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The Best Walkie-Talkies of 2024

We hit the trails, the rapids, and the skintrack to narrow in on the best walkie-talkies in 2024.
(Photo/Nick Belcaster)
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From multi-pitch climbing commands to calling your drop in the backcountry, a solid set of walkie-talkies can be the difference between a good copy and a garbled transmission. After surveying the field and winnowing down to the most promising, we’ve gathered and tested 11 of the best walkies available.

We field-tested these handhelds over months of multi-sport use, challenging them while whitewater rafting the rivers of the Pacific Northwest, hiking across Joshua Tree National Park, and hailing our ride while heli-skiing in the Canadian Rockies. We tested the overall range across both desert basins and tight backcountry trees and ran batteries dead flat to figure total power consumption.

When the dust settled, the following squawk-boxes were left standing as the most worthy of the bunch. From small units to check on your kiddos to radios that require a license to operate fully, read on for our review to help you hone in on the best for your use.

If you’re looking at getting your first set of walkie-talkies, consider checking out our in-depth Buyer’s Guide and Comparison Chart sections, which get into the radio nitty gritty. And for any lingering questions, the FAQ has got you covered. Copy that?

The Best Walkie-Talkies of 2024

Best Overall Walkie-Talkie

Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio


  • Radio Class FRS
  • Channels 22
  • Privacy Codes 121 (CTCSS and DCS)
  • Frequency Range 462 to 467 MHz
  • Wattage .5 W, 2 W
  • Battery Capacity Rechargeable 1550 mAh Li-ion
  • Dimensions 9.3 cm tall x 6.3 cm wide x 2.8 cm thick
  • Waterproof Rating IP56 splashproof
  • Weight 7.9 oz. (with leash)
Product Badge The Best Walkie-Talkies of 2024


  • Rugged and durable
  • Easy to operate
  • Buttons work well with gloves
  • Impressive range
  • Clear audio


  • No NOAA access
  • Not waterproof
  • Non-standard lithium batteries
Best Budget Walkie-Talkie

Midland X-Talker T51VP3


  • Radio Class FRS
  • Channels 22
  • Privacy Codes 38
  • Frequency Range 462 to 467 MHz
  • Wattage .5 W, 2 W
  • Battery Capacity Rechargeable 700 mAh Ni-MH, or 3 AAA batteries
  • Dimensions 6.1” x 2.2” x 1.3”
  • Waterproof Rating N/A
  • Weight 4.3 oz.
The Best Walkie-Talkies of 2024


  • Budget pricing
  • Small handheld size, perfect for fanny pack or climbing harness
  • Uses rechargeable batteries or 3 AAAs
  • NOAA weather radio reception
  • USB-Mini charging on-device


  • Not the best range in complicated terrain
Best Waterproof Walkie-Talkie

Cobra ACXT1035R FLT


  • Radio Class FRS
  • Channels 22
  • Privacy Codes 121 (CTCSS and DCS)
  • Frequency Range 462 to 467 MHz
  • Wattage .5 W, 2 W
  • Battery Capacity Rechargeable 3,000 mAh NiMH AA cells
  • Dimensions 7.5" x 2.4" x 1.5"
  • Waterproof Rating IP67
  • Weight 5.6 oz.
The Best Walkie-Talkies of 2024


  • IP67 waterproof and floats
  • Strong transmission performance
  • Rewind-Say-Again functionality
  • Micro-USB charging or charging dock compatible


  • Bit big in the hand
  • Battery compartment door is difficult to release
Best GMRS Walkie-Talkie

Rocky Talkie 5-Watt Radio


  • Radio Class GRMS
  • Channels 22 + 8 repeater
  • Privacy Codes 121 (CTCSS and DCS)
  • Frequency Range 462 to 467 MHz
  • Wattage 0.5, 5 W
  • Battery Capacity Rechargeable 1,800 mAh Li-ion
  • Dimensions 7" x 2.2" x 2"
  • Waterproof Rating IP67 waterproof
  • Weight 9.4 oz.
The Best Walkie-Talkies of 2024


