Welcome to RV Daily

Are you hungry for the latest in RV news, reviews and travel?

At RV Daily, we’ll give you up-to-date news, reviews and videos on the latest caravans, campers and motorhomes.

In a smartphone world,

YOUR UHF RADIO

is still relevant

GUIDE UHF radios

WORDS PHILIP LORD

Especially in Austalia, the UHF radio could literally be a life-saver when on tour with your caravan

A CB 477 MHz UHF two-way radio is a versatile piece of communications equipment that can make a big difference to your comfort and safety on any caravan holiday.

The uses for UHF are many: from staying in contact with other road users to finding out local road conditions to talking to your better half when they’re helping you park the van. And, a UHF is a must-have piece of equipment for remote bush travelling.

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

WHAT TYPES OF UHF ARE THERE?
There are two types of UHF radio: either a hand-held unit or a fixed, in-vehicle unit. A hand-held is a simple all-in-one unit that uses either disposable batteries or rechargeable types. In-vehicle set-ups are permanently fitted, powered by the vehicle battery and must have an external aerial mounted.

Hand-held versions range from 0.5-watt plastic-case units to waterproof, durable metal-cased five-watt radios. In-vehicle UHFs vary in size from single-DIN (standard AM/FM radio size) to compact remote-head types and are typically the most powerful permitted by law without a licence (5w).

All UHF radios since about 2012 have 80 channels. You can still use the older 40-channel UHFs, but you may experience distortion and low volume when communicating with one of the newer, 80-channel units.

BELOW In-vehicle UHF units can be very compact with the hardware mostly hidden in the dash or console

ABOVE A hand-held 5watt radio can be a life-saver in the outback but keep it brief when communicating on UHF radio

“A UHF two-way radio can make a big difference to your comfort and safety on any caravan holiday”

WHAT DOES A UHF COST?
CB 477 MHz UHF radios are available from 0.5-watt hand-held units for as little as $50, or up to around $700 for an in-vehicle 5watt fixed set-up, including a high-gain antenna kit and external speaker. A good 2watt hand-held is around $100, while a quality 5watt hand-held is about $250.

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF THE DIFFERENT TYPES?
While versatile, the key issues with hand-held UHF is that they don’t have as clear audio or range as an in-vehicle set-up does, and can be hard on batteries, whether they’re the rechargeable ones or disposable.

In-vehicle UHF radios offer better range as they use an external, high-gain antenna and have continuity of power, as they’re hard-wired to the vehicle. The only negatives are that you obviously can’t use the unit if you get out of the vehicle, they cost more to buy (and unless you’re handy, you’ll have to get the unit installed to the vehicle) and while very compact these days, you’ll still need some dash or console space to fit a UHF. Depending on where the UHF aerial is mounted (the higher, the better) you may have clearance issues in multi-level carparks.

WHICH UHF SHOULD YOU BUY?
A single 2watt hand-held unit is the bare minimum for travelling in remote areas; you really want a 5watt hand-held or in-vehicle type for best coverage. If you’re likely to go for solo bush walks away from camp where there’s no mobile coverage, an additional durable hand-held 2watt or 5watt unit (always fully-charged before leaving camp) is a very good idea. If you’re more likely to need to communicate at close range, for example when getting assistance parking your van on a site or at home, you can supplement your main 5watt UHF with a cheaper 0.5watt unit.

Whichever unit you buy, make sure it has approval for use in Australia by having a Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM). Some imported UHFs are illegal for use here, as they may interfere, for example, with the emergency call service.

BELOW Fitting a UHF in-car requires installation of a control unit, here pictured with integral speaker

ABOVE Typical UHF in-vehicle kit consists of head unit, control unit, wiring and external high-gain aerial

HOW DOES UHF WORK?
You won’t get the same reach as you do with a mobile phone with UHF radio, but where there’s no mobile coverage UHF is the best bang-for-your-buck outback communication. All UHF radios are restricted to line-of-sight transmission of up to 8km (although by using public repeater stations, in theory their range increases up to 150km). A realistic range is 3km-5km of clear transmission for most in-car or hand-held units in vegetated areas.

