Saturday, November 1, 2014

Do you need a Grab-n-Go Two-Way Radio Bag?

In a day and age of smart phones, there isn't a lot of consideration for other modes of two-way communication by many people. While a lot of those in the prepping community are investing in HAM and MURS radio systems, I would suggest that there is still an important role for FRS/GMRS and CB two-way radios in day-to-day life.

We live out in the country and there are areas in our county where cellular service is spotty at best and depending on your carrier... non-existent in places. We've done firearms training at TDI about an hour from us in southwest Ohio and there is almost no cellular signal in the valley between the hills were they are located. Additionally, sometimes communicating with a group via cell phones is not as convenient either

Two-way FRS/GMRS and CB transceivers have come a long way since Smokey and the Bandit were saying, "Breaker... 1... 9..." and my friends and I were talking back and forth while hiking in the woods on a pair of Radio Shack walkie-talkies on the 27MHz frequency spectrum of the FCC's "citizen-bands". There are a lot of great sources of information about the various types of radios available for public use including this recent post by ITS Tactical.

I'm not here to argue the merits of various radio systems or be concerned with tactical operations and operational security (OPSEC). I just want to suggest that having some commonly available two-way communication radios that are easy to use and readily available to other people at a reasonable cost might also likely help in a lot of every day tasks, situations, and emergencies.

Did you ever have to run around and look for something you know you have, but you aren't sure where you last left it? I've been there and done that. That is why I'm a big believer in having or building "kits" and "systems" that have everything we need in a convenient location, case, or bag ready to go... just like our Bug Out Bags (BOBs). That is why we put together Grab-n-Go Two-Way Radio Bags.

Neighbor's child or dog is missing... grab the Two-Way Radio Bag. Friend lost a buck at the end of a blood trail in the woods up the road and need a few helpers to track it down... grab the Two-Way Radio Bag. Crawling through the attic to help a friend run coaxial cable down through walls all the way to the basement... grab the Two-Way Radio Bag. Going camping and want to keep in touch with the family throughout the campground... grab the Two-Way Radio Bag. You get the picture.

We have two identical Grab-n-Go Two-Way Radio Bags. Two is one and one is none. We picked up the Realtree Tool Bags at Walmart a couple of years back. Each bag contains two FRS/GMRS/NOAA hand-held two-way radios, chargers, and accessories; two CB hand-held two-way radios, chargers, 12-volt automotive adapters and accessories; one base-station FRS/GMRS/NOAA/FM radio and accessories; and one AA battery-powered USB charger with adapters to charge cell phones if needed.

We like our Midland GXT radios. There are a lot of good choices out there, but these come ready with both rechargeable battery packs and they take AA batteries too. Plus, a quick drop in the creek or a heavy downpour won't hurt these radios because they're JIS4 Water Proof. Don't try that with your cell phone. The voice operated transmission (VOX) with the included headsets makes hands-free operation a no-brainer.

The best thing about FRS/GMRS radios is that if any of your friends have bought walkie-talkies in the last few years, that is likely what they have, or at least FRS two-way radios... and you can communicate with them even if the radios are different brands. Most of these radios have "privacy codes" you can use if you want, especially if there is too much radio traffic on a given channel which works in most situations short of being at Disney World where you won't find an unused combination to transmit on.

The "base station" in each of our bags is a Midland XT511 Emergency Crank Base Camp model that has both AA batteries and separate rechargeable batteries that can be charged with a built-in hand crank generator. It's good to leave in a stationary location, or carry it if you want with the shoulder strap... it's light weight, but not as convenient for carrying as the other radios. The FM and NOAA weather channels, plus the clock radio and built-in USB charging port, come in handy too... especially while camping.

We also keep a couple of Midland 75-822 Handheld CB Radios in each bag. These operate from AA battery packs, rechargeable battery packs, and the 12-volt automotive adapter... all included with the radio. We still have a lot of farmers, truckers, and other people out here in the country and even on the interstates that use CB radios. Did you ever find yourself stuck in a five mile long traffic jam on the interstate and want to find out what's going on? Your smart phone probably won't help, but a handheld CB on channel 19 will get you all the info you need.

Don't think that having a cell phone still isn't a viable means of communication... at least until the batteries are dead and you're miles from a charger or outlet to use. We keep these handy Rayovac USB Chargers and extra USB cell phone cables in our Two-Way Radio Bags. We also keep them in our Bug Out Bags, Get Home Bags, at home, and my daughter has one in her college dorm room.

Of course, you've probably noticed a common theme here in our Two-Way Radio Bags... AA batteries. Everything in the bag can operate off AA batteries, so each bag has both extra lithium and alkaline batteries ready to go.

These bags are not set up for long-distance communication, tactical, or TEOTWAWKI situations. They are for quick, every day use in common, and uncommon, situations that require easy-to-use communication between two or more people where cell phones may not offer the best or convenient solution.

You might have other needs and expectations for creating your own Two-Way Radio Bags... but I think you'll find that if you create a "kit" that's kept ready to go... you'll wonder how you ever got a long without it and you won't be looking under the kids' beds for the other half of your walkie-talkie set.  So the question is... Do you need a Grab-n-Go Two-Way Radio Bag?