  • Extremely durable
  • Impressive range, including use of GRMS repeaters
  • Resistant to very cold temperatures
  • Submersible
  • Waterproof hand mic available


  • Requires FCC license to operate
  • More expensive than FRS radios
Best Advanced Walkie-Talkie

Baofeng BF-F8HP


  • Radio Class VHF + UHF Amateur
  • Channels N/A
  • Privacy Codes Programable
  • Frequency Range 136-174 MHz; 400-520 MHz
  • Wattage 1, 4, 8 W
  • Battery Capacity Rechargeable 2,000 mAh L-ion
  • Dimensions 10.5" x 2" x 2"
  • Waterproofness N/A
  • Weight 10.1 oz.
The Best Walkie-Talkies of 2024


  • Access to VHF and UHF radio bands, repeaters
  • Removable antenna can be replaced with larger options
  • Able to operate on full 8 watt output, or dial back to 1 watt
  • Good sized 2,000 mAh battery
  • AM/FM radio reception


  • Requires an amateur radio license to operate
  • Difficult menu layout requires patience
  • No waterproofing
Best of the Rest

Midland GXT1000


  • Radio Class GMRS
  • Channels 22 + 8 repeaters
  • Privacy Codes 142 (CTCSS and DCS)
  • Frequency Range 462 to 467 MHz
  • Wattage .5 W, 5 W
  • Battery Capacity Rechargeable 1,700 NiMH battery, or 4 AA batteries
  • Dimensions 2.4'' x 7.9'' x 1.5"
  • Waterproof Rating JIS4 splashproof
  • Weight 7.5 oz.
The Best Walkie-Talkies of 2024


  • Extended range and transmission power
  • Takes both rechargeable or AA batteries
  • Affordable price for two radios
  • Comes with earpiece mics and charging dock


  • Requires GMRS license
  • Not able to support duplex functionality and transmit to repeaters

Mountain Lab Gear Scout 2W Radio


  • Radio Class FRS
  • Channels 22
  • Privacy Codes 121 (CTCSS and DCS)
  • Frequency Range 462 to 467 MHz
  • Wattage .5 W, 2 W
  • Battery Capacity Rechargeable 2,500 mAh Ni-MH
  • Dimensions 7.7" x 2.1" x 1.2"
  • Waterproof Rating IP56 waterproof
  • Weight 9.7 oz.
The Best Walkie-Talkies of 2024


  • Can be used with or without remote hand mic
  • Long battery life even in the cold when base unit stored in pack
  • Hand mic won't accidentally change channels on you
  • Loud speaker
  • NOAA weather recepetion


  • Bulkier and heavier radio than most
  • Boot-up time takes a bit to fully come online

Oxbow Renegade X


  • Radio Class FRS
  • Channels 22
  • Privacy Codes 121 (CTCSS and DCS)
  • Frequency Range 462 to 467 MHz
  • Wattage .5 W, 2 W
  • Battery Capacity Rechargeable 1,700 mAh Li-ion
  • Dimensions 6" x 2.1" x 1.2"
  • Waterproof Rating IP56 splashproof
  • Weight 5 oz.
The Best Walkie-Talkies of 2024


  • Bluetooth functionality allows for headset or remote PPT button
  • Strong and clear transmissions
  • Snow-resistant speaker cover keeps radio functioning all day
  • Compact radio size with decent sized battery


  • Radio isn't immune from cold when mounted on pack strap
  • No optional hand mic

Motorola Talkabout T600


  • Radio Class FRS
  • Channels 22
  • Privacy Codes 121 (CTCSS and DCS)
  • Frequency Range 462 to 467 MHz
  • Wattage 0.5 W, 2 W
  • Battery Capacity Rechargeable 800 mAh Ni-MH, or 3 AA batteries
  • Dimensions 7.8" x 2.4" x 1.5"
  • Waterproof Rating IP67 waterproof
  • Weight 8.5 oz.
The Best Walkie-Talkies of 2024


