Article from ARB 4×4.
“I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of ragged mountain ranges, of droughts and flooding rains.” Dorothea Mackellar famously wrote the poem “My Country” back in the early 1900s and her memorable description of Australia is one that has captured the hearts of Australians for years.
Anyone who has spent time touring Australia will know first-hand the perpetual landscape Mackellar recounted that lies outside the cities, an array of backdrops and wildlife. While traversing the country, there can be kilometres of open land between towns and if something was to go wrong, you could be waiting quite a while for help from a passerby.
If you’ve gone wheeling in the bush, down steep declines, through river crossings and across the mountainous ranges with a convoy of mates and suddenly another vehicle is coming up the track towards you, being able to give your convoy the heads up and get everyone pulled over to allow safe passage could save you time and headaches.
In order to save yourself in these or plenty of other situations, install a UHF radio in your vehicle before you head off on your next trip. This article covers some of the things to consider when looking at buying or using a UHF.
There are two different radios, a 40-channel and an 80-channel, with an 80-channel being the more common and modern version. The difference between the two, other than the number of channels, is the band width. A 40-channel radio works on a wide band, expecting signals of 25kHz, whereas an 80-channel radio works on a narrow band, expecting signals of 12.5kHz. Both versions can contact each other; however, the transmission can be skewed if coming from a different bandwidth. An 80-channel receiving a 40-channel could be significantly louder and distorted and a 40-channel receiving an 80-channel could be quiet and difficult to hear. For best results, using radios with the same bandwidth will receive and send concise and clear transmissions. Below is a list of Australian channels for use:
All other channels are for general use.
ADVERTISE YOUR CHANNEL
If you are spending most of your days on the road (i.e. living in a caravan), it pays to advertise your channel to other road users via a sticker in your window or likewise so people can contact you if they need to.
Before beginning a trip, do a radio check to make sure everyone is on the same channel and their radios are working correctly. Finding out mid-trip that Barry took a wrong turn because he wasn’t on the right channel will be more hassle than a quick check at the beginning.
Scanning channels will pick up any activity on any available channel on your radio and pause briefly if found. It is recommend that you take note of the channel numbers it pauses on because if you do end up needing help, you can make contact with someone close to you.
When on channels, it pays to know the abbreviated terms to make transmissions short and clear and universally known. The following breaks down some well- known terms to help you on the road.
HOW TO CHOOSE A RADIO
There are several things to consider when buying a radio. Some questions to ask yourself may be:
> What brand is this UHF and is it a reputable company with good knowledge in the industry?
> Does the radio look like a good quality product with durable elements in its design and manufacture?
> What sort of product support can I expect when buying this radio?
> Does this radio come with decent and reliable warranty?
> Can I expect to be able to access technical support to ensure I am using it correctly and to its full potential?
> Is a long battery life something I should consider when choosing a radio?
> What is the output power of my radio (e.g. five watts will transmit further than one watt)?
> Does this product have an IP rating (for handheld models)?
> Are there any special features (e.g. XRS location services, instant replay functions, colour screens, etc.) that are important to me when choosing a model?
HOW TO CHOOSE AN AERIAL
Aerials are rated in decibels relative to isotropic (or dBi), which measures the gain (or distance) the aerial will send transmissions. The high-gain aerial will send transmissions long distances in flat terrain whereas a short- gain antenna will send transmissions short distances but is less likely to be obstructed by hills, buildings and bushland. A medium- gain aerial will meet in the middle of high and short.
The important question when choosing an aerial is what sort of driving will you be doing. If you travel long distances via the highway or do desert crossings, a high-gain aerial will be better suited. If you are going for a fourby in tight bushland, a short-gain aerial will be the one you need. If you are likely to do both kinds of driving on the one trip, you can either use a medium-gain aerial or use interchangeable aerials.
HANDHELD VS FIXED
Any 4WDer or long distance traveller should consider installing a fixed-mount radio. They are connected to your car, which means no risk of running out of battery, and will pick up long distances so you can find out if anything is coming towards you.
Handheld radios are good for anyone using radios on foot such as road workers, 4WD spotters and staff at events. These radios are good for short distances, limited time and in recovery situations.
ARB’S CHOSEN RADIO BRAND
GME are Australian-made products tested to survive the harsh Aussie conditions. All fixed-mount radios have a five-year warranty and handhelds have a two-year warranty.
While a large range of radios are available, GME’s two XRS models are a step above the rest. Featuring compact units, the XRS radio can be neatly tucked away while the user controls the radio via the handpiece. The unique XRS location services app tracks coordinates from any received transmission through the radio and logs it on the app – perfect for those times when you’re rocking up late to camp and you’re struggling to find your mates. Once you’ve got a copy from them, check out the app and it will pinpoint their exact location.
For aerials, there are a variety of gains and colours that you can choose from. Remember the points discussed when making your choice and consider GME’s AE4700 series, which allows you to change the whip without changing the spring base.