How To Program Your Radio for BC’s Backroads

In the last couple years the BC government has changed the radio frequencies used on all the forest service roads (FSRs).  They used to post the frequencies used so that you could type them in to your handheld radio.  With your radio programmed you are able to communicate with other users of the road, ie. logging trucks.  The radio system is primarily there as a safety procedure to prevent collisions on BC’s narrow backroads.  The cryptic system that they are now using takes away that safety tool if you are not prepared.

Pavillion Road Sign

I was caught off guard in 2015 when the radio frequency was removed from the West Pavillion FSR which I use to access some of my claims.  A sign that mentioned the change was in place but it did not state the new channel.

I found a decent map online that shows which FSRs are using each channel.  This map also shows all the FSRs which is cool.  You can look around without having to pull out your backroads map book.  Here is a link to the map, Chilliwack FSR Map.


This post will help you program your radios for BC’s new RR radio system.  You will need a few things for this:

  • A Radio
  • Programming Cable
  • A Computer
  • Radio Software

I am using a Baofeng UV-5R programmable radio.  I can’t say enough good things about this radio.  It is inexpensive (~$30), powerful and has lots of memory channels.  The coolest feature is that they are field programmable too.  More on the Baofeng UV-5R here, Gear Review: Baofeng Handheld Radio.  This guide works for other radios such as a Kenwood or Motorola, although you might need different software.

The cable that I’m using is a FTDI 2-pin Kenwood style.  It works for Baofeng and Kenwood radios.  For this post I’m using my laptop running Ubuntu linux.  But this guide will work with Windows too.

The software is really the key to the whole programming procedure.  There is an excellent open source program called CHIRP which stands for CHInese Radio Project.  CHIRP was designed to make it easy to program cheap Chinese radios such as the Baofeng, it also works on just about any other radio out there and its free.

OK lets get started.  The first thing that we have to do is get a list of frequencies.  I found them on a government website, but I’ll save you the trouble and post them right here.
ChannelsYou need to download and install CHIRP, on Ubuntu all you have do is run this command:

sudo apt-get install chirp

That will download and install the latest version from Ubuntu’s repositories.  If you are running Windows or Mac you can download CHIRP from their website here, CHIRP Site.  Installation is easy, just run the .exe file and you’re good to go.

Next start up the program, on linux you need to run it as root (AKA administrator) you can do that with the following command:

sudo chirpw

OK, now that CHIRP is started you have a few options.  You can clone your radio’s existing channels and modify them.  You can start a new file or load in an existing one.  Lets start one from scratch.  Click on the File menu and select “New”.  In my example I added a couple extra channels at the top.


It’s a pretty straightforward application.  The window functions a lot like a spreadsheet, there is a row for each channel and different parameters are defined in each column.  The BC RR channels are pretty basic so you can ignore most of the columns.  The RR channels are simplex, that means that they use the same frequency for transmit and receive.  Most public channels are simplex.  They have no carrier tone or any other funny business.  So we just have to enter the frequencies and the name.  Leave the rest of the settings at the default values.

After entering all 35 channels you are ready to load them onto the radio.  To do that first connect the programming cable to the radio.  It plugs into the port where you can add an external microphone.  See photo below:

Radio Plug

Make sure the radio is turned off when you connect the cable.  Otherwise it could shock the memory and wreck the radio.  The software will need to know which serial port you have connected to.  In linux you can get that information with the following command:

dmesg | grep tty

Look for the line that looks like this:

[147117.481257] usb 2-3: FTDI USB Serial Device converter now attached to ttyUSB0

That is telling us that the programming cable is on port “ttyUSB0”.  In Windows the easiest way is to look at your serial ports in the device manager.

Now you can upload the channels to the radio.  Turn on the radio with the programming cable attached.  Then choose “Upload to radio” from the Radio menu in CHIRP.  You’ll be prompted for the serial port, in my case ttyUSB0.  You will also need the radio make and model.

Once you hit OK, the upload will begin.  You’ll get a nice progress bar to show you how its going.


That’s about it.  Make sure that you turn off the radio before you disconnect the programming cable.  Now you’re ready to hit the back roads and communicate with other travellers.

15 thoughts on “How To Program Your Radio for BC’s Backroads

  • January 21, 2017 at 10:11 pm

    This is great info!
    I’m using Kenwood software for a radio I have and I was wondering how you find out what channels are “Narrow Band” or “Wideband” like the Ladd channels for instance?
    Thank you in advance!

  • June 7, 2018 at 12:56 am

    Thanks have been looking for the “RR” Frequencies

  • October 31, 2018 at 9:25 pm

    You might want to note that when you make a new channel file that it has to be saved as an .img file or the radio will not recognize it. For some reason my computer wanted to save it as a .csv and it would not work. Easiest way is to clone a download of what is in the radio already.

    Thanks for the info.


  • April 3, 2020 at 6:45 pm

    Saved as a favorite, I really like your site!

  • December 29, 2020 at 7:49 pm

    Does any one know anybody who programs baefeng radios on Vancouver Island ? I must have taken a stupid pill because I can not program this BF-F8HP . My computer doesn’t like the CHIRP program , won’t recognize the port . Damn radio talks to me in Chinese, I think I did that to it , not sure how .
    Any ways , I need some help with it , I live In the Comox Valley .

    • December 29, 2020 at 9:44 pm

      IF you can’t do it on CHIRP, you can program on the radio directly. First set it to English then change the settings as required.

      I”d help you but I’m in the Lower Mainland.

    • February 18, 2021 at 1:57 am

      I had this problem. 1st, the plug was not fully inserted into the radio. It’s a tight fit. Also, the program was reading from the wrong com port. Check Device Manager to see which one the radio is actually using. Mine uses 5. Hope that helps.

  • January 1, 2021 at 12:12 am

    hey i was wondering if you could send me a copy of that programming?

    • January 1, 2021 at 12:49 am

      The frequencies are posted here and there is a screenshot of the CHIRP layout. It’s pretty straightforward.

  • February 11, 2021 at 9:41 pm

    Hi I am totally new to this. Want to add the RR Channels to my radio. I have added the frequencies using CHIRP, but all of the other fields are empty. Do I need anything in those fields? Thanks in advance for any help.

  • February 13, 2021 at 3:58 am

    Thanks for the response. I noticed in the screenshot that the ‘Tone Mode” for the RR channels says ‘none’. If I leave it at ‘none’, I cannot change any of the other fields. If its is on “Tone” then I can change them to match. I am assuming I am missing something obvious. I will also check out the link. Thanks!

    • February 28, 2021 at 7:08 pm

      He stated that these BC RR and LD channels do not use tones, so you do not need to fill in the other fields. You only need to fill in the Frequency and Name fields. Leave all the other fields at their default values.
      “The BC RR channels are pretty basic so you can ignore most of the columns. The RR channels are simplex, that means that they use the same frequency for transmit and receive. Most public channels are simplex. They have no carrier tone or any other funny business. So we just have to enter the frequencies and the name. Leave the rest of the settings at the default values.”

  • February 28, 2021 at 7:59 pm

    Great Article!


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