UHF Handhelds - Help Needed.

Submitted: Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 21:46
ThreadID: 30039 Views:2608 Replies:12 FollowUps:7
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Hi All,
About to embark on a 4WD trip into the Dargo/Wonangatta area and with the current fire situation and heading out as a single vehicle thought it'd be wise to invest or hire a UHF radio.

But...I have been told that they are not able to give me info (fire reports/fire bans, etc) or the abilty to gain assistance unless someone is within close proximity or as they say...line of sight - true or false?

Obviously Sat Phone is the ideal but surely UHF's are of some use...as well as being somewhat easier on the pocket.
Any feedback would be appreciated as I am an obvious novice when nit comes to CB/UHF radios!!!
Thanks,
Matt...
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Reply By: GazzaS (VIC) - Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 21:56

Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 21:56
Hi Matt

UHF is fairly close to line of sight in simplest terms. For a hand held will definitely be so. By using different arials that have different Db charactersitics you can bend over hills etc.

Another factor is the channels. I doubt if any of the "official" fire people will operate on public frequencies (I just do not know) but there are a number of non public frequencies above UHF40. these can sometimes be accessed if you have a unit with extra channels and provided they are programmed in.

Which way are you headed and how comfortable are you and the vehicle with rough terrain? It can be pretty steep going from the valley to Dargo and fairly rough up the Zeka Spur track - nothing too serious just character building. In the current conditions I would not fancy trying to get out quickly if there was even a hint of a fire on the way.

IMO unless you have a lot of experience and a well set up vehicle I would not take on the additional challenge in this environment. If you came in from the north via Mansfield it is a better route but much longer but just as exposed. We were there at xmas and there is an enormous amount of fuel on the forest floor surrounding the valley - frightening!

stay safe
AnswerID: 150442

Follow Up By: atoyot - Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:15

Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:15
" I doubt if any of the "official" fire people will operate on public frequencies (I just do not know)"

They use public channels for vehicle to vehicle etc comms, but they probably don't want to be having too many conversations with the public in times of fire.

Andrew
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Reply By: 4145derek - Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:01

Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:01
I have both a sat phone and the icom 40s portable 5w uhf.

I won't leave either at home on a outback trip.

If cash is a problem just buy the icom and fit a good arial. I have found this a good hiking tool as well as an asset on the road.

Olbis is a good supplier (07) 3875 1462 they will also price match on ebay prices.

Regards Derek

ebay
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Follow Up By: 4145derek - Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:03

Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:03
New Link
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Follow Up By: 4145derek - Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:04

Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:04
Sorry seems to be a dead link. Give Olbis a ring.
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Reply By: WR400 - Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:05

Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:05
Appreciate your response and your concern.

To be honest, I've done very little 4WDing and only hire vehicles....this time round we've rented a Prado. I am concerned about the fires like most of us out there and am likely to have a chage of heart and not go too deep into the 'unknown'.

Done the Wonangatta last year in a Navara.....it was awesome....didn't do the Zeka, went out thru Abbeyard way....this year we were contemplating going into the mack of Sheepyard...via Zeka and into Brocks....but your last communication indicates that I'd be a lunatic to tackle it.

Anyway, that all aside, I appreciate your response.

Matt...
AnswerID: 150447

Reply By: Darian (SA) - Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:07

Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:07
I think most experienced travellers would class UHF as great for local, high quality comms in general - they do have "reach" via repeaters but these stations are not always in range. So, "local" is the reasonable expectation of UHF (line of sight, as you say is a rough description). If you want reliable longer distance comms to cover most situations, consider hiring the said Satphone - in the case of someone intending to a fair bit of this "out of the way" travel, HF radio (with membership of a service provider/network) is my preferred option.
AnswerID: 150448

Reply By: desert - Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:09

Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:09
You can only consider UHF as short range, hand to vehicle or vehicle tovehicle comms. Trees, hills, valleys will block signals, and even if you do fluke a long distance carrier transmission, you won't necessarily know if you have been recieved. From high peaks you can often fluke CDMA or digital phone signal, but it's no guarantee either! Sat phone is 99%, but not 100% and expensive for a casual visit. Even a carrier pidgeon could get taken by a Hawk!
AnswerID: 150451

Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:53

Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 22:53
Matt,

Given the circumstances as you have explained, your most practical option is to purchase a 5 watt handheld UHF Radio. Don't make do with a lesser powered unit if it is your only one.

This will give you basic communications and by putting it on scan, you should pick up other travellers heading towards you that may provide relevant information on road conditions, etc. You can also "request" information. Other travellers also use scan to pick up other channels and usually answer your queries if they can.

If you buy your own 4WD at a later date, you can then install an external aerial to increase the range somewhat, or use the portable in conjunction with an "in-car" unit.

Price is around $350-$400 and any of the major brands, Uniden, GME, or Icom will all serve you well.

Check out Prestige Communications for competitive price and options.

Bill


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AnswerID: 150461

Follow Up By: Sand Man (SA) - Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 23:02

Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 23:02
Another thing of relevance.

Make sure you can power the handheld via the vehicle's cigarette lighter socket, or that you can recharge the internal battery via an Inverter unit (12 volt to 240 volt) as you travel. All the 5 watt units use a "built-in" rechargeable battery, usually Lithium Iron and are provided with a 240 volt charger.
Bill


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Reply By: Brett_B - Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 23:23

Monday, Jan 23, 2006 at 23:23
The local UHF repeater at Dargo can be used to gain fire info.

