Getting Licensed: GMRS for the Rocky Talkie 5 Watt Radio

Getting Licensed: GMRS for the Rocky Talkie 5 Watt Radio


Rocky Talkie rolled out a new radio late last year, and you’ll need a permission slip from the Federal Communications Commision to use it. The 5-watt radio, an upgrade from the 2-watt Mountain Radio with its signature orange carabiner, requires a General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) license. 

So there I was, shortly after unboxing my fresh radio, on an incredibly outdated government website, glancing at the browser to convince myself I wasn’t getting scammed as I typed my social security number. 

A Rocky Talkie blog post walks users through the clunky site, making the process simple and almost too easy with step-by-step instructions. In under 10 minutes, I had a GMRS license. The process required no education, no test—just $35 and some personal information. 

So…why did I need that? The new radios have the power to access repeaters, technology typically installed on ridgelines that re-transmit signals to a broader area—sometimes over 100 miles in each direction. Those repeaters are a public good that require registration and a license to use, just like public roads. 

The Rocky Talkie team expects the extra power and range from repeaters will go beyond basic communication, aiding in rescue scenarios by circumventing terrain barriers, like mountains, that would typically block signals. But it’s also just fun: Rocky Talkie employees in Tucson use a repeater to chat from their respective homes across the city. Who needs Zoom when you have the 5-watt radio?

I’m not planning to use repeaters often, but the radios boast other new features I’ll frequent: They’re fully submersible, perfect for packrafting and extra-wet PNW adventures. Plus, dual channel monitoring is a godsend for backcountry skiing, letting users hear designated community channels while having another channel to chat within their group. And to me, that’s all worth navigating a government website.

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