  • Fully waterproof and floating design
  • Can be run on both internal battery pack or AA batteries
  • Affordable price for two radios
  • NOAA weather reception
  • Built-in flashlight


  • Radio doesn't transmit at full 2 W in high-power mode
  • Small 800 mAh rechargeable battery pack
“You get all that?”; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Walkie-Talkie Comparison Chart

Walkie-TalkiesPriceRadio ClassBattery CapacityWaterproof RatingWeight
Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio$110FRSRechargeable 1550 mAh Li-ionIP56 splashproof7.9 oz.
Midland X-Talker T51VP3
$50FRSRechargeable 700 mAh Ni-MH, or 3 AAA batteriesN/A4.3 oz.
Backcountry Access BC Link 2.0
$190FRSRechargeable 2,300 mAh Li-ionIP55 splashproof11 oz.
Cobra ACXT1035R FLT
$120FRSRechargeable 3,000 mAh NiMH AA cellsIP675.6 oz.
Rocky Talkie 5-Watt Radio
$165GRMSRechargeable 1,800 mAh Li-ionIP67 waterproof9.4 oz.
Baofeng BF-F8HP
$65VHF + UHFRechargeable 2,000 mAh L-ionN/A10.1 oz.
Midland GXT1000
$90GMRSRechargeable 1,700 NiMH battery, or 4 AA batteriesJIS4 splashproof7.5 oz
Mountain Lab Gear Scout 2W Radio
$149FRSRechargeable 2,500 mAh Ni-MHIP56 waterproof9.7 oz.
Backcountry Access BC Link Mini
$100FRSRechargeable 1,800 mAh Li-ionIP55 splashproof6 oz.
Oxbow Renegade X
$180FRSRechargeable 1,700 mAh Li-ionIP56 splashproof5 oz.
Motorola Talkabout T600$130FRSRechargeable 800 mAh Ni-MH, or 3 AA batteriesIP67 waterproof8.5 oz.
(Photo/Nick Belcaster)

How We Tested Walkie-Talkies

If you’ve had a walkie-talkie or two, you’re probably familiar with the almost comical ranges they purport to achieve, and it’s this type of fluff we aimed to cut through in our testing. As little pieces of tech, walkies can tuck a lot of functionality under the hood, and unraveling all that took us to reaches of radio-nerdery we aren’t sure we can return from now.

Our walkie-talkie testing is led by Nick Belcaster, a licensed amateur radio operator and multi-sport enthusiast from the Pacific Northwest. His radio usage spans from calling off-belay on long alpine multi-pitch climbs to hailing other radio enthusiasts on peaks in the Cascades (he’s even talked to the astronauts on the Space Station).

In a previous role, he has managed fleets of handheld radios for a national mountain guiding operation, and programmed handhelds for hailing bushplanes on Denali. His expertise is compounded by a team of multisport GearJunkies who took to the four corners to test these radios on backpacking, climbing, paddling, and even heli-skiing trips.

Stress testing involved dropping, dusting, and yes, dunking; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

The best walkie-talkies on the market are tools, not toys, and our testing aimed to challenge their performance in both best- and worst-case scenarios. To test overall range and transmission clarity, we transmitted across both the broad lowlands of Puget Sound and the tortured landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. Our testing in Washington yielded a test with all things going for the radios, while our challenge down south cranked the dial and went for broke on difficulty. 

We also tested these radios on their battery life, running them all flat and noting total operating times, and challenged them to operate right out of the freezer, and after baking in the sun all afternoon. Beyond all of our measurements and regimented testing, we also took these radios out into the wide world for a good old-fashioned thrashing. 

