Radio usage in the backcountry?

Discussion in 'General' started by idsnowghost, Nov 30, 2017.

?

Do you carry a radio in the backcountry?

  1. Yes, BCA Link

    4 vote(s)
    33.3%
  2. Yes, other FRS/Ham radio

    6 vote(s)
    50.0%
  3. No

    2 vote(s)
    16.7%
  1. idsnowghost

    idsnowghost Staff Member

    Location:
    Spokane, WA
    Curious on how many of us out there are using radios, and of which type?

    I've used blister pack FRS radios in the past and picked up a BCA Link earlier this year.

    Some other areas around the country have established a common FRS channel for travelers in popular backcountry skiing locations. Something like that could work for Schweitzer BC and/or Stevens Peak area? Does Schweitzer's ski patrol already monitor the 9-11 channel?

    Further reading: https://backcountryaccess.com/wp-co...s-High-Use-Terrain-Edgerly-Steen-ISSW2016.pdf
    (seems like too much radio chatter was the main complaint)
  2. PowderPanda

    PowderPanda Staff Member

    Location:
    Liberty Lake, WA
    YaY.. First voter!!!

    So.. I have to say, idsnowghost coaxed me into getting a BCA Link this summer. We've talked about it a lot, just never got around to it. Decades ago when I rode with my friends at Hood, we had HAM radio's as my buddy Loren was huge into it. Super nice compact and we could get the ski patrol freq's so we knew when terrain was opening before everyone else.. LoL Also, lifties would accuse us as being "undercover ski patrol" hahahaha

    I love the idea of creating an acknowledgment of the local resort patrols having a dedicated channel to monitor.. Probably best not to make it 4.20 :p
    Brandon likes this.
  3. Been using the BCA link for a year now and love it! It's already come in handy a bunch of times and has saved some in the group from mishaps that could have spoiled the day. I'd love to see everybody with one of these, it's really worth carrying the weight IMO.
    k.p0w likes this.
  4. HBR

    HBR

    Location:
    Silver Valley
    I did a short stint with the lookout pass patrol a few years back. I suggested several times that they designate a FRS channel for emergencies. I was met with a no every time. I think they were afraid of liability if something were to happen and they didn't receive the signal. Maybe with the new expansion they may reconsider.
    PowderPanda likes this.
  5. PowderPanda

    PowderPanda Staff Member

    Location:
    Liberty Lake, WA
    HBR.. Yah, with the new expansion they need to do a lot more. Like develop a Search & Rescue program as the new lifts will allow easy access the golden terrain.. If they don't, they will def find themselves in a liability situation. Even if they don't have an open bounds policy.
  6. Jberg

    Jberg

    Location:
    Spokane
    I have been wanting to get a radio, and I've been told that the BCA link is the best option, but I am curious what the downsides are of the much cheaper walkie talkies that you can get just about anywhere? Or is there a cheaper option that is just a bit less convenient to use?
    k.p0w and PowderPanda like this.
  7. PowderPanda

    PowderPanda Staff Member

    Location:
    Liberty Lake, WA
    Jberg,
    Yah, admittedly some of the cheaper ones are decent. I think the issue comes down to not having some waterproofness and then the cool lapel mic!! Ha So when I see ya, I'm gonna point out my cool mic!! jk
    I know a lot of people who use the cheaper ones just fine. As you noted, a little less convenient.
    Brandon and Jberg like this.
  8. Lots of upsides to the BCA, including the mic like PP alluded to. Plus long battery life and good water resistance. If you are looking for cheaper options, plenty of serious skiers trust Baofeng units that offer some options the BCA doesn't have.
    PowderPanda likes this.
  9. Jberg

    Jberg

    Location:
    Spokane
    Thanks Brandon. I see that they have an accessory mic you can buy as well. Nice to know there are some other options, half the fun of buying gear is the research!
  10. idsnowghost

    idsnowghost Staff Member

    Location:
    Spokane, WA
    Just make sure you know what you're doing with the Baofeng radio. :)

    It's not a plug and play, like the blister packs or BCA.

