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How to Communicate with NO Cell Service or Internet (GMRS Recommendations)

To communicate without cell service or internet, you can use two-way radios, such as those operating on GMRS, FRS, or amateur (ham) radio frequencies. Ensure both radios are set to the same channel or frequency, and you’ll be able to communicate directly with each other over a range that depends on the radios’ power, terrain, and any physical obstructions. This method provides a reliable means of communication in areas lacking cell or internet connectivity.

If you want to skip all the technical stuff and just get right to the recommendations, click here.

How to Communicate with NO Cell Service or Internet

In this post:

My Choice: Communication via GMRS Radio

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) provides a licensed radio communication option in the United States, operating within the 462 MHz and 467 MHz frequency bands.

Here’s a technical overview of GMRS

  1. Licensing: Required by the FCC for operation, covering the licensee and immediate family. Non-commercial use only. While I strongly recommend getting the license. If society begins to unravel and you’re in a situation where you NEED to communicate with family, a license will be meaningless.
  2. Frequency and Power: Utilizes 462–467 MHz bands with power limits up to 50 watts for base and mobile units, while handhelds typically range from 1-5 watts.
  3. Channels and Codes: Offers dedicated channels within its frequency range, supplemented by CTCSS/DCS codes for reduced channel interference. These codes do not encrypt communications.
  4. Communication Range: Variable, influenced by power output, geographic terrain, and environmental obstructions. Open area range significantly exceeds urban settings.
  5. Equipment Variety: Includes handheld, mobile, and base station units, selected based on range, functionality, and operational requirements.
  6. Dual-Service Radios: Many devices support both FRS and GMRS, enabling license-free operation on FRS channels or licensed operation on GMRS channels.
  7. Applications: Suited for remote communication where cellular networks are unavailable, such as outdoor adventures, vehicle convoys, and emergency family scenarios.
  8. Regulatory Compliance: Adherence to FCC regulations governing channel use, power limits, and operational etiquette is mandatory.
  9. License Validity: The GMRS license has a ten-year duration, requiring renewal and associated fees.
  10. Interoperability: Compatibility with FRS radios on shared channels facilitates broader communication networks.

If I have two GMRS radios can I communicate with nothing else?

Yes, if you have two radios that are compatible (i.e., they operate on the same frequency bands and modes), you can communicate directly with each other without the need for any additional infrastructure like repeaters or internet-based systems. This type of communication is often referred to as “simplex” communication, where radios transmit and receive on the same frequency.

For successful simplex communication, consider the following:

  1. Frequency Match: Both radios must be set to the same frequency or channel.
  2. Range Limitations: The effective communication range will depend on the radios’ power output, the surrounding terrain, and any potential obstructions. Typically, handheld radios have a range of a few miles under optimal conditions, but this can vary widely.
  3. Line of Sight: For VHF and UHF radios, having a clear line of sight between the radios can significantly enhance communication range. Obstacles like buildings, hills, and trees can attenuate the signal.
  4. Power Source: Ensure both radios are adequately charged or have a reliable power source to maintain communication.
  5. Antenna: The efficiency and placement of the antenna can also impact the communication range. Sometimes, using an aftermarket antenna that’s better suited to your specific needs can improve performance.

Direct communication between two radios is a straightforward and effective way to stay in touch over short to moderate distances, making it ideal for various activities such as hiking, camping, or coordinating work in areas without cellular coverage.


How can I make my radio transmit further?

To extend the transmission range of your radio, using a repeater significantly enhances its ability to communicate over longer distances. A repeater receives your radio’s signal and retransmits it at a higher power and from a location typically higher or unobstructed, allowing the signal to cover greater distances than a direct transmission from your radio alone.

Here’s how a repeater works to increase your radio’s range:

  1. Reception: It captures your radio’s signal, which might be weak or hindered by obstacles.
  2. Amplification: The repeater boosts the strength of your signal, mitigating any loss or noise.
  3. Re-transmission: It then sends out this amplified signal at a higher power and usually on a different frequency to avoid interference with the incoming signal.
  4. Elevated Placement: Repeaters are often placed on high ground or atop buildings to maximize coverage by overcoming geographical and man-made obstructions.
  5. Efficient Antenna System: Utilizing specialized antennas, sometimes combined with a duplexer for shared transmit/receive functions, further ensures the extended reach of your signal.