From deep Alaskan ice hunting to class 4 rapids in the Pacific Northwest, we totted these radios out into the sticks and used them to keep in contact with our partners. Each has the scratches to prove it, and each one earned its spot in our lineup. As new walkies hit the market, we’ll fold them into our coverage and test them all the same.

Testing History

For our initial slate of walkie-talkie testing, we researched and identified 11 of the most popular radios with leading specifications and feature sets. We aimed to capture the broadest selection of the market and focused our efforts mainly on FRS radios, with a few GMRS radios thrown in for comparison, as well as a true handheld amateur radio to see what the big dogs can do.

We tested these walkies in both the heat of the desert and the chill of the Canadian alpine; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Walkie-Talkie

Without looking under the hood, it can be tough to tell what you’re really getting with a walkie-talkie — many look the part but perform wildly different from their counterparts. And when bringing them along on high-stakes adventures, that can actually matter.

But with some know-how, your next set of walkies will not only last longer, but operate more dependably and keep you keyed in on the important things. Consider the following when choosing your next radio, as well as what exactly your backcountry communication needs are. We also have guides on the Best Satellite Messengers and even the Best Satellite Phones, should you really need to get the message out.

Radio Classes and Frequencies

FRS walkie-talkies best serve most people, with GMRS and amateur radios better for people after higher performance; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Overwhelmingly, most people, most of the time, are best served by a Family Radio Service, or FRS, radio. Carved out of the radio band plan in the 90s, this segment of the airwaves is offered up as license-free and available to any and all who wish to jump on and gab. The 462 and 467 MHz range is channelized, meaning channel 1 on your radio is the same as everyone else’s.

With the exception of the Rocky Talkie 5-Watt Radio, Midland GXT100, and the Baofeng BF-F8HP, all of the walkies in our testing are FRS band radios with 22 channels to choose from. Channels 1-7 and 15-22 transmit at 2 watts of output, while the middle frequencies are limited to 0.5 watts.

GMRS, or General Mobile Radio Service, radios are the next step up in ability and operate on the same 22 channels that FRS radios do, as well as eight additional channels between these. The biggest difference between the two is the operating power, which can be as high as 50 watts on a GMRS radio but is more typically 5 watts.

Because of this added power, you’ll be able to beam further afield with a GMRS radio, but will also need an FCC license to do so. Luckily, there’s no test to complete, and the $35 fee is good for 10 years — and extends to family members. A radio like the Rocky Talkie 5-Watt will outperform an FRS radio any day of the week.

Finally, amateur or ‘ham’ radios make use of a different slice of the radio waves, and require a license and call sign to operate legally. Only the Baofeng BF-F8HP in our testing qualifies as this type of radio, but the abilities you gain access to are well worth it for some. At 8-watts maximum power, a radio like this is working with a lot more engine to get your signal out. This is the radio our lead tester, Nick Belcaster, uses when traveling deep in the backcountry.

Privacy Codes

The BCA Link 2.0 uses pre-set channels with privacy codes to keep cross-talk down; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Best thought of as an added lock and key, privacy codes allow radio operators to cut down on cross traffic, and can be very effective when used in an area where many are using walkie-talkies. These come in two different flavors, though you most often won’t see them identified as such, and more often will be denoted as privacy codes, interference eliminator codes, or subcodes.

CTCSS codes are sub-audible tones that piggyback on the transmissions from your radio, and if any radio listening is also listening for that specific code, it’ll allow the transmission through. There are 38 commonly used CTCSS codes, and adding one to your frequency choice not only applies the tone to your transmissions, but also adds a filter to your receiver to listen for the same code.

DCS codes are a little different, and transmit a digital bitstream that accomplishes the same function as CTCSS codes. As we mentioned earlier, many FRS radios dumb down this information, and many simply change from CTCSS to DCS between the 38th and 39th privacy codes. Functionally, there is little difference in choosing either.

