Ah, what the heck. I'm going to take the ClearNode, too, along with a Retevis RT-85 portable radio (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08DLFC4SX). I can set that up and wander around within several hundred feet of the ClearNode with the HT in hand.

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Tom, It's interesting that you mention your radio cache and OTR travels, as I was just reviewing my list of things to take on our family trip just a bit ago. I will be leaving for FL on Thursday. The question is; how will we communicate?.

This is a large family road trip that will require me to cover a few aspects of communications: family car-to-car, boat-to-boat, amateur radio, and public safety radio scanning. This means that I have to look at ease of use, battery life, RF range over different terrains, space occupied in vehicles, and more importantly...durability in the the aqueous environment of the Gulf of Mexico.

I have been a ham since 1980-something, so a TM-D710 is always in my truck and I am the radio system manager for York County, SC which means I also have a public safety radio with me too. But, what is necessary to make comms work for the rest of the folks here that is unbreakable? I use a bunch of radios.

I have found that UHF GMRS is best for car-to-car for the 16 hours of driving to and fro. The radios are Kenwood NX800s plugged into the lighter sockets of each vehicle with external antennas . These are great for the road, but portables that are power agnostic are needed on the boats. I have tried using VHF, UHF, and 800MHz on the water, but found that VHF is the best for range on the water. I program a compliment of Motorola APX8000, APX7000, and APX6000 radios for use on VHF on Muti-Use Radio Service (MURS) and on the VHF marine band channels to talk with other boats. These radios are far superior when it comes to tolerance of wet environments and are just downright durable.

There is one other aspect to the trip that I don't want to leave out. I love my job in public safety so much that I have been doing it for nearly 30 years. However, I don't always want to listen to the PS radio while I am at home.....it's too much like work. So, I bought a really good scanner for my listening pleasure while on road trips. I have a Uniden SDS100 portable scanner that fulfills that my need to listen to firetrucks, ambulances, and police cars while I'm on the road. In it's short life, it has been to at least 20 states and it's great entertainment.

As much as I would like to take other amateur radios and enjoy the myriad applications available to hams, I just won't have time. In the meantime, I will have plenty of radio communications to keep me busy. I can't wait!


John, KC4KPJ

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Jul 9, 2023·edited Jul 9, 2023Author

When we are driving in convoy, I default to GMRS radios with the frequency locked. My spouse is not a ham and there may be accidental pushes of buttons from time to time, so locking the radio works well for us. I've been thinking about MURS because that would be even simpler.

I have played around with Retevis RT22 pocket-sized FRS radios for car-to-car comms. I programmed two with every channel the same frequency/tone pair so that even if the channel dial was moved, we'd still be able to communicate. They do work and they are inexpensive, but they don't have the range the GMRS radios have. In real world conditions where one is transmitting from inside a metal shell to someone receiving inside a similar box, it doesn't take much distance before signal quality degrades. GMRS has worked better for us.

And yes, I've played around with VHF and UHF on Puget Sound. It does seem as if VHF goes farther but I've not done a thorough test. There are still a few 900 MHz and 6M repeaters in the area but I've not tried these. I do like a good 6M repeater for getting some distance in the region, but in that band, it seems like signals are sometimes more heavily influenced by other factors compared to what we see with VHF and UHF. (For emergency coordination, I've long thought that a central 6M repeater could provide a command channel that is less likely to be interfered with, compared to 2M and 70cm.)

One of the things I'm missing with my Kenwood TM-D710G being out of service is listening to emergency channels. I've got various county sheriff and fire frequencies programmed into the memory on the Kenwood. It's interesting to listen to, but more than that, it can be a real benefit when driving through areas prone to flooding, wildfire, ice storms, etc., particularly when a two-lane state highway is the only ingress/egress route available. Warnings of traffic tie-ups through Waze depend on crowd-sourced information. I've re-routed based on sheriff or emergency aid traffic more than once, where Waze has been silent. Also, I used to be an EMT on an all-volunteer ultra-rural ambulance service and emergency service traffic is always interesting, and sometimes useful.

A scanner...I was about to buy a scanner years ago when some departments started moving from analog to digital. At that point I hit the pause button and I've not proceeded to add a scanner to my suite of tools. I'd like to. Just like having emergency frequencies in my Kenwood mobile, being able to understand what is happening nearby in real time can be quite useful.

For this trip, I'm trying to go light. If I take too many radios offering too many modes, I'm likely to default to radio play instead of socializing with relatives we haven't seen for a long, long time. So I'll have some radios, but not the gear that would give me an even wider menu of choices.

In closing, I find myself wondering if it's time to spring for the Icom IC-705 as an all-in-one mobile/portable rig. I've tended to not use an all-in-one approach because it presents a single point of failure, but with real estate inside the vehicle limited, it makes more sense to do so. I can always pack a few spare radios that have a more limited feature set as a backup!

Be well and have a safe journey to Florida!


Tom KJ7T

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