Two way comms and GPS for fishing - WOW!

May 25, 2005
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Location sending, FRS/GMRS two-way radio, size, durability

Cons:Battery life and power button placement

The Bottom Line: Don't have $3k to spend on marine electronics - how bout $500 for a two pack! Makes keeping track of loved ones easy.

Garmin has been an industry leader in Global Positioning Service (GPS) for a long time. There really are only two at the retail, everyday consumer level that provide GPS, Garmin and Magellan. Now, Garmin has added two-way radio features to their latest line of eTrex style units.

I first learned of the Rino series while looking for a quality GPS unit for my Jeep. When I read the features and abilities of the Rino’s, I decided that this was THE way to go, for not only my Jeep excursions, but for family camping and communication in general. I have two little ones that, if they grow up to be anything like me, will wander all over gods country while we’re camping. The Rino will allow me to find them in the event they get lost or disoriented, before they know how to use and read the GPS of course.

Basic radio features include FRS and GMRS (which requires a license from the FCC before broadcasting). FRS stands for Family Radio Service; GMRS is an acronym for General Mobile Radio Service. FRS has a broadcast range of approximately 1 mile with an output of 2 watts. GMRS increases the wattage to 5, and in perfect conditions will allow up to 5 miles of communication. There are 14 channels in the FRS range, and each channel has a sub-set of 10 steps, which allows you to set your radio’s to broadcast on a channel that is not already occupied. One of the nice features of the Rino, is the scanning, which will allow you to designate channels and sub-sets to scan, or can scan all possible channels and sub-sets (takes about 2 minutes to scan through all available frequencies).

The GPS portion of the unit comes with America’s Highways, which will give you a very general level of map to base your travels on. Additional maps can be purchased from Garmin, and the unit comes with a data cable, which allows it to communicate with your home PC. The Rino will map a lot of waypoints and “tracks” before needing to be refreshed or having the information uploaded to your PC. The interface cables are not the easiest to use, as the port is small, and the rear cover appears to get in the way. After a few minutes of playing with the unit, I was comfortable with the cable attachments for both the Data and Car power cable (an optional accessory). The Rino allows you to name waypoints, and save locations as well.

The feature that SOLD me on these units, are their ability to communicate, not only via the two-way radio feature, but to transmit the location of each unit to the other when using the radio. Lets say I am camping and give one unit to my kids to take on their hike. I keep a unit in camp, and in the event they get scared, lost, disoriented, hurt… all they need to do, is key up the radio, and my unit will show me EXACTLY where they are. Well, okay, to with in 23 feet or so depending on how many satellites the units are receiving for GPS accuracy. My unit has show accuracy down to 8 feet so far, which is incredible to me. Think about the use when fishing - two boats, you find the hot spot, and want your buddy to come help you fish the heck out of it - now, all you have to do is talk to him, and he'll know EXACTLY where you are.

Over the summer, I had an opportunity to spend time on the famous Rubicon trail here in California, and the units stayed in contact with the satellites through the entire trip, and allowed me to map our journey. When writing trip reports or trail event logs for our club, the GPS proved very useful. I had marked points on the trip that I would have forgotten about as time went by, without having put a nice little reminder of the event in the Rino.

About the only negative to the units is the rate in which they eat a standard AA battery. Each unit is powered by 3 AA batteries, and is good for about 15 hours of on time. I found that using rechargable batteries, and the car power adaptor has saved significant battery life, and expense. Another feature that was hard to live with is the power button. The little black button is located directly between the GPS and FRS/GMRS antennas and if you have big fingers, or are wearing winter gloves, the button can be hard to depress.

Otherwise, Garmin has a very high quality system in the Rino 110 and 120’s. The difference being in color (110’s are yellow, 120’s are olive green), and memory size for uploading maps and waypoints. Otherwise, the two will talk to each other with both the two-way radio and GPS mapping features.

Recommend this product?

Read all comments (1)

Share this product review with your friends   
Share This!