50 mile walkie talkie

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Wobbz
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50 mile walkie talkie

Post by Wobbz » Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:14 pm

Hey survivors,

I have been working on my bug out bad, and even my home food/water backup supplies for a few years now. Being a broke college kid does not make it easy to buy anything. My college is 35 miles from my home town, and this is where my best friends live. Like me being prepared for anything is very important to them also. We have talked and being in contact is very important... Being able to use one another's resources is a help in a survival situation. All of us being on a budget we were trying to figure out the best 2 way radios to buy.

~We would like for them to be 40-50 mile range.
~No more then $75 each (individual [1 walkie]) And that still sounds like a lot to me..
~Battery operated, None rechargeable... On the run a generator is to heavy to carry...
~The more channels the better... But wont be to picky about that.

Let me know your ideas, or links , or anything you have that will help!

Thanks so much
~Wobbz

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by crypto » Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:25 pm

Wobbz wrote:Hey survivors,

I have been working on my bug out bad, and even my home food/water backup supplies for a few years now. Being a broke college kid does not make it easy to buy anything. My college is 35 miles from my home town, and this is where my best friends live. Like me being prepared for anything is very important to them also. We have talked and being in contact is very important... Being able to use one another's resources is a help in a survival situation. All of us being on a budget we were trying to figure out the best 2 way radios to buy.

~We would like for them to be 40-50 mile range.

No line of sight radio will do that, period. The horizon at ground level is 20 miles away.
~No more then $75 each (individual [1 walkie]) And that still sounds like a lot to me..
You need to double that per radio cost to get something that will even reliably do 5 miles outside.

~Battery operated, None rechargeable... On the run a generator is to heavy to carry...


~The more channels the better... But wont be to picky about that.
Real radios (ie, radios that require a license to operate and dont come in a 2-pack wrapped in plastic) dont typically work on channels.

Let me know your ideas, or links , or anything you have that will help!

Thanks so much
~Wobbz
What you're asking for is more or less impossible. 50 miles is just not feasible to do unless both of you have HF radios which start out about the size of a shoebox, and go up from there. HF radios typically dont run on batteries, the Yaesu 817ND being the one exception I can think of. Its about $750. You'll need a giant antenna that you will have to stop and set up.

I hate to say this, but you need to educate yourself on what radios are capable of, and then revise your expectations for performance down a lot.
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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by Whackpack7 » Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:40 pm

Definitely gonna need to reduce the mileage expectations. In absolutely optimum conditions your average sporting goods/retail store radio will do a 30ish mile range over open areas. Add in cities or obstructions and it reduces to less than 5 miles usually for these types of radios. They usually operate in the UHF freq range and are very reliant on line of sight.

An example would be the county that I serve as a firefighter in. We were accustom to the utilization of VHF radios that we refer to as 'high-band'. We are in a county 35 miles E-W and 20 miles N-S. Even in such a small county we rely on 5 towers to help boost signal between our radios to simply talk to one another and to our dispatch center. These radios however were very efficient for use over long areas due to the wider wave at a lower freq (why AM travels farther than FM radio eh). Well recently we got newer model radios from Motorola that are digital based and rely on UHF and a trunked based system. Even switching from the 30 - 300 MHz range to the 300 MHz - 3 GHz range has had an immense negative impact on our comm systems. If we are downtown among large structures or if we go below the LOS, our comm ability simply disappears.

That was a long way to tell you that 'two-way radios' like you are looking for don't transmit over long distances worth crap. And for a reference, the UHF radios we switched to cost $2,750 for a handheld unit and almost $4000 for a mobile (vehicle based) unit.

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by rpc » Thu Jan 19, 2012 7:53 pm

I'm hesitant to use the word "impossible", since reliable radio communication over 50 miles isn't particularly difficult. But there's a learning curve, and it's not the kind of thing you can take care of by simply purchasing something and expecting it to work right out of the box. And it's going to be extremely difficult to do it with a "walkie talkie".

