Choosing a UHF/Two Way Radio – Which is Best for Four Wheel Driving

UHF radio sitting on desk

“Never let someone else define your adventure, or tell you how to do it. Not even us.”

This is the message we put at the beginning of each post. 

The Rough As Guts mandate is that we must always tell it like it is, regardless of popular opinion. Sometimes it may seem like we’re trying to gate keep the word “adventure” when we say things like “real four wheel driving” or “real camping”. That’s not our intent, but what we damn-sure are hell-bent on, is to make sure people are never putting their limitations on others, advising against reasonable risk and lowering the bar for people who just might have gone and done something incredible if they hadn’t been talked out of it.

Your life is your adventure. Live it however the hell you want.

Table of Contents

The Best UHF for 4WD Touring and Bush Bashing – Choosing the Ideal Two Way Radio

Whether you’re doing remote touring in your 4WD and relying upon communication, or just hitting some of the local tracks with your mates while wanting to talk a big game while driving, we’ve got the right UHF/two-way set up for you.

We look at the best brands and models available in Australia, and use our experience at overland four wheel driving, to tell you which is best for each type of adventure.

 

GME vs Uniden vs Oricom – Battle of the Best-Known UHFs Available in Australia

GME is great.

Uniden is not so great.

Oricom, pretty comparable to Uniden.

These days, most brands can offer the same features. If a manufacturer pioneers a new technology or feature, it’s usually not long before the others are doing it too. With this in mind, we’re looking at build quality and reliability across these brands.

 

GME

GME is Autralian owned and they’re the only manufacturer that are Australian made.

It’s probably no coincidence that they’re also the best, but it’s nice to know you can support local without breaking an arm and a leg, while also getting the best quality.

I’ve owned Uniden, GME and Oricom two way radios and I’ve never had an issue with the GME products while I’ve had issues with the other two. I’ve still got working GME radios that are more than 20 years old and the only reason they’ve been taken out of service is that newer channel frequencies have been introduced in Australia.

GME make quality products that last.

 

Uniden

Older Uniden products were good and reliable. With their newer range, they’re decent if you get one that works properly, but the amount that show up with problems is alarmingly high. It seems as though their quality control just isn’t there and while I’ve never dealt with their customer service personally, I know people that have been pulling their hair out after trying to get some sort of remediation from Uniden.

 

Oricom

Oricom are a bit better than Uniden, in my opinion, but not by much. They’re more of a consumer electronics brand that also make UHFs, compared to someone like GME who specialize. You wouldn’t think that would make a crazy difference, but it seems to.

Apart from reliability issues that I’ve experienced with them, they also seem to use a lot of non-industry-standard cables and plugs, so that if you need anything you have to get it directly from them instead of being able to buy generic.

When I briefly worked at a 4WD accessory retailer while I started Rough As Guts, we sold some models of Oricom UHFs. I saw a high number of returns and complaints, including products that were dead on arrival.

 

The Best Two Way Radios for Touring, Hard-core Bush Bashing and Everything in Between

I hope you can see why the only models of UHF that we recommend are GME. If budget is a limiting factor, it’s better to go for a more basic model of GME with less features, than trying to match the same features with a cheaper brand. We recommend a budget friendly option below.

 

Best Two Way Radio Unit for All Uses

GME XRS radio

Our recommendations for touring, hard wheeling through dense bush and our in between option all use the XRS-330C or the XRS-370C base unit which is the same except for it’s slightly larger size to incorporate a speaker in the unit as well as the hand-piece, and that its outer case is metal instead of plastic. I’ve never had an issue with the plastic casing on my unit.

The XRS range are all controlled by the speaker-microphone/handpiece instead of having any controls on the radio unit itself. This allows it to be tucked away out of sight and all the kits come with an extension wire so you can have the unit wherever you want, regardless of where the handpiece is.

The XRS range have Bluetooth as well as GPS in some models.

 

XRS-330CTPG (Touring Pack) – Best for Long Distance Touring

The XRS Connect Touring Pack utilises the 330C radio, but gets it’s “touring” designation because it uses a taller, elevated-feed antenna to help get a longer range.

It’s designed for those who are covering longer distances and aren’t expecting to be travelling through dense scrub, where the taller aerial will be a problem.

The antenna is 6.6dBi.

 

XRS-370C4P (4WD Pack) – Best for Bush Bashing & Hard Wheeling

The XRS Connect 4WD Pack, utilises the 370C radio, which for all intents and purposes is the same as the 330 used in the other packs. The key difference here is that it uses a heavy-duty radome antenna. A fat, short, stubby thing designed not to get caught up in tree branches.

The antenna is 2.1dBi.

 

XRS-330COBG (Outback Pack) – Best of Both Worlds

The XRS Connect Outback Pack, utilises the 330C radio.

It has a medium duty radome antenna that’s shorter than the touring pack and longer than the 4WD pack. This gives you a decent range, but a strong and short enough aerial for occasional use in dense bush. This is the setup I use personally.

The antenna is 2.1dBi.

