Canadian Canoe Routes

Hand Held Radios
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Author:  guyfawkes041 [ February 13th, 2021, 10:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Hand Held Radios

I'm in the earliest stages of planning a Canadian Shield river trip for next fall, Covid permitting, and I'm wondering whether or not I should be considering getting a couple of small, waterproof, Motorola-type, hand-held radios for the trip. There will be two of us, each paddling solo canoes.

The trip will cover several hundred kilometers, and have numerous rapids, which is where I'm wondering if the radios might come in handy. When one of us goes around a bend, and maybe eddies out, they can talk to the other to advise on route, obstacles, etc. Or as a distress call in the event of a pin or wrap. I wouldn't expect that much range for the radios would be of great added value, so a cheaper set might suffice nicely. ??? Charging the batteries would be an issue though. Useful or bad idea?

So, does anyone use these sorts of things? If so, any recommendations on optional features, brands, models, sources for them, use and charging tips and tricks, or anything else anyone can think of, would be greatly appreciated. Thanks all.

Author: [ February 14th, 2021, 12:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hand Held Radios

When my friend Bob and I go on a canoe trip together where we are both using solo boats we've been using Motorola T600 radios. The radios are waterproof, float (test this with the actual batteries you will use because it could make a difference), and tend to work well.

We've been using them in situations like one of us scouting out campsites while the other explores, does photography or tries fishing. While the range looks huge for radios of this type in realty the range is much smaller in practice. We've had some success on smaller portages but in hilly conditions or once past about 800 metres you normally lose contact. Water range is better as long as view is clear.

To make the radios useful in an emergency we try to keep relatively close together. Their greatest use is on a strong windy or wavey day when the radios make it easier to hear each other without having to have both boats right on top of each other.

We've been using fresh alkaline batteries on our trips while carrying a second spare set. So far we've never run the batteries out but we use the radio sparingly. There are rechargeable batteries that come with the radio. You could use the chargers with a power bank to recharge on demand.

Also consider doing some reviews of Kayak radios. Many use VHF models but others use the type I am referring to here.

Feel free to ask any other questions on this you might have.

Author:  guyfawkes041 [ February 14th, 2021, 10:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hand Held Radios

Well, thanks for your recommendation about the Motorola T600.

I've read a review on them from the Outdoorgearlab site, and they appear to be perfect for what I was wondering about. They are now on the list for the trip, thanks very much.

Author:  Paddle Power [ February 14th, 2021, 3:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hand Held Radios

I think they fall under what is called FRS/GMRS walkie-talkies.

I've wondered about using them especially for checking both sides of a river for camping, lining rapids, etc. That way when you split the group, each checking out the side of the river, you can still be in contact to figure out which side you will both end up on. But I've never tried using them on a trip.

Author:  recped [ February 14th, 2021, 6:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hand Held Radios

I have some limited experience using lower end "walkie-talkie" handhelds. The experience wasn't great but not totally useless. The units I had worked ok if you were in line of sight range and over a relatively short distance (maybe up to 1km on open water). On the river, if there were twists and turns or an elevated bank blocking a direct view they were next to useless.

On the other hand, I have an InReach and when I've tripped with a partner who also has one I found them to be excellent. The two situations I used them for, one was a dump where my partner was ahead of me, lost lost visual contact and had no idea what my situation was. Without an InReach he probably would have bushwacked back upstream (a couple of km) to find me, with the InReach I was able to let him know I was ok and would join him soon. I set off to catch up and had another dump and I was able to let him know he should stop at the next campsite and I would meet him there later.

On the same trip we agreed to meet up at the end of the next lake and choose a campsite downstream. I reached the end of the lake and there was no sign of him, I was hesitant to keep going but also worried that he might be ahead of me, contact via InReach let me know he had run the small rapid at the end of the lake and stopped at the first campsite just downstream.

In both of these situations a low end FRS radio would have been useless.

Author:  guyfawkes041 [ February 15th, 2021, 10:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hand Held Radios

I've sourced a pair of Backcountry Access BC Link radios for the trip. They are well rated on the Outdoorgearlab site, and so we should be pretty happy with these, as they are far better around bends, and have a far greater range than the Motorola T600s, albeit less water resistant.

We've already got a pair of InReach texters Recped, and have been using them for years, but not in the way you describe, so thanks for the tip. If separated, if the radios fail, we will use the InReaches.

Thanks for all the input folks, cheers.

Author:  raven4 [ February 17th, 2021, 12:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Hand Held Radios

Have used handhelds over the years when tripping with multiple canoes. They have come in handy relaying info from the bottom of a set of rapids to other boats at the top. Particularly when leading school groups. I am going to check out those Backcountry Access radios.
A side note about inReach to inReach texting...I live in the bush and several of us have them and use them to stay in touch quite frequently. Normally, they work great...BUT...we have had times when the intended message sent is not received for a rather lengthy period of time by the person you are sending it to. The longest delay was just over an hour and we have had a 45 minute delay. Both under optimal weather conditions and over open water. Maybe unique to northern SK? I don't know.

Author:  Hugh [ April 19th, 2021, 8:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Hand Held Radios

In the backcountry of AB and B.C. A lot of skiers and hikers use VHF radios which have been programmed for National park frequencies as well as most Back country Lodges.The radios are really Ham radios so unless one has a Ham licence are illegal. :tsk: In case of emergency however Parks, helicopter company nor not going to question how you communicated with them. For person to person contact we will use a frequency of a staton that is not within range.
These radios are not like FRS/CB radios with fixed frequencies, One has to have them preprogrammed. For personal use, on a wilderness canoe trip where there are few used frequencies this shouldnt be a problem. If you paddle in an area where Parks does have radios and repeaters it would be good to have their Frequncies programmed in.
I also have Marine VHF handhelds with preprogramed Frequencies ie 1,2,3 etc. They do require a licence to use but the test is easy. Mine are H2Oproof and float so would be good on a canoe trip.
All these options work on line of site. Power ranges are from 0.5W to 8W
Most have Liion batteries with varying operating times. One of my VHF radios has an optional AAA battery pack.
Search for radios will give you pretty cheap pricing 2 for $99.
marine VHF are more $$.

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