Hiking in the backcountry? Out of cell phone range? One of the best ways to keep in constant contact with your companions is a two-way radio system. Two-way radios work best in rural settings where there isn’t a lot of interference. They have an incredible range and with the push of a button you can communicate with someone who is away.
What to Look for
No matter what range you see on a package, you generally will only get reception for up to 2 miles; Open wilderness conditions are best, preferably with flat terrain like plains or a valley. Believe it or not, even your own body can block your signal.
Power can boost your range; the higher the wattage, the better the range of your radios. For that reason, if it is very important for you to have a high range, it may be worth it for you to get a license to operate on GMRS channels. If you have GMRS radio, when you transmit on the FRS channels, you will automatically drop to a half-watt while you are operating on those channels.
No matter which type of radio you get, it will probably come with 22 channels, each with up to 121 “privacy” codes. These reduce interference on the same channel. If you are in a busy area where a lot of people are using two-way radios, you may hear interference on all of the channels. This is very common in resorts and on park grounds. For this reason, radios come equipped with privacy codes called CTCSS or CDCSS (Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System or Continuous Digital Coded Squelch System, respectively). These allow you to use the same channels as other users, but speak privately without interference.
The majority of two-way radios function on AA and AAA batteries, usually your regular alkaline variety. Others include rechargeable battery packs (NiMH or NiCad). The most flexible option is to purchase a radio that can use both. Rechargeable batteries are excellent for saving you money, but they tend to lose their charge quickly. This is particularly true in cold environments, so for skiers and hikers in cold climates, regular batteries may offer superior performance.
Voice Activated Transmit- Hands free radio. When you speak, the radio will pick up on it and start transmitting automatically.
It's important to clarify and boost your signal.
This feature lets you check the NOAA weather band stations to see what conditions you can expect. If you are exploring the backcountry, this is a must.
Some radios actually offer GPS, so you can use them not only to communicate, but to find your way around as well. Better yet, you can use them to transmit your location to other users and check where they are. If you are out hiking or skiing with friends, this is a great way to keep track of each other, and an excellent safety feature
10 Best 2-Way Radios for Outdoor Use
It’s designed for GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) operation, in a rugged, weatherproof package. With a range of up to 36 miles, they're perfect for most any adventure. Features include privacy codes, direct/group calling, NOAA weather radio/alert/scan, silent operation, whisper function, SOS siren, and plenty more. The radio has a weather scan function that scans the active weather channel in your area. It also has an automatic NOAA alert for severe weather hazard information 24/7.
Channels - 50, FRS and GMRS
Dimensions - 7.75 x 2.5 x 1.4 inches
Weight - 4.8 oz.
- NOAA/All Hazard Weather Channels with Alert and Weather Scan
- Vibrate Alert.9 Levels of VOX for Hands Free Operation
- JIS4 Waterproof* - Protection in all directions against light rain or splashing water
- X-TRA TALK Power - Maximum allowed by law
- 10 Call Alerts - Different call tones to notify you of incoming calls from your group
- On the expensive side
- VOX button can become a turn-off
- One may face heavy battery drain after using it for two to three years
This set is perfect for long-range communication, one can use it for a maximum range of 50 kilometers (no obstacles region), and this itself proves the capacity of this model. Along with the usual 22 communication channels present in the walkie-talkies this set is equipped with 28 more communication channels so that user can select a channel according to his liking. This ensures more privacy to the users also.
Motorola MT350R FRS
The MT Series is weatherproofed with an IP-54 rating from dust and wet weather, whether rain and snow. NOAA weather channels and weather alerts keep you prepared for emergencies such as severe thunderstorms, tornadoes, flash floods, winter storms, emergency evacuations and Amber Alerts. Its emergency alert feature and built-in LED flashlight provide added peace of mind. Whether you're out hunting, camping, and fishing or just out and about, the MT350R is a great tool for emergency communications. Its emergency alert feature, built-in LED flashlight and NOAA weather alert channels provide a total emergency preparedness communication solution.
