scouts-l Mail Archive for August of 2000: Re: walkie talkie
Nat Davis (ndavis@VT.EDU
Mon Aug 28 2000 - 09:22:05 CDT
>We were talking on the train about the Troop getting 2 or 3 walkie talkies.
> I've often thought it'd be good for drivers to keep in touch while
>traveling and they'd be useful at campouts as well.
>What's the experience out there? Are they worth the expense or an
>Mark W. Arend, Scoutmaster
Walkie talkies can be a great help when trying to keep the troop
together. Today, the popular walkie talkies are for the recently created
"Family Radio Service" or FRS. Motorola first marketed them (and still
does). A number of other companies and stores now sell them in several
The first thing to be aware of is that these radios are not intended for
long-distance communications. They are "rated" at a range of 2 miles or
less. That rating is really terrain and structure dependent. These walkie
talkies operate in the 400 MHz range and that makes them very "line of
sight" -- if a big building, mountain, or other obstruction is in between
two users ... it is likely that you will not be able to communicate -- even
if you are well within the 2-mile range! (The reverse of this can be seen
too: if you are on the top of a tall mountain with a clear "shot" down to
the flat lands, you can cover significantly more than the rated 2 miles....
You can not plan on this, however.) Because of these radios' inherent lack
of range you can not depend on them for "emergency" communications when out
on a trip in the"back country."
The second limitation is that there are only 16 user channels in these
radios. That can lead to some problems where a number of groups try to use
them in the same area. At my council summer camp, it seemed like many
troops and/or individuals brought these radios. Some units tried to claim
particular channels as their own and that caused some rather heated "get
off my frequency" problems. Such attitudes are a big no-no with the
FCC. They set the FRS with the expectation that the channels be shared
among users in some reasonable way (just as with CB radio and amateur radio
-- there is no ownership of a frequency/channel).
Having said all this, if you can live with the limitations of FRS radios
and can get a good deal on them at a store, they can be quite handy to have.
Hope this helps.
SM, Troop 56
K2BSA staff, Jamboree 2001