Walking and Talking

Portable FM 2-Way Radios

Filling out my gear for this summer’s photography, I’ve purchased two 2-way portable radios, commonly referred to as walkie-talkies. There are many different brands and types of radios out there on the market. Some require FCC licenses to use, others don’t. I decided to go for the non-licensed versions, which are generally speaking, less powerful than HAM or other first responders sets, and they are less expensive too. I had a HAM radio license when I was a young man back in the 70’s but never maintained a dedication to the hobby. I instead went into commercial radio broadcast and worked on high powered radio systems. I studied and passed my FCC First Class Radiotelephone license test, which at the time was considered to be a “meal ticket” in similar fashion as an attorney having passed the legal Bar Exam, as according to the then FCC law, nobody could work on a commercial high power radio transmitter without having that license. Ronald Regan changed the law and converted everyone’s FCC license to a Lifetime General Radio Telephone License, and the FCC dropped the requirement that having the license was mandatory for working on broadcast radio systems. Oh well, I still have the lifetime General Radio Telephone License, but it doesn’t apply to HAM and it’s more like a diploma to hang on a wall, than something necessary to work today.

When doing moose photography trips in Northern Colorado, there is no cellular phone service in most of the areas I work. These radios aren’t going to allow me to talk to much of anything more than a mile away, but they will allow me to communicate from vehicle to vehicle when working with more than one vehicle. I gave them a test run here in the Denver suburbs and found them to be quite usable up to a mile from within the vehicle and with my wife in our house on the other end. Throwing radio waves through brick walls and in an area filled with houses and buildings, a mile of effective range is not bad at all under the testing circumstances. Where I’ll be working is more open and most of the obstacles to radio will be hills and forests. I went with the frequency modulated, UHF FRS bands (Family Radio Service), as they will be less susceptible to noise and electronic interference while maintaining a good operating range in the rough terrain of Northern Colorado.

Now I’m itching to get back into the wilderness with my friends and when that does happen, I’ll have a way to communicate from one car to the next.

Moose up ahead, on the right, near the tree line. About 30 yards out.