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Best Walkie-Talkies

Updated December 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 5 Models Considered
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 159 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best walkie-talkies

    Last Updated December 2018


    Whether you use them to keep track of your party while camping or hiking in the wilderness, or you need to communicate with colleagues at work, walkie-talkies are an excellent way of staying in touch when it would be impractical to use a phone.

    Even a rudimentary internet search will provide you with hundreds of options to choose from, so it can be tough to pick the best walkie-talkies, especially if you're a first time buyer and know little about them.

    Read on for our full guide to walkie-talkies. Then, when you're ready to buy, see our top five picks.

    Some walkie-talkies provide weather alerts in case of incoming adverse conditions, so you can remove yourself to safety before a bad front comes in.

    Types of walkie-talkies

    FRS walkie-talkies

    FRS walkie-talkies use the Family Radio Service (FRS) and are designed for short-range, recreational use.

    Pros:

    • You don't need a license to operate an FRS walkie-talkie.

    • FRS walkie-talkies tend to be fairly inexpensive.

    • Most FRS walkie-talkies are simple and straightforward to use.
       

    Cons:

    • FRS walkie-talkies are limited to 0.5 watts, and therefore, they have a fairly short range.


    Price: Basic FRS walkie-talkies start at around $15 a pair, whereas high-end options may cost closer to $100 for a pair.

    GMRS walkie-talkies

    GMRS walkie-talkies use the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) and are designed for long-range or commercial use.

    Pros:

    • GMRS walkie-talkies can harness up to 5 watts of power, giving them a significantly longer range than FRS models.

    • You'll often find GMRS walkie-talkies are more durable and rugged than FRS radios.
       

    Cons:

    • You need to obtain a license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in order to operate a GMRS walkie-talkie.
       

    Price: You can find basic GMRS walkie-talkies for as little as $25 a pair, whereas high-end commercial models can cost $200 a pair.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    You can also buy FRS/GMRS walkie-talkies which give you the option to use channels from either service, though you'll still require a license if you want to use the GMRS channels.

    Walkie-talkies: learn the lingo

    If you want to feel like a walkie-talkie pro (or you need to be one for work), you might want to learn some of the common shorthand phrases that radio operators use when communicating.

    • Affirmative: Yes

    • Negative (or negatory): No

    • Do you copy?: Do you hear me?/Do you understand?

    • Copy that (or Roger that): Message received and understood

    • 10-1: Receiving poorly

    • 10-2: Receiving well

    • 10-3: Stop transmitting

    • 10-4: Okay/Message received

    • 10-20: My location is…

    • What’s your 20?: Where are you?

    • Over: Message finished — time for the other person to reply

    • Over and out: Message finished and communication has come to an end

    EXPERT TIP

    Walkie-talkies with keypad locks prevent you from sending out an unintentional transmission, if a button accidentally gets pressed in your pocket or bag.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Considerations for selecting a walkie-talkie

    Frequency

    Walkie-talkies either operate on Very High Frequency (VHF) or Ultra High Frequency (UHF).

    • VHF walkie-talkies use frequencies between 136 and 174 MHz, and can cover a long distance with a small amount of power. However, they don't work well with obstacles in the way, so they're best used in open areas with very few obstructions.

    • UHF walkie-talkies use frequencies between 400 and 512 MHz. In simple terms, this means they're more powerful (but also require more power), so the signal can make its way through obstructions, such as buildings and densely wooded areas.

    Size and weight

    Some walkie-talkies are extremely lightweight and compact, whereas others are larger and heavier. If you'll carry your walkie-talkie for long periods of time, you may prefer a relatively lightweight option. That said, some compact walkie-talkies can be flimsy, so you'll need to find the sweet spot between lightweight and durable.

    Durability

    How you use your walkie-talkie makes a difference as to how durable you need it to be. If you only use it occasionally, and you aren't taking part in any extreme activities, you probably don't need an extremely rugged walkie-talkie. However, if you use it daily, take it with you while engaging in activities like rock climbing or mountain biking, or generally expect it to get its fair share of drops and scrapes, it's worth investing in a durable model that will stand up to some abuse.

    Number of channels

    The biggest drawback to walkie-talkies is that they're not private. Anyone with a compatible device can tune into a channel you're using, and only one person can use it at a time. The more channels you have available on your walkie-talkie, the less likely it is that anyone else will be using them. FRS walkie-talkies have between two and seven channels, whereas GMRS models can have 30 or more. If you plan to use your walkie-talkies in a remote area, a model with just a handful of channels will suffice. However, you'll probably need access to a greater number of channels if you use them in a busy place where there may be a lot of radio activity, such as a large event or music festival.

    Wattage

    FRS walkie-talkies are limited to 0.5 watts, whereas GMRS models can yield up to 5 watts. The amount of watts your radio has essentially equates to transmission power, so the larger the wattage, the further your messages will reach. While walkie-talkies often advertise very large communication range, this range is really only achievable given perfect conditions. A more realistic range (factoring in obstacles and weather conditions) is around one mile per watt. So a 0.5-watt walkie-talkie should have a range of around half a mile, whereas a 5-watt model should an approximately 5 mile range.

    EXPERT TIP

    Ideally, your walkie-talkie's display screen should be clear, easy to read, and illuminated, so you can see it in the dark.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Tips

    • While you can buy single walkie-talkies, most come in a set. Think about how many you need (you might be buying for yourself, your whole family, or a group of colleagues), and select a set size accordingly.

    • Check the battery life on your chosen walkie-talkies. If you'll be using them on multi-day camping trips with no charging facilities, you'll need a model with adequate battery power.

    • Some walkie-talkies use standard disposable batteries, whereas other use rechargeable batteries or come with battery packs.

    • You can buy walkie-talkies with voice activated transmission (VOX), which means you can operate them hands-free.

    • Look for walkie-talkie with extra features, such as timers and alarms, which some users may find valuable.

    Most walkie-talkies have a belt clip, so you can attach them to a belt or waistband for easy access.

    FAQ

    Q. Do I have to pay for a walkie-talkie license?
    A.
    Yes, if you purchase a licensed walkie-talkie, there is a fee for the license. At the time of writing, the license costs $70, and it’s valid for five years.

    Q. What's the difference between a walkie-talkie and a two-way radio?
    A.
    The term "walkie-talkie" is just another name for a two-way radio, so if you read about two-way radios during your research, know that it's the same thing as a walkie-talkie.

    Q. Can you buy waterproof walkie-talkies?
    A.
    Yes, you can buy walkie-talkies that are fully waterproof, which is useful if you'll be using them on boats, near bodies of water, or simply in rainy conditions.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Amos
      Amos
      Director of Photography
    • Branson
      Branson
      Videographer
    • Eliza
      Eliza
      Production Manager
    • Jeff
      Jeff
      Editor
    • Lauren
      Lauren
      Writer
    • Samantha
      Samantha
      Writer

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