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Two Way Radios & Summer Camps – What You Need to Know
Summer camp is in my blood. I started working at our local Boy Scout camp at age 14 and spent the next 8 summers working at the staff camp. I worked as a counselor, at Ranger HQ, in the Dining Room, and at almost every other job except camp director. I know you, your passion for kids and camping, and your disdain for thinking about buying more two-way radios. I hope this article provides some insight into the different classes of two-way radios available to you along with some pros and cons.
Two-way radio manufacturers and the FCC have put two-way radios into different classes, FRS, Business Commercial, and Professional. Although prices increase with each classification, radios are not necessarily better. Yes, it has more features and maybe more durability, but a walkie-talkie is just a walkie-talkie. Buying more two-way radios than you need does not mean you will have a better walkie-talkie experience. Here’s what you should look for.
Power. A typical summer camp is at least on campus, and often on hundreds of acres in the woods. Handheld two-way radios come in wattages ranging from 1 to 5 watts. The higher the wattage, the greater the range, but going from 1 to watt won’t double your range. Each increase in power typically results in 20% more range. The biggest thing you can do to increase your reach is to invest in affordable digital two-way radios.
UHF or VHF. I always recommend UHF because UHF penetrates buildings and trees better.
FRS, business, commercial or professional. No summer camp should use a professional two-way radio unless it is given to you for free. Nor do we suggest using FRS two-way radios. You’ll find the batteries and sound quality leave something to be desired. There are affordable business and commercial two-way radios at a number of price points. They will give you the best value for your money.
Waterproof or not? The only employees who need a waterproof two-way radio are those who jump into the lake. As long as the radio you’re looking for has an IP54 rating or higher, your walkie-talkies will be durable enough to withstand any rainstorm that comes your way.
Compatibility. Don’t buy something that makes your existing two-way radios obsolete. The more walkie-talkies you have in your campsite, the safer your campsite is. Most manufacturers make two-way radios that are backward compatible with other two-way radios. It is important to note that UHF two-way radios will not work with VHF two-way radios.
Budget. Prices for two-way radios range from $20 a pair to $2,000 apiece. The vast majority of campers can use a 5 watt radio with lots of channels and plenty of battery life in this price range.
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