Your best bet at this point is for each of you to find your way to the nearest working telephone, and each call some third person in another part of the country who can relay messages. Since most (but not all) disasters don't wipe out every telephone within 50 miles, this will serve your needs for the time being for almost all forseeable disasters.

If you want to start giving some thought to long-range solutions for your 50-mile communication needs, then I recommend you look at the "Emergency Communications Primer" in my signature. It will not answer your question directly, but it will get you thinking about the types of communications that will serve these and other needs.

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by crypto » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:14 pm

No, nothing is impossible. Actually LOL, I know what he needs ( but he wont like the answer).


You and your pal, both get ham licenses, and then learn Morse.

Then you each get a Rock Mite CW radio kit on 20m for $40 each and built it inside an Altoids tin.

Then run a NVIZ type antenna along your car or in your backyards.

BOOM, 50 mile range (and then some), runs on alkaline batteries, is small and cheap!

I told you he wouldnt like it.
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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by Wobbz » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:16 pm

Thank you all for your help!

Ill definitly be the first to admit I have no knowledge about walkie talkie's or even radio contact, other then what I have learned in this post.
rpc wrote:I'm hesitant to use the word "impossible", since reliable radio communication over 50 miles isn't particularly difficult. But there's a learning curve, and it's not the kind of thing you can take care of by simply purchasing something and expecting it to work right out of the box. And it's going to be extremely difficult to do it with a "walkie talkie".

Your best bet at this point is for each of you to find your way to the nearest working telephone, and each call some third person in another part of the country who can relay messages. Since most (but not all) disasters don't wipe out every telephone within 50 miles, this will serve your needs for the time being for almost all forseeable disasters.

If you want to start giving some thought to long-range solutions for your 50-mile communication needs, then I recommend you look at the "Emergency Communications Primer" in my signature. It will not answer your question directly, but it will get you thinking about the types of communications that will serve these and other needs.
Since calling someone in another part of the country is out... Don't know very many people out of Illinois unfortunately... What are some other ideas?
should I even consider buying a 35 mile walkie? My school is 30miles give or take to my home town. But living on a campus it probably wouldn't work around the buildings... (even though it is surrounded by cornfields...)

Or is the next best guess to plan for a meeting spot and go from there?
Or should I touch up on my smoke signals :P
LOVE THE INPUT THANKS!!!

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by Wobbz » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:17 pm

crypto wrote:No, nothing is impossible. Actually LOL, I know what he needs ( but he wont like the answer).


You and your pal, both get ham licenses, and then learn Morse.

Then you each get a Rock Mite CW radio kit on 20m for $40 each and built it inside an Altoids tin.

Then run a NVIZ type antenna along your car or in your backyards.

BOOM, 50 mile range (and then some), runs on alkaline batteries, is small and cheap!

I told you he wouldnt like it.

Well all of that sounds like German to me... But I will definitely start to google this. My buddy is very very good at building electrical devices like that.
So I will mention that. ( I will have to start googling this)

Thanks for your help Crypto

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by NT2C » Thu Jan 19, 2012 9:52 pm

crypto wrote:No, nothing is impossible. Actually LOL, I know what he needs ( but he wont like the answer).


You and your pal, both get ham licenses, and then learn Morse.

Then you each get a Rock Mite CW radio kit on 20m for $40 each and built it inside an Altoids tin.

Then run a NVIZ type antenna along your car or in your backyards.

BOOM, 50 mile range (and then some), runs on alkaline batteries, is small and cheap!

I told you he wouldnt like it.
Could probably do it on 40m phone with an NVIS ...
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Sic quemadmodum gladius neminem occidit; occidentis telum est - Seneca the Younger, Epistles

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by crypto » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:00 pm

Where are you going to get a 40m phone rig for $75 per radio? :D
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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by NT2C » Thu Jan 19, 2012 10:12 pm

crypto wrote:Where are you going to get a 40m phone rig for $75 per radio? :D
True... :D
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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by Radio guy » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:02 pm

If there are GMRS repeaters in your area you can sometimes work a deal with the owner to use it for little $$ and that could get your 50 mile range if the repeater is in between the two points you need to cover. You would need a GMRS license which was $85 last time I paid up. Commercial radios type accepted for GMRS can be had for $75 and programmed for GMRS.
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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by rpc » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:23 pm

If the GMRS repeater is working, then chances are, there's a working telephone within a few miles. A roll of quarters is probably going to do him more good.