Incorporating a repeater into your communication setup allows your radio to achieve far greater coverage, making it an effective solution for extending the transmission range beyond what’s possible through direct radio-to-radio communication.

How do I find a GMRS repeater near me?

Finding a GMRS repeater near you involves a few steps, leveraging both online resources and local community connections. Here’s how you can locate a GMRS repeater in your area:

  1. Online Repeater Directories: Websites like RepeaterBook.com maintain up-to-date listings of GMRS repeaters across the United States. These sites allow you to search by location, providing details such as frequency, tone, and sometimes the coverage area of each repeater.
  2. GMRS Licensing Resources: The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website and the Universal Licensing System (ULS) database can sometimes offer information about licensed GMRS repeaters. However, these sources may require more effort to navigate and extract specific repeater details.
  3. Local Radio Clubs: Joining a local GMRS or amateur radio club can connect you with experienced operators who can share information about repeaters in your area. Clubs often maintain their own repeaters and can offer guidance on accessing and using them.
  4. Social Media and Online Forums: Online communities and social media groups focused on GMRS and two-way radio communications are valuable resources. Members frequently share information about repeaters, including those not listed in the major directories.
  5. Ham Radio Events and Meetings: Attend local ham radio swap meets, events, or club meetings. Even though ham radio and GMRS are different services, there’s a significant overlap in the community, and ham operators can often provide information on local GMRS repeaters.

When you find a repeater, remember to check its usage rules and whether it requires permission or membership to access. Some repeaters are open for public use, while others may be private or require users to be part of an organization.


GMRS Purchase Recommendations

After a lot of research I’ve found not only the GMRS product(s) I highly recommend but who to purchase from too. I’ve talked (over the phone) extensively with Anthony (Chief Operating Officer) at buytwowayradios.com and am perfectly confident in what they offer. Let’s break it down:

  1. Custom Programming: Their Wouxun radios are custom-programmed, ensuring they are ready to use with optimal settings for efficient communication.
  2. Exclusive User Manual: The company produces its own user manuals for the radios, indicating a deep understanding of the products and a commitment to customer education.
  3. Accessible Customer Support: With 16 employees based in South Carolina, customers have direct access to knowledgeable support for any questions or assistance needed.
  4. Comprehensive Warranty: A 1-year warranty guarantees protection and ensures that your units and components remain fully operational, offering peace of mind.
  5. Easy to Understand: Custom Prepper Kit
    • Two Wouxun KG-805G GMRS Two-Way Radios: Highly popular for their power, channel support (all 30 GMRS channels, including simplex and repeater channels), and additional features such as 128 programmable memory channels, CTCSS/DCS codes, and a three-color LCD display.
    • Two Spare High Capacity Batteries: Provide extended usage time, crucial for long periods without access to charging facilities.
    • Two Nagoya NA-701G GMRS Antennas: These upgraded antennas enhance range and performance beyond the standard equipment.
    • Two Battery Eliminators: Facilitate the operation of your KG-805G radios directly from your vehicle, ensuring constant power supply.
    • Two “AA” Battery Cases: Offer the flexibility to power the radios with standard “AA” alkaline batteries, adding another layer of convenience.
    • Two USB DC Charger Cables: Allow for versatile charging options by connecting the desktop charger to any USB port.
  6. Prepper and Survivalist Essentials: The kit includes a laminated, waterproof frequency list & 333 Plan card, covering emergency frequencies and protocols across various radio services. This tool is invaluable for preparedness and survival situations, providing key communication channels at a glance.

As mentioned in the list above, the pre-prepped kit is perfect for a family/couple wanting a simple communication option if cell and internet aren’t available. Details below.

Here are My 3 Recommended GMRS Options

If you want to communicate with family (no extras) and you want weather alerts and more radio options, purchase the Prepper Walkie Talkie Kit + (1) Advanced GMRS Radio (that’s what we have). This will provide you with 3 communication devices, one of which has more features (like weather data).

If it’s just two of you and you want the advanced features on both radios, go with the Advanced GMRS Radio Kit. Details below.


Prepper Walkie Talkie Kit – Family Communication Package (2 Radios + Accessories)

Purchase Online WHEN ORDERING: use coupon code BUCKHORN for a discount.

Wouxun KG-805G GMRS Two Way Radio
Prepper Walkie Talkie Kit - Family Comm Package (2 Radios)

The Prepper Walkie Talkie Kit – Family Comm Package by BTWR Essentials is a comprehensive and cost-effective solution for families or couples needing reliable communication when cell and internet services are down, such as in severe weather or emergencies. It includes everything needed for immediate, effective off-grid communication, like two durable Wouxun KG-805G GMRS Two-Way Radios that cover all GMRS channels, additional high-capacity batteries, upgraded antennas for extended range, and vehicle power options. The kit also features a waterproof emergency frequency list, ensuring users have essential communication channels at their fingertips. Designed with practicality in mind, it comes with all necessary accessories to keep you connected in critical situations, making it an excellent investment for preparedness and ensuring peace of mind.

WHEN ORDERING: use coupon code BUCKHORN for a discount.


Rugged Wouxun KG-935G Plus GMRS Two Way Radio

Purchase Online WHEN ORDERING: use coupon code BUCKHORN for a discount.

Wouxun KG-935G Plus GMRS Two-Radio

If you’re looking for a solid way to stay in touch when cell and internet are down, especially during emergencies, I highly recommend checking out the Wouxun KG-935G Plus. This radio goes above and beyond, offering not just clear communication on all GMRS channels but also the ability to tune into NOAA weather alerts, which is super handy in unpredictable situations. It’s incredibly user-friendly with dual receive on UHF and VHF, customizable channels to cut through interference, and even a built-in FM radio.

What really makes the KG-935G Plus stand out to me is its toughness and practicality. It’s water and dust-resistant, meaning it’s ready for any adventure you throw at it. Plus, the large, colorful display and backlit keypad make it easy to use in any lighting. It comes with a long-lasting battery, and there’s even a flashlight built in, which could be a lifesaver. All in all, this radio is a fantastic choice for anyone serious about keeping their communication lines open, no matter where they are or what they’re doing.

WHEN ORDERING: use coupon code BUCKHORN for a discount.


Rugged Wouxun KG-935G Plus GMRS Two-Radio Value Pack

Purchase Online WHEN ORDERING: use coupon code BUCKHORN for a discount.

Wouxun KG-935G Plus GMRS Two-Radio Value Pack
Wouxun KG-935G Plus GMRS Two-Radio Value Pack

When you grab a 2-pack of the Wouxun KG-935G Plus, you’re essentially doubling down on all the advanced features and rugged reliability that make this unit a standout for serious communicators and outdoor adventurers alike. Each radio in this duo packs the same punch—transmitting across all GMRS channels at up to 5.5 watts, offering dual receive on both UHF and VHF bands, and ensuring you’re always in the know with built-in NOAA weather alerts.

The real beauty of opting for the 2-pack is in the seamless integration and shared functionality between units. With 999 programmable channels, customizable CTCSS/DCS tones, and the ability to scan for split tones, setting up your pair to work together perfectly, or within a larger group, is straightforward. Both radios share the advanced features like the customizable Area Message, the Channel Wizard for easy programming, and enhanced durability with an IP66 rating. Plus, each radio comes fully equipped with a high-capacity battery, USB-C charging, and all the essential accessories. For families, teams, or prepper pairs, this 2-pack means you’re fully equipped to stay connected, no matter what the world throws your way.

Purchase Online WHEN ORDERING: use coupon code BUCKHORN for a discount.


Recap: Simplify This Information

In planning for communication without cell and internet services, GMRS radios stand out as a reliable option. They’re straightforward to use; just power on, sync the channel, and communicate. Remember, GMRS operation requires an FCC license, covering the licensee and their immediate family for non-commercial use. While I highly recommend securing this license, in extreme situations where society’s structure is compromised, the immediate need for communication surpasses licensing concerns.

Here’s a brief on the options and guidance for next steps:

  1. Prepper Walkie Talkie Kit (2 Radios): Ideal for easy, immediate communication needs. Perfect for those who want simplicity and reliability.
  2. Advanced GMRS Radio: Offers NOAA weather alerts, FM radio, and greater durability. Suitable for individuals seeking enhanced features in addition to reliable communication.
  3. Rugged Advanced GMRS Radio Kit (2 Radios): The best choice for comprehensive communication needs, providing all advanced features in both radios for every user.
  4. Enhanced Support & Custom Features: These radios come ready with custom programming for immediate and optimal use, backed by exclusive user manuals that reflect the company’s deep product knowledge and dedication to customer education. With a team of 16 based in South Carolina, you get direct access to expert support. Plus, a 1-year warranty ensures your gear stays up and running, offering peace of mind. This combination of personalized programming, robust support, and warranty protection makes it a top pick for those who value reliability and comprehensive service in their communication setup.

WHEN ORDERING: use coupon code BUCKHORN for a discount.

What to Do Next:

  • Families or Groups: Combine the Prepper Walkie Talkie Kit with an Advanced GMRS Radio for a mix of basic and enhanced communication tools. This setup offers three devices, ensuring both straightforward and advanced needs are met.
  • Couples/Small Groups Seeking Premium Features: Opt for the Rugged Advanced GMRS Radio Kit. This ensures every member has access to the full suite of features, including weather alerts and durability.

In summary, consider your group’s size and the necessity of advanced features across all devices. Whether you prioritize simplicity or comprehensive functionality, there’s a GMRS option suited to your needs.


FAQ

What is the difference between GMRS and Ham radios?

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) offers straightforward, license-based communication without requiring a test, ideal for short-range, two-way contacts. It’s user-friendly for emergency readiness, with handheld and mobile radios. Ham (Amateur) Radio, requiring a test-based license, caters to enthusiasts seeking broader, technical communication pursuits, including long-distance and experimental radio activities. GMRS: accessibility for emergency communication. Ham Radio: comprehensive, hobbyist-oriented.

Best option for long range communication (not GMRS)?

For long-range communication beyond GMRS, Ham (Amateur) Radio is the best option. It offers a vast range of frequencies, modes, and the ability to use high-power transmitters and sophisticated antennas, facilitating global communication. Ham radio requires passing a licensing exam.

What’s the typical range of GMRS radios (with no repeater)?

The typical range of GMRS radios without a repeater can vary greatly depending on terrain, obstacles, and the radio’s power output. Generally, they can communicate over distances of 1 to 2 miles in urban areas with many obstructions and up to 5 to 25 miles in open, rural areas under optimal conditions.

Can GMRS work for communication across the United States?

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) isn’t suited for direct, nationwide communication due to its inherent range limits. However, by leveraging repeaters—devices that boost signal reach—it can enable wider-area connections. This approach may not support coast-to-coast talks directly but can significantly enhance communication scope through interconnected repeater networks. For truly national reach, exploring alternative communication modes or services would be advisable.

What’s the difference between GMRS and CB Radios?

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) requires a license for operation, offering higher power output and access to repeater systems, enhancing communication range. CB (Citizens Band) Radio operates license-free with a lower power limit, restricting its range but promoting ease of use. GMRS allows for dedicated frequencies for personal or family use, while CB is open, facilitating broader, albeit more congested, public access.

Are these the same thing as Baofeng?

While Baofeng radios are indeed affordable and versatile, covering various bands, their legality in the US has been questioned due to the lack of an FCC ID. However, it’s important to clarify that Wouxun and Baofeng are distinct entities, with no rebranding activities between them. Wouxun’s products are genuine GMRS radios, designed to comply with regulations and offer reliable communication solutions, underscoring the separate paths these brands have taken in the market.

What’s the distance of GMRS?

