Whether you’re four-wheeling or you need backup communications during an emergency situation, Rugged handheld radios are a solid choice. They’re reliable, sturdy, and very user-friendly.
- On the job,
- In the field.
They’re also ideal to use while camping or hiking and for team communications during races and other activities that require timely, live interaction. You can use them on air, land, or water as long as all units are within range.
There are quite a few Rugged models available, with prices ranging from $50 to upwards of $2,000 and a variety of features. However, the main consideration when buying a two-way radio is its maximum range.
What Does Range Mean?
When evaluating the range of a radio frequency, users usually mean the maximum talking range rather than the reception range in general. The communications range of a hand-held device is gauged by signal strength and type. In measurements, the range is limited to what’s called the line-of-sight or distance to the horizon. Factors like the quality of the device, terrain, and even weather can impact communication range.
Under the most ideal possible circumstances, the average two-way radio manufactured for commercial (consumer) use has a range of approximately 10km (about 6.21 miles). This is on a hand-held radio using a PMR446 frequency with 0.5W of transmitting power. In general, the range of their VS handheld model is one – three miles.
More powerful units and those for military use have a broader, more consistent broadcasting range. However, you must have a license to own and operate non-consumer handheld radios.
Not all hand-held radios are created equally. Even if you purchase a set with the right combination of features, how and where you use it will impact the consistent, clear range of communications.
When it comes to two-way. handheld radios, three factors come into play that affects the average talking range of your device.
Although communications range means the talking range of a device, it is actually measured by the distance between the tip of one antenna to the other. This is a unit of measurement known as calculating the horizon. Therefore, antenna placement is determined by considering the distance and type of obstructions that could impact reception.
In general, the lower the radio frequency, the longer the communications range. Two-way radios operate on a frequency range of 130MHz to 900MHz. The most common signal types are Very High Frequency (VHF) signals between 130-174MHz and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) signals ranging from 400 to 520MHz.
However, these frequency types can only travel in straight lines, limiting their range to line-of-sight or as far as the eye can see in the distance.
As to which is better, that depends upon where it’s being used. The VHF signals are wider and can traverse obstructions better out in the open, but they don’t work as well in closed spaces like warehouses or barns. In such an environment, the shorter UHF waves would penetrate better through non-metal walls and doors.
Radio signals pass easily through the air, but they can’t penetrate some solid objects. For example, metal will block hand-held transmissions. Other objects to avoid, if possible, are hills, mountains, and other objects that are higher/wider than your signal.
You can optimize the signal and get the maximum range out of your Rugged handheld radio by:
- Opening the “Monitor” feature when you’re at the edge of your range,
- Using a whip-style antenna,
- Mounting your antenna vertically and as high up as possible,
- Keeping it tuned to GMRS channels, which have a higher allowable wattage,
- Moving to higher, open ground,
- Installing a repeater,
- Setting it to the highest power mode,
- Make sure the battery is fully charged.
When you need a solid way to stay connected that works even if you’re off the grid, handheld radios stand the test of time. Before purchasing your next Rugged handset, consider where and how it will be used so that you can get the best model for your situation and communication requirements.