 

The Best Budget Friendly Two Way Radio

a GME TX3500SVP UHF radio package

The TX3500S from GME is a great unit and a fair bit cheaper than the XRS range, but it’s old school with all the controls on the radio itself and none of this fandangled Bluetooth and GPS stuff.

I have one of these in my wife’s car and it’s a great unit. As I never really use any of the advanced features of my XRS radio, I’d probably opt for one of these if I had to buy again, but that’s just me.

The TX3500SVP pairs the radio unit with an elevated feed 6.6dBi antenna, making one of the best two way radio systems available.

Freedom does not come automatically, it is achieved. And it is not gained in a single bound; it must be achieved each day”

– Rollo May, Man’s Search for Himself

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11 Responses

  1. Hi my son bought GME on my advice but only the base model pack ,not made in Australia when you get to read the box . Made in China. Major disappointment. Had GME, Uniden and Oricom over the years, Never had a problem with GME or Uniden, a few problems with Oricom reception and speaker volume and will not go there again. Needed some spare parts for a Uniden handheld years ago after it was dropped, rang Uniden and they sent me the parts for free.

  2. Hi Toby,
    thanks for your great no-nonsense advice. I’ll follow up on it.
    Just a word.. given we get out there and really cae about the place, I would suggest no longer using the term “bush bashing”. It’s easy not to think it’s so important, but if we want the new adventurers to treat the bush as we all should it woud make sense to send a more modern message. Len Beadell was of hos own time.. times have changed.
    cheers,
    Steve

    1. Hi Steve,

      I agree that times have changed and that treating the bush well is extremely important. In the words of John Williamson: “the bush must remain for our spirit to stay”.
      We push this perspective when we run our tours and people are even told that if they litter, they’ll be finding their own way home.

      However, I disagree that adding “bush bashing” to the long list of things we’re not supposed to say in 2024 would be helpful.

      While perhaps a little childish, the alliterative double B sound makes it fun to say. Heading out into the bush and camping is ultimately all about fun, and one of the things that contributes to this is that we get to leave most rules and the pressure of conformity behind while we’re “away from the real world”. Adding restrictions around verbology, to me, seems antithetical to the spirit of camping. In my experience, it’s around the camp fire where most of these restrictions are forgotten and people talk a lot more freely. It’s important for our own sanity to be able to take breaks from self-censorship.

      I don’t think bush bashing is the sort of term that is at risk of being taken literally. I’ve been told many times to “break a leg”, but have never taken that literally and have only ever broken my feet. This was on a motorbike though and it was a result of colliding with the natural environment, so maybe I was literally bush bashing?

      When Carlo Petrini released his Slow Food Manifesto, his great achievement was realising that in order to stem something we don’t like (in this case it was fast food and the Americanisation of Italian culture), that a viable alternative needs to be presented. It’s not enough to simply try and stop something. So if you would like to see the term bush bashing become obsolete, then we would need a suitable replacement that’s short; to the point; invokes a sense of fun; and it probably also needs to be slightly mischievous.

      If you can come up with something suitable, then count me in. But, until then, I’m going to continue opting for fun and a bit of poetic licence.

  3. Hi Toby

    If the 4WD pack and the Outback pack were the same price would you still stick with the outback pack as your preferred setup?

    Cheers

    Ben

  4. I am getting a radio, and you made the decision clear for me.
    Just wanted to say thanks very much for your advice.

    1. Glad we could help Shane. It’s a pretty basic bit of kit that doesn’t seem all that important, right up until it becomes crucial. Then it’s great to have the right radio.

  5. Hi, I purchased a GME XRS 330 UHF Connect Touring Pack today, based on your recommendation and some feedback from other sources. Just one thing of interest – the salesman (at Anaconda) mentioned that the aerial (AE4018BK1 elevated-feed antenna) that comes with this pack does have a habit of coming loose on rougher roads and can also whip and break on (for example) corrugated roads. Nothing that should be an issue if proper care is taken but I thought it was worth a mention.

    1. G’day Trevor,

      Glad to hear you’re getting out and about enough to justify a good bit of gear like the touring pack.

      Yeah, the aerials are all one unit, so it would be the bottom nut that would come loose. We loctite everything for the corrugations, but particularly anything ahead of the front axle (bull bar etc) which gets the brunt of the corrugations.

      They’re a fairly rigid aerial but we’ve got three in the fleet and have never had a problem.

  6. Hi Toby

    Enjoyed your review and agree 100%. GME No1 I go onto minesites for work a lot. It is common that if you go in with a GME 100% Uniden they still tune to refine frequency. but if you arrive with Oricom IT just don’t want to see you. you will be given a site radio.

    I was looking at GME for my personal 4×3 and liked your review and breakdown.
    Is that you touring on your Morortbike in the photo?

    1. Hey mate,

      Yeah that’s me in the photo. Somewhere in the Andes in Peru, following the Dakar in 2019. Was about 14,000 feet and breathing was a bit of a struggle. Bloody freezing too.

      You make a great point, I can’t think of the last time I saw a mine-spec fleet car that had anything but GME.

      Cheers,
      Toby

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