WHEN DO YOU USE UHF?
UHF has many uses, from contacting other road users such as truck drivers to let them know they are clear to pass you (or vice-versa) and also to hear first-hand of road closures or other problems ahead. When reversing the rig at camp, having a spotter using a hand-held UHF to guide you saves on shouting over engine or ambient noise and such a spotter will be able to warn you of obstacles that typical reversing cameras (handy as they are) won’t, such as low-lying branches.

HOW DO YOU MONITOR OTHER CHANNELS?
Most newer UHF units have a group scan function, which allows you to scan a number of channels for activity while also monitoring your (selected) priority channel. The receiver will scan the other channels If a signal appears on the priority channel it will override any signals being received on any of the other channels.

WHAT IS A REPEATER?
A repeater station is a linked transmitter/receiver combination permanently installed in a prominent, high location. The repeater will receive signals on a designated channel and retransmit them on another channel. The repeater retransmits signals to radios that would otherwise be out of range of each other. With the UHF set in duplex mode, the repeater forwards the signal it receives from repeater input stations 31-38/71-78 to the corresponding output stations 1-8/41-48.

WHAT UHF CHANNELS SHOULD YOU USE?
While you can find more detail here, you use channel 40 to communicate with trucks, channel 18 for RVs and when off-road channel 10 for 4WDs. Now, remember, if you choose to advertise your name and channel on your rig as many do, make sure your UHF is turned on when travelling!

Channels 5 and 35 are for emergency-use only; fines apply if you use them for regular communications.

TOP FIVE UHF USE TIPS

5

Be aware of prevailing conditions, eg. strong winds, a window down, audio system on loudly will all reduce clarity from your UHF’s microphone.

4

Avoid swearing. It’s a public channel, not everyone appreciates blue language.

3

Press the Push To Talk button before speaking, speak 5-8cm away from the microphone so others can hear you.

2

When calling other unknown road users, describe each other briefly eg: ”Jayco van calling road train behind”.

1

Keep conversation to a minimum, allowing others to use the channel - leave chatting for around the campfire.

GUIDE UHF radios

In a smartphone world,

YOUR UHF RADIO

is still relevant

Especially in Austalia, the UHF radio could literally be a life-saver when on tour with your caravan

A CB 477 MHz UHF two-way radio is a versatile piece of communications equipment that can make a big difference to your comfort and safety on any caravan holiday.

The uses for UHF are many: from staying in contact with other road users to finding out local road conditions to talking to your better half when they’re helping you park the van. And, a UHF is a must-have piece of equipment for remote bush travelling.

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

WHAT TYPES OF UHF ARE THERE?
There are two types of UHF radio: either a hand-held unit or a fixed, in-vehicle unit. A hand-held is a simple all-in-one unit that uses either disposable batteries or rechargeable types. In-vehicle set-ups are permanently fitted, powered by the vehicle battery and must have an external aerial mounted.

Hand-held versions range from 0.5-watt plastic-case units to waterproof, durable metal-cased five-watt radios. In-vehicle UHFs vary in size from single-DIN (standard AM/FM radio size) to compact remote-head types and are typically the most powerful permitted by law without a licence (5w).

All UHF radios since about 2012 have 80 channels. You can still use the older 40-channel UHFs, but you may experience distortion and low volume when communicating with one of the newer, 80-channel units.

BELOW In-vehicle UHF units can be very compact with the hardware mostly hidden in the dash or console

ABOVE A hand-held 5watt radio can be a life-saver in the outback but keep it brief when communicating on UHF radio

“A UHF two-way radio can make a big difference to your comfort and safety on any caravan holiday”

ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

WHICH UHF SHOULD YOU BUY?
A single 2watt hand-held unit is the bare minimum for travelling in remote areas; you really want a 5watt hand-held or in-vehicle type for best coverage. If you’re likely to go for solo bush walks away from camp where there’s no mobile coverage, an additional durable hand-held 2watt or 5watt unit (always fully-charged before leaving camp) is a very good idea. If you’re more likely to need to communicate at close range, for example when getting assistance parking your van on a site or at home, you can supplement your main 5watt UHF with a cheaper 0.5watt unit.

