New to travelling - Advice on UHF?

Gday all

We are looking to do some travelling, and thought a trip up the New England Highway (maybe also a bit further west) , to Brisbane and then back down the coast to Sydney, would be a good start. We anticipate expanding our horizons a bit after that and doing more trips in the future. Ive got a 2004 Prado and probably going to get us a camper trailer down the track. The plan is to slowly keep setting us up our equipment for bigger and more challenging trips, but we are very new to travelling and camping etc.

This forum is really informative and i have had a good look around and picked up some good tips. One thing I am still a bit unsure of though is whether a UHF radio is a worthwhile purchase now (and if so what would be a good little unit to start) , or should i wait until we start getting a bit more remote in our travels. From my reading here it seems some people think they are of great use, however i have read that others "keep theirs off most of the time" and only turn them on in remote areas when they really need them.

It is just my wife and I and our seven year old daughter on our travels at the moment. I've also read that the language over the radio is often pretty poor, which is not going to work well for me with my two girls in the car. Is this much of a problem outside the cities ?Would hate to fork out the money, set it all up and then end up with it turned off most of the time ! We are pretty new to travelling so any advice (on anything! :)) would be of great help at the moment,

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Reply By: Wayne (NSW) - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 07:26

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 07:26

You have certainly have done your research and the two highways that you plan to travel are probably the worst for bad language.
However if you are planning to travel further west, having an UHF is a very good idea. I will wait until Bathurst, or Orange before I will turn my on.

If you are travelling solo, leave the radio on scan, that way you will pick up any other vehicles in range. Most 4WD vehicles use Ch10 most caravans are on Ch18. The people towing caravans are probably a better source of traffic and road information and are probably more forgiving towards a novice on the radio.

When you purchase the UHF make sure they show you how it works, you should get a manual with it but it is easier to be shown than try and read how all the functions work.

I have been a big fan of the GME range of UHF radios,but make sure that you get the 80 channel version. Regardless of what radio you get make sure that you have a good antenna to go with it. The light wire type antenna on front of a Prado will snap with vibration. A fiberglass unit, sometime known as a broom stick antenna will last.

Any good 4wd shop should be able to set you up with the right gear.

AnswerID: 488992

Follow Up By: Fab72 - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 16:22

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 16:22
I'll second what Wayne has said. I'm also a big fan of the GME range, especially the ones with the remote microphone so the unit can be nicely hidden under the seat.

The highways you mentioned have pretty good mobile coverage so the UHF is probably not really going to be an "in case of emergency" type item. However, as you travel further affield and the mobile coverage drops off, the UHF will come into it's own.

The next step from there is then going for either a HF radio and subscribing to the VKS727 network or a sat phone. There are pros and cons for either of these. These are used generally for the remote trips.

Interestingly enough the language issue drops off as your distance from major cities increases so to a certain extent, it is self sorting. The time of day also plays into the language factor. When I'm driving an overnighter in the truck, I have the UHF on scan and by about 4am, all is quiet. By 6am it starts getting a little more traffic, then by about 11am, the language comes back into play.

In the fourbie, I run a remote speaker pretty close to my ear which allows me to have the UHF on scan and the volume low enough that my kids and wife can't hear the swearing but I can hear what's going on.

Talk to a reputable UHF seller....there are plenty of options, and what's on special, or new on the market may not always be best suited for your needs.

Good luck, and be sure to let us all know how you get on.

"Catch ya on the flip side".... (best get used to that sort of lingo).

FollowupID: 764163

Reply By: zenonie - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 07:29

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 07:29
Hi mate, I think your on the money with your thoughts on waiting til you go further out west. If you get in strife in the outback a UHF is invaluable. The language on them is appalling in the more populated areas and about the only useful thing you will learn is of road closures and radars ( in amongst the most mindless drivel). I live out west and we use them all the time in the bush. Cheers Zenonie
AnswerID: 488993

Reply By: PJR (NSW) - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 07:44

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 07:44
Like Wayne and Zenonie we do not have ours on in heavily travelled areas. We always have it on in the Snowys and Vic alps and when "off highway" in the Great Dividin Range. Basically any where away from heavy truck and hoon use. We also do not need the bad language.

But when remote it is always on and scanning.

We have a stainless steel whip antenna mounted on the front right hand side mudguard next to the bonnet. It hits shrubs there but without damage. It does not get the vibrations it would get on the bullbar. I have broken enough fibreglass whips in buth places and don't want one again.

AnswerID: 488996

Reply By: olcoolone - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 09:20

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 09:20
Don't think a UHF radio is ideal for remote travelling.

UHF radio has a maximum range of about 15-30 kilometers at best (you can get further under ideal conditions, we have spoken between two 1 watt UHF handhelds 100 kilometres apart).