Since the original poster mentioned the "35 mile" walkie talkies, I should point out that any claim of mileage that is printed on the package is absolutely, totally, meaningless. The "35 mile" radios won't work any better than the "10 mile" radios sold by the competitor. The only difference is that the manufacturer of the "35 mile" radios had more imaginative people in the marketing department.

If you and your friend are standing atop two mountains that are 35 miles apart, then the "35 mile" radios will do a great job. But the competitor's "10 mile" radio will also work perfectly for that appliication.

Again, if it sounds like German, take a look at the "Emergency Communications Primer" in my signature. It won't tell you what to buy, but it will start giving you general ideas of what is possible, and what is impossible. In general, you should stick with the things that are possible.

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by TacAir » Thu Jan 19, 2012 11:45 pm

LOL - love the Rockmite!
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For the OP
I used to talk from Faribanks Ak to Anchorage AK on a 3 watt talkie.

That's a distance of 260 air miles.

How was that possible?

I went thru the Lake Minchumina VHF repeater, using my Amatuer licensed radio set.

When the Stat Trek option becomes avable, I'll buy one of these...

Sorry - physics and all that just won't be denied..
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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by williaty » Fri Jan 20, 2012 3:53 am

I'm going to throw my hat into the ring with a similar statement to what everyone else has said. What you want to do is very difficult but it is possible under the right conditions, with the right gear, and with the right training. My final recommendation is to get into ham radio if you want the highest chance of being able to pull this off on any given day. Let's walk through the different radio services and that'll sort of clear up what the difficulties are.

FRS: Probably never going to happen but if both of you have nothing but clear air (literally could see each other with a telescope) and the radios are in perfect condition and the background noise in that part of the RF spectrum is low, then you might get a marginal copy but it may well be dodgy. For this trick, there's a lot of problems with the FRS. First, it's limited to extremely low power. While power itself is absolutely no guarantee of making a 50mi transmission, reduced power means you have to get everything else absolutely perfect to pull off tricky stuff. Second, you are limited to the stock antenna, which is almost always a crap antenna. There's two big reasons this is a limitation: you can't put a more efficient antenna on it (which helps both sending and receiving) and you can't put the antenna way the hell up on top of something tall unless you can get yourself up there (which is a viable tactic, btw). Third, the frequencies at which the FRS operates aren't especially good at "burning through" things that are in the way like buildings or trees.

CB: This is a little more likely but it's still going to be pretty difficult. CB still isn't much power, but it's definitely enough to get the job done. You're still going to have trouble burning through anything in your way, but such is life in the radio world. You have a big advantage in that you're allowed to put a different antenna on it. However, proper CB antennas are HUGE. An efficient or, god forbid, directional antenna for a CB is going to stretch the definition of man-portable unless you get really, really clever with how you're going to support it. So to a large extent, that rules out the "store it in my compact car/BOB/GHB until I need it). On the plus side, at least you can put that antenna up to 60' above ground level, though it's going to require a hell of a support structure to get it there and keep it there if the wind blows. On a day when "the skip is rolling", this may actually be trivial to do. The problem with that is you never can predict that the atmospheric conditions for skip will be present on the day you need emergency communications. You also can't always predict where the skip will bring your signal down. Typically, your hear/no-hear pattern will look like an old fashioned bulls-eye target. There'll be a circle around you where everyone can hear you via direct line-of-sight. Then there will be a ring around that where you're "deaf" because the radio waves are up in the atmosphere. Then you'll get a further ring around that where you can hear again because the radio waves have bounced back to earth. Depending on conditions, that pattern of rings may extend out through multiple iterations. You just can't be 100% a ring will be where you need it.