Whichever unit you buy, make sure it has approval for use in Australia by having a Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM). Some imported UHFs are illegal for use here, as they may interfere, for example, with the emergency call service.

WHAT DOES A UHF COST?
CB 477 MHz UHF radios are available from 0.5-watt hand-held units for as little as $50, or up to around $700 for an in-vehicle 5watt fixed set-up, including a high-gain antenna kit and external speaker. A good 2watt hand-held is around $100, while a quality 5watt hand-held is about $250.

WHAT ARE THE PROS AND CONS OF THE DIFFERENT TYPES?
While versatile, the key issues with hand-held UHF is that they don’t have as clear audio or range as an in-vehicle set-up does, and can be hard on batteries, whether they’re the rechargeable ones or disposable.

In-vehicle UHF radios offer better range as they use an external, high-gain antenna and have continuity of power, as they’re hard-wired to the vehicle. The only negatives are that you obviously can’t use the unit if you get out of the vehicle, they cost more to buy (and unless you’re handy, you’ll have to get the unit installed to the vehicle) and while very compact these days, you’ll still need some dash or console space to fit a UHF. Depending on where the UHF aerial is mounted (the higher, the better) you may have clearance issues in multi-level carparks.

HOW DOES UHF WORK?
You won’t get the same reach as you do with a mobile phone with UHF radio, but where there’s no mobile coverage UHF is the best bang-for-your-buck outback communication. All UHF radios are restricted to line-of-sight transmission of up to 8km (although by using public repeater stations, in theory their range increases up to 150km). A realistic range is 3km-5km of clear transmission for most in-car or hand-held units in vegetated areas.

BELOW Fitting a UHF in-car requires installation of a control unit, here pictured with integral speaker

ABOVE A hand-held 5watt radio can be a life-saver in the outback but keep it brief when communicating on UHF radio

WHEN DO YOU USE UHF?
UHF has many uses, from contacting other road users such as truck drivers to let them know they are clear to pass you (or vice-versa) and also to hear first-hand of road closures or other problems ahead. When reversing the rig at camp, having a spotter using a hand-held UHF to guide you saves on shouting over engine or ambient noise and such a spotter will be able to warn you of obstacles that typical reversing cameras (handy as they are) won’t, such as low-lying branches.

WHAT UHF CHANNELS SHOULD YOU USE?
While you can find more detail here, you use channel 40 to communicate with trucks, channel 18 for RVs and when off-road channel 10 for 4WDs. Now, remember, if you choose to advertise your name and channel on your rig as many do, make sure your UHF is turned on when travelling!

Channels 5 and 35 are for emergency-use only; fines apply if you use them for regular communications.

HOW DO YOU MONITOR OTHER CHANNELS?
Most newer UHF units have a group scan function, which allows you to scan a number of channels for activity while also monitoring your (selected) priority channel. The receiver will scan the other channels If a signal appears on the priority channel it will override any signals being received on any of the other channels.

WHAT IS A REPEATER?
A repeater station is a linked transmitter/receiver combination permanently installed in a prominent, high location. The repeater will receive signals on a designated channel and retransmit them on another channel. The repeater retransmits signals to radios that would otherwise be out of range of each other. With the UHF set in duplex mode, the repeater forwards the signal it receives from repeater input stations 31-38/71-78 to the corresponding output stations 1-8/41-48.

TOP FIVE UHF USE TIPS

1

Keep conversation to a minimum, allowing others to use the channel - leave chatting for around the campfire.

2

When calling other unknown road users, describe each other briefly eg: ”Jayco van calling road train behind”.

3

Press the Push To Talk button before speaking, speak 5-8cm away from the microphone so others can hear you.

4

Avoid swearing. It’s a public channel, not everyone appreciates blue language.

5

Be aware of prevailing conditions, eg. strong winds, a window down, audio system on loudly will all reduce clarity from your UHF’s microphone.