Central Idaho Amateur
Radio Club
     








Valley County Search And Rescue





Communications Equipment Recommendations







Sunday, November 19, 2017
Table Of Contents
Overview

This page intends to make recommendations with regard to equipping Valley County Search And Rescue (VCSAR) members with radio equipment that meets FCC requirements for operation in the Land Mobile radio service, in which the frequency allocations for Public Safety Agencies exist. This same equipment is also capable of operating on Amateur Radio frequencies.

The Central Idaho Amateur Radio Club (CIARC) makes its communications infrastructure, that is its repeater network, available for use by those Valley County Search And Rescue members who hold a valid Amateur Radio License, on a priority basis in support of SAR events. Further, for VCSAR public service events, it may not be possible to use Public Safety frequencies at all, making Amateur Radio the only alternative to support communications. The Central Idaho Amateur Radio Club highly recommends that those Valley County Search And Rescue members that do not hold an Amateur Radio License should attend one of our study and test sessions to obtain your Amateur Radio license. The benefits to VCSAR members is that this opens up additional communications resources in the Idaho back country, and Amateur Radio allows VCSAR members to be free of limitations imposed in using Public Safety frequencies (i.e. minimal time use of frequencies to keep them free and available for their primary use), allowing VCSAR members to freely discuss operational status and resource allocation over Amateur Radio. If you are interested in obtaining your Amateur Radio license, please sign up by selecting the registration form located under the About menu at the top of this page, or by clicking here. The registration form will allow us to contact you to inform you of class scheduling. Please note that our study and test session is a one-day / all-day event and does not require previous study of Amateur Radio exam material.

BAOFENG HANDHELD TRANSCEIVERS

The following URLs are for the Baofeng UV-5R handheld transceiver and associated accessories. The Baofeng transceiver has an FCC Part 90 type acceptance, and can be legally operated on Public Safety (Land Mobile) frequencies as well as Amateur Radio frequencies. The Baofeng cannot be legally used on the Family Radio Service (FRS) or Multi Use Radio Service (MURS) as these services require a different FCC type acceptance.

There radios are quite inexpensive, with the basic radio, charger and antenna package fluctuating in price between $25 and $40 per unit. If purchased, we recommend also purchasing the longer antenna for better efficiency. If purchasing the longer antenna, purchase only the make/model listed below (do not purchase the NUVI antenna as this is reported to perform extremely poorly - purchase only the ExpertPower XP-771).

On the down side, these radios are difficult to setup, but once setup, their operation is simple. The user manual is poorly written. So poor, a group of amateur radio operators wrote and posted an english language manual online. Several CIARC members have programming cables and we are able to assist you in programming your Baofeng radio.

Although these radios are available on eBay, we recommend purchasing the radio through Amazon. Many of the Amazon retailers are the exact same vendors found on eBay and Amazon presents the additional customer support of having a return policy. Approximately 10% of these radios experience programming difficulty. This can be due to poor mechanical tolerances with the connectors on the radio, poor initialization within the programming software, or a combination of both of these causes. We are aften able to resolve these issues by swapping programming cables, rebooting Windows, or switching computers, but, on occasion, it is necessary to return the radio for a replacement and having that option (through Amazon) is to your advantage.

Baofeng UV-5R

We recommend the UV-5R for VCSAR operations.

The Baofeng UV-5R is available on Amazon by clicking here.


WARNING:

We do not recommend other variants, including the UV-5R+. Some other variants provide wider frequency coverage but the wider coverage will not be used and actually results in degraded performance of the receiver. It should also be noted that there are more accessory options available, including battery accessories, with the UV-5R when compared to the UV-82 and other Baofeng models. The UV-B5 has limitations in the display that render the VCSAR channel naming as ambiguous, and may make it very difficult for you to select the channel assigned by incident commanders.


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Baofeng UV-5R Large Capacity Batteries

This is an optional accessory. These larger battery packs result in extended operational capabilities. Some Amateur Radio operators have found that while using these batteries, they are able to operate the radio for more than a week without recharging. Battery life is dependent upon the amount of time on transmit and increase frequency or duration of transmission will result in reduced battery life.

