Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Product Review: Midland GXT950VP4 FRS/GMRS Radios
Hunting in Southern California doesn't lend itself to easy-on-the body hunting, like driving to your spot, putting up a treestand and sitting all day. Out here you have to drive around, spot and stalk, and do plenty of hiking to find your game. I knew I would need a pair of walkie-talkies to keep in contact with whomever I was hunting with. I had a pair of Motorola FR60s, but I needed something with a bit more range. I did some searching and came across the Midland GXT950VP4 5-Watt 42-Channel 30-Mile Waterproof GMRS Radios. They had good reviews, good range and were in my price range so I purchased a pair.

When the radios came to my house I read the instructions cover to cover. I thought my brain was going to explode with all of the steps you had to go through to get them to work the way I needed them to. I decided to test them in California and in New York. I figured the terrain would be different and the results should be accurate for a review.

In NY, I set the channels on both and took them hunting with my dad and my brother. We hunted a parcel of farmland and were not more than an eighth-of-a-mile from each other. I was in a treestand, on the edge of the woods and my partners were in their stands – one through the trees and the other across an open field. We had set the radios to the same call channels on all radios. We had checked them before we left and they transmitted and received perfectly. In the field was a different story. We had planned on turning on the radios at 9am to figure out a game plan for the remaining time in the woods. My dad had his FRS radio, my brother had his FRS radio and I had my high-tech static box. I could receive their transmissions loud and clear, but my dad couldn’t hear a word I was saying. I turned the volume up and nothing. He turned the volume up. Nothing. My brother could hear me crackle in and out and that was it. They grew frustrated and told me to meet them at the trail – about a 5 minute walk. Once out of the woods and in clear sight of them at 100 yards I tried again with the same result.

Back at the house, I charged them up overnight. I checked the radios twice the next day before we left. They sounded great. They transferred and received with one another. I figured I must have had a low battery. Nope. The same exact thing happened! We didn’t have a mountain in between us interfering, just a few trees and an open field. I was very disappointed.

When I got back to California I wanted to test them out in a different setting. I went on a hog hunt in Parkfield with my friend Jeff. We are both meticulous about our gear and we checked and double-checked our radios before we left camp. Out there it’s us vs. rattlesnakes, hogs and who knows what else. We wanted to stay in contact should something happen. Jeff warned me that they never had good luck with Midlands, but I wanted to try. My mistake, he was right. The radios did the same thing here as in NY. They wouldn’t talk with an FRS radios like I was told they would by all of the reviews. Needless-to-say, I got rid of them and purchased another brand (watch for the review).

Here are the Pros and Cons as I see them.
Pros: Solid construction with a good camo pattern. Battery life was good and they had some cool features like wildlife tones and such.
Cons: They don’t talk to other radios, and that's following the instructions. They are very bulky and heavy. You can only clip them onto something as they do not fit well into a breast pocket. They were hard to figure out for this DIY bowhunter.

I certainly would not recommend these to anyone. I don’t feel they were a good buy at all. Most of all I would not feel safe in the field using them to contact my hunting party. Maybe they have improved in the past couple years, but I will be sticking with my new pair that I know work well. Good luck this season and be sure to test your gear out before you hit the trail.

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