When I go fishing with other folks, I like to share the experience and swap tips on what to use, the fish being caught, when to eat lunch and when to link up at the car. In many places, the rush of running water drowns out conversation even when you are standing only 20 yards apart on the stream. That's where FRS radios come in real handy. The safety aspect is obvious. Take a fall and one of these can help your friends find you quickly!
Starting in 2000, an FRS radio has been a standard piece of equipment I carry on any trip. As technology improves, the range is increasing which allows the user to spread out but still stay in touch. In fact, with some of the newer, more powerful models, you are supposed to have a FCC license!
One of the nice things about the FRS system is that there are standards for both the primary frequency and the associated privacy codes that ensure compatibility across brands. With my current set of FRS radios, I have not had a problem connecting to other brands. The only feature that may not be portable is the "call" feature which is actually a pretty important attribute. When you press the call button, it causes the radios on the network that are on your same frequency/privacy code combination to ring. After growing up with telephones, our ears are more attuned to this noise than to somebody talking. It comes through even over the background noise of the North Branch.
So, these things work. Go get the cheapest available that meets your power requirements? No. Up until now, the challenge has been the loss of commo when the inevitable dunk in the water occurs. Most of the FRS radios - even the ones that come with a camo pattern and are intended for sporting use - are only "water resistant". I'm not sure what this means, but I do know it means that you cannot submerge the radio as you struggle to get back up after a spill and expect to have it work. Maybe the "water resistant" rating only connotes protection from the random rain drop.
After a recent trip to Harpers Ferry where commo died after a dunk, I knew I had to find a solution. Fortunately, there are several. You can either get one of the new Midland waterproof radios or you can get a GPS with a radio built in from Garmin. I just bought the Midland GXT800VP4, and, after charging it up, dunked it in a bucket of water to simulate a fall in the river. Still works! Hey, I wanted to get my money back if it did not!
There is also a version that comes in a camo pattern. The Midland website advertises that both are waterproof. For a critical feature like this, I was not willing to trust the technical info that appears on the reseller's site and took the time to go directly to Midland to validate the specs.
However, the bottom line is that if you are out with friends and you wander apart for any distance out of eyesight, a radio - even if it is not waterproof - is a nice thing to bring along. Makes the trip better to be in touch.