Continuing the theme of “Off Roady Things” for 2021, next was an upgrade in the communications department. I had previously installed a Midland CB Radio and custom antenna years ago, but I recently removed the CB and replaced it with what a popular favorite (or not, depending on who you ask) dual band FM radio, the Baofeng UV-5R. The version I chose was the UV-5RTP, with the “TP” standing for its built-in “Tri-Power” function. For those of you not familiar with this radio, it is an FM radio (not AM like the old CB) capable of receiving and transmitting on FRS and GMRS bands. The FRS (Family Radio Service) bands are the same bands used by your typical Motorola 2-pack walkie talkie sets you can buy at Target, Bass Pro, etc. while GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) bands are for licensed operators only (more in this later).
I went with the Baofeng because the friends I was going off-road with already used these radios as their main communication between vehicles. They use GMRS over FRS because GMRS has more power and more specific frequencies, and without getting into the super technical aspects of it – let’s just say GMRS is more like “premium FRS”. I did look into HAM radios but during my research I decided that I have zero interest in getting a HAM license (which requires fees and testing) and from what I saw, I have zero interest in dealing with the HAM crowd. Anyhow, in late December (before even buying the Baofeng) I applied for my GMRS license. A couple days later, my license was official:
It only took 2 days for the license processing to complete (January 1st, haha), and 48 hours later I was officially a licensed GMRS operator. After about a week of comparing radios, I actually ordered the Baofeng and I also purchased some accessories to compliment it: a 12V battery eliminator so I can plug directly into the truck for power, an original Baofeng spare battery pack (because everyone likes spare battery. packs), a Commountain handheld speaker-mic, and an original Baofeng USB programming cable.
The last item (USB programming cable) was perfect for my love of tinkering, as it let me configure and program my radio using my desktop computer. Aside from being able to import/export frequency setups, I had easier control and access to radio settings and other configuration options without having to manually go through each on the radio itself, one by one. It also let me change the text that the display showed when the radio was turned on to something more custom:
Now I’m covered four times when it comes to comms. I have my cell phone (when there’s signal), I have my new Baofeng UV-5R for GMRS, I have a spare Midland X-Talker for FRS, and I still have my old Midland 75-822 (configured back to handheld mode) for CB just in case of emergencies.