The best walkie talkies keep you connected to the rest of your party, whether traversing the backwoods, skiing down a slope, or playing in the neighborhood. These handheld devices are ruggedly built to endure harsh weather and rough treatment.
Many models go beyond simply allowing people to communicate verbally. Some can connect to your smartphone to create a mini texting network or geolocate other members of the group. Some even use satellites, allowing you to shoot messages to someone on the other side of the globe. These handheld devices can also access weather reports and even produce animal calls. Below, learn more about what today's walkie talkies have to offer and find out more about what you should consider when shopping for the best walkie talkies.
— Best Overall: Motorola Talkabout T800 Two-Way Radios
— Best Waterproof: Cobra RX680 Waterproof Walkie Talkies
— Best for Families: Archshell Rechargeable Long Range Two-Way Radios
— Best Long-Range: Garmin inReach Mini
— Best for Hiking: Backcountry Access BC Link 2.0 Radio
— Best for Hunting: Midland GXT1050VP4 Long Range Walkie Talkie
How We Picked the Best Walkie Talkies
We used a variety of factors to narrow the field of walkie talkies down to some of the best models on the market. Since range is important when it comes to how well a walkie talkie works, we limited our search to those that produce at least two watts of power, which is enough to get around three miles of range in a real-world situation.
We also chose models that are capable of using a broad range of channels and that incorporate privacy features, making them easier to use without overlapping with other groups' transmissions.
Battery life is also important, so we selected models that provide ample talk time on a single charge or set of batteries. We factored in additional features, such as weather channel presets, Bluetooth connection for smartphones, and the ability to use the walkie talkie hands-free. Finally, a walkie talkie should be able to handle use in rugged conditions, so we chose models that are durably made to resist water, dust, and drops.
Best Walkie Talkies: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Motorola Talkabout T800 Two-Way Radios
Why They Made The Cut: The ability to create a mini text network and share GPS location sets the T800 apart from other walkie talkies.
— Channels: 22
— Battery: 25 hours
— Max Range: 35 miles
— Allows you to text other group members without cellular service
— Capable of sharing GPS location without cell service
— Hundreds of privacy codes
— Works with standard or rechargeable batteries
— Pricier than other walkie talkies
The range and build quality of the T800 are enough to make it a good quality set of walkie talkies, but it's the cool Bluetooth feature that allows you to connect the T800 to your phone that really sets it apart from the field. The T800 is Bluetooth-compatible, allowing you to link it to your smartphone to create a mini-message network that allows you to send texts to other phones attached to the group. In addition to sending texts, you can also use the app to share GPS location on a map, so you can track all members of the group even when not in the range of a cellular network.
In addition to allowing you to communicate and share location, the T800 also comes equipped with other useful features, including an emergency alert button and the ability to monitor an emergency weather channel. And while it is one of the pricier models on the market, you'd be hard-pressed to find one with the same slate of features. The T800 uses standard AA batteries, making it convenient for longer off-grid activities, such as hiking or camping. Simply carry extra batteries with you to extend its life.
Best Waterproof: Cobra RX680 Waterproof Walkie Talkies
Why It Made the Cut: Cobra RX680’s new walkie talkies are easy to use and designed to keep you safe in storms or high water.
— Channels: 60
— Battery: Up to 18 hours
— Max Range: Up to 38 miles
— Provides real-time NOAA weather alerts
— Good for a range of activities
— Shorter battery life
Heading out on a fishing trip or for a sail is lots of fun, but it’s always good to be prepared in case of emergency. Cobra just released a new line of walkie talkies that are waterproof, with a rating of IP-54, which means that device is protected from water from any direction, and are also dust-resistant. This set of two walkie talkies, which comes a micro USB cable and a two-port charging dock, has 60 pre-set channels and the ability to set up private channels.
With a range of 34 miles, these walkie talkies let you head out pretty far. But they also provide updates from NOAA 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so you have plenty of time to seek shelter from a storm. Additional helpful features when you’re navigating include voice-activated transmission that allows you to keep your hands on the controls and a built-in LED flashlight. These features make these walkie talkies great for use not just on the water, but in the face of unexpected storms when you’re hiking, biking, or camping.
Best for Families: Archshell Rechargeable Long Range Two-Way Radios
Why It Made The Cut: The set comes with six lightweight, compact walkie talkies with ample range and long battery life.
— Channels: 16
— Battery: Eight hours of talk time
— Range: Five miles
— Eight hours of talk time
— Good range
— Durably constructed
— Fewer channels than other FRS walkie talkies
This set of six walkie talkies comes with an ample range at a budget price that makes them ideal for family camping or RV trips. The walkie talkies have a five-mile range in open areas, plenty of distance for keeping tabs on the kids if they're playing elsewhere in the neighborhood or exploring the campground.
