Two-way radios, such as walkie-talkies and ham radios, are useful to everyone from hikers to radio enthusiasts.
So, whether you’re looking to enter the world of amateur radio or you’re preparing your next trek through the mountains, keep reading to find out which two-way radios will meet your requirements.
With dual-band support, you can broadcast over GMRS and FRS bands, thus allowing you to tune into more channels. And with 22 channels, 121 privacy codes, and a range of 35 miles, you can be confident you’ll always be able to stay in touch with the rest of your party.
A word of warning, thoughalthough the Motorola MR350Rs have large buttons and drop protection, they are still considered consumer-grade quality. If you’re planning to do any exceptionally rugged activities, look elsewhere.
- 22 channels each with 121 privacy codes
- 11 weather channels
- 23 hours of battery life
- Brand: Motorola
- Range: 35 miles
- Channels: 22
- Water Resistant: IP51
- Rugged with large buttons
- Vibration alert and 20 different call tones
- Supports hands-free communication
- Does not ship with earbuds with PTT microphone
- Only available in black
- Users have complained range is greatly curtailed in urban areas
It has a long list of features that pros will appreciate, but that will mean little to an amateur enthusiast. These include busy channel lockouts, voice scrambling, a programmable LED alert, a timeout timer, wireless cloning capabilities, and adjustable mic gain.
You’ll also find a lot more in the box that you’d typically find with a cheaper radio. There is a rapid drop-in charging unit, an accessory port cover, and a belt clip.
If you buy the correct optional accessories (sold separately), the Kenwood TK-3402U16P ProTalk also supports hands-free communication.
- 39 quiet talk codes
- 18 hours of battery life
- 36mm-diameter speaker
- UHF Frequencies (450-470Mhz)
- Brand: Kenwood
- Range: 7 miles
- Channels: 16
- Water Resistant: IP55
- 90 preset frequencies
- Works in extreme heat and extreme cold
- 168 digital quiet talk privacy codes
- Only 16 channels
Some of the most noteworthy features include a security passcode lock, a built-in morse code training tool, and a carry case as standard.
You can output on 2 meter, 1.25 meter, and 70cm (144/222/440MHz) frequencies and receive it across the full spectrum (excluding cell phone signal bands).
Remember, ham radios need a license to operate. You may be breaking the law if you use one without a license.
- Powerful tri-band ham radio
- Max 5W output power
- Works with police, weather, aircraft, and marine bands
- Brand: Yaesu
- Channels: 0.5-998,900MHz (Rx) / 144-440MHz (Tx)
- Water Resistant: JIS7
- 10 NOAA weather channels
- Can be submersed underwater
- Auto-range transponder system to alert you when out of contact range
- Can receive AM/FM broadcast radio
- Need a license to operate
With eight hours of battery life and an AC charger and in-car charger, they are perfect for people who want to go for a long hike or spend multiple hours in the wilderness.
The Midland GXT1000VP4’s whisper feature and 142 private codes (which provide 3,124 channel options) ensure the radio is also perfect for people who want to keep a low profile in the field.
The units have a JIS4 waterproof rating. That means they are splash resistant but cannot withstand being submerged underwater—so make sure you don’t fall in any rivers!
- 142 privacy codes
- SOS siren
- 36-mile range
- Brand: Midland
- Range: 36 miles
- Channels: 50
- Water Resistant: JIS4
- Available in black or silver
- NOAA weather scans and alerts
- Cheap build quality
- Premium cost
- Not beginner-friendly
There is a notable step up in quality compared to the older BaoFeng products. They now come with a 1W speaker, a chassis that feels more robust, larger buttons, and a new chipset and PCB board.
Under the hood, you’ll find channels steps of 2.5, 5, 6.25, 10, 12.5, and 25KHz, 16kF3E and 11kF3E modulation modes, and a rechargeable 1800mAh battery.
- FM: 65-108MHz
- VHF: 136-174MHz (Rx/Tx)
- UHF: 400-520MHz (Rx/Tx)
- Brand: BaoFeng
- Range: Narrowband (12.5kHz) and wideband (25kHz)
- Channels: 128
- Water Resistant: No
- Three power settings
- Programmable from a Windows computer
- Save 25 stations in the memory
- Entry-level quality
- Need programming skills
- Low RX sensitivity
You also get an IP67 waterproof rating (so you can dunk them underwater for up to 90 seconds), access to NOAA weather alerts, and 23 channels with 121 privacy codes.
The Motorola T605 walkie talkies are identical to the T600s; the only difference is that the T600 model does not ship with the carry case or car charger. We think those two additions are worth the extra cost, but if you’re on a budget, you can opt for the cheaper T600s without worrying about a deterioration in quality.
- 23 channels each with 121 privacy codes
- 2,662 total channel combinations
- Communicate with any other FRS/GMRS radios
- Brand: Motorola
- Range: 35 miles
- Channels: 23
- Water Resistant: IP67
- Can be submersed in water
- Built-in flashlight
- 11 weather channels
- Only two-mile range in urban areas
- More expensive than the T600 due to accessories
- Only available in luminous yellow color
We think this makes the unit ideal for outdoorsy folk. You can leave the receiver itself in your backpack and instead only need to deal with the easy-to-hold and lightweight mic part of the device when you are in the field.
If you buy a Backcountry Access BCA Link 2.0, you will get access to 22 FRS/GMRS channels (each with 121 private codes), a range of 40 miles (in ideal conditions), as well as an IP56 rating. An IP56 rating means the unit can withstand water jets but cannot be fully submerged.
- 22 FRS/GMRS channels
- 121 private codes
- 2,300mAh lithium ion battery
- Brand: Backcountry Access
- Range: 40 miles
- Channels: 22
- Water Resistant: IP56
- Mammoth 80 hours of battery life
- External microphone
- 400 hours of standby
- No way to use regular batteries as power backup
- More expensive than other options
Q: Do You Need a Walkie Talkie?
There is a lot of competition in the world of ham radio and walkie-talkies. People who want to buy a two-way radio have a lot of options available to them.
However, depending on your use case, you might not need to splash out on a fancy two-way radio. Did you know there are lots of smartphone apps that can turn your phone into a walkie-talkie? Alternatively, you could broadcast your own FM radio station using a Raspberry Pi.
Q: What Is Ham Radio Good For?
Ham radios let you stay ahead of the news with local emergencies and extreme weather and stay connected if cell phone signal goes down or is unavailable. You can also tune into police and airline communications.
Q: How Secure Are Communications on Walkie Talkies?
It depends on the model. Military-grade walkie talkies use multiple layers of encryption but cost thousands of dollars. Private codes will stop people in the area from tuning in to your consumer-grade device.
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