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Old 05-02-2016, 08:01 PM   #1
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Caravan - what CB Radio?

We are going on the WBCCI Alaska caravan this year, and a CB radio is required. Any good guidelines? We are probably not going to install one in our tow vehicle, but use the 12v sockets to power. A handheld has been suggested to supplement for parking.
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Old 05-02-2016, 08:12 PM   #2
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What you really want is a high power "export" or "10 meter" CB radio, with the best magnetic antenna you can buy plopped in the exact center of your tow vehicle roof.

You can add an "Echo mic" for entertainment value, if you like.
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Old 05-02-2016, 08:15 PM   #3
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Be aware that 10 meters is NOT a CB band. It is a ham band, and unlicensed users can get in big trouble. Yes, I know that some truckers are using it, but the FCC is watching and listening. If the requirement is a CB radio you ought to get a CB radio. CB is 11 meters, anyway, so a 10 meter radio won't be able to communicate with an 11 meter one.

The advice on getting a mag mount antenna and putting it in the center of the tow vehicle's metal is a good one.

Check the specs on the radio you buy. Look at how much power it draws (how many amps) and compare that to the limit on your 12V power port. If the radio draws more than what the power port can provide you will be blowing a fuse every time you transmit.

Suggestion: Get some 12 gauge two conductor wire long enough to run from the tow vehicle battery to inside the tow vehicle. The wire will have a white and a black wire inside the sheath. Peel back enough of the sheath so that the two wires can be easily attached to the battery terminals of your tow vehicle battery, but don't attach them yet. Use some red fingernail polish to paint the end of the white wire red. Feed the wire into the tow vehicle near where the radio will go. Remove some of the sheath on the inside end of the cable and paint the end of the white wire with the same red fingernail polish you used outside. The radio should have an inline fuse in the red lead. There may also be one in the black lead. Attach the red line from the radio to your red wire and the black radio lead to the black wire. Go back to the battery and connect the red wire to the positive batter terminal, then connect the black one to either the negative or to a ground.

If you can find a good ground inside the vehicle you can just run a single red wire inside. That may be simpler, but you will have to buy the proper length of RED wire (12 gauge, remember). That wire is usually sold by the foot, whereas you can buy a roll of the two conductor cable at any hardware store and some Wal-Marts.
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Old 05-02-2016, 08:24 PM   #4
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I'm going to Alaska with a group in a few weeks. We are using GMRS/FRS handhelds that have a much longer range than CB. In addition to the GMRS/FRS channels they have 2 meter and 70cm HAM capabilities, all for the price of a CB. Ours will be connected to roof mounted magnetic antenna for longer range.

GMRS license, a $60 instant online formality for US use. No GMRS license required in Canada. No license for shorter range FRS use.

CB is a WBCCI tradition albiet a bit outdated.
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Old 05-02-2016, 08:34 PM   #5
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I am assuming the OP needs a radio for talking to other vehicles on the caravan. If so, ultra long distance isn't a requirement....I have a Cobra Roadtrip handheld. It has a short whip antenna for portable use and a magnetic mount for the roof. It is powered by batteries when handheld and a lighter adapter when in the truck. It does a fine job.
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Old 05-02-2016, 09:19 PM   #6
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I am assuming the OP needs a radio for talking to other vehicles on the caravan. If so, ultra long distance isn't a requirement....I have a Cobra Roadtrip handheld. It has a short whip antenna for portable use and a magnetic mount for the roof. It is powered by batteries when handheld and a lighter adapter when in the truck. It does a fine job.
Just out of curiosity, how close or far away do the participants in the caravan travel?
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Old 05-02-2016, 09:21 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Pat.Mann View Post
We are going on the WBCCI Alaska caravan this year, and a CB radio is required. Any good guidelines? We are probably not going to install one in our tow vehicle, but use the 12v sockets to power. A handheld has been suggested to supplement for parking.
Check with the Caravan leader before buying. Several of us on a recent caravan bought CB radios for it only to be told at the opening meeting that we would not be using them. I think the caravan leaders are just reprinting the WBCCI caravan equipment list without updating it.

