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Important Advice: Why you need to add 2 way radio for RV travel and camping

| Updated Aug 15, 2020

Here's an extra I bet you never thought you'd need: 2 way radio for RV travel and camping.

Cell phones don't always work when you are way out in the boonies. And we do a lot of boondocking.

So we just added pair of small little walky-talky 2 way radios and a powerful mobile transceiver that can greatly expand the range and create a communications network that is like a combination of the old Citizens Band Radio and the longer-ranged amateur radio service, 

We also got a receive-only unit that we think is a must-have for any RVer.

If you are counting, that's four radios in all, all from the folks at Midland Radio, the U.S. affiliate of an international conglomerate that has been making 2 way radios for over 50 years, This year, they are making a major push into the RV market and sent us several of their units to review.

I'm a big-time radio junkie, a licensed amateur radio operator (ham call K8ZRH), a CB radio user from back in the 70's and a fan of all forms of electronic communication. And since I have been seeking an alternate to CB radio for RV use, I jumped at the opportunity. 

Here is the video review of the radios, including a section on the install. After you watch it, scroll through the rest of this article for details and links.

Let’s start with the radio that just receives.

The Midland ER210 Emergency Radio

photo of crank up radio mentioned in our two way radio in RV review

It’s the emergency weather crank up radio Model 210. We plan always keep this in the RV as we travel. It runs on batteries and, if they should die, the crank will charge them and provide power. It receives NOAA weather radio and regular AM and FM broadcasts.

Weather is the biggest unknown in camping and this radio will keep us from being caught unprepared.

Plus it has a flashlight, that can also be charged with the hand crank.

This is just a good, basic thing to have in case of any emergency, or for everyday use. It costs about $50 on Amazon.

2 way Radio for RV – the XTalker FRS handheld radios

photo of the xtalker two way radio in RV
The XTalker 2 way radio RV unit we have. We have a pair of them and get from 1-5 miles of range, depending on the terrain

We have two of the XTalker handheld units – helpful and affordable 2 way radio for RV accessories.

There are all sorts of RV uses for these.

When we’re backing into a campsite, especially if there are trees and things to navigate around when we’re boondocking, Jennifer can stand in back and help direct me. You can watch the video to see an example.

photo of Jennifer using 2 way radio for rv handheld to drect Mike as he backs into a space
Jennifer using 2 way radio for RV handheld to direct Mike as he backs into a camping space

 When we have friends following in another RV behind us caravan style, we can give one to them and communicate.

The range is between one and 5 miles, depending n the terrain.

These operate on what is known as the Family Mobile Radio Service. They cost about $80 for a pair of them. No license is required. They can scan NOAA weather radio. They can be set to any of 36 different channels and routinely, we can get a mile or sometimes EVEN more range from them.

2 way Radio for RV: The Midland MicroMobile transceiver

Photo of the controls for the MicroMobile 2 way radio for rv transceiver are all in the microphone
The controls for the MicroMobile 2 way radio for RV transceiver are all in the microphone

And that takes us to the fourth 2 way radio for RV that we have: A 15-watt radio that is mounted inside the RV with a small little antenna.

It’s the Midland MicroMobile and it is extremely compact. The microphone controls everything. All the controls are built into mic. And this unit covers both the Family Radio Service and the General Mobile Radio Service.

The handhelds work on the low powered Family Radio Service.

But the MicoMobile 2 way radio for RV works on both services.

The difference: More power is allowed on the GMRS. The transceiver we have is a 15-watt radio that Midland claims can communicate up to 50 miles. I'm a bit skeptical of that claim but there's little doubt 15 watts gets out further than the low powered handheld (less than a watt). The full power capability of the MicroMobile is used on GMRS. It drops back to lower power automatically when used on the FRS.

You are supposed to apply to the FCC for a license to operate on the GMRS, by the way. But there’s no test and its basically just some paperwork (and a $70 fee) you need to file for license good for 10 years.

But what is so cool about the MicroMobile is that it is cross-compatible, meaning it can communicate with the small low powered walkie talkies on the Family Radio Service frequencies, too.

And on the highway, it can go to high power to talk to other General Mobile Radio service transceivers at distances that are usually way more than CB radio is effective. Increasingly, truck drivers are adding GMRS radios to their rigs, supposedly hanging out on Channel 7. Jeep owners, ATVers, and offroading enthusiasts have also been using radios like this for several years now. 

The reception of clear and crisp without the static and squeals of CB radio. It reminds me of ham radio in that regard.

Installation of this 2 way radio for RV is not overly challenging but does take some effort, especially when getting the external antenna to work on the fiberglass roof of our RV. (See the video).

We’re going to give all these radios a good test over the next couple of months and see just how applicable they are for RV use.

Stay tuned.

Curious about the gear, gadgets, accessories, and RV products Mike & Jennifer use and recommend?

On this RV Lifestyle Travel blog, our RV Podcast and our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel, Mike and Jennifer mention all sorts of RV-related products and gear that they use, So they created a special page that lists all the different items they talk about and show. CLICK HERE to go to it directly.

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Mike Wendland

Published on 2020-08-15

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

7 Responses to “Important Advice: Why you need to add 2 way radio for RV travel and camping”

August 17, 2020at6:32 pm, Rick Filcoff W0RCF said:

Mike and Jennifer,
Nice article! In addition to using handheld FMRS radios and (me) using a 2-meter Yaseu HT-70DR, we have emergency broadcast apps (for weather and other alerts) on our phones that work anywhere we have internet access, which is most places to which we RV.
Rick W0RCF

August 15, 2020at6:11 pm, Dean Mueller said:

Great article and video as usual! I’d love to hear an update with how you are using amateur radio today. I think it’s been a few years since your last update. WD0FEW

August 15, 2020at12:02 pm, Jim Bridge said:

Great info. 73 de K7LA Jim
Lake Havasu City, AZ

August 15, 2020at10:47 am, Tod Grubbs said:

Great post! We have been using 2-way radios for several years. I have a set of Motorola HT750’s in the UHF band programmed for FRS and GRMS frequencies and an FAA GMRS Lic as well as an Amature Radio lic, N5XUD. They come in handy in many of the locations we travel for photography.

August 15, 2020at9:51 am, Gary Martin said:

Interesting tidbit for your Canadian followers:

In Canada, hand-held GMRS radios up to 2 watts have been approved for use without a license since September 2004.
Typically these are dual FRS and GMRS units, with fixed antennas, and operating at 2 watts on some GMRS channels and 0.5 watts on the FRS-only channels.
Mobile units (permanently mounted in vehicles), base stations and repeaters are not currently permitted on the GMRS channels in Canada.

August 15, 2020at9:20 am, George said:

Are radios compatible with Canadian rules and frequencies?

August 15, 2020at8:41 am, John1470 said:

What’s the status on the ?? interNet system you were testing out sometime back?

Comments are closed.

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