The walkie talkie will also audibly read out the channel number as you cycle through, making it easier to find the right one. Unlike other models that can be bulky to carry, this set of walkie talkies is compact, measuring just 4.5 inches tall and weighing just over 5 ounces. When used in conjunction with the earpiece and belt clip, they function as hands-free walkie talkies. Hard plastic and rubber construction help them resist damage from falls, making them suitable for kids. Despite that small size, these walkie talkies come equipped with 1,500 mAh rechargeable batteries, which are powerful enough to provide up to eight hours of talk time.
This set does use just 16 channels versus the max 22 for other FRS walkie talkies, which can limit their use in more densely populated areas.
Best Long-Range: Garmin inReach Mini
Why It Made The Cut: With its ability to connect to compatible devices from anywhere on the planet, this satellite walkie talkie offers unprecedented range.
— Channels: Satellite
— Battery: 90 hours
— Range: Unlimited
— Can communicate to virtually any part of the planet
— Can be used to geolocate and navigate
— Connects to various smart devices
— No voice
The Garmin inReach Mini isn't cheap, and it requires a monthly subscription to use it, but if you're looking for a walkie talkie that has virtually no limitations when it comes to range, then the Garmin inReach Mini is the answer. Instead of using radio waves, Garmin uses satellite technology to allow communication via text with other compatible devices located virtually anywhere on the planet. The inReach connects to other inReach walkie talkies, as well as certain smart devices, including smartwatches that use GPS. And, since it uses GPS satellites, you can also use it to navigate or locate other members of your group. It has the ability to download maps, which you can view by connecting the inReach to a smart device via Bluetooth. There's also a feature that allows you to receive regular weather reports. The inReach uses a built-in lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which provides about 90 hours of use when it's set to 10-minute tracking mode.
Though this technology is cool, keep in mind that the inReach does not offer voice communication. It also doesn't come cheap. The InReach is much more expensive than most other walkie talkies, and it requires a satellite subscription. However, you won't find a walkie talkie with a better range than this one.
Best for Hiking: Backcountry Access BC Link 2.0 Radio
Why It Made The Cut: The detached microphone design makes this walkie talkie the easiest to use for those on the go in the backwoods.
— Channels: 22
— Battery: 400 hours on standby mode
— Range: Six miles
— Detached microphone makes it easy to use while on the go
— Long battery life
— Rugged construction resists the elements
— Heavier than other walkie talkies
Yes, the Backcountry Access BC Link 2.0 Radio is heavy and quite a bit more expensive than other walkie talkies, but its long range and ample battery life, coupled with a design that makes it very easy to use, make it one of the best options for those on the go in the backwoods. The BC Link 2.0 consists of a two-piece unit that's connected by a cord. Similar to a police officer's radio, the receiver clips to a belt, and the microphone attaches to the shoulder strap of a backpack. Controls on the microphone make it easy to use while on the move.
With its 22 channels and various privacy code combinations, there's enough frequencies to keep it separated while at busier state or national parks. It's also one of the more weather-resistant models. Sealed hard plastic cases and rubber coatings help to protect buttons and seams in the housing. The walkie talkie uses lithium-ion batteries, which get up to 400 hours of life on standby mode and about a full day of use when making regular transmissions.
Best for Hunting: Midland GXT1050VP4 Long Range Walkie Talkie
Why It Made The Cut: The Midland tailors its features to suit the needs of hunters better than any other walkie talkie we found.
— Channels: 50 plus privacy
— Battery: N/A
— Range: Up to 36 miles
— Include five animal call alerts
— Can set walkie talkie to vibrate or use a whisper mode
— Hunter friendly camouflage look
— Uses GMRS, which requires an FCC license to use legally
With features tailored to meet the needs of hunters, this set of four walkie talkies from Midland is ideal for hunting groups. In addition to a camouflage design that helps the walkie talkie blend in with a hunter's attire, it also offers other features you won't find on a typical walkie talkie. For example, it can transmit five animal call alerts for turkey, duck, crow, cougar, and wolf. You can also set the walkie talkies to vibrate to eliminate any noise that might inadvertently scare off animals or use the whisper mode, which allows for audible yet quiet communication.
With its 50 channels and privacy code, the Midland gives you more options to find an open channel than standard FSR walkie talkies for finding a free channel. It also means this GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) walkie talkie technically requires a license from the FCC to use.
Other useful features include a weather scan mode that automatically scans through 10 weather channels and alerts you in the event of severe weather. There’s also an SOS siren you can sound to send a distress signal.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Walkie Talkie
Channels and Privacy
The number of channels a walkie talkie has determines how easy it is to communicate with your group without interference. Most walkie talkies are set up to use the Family Radio Service (FRS), which has a total of 22 channels. The more of these channels the walkie talkie is able to access, the easier it is to find one that's not in use.
Walkie talkies that have privacy codes add an inaudible addition to your transmission that will garble the audio unless the receiving device is set to the same privacy code. While this helps to keep your transmissions private in the event you're using the same channel as another party, it won't block other transmissions using the same channel. They will simply sound garbled, which can still make it difficult to communicate with your group.
