Tough question? Not really. It all depends on your intended use.
I have been a licensed Ham operator for the past few years. I use VHF radios on a weekly basis with Search and Rescue communications being the primary use. Many folks have the “Rugged Radio” brand of VHF radios and they are a great radio. We sell Rugged radios at our shop Twin Peaks Offroad and have been a dealer for the past 6 years. My first real experience with Rugged radios both hand held and vehicle mounted was on our Trail Trail tour run which we do every summer. These radios perform almost flawlessly and have been an excellent way of communication within our 20 or so group of rigs. The amount of static and feedback is very low and the range is superior to a CB by more than double the distance on a line of site grid.
I’ve also used a tuned up CB radio for years that is performing flawlessly as well. There are many things to think about when considering the two. The most important thing to point out is the range and limitations.
To use your VHF (rugged radio) and actually get out to great distance is going to require a “repeater”. The repeaters are something you must be a licensed Ham operator to use. You would also have to gain permission from the repeater owners for the ability to use the repeaters.
Keep in mind even with that great reach you would have on a repeated channel, you would still only be able to speak to a receiving party who is on the same frequency with the same repeater capabilities. Line of site without a repeater, your VHF radio will work great and far better than a CB in most cases, however, YOU WILL ONLY BE ABLE TO TALK TO THE PEOPLE ON THAT FREQUENCY. This means everyone else will have to have the same radio capabilities as you do.
A CB radio will allow you to speak to the group and anyone else who is tuned into the same “channel”. In the event you needed to make a call out to someone in the vicinity that was not with your group, you will still be able to do so. A VHF radio will not allow you to do a broadcast to anyone who is not operating on the same channel as you.
The question I have been asked many times is this. Will I be able to call from the other side of the mountain to my base station at my house on a “Rugged Radio” brand radio. The answer is NO you can not get over a mountain and back to another receiver without a repeater. While the range is better, it is still not the fix all that some may think.
My answer: I have both a VHF/Ham radio and a CB radio in my Jeep. I can talk to anyone on the police frequencies we use for SAR and still communicate on the ground with CB frequency when needed. Most of our Sheriff trucks have the same capabilities and it is very common to use both radios in the mountains at times.
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