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Thread: Two-way Radios

  1. #1
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    Two-way Radios

    I did a search and didn't see what I was looking for exactly. We're looking for two-way radios for skiing that are good but cost effective. My son has reached the age where he's starting to do his own thing but not old enough to be totally out of contact (he's 12). I saw some BCA radios but they were listed at $179 I think and that's way more than I want to spend. There's 3 of us but usually at least 2 of us are together so I only need 2 radios but 3 works too. Sometimes we can split to ski different mountains at the same resort so it'd need to be better than line of sight. Any experience or input?

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

  2. #2
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    quick google:

    https://www.tetongravity.com/forums/...-radio-scanner

    I remember there being better info somewhere on here.

  3. #3
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    Check out the Baofeng UV5R on Amazon. They're ~$25 and work great. Highly recommend buying a programming cable for $10-15 and using the Chirp software to program frequencies into the radio. We programmed all of the FRS, GMRS, VHF, etc frequencies into them. We've used them for everything from skiing to an emergency radio while jet skiing.
    Going where the wind don't blow so strange
    Maybe on some high cold mountain range

  4. #4
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    Lots of info on wild snow too. I like BCA radios but you can do a lot for less $. Like the $15 amazon toy pair for my son.

  5. #5
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    I appreciate the info. I'm checking out the Baofeng UV5R right now.

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

  6. #6
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    The UV-5R is functional, and if you're technically capable not all that hard to program, but:
    a) it's not actually legal for FRS/GMRS use (probably not a big deal in practice, as getting caught is unlikely)
    b) some of them have been tested to not even comply with the FCC certs shown on the radios (they throw spurious transmissions elsewhere on the spectrum, potentially interfering with others' traffic)
    c) IMO, there's a significant element of "you get what you pay for" in going with a BCA radio that's built for use in a snowy mountain environment. YMMV; I don't own the BCA radio, as between my UV5R and the blisterpack Motorola GMRS units the wife bought a while ago, we're usually covered (and I carry a commercial handheld when I'm working), but if I were shopping for a skiing-specific radio, especially if I wanted backcountry comms as a significant use case, I'd probably try to suck it up and buy the BCA.

  7. #7
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    I have been using baofeng radios for over 10 years. for personal communication they are excellent tools. they definitely have limitations in their range, but they are cost effective and versatile. As for their legality .... Industry Canada estimates that 90% of radio users are operating without licensing...so...ya.

    I know very little about BCA radios, the only way I can see them being an advantage would be if they produce less electronic noise / beacon interference than other radios. baofengs and and other radios I have interacted with most definitely do create varying degrees of interference.
    "Its not the arrow, its the Indian" - M.Pinto

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmcrawfo View Post
    I have been using baofeng radios for over 10 years. for personal communication they are excellent tools. they definitely have limitations in their range, but they are cost effective and versatile. As for their legality .... Industry Canada estimates that 90% of radio users are operating without licensing...so...ya.

    I know very little about BCA radios, the only way I can see them being an advantage would be if they produce less electronic noise / beacon interference than other radios. baofengs and and other radios I have interacted with most definitely do create varying degrees of interference.
    I'd say the benefits of the BCA are ease of use/programming and their form factor with the external mic being routed through a jacket/pack to give better water resistance. I personally bought three baefengs and programmed them alike with CHIRP to use at our cabin and in the backcountry for low cost option. Though I wouldn't be opposed to the bca if I had a group of buddies who each bought one to use like-gear.

  9. #9
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    I was on the $30 amazon for a pair train last year, sucked it up and got a BCA this year.

    For me, I'm generally using them when skiing bigger lines in the backcountry with a group. For example, I'll ski the first pitch of a couloir, and radio back up when it's safe for my partner to drop, I can't believe how nice having coms in those situations is. Even if it's just having the ability to throw them some beta like "Stay left, the skier's right is super wind affected" radios are worth their weight in gold for sure.

    With the cheap amazon ones, they actually fit into the RFID pocket on the wrist of my jacket. And I could work the transmit button without taking it out of the coat, which was pretty slick, basically just talked into my wrist.

    The BCA one is awesome because it's easy to route from your pack, and it seems like just about everyone has one, so it's easy to all get on the same program. The "C" channel comes set from BCA at 420 so every group I've ever been in just hangs out on that channel, which also means it's easy to communicate with other groups who may be in front of or behind you, because chances are, they're immature too and are on 420 as well.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by brown9 View Post
    I'd say the benefits of the BCA are ease of use/programming and their form factor with the external mic being routed through a jacket/pack to give better water resistance. I personally bought three baefengs and programmed them alike with CHIRP to use at our cabin and in the backcountry for low cost option. Though I wouldn't be opposed to the bca if I had a group of buddies who each bought one to use like-gear.
    Agree. Have Baefengs and borrowed a friend's BCA one day we went touring. BCA are now on the gear list (low priority since the baefengs but still on there).
    "Alpine rock and steep, deep powder are what I seek, and I will always find solace there." - Bean Bowers

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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by cydwhit View Post
    With the cheap amazon ones, they actually fit into the RFID pocket on the wrist of my jacket. And I could work the transmit button without taking it out of the coat, which was pretty slick, basically just talked into my wrist.

