It may be hard to believe in our smartphone-centric world, but there are times when your smartphone isn’t the best way to stay in touch. That’s especially true for teams that need to enable instant communication without worrying about data limits. If you often push out into areas where cell phone reception isn’t particularly reliable, or if you need to stay in touch with a physically dispersed team in the same region, you may want to consider investing in long range walkie talkies.
While a set of walkie talkies may not be the first thing to come to mind as an answer to short or long-range communication, they are actually a highly versatile answer which can be used in a number of situations. Security services, law enforcement officers, construction workers and public utilities all depend on these devices. Some benefits walkie talkies have over smartphones include:
- Unlimited call time
- No dependence on cell-phone signal
- One-to-one or group conversation at the push of a button
- Ease of use
- No monthly plans
When it comes to choosing the best two-way radios or walkie talkies for your needs, it’s important to take a couple of factors into account. The first is deciding whether you want to be using FRS or GMRS frequencies. This, in short, boils down to the distance you expect to have between the transmitting and receiving devices. Let’s look at why this makes a difference.
In the United States, there are two bands of radio frequencies, namely licensed and unlicensed. And since the FCC’s revision in 2017, all of these frequencies now fall between 462 MHz and 467 MHz.
What Is FRS?
FRS, or Family Radio Service, falls under the unlicensed banner, meaning it’s free to use so long as your device falls within an ERP (Effective Radiated Power) allowance of a maximum of two watts. In general performance terms, this means you can expect a range of around two kilometers maximum.
What Is GMRS?
Devices using the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) require a license. However, this license allows for an increase in your ERP (Effective Radiated Power), up to a 50 watts (compared to the two allowed for FRS), and the ability to utilize external antennas and repeaters. The layman’s translation? You can expect far greater communication distances with GMRS devices.
So, if you think your walkie talkie needs are going to fall outside of the two-kilometer maximum radius offered by FRS, you’re going to want a GMRS device (and a license).
Below, you’ll find a selection of the best GMRS, long-range walkie talkies as well as a couple of FRS-specific devices.
1. Motorola T470 2-Way Radios
The T470 is a powerful option from Motorola; it boasts an up to 35-mile range, and it has 22 channels and 121 privacy codes to more easily stay in touch with your party. The channels include FRS and GMRS. The radios have an IPX4 water-resistance rating and can be used hands-free, so they’re great options for outdoor use. There’s also a built-in LED flashlight that can illuminate your path in a pinch. The sleek and stylish design may not make it perform any better, but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
2. COBRA Floating Walkie Talkies
BEST OUTDOORS OPTION
If you’re hiking, the last thing you want is to drop your walkie talkie into the water and have it break or be lost forever. This option from Cobra is IPX7 waterproof and it floats, meaning you can quickly grab it out of the water if it falls. The built-in LED and SOS and flashlight and NOAA channels make this a great emergency option as well. You can also use a voice-activated mode for hands-free communication.
3. Arcshell Rechargeable Long Range Two-Way Radios
The Arcshell Rechargeable Long Range Two-Way Radios sport a compact size which makes them highly portable and easily stored. These water-resistant radios come with 16 pre-programmed channels found between the available 400-470MHz UHF frequency range. Each radio is also supplied with a dock for recharging the internal 1500mAh Li-ion battery as well as an ear-hugging earpiece and microphone for handsfree use. In unobstructed areas, you can expect up to a five mile range making them great for couples who love to hike and explore the outdoor world.
4. SAMCOM Programmable Walkie Talkie
For a straightforward, user-friendly pair of walkie talkies which are ready to go right out of the box, it’s hard to look beyond these SAMCOM Programmable Walkie Talkies. The well-reviewed devices come with 20 GMRS channels already programmed into them, meaning you don’t have to get involved in programming if you don’t want to. The ergonomic design is comfortable to carry. These devices also include a handy group call button for wide-reaching communication with other SAMCOM users and a keypad lock button to prevent any accidental setting changes.
5. Motorola – Talkabout 20-Mile 2-Way Radio (Pair)
Motorola offers a wide range of 2-way radios, which are numbered in ascending order to indicate their range. The T100, featured on this list, has a 16-mile range, while this option, the T200 has a 20-mile range. The device has a backlit display that makes it easier to use in dark conditions. There are 22 channels and 121 privacy codes, making it easier to find an available channel to keep in contact with your partner. You can also access 11 weather channels. Included belt clips make this a great hiking option.
