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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I found a series of emails I sent to a friend approximately two years ago. I will post them here so anyone may make use of the information. Note I have both a GMRS license and an Amateur (Technician) license.



GMRS Licensing

The FCC offers a license with no testing, and it covers the family. It's about $70 for five years.

What I recommend is first creating an account with the FCC for a FRN number, and then applying for the license using that FRN number. It makes it easier later in case you end up with both a GMRS license and a ham license.
Applying for a New License in the Universal Licensing System (ULS)

The GMRS license should be approved in about two working days.



GMRS Repeaters

You can do GMRS in one of two ways:
  • Simplex. Direct radio-to-radio. Generally relies on line of sight, will be disrupted by terrain, trees, interference, more. Assume it is good for 1/2 mile.
  • Duplex. You use a repeater to relay the signal further between the two radios. The repeater generally has more transmitting power, may be elevated, and may have emergency power.
Some GMRS repeaters are here:
myGMRS.com - GMRS Repeater Directory

For example, I can 'hit' this Seattle repeater from my home North of Seattle. So in theory we could communicate between our homes using the repeater. Yup, we could test it if you get up on GMRS too.
myGMRS.com - SEATTLE #1 REPEATER: West Seattle, WA



Programming memory channels

CHIRP.
Home - CHIRPHome - CHIRP

You'll want it. Open source. Just need a relevant cable from your computer to your radios.

One you program the memory channels you'll probably never touch them again, or for several years.

I can give you my CHIRP .csv file that has FRS, GMRS simplex, GMRS duplex with a repeater or two, MURS, and NOAA weather. Simple stuff.



Radios and Antennas

OK, my recommendations.

Baofeng Radio. Comes with a charger and a stubby antenna. I like this radio since it has a rechargeable battery and 8 watts of transmitting power. A little more power helps get your transmitting signal out there. You might consider 2-3. Your call. Or one to start? I have a reminder to periodically pull them and recharge/test them.
https://amzn.to/33JlCpt

Cable for CHIRP (computer to radio).
https://amzn.to/2N2uNej

NA-771 antenna. Larger. May help with using the radio in terrain or more distance. Can be acquired later. I don't have one of these for every radio, but I have one in the go bag in my vehicle.
https://amzn.to/2nZIRg4

Optional. Vehicle antenna with magnet. Stick on center of roof, put cable through window, connect to radio. I have one in my go bag. Works well. You'll need the additional adapter between antenna connector and Baofeng radio.
https://amzn.to/2BozBVy


https://amzn.to/2OS41aW

I chose those radios since I can program them for FRS, GMRS, MURS, NOAA weather (receive only), and of course ham frequencies. It's simple.
 

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My GMRS call sign is WREY270; my Amateur Extra call sign is K8TLM. It is comforting to have this communications capability in these uncertain times.
 

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Any recommendations on a AA-battery capable handheld?

Doesn't have to be only AA, but I'd prefer it to -also- be able to function off AA.

:)

Our go-bags currently have my old FRS radios from my paintball/airsoft days as backup, and one of the things I like about them is that they take AA batteries, which is a commonality in our packs. While my pack holds sufficient Eneloop AAs and each of us have means to recharge our devices, I'd like to be able to have the "dual fuel" capability, if-possible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
GMRS, or ham-capable?

I have the Motorola MR350 for FRS/GMRS and those are great, but they don't make them anymore. The 350 series cannot be programmed to use a GMRS repeater. You might find them for sale on eBay (just beware operational condition).

Here are some Midland pre-programmed GMRS radios that come with a rechargeable battery and also take AA batteries. Note they are not capable of being programmed to use a GMRS repeater, but that may not matter to you or if the electrical grid is down (ie., repeater is probably down too).
https://amzn.to/2UPK86Z

Here is a Baofeng GMRS radio that may also be programmed to use a GMRS repeater. You'll pay more for this per radio.
https://amzn.to/39NBGJt

For a ham-capable handheld transceiver (aka HT) they typically are transmitting with more power and hence I think most are not AA-battery compatible (read: they'll chew through the batteries). I was looking at yaesu.com for you and didn't see anything.

Then I went to hamradio.com and searched for "AA battery". It seems that there are replacement backs/cases available for some radios that would permit powering the HT using batteries. What I didn't do is further correlate it into something useful for you. I say this since some of those radios may not longer be in production.

I did buy a AA-compatible back from one of my Baofeng ham HT's but was disappointed with the result (case didn't fit well), so I am not recommending you pursue that until you find someone with known, good recommendations.
 

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^ Thank you! :)

GMRS.

Although I've thought about a GMRS license for a few years, it was actually your easy-to-read OP that prompted me to actually get off my butt and spend the 15 minutes or so (man, I am really lazy!!!! :oops::p:D) to finally go through with that.

I'd searched a few AA-capable GMRSs, but there's, as-always, signal-to-noise issues with reviews. I was hoping that I'd get a boost on the curve by having your recommendations. :)
 

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We just bought a set of 5 Baofengs for our group. Just unboxed them and put them on the chargers. Going to set down with my brother in law this weekend and play with and program them.
Thanks for the good info.
 

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FRS, GMRS, MURS are all options for alternative communication IF everyone is willing to learn how to use a radio. You need to practice with it, learn its shortcomings, learn how to operate all the controls and, yes, learn to program it without a computer if possible.

Research the rules and regulations. All radio transmissions are controlled by the FCC. You do not want them knocking on your door. Some of the cheap Chinese radios are capable of transmitting on frequencies used by public safety, amateur radio, FRS, GMRS, etc. Be responsible and only use it on the frequencies that you are licensed for or permitted to use. It is highly likely that you will be caught if you don't in certain areas of the country.

A better solution would be to study a little and get an amateur radio license. The entry level Technician license can give you worldwide communication capabilities as long as the internet is still working. If you are just concerned about local communications then having a license opens up several different ways to do it. Better and more powerful radios are also available that could increase your covered area.

15 minutes a night for a few weeks is all it would take most folks. You're probably gonna be stuck at home bored anyway so make use of the time. The question and answer pool is on the internet free. There are several good online test generators that track your progress too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I agree with @Woodduck that the Amateur license brings more benefits. The downside is getting everyone in your group licensed too.

If the goal is short-range communications then GMRS and the FCC family license is a legitimate and quick approach. Just assume you'll only get 1/2 mile range from those inexpensive GMRS radios.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
If you have a radio with a removable antenna then you have options to improve range by using a different antenna.

I mentioned that larger whip antenna in a link above for the Baofeng radios.

Here is another option for an antenna that is optimized for GMRS frequencies and could be suspended from a tree or similar. Ensure you pick the right connector for your radio. I have the same antenna that is optimized for the Amateur 2m and 70cm bands.
https://n9taxlabs.com/shop?olsPage=products/dual-band-murs-gmrs-slim-jim-with-10-or-16-foot-cable

Antenna, altitude (while keeping line of sight), and power are ways to get your signal out there. Assuming a handheld transceiver (HT) then you cannot increase the transmitting power, and so you probably want to improve the antenna.
 
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