In my travels this weekend from NM back to AZ we were a 2 convoy trip so we decided to pull out some rarely used Motorola radios for a good road test. Now while Motorola might be a good brand I have found that for the most part you will get pretty much the same results out of whatever brand you use, so save your money. FRS, GMRS, MURS type radios are what you will find in most stores and are what I call the cheap throw away radios and at under $100 usually for a pair they are what they are, very short range and cheap. Many people are drawn in to the advertised range of 12 or 19 or 31 mile range and that would be true if you had the absolute best possible conditions, mountain top to mountain top with perfect weather is not something you are going to get. You would be good to get a few miles at best out of a pair of radios, power output and a small antenna are the biggest limiting factors in their performance. So needless to say I was not surprised with the results we got from the Motorola’s we used, on very flat and straight highway we were able to maintain about 2 miles of separation before we got nothing but static, again this was about what I thought we would get.
When it comes to communications you can spend whatever you want from a low of $20 on sale to thousands of dollars, this really is one area where you really do get what you pay for, no one size fits all, everything is a trade off. One area not to over look is CB radio, equipment is not too expensive and range can be decent within reason. The best performance is usually by base station to take advantage of excellent antenna’s that are available but you give up mobility in this configuration, Range can be 15 to 20 miles. For mobile vehicle applications with a good antenna you can achieve good results in open areas of many miles and in cities that gets cut down but I would take it over a handheld. One other advantage of a CB radio is what is called upper and lower side band giving you an increase to 12 watts and an additional 80 channels, this can increase your range. Keep in mind though that your antenna is more important than the amount of power you have almost always.
The cream of the crop for communications is ham radio, this covers short range to world wide communication and again the sky is the limit with respect to cost but used low range equipment won’t kill you either. The section for Morse code has been dropped so it makes it relatively easy you to get your ticket these days and there are plenty of groups out there that will help you study and get you set up to take the test, it is well worth it.