Choosing a CB Radio
CB radios come in many shapes, sizes, and have different capabilities. One essential thing to understand about CB radios is that all CB’s are created with the same amount of transmission power. The FCC regulates CB communication to 4 watts of power, and therefore makes choosing a CB not about the power, but about how it fits the needs and you and your vehicle.
Popular CB Radios for Overland Vehicles
Because overland trips tend to span over multiple days, CB radios that receive NOAA weather updates are very popular. One of the most popular NOAA radios is the Cobra 18 WXST II. This din size radio has a front firing speaker and can easily mount in, above, or below the dash of any vehicle. If cab space is a concern, we recommend the compact Cobra 75 WX ST II. This unique compact CB unit contains all the controls in the microphone and attaches to a small control box that is easily hidden. Additionally, this radio can be easily detached and stored when not in use.
Choosing a CB Antenna
Because all CB radios are regulated at 4 watts of power, the primary factors in determining CB range is the quality and length of the CB antenna. There are two primary types of antennas that are widely used, magnetic base loaded antennas, and fiberglass top loaded antennas. Because fiberglass antennas are more durable and made for off-road use, they are an ideal fit for overland vehicles. The most popular fiberglass CB antenna is the Firestik FS. This proven antenna is made from quality parts in the USA, is available in 2′ – 5′ lengths, and is compatible with CB antenna springs and quick disconnects. Another popular fiberglass CB antenna is the Wilson FLEX. Created with a unique design, the FLEX antenna is able to bend up to 180 degrees without breaking. Ideal for overlanders traveling in areas with thick brush, the FLEX will easily bend under low hang branches and obstacles. Of these two antennas we recommend the Firestik FS due to its greater range capability, unless you are going to be regularly traveling in areas of thick brush.
Choosing a Mounting Location for a CB Antenna
Hood rails, doorjambs, metal bars, and vertical metal surfaces are great areas to mount a CB antenna. When choosing a mounting location, it is critical to choose an area that is well grounded to the vehicle chassis. CB systems use the vehicle’s chassis to create a radio ground plane and filter noise, which allows the CB to send clear signals. If you want to mount to a location that does not have a grounded surface, such as a truck topper, you will need to ground the mount to the chassis or purchase a NGP (no ground plane) antenna system. We recommend choosing a grounded surface, as NGP antennas do not achieve the same range as a grounded antenna.
Tuning your CB antenna
The final step in CB installation is tuning your CB antenna. Without getting too involved, CB antennas need to be adjusted to match each specific chassis and mounting location, as the ideal signal length from the CB to the antenna differs for every vehicle. While this process might sound daunting, it is actually quite simple. Using a standard or built in SWR meter, you will test the CB system and either raise or lower the length of the antenna (using the adjustable tip on the antenna) until the SWR is at its lowest point. Tuning your antenna is important as it ensures peak performance of your CB and protects your equipment. For detailed instructions of how to tune your CB antenna, please see our CB antenna tuning video and guide.
Handheld CB radios
Another useful tool when on the trail is the handheld CB radio. During many overland expeditions, you can spend as much time outside of the vehicle as inside. When you are outside of the vehicle, it is often very important to be in direct communication with the driver, even if the driver is just listening. In scenarios like these, handheld CB’s are extremely useful. Do to the short-range capability, handhelds are not a replacement for vehicle CB radios, but are very handy when in the field.