GMRS: This one has possibilities, but I have a feeling will be a little more difficult to pull of than it should be due to lack of vendor and community support. So, you have more power, certainly enough to get the job done in most conditions. You have the ability to use a remote antenna for more efficiency and for gaining height, which hopefully will be enough to get you line-of-sight. However, if you can't get L-o-S, GMRS doesn't skip at all (tropo ducting really isn't skip) and the thing it does do tends to only work for a couple of weeks in the fall around here. The problems I think you might run into are 1) finding a radio with the set of features you want since this isn't a huge market and 2) there are very, very few GMRS repeaters nationwide.

ARS: This is the biggest toolbox. If you take the time to learn about it, you'll have a hell of an arsenal to throw at communications problems. There's a couple of specific things that'll be a big advantage in your original question. There's a HUGE wealth of community knowledge and commercial products aimed at making sure you can always have the antenna to do the job you need to do. In this case, you could have things like a roll-up antenna for your VHF handheld that you can throw into a tree, dangle out a window, or any of a huge range of options to get it mounted higher. In fact, I have some army-surplus stuff that fits in the back seat of my car that I can use to get an antenna 75' off the ground in less than 10 minutes. That can just as easily be carried onto the top deck of a parking garage or the roof of a building for even more height. 25' worth of it is easily man-portable, even in rough terrain. You can also get varying power levels from tiny to 1500W. You can get just about any form factor that you think will be useful to you. There's ARS bands that pretty-consistently will have "skip", though most hams will shoot you for calling it that :lol:. There's modes of communication that work in crazy high background noise levels (CW, PSK). Basically, there's just a lot of different tools you'll have access to that will enable to you try Plan A, Plan B... and keep fiddling until you make the contact. That doesn't even begin to talk about the convenience of having many public repeaters to make your 50mi trivial to do. One of the bigger repeaters in the city to my south has a "footprint" with just shy of a 75mi radius, so you can drive over 2 hours on the freeway and stay on the same repeater. That repeater is battery backed-up with an auto-starting generator that can tend to itself for 96 hours. It's dependable enough to be planned on for an emergency so long as you do have a backup plan that allows you to send up an antenna for yourself.

For what you want to do, there's no magic bullet (no, not even ARS). Therefore, what you need is the widest range of different bullets and that is ARS.

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by gary in ohio » Fri Jan 20, 2012 6:19 am

Wobbz wrote:
Since calling someone in another part of the country is out... Don't know very many people out of Illinois unfortunately... What are some other ideas?
should I even consider buying a 35 mile walkie? My school is 30miles give or take to my home town. But living on a campus it probably wouldn't work around the buildings... (even though it is surrounded by cornfields...)
Regardless what the package says there is no such thing as a 35 mile walkie. Most of the FRS/GMRS radio are quoting huge distances where reality says they will not talk more than a couple of miles. As I state in my first post, There is no "traditioal" walkie talkie that will talk more than 5 miles with any sort of reliability.

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by zommoz10 » Fri Jan 20, 2012 10:05 am

^^^ What gary in oh said ^^^

Except I will go one step further and say the radio packaging that claims anything more than 1 mile range are deceptive lies from companies that have no ethics. :evil:
It's akin to putting a label on a big mac that says "Good for your heart!" There is no truth to it.

Even with perfect conditions, 35 miles is not possible without infrastructure. (such as high site, high power repeaters -which those consumer radios are not capable of using- or remote receivers with precision tuned antennas)

If it was possible, we'd all be hearing distant stations on those things and it'd be overloaded with children from all over the city playing cops and robbers.

If you're really interested in the radio end of survival, you should look into becoming a ham radio operator but I will be the first to say that it is not an inexpensive hobby.
You remind me of myself when I was in college a long time ago and I'd scrounge up enough to get into the hamfests, only to find there wasn't anything in there that I could afford to buy. But in this day and age, the second hand market is flooded with used business radios and for $75 or less, you can buy a brand new radio from China. Having had a bad experience buying a radio from an outfit in China, I wouldn't recommend it personally, but many people on here buy these portable radios for around $50 that are compatible with repeaters other equipment that could conceivably relay your signal city-wide. In fact I was talking to another ham who was a college student not all that long ago, who was using one of those chinese handhelds while on his campus, going through a repeater a couple miles from where he was located and I was able to reach that same repeater 35 miles away from a base station. But handheld to handheld.... not going to happen.