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Old 05-02-2016, 09:22 PM   #8
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Never been on one, so I don't know....The portable I referenced is only good to a mile or so when used as a handheld. Using the antenna on top of the truck stretches the range out to maybe 3 miles under good conditions.
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Old 05-02-2016, 09:30 PM   #9
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We are using GMRS/FRS handhelds that have a much longer range than CB.
GMRS/FRS operate in the UHF, while CB operates on HF (11 meters). UHF communication is typically line-of-site, while HF can experience atmospheric bounce and hop to greatly increase range. So for the same power, CB wins.

Pat, if you think a radio would be valuable in your future consider getting your Ham technician license. There are many one-day classes to help you through the examination and the utility in case of an emergency is invaluable! They are a great community.
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Old 05-02-2016, 09:35 PM   #10
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What you're not supposed to know about the "export" radios is some/all are easily modified to work on the CB radio band.




http://cbradiomagazine.com/Stryker%2...%20Review.html
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Old 05-02-2016, 10:14 PM   #11
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GMRS/FRS operate in the UHF, while CB operates on HF (11 meters). UHF communication is typically line-of-site, while HF can experience atmospheric bounce and hop to greatly increase range. So for the same power, CB wins.
Thanks for pointing that out. Yes, with the correct atmospheric conditions CB wins.
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Old 05-02-2016, 10:45 PM   #12
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We are going on the WBCCI Alaska caravan this year, and a CB radio is required. Any good guidelines? We are probably not going to install one in our tow vehicle, but use the 12v sockets to power. A handheld has been suggested to supplement for parking.
I don't think anyone has answered your question directly as to equipment recommendations so I will put in my two cents worth. For what it's worth I got my general class amateur radio license more than 50 years ago and have used ham radio, CB, FRS, GMRS, MURS, aircraft and marine radio so I have no particular axe to grind.

Do check with your caravan leader and see what they expect to use CB radio for. If its just assistance with parking or communicating between units when parked, just about anything will do.

If you want to use CB radio for communicating between units on the road (which adds to the fun) then it will pay you to have a good CB installation. I will tell you what I use and am happy with.

The basic technology of CB hasn't changed much in 30 or 40 years so there is not a whole lot of difference between CB radios. I have a Cobra 25 NW which is one of the better ones and can be had for somewhere under $100. It has all the AM communications technology that was state of the art 50 years ago or so, like transmit audio compression and noise blanking on receive. The built-in standing wave ratio (SWR) meter on the Cobra 25 is also handy for checking your antenna on the road.

You can run your radio off of a cigarette lighter socket but like someone earlier, I highly recommend running power and ground wires directly to the battery. The reason is not so much being able to supply the necessary current (legal CB radios take very little power) but rather having the cleanest possible 12 Volts DC. (Modern cars have all kinds of digital stuff putting wideband noise on the 12 V power.)

The most important thing is your antenna, which affects both transmit and receive. A reasonable length (3 foot?) magnetic mount antenna in the middle of the roof as suggested earlier is as good as you can get without drilling holes in your tow vehicle, but a hard-wired antenna is better.

We tow with a pickup with a fiberglass cap, so I mounted a 3-foot fiberglass whip (K40 brand) on the cap and constructed an artificial ground plane out of sticky-back copper tape on the inside of the cap, bonded to the body of the truck at the ends of the tapes, soldered together at all intersections, and with a flexible jumper to the roof of the truck at the front end of the cap. (My 2 meter/70 cm amateur radio antenna is a few feet behind the CB antenna.)

The range you can expect with a rig like this depends entirely on the environment. Going around Chicago with a million truckers on Channel 19 you are lucky to work somebody a mile away. In this case the noise floor of the channel is set by all the other stations using it.

On the other hand, on a Canadian Rockies caravan out in sparsely populated western Canada, we were easily working other caravan units 20 miles away with this setup.
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Old 05-03-2016, 01:22 AM   #13
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I agree, get a Ham license and be ready for most any radio someone wants to use. (Except the aircraft band)
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Old 05-03-2016, 06:49 AM   #14
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Our CB is wired into the "up-lifter" switches on our F350. We only have the CB in the truck when going on a trip. We simply flip the switch off and up plug the radio and good to go. We use a roof mounted whip antenna. A Cobra something purchased at a truck stop and installed by them.
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