    The BCA one is awesome because it's easy to route from your pack, and it seems like just about everyone has one, so it's easy to all get on the same program. The "C" channel comes set from BCA at 420 so every group I've ever been in just hangs out on that channel, which also means it's easy to communicate with other groups who may be in front of or behind you, because chances are, they're immature too and are on 420 as well.
    So was it the routing and single channel that made the BCA worth it? I have a set of small Midlands that are light enough I can just leave one on the sternum strap of my pack. Use case is similar to yours; usually the big upside is relaying beta back uphill from the first skier, and/or keeping a group together in unfamiliar trees/terrain, so I generally don't need miles of range.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by brown9 View Post
    I'd say the benefits of the BCA are ease of use/programming and their form factor with the external mic being routed through a jacket/pack to give better water resistance. I personally bought three baefengs and programmed them alike with CHIRP to use at our cabin and in the backcountry for low cost option. Though I wouldn't be opposed to the bca if I had a group of buddies who each bought one to use like-gear.
    I honestly didn't think Programming the Baofengs was that hard. Once you have a frequency list is pretty straightforward. You can also program FRS/GMRS frequencies (same as the BCA radio) on the UV5r and others, making them extremely versatile. You can run a variety of mic options with them... depending on the model you choose.... the UV9r as an example uses a similar mic interface as the BCA radios, and is waterproof. .... its a massive price difference .. if that all the BCA radio has to offer over others, I don't see the value... you can probably buy 4 radios, 4 mics and programming cable for the cost of 1 BCA radio.

    .. if programming is a technological hurdle for you, most radio shops will program them for you for a reasonable price. in fact, If you are in the BC interior I will do it for beer.
    "Its not the arrow, its the Indian" - M.Pinto

  13. #13
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    another positive feature of a VHF capable radio, is you can program local radio frequencies used by heli ops, SAR and repeater towers. Tripping a repeater tower is likely not something most people would think about, but its a means of communication that can get you external help. we keep the heli ops in our frequency list, just in case. Most of these radios also have dual watch features, in that you can monitor two separate frequencies ... so its helpful when you have multiple groups or other members of the group with various coms.
    "Its not the arrow, its the Indian" - M.Pinto

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmcrawfo View Post
    I have been using baofeng radios for over 10 years. for personal communication they are excellent tools. they definitely have limitations in their range, but they are cost effective and versatile. As for their legality .... Industry Canada estimates that 90% of radio users are operating without licensing...so...ya.
    I snagged some whip antennas for base camp and longer distance comms to a mechanized operation for weather and obs for the Baofeng U5VR. Not knowing what to expect I got clear comms from FM to Chatter which is 8-10km? Out of curiosity I hauled it out further and got clear comms from 18 kms away. DId not expect that

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by anotherVTskibum View Post
    The UV-5R is functional, and if you're technically capable not all that hard to program, but:
    a) it's not actually legal for FRS/GMRS use (probably not a big deal in practice, as getting caught is unlikely)
    b) some of them have been tested to not even comply with the FCC certs shown on the radios (they throw spurious transmissions elsewhere on the spectrum, potentially interfering with others' traffic)
    c) IMO, there's a significant element of "you get what you pay for" in going with a BCA radio that's built for use in a snowy mountain environment. YMMV; I don't own the BCA radio, as between my UV5R and the blisterpack Motorola GMRS units the wife bought a while ago, we're usually covered (and I carry a commercial handheld when I'm working), but if I were shopping for a skiing-specific radio, especially if I wanted backcountry comms as a significant use case, I'd probably try to suck it up and buy the BCA.
    ^^^ anotherVTskibum is largely right. [I haven't seen any reports I really trust that are current about spurious transmissions - but they're pretty cheap gear. As I'll note in a minute, the BF-888S with a hand mic is like <$15 per radio. The BF-888 isn't as versitile as the a UV5R [VFO radio] - it's simply a 16 pre-programmed channelized radio. But for what you're wanting, it's perfectly fine.

    Get the Baofeng BF-888S' and reprogram them. Amazon has some that are pre-programmed for FRS/GMRS - in fact they have some which are claimed to be Part95 certified and thus technically legal.

    Let me see if I can find the FRS version of the BF-888 - be right back...
    Found it; https://www.amazon.com/BAOFENG-BF-88A-Earpiece-Rechargeable-Flashlight/dp/B07CKRZ6MP/
    That appears to be technically legal. [There's a lot of detail surrounding this - but if you're not a raging asshole, blasting on FRS at 50W or something, you're likely never going to have the FCC bother you about using a non officially certified FRS/GMRS radio.]

    Personally, I'd probably opt for reprogramming the regular BF-888S.

