Two-Way Radio Communications For The Bug-Out Bag

I know what your thinking – great another article dedicated to the bug-out bag. And I agree, over last couple of weeks I’ve been preoccupied with this bugging out business. First we talked about children during a bug-out, then guns for the bug-out bag and here we go again with communications for the bug-out bag.

Trust me, I’m not turning the survivalist blog into another head for the hills bug-out site. I’ve had these ideas for sometime and originally planned to space the articles over several months, but since everyone seems to be interested in this subject, I’ve decided to go ahead and post my thoughts.

An area I haven’t seen discussed in much detail is communications for the bug-out bag. Let me tell you before we start, that I’m not a radio geek and I’m sure some of you know more about radio communications than I do. That is why I’ve opened this discussion to give my thoughts and give readers a chance to share theirs.

A means of communication between members of your bug-out group could prove important or even be the difference between life and death. Members of your group could become separated or wounded while away from base camp or you may need a means of communication when coordinating offensive and defensive maneuvers.

The first consideration should be range and type of radio. Keep in mind that advertised ranges of 10 to 30 miles for the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) band radios are under ideal conditions, conditions that seldom exist in the real world. Actual range is often much less.

The average output for the hand-held GMRS band radios is around 1-2 watts. I’m not sure if this can be adjusted or if it is a fixed wattage set by the manufacturer? If anyone knows for sure we would like to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Legally to operate a radio using GMRS channels 1-7 and 15-22, you’ll need to get a license issued by the FCC, although you do not need a license before purchasing a GMRS-capable two-way radios.

Family Radio Service (FRS) models are lower power units that operate with a half watt of power. They can transmit on 7 FRS channels and 7 shared FRS/GMRS channels (channels 1-7) for a total of 14 channels. No license is required to operate this type radio – the downside is limited range when compared with GMSR.

Variable power would be a good option. If you are talking a few yards you don’t want to waste your batteries by broadcasting at full power 100% of the time.(Note) any radio—even if it has 2 watts of power—automatically switches down to a half-watt when operating on the 7 FRS-specific channels.

A variable power option will allow you to adjust output depending on the situation, saving power and lowering the possibility of your communications being monitored by a third and possible hostile party.

During an extended emergency having charged batteries will become a concern (also an excellent barter item). Most two-way radios run on standard AA or AAA batteries, these are small, light and cheap – perfect for building the cache.

When stocking up on batteries it’s best to keep the one-size-fits-all concept in mind if possible. In other words try to standardize your lights, AM/FM/ shortwave, two-way radios and other devices so they use only one battery size – preferably AA.

Rechargeable’s and compatible solar chargershould be considered. I would stay away from the Wal-Mart Rayovac green rechargeable’s, I’ve had much better luck and extended usage from the Duracell Nickel Metal Hydride rechargeable’s they have lasted nearly twice as long.

I’ve purposely avoided suggesting makes and models of two-way radios for the bug-out bag, because there are so many choices with new models coming out nearly every day, my suggestions would quickly become dated and I only have experience a limited number of models.

About M.D. Creekmore

M.D. Creekmore is the owner and editor of He is the author of four prepper related books and is regarded as one of the nations top survival and emergency preparedness experts. Read more about him here.

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