Many manufacturers will claim they have a range of more than 30 miles. However, the actual range is typically much shorter than that. Interference from other transmissions, obstacles such as foliage, structures, and weather, will all shorten that range to around three miles for most walkie talkies. To get the most range out of a walkie talkie, purchase one with a longer antenna and at least two watts of power output. High-powered General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) walkie talkies offer better range, but you'll need a license from the FCC to operate them.
Walkie talkies either use standard disposable batteries or have a built-in rechargeable battery pack. Rechargeable walkie talkies often come with a charging base, which makes them easier to refresh. Simply drop them into the base, and they recharge for the next use. However, with this style of battery charger, you won't be able to recharge the walkie talkies in the field. Walkie talkies that are able to take standard disposable batteries are a better option for extended use as you can always take a fresh supply of batteries to extend the life of the walkie talkie.
Walkie talkies come with other features that make them easier to use. A VOX setting allows for hands-free use by automatically transmitting any time you talk without you having to squeeze a button. Many walkie talkies have channel presets to receive weather reports from local NOAA weather stations, which is a great feature for camping, hiking, and hunting. Scanning allows you to monitor multiple channels at the same time, keeping you in contact with a large group of walkie talkie users at the same time. Some walkie talkies also have aSquelch feature, which adjusts your walkie talkie, so it only receives transmissions that are clear enough to understand.
Q: How do walkie talkies work?
Walkie talkies work by taking your voice, turning it into a radio frequency, then transmitting it via an antenna. Another walkie talkie picks up that transmission, then decodes the radio signal and broadcasts it through a speaker. Unlike cellular phones, which require a radio tower to transmit their signal, walkie talkies have their own transmitter and, therefore, require no tower.
Q: How far can walkie talkies reach?
While many walkie talkies claim to reach distances of up to 30 miles, electromagnetic interference, other transmissions, and obstacles such as structures and foliage bring that number way down. Most walkie talkies only have a range of around three miles due to interference and obstructions.
Q: Are walkie talkies legal in the US?
If you're using a walkie talkie that includes GMRS (General Mobile, Radio Service) on the label, then you need a license from the FCC to legally operate it in the U.S. If you are only using an FRS (Family Radio Service) walkie talkie, then it's legal to use it without any sort of license. GMRS allows for higher power and longer ranges.
Q: Do walkie talkies work without satellites?
Yes, walkie talkies do not use satellites to transmit. Instead, walkie talkies have built-in transmitters that turn audio into a radio frequency that is sent out and can be picked up by other walkie talkies.
Q: What frequency do walkie talkies use?
Two-way radios operate in a frequency range of 136 MHz (megahertz) to 900 MHZ. Lower MHz frequencies are very high frequency (VHF), while frequencies above 300 MHz are ultra high frequency (UHF). Walkie talkies use mainly UHF, which can better penetrate structures than VHF frequencies.
Q: Can walkie talkies pick up other signals?
If a walkie talkie is on the same frequency as another walkie talkie or device, it can pick up that signal even if they are not the same brand of device. Other devices such as baby monitors and children's toys that use radio frequencies can also pick up walkie talkie signals and vice versa.
Q: Do I need a license to use walkie talkies?
That depends on the type of walkie talkie you're using. If your walkie talkie has a GMRS rating, then you do need a license from the FCC to operate it legally.
Q: What is the longest-range walkie talkie?
The Motorola Talkabout T800 Two-Way Radios, which have a listed range of 35 miles, have the longest range of any walkie talkie. However, it is important to note that the actual max range you'll likely get is about five miles due to the impact of interference from other transmissions and obstacles such as trees and buildings. Although it's not technically a walkie talkie, the Garmin inReach Mini, which uses satellite to communicate via text, has the best range with its ability to reach just about anywhere on the planet.
Q: What should I look for in a walkie talkie?
When shopping for a walkie talkie, consider range and number of channels. A walkie talkie with numerous channels makes it easier to find one that other people aren't using, especially in busy areas. Range is also crucial and is largely determined by the walkie talkie's power output. Don't purchase a walkie talkie with less than two watts of power. Walkie talkies with longer antennas will also offer a better range than those with shorter ones.
Q: What's the difference between two-way radios and walkie talkies?
Two-way radios and walkie talkies both allow you to transmit and receive radio signals. The only difference between the two is that a walkie talkie is a handheld portable device, and a standard two-way radio is not. In that sense, all walkie talkies are two-way radios, but not all two-way radios are walkie talkies.
With its ability to create a mini messaging network and track GPS location, the Motorola Talkabout T800 expands what a walkie talkie is capable of doing. Those in the market for a good set of walkie talkies that will keep the family connected while on camping trips should consider the Archshell Rechargeable Long Range Two-Way Radios, with their durable construction and affordable price.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.