UHF radio's are as useful in remote travelling as a mobile phone on the Vodafone network would be.

Any type of travelling; a UHF radio is a good idea for general non emergency communications.

First thing we put into our 4x4 is a UHF radio.

UHF radio's in my opinion should be turned on all the time when travelling, we scan channel 5, 10, 11, 18, 39 and 40..... when travelling in convoy we use channel 10.

Some UHF users will sit on a different channel and have the attitude of if someone wants to talk to me the can come to MY channel I have sign written on the back of my vehicle...... this is a stupid thing to do, we past a caravan going the other direction being towed by a 4x4 with a big UHF antenna on it....... one of their back tyres on the van was nearly flat and had smoke starting to come of of it...... we tried all the common channels you would expect them to be on and no response.....

Maybe they had that other stupid thing call CTCSS turned on (should be outlawed on UHF CB radios).

AnswerID: 489002

Follow Up By: Danna - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 11:13

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 11:13
Hi olcoolone
I don't know what do you regard remote..... But for your information if you going what's regarded real remote by authorities (Canning, Simpson, Victoria Desert...), you must have UHF! Without one, you are moving danger to others crossing dunes and in difficult to see areas.
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Follow Up By: olcoolone - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 13:15

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 13:15
Danna.... if you read my post this is what I said "UHF radio's are as useful in remote travelling as a mobile phone on the Vodafone network would be. Any type of travelling; a UHF radio is a good idea for general non emergency communications."

People get a false sense of security thinking when remote travelling a UHF radio will get them out of everything and as I said think of a UHF like a Vodafone mobile phone..... don't expect it to work everywhere.

We have been remote travelling and have not heard a noise from our UHF for days.....

A UHF should not be relied on as a reliable form of communications.

If your calling the Canning and the Simpson real remote..... I think we have different understandings of real remote...... the Canning and the Simpson are super highways and I don't class them as real remote.

Parts of the Northern Simpson, the Gibson Desert and the Great Sandy Desert is real remote.

FollowupID: 764152

Follow Up By: Danna - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 15:13

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 15:13
Hi olcoolone, nice to hear a comment from you!
If you look at your permits, authorities regard Canning and the Simpson very remote. That’s what I wrote….
Further to say, if you venture to those corners of Australia, you are required to have fully operational satellite mobile phone or VHF radio.... It doesn't matter how much remote do you personally regard these areas. UHF is (must) for local traffic safety of all travelers.
HooRoo D
FollowupID: 764157

Follow Up By: olcoolone - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 16:27

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 16:27
There is no law saying you have to have any forms of communications let alone a sat phone or a VHF radio (think you meant HF).

It may be advised to carry communications but there is no law and you don't get into trouble if you don't have the gear.

If you were a remote traveller you will see for yourself not every on has communications equipment.

Mate I don't care what they print on permits saying how remote an area is.

I'm not disputing the need for having a UHF radio, I think it's a good idea and every traveller should have a vehicle mounted UHF radio fitted (not handheld)...... but many don't see the point.

Us personally carry a HF radio, UHF vehicle mounted radio + 2 X UHF handhelds, satellite phone, GSP enabled PLB and a Spot.

And you point is..........
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Follow Up By: Tim - Thursday, Jun 21, 2012 at 09:52

Thursday, Jun 21, 2012 at 09:52
100km, on a 1w hand held??? 'Someone's pulling your leg or that is through a repeater.
As a little snapper I once asked for a radio check from NSW, a bloke came up and said he could hear me in NZ, I wasn't silly enough to believe him.
FollowupID: 764221

Follow Up By: olcoolone - Thursday, Jun 21, 2012 at 12:14

Thursday, Jun 21, 2012 at 12:14
Tim... no that was between me and a friend using a simplex channel, we were in the Flinders Rangers both perched on the top of mountain rangers and as the crow flies it was 103 kilometres apart.

First we heard there group talking whilst we were mobile..... we stopped and thought we would try the GME handhelds on 5 watts and they came through loud and clear.... we dropped to 1 watts and we could still talk to each other.

Back in the 80's we use to regularly talk to truckers in the good ol US of A on AM....... they were the days.

FollowupID: 764226

Follow Up By: Nigel Migraine - Saturday, Jun 23, 2012 at 12:31

Saturday, Jun 23, 2012 at 12:31
Tim posted:
"100km, on a 1w hand held??? 'Someone's pulling your leg or that is through a repeater".

FollowupID: 764378

Reply By: Member - John and Val - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 09:44

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 09:44

The above replies cover it pretty well. For your proposed trip I certainly would NOT fit UHF! It has very little use in areas with lots of traffic, and much of the language is very unattractive, especially for kids.