- 11 NOAA weather channels, offering coverage of all government-operated NOAA weather broadcasts
- iVOX voice activation- hands-free when used with or without optional accessories
- Built-in LED flashlights & LCD display with backlight
- 10 hours of talk time with the NiMH rechargeable battery pack and up to 15 hours with alkaline batteries
- No carry case/pack life
Motorola MT350R 2-way radios can endure extreme weather and harsh environments while delivering high-end communication and NOAA weather information. A warrior of harsh environmental conditions, this radio is equipped to secure functionality by guarding against Mother Nature's unexpected weather tantrums. With a range of up to 35 miles, it's perfect for active outdoor excursions or life's everyday adventures. Take a pair on your next hunting, camping or hiking trip and stay connected no matter what the season
This set of two Walkie Talkies has great features and makes it easy to communicate, even in areas without cell phone reception. It has a range of around 5 to 8 km, which is more than enough if you’re out and about. With auto channel scan and multiple channels (8 channel 446mhz (PMR), 22 channel 462-467mhz (FRS/GMRS)) to select from you can easily choose a clear one when you go out with family and friends, letting you communicate with ease over distances of up to 8 km. It has a built in light and the LCD display includes a battery level indicator, so you can check how much charge is remaining before setting off for the day.
Channels - 22 FRS and GMRS
Dimensions - 5.51 in x 2.09 in x 0.79 in
Weight - 5.28 oz.
- 22 channels as well as a back-lit LCD screen
- Auto channel scan, Page tone alert, Low battery alert
- 5 different call melodies
- Eight channel PMR system auto scan function
- Rechargeable AAA batteries
These walkie talkies are great for if you’re heading to the park, going trekking or heading off to the beach as it lets you keep in touch with those around you without running up cell phone charges.
Uniden Submersible 50 Mile FRS
The GMR5089-2CKHS 50-Mile Submersible 2-Way Radio from Uniden keeps you safe and in contact. They are ideal for boating, hiking, and other outdoor pursuits. These palm-sized radios are lightweight, rugged and not just waterproof, but fully submersible and can even float to the surface if dropped in water. The included headsets and VOX voice-activated control allow simple hands-free use. FRS & GMRS Radio Guide. When in Emergency/Weather mode, the system monitors the selected emergency/weather channel for alerts when not communicating. The emergency strobe allows people to see you if you happen to find yourself lost.
Dimensions - 15 x 3.5 x 8.5 inches
Weight - 3 lbs.
- Privacy codes
- VOX voice-activated control
- Submersible, weather-resistant design
- Backlit LCD
- Emergency strobe light
- 6,270 Channel combinations
- Automatic channel change
- Direct call with caller ID
- No on/off volume knob
Stay in touch with your party over a range of up to 50 miles, depending on terrain, and enjoy access to the latest weather alerts from the NOAA, so you can adjust your plans to the changing forecast.
Motorola Talkabout T400
The Motorola T400 two-way radio is the high performance, ultra durable waterproof radio that’s perfect for the serious outdoor enthusiast. It offers great power, providing up to 35 miles of range in ideal conditions. With 22 + 8 repeater channels and 121 privacy codes, you will have the communication flexibility you need. The waterproof radio is equipped with a headset jack connector. This two-way radio is designed using meticulous engineering, the radio floats when it falls into water.
Channels - 22 Channels, each with 121 Privacy Codes
Dimensions - 1.4 x 2.3 x 7.5 inches
Weight - 6.7 oz.
- IP54 Weatherproof
- 22 Channels each with 121 Privacy Codes
- NOAA radio service
- Built-in LED flashlight
- Hands-free- iVOX/VOX acting like a speakerphone and allowing hands-free communication
- The Quiet Talk (QT) feature ensures uninterrupted communication with other Motorola radios that also have this feature
- It emits a loud crashing blast of static noise
The Motorola Talkabout T400 walkie talkie is an excellent camping and hiking walkie talkie, and is a necessary item, perfect for camping and outdoor family excursions and trips. It has a durable, light, waterproof body, and is packed full of features. In terms of price and functionality, it really is great value for money. The T400 proves to be an ideal outdoor radio because it comes with a weatherproof design. Besides being weatherproof, the T400 also comes with a channel dedicated to the National Weather Service. This ensures that users are ready and informed with the forecast at all times and avoid potentially dangerous situations.
The MicroTALK Cobra CX350A has a compact design with up to 23-mile range. With weather alerts be prepared for storms and emergencies with built-in NOAA radio receiver. It comes with voice-activated (VOX) transmission frees hands for other tasks. Choose from five selectable tones that can be distinguished between different parties for incoming calls. A total of 2662 channel combinations are available when the 22 channels are combined with the 121 privacy codes (38 CTCSS/83 DCS). These combinations prevent interference from other radios.
Channels - 22 Channels
Dimensions - 8.8 x 7 x 2 inches
Weight - 1 lb.
