If you're planning a camping or hiking trip, there are many pieces of equipment you'll need to bring with you. If you're going with a group, such as friends or family, you'll need to stay in touch with everyone, and in most outdoor areas, cellphone service is not an option. Fortunately, walkie talkies are excellent tools for outdoor adventures. Modern two-way radios include weather alerts, S.O.S. signals, hands-free operation and access to both FRS and GMRS frequencies. Also, their effective range covers several miles, giving your group the freedom to separate and explore different areas.
The best walkie talkies we reviewed were the Cobra CXT 1035R FLT, Uniden GMR5099-2CKHS and Midland GXT1000VP4. These walkie talkies are most effective in low-interference areas like mountains and woods. They don't perform as well in areas with reliable cell phone coverage or lots of frequency interference from other types of radios. If you need further help picking a durable walkie talkie for your next camping trip, check out our articles about two-way radios.
While there are many different types of walkie talkies to choose from, we focused on consumer-level outdoor radios, rather than toys and CB radios. We based our comparative reviews on features, convenience, support options and overall performance. We used the following criteria to determine the best walkie talkies:
All walkie talkies list a maximum effective coverage area. These range anywhere from 20 to 50 miles, but certain conditions must be met for you to reach these ranges. In actuality, your environment does much to influence the radio's range. Look for a walkie talkie with both FRS and GMRS frequencies. FRS frequencies are free to use but usually have shorter ranges. GMRS channels require an FCC license to access and provide longer ranges. You should also look for an emergency radio, or a walkie talkie that can access NOAA weather channels. We prefer radios that push emergency weather alerts to your unit and that have an S.O.S. option to help you in case of an emergency.
We also look for various extra features, including a headset jack and an option for hands-free operation. Some walkie talkies have privacy codes and noise cancelling. If you are hunting and need silence, a vibration feature is necessary. Finally, to ensure you don't push the talk button accidentally, you should make sure the radio has a keypad lock and keystroke alert.
If you're planning a backpacking trip, every ounce matters. You should make sure that your walkie talkie won't add too much weight to your pack. Nearly all modern radios include rechargeable batteries and a charger, but if you are planning a longer excursion into the wilderness, you should look for a radio that can also run on disposable batteries. Lastly, make sure you get a waterproof walkie talkie, just in case you drop it in water.
Help & Support
Since walkie talkies are meant for outdoor use, make sure to pick one with a long warranty. The standard warranty is one year, but many manufacturers offer three-year warranties. For self help, make sure the website has a FAQs section and downloadable user manuals. Also, make sure the manufacturer offers email and telephone contact information.
Walkie talkies are a necessary tool for hikers and campers. Two-way radios act as both communication tools for when you are outside of cell phone service as well as emergency alert radios when you need to know the local weather conditions. Our reviews will help you find the best walkie talkie for your next trip.