This is the Quiet Survivalist review of the Garmin 655t Rino UHF Hand held radio/gps.
Here in a nut shell is the jist of this whole post. The 655t is a great FRS/GMRS radio for use by hunters, preppers, outdoors people and families with children who like to roam. I have had mine for 7 months, I’m a dedicated HAM licensee and this is my favorite uhf radio.
If you want one of these radios you need to jump now. Garmin apparently discontinued the 655t. According to customer service the 650 and 650t are still in production. The 650t is exactly the same radio/GPS as the 655t without the camera.
If you got past the first paragraph , heres why I like this radio so much.
The 655t is the top end of the Garmin line, and this radio is full of features you wont find until you get into the very top end of ham radio ht’s. And features you wont find in any other radio I know of.
The group I hunt with uses a mixed bag of the Garmins, from the 200 series up through the 520 with mixed results. We have found uhf works better in the mountains of northern az and the washes and step, rocky terrain in the south. But, the 500 series have an annoying little joystick ,which gets bumped in a pocket changing radio settings at the worst times. Which is why I was hesitant to buy a 500 series.
The 655t has a color touch screen and intuitive menus.
If you have a smart phone this will be no new tech for you. This is an easy radio to learn.
The 655t and what’s in the box.
You get the radio, 1 L ion battery, a wall charger, and the computer cable for down loading pictures off the radio, as well as data, and up loading maps and software . The belt clip has a carabineer which is ok, but I will be replacing mine with a stainless S-biner.
During a rescue op a few years ago we had enough radios to give them to a SAR unit so they could find a me. I was giving first aid to another hiker and trying to coordinate with 3 different radios ( and 3 different frequencies) the rescuer response. Fortunately I had 3 radios because the 520 I was using got a NOAA weather alert and jumped off frequency without my being aware of it. This created chaos in the middle of communication until it was sorted out.
Suffice, I was not happy my comms dumped when it really mattered.
With the 655t, dumping comms doesn’t happen, the weather alerts are easily turned off and locked out.
The joy of the 655t is it also shows weather superimposed on your on screen maps.
Which brings me to the big reason I chose the 655 over the rest of the 600 series. It comes preloaded with 1/ 100,000 scale topographic maps of North America( US and Canada) which is a $100 upgrade but not available for the rest of the 600 series without separate purchase
An upgrade to 1/24,000 map is available which I will review in a later post
It also has an electronic altimeter. Anyone who has learned about navigation in the military know in the mountains an altimeter is as valuable as a compass.
You can follow and locate another Garmin Rino radio with the tracking feature, handy when 1 person has a large animal down when hunting, or for location of a rescuer during a life saving op. This feature can be shut off in case you don’t want the world knowing where you are.
When voice comms go down, the text feature is very nice because it will make contact, sometimes, when voice is intelligible
BUT, the feature I love to my heart is the satellite photograph overlay which is available.
Why do you ask?
Az has things called forest fires, and the Forest Service and BLM cut firebreaks into Roadless areas during these fires. The maps don’t show these, but the aerial photos do!!!!
Your GPS superimposes your location directly on the photo, so you know exactly where you are and can follow roads and trails not on maps.
I subscribed to this feature for about $30 a month last fall, during an Elk hunt in an area where a fire devastated, with amazing results.
Where everyone else spent 3-4 days plotting the new roads, my crew got in, filled 4 tags and got out before the road bound booger eaters had found the Elk. Past experience in the area knowing where the Elk go when the roads get inundated with road hunters, plus being able to have a real overhead view of the new roads was a boon for us.
The camera function is a 5meg digital. You can send pics to another 655t or download them to a computer. Its a camera, what else do I say?
I will say HAM radio is behind the curve here, with only 2 radios available from Yeasu having the same capability of taking and transmitting photos until you get into the realm of slow scan TV, which is far outside the scope of this review.
Suffice to say, this is a huge jump at the price point for a hand held radio.
The GPS is typical Garmin. It works and it works well. The 655t has a larger screen than the previous series, the touch screen can be used wearing gloves, and its intuitive if you have ever used map quest or google maps to get directions to anywhere. Another plus for this radio.
Screen shot photos courtesy of Garmin USA@
Now, the radio.
Its an FRS/GMRS radio with the normal array of channels and a fixed antenna, which is a requirement for FRS capable radios. Im not going to debate these rules, either deal with it or don’t.
Its a 5 watt transmitter and repeater offsets are already programmed into the radio for GMRS repeaters.
To see why this is an advantage a quick review of how repeaters work is in order. If you already know skip ahead.
Repeaters receive on 1 frequency and transmit on another. Therefore, a radio using the repeater must transmit on the freq the repeater receives, and must receive on the freq the repeater transmits. The difference in these freqs is called offset. In most uhf radios you have to program this yourself.
The 655t comes with this already done. THIS removes the cluster @#$ of everyone getting on the same repeater freqs at 1 time. Just set your channel to the number and make sure the R is shown to indicate the radio is set for the repeater offset.
NOTE- If you have the radio set for repeater function, radios will not communicate directly with another radio without a repeater in range, you must turn off the repeater function if there is no repeater in range.
All of these features purchased separately would be well over $1000 , so the price is well within reasonable value and really removes carrying a GPS, radio, altimeter and map putting it into 1 easy to carry package.
What I bought with my G665t
Another L ion Battery
holds 4 AA batteries for use when I can’t recharge the Li on batteries. This has proven to be unnecessary at the practical level, the L ion batteries have an excellent life, 12-14 hrs mostly monitoring.
This case comes with a metal belt clip on the back, which after catching on the pocket of my smock too many times, was promptly removed and put in the Survivor Dry Box I’ve reviewed previously.
plugs into a 12 volt accessory plug every vehicle has
That’s the Quiet Survivalist review of the Garmin 655t Hand held uhf radio/gps.
An excellent value for your purchase.