Aside from that those radios, it gets to be expensive and there's always stuff you'll need or want to buy.

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by 44Dave » Fri Jan 20, 2012 11:35 am

I wonder if there is a 2M repeater in his area that would get him the distance he wants.

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by crypto » Fri Jan 20, 2012 12:26 pm

Maybe, but given that the OP wanted something for emergency use. I don't consider 2m repeaters in my disaster comms planning, because you have no way to know how long they will stay online following any significant change to 'life as usual'. Hell, I usually go around my list of local repeaters whenever theres a large-scale power outage just to see who has batteries and whos plugged directly into the wall.

Aside from our SKYWARN repeaters and alternates, our local repeaters have shitty reliability.

I wouldnt count on your repeaters being okay.
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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by 44Dave » Fri Jan 20, 2012 2:34 pm

Heh - I guess I'm a bit spoiled since the local repeater here is part of the emergency system. It has redundency so as long as the tower is still up... It would probably be in official use though so still not the best solution for Joe Blow to access in the middle of an occurance. :|

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by NT2C » Fri Jan 20, 2012 2:49 pm

What repeaters stay up and are still usable is going to vary so widely from location to location that it's best not to count on them. However, you could probably improve the odds in your favor by getting involved with the local clubs and helping out with maintaining and improving the repeater system in your area. :)
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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by roscoe » Fri Jan 20, 2012 11:19 pm

A handheld cb with a decent antenna is as close as you can get without a ham license. The license is pretty easy to get and really opens things up. You can get or make pretty portable cb/11 meter antennas, however, and the antenna will make all the difference. For example, you may have to hang some thin wire in a tree, but it could be coiled up to a pretty portable package.

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by gary in ohio » Sat Jan 21, 2012 8:43 am

roscoe wrote:A handheld cb with a decent antenna is as close as you can get without a ham license. The license is pretty easy to get and really opens things up. You can get or make pretty portable cb/11 meter antennas, however, and the antenna will make all the difference. For example, you may have to hang some thin wire in a tree, but it could be coiled up to a pretty portable package.
A handheld CB even with a big moonraker is NOT going to give you reliable 50 mile communications. Not to mention he wants something portable and wants something under $75....

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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by crypto » Sat Jan 21, 2012 9:43 am

44Dave wrote:Heh - I guess I'm a bit spoiled since the local repeater here is part of the emergency system. It has redundency so as long as the tower is still up... It would probably be in official use though so still not the best solution for Joe Blow to access in the middle of an occurance. :|

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If it's part of the emergency system, wouldn't it be part of an emergency comms net in any disaster bad enough that you had to rely on it, and not be available for general use?


Also, on the topic of bubble-pack GMRS radios not being able to use GMRS repeaters, Motorola makes 3 or 4 models for $50-60 a pair that do repeaters. They're pretty cool if you can find a GMRS repeater, but be advised that GMRS repeaters are not 'open by default' like amateur repeaters are. You need to have the permission of the station owner before using them.
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Re: 50 mile walkie talkie

Post by NT2C » Sat Jan 21, 2012 10:59 am

crypto wrote:Also, on the topic of bubble-pack GMRS radios not being able to use GMRS repeaters, Motorola makes 3 or 4 models for $50-60 a pair that do repeaters. They're pretty cool if you can find a GMRS repeater, but be advised that GMRS repeaters are not 'open by default' like amateur repeaters are. You need to have the permission of the station owner before using them.
Yeah, good luck with that, considering that the vast majority of the folks who buy those FRS/GMRS bubble packs never bother to get a GMRS license. Hell, I'll bet at least 1/4 of them don't even know that a license is required. IMHO, GMRS is going to end up licensed by rule very soon. It's been pretty much inevitable ever since FRS was permitted to share frequencies.
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