Sparky’s Tip of the Week #3 – Two-way Radios

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- Tips by Sparky

Sparky has decided to write his own outdoor column called “Sparky’s Tip of the Week”. He hopes you enjoy some of his insights.

Radios for the forest.

When going out into the forest with a group (more than one person) mushroom hunting, a radio is very helpful.  Being able to communicate easily saves your vocal cords from having to yell “Hey, I just found the Mother lode!!!” Instead, you can say “Code 4” which means ‘Hey, I just found the Mother lode!!!’. It is much easier. So what do you look for when you purchase a two-way radio?  Here are some questions to ask:

Does it have?

  1. Waterproofness
  2. Headset Jack
  3. Battery life
  4. Type of battery
  5. Combo w/GPS
  6. Combo w/weather channel
  7. Range (i.e. Watts)
  8. Type of channels GMRS or FRS
  9. Number of channels
  10. Belt clips
  11. Repeater function
  12. Weight

Sparky’s recommendations: Let see, you go out with your main squeeze hunting mushrooms and she is hunting in the next county so Sparky recommends you get a radio with 100-mile range. Let us get real here folks, you might get ¼ mile or so away from someone so why get something you can bounce signals off the moon.

A FRS radio has up to a stated 2 mile range (do not believe it, it is more like 1/2 mile). This is usually adequate. A radio with FRS channel does not require a special FCC license.

If however, you do not plan to stay together or you are into POWER, it is recommended to get a more powerful 2 to 5 watt radio with a stated range up to 36+ miles(perhaps 5 miles).  A GMRS radio with longer range requires a FCC license. Visit www.fcc.gov for more information on licensing (Form 605). Current cost for license is $85.

Here is the reality about radio’s. Terrain, weather and obstruction are going to have a bigger influence on reception than anything else does. Those manufacturer’s mileages are based upon talking with a clear line of sight with no interferences.  If you are in the woods, mountains, trees, rock and even your body are all going to interfere.

Waterproofness is nice but Sparky make me keep my radio inside my jacket on a lanyard. I have not had a problem.

I like rechargeable batteries because I am cheap and it is a good green alternative. Nevertheless, I always carry extra alkaline batteries as backup.

As for the other features, let you budget rule. Having a weather channel is fine if you are planning a multi-day venture. You should be checking the weather before you head out.  Remember a smart phone is often not effective in the forest, unless you are in a urban forest. Where Sparky goes there is usually no cell phone coverage. This is why a good 2-way radio is essential.

Expect to pay for a pair $30-$445  at any good outdoor store like REI, Cabellas, L. L. Bean

Sparky says: join Steve at www.tourswithsteve.com for a mushroom tour. Click here for a free emailed brochure. (Roger! over and out!)

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