Which CB or HAM Radio should I get for my Jeep?

May 21, 2017 3 min read

Which CB or HAM Radio should I get for my Jeep?

There's no one size fits all answer when choosing what type of radio should you get for off roading, but here are some considerations:

What is your club using?

Most clubs require at minimum that members carry a CB Radio, while others encourage use of a HAM Radio. See more on the pros/cons of CB vs. HAM below, but it is safe to say that a CB Radio is a must.

Considering a HAM Radio?

While not a deal breaker per se, one must be a licensed HAM operator to legally transmit using a HAM radio. However one could just listen to the instructions and HAM chat and respond if necessary using a CB.

Why use two radios? Well, the answer lies into one of the biggest advantages of HAM over CB radio: quality of reception. CB is very noisy, even more so when using a short, and/or inside the vehicle antenna. HAM, even handheld units, has a much, much, much cleaner and clearer reception.

Handheld or Vehicle Mounted radios?

Again, not a quick answer. There are big differences between handheld CB, vehicle mounted CB, handheld HAM, and vehicle mounted HAM radios.

Handheld Radios

Let's start with their two biggest advantages:

Convenience

Moving from vehicle to vehicle, particularly when using one of our clip-on is super easy.

Cost

Typically handhelds are cheaper when compared to their vehicle mounted counterparts.

 

However, hand held radios do have some significant disadvantages as well:

Shorter range

For CB radios (which are limited by the FCC to a maximum of 3 watts, regardless of their form factor (hand held or not)) this is mainly due to their smaller antenna. This can be somewhat mitigated by use of an external antenna, but this kind of defeats their convenience advantage. In addition to shorter antenna (compared to vehicle mounted units) hand held HAM radios have their transmission power limited by their battery, thus most are capped at 5 watts, although some claim 8 watts.

Poor ergonomics

From small screens and buttons, to the fact that one must handle the whole unit to speak, hand held radios are not as easy to use. However, some units allow use of an external mic (which can also include a more powerful speaker), which when combined to one of our clip-on or visor radio mounts, can provide much better handling. Nonetheless, lack of an external antenna, factory limited transmission power, and battery power are still major minuses.

Operation Complexity

Most units (HAM in particular, but CB are not immune either) have horrible, complex, incomprehensible manuals and menus. Chinese units are the worst, but even better units such as Yaesu, Icom, or Kenwood can be guilty of this as well.

Vehicle Mounted Radios

Let's start with their two biggest advantages:

Ergonomics

Larger screens and bigger buttons make those units far easier to use when compared with hand held units. One big problem is introduced, that of mounting the CB or HAM mic within easy reach, but this can definitely be solved by one of our mic mounts.

Increased range

CB radios (which are limited by the FCC to a maximum of 3 watts, regardless of their form factor (hand held or not)) will now use a much larger and efficient external antenna mounted outside the vehicle, resulting in a better range. Vehicle mounted HAM radios have much more power, ranging from 20 watts to 50 watts or more. Add an external antenna and 20, 30, or even 50 mile transmission radius is now possible.

As with anything, there are some distinct disadvantages as well:

Installation Difficulty

Installation can range from 1 to 10 hours, depending on your rig and your experience. Most are easy to install tough, given patience and proper read of the Manual. Not for our mic mounts though: all are super easy to install.

Operation Complexity

Most units (HAM in particular, but CB are not immune either) have horrible, complex, incomprehensible manuals and menus. Chinese units are the worst, but even better units such as Yaesu, Icom, or Kenwood can be guilty of this as well.


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