Note that the large capacity battery will make the radio approximately 1 5/8 inches taller than with the standard battery.

The Baofeng UV-5R Large Capacity Battery is available on Amazon by clicking here.

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Baofeng UV-5R AA Battery Pack

This is an optional accessory. Several VCSAR members prefer to carry AA batteries and would like to run the Baofeng UV-5R from these batteries. This battery pack presents that option.

The Baofeng UV-5R AA Battery Pack is available on Amazon by clicking here.

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UV-5R DC Cord & Battery Eliminator

This is an optional accessory. This cord can be plugged into the vehicle cigarette lighter / power accessory jack and replaces the battery pack to operate off of external power.

The UV-5R DC Cord & Battery Eliminator is available on Amazon by clicking here.

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Baofeng Programming Cable

This is an optional accessory. This programming cable and USB device drivers supports programming of the UV-5R, UV-82 and UV-B5 Baofeng radios.

Programming of these radios can present difficulties. If you do not want to program your radio yourself, opt out on this purchase and we will be happy to program your radio for you.

The Baofeng Programming Cable is available on Amazon by clicking here.

These cables come with a mini-CD that contains the device drivers for the cable. It is important that you use the drivers included on the mini-CD. Downloading current drivers from the silicon manufacturer's web-site has, in some cases, resulted in an inability to program the radio. This may be due to use of cloned silicon being used in the cable assembly.

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The FREE Chirp programming software is available for download by clicking here. We recommend the latest daily download over the released software as we have experienced programming issues with the released software that have been resolved by the daily download version.

Programming data files for your radio can be provided upon request. Please make your request known at the monthly VCSAR meeting.

 

WARNING:

On occasion, we have experienced difficulty in programming a radio. The root cause can include poor mechanical tolerances on the connector that results in poor seating of the programming cable, instability in the radio firmware, or instability in the programming software. When issues arise, the first item to check is the seating of the programming cable when inserted into the radio microphone jack. Firmware and software instability may be resolved by retry of the programming procedure, quitting and relaunching the programming software, rebooting the computer, or attempting to program from another computer. If none of these procedures resolves the issue, the radio should be returned for a replacement (this is why we recommend Amazon, with it's customer return policy).


 
Kenwood SMC-34 Speaker / Microphone

This is an optional accessory, but we highly recommend making this purchase. The internal microphone on all Baofeng radios have very restricted audio frequency response, and suffer from a low audio level on transmit. Depending on the tonal quality of the operator's voice, it can be difficult to understand the operator. This specific make and model of microphone is compatible with the Baofeng radios, and addresses both the low level transmit audio and poor frequency response, making it much easier to understand the operator.


WARNING:

We strongly recommend that you do not consider any other external microphone for your Baofeng radio. Our experience with other microphones is that they do provide a higher level of audio but they do not address the audio frequency response problem and do not result in improved intelligibility of transmitted signals.


The Kenwood SMC-34 Speaker / Microphone is available on Amazon by clicking here.

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ExpertPower Antenna

This is an optional accessory, but we highly recommend making this purchase. This antenna provides vastly improved performance on both receive and transmit with your Baofeng radio.


WARNING:

We recommend against purchasing other antennas. Other antennas have very negative reviews on Amateur Radio product review sites, and a side by side test showed the other antennas not receiving our Brundage Mt. repeater from Cascade while the ExpertPower antenna did receive the repeater signal. This test would seem to confirm the web reviews.


The ExpertPower Antenna is available on Amazon by clicking here.


WARNING:

We have observed issues with the mechanical tolerances on some antennas with the Baofeng UV-82 model radio. Several other make / model antennas will not properly seat on the radio and will make an intermittent connection. This can lead to very poor reception and may result in damage to the radio when transmitting. Only the Expert Power antenna appears to seat properly with the Baofeng UV-82 model radio.


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Antenna Adapter - SMA Female to UHF Female

This is an optional accessory and is only needed if you choose to run the Baofeng transceiver with an antenna that is externally mounted on your vehicle (please see section on mobile radio installations below).

