Which walkie-talkie is best?
Walkie-talkies have been around for almost 100 years, which has provided plenty of time for improvement. If you’re looking for walkie-talkies, don’t compromise when you can get some high-quality two-way radio equipment.
Motorola T600 Talkabout Radios offer a simple but effective design that’s completely waterproof, has an emergency light and is excellent for outdoor activities.
What to know before you buy a walkie-talkie
How many walkie-talkies do you need?
If you’re purchasing two-way radio devices for a group, consider how many individual units you need to equip everyone. Many walkie-talkies are sold in pairs or large quantities. Depending on the number of users you have in mind, remember that the more separate radios you need, the more it’ll cost.
Where you’ll be taking your walkie-talkies
If you plan to take your walkie-talkies outdoors, plan ahead for the kinds of environments and weather you think you might encounter. If you could be exposed to rain or severe weather conditions, be sure your walkie-talkies can hold up under the stress.
Some walkie-talkies come equipped with other functionality or features, like flashlights, weather indicators and headphone output jacks. If you need your walkie-talkies to serve multiple purposes or just like having bonus features, consider spending a bit more to equip yourself with the best gear.
What to look for in a quality walkie-talkie
The best walkie-talkies have plenty of range to communicate with your fellow users — you don’t want a radio that can’t signal far enough to reach the message’s intended target. Depending on the intended activities for the walkie-talkies, you don’t necessarily have to have the longest possible range, but check the maximum distances and try to test ahead of time before you take the walkie-talkies into the field.
Some walkie-talkies use a frequency of about 136-174 MHz (VHF), while others use a much higher frequency of 400-512 MHz (UHF). The tradeoff with UHF or ultra high-frequency walkie-talkies is that their signal can pass through obstructions like buildings and densely wooded areas, but they require more power. Basically, a lower-frequency walkie-talkie doesn’t need as much energy to transmit signals, but it’s easily obstructed by anything between the transmitter and the intended recipient of a message. If you could encounter potential signal obstructions, you might need a higher-frequency walkie-talkie.
Depending on how often you use the walkie-talkies and the kinds of activities you use them for, you may not need a particularly heavy-duty or durable model. If you may encounter bumps or falls during your activities, your walkie-talkie should be able to withstand a reasonable amount of abuse without being damaged.
How much you can expect to spend on a walkie-talkie
You can easily find a cheap pair of walkie-talkies for recreational communication at less than $20. For higher-quality two-way radios, you can expect to spend up to $100, depending on how durable or long-range you need them to be. For large quantities of walkie-talkies, expect to spend over $100.
Do I need a license to use a walkie-talkie?
A. It depends. Many two-way radios available have pre-programmed channels that don’t necessitate a license to operate. Some types of radios require a license which comes at a fee. Personal licensing costs less than licensing for an organization or company. Check the laws that apply and obtain any necessary license before making radio broadcasts.
Can walkie-talkies be completely waterproof, or are they only water-resistant?
A. They can be totally waterproof, depending on the model. Some walkie-talkies are safe to completely submerge in water up to certain depths and should not lose any functionality. If you need a walkie-talkie that can stand up to very wet and harsh conditions, there are plenty of options. Remember that waterproof walkie-talkies will likely be more expensive.
What’s the best walkie-talkie to buy?
What you need to know: This pair of waterproof walkie-talkies is designed to float and survive being submerged in water for a surprising amount of time.
What you’ll love: These walkie-talkies are great for water sports because they can withstand being up to a meter underwater for up to 30 minutes. They have a two-colored LED emergency flashlight that can be used as a normal flashlight and functions as a water-activated emergency light. This model can access 22 frequency bands and 11 different emergency weather channels. It has up to 9 hours of battery life. The bright color makes it hard to lose.
What you should consider: Some customers find the batteries drain quickly, and others find that their walkie-talkies’ speaker volume is lower than preferred.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top walkie-talkies for the money
Midland GXT1000VP4 GMRS Two-Way Radio
What you need to know: This affordable but high-quality pair of walkie-talkies features splash resistance and privacy codes.
What you’ll love: This model has 142 CTCSS/DCS privacy codes that allow for 3,124 channel options to block out other conversations. The built-in NOAA Weather Scan + Alert automatically scans 10 weather band channels and determines the strongest weather channel for alerting the user of any severe weather updates. In the case of severe risk, the walkie-talkie sounds an alarm. The battery lasts over 10 hours.
What you should consider: The radios may fail after a few months of consistent use. These models don’t have a group-mode feature. The range is less than 36 miles and encounters difficulties if there are lots of hills or buildings to obstruct the signal.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Retevis H-777 Two-Way Radios (10-Pack)
What you need to know: This set of walkie-talkies is great for a large group, though each individual radio is not very durable.
What you’ll love: These two-way radios provide clear reception and are even compatible with other models from the same manufacturer. The battery provides 10-12 hours of use or longer. They’re designed to last, but an individual unit is easy to replace if one sustains damage. Customer service is very responsive.
What you should consider: The antenna housing may break or fall apart after several months. The battery housing components and belt clips seem to loosen up over time. There have also been reports that radios may fail after months of use.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Want to shop the best products at the best prices? Check out Daily Deals from BestReviews.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Elliott Rivette writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.