    (Technically it's illegal to transmit on the FRS/GMRS channels with the Baofeng)
    Brandon likes this.
  11. Good to know. I'll be sticking to my BCA
  12. Many have probably read this but another good read on the topic here.

    https://www.wildsnow.com/5854/2-way-radios-walkie-talkie-review/

    I rarely, but do on occasion, carry a blister. Depends on a few factors for me (group size-potential- for splitting up, line/zone objective for the day etc..). After I pack my first aid/rescue equipment, then throw in a PLB, and a DSLR it’s just one more thing to carry around and I decide not to bring it. That being said, on more than one occasion, I’ve wished I had it for group communication.

    Skied with a buddy in the Wasatch last year who has a BCA and it made me want one. Something to be said about having a unit specifically designed for skiing. Although from my understanding the technology is the same or very similar to a blister?

    One thing I never leave home without is my ACR PLB.
    idsnowghost likes this.
  13. idsnowghost

    idsnowghost Staff Member

    Location:
    Spokane, WA
    Saved my life! (and they replaced it for free)
  14. I use a radio about 50 percent of the time I go out, it depends on where I am going and who I am with. I think that having a backcountry channel could be a great idea if everyone knew what channel was designated for communicating with other skiers. As far as talking to ski patrol goes, we used to monitor the 9-11 channel at Schweitzer but we stopped because we never got calls on it.
    PowderPanda likes this.
  15. Wife & I use Baofeng's...VHF -you can get all the repeaters for emergencies...FRS (low power) for one-on-one communication. Small...Cheap, but it's lasted 3 years and going (before I just jinxed it)...long rechargable battery life. Always carry with me in a chest harness in BC...
    PowderPanda likes this.
  16. k.p0w

    k.p0w

    Location:
    CDA
    Been using BCA link for a few seasons now. Love it. Except for the pesky poor plastic connection between the Mic and body. Broken a few of them and luckily REI swapped them out for me. I heard a rumor the newer ones use an upgraded plastic. Oh yeah, and I was with Brandon and can attest to them potentially saving the day in keeping us grouped up.
    PowderPanda and Brandon like this.
  17. I can now give a +1 for the Baofeng. Went to Meadow Lodge in BC this March. The Hut operation required us to have a VHF radio as part of the self guided trip. (The BCA is really cool but not a VHF). Didn’t want to spend a lot so I picked up a BaoFeng UV5R. For about $50 I got the radio and shoulder speaker mic. Can’t say I have put it through the wringer yet but it did get shoved in and out of packs and pockets for a week of skiing with no issues. Great battery life. Very light weight and compact. Maybe a little less user friendly than a blister pack radio but some of those are complicated as well. I was able to get it programmed and working for my use on VHF channels and the GMRS/FRS channels with just a couple hours of research. Enabled me to communicate both with the hut/heli/base station in town on VHF and the others in my group who where using BCA’s and blister pack radios. CHIRP software is free and easy to use or you can field program. There are license/power level issues but I can’t imagine this being a real issue in the remote mountains.

    I’d say there is still a place for a BCA but I will take the Baofeng any day over a standard “walkie talkie”. Some advantages of the BCA are simplicity and the ability to turn the radio on/off from the shoulder mic. Baofeng is much more capable with the sacrifice of not being quite as simple. Long term durability is yet to be determined for me. Shoulder mic works good but no on/off or volume adjustment. As a bonus the Baofeng doubles as a nice FM radio.
  18. There are lots of emergency repeaters in 'Kirks', Cabinets and SV which can be accessed in an emergency as well. Just need to get the channels...The 5 Watt FRS is much better than the .05 watts most FRS have. Yes, I know the "rules", but until I see a black helicopter over me when using I will continue to use...sparingly and professionally.
    PowderPanda and idsnowghost like this.
  19. k.p0w

    k.p0w

    Location:
    CDA
    Thanks for the write up. I actually have had horrible luck with BCA as well as a few of my friends who have owned them. They always break at the mic/body connection. I do not recommend purchasing a BCA until they get that fixed. They also have sent scrambled messages and they do not work in super cold temps. In short, don't buy BCA.
    PowderPanda likes this.
  20. PowderPanda

    PowderPanda Staff Member

    Location:
    Liberty Lake, WA
    You crack me up @Tiny World

    Sorry I didn't get out with you this last season. I'll work on it this next season!!!

Share This Page