Best Communication Radios for Overlanding

The Best Radio for Overlanding? – CB, Ham or GMRS

Today we have shifted from the usual discussion about a unique trail and decided to provide some extra helpful information to overlanders around the world. Even if you cannot make it to a cool place like Anza Borrego, you still have the opportunity to enjoy these radios around the world. From the CB to GMRS radios, we will provide you with everything you need to know! Starting with exactly what each radio is, to which one is best for you, you will be a certified pro by the time you leave here today. We hope you enjoy the article!

What is a CB Radio?

First of all, CB stands for Citizens’ band and it simply allows you to talk to other people on the radio. Now you probably knew that one, but something you may not have known is that this radio includes 40 different channels. It was invented all the way back in the 1940s and became widely popular for use in the 1970s. It had traditionally been used by truckers going across the country who alerted each other of police waiting at speed traps. Besides truckers, there are even clubs around the world that will use these radios to communicate with one another for fun.

This radio is a great option for your vehicle because it is the same size as a standard car radio. Now you should not just replace your radio completely, but rather what we are saying is that it is a great option as it does not take up much extra space in your vehicle. What also makes the CB radio so great is that the range is nearly limitless. From my personal experience, I have sat in a diner along the east coast of the United States and communicated with others in Europe.

Do you need a CB License?

Besides that you are technically required to take a test to become legally certified on that radio, however, most people bypass this option. I have never heard of someone being asked for this certification, but we would never suggest breaking the law. Now for overlanding specifically you are going to have to all get a CB radio as a group since they communicate with only other CB radios. So it’s all or nothing whenever you are deciding what to buy amongst your friends.

What is a Ham Radio?

You are much more likely to already have an understanding of ham radio, because it is the most popular form of radio here in the United States. These are the radio setups that you will see at your local news station or radio station for that matter. Even people set up to broadcast at baseball games will be using a ham radio.

First of all, this radio is much more complicated than a simple CB radio and it also takes up a lot more space. You will often see a Ham radio laid out on an entire table, which is not really feasible for your vehicle. However, it can be one of the best forms of communication since it can be heard on any radio in the nearby area. This makes it great for broadcasting information on your overlanding trip, especially to lots of people at once. So if you were setting up a home station on your trip to give out information like weather updates, then this would be an excellent option for you. Although if you are just trying to communicate with the car in front of you, you may want to look at the other options.

Now Ham radio also lacks the range of a CB radio, with it only being able to extend 30-50 miles or so. Think about how far the radios stretch for your typical favorite music station on your drive home from work. It is basically the same, but you will likely have less range than that because you will be lacking a radio tower.

Do you need a Ham License?

As for the specific certifications that you need, this is arguably the hardest and most serious certificates to obtain. Since you will hold the ability to broadcast to many people on the radio, you really need to know what you are doing. And for the fact that the government will want to certify that you are not going to say anything that would incite panic. When you feel like you are ready you have to pass a test for your FCC (Federal Communications Commission) license. This will allow you to operate on radio frequencies known as the “Amateur Bands”. Either way, we do not suggest using Ham radios for your overlanding trips unless it is a large event that you have organized.

What is a GMRS Radio?

The GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) radio is a licensed radio service that uses channels around 462 MHz and 467 MHz. The most common use of GMRS channels is for short-distance, two-way voice communications using hand-held radios, mobile radios and repeater systems. In 2017, the FCC expanded GMRS to also allow short data messaging applications including text messaging and GPS location information. This is exactly what you are looking for whenever you are trying to find a radio for overlanding.

Do you need a GMRS License?

The GMRS is available to an individual (one man or one woman) for short-distance two-way communications to facilitate the activities of licensees and their immediate family members. Each licensee manages a system consisting of one or more transmitting units (stations.) The rules for GMRS limit eligibility for new GMRS system licenses to individuals in order to make the service available to personal users. Again this license comes from the FCC, but unlike Ham, there is not a licensing test. The good news here is that the licenses have recently been extended from 5 to 10 years like Ham Licenses, and a single license covers you, the entire family! Either way, this is another great option with overlanding in mind.

Our Recommendations

Overall, the CB and GMRS radios are the best options for overlanding on a day-to-day basis. This will let you talk to the other people in your group quite easily while taking up minimal space. The Ham radio is good for broadcasting information, but not quick communications with friends. We hope you learned some useful information from this article and go try out these radios today!

CB, Ham, GSRM & FRS Comparison

CB Ham GMRS FRS
Channels: 40 40 22
Frequency: AM FM FM FM
Avg Range: 1-14 mi 2-18 mi 1-9 mi 1-2 mi
Repeaters: No Yes Yes No
Cost: $75 $75+ $30+ $20+
License Required: No Yes
with Exam
Yes
without Exam
No
License Length 10 Years 10 Years
License Coverage Individual Family
Our Recommended CB Radios Ham Radios

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