vanmatNot sure if this is an option you want to look into but maybe a handheld transceiver in the two meter amateur band? Something like a Yaesu FT-25R, or other small 5W IP rated device.
I have my amateur radio license (Technician level) and carry a "legit" amateur radio that can operate on frequencies that local repeaters, ski patrol, and maybe search and rescue would use (2 Meter and 70 centimeter). I got the license to be able to carry and use these types of radios in remote areas. A 2 Meter radio would require the user to be licensed through the FCC.
The BCLink radios are nothing more than GMRS radios, the same that you buy at Walmart, with a nicer design and speaker-mic for a huge up-charge. The GMRS frequencies are near the 70 centimeter band.
I have not been able to get the rest of my group to take the test to get their Technician licenses. If they would, we could the 2 Meter band that works very well in an AT environment. Instead, we use the GMRS channels, which technically does
require a license as well, but no test required (does cost money). So even if you buy the BCLink radios, you are supposed to be operating under a GMRS license; many people don't and the FCC's enforcement is weak.
Using an amateur radio on GMRS channels is technically illegal...per the FCC (the radio is supposed to be approved for the bands it operates on; an amateur radio is not
approved for GMRS...even though it is capable). My logic, right or wrong, is that I have the radio set appropriately (I'm not using too much power), our transmissions are brief, our transmissions are appropriate (no foul language), and we're in the backcountry so little chance of interfering with or being heard by anyone. No one is going to know what radio I'm using unless I advertise it, or I'm caught being stupid with it.
The only good thing I see about the BCA radios is the remote mic that allows you to turn it on and change channels, and there is no programming to fuss with. I've only seen 1 other radio that has the mic capability, and it was a discontinued Yaesu. But I hadn't heard of the freeze-up issues. Our practice is that if the group breaks up for any reason, we all check in at the top of the hour, so the radio can be off in your pack until it is needed. Having the "on" switch out on your backpack strap would be handy. Any amateur radio will require you to program it, therefore you need a capable to connect to your computer ($20ish) and software (there is free software included, or available online). Radios like the BCLink and Motorola Talkabouts are pre-programmed and can't be altered. So there is a level of responsibility and responsibility required to program the amateur radios correctly.
Our group uses the legit amateur radios (look up Baofeng UV-82; lots of cheap radio options out there now, even Yaesu has inexpensive models), programmed appropriately, with local repeaters, GMRS, as well as 2M and 70CM emergency channels. Day-to-day we operate on the GMRS channels (again...technically illegal) but we are not stupid about it and fly under the radar. But then we all have a radio, that if there is a true life-or-death emergency, that is capable of communicating with authorities. You are allowed to use the any of the amateur bands to call "may-day" without a license, but it has to be a REAL emergency.
Of course, this is all assuming you are within a line-of-sight of each other, or a repeater antenna. The 40 mile claimed range on the BCLink radios is pure marketing bullshit! This 40 mile statement is assuming 1 radio is at the top of 1 mountain, and the other radio is at the top of another mountain 40 miles away...with nothing but clear, dry air in between. Start putting trees, mountains, snow, etc. between the transmitting and receiving radio, and range drops off quickly. Plan on a couple miles at best in real world conditions.
I use a TERA TR-590 (https://powerwerx.com/tera-tr590-handheld-commercial-radio
). Mine is a bit nicer since I was ski patrol and this one is approved to operate under a commercial license. Most of the guys in my group have the Baofeng UV-82/UV-82C (https://baofengtech.com/uv-82c
), considered one of the higher quality models Baofeng offers (most radio snobs will tell you that Baofeng is junk...and some of their stuff is). The frequency steps are low enough (2.5) to work well on the GMRS channels.
Feel free to ask more questions here or PM me. Good luck!
**This post was edited on May 22nd 2019 at 3:18:39pm
**This post was edited on May 22nd 2019 at 3:48:48pm