The best walkie-talkies
If you’ve ever spent any time in the backcountry either hiking or camping, you know that using cell networks to stay in contact isn’t always a reliable option. This can make communication with the rest of your group — let alone friends and family back home — a real challenge. For those adventurous few who truly do go to the ends of the Earth, a satellite phone overcomes these challenges. But for the rest of us, good old-fashioned two-way radios (aka walkie-talkies) remain an efficient and affordable option for off-grid communications.Thankfully, there are hundreds of models to choose from, most of which won’t break the bank. Here are five of the best walkie-talkiescurrently available.
Cobra CXT 1035R FLT($100)
The best overall
From an overall build quality and design standpoint, theCXT 1035R FLT from Cobra is a hard product to beat. This two-way radio has a range of up to 37 miles, which is more than enough distance for most outings.The walkie-talkie alsohas a water-resistance rating of IPX7, meaning you cansubmerge the unit in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes without fear of causing it damage. Andsinceit’sdesigned to float, you shouldn’t have to worry about it sinking in the first place.
Beyond that, this model also features a series of LED lights that double as a flashlight in a pinch, and a built-in NOAA weather radio provides alerts during emergency situations. It also offers support for adual-port charger as well as alkaline batteries for additional versatility. One of the most impressive features of this unit, however, is its voice recognition technology. The walkie-talkie actually detects your voice, allowing you to communicate completely hands-free, which comes in handy while hiking or climbing. Our favorite feature of all just might be the “Rewind-Say-Again” feature, which automatically records the last 20 seconds of incoming messages for playback of missed audio.
There are units with a wider communication range and more enhanced battery preservation settings, but therugged build of Cobra’s flagship model, along with its array of useful features, makes it our top pick.
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Uniden Submersible Radio ($74)
The best long-range
If the key factor you’re looking for in a walkie-talkie is long-range communication, then look no further than the Uniden Submersible. A slew of variables impact real-world performance (including terrain, altitude, and weather), but this device has a theoretical range of up to 50 miles, putting it head and shoulder above most of the competition.
Rugged and reliable, the Submersible is also water resistant and offers 22 different channels and 142 privacy codes to keep your messages completely private. It’s equipped with an emergency strobe light and a NOAA weather radio for receiving severe storm alerts. The device floats on water, has excellent battery life, and even ships with a set of over-the-ear microphones for hands-free operation.
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The best for backcountry emergencies
Midland has been making two-way radios for decades, and yet it still finds new ways to innovate. Case in point, the company’s GXT1000VP4 model features 50 channels, 142 privacy codes, and an impressive 36-mile range. It also comes witha bright, back-lit LCD screen that’s easy to read in the dark, ten customizable alerts for incoming messages, and a whisper-mode for communicating in situations where staying quiet may be a priority. These walkie talkies are also rugged, waterproof, and come with rechargeable battery packs that can keep them operating for hours at a time.
Beyond its basic functionality, the GXT1000VP4 was specifically designed for use in emergency situations. To that end, the device is equipped with an SOS siren that can alert others when urgent help is needed, and itcomes with a built-in NOAA weather alert radio to keep users informed of changing weather conditions. Midland even ships the radios with boom microphones for hands-free communication.
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Midland LXT500VP3 ($40)
The best budget
Midland earns its second entry on this list thanks to its affordable and versatile LXT500VP3 model. This two-way radio features 22 channels, a range of up to 24 miles, and an option to automatically scan frequencies for any broadcast activity. Powered by either the included rechargeable battery packs or 4 AAA batteries, these walkie talkies also include a HI/LO power setting that give the user the ability to adjust the transmit power to conserve battery life. If you know you don’t have to broadcast very far, you can turn the power down and increase the life of the installed energy cells. If the batteries are fresh and fully charged, crank up the settings to send your transmissions even further.
Other nice features include auto-squelch technology to help keep the annoying noise to a minimum, an incoming call alert that automatically notifies you when someone within your group is broadcasting, and a keypad lock that prevents you from accidentally changing the settings. There is even a silent operation mode that turns off all of the noise altogether, allowing the user to get stealthy.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, the Midland LXT500VP3 sells for just $40, making them one of the most affordable walkie talkie sets on the market today.
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The best for kids
Rather than shell out a lot of money for cell phones, some parents purchase a pair of inexpensive walkie-talkies to stay in contact with their kids instead. The Sokos Walkie Talkie for Kidsis a great option for a number of reasons, not the least of which is decent range. This device lets you communicate over a range of up to five miles — more than enough if your child is playing in the neighborhood or if you become separated at the grocery store.
These two-way radios offer good sound quality, a bright LCD screen, call alerts, and 22 channels to chat on. Best of all, they are incredibly easy to use and have a keypad lock to prevent your child from accidentally changing the settings. All you have to do is set both radios to the same channel, give one to your child, and keep the other for yourself.
As for battery life, the two-way radios allow for 3.5 hours of continuous use, or about nine hours on standby. More importantly, these walkie-talkies won’t break the bank whenyour child inevitably loses one.
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