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markwebster

radios for windy belays

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Can anyone recommend a good brand of radios for communicating on windy belays? I'm deaf on one side, so hearing can be a challenge on long windy belays, or places like castle where the traffic is very noisy and you're 50 meters up.

 

REI sells these:

rei radios

but I'm wondering if there is something better. I have some cheap k-mart ones...and they work, but the damn switch comes on in my pack.

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REI also sells these. They're cheap to replace when your partner (or you) drop one and they've worked well for me on the few occasions I've used them.

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Lots of good radios out there although they aren't as hardy as they used to be when they cost big bucks.

 

Things to consider...

 

Privacy codes are essential to avoid hassle.

Care with the power button. Power Buttons that twist on tend to turn themselves on or get turned on in the pack. You'd have to tape them off like some headlamps.

 

If you have hearing problems, note that some radios have a plug for an earpiece.

 

Batteries add considerable weight and these radios come in light, medium and heavy sizes. Batteries last longer in the ones that take 3 AAs and they work better with NiMH rechargables. 3-4 AAA batterie radios are lighter but batteries don't last as well.

 

Peace

 

Karl

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Good points Karl, thanks.

 

I work in an industry where we're constantly communicating via 2-way outdoors. Used to use the larger, professional-type Motorola 2-way radios. Everything we do now is with little, lightweight FRS 2-ways like the Motorola units spotly linked to, or via cell phone. If you can get your earbud system down, good on ya, but none of my 15 or so coworkers use one. The few that tried tossed em. All simply speak and listen directly from the hand-held unit. Regarding wind Mark--you likely know this but I'll mention it anyway--main thing is for the speaker to turn so wind is not blowing into the mike.

 

For actual climbing, I like the old-fashioned ways. Shouting or rope tugs.

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I use a set like these, but mine are 26 mile not 30.

Midland Radios at REI

They are water proof and have a vibrate feature and have worked well for me. I have talked from the summit of Mt Hood to Cloud Cap as well as down to Timberline Lodge. Also from the summit of Mt Shasta down to Bunny Flats parking lot. So the range is good. Line of sight of course, but good. I take one even when solo for the weather updates as well as just incase. I also take the rechargeable battery pack out when in my pack so I don’t have to worry about it coming on. I have used the headsets at times and its nice if I’m around others so they don’t have to hear all the needless chatter.

 

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I've used a pair of Cobra brand frs radios for ten years or so, with an earbud/handsfree microphone - generic, as far as I know. It's not perfect, but it does the job. Mine are fairly old, and short range, but this is not an issue when communicating from 60 meters. As far as brands go, Motorola has been the gold standard for handheld radios for as long as I can remember. I prefer the models that use regular AA or AAA batteries over the rechargeable models, because my trips are often several days long.

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mark,

don't know if you can still find them, but I have a pair of these:

 

Motorola TalkAbout 200

 

It's a model that I bought back in the late 1990s from Costco for about $100/pair, and they're still going strong 10 years later. I think the model may have morphed into something more like what spotly posted above. I use these old radios all the time on rescue missions, too, so it's not like they're a museum piece that sits at home in glass display case. They get worked pretty damned hard, and they've functioned in the cold, rain, snow, whatever.

 

KarlBaba and Steve (pindude) gave some good tips, too. My radios have a button to push to turn them on and off, but you have to hold it for several seconds to make it activate, much like your cell phone does, so it's an unlikely event that it turns itself on or off in your pack. They have the privacy subchannels and the port for the earbud as well. It's billed as a 2-mile LOS range, but my longest contact was from the Turtle on Rainier to the wife at Cougar Rock CG. I think that's like 8 miles as the crow flies.

 

One thing that we've found: It is best to talk "across" the mic instead of "into" it. Basically, picture it this way: if the radio is around your neck or tied to your pack's shoulder strap, with the face of the radio facing out (forward), don't pick it up and talk straight into the face of it. Instead, leave it where is it and bend your head down (for neck mount) or to the side (shoulder strap mount) and just talk normally in the radio's general direction with your voice traveling across, and parallel to, the face of the radio. The static and breath sounds are greatly reduced.

 

They work great at shorter range when there is no direct LOS to transmit across. I've used them on climbs where there are significant roofs between the belays, around blind corners, etc. At 60 meters, the LOS "limitation" thing doesn't really apply. I can truly say that I've never been happier with a radio than with this one. Just don't know if you can still get it, or if its successor is any better.

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EdsPans and I have a pair of the yellow ones MarkWebster posted above.

 

I like them ok. I have crappy hearing and they definitely help on windy belays and wandering routes.

 

However there is a certain headache factor as they do tend to turn on in the pack and burn through batteries, so we started reversing a battery when not in use. They're also not that loud, which can be a problem when it's really honking.

 

The weight is also a factor.

 

A fourth complaint, if I may, is that the clip to attach them to yourself is a little funky, and there's nowhere to attach a lanyard. After a disastrous afternoon this winter when the radio fell out of my pocket and got buried in a snowdrift, leaving my partner screaming into a blizzard, we created a sort of duct-tape-webbing harness so it now clips to my harness.

 

All caveats aside, I still use them at the Gunks and for alpine.

Edited by nkane

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The nice thing about the ones that I have is that it's a button, not a knob, that turns them on and off. As KarlBaba mentioned above, if your radio uses a knob, you'll probably have to duct tape it in place or do what you did (reverse a battery) to prevent accidental battery drain.

 

The other thing I like about mine is the attachment method. It came with a belt clip that literally sucked. The radio always stayed stuck to the clip, and I ended up having the clip come off whatever I had attached it to. So I threw the clip away and ran a lanyard through the hole at the top (there's one at the bottom of the radio, too). Just make sure that if you're going to be wearing it around your neck, use a cord light enough so that if you get stuck in a jam and are strangling yourself with the lanyard, you can break it off from around your neck without having to resort to huntin' up a knife.

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Costco has stocked (last winter, don't know if they still have them or not) a 3 pack of rechargeable 1 watt Motorola radios with VOX microphones for each. I think they were around $80 for the set.

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