- Up to 23 Mile Range
- 10 NOAA Weather Channels
- Weather resistant
- Call Alert
- Roger Beep
The BF-888S is a full featured two way radio and hand held transceiver with long range capabilities up to 6km. Each radio comes with a charger, antenna, and everything you need to get started communicating conveniently at a long range, whether in a recreational context like camping or on site at your business. The BF-888S includes many perks that elevate it above an average Walkie Talkie, such as VOX (Voice Operated Exchange) which makes it unnecessary to push a button to talk. Its other features include a built-in high illumination flashlight and an emergency alarm.
Channels - 16 Memory Channels, 50 CTCSS /105 CDCSS
Dimensions - 10 x 7.1 x 4.5 inches
Weight -1.4 lbs.
- VOX, Scanning, & Monitor Functions
- English Voice Prompt
- PC Programmable
- High Illumination Flashlight
- Transmitter Time-Out Timer (TOT)
- Programming procedure is not easy
- Not waterproof
Among the various benefits is the nonexistence of harmful signals. Hence, regular and long duration usage does not cause any sort of destruction to the health. It also does not require a regularly connecting process like that of mobile phone because these hand-held transceivers are always connected to each other so that you just have to press a button and start communicating. This helps in many ways to direct people in case of emergency or frequently change of plans.
What you will notice about these radios right away is their bright yellow color. This high-visibility feature makes it easy to locate the radios if you drop or misplace them, even in the dark. This two-way radio pair from Midland includes a couple of 36-channel GMRS radios with a maximum 30-mile range. They have NOAA Weather Scan and Weather Alert, which makes them an excellent choice when you’re out hiking or camping with family & friends. The Midland LXT630VP3 also includes the eVox hands free feature to facilitate easy voice activation. It's resistant to water, so could even be used when boating or if it happens to be raining. You'll be able to scan channels available in the surrounding area and its back-lit LCD display is very easy to read.
- 30 Mile Range in High Visibility Yellow
- NOAA Weather/All Hazard with Alert and Weather Scan
- 121 Privacy Codes
- 5 Call Alerts
- 3 Level Vox for Hands Free Operation
- Backlit Display (LCD)
- Auto Squelch
- Roger Beep
One of the most attractive key features of this radio is its small size and light weight. This allows you to easily carry it with you without it being overly cumbersome, or you can carry it at the hip using the included belt clips. These little units are great for family use in crowded areas like theme parks or fairs and the long range make it practical for commercial use as well. Besides its compact size and powerful functionality, it's also priced attractively.
The Motorola Talkabout MH230TPR three pack features the MH230, a great general purpose radio. With its distinctive yellow faceplate and ergonomic design, it is made to be easy to locate and use. This radio is great for emergency preparedness kits, as a set of backup radios, and for use on camping trips. The Quiet Talk feature lets you set the radios to only communicate with other compatible Motorola products to further reduce crosstalk and enhance privacy.
Channels - 22 channels, each with 121 privacy codes for 2,662 combinations
Dimensions - 6 x 1 x 2.5 inches
Weight -1.9 lb.
- NOAA weather channels
- Emergency alerts
- Hands free VOX mode
- Channel scan
- QT Noise filter
- Backlit LCD display
- A range of up to 23 miles under favorable conditions
The Motorola MH230TPR 23-Mile Range 3-Pack Rechargeable 2-Way Radios helps you and your friends stay in touch in the great outdoors. They are ideal for hiking, camping, skiing and any other adventure.
Cobra Walkie-Talkie MicroTalk CXR725
The most important feature of the Cobra CXR725 walkie talkie is obviously its 27 mile range. For walkie talkies of its price range this is reasonably large, but rest assured the CXR725 has many more features available. These are the world s smallest high-powered GMRS/FRS transceiver & consist of 22 channels and 142 privacy codes that together provide a 3124 channel combination. They also feature VibrAlert that alerts you easily on incoming calls in a noisy area or a quiet area. The illuminated LCD display makes them easy to use even in dark.
Channels - 22 channels
Dimensions - 6 x 7 x 6 inches
Weight - 1 lb.
- 27 Mile Range, 22 Channels & 142 Privacy Codes
- Hands-free operation (VOX) & VibrAlert Silent Paging
- Maximum range extender and belt clip included for maximum efficiency and carrying ease
Cobra states that the CXR725 is the "world’s smallest high-powered GMRS/FRS radio". It does have a very small frame, making it very easy to carry in your pocket. It will also take up very little room in a backpack or in an emergency kit.
Walkie talkies / two-way radios are a necessary tool for hikers and campers. Two-way radios act as both communication tools for when you are outside of cell phone service as well as emergency alert radios when you need to know the local weather conditions . Since walkie talkies are meant for outdoor use, make sure to pick one with a long warranty. Lastly, make sure you get a waterproof walkie talkie, just in case you drop it in water.