    I snagged some whip antennas for base camp and longer distance comms to a mechanized operation for weather and obs for the Baofeng U5VR. Not knowing what to expect I got clear comms from FM to Chatter which is 8-10km? Out of curiosity I hauled it out further and got clear comms from 18 kms away. DId not expect that


    FRS is 400MHZ, and probably doesn't propagate as well as 144MHZ - but I've done simplex [radio to radio - no repeaters] on ~140Mhz at 5W output >80 miles/130km in ideal conditions. (Ideal = line of sight; I was up pretty high.) 14" antenna, IIRC. But FRS/440Mhz ought to perform fairly similarly.

  16. #16
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    Posting to add:
    This is the "regular" BF-888S
    https://www.amazon.com/BF-888S-2pcs-Rechargeable-Headphone-Radio/dp/B00ECW9DB4/

    You'll need a free program called CHIRP and a programming cable. The cable is easily found on Amazon.
    The hand mic, last I got some, was <$5 or so.
    I think the last time I got radios, I got a 10+ radios and mics and split them with a few friends. I did the programming, but it's not hard to do. [Last I checked, Chirp was easiest on a PC, and a bit more complicated on a Mac.]

    Glad to help, if someone needs it.

    I also used a couple of the 16 channels to program in a receive-only setup for the local ski-patrol, etc. [Another benefit to programming your own.]

  17. #17
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    With the BCA radios, you are paying for the
    weatherproofing
    programming
    ease of use
    dependability
    accesories
    tuned antenna,
    warranty.


    For the price, unless you are using out of band for repeaters, HAM, or SOS/SAR,
    then the BCA one has a lot going for it.

    From purchase to use, to handing it to other members, the BCA one is going to be
    hands-down easier.

    And you won't lose much range.
    Remember, range doesn't double when power doubles.
    Range is complex and a product of landscape, (antenna + watts= radiated power), frequency bands, obstacles, weather, etc..
    Just don't be that guy that wants a walkie and thinks Baofang is going to be an easy ride.

    There are lots of used walkies for sale on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
    The resale prices will give you an idea of what the buyers thought the real value of them is.
    [KURTZ] Hinterstoisser, you heavy bastard.
    [HINTERSTOISSER] You need to do more push-ups, Kurtz.

  18. #18
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    I think 3 of 3 in our group ran into problems with BCA radios.

    They are easier to use. that's it. We all had durability issues with the external mics.

    That said, we're all on the wet coast, so I'm sure that played a factor.

    external mics for the baofengs are so cheap, you can just buy a new one... and if the mic craps out, the radio is still usable (unlike BCA).

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by puregravity View Post
    With the BCA radios, you are paying for the
    weatherproofing...
    programming ...

    Just don't be that guy that wants a walkie and thinks Baofang is going to be an easy ride.
    I'll just note that it's certainly NOT a hard ride setting up a Baofeng.
    I'll will agree that you're paying for ease, mostly, for the BCA.
    I'm sure they are nice, and easy, convienient, etc. There's a comfort level with that that people are willing to pay for - and I'm totally good with that.
    But the Baofeng's [or many other of the Chinese SDR (software defined radio) units are really very good value. They are getting increasingly better, and, IMO, are increasingly good value. [And yes, I've owned Kenwood and Yeasu HT's before - they're really nice. But now, I feel I'm better served with the cheap radios for _my_ use. I'm just making the point that I'm not inherently biased. I've got a Kenwood TH79A from a couple+ decades ago, sitting six feet from me right now. I just couldn't justify replacing it with another Kenwood, etc.]

    As for hand-mics - Yeah, I've probably had 3-4 die. I'm not sure why. Some get whacked when it's a massive snow dump day, here in the PNW, but some just die. They're just pretty "cheap" and not all the QC and design is great. But they don't get treated gently either - so I'm good with replacing one or two every year or two.

    The radios themselves, on the other hand, have been pretty solid. I've never had a single one fail. Some issues with interference [spurious receive] on FRS/GMRS without a CTCSS/DTS - but that's pretty common, and I think I also had the same problem with my Yeasu as well, IIRC.

  20. #20
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    I picked up a used BCA 2.0 on the cheap a while back, and I've been really happy with it so far. The battery life is actually insanely long, and that's the issue I've had with radios in the past. My buddy has Kenwoods and has to be careful to conserve battery life for anything more than a 2 day trip whereas I'll have 85% left after 2 days of use. The mini USB rechargable battery is super convenient. Granted the Kenwoods are more powerful if I recall correctly (5W? vs 0.5/2W), but I haven't had any range issues either way. If anything being more powerful and sensitive is actually an annoyance as you pick up/shoot out random transmissions from 40km away. The BCA link has been good enough to talk to family who called it quits early and are staying in town, and buddies on the other side of the mountain, so I have no problems with it. Even with all that said I probably wouldn't plop down retail price for it. I don't know what the battery situation is on the UV9r but if it's similar I would at least try that kind of thing out.

  21. #21
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    If we didn't have radios in our group cmcrawfo might not be posting in this thread. He went lone ranger on his sled one day at the end of the ski day and ended up sledding over a massive rock band into a super steep drainage. If we didn't have radios it would have turned out really shitty.
    www.skevikskis.com Check em out!

  22. #22
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    http://www.firsttracksonline.com

    I wish i could be like SkiFishBum

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