Radio Equipment

Radio Equipment

Simple to use, yet important to understand is the FRS and GMRS mobile radios recommended for use with ATVs.

FRS radios and GMRS radios are very similar. To the casual observer, they both constitute the modern equivalent to the “walkie-talkie.” or CB radio. Fortunately these modern counterparts are much smaller, more powerful and very simple to operate.

There are some important differences between FRS and GMRS radios. Understanding the differences may help you choose between them.

We are encouraging ATV/OHV users to monitor and transmit on FRS channel 5. This way, if we need help we can get it sooner than calling SLC on the cell phone and having them send someone from afar. There may be someone who can help in the next wash or gully over from you.

FRS Radios

FRS stands for Family Radio Service. The FRS channels were set aside by the FCC in 1995 to meet the needs of families on noncommercial use of higher power radio transmission with mobile radios.

FRS Radio Features

Most FRS radios available presently have 14 channels and 38 sub channels in each of the 14 primary channels. These devices have a line-of-sight range of about 2 miles. This distance can be affected by obstructions such as trees, mountains, buildings etc. You may have unique conditions that permit transmission to greater distances or around such obstructions, but generally these are unique and should not be counted on. In most conditions and terrain a distance of a mile or so is quite reasonable to expect with an FRS radio.

Some of the older FRS radios have only the basic 14 channels and lack the additional 38 privacy channels. Recently these have been phased out and are seldom seen now in stores.

You can expect to pay about $50 for a pair of FRS radios, presently. Some manufacturers suggest prices up to $100.00 per pair. Some will have additional features such as “weather channel” or the standard FM music/sports/entertainment channels as well. These additional features don’t add much to the machine, yet they certainly add to the cost.

Garmin Ltd. has announced their latest “Rino” model that incorporates both an FRS radio and a GPS (Global Positioning System) into the same unit. At about $350 a pop, they are costly, but could be very useful, because they will actually show the position of the other user of such a device.

For an ATVer an FRS radio is an excellent solution because in most cases the members of the ATV party will stay within a mile or so of one another.

Battery Power

Some radios, Cobra, for example, have a power saver feature that minimizes the power requirements of the radio and will extend the battery life considerably. With the power saver feature on the 4 AAA batteries may last as long as 40 hours. Typically a set of batteries will last about 20 hours, if you are lucky… about 2 days, then you will need to replace them. This can get pretty pricey if you are keeping two radios in batteries.


GMRS stands for General Mobile Radio Service.  This was formerly known as Class A of the Citizens Radio Service.  These are the same type of radios used by commercial and government radio communications.  However, these are set aside for use by individuals who have the same “longer” distance radio communications needs and operate on separate radio frequencies from the commercial and governmental users.

The most significant difference between FRS radios and GMRS radios is that the FCC requires that the GMRS radio be licensed with the FCC.  This is not a simple or cheap procedure.  Just the form to complete to send in your money is a 5 page document.  The form to complete the licensure of your handheld radio is 10 pages in length.  The form is identical to that information required for completing a commercial FM radio station (Form 605)   According to FCC form 1070Y the fee for license of GMRS radios is $75.00

Please see the FCC site regarding GMRS radios

GMRS Radio Features

Manufacturers suggest that the successful operating distance of a GMRS radio is about 5 miles.  This distance can be extended considerably by the use of “repeaters”.   A repeater is a stationary radio that receives a signal from a distant radio and automatically transmits the same message received.  Repeaters can be used to increase the distance of GMRS radios for long distances as long as there are repeaters to carry the message.

The cost of a single GMRS radio is around $150.00. You may find them available at lower prices.  The investment per radio could easily be as much as $225.00 when you consider the license fee.

Helmet to Helmet Communication

Having a radio along is one thing.  Having one where you can use it all the time is quite another.  Please read the article on helmet to helmet communication.  You won’t want to miss it.

Categories: ATV Info

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