The Importance of Everyday Communications for a 4WDer

In everyday life, we share time and stories with friends who have similar interests. We might meet at a coffee shop or call over a phone, take part in group chats, but for most people, …

Club 4X4 Insurance
Apr 26 2023

In everyday life, we share time and stories with friends who have similar interests. We might meet at a coffee shop or call over a phone, take part in group chats, but for most people, communication is extremely important.

For the 4WDer, we can share each other’s experiences in so many ways. Chatting around the campfire, over a UHF as we travel or perhaps via social media over a smartphone with people some distance away.

I would like to take people on a journey over the coming weeks on how communication can be more successful in your 4WD set-up. We will be starting with simple solutions for both UHF and cellular mobile communications. Solutions that are extremely easy to add to your vehicle to assist you in your adventurous lifestyle.

I feel that every vehicle should have three basic set-ups.

  • UHF – hard mounted
  • UHF – hand held
  • Cellular booster system

One of the most frequently asked questions we get about our 4WD set-ups is “Why do you have two aerials?”

Great question! These two aerials are both extremely important to our 4WD adventures and photoshoots, which we carry out all around Australia. One is UHF and the other is cellular mobile.

It’s kind of funny in a way as I thought more people were aware of the capability of extending the range of your mobile services. I guess we have been using systems like this for along time. But at a recent 4WD show, it was one of the most common questions.

I feel that 4WDing with good communications like a UHF radio and good phone coverage is kind of important.

Let’s start with the UHF system. If you are driving in a convoy, having good UHF radio communications is essential to stay in touch, share experiences of the track you are driving through and provide safety calls of upcoming hazards. There are many brands and systems available to us in Australia, so we are spoilt for choice. But there are also a huge variety of prices attached to these different brands, so how do you know which product will work for you?

You will also need to decide as to which radio and aerial combination you purchase. It must be a daunting process for someone first looking at radio and aerial configurations. I have helped many people figure out what they really need in a good UHF system, and I believe it’s actually quite easy.

If you are purchasing with no experience, it might seem that the cheaper option will get you by. But if you are travelling in a convoy, I can tell you that you do not want to be the only person in the group who cannot hear or cannot be heard because you purchased a basic system based on price.

With communications like UHF, you really do get what you pay for, but they don’t need to be expensive either. My experience over many years of travelling with groups of other people whilst producing our photography is your UHF radio system is simply so important. I have seen so many cheap systems break and create frustration for the user and the rest of the convoy, simply because someone in the convoy bought the cheap option. Static, low volume on calls, and many broken aerials just to name a few. 4WDing will take you through varying conditions of tracks and the installation, in particular the aerial, needs to be able to handle the constant corrugations and bumps as you travel down the road.

It really is worth spending a little time to research the different radios available as there are some real success stories of Australian design. My pick of the brands is GME and with the experience I have had over many years of using their UHF radios and antennae’s, I am extremely happy to recommend their products. They simply work and keep working, but they also have many features available if you wanted to dive in deeper, to utilise this tech.

The most common solution of UHF I would suggest starting with is a radio with all the feature buttons and information displayed on the handset. This will allow for the installation of the bulky item to be hidden away behind the dash while you still have all the important information on the handset.

Another of the questions I am asked is how you know what size aerial will suit. They might be thick or thin, short or long. This can be quite confusing to the purchaser. The following link might make things easier to understand.

Understanding aerials DBi and Gain by GME

Usually, the longer aerial will suit greater distances over flat land and the shorter aerial would be more suited to hilly areas like the High Country. But this is all about DBi and Gain in each aerial. The great news is that you can buy a system which comes with the base and 2 aerials of different styles, which means that if you are heading to the High Country, you might change to the shorter unit and when you head to the outback, you can switch this out to the longer aerial.

These are the units that we run for our UHF solutions

Carrying a good handheld UHF radio is a great idea and I believe every glove box should have one charged up and ready to go. If you are 4WDing, this is essential to be able to assist someone through an obstacle.

If you are towing, this will become your best device to assist you reversing your van into position at camp. It is a common occurrence for the biggest stress during a caravan trip to develop when you are reversing a caravan into position and it would seem that everyone is watching you. Shouting directions to each other over the noise of your engine doesn’t help these situations, and for some people in the area, it can be quite funny, watching this all unfold.

If your navigator can call directions quietly over a handheld UHF radio, you will look like professionals, and all the people who have ventured out to watch the potential drama, will head back to what they were doing thinking, “they made that look easy.” We do the same at the launching ramp to help ensure our boat is ready and in position, the reversing of the trailer is better managed, and everything happens quickly and efficiently.

Whilst UHF systems can also be used to communicate on specific channels with trucking, forestry, and whilst travelling through some sand dunes, they are mainly used to help communicate with other parties in your convoy. Having a handheld UHF can assist by having the group leader running a second channel to monitor traffic whilst the convoy stays on their channel communicating with each other. This will reduce unwanted conversations on the local channel, which really should have chat kept to a minimum.

Whilst communications over UHF is realistically for local conversation within your group, having good phone coverage can assist in creating opportunities to share with others your personal experiences whilst you travel. This might be a simple call to say hello, or it could be a wider social post. It might not be that important to all as some people would prefer to keep out of mobile coverage to escape the day to day. But if you are interested in staying in touch with the outside world, a good cellular booster and aerial is essential.

Our second aerial on both the Mighty 79 and the Sandy 60 are GME Cellular, aerials which feed into a cellular booster called a Cell Fi Go.

These boxes connect to the aerial and require power but are simple to use. The system is carrier specific, and has been known to provide full reception in areas that have minimal coverage. I use this system and depend on it during my travels, and Club 4X4 have tested them in the past too. They’re worth looking at as they’re invaluable in an emergency if mobile reception is patchy.

Cel-Fi GO – testing a device that boosts your mobile signal

I hope this helps, but if you already have this covered, we will be talking about bigger systems to assist in your communications in the coming weeks.


-Michael Ellem

Offroad Images

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