Backcountry fun requires some gear, and your choice of activities informs your choice of gear. It’s easy to get revved up about a new bike or board or boots, but what about your safety gear? Hmmm. Yeah. Ok.
Let’s talk radios and if you need them. First, radios can add to the daily convenience of many adventures. Many of us like to get out there with friends but we don’t spend every moment in sight of each other. You may prefer a different pace from your compadres, whether you’re on foot, board, bike, skis, or Jeep.
Some people like to find solitude during the journey, even though they’re out there with friends. A few hours alone is my reset button when I’m in the mountains or on the water, and sometimes it’s good to have the option to check in with the gang, the family, or whoever is back at camp.
Much depends on your adventure. Backcountry skiers, for example, should ski with friends and radios. Trail runners can and do go out solo, so radios may be of limited use. Fourwheelers and overlanders will find radios to be mega-useful, enabling group members to ramble around for scouting and then easily regroup.
As with most gear, you’ll have plenty of choices to make. Let’s take a look at a popular model, the Midland X-Talker T71VP3. This model is a license-free two-watt FRS radio with up to a 38-mile range. Don’t be obsessed with range. In real-world use, you’ll see less range, as the terrain becomes a major factor. Mountain, trees, snowdrifts, and so on will lessen the range.
These radios work best when you’re within sight of the other user(s). That may not seem to be exceptionally useful, but they’re great when guiding a driver on a tough trail, for example. You can place yourself where you get the best view and not have to yell or use hand signals.
At least as important as range is battery life. This is a bit like your fuel level in your rig; if it drops too far you put yourself at risk of your device/rig becoming useless. These Midland radios will give you up to a 15-hour life when fully charged, and they’ll charge from a mini-USB or from a 110v source.
Another great feature of these radios is the weather radio feature. They’ll receive alerts from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) radio stations, and can scan all 10 NOAA weather radio channels. If inclement weather is headed your way, you’ll know.
There are many other features, such as the “roger beep” or end-of-transmission tone, which you can set to the tone of your liking. Not a life-saving feature, certainly, but a nice option, especially if you hate the factory-set tone. You can also set the radios to silent mode, which is handy when it’s time for mischief.
Additional features can come in handy, but you’ll figure out what’s useful for you as you put them to the test. With 36 channels and 121 privacy codes, you should be able to find a channel that’s not overrun with other users. The three-year warranty speaks to a good build quality, and users bear this out.
Reviews mention things like “simple to operate, have great battery life, and have held up great to our outdoor lifestyle.” Those are key qualities, and for less than $100 for the kit with two radios and charger, they’re a good value. Plus, they’re small and light enough to be part of your kit for any adventure. When in doubt, take ‘em!