Best GMRS Radios

I realize that the defacto way to communicate with your camping compatriots is to just pull out your cell phone and send a text (or, *gasp*, call them). However, that’s not always practical or even possible at a lot of campgrounds at state and national parks are in remote areas. You simply won’t be able to get a signal. Heck, I remember one trip to Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming) and Glacier National Park (Montana) where my phone spent more time without getting a signal than it did with one.

So when camping with a group you’d like to be able to keep in touch with, a set of GMRS radios is going to be your best bet They’re reasonably priced and new models allow you to communicate up to distances of 20 miles (although considerably less in uneven and heavily wooded terrain).

For example, I take an annual trip to Breckenridge, Colorado to go snowboarding with a group of friends. There are usually 10-14 of us and usually we have people with different skill levels. That means staying together on the slopes all day isn’t practical. That’s where having radios comes in handy.

If we want to rendevous with other parts of the group, we just pull out the radio and find out where they’re at. You can even get pretty geeky with this if you like. For example, my snowboarding helmet has speakers built in so I can plug my radio to my helmet so I can hear what everyone is saying without having to have the radio out. You can even get headsets for your radio so you can talk without ever having to pull out your radio.

The other advantage of the radio is that it’s built to be more rugged than your cell phone. They can handle getting a little wet or being dropped and still keep on ticking. Your cell phone, on the other hand is likely not quite so rugged.

Let me give you a few quick tips for using radios in groups properly and then I’ll give you my top picks (including my favorite, albeit expensive, Garmin Rino).

First, make sure that everybody is on the same channel AND privacy code or you won’t be able to communicate. Be sure to use the privacy codes or you’ll pick up everybody else’s conversations and that’s just annoying. Second, keep your radio on. This is a pet peeve of mine but I’ve had friends who decided that they didn’t need to talk to anybody so they just turned off their radio. The problem is that if somebody needs to reach you, they won’t be able to because your radio is off. This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine.