AEEM Guide FRS Two-Way Radios
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The Family Radio Service (FRS) was created by the FCC to allow families and other groups to talk among themselves while hiking, shopping, and camping by using low-cost walkie talkies. FRS radios are manufactured by a variety of professional radio manufacturers including Motorola, Uniden, Midland and Cobra (known for their CB radios.) These units tend to cost less than $100 for a pair. Radios which include NOAA weather broadcasts are closer to $100 each, but well worth it while hiking or camping because they allow you to keep update on changing weather.

Channels, Power, and Privacy Codes

Radios that operate on up to 14 channels have only FRS frequencies, transmit with only 1/2 watt of power, and do not require an FCC license. Those offering 22 channels include GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) channels and can transmit on those with 1 to 3 watts. Usage of the GMRS channels requires an FCC license ($80.) You are not required to get a GMRS license even if your radio has 22 channels as long as you do not transmit on the GMRS channels.

All else equal, go for radios with higher transmitting power. The advantage of transmitting with 1 watt versus only 1/2 watt is better range. A 1 watt radio can communicate over a mile, while a 1/2 watt will get you only a few blocks. With 3 watts you could talk for several miles.

Like with CB radios, even with all these channels available, it is possible to bump into other families talking on your channel when you are at a large amusement park. FRS radios have a feature called "privacy codes" that allows you to hear only your own family. Most radios have 30 or more privacy codes; however, these radios are notorious for allowing bleed-over and other interference, so don't expect professional quieting and audio quality. But for all around keeping in touch, these radios work fine.


When biking together, a hands-free headset with boom mike or tie-clip mike is a great attachment. Make sure the FRS radio you buy has a hands-free transmit VOX setting, which means it transmits just by hearing you speak. Of course, coughing, a loud siren, or other noise would cause unintended transmissions, too.

Most FRS radios take AA batteries, and a set would last all day hiking and transmitting. If you plan to use them frequently (such as while working at a food booth at a fair), you'll want to have NiCad rechargeable batteries with a drop-in charger. Batteries charge overnight.

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