It’s important to note that the ‘privacy’ offered by privacy codes only extends to those who don’t stumble upon your unique combination of frequency and code, and that those who aren’t using a privacy code but the same frequency will still be able to hear your transmissions. 

Transmission Power and Range

Our transmission torture test occurred in Joshua Tree National Park, where huge rock outcroppings obscure signals; (photo/Erika Courtney)

First things first, let’s settle something here: The max ranges given for most radios are going to be the best-case scenario possible — from mountain top to mountain top. With nothing deflecting or impeding the signal, even lowly walkie-talkies can beam across 20-30-mile expanses.

The reality of actual use, however, can be markedly different, and depend on a number of different factors. The first is out of our control, and that is terrain. Trees, mountains, and especially hills and depressions all have a strong impact on transmission range (even strong solar flares can impact some radios). The best option for combatting this is to get as prominent as you’re able to. Even a hundred vertical feet can make a tangible difference.

The second major factor affecting range is equipment, and luckily we do have control over some of this. First off, choosing the appropriate radio for the job will get you far. FRS radios are good for short to mid-range distances, GMRS radios for solid mid-ranges, and amateur radios for long-range transmissions.

Deep in a canyon, your signal doesn’t have much chance of getting out; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Transmitting with the maximum allowed output for your radio will also significantly boost your signal. On FRS radios, that’s 0.5 W or 2 W, depending on the channel. GMRS radios can output up to 50 W but typically top out at around five on handheld radios. Some radios, like the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio, will display whether or not the channel you are using is a high or low transmission power channel, which can make it easy.

In our own testing, we aimed to look at the best- and worst-case scenarios to get the full picture. To test the full transmission distance we could squeeze out of these radios, we conducted range testing along an open county road in flat country, ensuring nothing was limiting these walkies. For a better idea of real-world results, we also tested among the boulder piles of Joshua Tree National Park, where results were greatly foreshortened.

Radio Operation

Patience is a virtue in radio operation, and waiting for your partner to finish their transmission will prevent ‘stepping’ on their signal; (photo/Chris Anders)

While using a walkie-talkie doesn’t require much of the etiquette of amateur radio (or the fun slang of CB), there are some handy tips for making your transmissions count the first time.

First off, choose a channel that doesn’t already have traffic. For close-quarters comms, you’re probably fine going with one of the 0.5-watt channels in the middle of the FRS band (8-14), but if range is going to be an issue, stick with the full-power channels of 1-7 or 15-22.

Consider if a privacy code would help cut down on cross-talk, and if a specific channel is warranted: Some localities are experimenting with standardizing recommended channels for different recreation zones. 

Then, practice a radio check. This entails putting a small distance between users and checking for a good copy. Doing this before it counts is a surefire way to hedge against mishaps when your buddy thought you said channel 4 instead of 5.

Speak clearly, and if your signal is weak, repeat important words or spell them out; (photo/Erika Courtney)

Because some radios have some latency when transmitting, pause for a moment or two before beginning to speak. This will ensure your full message isn’t cut short. Some radios tag on a transmission tone at the end of any message, meaning your recipient should know when you’re done talking and they’re clear to respond.

If transmissions aren’t coming through the clearest, consider using the following language to ensure your message is understood: 

  • Answering ‘affirmative’ or ‘negative’ are much more distinct terms compared to a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
  • Finishing your transmission with a ‘clear’ lets others know your message is complete.
  • When answering to confirm you heard a message, a ‘copy’ is sufficient.

When transmissions are especially garbled, relay important words in a phonetic alphabet like the NATO alphabet at a slow pace and ask for confirmation.

Battery Life and Charging

Gone are the days of solely AA-powered walkies, and keeping yours topped off will ensure maximum transmission power; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Your walkie-talkie is only as good as long as it has a charge, and there can be a pretty big spread in battery capacities, as well as discharge rates. The smallest battery in our testing was the 800 mAH rechargeable found in the Motorola T600, which we found averaged around 8 hours of casual use before needing to be recharged.