The Antenna Adapter is available on Amazon by clicking here.

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Condor Outdoor M4 Magazine Pouch As Radio Case

The Condor Outdoors model MA5 (Single M4 Mag Pouch) works great as a radio case for the Baofeng UV-5R with the Baofeng UV-5R Large Capacity Battery. These are available in black, desert tan or OD green.

The Condor Outdoor M4 Magazine Pouch is available on Amazon by clicking here.

The Condor Outdoor M4 Magazine Pouch is also available at the army surplus store in Bosie (at a lower price than on Amazon and there is no shipping cost).

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PORTABLE FIELD ANTENNAS
Roll-Up J-Pole Antenna for Baofeng

This antenna has the proper connector to attach to any of the Baofeng models, and can easily be erected in the field by throwing a rope over a branch and pulling the antenna to a higher height. This antenna provides gain, increasing both the strength of received signals and your transmitted signal.

The Roll-Up J-Pole Antenna for Baofeng is available on eBay by clicking here.

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Elk Antenna Model 2M/440L5

This antenna is a broadband antenna with gain in the direction that it is pointed. This antenna can be assembled or disassembled in the field in a few minutes. It is sturdy and performs exceptionally well. When disassembled, it stores in a small area and is suitable for backpacking.

This antenna requires that you supply the coaxial feedline. The antenna connection requires a PL-259 UHF type connector. The other end of the feedline may require a connector that mates to the radio or a PL-259 UHF connector in combination with an adapter that mates to the radio.

The Elk Antenna 2M/440L5 Dual-Band Antenna is available from the manufacturer by clicking here.

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PERMANENT MOBILE RADIO INSTALLATIONS

Before purchasing a radio for a permanent mobile radio installation, you may want to first consider the utility of having a permanent mobile installation. For the Amateur Radio operator, who will use the radio during daily travel, it is an easy choice to opt for purchase and installation of mobile radio equipment. For the VCSAR member who does not have an Amateur Radio license, the choice is not so obvious.

The VCSAR member without an Amateur Radio license will only be using the radio during VCSAR operations. In the majority of cases, this means operating the radio while on foot. In some cases, this may mean operating the radio while on an ATV/UTV or Snowmobile. The amount of radio operation from a vehicle, in support of a VCSAR call out, is probably going to be very limited, and even in those cases, the hand-held radio with the addition of an external (to the vehicle) mounted antenna is probably going to be sufficient.

If you choose to install a permanent mobile radio station for VCSAR operations, the choices for a cost effective and maintainable installation are limited. The radio must have an FCC part 90 type acceptance to operate on the Land Mobile service that is used by Public Safety agencies. One radio that meets this requirement, and can also operate on Amateur Radio frequencies is the PowerWerx DB-750X.

If you choose to install a permanent mobile radio station for Amateur Radio use only (with receive capability on the Land Mobile service), there are far better options than the PowerWerx DB-750X. One of the best options for this type of installation is the Yaesu FT-8800. It is important to realize, however, that most Amateur Radio equipment, including the FT-8800, does not have an FCC part 90 type acceptance and cannot be used to transmit on the Land Mobile radio service that is used by Public Safety agencies.

If you prefer to use the Baofeng UV-5R as a mobile radio, you can accomplish this with a magnetic mount antenna and an adapter to connect the antenna feed-line cable to the UV-5R. For such an installation, please consider the antenna options listed below along with the adapter mentioned in the UV-5R section above. This is the least expensive option and is probably sufficient for the majority of VCSAR operations. Note that mobile operations with the built-in antenna can be performed but the performance is going to be very poor. If you choose to operate mobile without an external antenna, you must hold the radio with the antenna oriented in a vertical position for best performance. Do not attach the radio to your visor with the belt clip.

Radios that are specifically manufactured to operate in compliance with the FCC narrow band mandate of 2013 and have an FCC part 90 type acceptance, allowing their use on the Land Mobile radio service, can also be used. Some of these radios can also operate on Amateur Radio frequencies. But the cost of these units is higher and availability of both programming cables and programming software may be limited or restricted. Some commercial radio manufacturers only allow their dealers to purchase the programming software. This makes these radios a poor choice as the VCSAR frequency list is dynamic and the capability to reprogram the radio is vital to support VCSAR operations.

