Pic of the equipmentManufacturerModelType
CobraCTX-195 3-packFRS/GMRS Walkie-Talkie
These are available at Walmart. Used as a quick backup FRS only radio due to size and watts out.
CobraCTX-280 PairFRS/GMRS Walkie-Talkie
These are available at Walmart. Slightly larger and better than the 195s. Used as a quick backup FRS only radio due to size and watts out.
MidlandXT-511 Base CampFRS/GMRS Radio
with NOAA &
AM/FM Radio
This was found ... somewhere, Midland still makes them. Has AM/FM and NOAA, a Flashlight,
3-way power for emergencies (Rechargeable Pack/4-AA Batteries/Hand Crank Dynamo). This is also good for camping.

The Family Radio Service (FRS) is an unlicensed (or License by Rule) radio service that has 22 channels in the service, limited to less than 2 Watts on radios with FIXED (non-removeable) antennas. You may have seen these 'Bubble Pack' radios at Wal-mart, Target, Bass Pro Shops, Cabella's, or other store. Channels 01-07 have a 2 Watt power limit, channels 08-15 are limited to 1/2 a Watt (500 milliwatts), and channels 15-22 are limited to 2 Watts also. Sometimes you may hear people on 15-22 but cannot talk to them, these are also the GMRS repeater OUTPUT channels.

The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is a Licensed service (Pay FCC money, get a 10 year license (fee 'right now' is $70.00) that covers your whole immediate family. See FCC site for the legalities. GMRS radios share the first 22 channels with FRS, but with a difference, GMRS radios can have detachable antennas, and put out up to 5 Watts on channels 01-07, channels 08-14 are still limited to 0.5 Watts, and channels 15-22 can use a whopping 50 Watts. The other difference is in the Repeater INPUT channels of 23-30 (matches up to 15-22 in order), these can use power output up to 50 Watts also.

The radios I have listed above really should be in the FRS category as none do the repeater channels and the power is maxed as if they WERE FRS only. There are specific radios made for GMRS, these are the only LEGAL ones to transmit on in the GMRS service (especially the repeater inputs). Are there radios I have that can do the same? YEP, some of the cheap Baofengs (pronounced Bow-Fang) can, but they are ILLEGAL. I do not endorse this way, you are an adult (I hope) and can make your own choices.

Am I saying get a GMRS License and call it good?...No, unless that is all you want in an emergency...22 channels (as 23-30 are only inputs to 15-22). I am saying, get your feet wet in GMRS and if you find it interesting, then do a little studying online, take a test (online or in person) and get at least your Technician class license. Then you have hundreds of frequencies to use, General and Amateur Extra licenses get more channels, but that is more studying (not hard really, just a lot to learn).

Some helpful links to get you going:

  • The GMRS Linked network
       This is where to get a GMRS RadioNode SN box to put in your house for you to talk to other GMRS people.
  • HamStudy.org
       A good resource to study for all levels of Amateur Radio license (when you are ready), they use like flash cards to help you learn. Put in your email as a login and it will keep track of your progress.
  • Online Exam Sessions
       Many VECs (Volunteer Examiner Coordnators) do online testing now. Some of these are GLAARG (I am a VE here), W5YI, and ARRL (am a VE here too, but not for online), to name a few. Sign up through this link (part of the HamStudy.org site).
         Hint: after the /sessions/ in link above you can choose your desired VEC teams, just use these endings...GLAARG (glaarg/), W5YI (w5yi/), or ARRL (arrl/) to see only their sessions.