nice. I need 4 to 6 radios and I am in the consumer/retail class.

Mike,

Depending on what type of cable you are using, the length of that cable, and whether or not you are on VHF or UHF, you can easily be losing half (or more) of your power before it ever gets to your outside antenna.

Craig - N7LB

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