The best mobile antennas, in terms of durability and efficient operation, use an NMO connector. NMO antenna mounts for mobile operations typically fall into one of three categories.

  1. Magnetic Mount
  2. Clamp on mount (i.e. gutter clip, trunk, etc.)
  3. Permanent mounting (requires drilling a hole in our vehicle)

There is little perceptible difference in performance when comparing these mounts, and the choice is really up to you.

Mobile antennas are manufactured to operate either on the Land Mobile radio service or the Amateur Radio service, but not both. An antenna designed to operate in the Land Mobile radio service will perform poorly on the Amateur Radio service. Similarly, an antenna designed to operate on the Amateur Radio service will perform poorly on the Land Mobile service. As you review recommended antennas below, please consider which radio service you will be operating the antenna under when choosing the antenna.

LAND MOBILE RADIO SERVICE & AMATEUR RADIO ANTENNA MOUNTS

If you install a mobile antenna, please let us help you verify that it is properly tuned and operating correctly.

Tram 1235 Magnetic NMO Antenna Mount

This antenna mount magnetically attaches to the roof of the vehicle. It should be placed away from racks if possible. The antenna cable is run through an open door and the door gasket then seals over the antenna lead. For best durability, the antenna cable should be run though a door that has limited use.

The Tram 1235 Magnetic NMO Antenna Mount is available The Antenna Farm by clicking here.

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Comet-NCG CP-5NMO Trunk Clamp Antenna Mount

This antenna mount clamps over the edge of the trunk or hood. When mounted on the trunk, the antenna cable is typically routed under the seats to reach the radio in the passenger compartment.

The Comet-NCG CP-5NMO Trunk Clamp Antenna Mount is available from Ham Radio Outlet by clicking here.

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Larsen NMO-K Antenna Mount

This antenna mount requires drilling a hole through the vehicle roof or trunk, routing the cable and properly soldering on the antenna connector. This mount is typical of permanent installation in public safety vehicles.

The Larsen NMO-K Antenna Mount is available from Ham Radio Outlet by clicking here.

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LAND MOBILE PUBLIC SAFETY RADIO ANTENNAS

For NMO style mounts, the same mount will work for both the Land Mobile Radio Service (i.e. Public Safety) and the Amateur Radio Service.


WARNING:

We cannot recommend antennas with so-called UHF connectors that are based on the PL-259 and SO-239 connector series. These connectors are noisy at VHF and UHF frequencies, can get hot during transmit if not manufactured with the correct material, and are not weather-proof.


Larsen NMO150450C

This antenna is a commercial grade mobile antenna that supports operation in the Land Mobile radio service. This antenna has very good performance and is very durable.

The Larsen NMO150450C is available from The Antenna Farm by clicking here.

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AMATEUR RADIO MOBILE RADIO ANTENNAS
Larsen NMO-2/70B Black

This antenna is a commercial grade mobile antenna that supports operation in the Amateur Radio service. This antenna has very good performance and is very durable. The open coil may snag bushes and trees however, and for that reason, may not be suitable for mounting on an ATV/UTV vehicle.

The Larsen NMO-2/70B Black is available from Ham Radio Outlet by clicking here.

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Larsen NMO2/70SH

This antenna is a commercial grade mobile antenna that supports operation in the Amateur Radio service. This antenna has very good performance and is very durable.

The Larsen NMO2/70SH is available from The Antenna Farm by clicking here.

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POWERWERX LAND MOBILE RADIO SERVICE (LMRS) RADIOS
POWERWERX DB-750X LMRS MOBILE TRANSCEIVER

The PowerWerx DB-750X has an FCC Part 90 type acceptance, allowing this radio to be used on the Land Mobile radio service that is used by Public Safety agencies. This radio can also be used on Amateur Radio frequencies. These radios cannot be used on the Family Radio Service (FRS) or Multi Use Radio Service (MURS).