6. Midland GXT1000VP4 2-Way Radios – Package of 2
These radios from Midland come in a pack of two, and they include a convenient charging dock to ensure you keep the rechargeable batteries powered up. It also comes with an adapter that allows you to charge the radios in your car. There are 50 channels, and the powerful radios have a range of up to 36 miles. The radio can receive NOAA channels, and you can transmit an SOS signal in case of emergencies. If you’re in a group, you can use the direct call feature to transmit to one member of your party.
7. Cobra RX680 Walkie Talkies
These walkie talkies from Cobra are built to be rugged — they’re IP54-rated, meaning they’re resistant to water and dust. They have rechargeable batteries, and they come with a handy charging dock. These walkie talkies have up to 38 miles of range in the right conditions, and the 2,662 channel combinations make it easy to keep in touch. It’s also easy to access NOAA channels in case of emergencies.
8. KOMVOX Walkie Talkies Handheld Two Way Radio
If you want something affordable, this option offers several top features for an inexpensive cost. There are 121 privacy codes and voice-activation for hands-free use. It has up to 10 miles of range, so it’s best suited for closer contact rather than very far range communication. The radio can be recharged using a USB cable as well.
9. EKOOS Long Range Walkie Talkies
For a budget-friendly way to stay in touch when you’re hiking, camping or taking part in any other kind of outdoor pursuit, add the EKOOS Walkie Talkies to your set up. Both walkie talkies in this two-piece kit include 22 GMRS/FRS channels along with access to 99 available privacy codes. The design includes a built-in flashlight and voice-activated transmission. It also allows for one-to-many transmission. Additionally, the compact design is comfortable to hold, easy to store, comes in three different colors and is capable of transmitting up to five miles in open areas.
10. DEWALT DXFRS800 Heavy Duty Walkie Talkies
With six individual walkie talkies included in the set, these DEWALT DXFRS800 Heavy Duty Walkie Talkies are an ideal choice for businesses, building sites or any other setup with a lot of people. These waterproof and dustproof devices can withstand drops from up to two meters and include a lifetime warranty. Their two-watt power delivers a range spanning up to 25 floors or 300,000 square feet, while the range of channels provides plenty of communicative flexibility. Each device comes with 22 preset channels along with a number of privacy codes and includes a holster which can swivel up to 180 degrees for a more customizable storing position. Furthermore, the six-radio gang charger acts as a handy place to keep your radios when they’re not in use.
11. Motorola T100TP Talkabout Radio
BEST ON THE GO
With their impressive 16-mile range, compact design and long battery life, these Motorola T100TP Talkabout Radios are a solid choice for anyone looking for a versatile walkie talkie option. Whether you’re heading out to a remote area, part of a convoy or simply heading to the park, these radios are a reliable way to stay in touch. In addition, they are available in either a two or three piece pack, come in a choice of pink or blue and include belt clips for hands free carrying.
12. Arcshell Rechargeable Long Range Two-Way Radios
These Arcshell Rechargeable Long Range Two-Way Radios are our second Arcshell walkie talkie offering. The set includes four water-resistant and compact walkie talkies which are built to withstand the rigors of everyday life, including in the field. For carrying comfort, you’ll find a removable belt clip, while the included wired earpieces and microphones let you use your radio hands free. Inside, the rechargeable 1500mAh Li-ion battery delivers impressively long life, while the built-in, high-quality speaker provides crystal-clear sound for confidence when speaking and listening. Additionally, out of the box, you’ll have 16 pre-programmed channels to work with along with the ability to program your own channels when needed.
13. Wishouse Walkie Talkies
BEST FOR KIDS
The Wishouse Walkie Talkies are a user-friendly way to let kids in on the fun and stay in touch with each other when at home, camping or during travel. They sport a colorful, kid-friendly appearance and include a number of features which make them more appealing to younger users, including voice activation, a built-in flashlight, a keypad lock and a one-to-many transmission option. The walkie talkies are also made from environmentally-friendly materials and include a handy lanyard for added security during use.
14. SAMCOM FWCN30A Two Way Radio
What makes the SAMCOM FWCN30A Two Way Radio stand out from the crowd is that you do not need a license, as they only include FRS radio channels. While this may limit their transmission distance, it means you do not need to fork out money for your radio license. Each of the walkie talkies in the four-piece set comes with 22 programmed channels, includes voice-free talking and even sports a built-in flashlight for nighttime illumination. Access to the official NOAA weather stream broadcast is another handy feature, especially for users heading out into more remote areas.