Above that was the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio (1,550 mAh), Oxbow Renegade (1,700 mAh), Midland X-Talker TV51 and GXT1000 (1,700 mAh), and Rocky Talkie 5-Watt (1,800 mAh). All of these radios put out a respectable amount of playtime, averaging around a day to two of usage.

Rocky Talkie must use some special battery-conserving tech, as they both outlasted even some of the larger battery radios, including the BCA Link Mini (1,800 mAH) and Baofeng BF-F8HP (2,000 mAh). Beyond that, the BCA Link 2.0 stretches the life to up to a claimed 80 hours, followed by the Mountain Lab Scout (2,500 mAh) and Cobra ACXT1035R FLT (3,000 mAh) — both supremely long-lasting radios.

We reserved a special place for radios that can operate with either a rechargeable battery pack or traditional batteries — as this is an excellent way to squeeze even more time out of your radio. The Cobra ACX, Mountain Lab Scout, Midland GXT1000 and X-Talker, Motorola T600, and Baofeng BF-F8HP (with optional battery pack) can all do this, and, for example, the Motorola T600 can squeeze out 8 hours on rechargeables, but 23 on AA batteries.

For those rechargeable radios, we gave preference for those that incorporated a forward-thinking USB-C charging port over the dated Micro-USB. Battery life indicators across the walkies ranged from simple three-bar icons to the percentages that flash during boot-up on both the Rocky Talkies. If you’re planning on being remote and off the cord for an extended period of time, it’s not a bad bet to take along a portable power bank to keep your walkies topped off.

Durability and Waterproofing

The IP67 waterproof rating on the Rocky Talkie 5-Watt makes this radio our go-to whitewater comms solution; (photo/Chris Anders)

As outdoor equipment, you better believe we put these radios through the wringer, and rightfully so: a walkie-talkie that can’t handle being used outside isn’t worth much.

Any radio that claimed to be IP-rated as waterproof got both the hose and the whitewater treatment, being doused in both a steady stream of water while buttons were being pushed, as well as being strapped to our PFDs and run through a gauntlet of rapids.

The Rocky Talkie 5-Watt, Cobra ACXT1035R FLT, Mountain Lab Scout, and Motorola T600 all claim IP67 waterproofing with immersion in 3 feet of water up to 30 minutes, so we chucked them in a bucket to prove it.

Some radios, like the Rocky Talkie Mountain and 5-Watt, offer an optional handheld mic that is fully waterproof, meaning you can tuck the base unit away from the elements and use the radio without concern. Other radios aren’t quite waterproof, like the IP56 splashproof Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio or Oxbow Renegade X, which will take light precip, but no dunking.

Not quite waterproof, but water-resistant enough to spend all day in the snow — the Oxbow Renegade X is an excellent ski radio; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

Durability is also a function of impact resistance, and our climbing editor has literally bashed FRS radios to pieces during some ascents. Rubberized cases like on the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio soak up damage like this, and included tethers keep fumbles from becoming full-blown falls. 

Environmental factors such as temperature can also impact long-term performance, with a distinct difference between lithium-ion batteries and nickel-metal hydride batteries (NiMH cells are more susceptible to temperature swings). For example, the lithium-ion powered Oxbow Renegade X lasts a good bit longer at low temperatures than the Cobra ACXT1035R FLT, even though they have the same battery capacity.


Price-per-radio ranges widely, from $25 a pop to $190 units you’ll need to talk your partners into getting; (photo/Erika Courtney)

As with most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to walkie-talkies. Thankfully, a proliferation of cheap tech has made even budget walkies perfectly serviceable for day-to-day use, but there are a few things to keep in mind as the price goes up.