As said, UHF is useful further west for local communications. Generally reliable up to 5 or maybe 10 km, pretty poor beyond that, and pure luck to get beyond 15 -20 km. For really remote travel, you might consider HF radio, which can give you long range coverage, but that's far more expensive and way in the future.

I certainly wouldn't fit UHF yet, and I'd be guided especially by Wayne's comments when you do.


J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein

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AnswerID: 489003

Reply By: Danna - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 12:25

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 12:25
Hi Dave
We do have in-build UHF radio in our Troopy. I bought it years ago from EBay it was brand new, with warranty. I bought a proper white (you can have black as well) antenna. It was Australian seller and I was very happy with their service.
But I have second option, and that may very much suit you for now. Few months ago I bought from Office Work hand held Uniden UHF 77 narrow band mini radio (UH037SX-2NB) I taught it is going to be useful only for recovery.
To my surprise it is very good picking up every repeater in area. On top of everything you don't need installations and it runs on 3AAA alkaline battery per unit. The typical range is 3+km. This radio cost right now only AU$47,~
What I wouldn't go without out, (even on bitumen) is set of Speedy Seal Puncture Repair Kit. When you go to buy it, make sure it is made in USA and the plugs are not Chinese (they not very reliable).
In future you may look for tyre monitors as they may save you money. We have "Tyre Dog" tyre monitors. For this definitely look under I did review there.... That may save you lots of headache and bit of money as well.
There is so much you can do with car, it's not fanny.
But one thing you should do first, if you ever want to venture of the bitumen, take the spare wheel and put it on proper carrier. If you don't do it, your back door hinges will eventually get stuff-up and door will never seal properly again!
I'm talking from experience.....My brother have stretched hinges on his Prado...
It is good we have somewhere to ask all those questions and wonderful to pick on experiences of other mates....
HooRoo Danna

AnswerID: 489013

Reply By: ktmman - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 12:48

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 12:48
Hi Guys,

Further to the UHF Radio....

Not sure if any of you chaps have heard of Ham Radio or Amateur Radio, but I managed to get my license back in 2007 and now use it every day.

My call sign allocated by the ACMA is VK3NCR... I have had my radio equipment in my 4wd since 2007.

To make this short and simple... You can get your "Foundation" license in one weekend... $60.00 Lic fee per year and with that you can talk to the world, not just 20k down the road.

I have can talk on many frequencies and there are always other Hams talking or listening to help or chat.

My wife and I are heading off to Mungo in a few weeks and will be chatting with my friends back home on the Mornington Peninsula each day.. Simple.

No need for CB Radio's or Sat Phones... my HF rig on 7 Mhz or 3.5Mhz will allow me to chat to other Hams all around Australia.

Just thought I would pass it on...

Ham Radio and 4WDing... a great combination.



AnswerID: 489014

Reply By: JimDi - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 19:51

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 19:51
Hi Dave,
We have been travelling almost fulltime now for ten years, towing both campertrailers and caravans. I only mention time length because of my experiences on the road.

I have used uhf most of this time mainly to get trucks around me and save them time as we were not in a hurry and they are, for obvious reasons. Mind you in all that time. I find that they dont call you, you have to call them.

In city areas turn them off, they are chock a block with idiots making the most inane and useless comments. The F word is used as a filler between each word. So prior to switching the uhf on I would have a word to your kids if I were you. Although most kids seem to have a handle on all this.My grand daughter does and she knows whats right and wrong language wise.

In remote areas they are useful for talking to oncoming traffic, road trains etc. Never had to use one in an emergency. There are other options for this.
Maybe you could start with a hand held device just to get the hang of it. They are cheap and good for a couple of K's radius and from my experience you generally dont need much more than that.

As for remote area communications thats another conversation.But if you intend to get into regular travel both main highways and smaller by roads it will be good value.
Best of luck.

AnswerID: 489041

Reply By: david f11 - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 21:35

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 21:35
Hi all

Many thanks for all the advice.

Talk about a wealth of knowledge here ! Some options and advice i would never have considered by myself.

We are allocating some pretty scarce resources right now (!) and this is by no means a big trip (just a few weeks) so it sounds like the little hand held unit might be just the go for us just to get us started, introduce us to the technology, have a bit of fun and i think it will probably come in handy down the track even after we have upgraded to a fitted unit.

Next trip should be a bit more challenging so i will definitely go for a fitted unit then.

i am now even more excited to get out on the road !

thanks all

AnswerID: 489052

Follow Up By: the_fitzroys - Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 22:04

Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 at 22:04
You've had some very good advice here. All the best for a wonderful trip.
FollowupID: 764204

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