Almost any common FRS or GMRS radios will work on the CAVERN network — as long as you can change the frequency and tones on some of your radio’s channel locations to interoperate with CAVERN’s channels.
By offering two pre-programmed FCC approved radios for sale at cost*, we’re making it really easy for you to jump in and get started at minimal cost and almost zero effort.
Retevis RT22 (FRS)
The Retevis RT22 was one of the first high power (2 Watt) FRS radios available for purchase to the Public. These are good short range radios: 0.5—2.0 miles is the practical range, which is great for connecting with people in the neighborhood (your spouse, children or parents?). The RT22 is FCC type 95 approved (meaning legal to use without a paid license**). CAVERN buys them in bulk, so you can get a pair of them with a dual USB charger for around $25 or less (and the prices keep dropping). The cost is low because there’s no display: the radio speaks the channel location numbers when you switch between them.
We can pre-program them for you (another reason we selected this radio was its flexibility for programming). Contact Network Control for more information or to get two or more for your household.
The Btech GMRS-V1 is a 5 Watt GMRS radio/scanner. For CAVERN radio operators, it’s programmable and repeater-capable so the bang-for-buck ratio is very favorable.
Listening to the Repeater is the only legal way to use a GMRS radio without an FCC license. Because it’s more powerful and you can attach much longer antennas than the RT22’s built-in antenna (see stub in photo), you can listen from much further away to hear our Emergency Alerts. If that means you can be warned well in advance of a disaster headed your way, then it may be a most cost-effective way to have a built-in alarm in your house.
Transmitting with a Btech requires an FCC license (i.e. talking to other CAVERN operators, either directly or through the Repeater). Currently, a GMRS license fee is $70 and covers everyone in your household for 10 years.
The practical range is up to 5 miles (radio-to-radio, aka “simplex”). With a 50 Watt repeater like CAVERN’s, it’s common for us to be heard and hear operators from 20 to 100+ miles away (we’ve spoken to people in the Sierras, Silicon Valley and elsewhere across the Bay Area and the north coast counties. Your signal benefits from our Repeater’s much higher power, which amplifies your signal and thus gives you much longer range. This is also why the FCC wants you to have a GMRS license: you must be a very responsible radio operator, just like how you’re a responsible licensed driver on the public roadways. Cavern is a great place to learn how to ‘drive’ on the airwaves.
A Btech also works as a scanner for monitoring emergency responder channels like CalFire, Lake Co Sheriff, California Highway Patrol, weather, Ham radio and more. It cannot be overstated how critical this function is to our network: we need lots of GMRS owners who can relay information from all around the mountain so CAVERN operators are aware of what’s going on during a situation. So, we program a wide variety of those channels into the Btech for you, which could take you many hours to do by yourself — one of the main reasons to get your Btech through CAVERN and support what we’re doing!
You can purchase the Btech directly from Amazon but Network Control usually has CAVERN pre-programmed Btech radios available. The cost of these radios varies between $50-60 or less if we can pre-plan and buy them in bulk for incoming CAVERN volunteer operators. Cooperating by flexing our wallets in solidarity gives our community life-saving capabilities.
CAVERN works with a wide variety of common radios.
Most FRS (Family Radio Service) radios can access the channels we program into the radios we pre-program for you (see the Start Here page for the essential channel grid). We program the Btech GMRS radios to access the CAVERN repeater.
Many easily available 10-50 Watt commercial mobile radios can be programmed for CAVERN. If you already have a such a radio, or you’re interested in a higher power GMRS radio, contact Network Control for assistance (see sidebar).
* Of course, if you are able to make a small deductible charitable donation, it’s always appreciated, not required!).
** Technically, you are automatically “licensed by rule” when you operate an FRS radio.
Original 2019 post by Mel, Updated 2020 content/images by Dav.