Note that VCSAR has two of these radios, one installed in the VCSAR truck and the other installed in the VCSAR trailer.

The PowerWerx DB-750X is available from the manufacturer by clicking here.

The PowerWerx DB-750X is available from Ham Radio Outlet by clicking here.


SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

If you are planning on operating this radio on Amateur Radio frequencies ONLY (e.g. you will not be operating this radio on Land Mobile Radio Service frequencies), we do not recommend this radio for that purpose. This radio should be chosen only if you plan to operate mobile in the Land Mobile radio service on Public Safety agency frequencies. This radio is listed because it is the only radio that we have found that covers both VHF and UHF Land Mobile Radio Service Frequencies, is FCC Part 90 approved, and also covers the VHF 2-meter and UHF 70cm Amateur Radio frequencies.

If you plan to operate only on VHF Land Mobile Radio Service frequencies, mono-band radios manufactured by Vertex, Kenwood, Icom or Motorola may be a better choice. When considering these other manufacturers, keep in mind that a programming cable and programming software will be required to program the radio with VCSAR frequencies. Some of these manufacturers will only sell programming software to an authorized dealer, and the programming software can be expensive.


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PowerWerx DB-750X Programming Kit

This is an optional accessory but is highly recommended if you purchase the PowerWerx DB-750X transceiver. This accessory allows the DB-750X to be programmed with VCSAR frequencies. VCSAR has one programming cable. CIARC is not able to assist you in programming without you providing a cable and software.

The PowerWerx DB-750X Programming Kit is available from the manufacturer by clicking here.

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PowerWerx DB-750X Panel Separation Kit

This is an optional accessory for the PowerWerx DB-750X. This accessory enables the mounting of the radio separate from the radio control panel.

The PowerWerx DB-750X Panel Separation Kit is available from the manufacturer by clicking here.

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ICOM LAND MOBILE RADIO SERVICE (LMRS) RADIOS
Icom F5021 VHF Mobile Radio

This mono-band transceiver is a 50-watt transceiver, and covers both Land Mobile Radio Service (LMRS) and Amateur Radio 2-Meter VHF. Frequency coverage spans from 136-174 MHz. Receiver sensitivity is at 0.25 µV for -12 dB SINAD and a maximum transmitter output power of 50-watts. The radio supports 128-channels, separated into 8 memory zones, and 10 scan groups. Memory channels and zones can be named. A scan group can contain channels from any zone. This radio can also be programmed with a Personal Identification Number (PIN), which must be entered after powering up, protecting the radio from tampering or unauthorized use (a good idea when programmed with frequencies for First Responder agencies).

As of 2 October 2015, two VCSAR members have this radio and both users are very impressed with its simplicity of operation and performance. This radio is a good choice for both Land Mobile Radio Service (i.e. Public Safety) and Amateur Radio, and is economical too.

Current programming has the following named memory zones:

  1. PUB SAFT (i.e., Public Safety)
  2. SAR
  3. MURS (e.g., RECEIVE ONLY RECOMMENDED)
  4. WX (i.e. Weather)
  5. MARINE
  6. SKI (i.e. Brundage Mt. Ski Patrol)
  7. HAM 2M (i.e. Amateur Radio 2-Meter VHF)

Current programming has the following scan zones:

  1. PUB SAFT (i.e. Public Safety)
  2. SAR
  3. HAM
  4. (EMPTY)
  5. (EMPTY)
  6. (EMPTY)
  7. (EMPTY)
  8. (EMPTY)
  9. (EMPTY)
  10. PUB SAFT + SAR + HAM 2M

The scan groups contain only a subset of channels from each of the referenced scan zones, focusing the scan on the most important channels.

The Icom F5021 is available from The Antenna Farm by clicking here.

We do have the capability to program this radio for you.

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Icom F5061 VHF Mobile Radio

This radio has the same feature set as the F5021, but can have the control head detached from the radio and remotely mounted in the vehicle.

The Icom F5021 is available from The Antenna Farm by clicking here.

We do have the capability to program this radio for you.

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If you do not see a listing here for an item that your are considering, please ask us if we have any information on that item.