The distance GMRS radios can cover varies widely based on terrain, antenna type, and power output. Generally, handheld GMRS radios can communicate over distances of 1 to 2 miles, while more powerful setups with external antennas can reach 5 to 25 miles under optimal conditions. Using repeaters, GMRS radios can communicate over much greater distances, effectively linking areas separated by hundreds of miles under certain configurations.

Does GMRS use cell towers?

No, GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) does not use cell towers. GMRS operates on designated frequencies that are independent of cellular networks. Communication via GMRS involves direct two-way radio transmissions or through GMRS repeaters that enhance the range of these radios, but it does not involve or rely on cellular network infrastructure or cell towers.

How do I prepare for an EMP if I want to use GMRS?

To prepare for an EMP while planning to use GMRS, focus on protecting your equipment. Consider storing radios and essential components in Faraday cages or similar EMP-proof containers to shield them from electromagnetic pulses. Also, familiarize yourself with manual operation and setup of your equipment, as reliance on digital manuals or internet resources might not be feasible post-EMP. Developing a communication plan that includes meeting points and scheduled check-ins can enhance your preparedness, ensuring you’re ready to use GMRS effectively even in challenging conditions.

Would repeaters be affected by an EMP?

Yes, repeaters, like most electronic devices, could be affected by an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse). An EMP can damage or destroy electronic equipment that is not specifically hardened against such an event, due to the intense electromagnetic energy released. The extent of the damage would depend on the EMP’s strength, the repeater’s proximity to the EMP source, and whether any protective measures are in place.

If the power grid is down would a repeater still work for me?

If the power grid is down, a repeater might still work if it has an alternative power source, like batteries or a solar power system. However, its operational capacity would depend on the duration of the power outage and the repeater’s backup power longevity. Without electricity or backup power, the repeater would not function.

What’s the difference between GMRS and FRS?

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) and FRS (Family Radio Service) are both two-way radio services. GMRS requires a license, offers higher power output (up to 50 watts), and can use repeaters for extended range. FRS is license-free, limited to lower power output (2 watts or less), and cannot use repeaters, making it suitable for short-range communication.

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How to Communicate with NO Cell Service or Internet (GMRS Recommendations)

Paul

Tuesday 26th of March 2024

How do you recommend keeping communications secure with radios of shtf?

Rob Benson

Thursday 28th of March 2024

I'm not completely sure what you mean by keeping communications secure. We like the idea of code words for the family when speaking on an open channel.

Colleen

Tuesday 19th of March 2024

How do I buy 3 of these GMRS devices so my whole family can communicate in 3 separate locations? And how does one access a repeater? This is completely outside my wheelhouse so I appreciate your input!

Rob Benson

Wednesday 20th of March 2024

I would go with this: Prepper Walkie Talkie Kit and then this one: Advanced GMRS Radio (this one will get you FM frequency and weather alerts too).

You can locate repeaters here: https://www.repeaterbook.com/index.php/en-us/ (to use a repeater, you'll need to get a license).

Bob Rives

Monday 18th of March 2024

How DO I purchase solar powered repeaters? Will they work with Ham frequencies?

Rob Benson

Wednesday 20th of March 2024

Your best bet is to reach out to customer service and they'll guide you to the exact setup that'll make the most sense for you. Click any of the links for the radios in the post to get access to customer support.

Alexander

Saturday 16th of March 2024

How many miles does it have like how long the range can you talk on ?

Rob Benson

Sunday 17th of March 2024

The effective communication range will depend on the radios’ power output, the surrounding terrain, and any potential obstructions. Typically, handheld radios have a range of a few miles under optimal conditions, but this can vary widely.

Incorporating a repeater into your communication setup allows your radio to achieve far greater coverage, making it an effective solution for extending the transmission range beyond what’s possible through direct radio-to-radio communication.

Charles

Friday 15th of March 2024

Live in Alaska and would like to have communications that really works . It has been suggested that even ham radio may not always work. What are your suggestions. Family to family we are all basically on the road system, but 300 miles apart and across at least 2 mountain passes. Thanks for your suggestions.

Rob Benson

Saturday 16th of March 2024

If there are repeaters you can access that'd be possible. However, in that situation, I believe Ham radios will be your best bet.