Walkie Talkies, also known as two-way radios, are a huge part of our every day life. They are used in retail stores, by security firms, event organisers, truckers, emergency services, on ships, and by many people when they are out and about in the outdoors when hiking, camping, mountain climbing, skiing, boating, kayaking etc. With so many applications, choosing the best walkie talkie for you can be very complicated.
Whether you use a walkie talkie for your business, for skiing or hiking trips, or even for your kids to play with, we will help you make sense of all the walkie talkie lingo, their technical specifications and ultimately help you find out which walkie talkie to buy for your needs. Summaries of our top rated walkie talkie reviews can be found below.
Our top rated walkie talkie reviews 2016
|Top Rated Walkie Talkie Reviews 2016|
|1||Cobra MR HH500||Link|
|2||Motorola Talkabout MT350R||Link|
|3||Uniden GMR 5089||Link|
|4||Cobra CXT 1035R||Link|
Tips for buying the best walkie talkie for you
Do I want to communicate through VHF or UHF?
The first thing to do when you want to buy a walkie talkie is think about what you need it for. In what situations are you going to be using it. Are you using it for long mountain hikes, are you using it to communicate on boats over water, are you using it in a vehicle or in a building? Theses factors are generally where your choice for VHF or UHF comes from when deciding which walkie talkie is best for you. Generally VHF (Very High Frequency) travels further outdoors and UHF(Ultra high Frequency) is better suited for inside use or close to buildings. It is important to note that walkie talkies using VHF cannot communicate with those using UHF. Almost all walkie talkie reviews featured on this site will be for VHF, unless we specifically specified otherwise.
What are the differences between FRS or GMRS channels?
Another thing to consider is whether to use FRS (Family Radio Service) or GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service). FRS is used on a lower Wattage and has a shorter range. For this reason UHF walkie talkies almost always operate on FRS channels. GMRS has a longer range due to a higher Wattage use. When we talk about a long range walkie talkie, we always refer to GMRS. GMRS, due to it’s longer range, has a guideline of not transmitting for more than 50% of the time because you could hog up the whole channel, so don’t use GMRS as a baby monitor. Almost all walkie talkie reviews featured on this site will have access to 22 or 30 FRS and GMRS channels unless otherwise specified.
- Channels 1-7 are shared channels that access both FRS and GMRS
- Channels 8-14 are FRS channels
- Channels 15-22 are medium powered GMRS channels
- And if your walkie talkie can use them: Channels 15R-22R are repeater channels.
Selecting the right channel for you is not very difficult. Taking the above information into account, you know in what channel region you should be. From here listen in on the channels to hear if anyone is using them currently. We find that many people leave their channels on the default setting (Channel 1) so this is often the busiest. From there, move one channel up until you find one that isn’t in use in your area. Many walkie talkies come with a scan feature to do this quickly for you.
The next thing we featured on most walkie talkie series is the offer of privacy codes. Privacy codes are a way of encoding your channel for your specific use. Encoding is not the same as encrypting. Your messages will not take an enigma machine to decipher, but the desired result will still be met. When you and your group select a channel that seems empty, you can all select the same privacy codes. What this means is that your handset will try to filter out all the noise coming from devices on the same channel, not using your specific privacy code. Privacy codes are basically a way to personalise your channel a bit so you have less chance a stranger joins you in the middle of operation. We always recommend choosing a handset with privacy codes as a functionality.
From here on out things get a little more straight forward. The range is an indicator of how far your reach will be. A lot of manufacturers give 3 ranges. The longest one is the range the device can reach under optimal circumstances. Because buildings or trees can significantly diminish the range of the product many users find that they almost never get the full range that they feel is promised to them. Below is an example image of the range a Motorola has.
Other Important Features
Battery usage and usage time
To find the best walkie talkie, one very important thing, not to be overlooked, is battery life. Obviously the battery life depends a lot on how often, and how long you use the walkie talkie. Generally manufacturers will either give a battery time expectancy based on the device being in standby mode. As an example, the Motorola MS350R advertises a 27 hour battery time average, but if the unit is used constantly, users have reported the battery time to be closer to 5 hours.
Some walkie talkies have power saving options. By lowering the wattage used, you will decrease the range of the walkie talkie, but your battery life will go up considerably. Some devices also have automatic scans to put the walkie talkies in stand by modes when the monitored channel is quiet. Some walkie talkie models also come with the option to replace the provided battery pack with alkaline batteries. This would be ideal in situations where you might not be able to charge the battery pack for a longer period of time.
Weather channels and NOAA weather alerts
Many modern walkie talkies are much more than just a way to keep in touch with your friends on a hike. Walkie Talkies are almost an entire survival kit on their own. Most modern walkie talkies come with a variety of weather channels, and weather alerts. Personally, we wouldn’t go on long treks, off-piste skiing trips or on offshore boating trips without a walkie talkie that features NOAA location based weather alerts. When you’re on a mountain side, or out on the open water, the weather can turn on you in minutes. What may look like a nice and calm day can turn into a storm, and a potentially dangerous situation before you realise. It’s important to always be one step ahead of the game.