Expedition Vehicle Outfitters is an experienced and licensed full service overland and off road shop located in Michigan. Expedition specializes in building the best performing vehicles for our clients, Expedition has received National and International attention for many of our vehicle builds. We create the adventure vehicle, you create the memories.
THE GUIDE TO OVERLANDING COMMUNICATION & RADIOS
Using your truck for overlanding and trail riding is always an incredible experience but most of the best secluded areas have one thing in.... poor cell phone reception. This is why it very important to have a form of overland radio setup in your vehicle. There are many benefits, easy communication with others on the trail, communicate back to base camp or even call in emergency help in the event something goes wrong.
The process of choosing and installing the correct radio system for your needs can be a little daunting, full of acronyms and industry jargon, so we will explain the offerings and help you choose what will fit your needs best.
Choosing between FRS or GMRS
FRS (Family Radio Service) or GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service.
FRS radios are very common in most stores. FRS radios are your common handheld walkie-talkies, they have preprogrammed channels that are easy to access and are great for use around the camp site and short distance trail rides. No need for any licenses, no worry of accidentally communicating on an emergency line you shouldn’t be on, ready to go out of the box. The only downside to these radios will be limited distance in some terrains.
GMRS Radios work on the other hand work on a larger frequency range, this range does overlap the frequency of the FRS though. That means you can if you have a GMRS and your friend has a FRS you can communicate back and forth, in many cases your GMRS will travel much further so they may hear you but not be able to respond if your distance is too large or terrain is to restricted.
GMRS Radios require a license to operate, don’t get worried it is not very expensive, it is easy to obtain and one license can cover a household in many cases. The reason a GMRS Radio requires a license is because these radios overlap frequencies that are used by government agencies, search and rescue, coast guard etc. We don’t want to be accidentally communicating on their designated frequencies. GMRS Radios come in both hand held and vehicle mounted configurations, we usually opt for vehicle mounted because we find they work smoother and generally the larger watt output radios come in vehicle mounted options.
Depending on your preferences will be the main determining factor of where you mount the radio head unit. The head unit can be hidden under your vehicle seats, in a glove box, out in the open on the dash etc. Head unit location and mounting isn’t as critical as antenna wire routing and installation.
GMRS ANTENNA MOUNTING AND WIRE ROUTING
It is always advised to route your GMRS Antenna wire away from other power wires (light bar wiring etc.). Keeping this wiring routed by itself as far away from other power wires as possible will result in the best performance of the radio with a much clearer signal with minimal interference. The radio antenna does not need to be grounded but there is a principle called GROUND PLANE which we will explain as simply as possible.
The antenna gets its ground through the coax cable so there will be no need to ground it to anything metal on the truck. But we should consider the GROUND PLANE for optimum performance of a GMRS Radio on an overland vehicle. Think of the ground plane as an imaginary level plane under the antennas location, this plane can act similar to the disc on a satellite TV antenna. Our goal is to have the antenna be on top or as close to un-obstructed area of the vehicle. Mounting above the hood, roof, or a pilar all work well. Mounting low on a bumper can lead to interference.
WHAT YOU WILL ALL NEED TO INSTALL A GMRS RADIO IN YOUR OVERLAND VEHICLE
To install a GMRS Radio on your Overland Vehicle you will need a GMRS Head-Unit, Microphone, antenna cable(opt for a cable with a 90° end for low profile installation), antenna and an antenna mount. This makes for a great overland radio setup.
Next you will need to decide on a location to mount your Head-Unit inside the cab of the Overland Vehicle. We suggest mounting the radio in an inconspicuous location that is easy to access. Remember you will need to run a power wire, a ground wire, and antenna cable to the radio so pick somewhere you can access easily. During the installation take your time and properly connect all wires, remember to route them away from moving parts and zip tie loose wires.
When installing the GMRS Radio in your overland vehicle you will need to decide whether you want the radio powered all the time with the option to turn the radio off or if you want the radio only powered up when the vehicles key is on. This is done by choosing where we pull power from on the vehicle.
CB RADIO FOR YOUR OVERLAND VEHICLE
Another option for Overland vehicle communication would be a CB (Citizen Band) Radio. CB Radios were once the most common form of communication off road there was but the last 5-10 years has seen those numbers drastically change. CB Radios work well for person to person short distance communication similarly to FRS Radios. These radios will come with 40 pre-programmed channels and many have options for NOAA weather channels as well. For best performance your CB Radio should be “tuned” which can be done at many large truck stops or CB Shops, admittedly these are becoming harder to find.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED TO INSTALL A CB RADIO IN YOUR OVERLAND VEHICLE
To install a CB Radio in your overland vehicle you will need a CB Radio Head-Unit, Microphone, Antenna, Antenna Cable, and Antenna Mount. Just like a GMRS Radio you can wire your Head-Unit to be powered always on or only available to turn on when the vehicle’s key is on. The same principles apply to installing and wiring a CB Radio as do a GMRS. Keep the Antenna wires as far from other power wires as available and install your antenna as high as you can. Keep in mind a VERY tall antenna may broadcast the furthest it way also become an issue in the branches of trees on most trails. Moderation is key.
CB RADIO DOES NOT REQUIRE ANY LICENSE
A CB Radio will use the same antenna bracket to a GMRS Radio in most cases. When installing the CB Radio antenna it is important not to ground the antenna to the bracket or your performance will suffer, your antenna and cable will have insulation on the exterior to make sure this does not happen.
STAY TUNED FOR VOLUME 2 OF THE GUIDE TO OVERLANDING COMMUNICATION & RADIOS
Expedition Vehicle Outfitters is a full service upgrade and overland vehicle repair facility. For over 20 years we have been helping our clients safely and confidently adventure further in their vehicles. Expedition specializes in custom tailoring your vehicle to your needs.
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