We were in Dargo during the start of Alpine fires a few years ago the local police visited us and told us to think about getting out, we were told to stay tuned to the local repeater for info, the call to evacuate was however not sent while we were there. The locals did use it for Fire info.

However the repeater is good for the Dargo valley, no good in at wanangatta, The repeater at Dargo stretches a fair way but as others have said UHF is line of sight in most cases.

AnswerID: 150478

Reply By: Member - Tony G (ACT) - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 07:00

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 07:00
There is normally a slashed area near the infomation board in Wonangatta, that is to be used as a assembly point in case of fire in the valley. Park vehicles and cover with wet tarps and sit it out.

Far better idea than try and out run it in dense smoke and falling trees.

As for comms, a UHF for other vehicle contact and Sat phone for fire info.

Check with the office in Dargo before venturing off the black top.
AnswerID: 150503

Reply By: JJ - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 08:52

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 08:52
Try copy & paste this site for specs & est. costs on Uniden: http://www.prestigecom.net.au/default.asp?category=UHF+CB+Handheld&subcat=Uniden&openmenu=2
We have the UH041P 1w. pair which are good for hiking, vehicle to vehicle etc, but there's lots to choose from.

All communication aside, IMO keep well away from all fire danger areas, specially the single vehicle and inexperienced.

It's a big country with many more 'awesome' places to visit.

Fire Fighters and Rescue Teams throughout all southern states have enough to contend with with natural disasters without putting their lives at further un-necessary risk.

AnswerID: 150512

Follow Up By: Peter McGuckian (Member) - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 09:30

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 09:30
Here here! We had planned to spend the weekend camping on the Wonnangatta River but given the forcast we are now staying home and gardening.

Peter
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Reply By: Member - Des - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 12:01

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 12:01
We were in Wonnangatta before Xmas - like you, in a Prado, travelling solo. If you are appropriately equipped it is no problem.

Don't be alarmed about fire risk. There are no fires in the area at present. ABC radio are constantly broadcasting fire messages. If a fire were to break out in the area you would hear about it quickly if you keep listening in. We could get ABC Sale 828 AM and a weaker signal from 774 ABC Melbourne in the valley. Anyway there will be plenty of others in the valley to pass on any news.

We have never bothered with UHF radio.

We have CDMA mobile. Didn't get anyreception in the valley, but you can get intermittent reception on the Howitt road. When you can see Mt Buller (e.g. King Billy Tk towards Lovicks Hut) you will get full reception (probably on GSM as well).

As you know, the road out to Myrtleford is 2WD all the way from Van Dammes helipad.

We came in that way and went out Zeka. It is rough and slow (about 2hrs driving time to Howitt Rd), but no problem in Prado. If you haven't done a track like that before, it is a good learning experience. Just take your time. Get out and look at any particularly rough bits.

Don't try Zeka or Wombat range if wet.

My only other tip would be to take something to clear fallen trees. At least a big bow saw and drag chain, and preferably an axe or chainsaw. We had to clear a big tree on Zeka Spur - fortunately had chainsaw. That said, with all the people around now, major tracks will be cleared quickly.

By the way, King Billy Tk from Macalister river to Brocks Rd intersection is rough and slow too. Allow about 30 mins from Mt Howitt car park to Macalister River (this section is very good) and 45 mins for the rougher section from Macalister R to Brocks Rd.

Cheers,
Des
AnswerID: 150534

Follow Up By: WR400 - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 12:39

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 12:39
G'Day Des,

Very much appreciate your detailed response...it is printed and will travel with us tomorrow.

We have all the maps, a GPS and a cautious attitude!

No doubt we will have a sh1t load fun out there.

Thanks again mate!

All the best,

Matt...
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Follow Up By: Member - Des - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 13:06

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 13:06
One other things to add.

If coming from Merrijig, you can either go up Brocks Rd or King Billy Tk past Lovicks. The latter is rough and slow, but very scenic. If you want to go up Brocks Rd, it is well worth detouring 15-20 mins along King Billy Tk towards Lovicks to a magnificent lookout site, just off the track, called Picture Pt (marked on some maps, eg. Rooftop). It's just past a huge and spectacular snow gum called King Billy tree - there is a faint path from there, or a clearer path (not signed) a few hundred metres further on. If you come to a gate, you've gone a few hundred metres too far. Great view of the escarpment from (right to left) King Billy No.1 to Mt Magdala, Mt Howitt, Crosscut Saw, Mt Buggery, Mt Speculation, Mt Koonika and Mt Cobbler. On the other side are Mt Stirling, Mt Buller, the Bluff etc.

Have a great trip.

Cheers,
Des
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Reply By: SteveL - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 16:11

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 16:11
I have found UHF very useful in the High Country,the CFA gives details about fires and total fire ban days thru the local repeaters and you can call for assistance from nearby vehicles, if necessary.You can also scan for any traffic headed your way.-Steve
AnswerID: 150573

Reply By: VK3CAT - Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 17:17

Tuesday, Jan 24, 2006 at 17:17
If you want to only hear what is going on, get a scanner & monitor 160mHz to 165mHz approximately. You will find there (VHF) DSE, Parks Victoria, CFA & Police. Alot of what is heard here - particularly police is linked to the UHF system used in the cities. Thus last Sunday, I could hear the goings on from Kinglake, The Grampians, Erica, Anakie as well as other areas.
Three stage IF (Intermediate Frequency) is best to avoid images of high power signals (Tech stuff).
A suitable antenna will also be a big help but may cause front end overload on a hand held scanner.
Cheers Tony.
AnswerID: 150587

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