Budget walkie-talkies, such as the Midland X-Talker T51 and GXT1000, typically slide in around $25-40 per radio and are sold in two packs, meaning you’re already set up for team communications. These radios often won’t be as physically durable (both lack waterproof ratings), but even these radios come fleshed out with a number of features, such as VOX and dual frequency monitoring.

The Baofeng BF-F8HP is a bit of an outlier in this range, as it’s a much higher-powered and featured radio for $65, but you’ll have to deal with a less user-friendly interface. Moving up from here, mid-tier radios such as the Cobra ACXT1035R FLT ($60 per), Motorola T600 ($65 per), BCA Link Mini ($99 per), and Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio ($110 per) get you a more robust radio, often with a full waterproof rating and more features such as NOAA weather reception. 

Premium radios, such as the Mountain Lab Scout ($150 per), Rocky Talkie 5-Watt ($165), Oxbow Renegade X ($180 per), and BCA Link 2.0 ($190 per), offer the full suite of functionalities. These can include integrated hand mics, Bluetooth integration, or full 5W power outputs. 

At $110 per, the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio is pricey, but well worth it, in our opinion; (photo/Nick Belcaster)


What brand of walkie-talkie is the best?

While there’s much to be said about many walkie-talkie brands, it’s tough to deny when 2x of our award winner spots are taken by the same brand. Rocky Talkie radios regularly performed better than any other radio in our testing, and jam in almost all of the functionality we’re after in a great walkie-talkie (the exclusion of VOX is puzzling, but we’ll live without).

More of the old guard of radio manufacturers, Midland continues to make high-quality FRS and GMRS radios such as the X-Talker and GXT1000 lines, and Motorola, too, has a number of high-quality radios it’d be hard to go wrong with.

We were big fans of the Rocky Talkie offerings; (photo/Nick Belcaster)
What walkie-talkies have the longest range?

When talking about range, power output is almost always the most important factor when it comes to things we can control. If you’re looking at a far reach, be sure to use the FRS channels that allow for the full 2 W: 1-7 and 15-22.

Know that even some FRS radios won’t operate at the legal maximum they can — a good example being the Motorola T600, which puts out 1.5 W on high.

In our own testing, the Baofeng BF-F8HP rightfully trounced the competition, though it was hardly a fair fight. The 8W maximum output is far above any FRS walkie-talkie. Behind this were the GMRS radios, which put out 5 W, and the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio — the farthest-reaching FRS handheld.

What is the difference between a walkie-talkie and a two-way radio?

While every walkie-talkie is a two-way radio, not every two-way radio is a walkie-talkie. The term walkie-talkie typically refers to FRS and GMRS handheld radios, which are limited to their respective bands and power outputs.

Two-way radios, on the other hand, can encompass a broad array of communicators, from handheld 10-watt amateur radios to full base-station radios that require a tower-mounted antenna. The portable nature of walkie-talkies is another distinguishing feature.

A true VHF/UHF radio like the Baofeng BF-F8HP can accept different antennas, making it a true two-way radio; (photo/Nick Belcaster)
What should I look for when buying a walkie-talkie?

When buying a walkie-talkie, a good first step is considering what you’ll be using the radio for. For casually checking in on hiking partners, a simple weather-resistant FRS radio will work excellently. For more exposed activities such as backcountry skiing or paddling, going with a waterproof radio should be a top-priority.

If you’re looking to transmit far or in complex terrain, consider bumping up to a GMRS radio, which opens up a higher transmission power, but will need a simple license to operate. And if pure power and capability are what you’re after, a true amateur radio will pull no punches and get messages out that other walkie-talkies only dream of.

What is the strongest channel on a walkie-talkie?

On any FRS walkie-talkie, the strongest channels are going to be the ones that are allowed the full 2 watts of output for the band. These are channels 1-7 and 15-22. Channels 8-14 can only transmit a maximum of 0.5 W.

If in doubt, go with channels 1-7 for max power output; (photo/Nick Belcaster)

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