By, Stu Olson N7QJP
The oldest and most popular method of trail communications has to be the CB radio. It's popularity boomed back in the '70s, owing much of it's notoriety to the tractor-trailer movie era. Available at almost every discount department store, they provide adequate vehicle to vehicle coverage while on the trail. Using one to communicate 50 or more miles back to your home is often times impossible to do. It can be difficult to talk with someone even when the distance is significantly less. Editor's Note: Most radios, even when well tuned, do not broadcast much more than a mile or two. Part of the reason for this is that CB radios use the upper portion of the high frequency (HF) radio spectrum, around 27 MHz. A small portion of the CB radio signal travels along the ground (called ground wave) which is what is usually required for short-range communications of this type. Most of the transmitted signal radiates up and out into the ionosphere. If conditions are right, some of it will be reflected back down to earth, a thousand or more miles away from where it started while the remainder simply travels off towards some distant star. Experienced CB users refer to this ionospheric reflection as "skip". When conditions like this exist and the band is "open", it is almost impossible to hear the weaker ground wave signals since they buried in the mixing of all of the other signals that are "skipping in".
Three positive aspects of a CB radio is the low price, popularity, and no requirement for an operator's license. In many off-road clubs, a CB is mandatory if you plan on participating in a club-sponsored ride. The CB radio allows members to easily communicate with each over the short distances encountered while traveling on the trail. It is an ideal method by which one can update the group on trail conditions or for summoning assistance from another club member. The price for a good radio and reasonable antenna puts this setup well within the $100 range.