Mobile phones are not a reliable option: even in the modern world it is difficult to find a network in remote places. Thus, the question arises: how to communicate effectively with the rest of the group and with the outside world when something goes wrong?
An option is a satellite phone that works even in remote areas. However, such devices are expensive, as is the monthly maintenance fee. Fortunately, there are much cheaper options – old two-way radios remain an efficient and accessible option for autonomous communication. There are hundreds of models to choose from, most of which don't hit the wallet. After studying various sites and reading dozens of customer reviews, I selected some of the best:
- 1 Baofeng UV-5R
- 2 Midland GXT100VP4
- 3 Talkabout for Motorola T100 series
- 4 Midland X-Talker T20X4
- 5 ArcShell AR-5
- 6 BaoFeng BF-F8HP
- 7 Midland LXT630VP3
- 8 What is GMRS / FRS and amateur radio?
- 9 How to choose a walkie-talkie
Price: from 1 200 rub.
Just ten years ago, no one heard about BaoFeng, but today the company's walkie-talk shows are among the best-selling (and most popular) on Amazon. The UV-5R is one of the models that are no longer available, but continues to be sold on Amazon at the lowest prices and has become a favorite among lovers of walkie talkie, as a cheap handheld device. It can receive and transmit with any frequency between 136–174 MHz and 400–520 MHz at a power of up to five watts and can receive in the range 65–108 MHz. Other features include dual frequency and standby monitoring as well as a built-in alarm.
To use this channel-less walkie-talkie, as with most options on the list, you must obtain the appropriate licenses (if necessary) for transmission.
Price: from 4,000 rubles.
Midland has long been launching two-way radios, but it's always trying to bring something innovative. The GXT1000VP4 is an excellent example: the walkie-talkie has 50 channels, 142 privacy codes and an impressive 57-kilometer radius. The device is equipped with a bright, backlit LCD screen, offers 10 custom alerts for incoming messages and silent mode. Walkie-talkies are also durable, water-resistant and come with rechargeable batteries, so that the device works for several hours.
In addition to its basic functionality, Midland has developed the GXT1000VP4 for emergency use. The SOS siren alerts others when help is needed, and the built-in NOAA feature informs users about the weather. Midland even produces walkie-talkies with microphones for hands-free calling.
Talkabout for Motorola T100 series
Price: from 1 300 rub.
Instead of spending a lot of money on cell phones, some parents buy a pair of cheap walkie-talkies to stay in touch with their children. The Motorola T100 Talkabout is an excellent choice for several reasons: the device allows you to communicate at a distance of up to 25 km, but our experience has shown that the device works best at a distance of less than 8 km.
These two-way radios offer good sound quality, have a bright LCD screen and 22 channels for communication. A key lock prevents the settings from being accidentally changed. The T100 also has excellent battery life: the device is capable of operating 18 hours of talk time from a set of three AAA batteries. Don't worry about the price – a set of three radios costs less than $ 50 (about 3,000 rubles).
Midland X-Talker T20X4
Price: from 2,500 rub.
Another child-friendly model is the Midland X-Talker T20X4, a four-color, high-resistance GMRS / FRS walkie-talkie. The T20X4 supports standard 22-channel GMRS and FRS without a license with a scanning feature to check activity on all channels. The device also supports CTCSS to block other conversations and voice activation, so you don't have to worry about pressing a special button for a conversation. Another great feature is the NOAA Integrated Weather Warning, which scans local radio channels for, for example, alerting the user of upcoming rainfall.
While Midland claims a range of 25 km, the walkie-talkie works best at a distance of 1.6-3,2 kilometers. The reason is the short antenna on the device – not the best for long distances. However, this is an excellent choice for children.
Price: from 3 700 rub.
It's not the nicest walkie-talkie on our list, but the ArcShell AR-5 with rechargeable batteries is by far the most economical. For less than $ 70 (4,300 rubles), you get six walkie-talkies, each with headphones and a charging dock. There are 16 channels pre-programmed in the 400-470 MHz band, but you can also set your own channels in this frequency range. Although headphones are the best way to use the radio in a noisy environment, the speaker is quite loud, and automatic voice activation lets you transmit without the push of a button.
Given the price, some flaws can affect your decision. The maximum transmission power of the AR-5 is only three watts, which slightly reduces the walkie-talkie range compared to other models. Users report excellent performance over a radius of one and a half kilometers, and ArcShell says that, under unstoppable conditions, the AR-5 range reaches maximum values of about 8 km. The device also has a shorter battery life and requires frequent recharging. Intensive use can "kill" the battery in just eight hours and takes two to three hours to fully charge.
Price: from 1 600 rub.
If you need a really powerful walkie-talkie, Baofeng BF-F8HP is a great option. F8HP is an updated version of the popular BaoFeng UV-5R. The BF-F8HP prides itself on 8 watts compared to 2 watts or less on most FRS phones.
However, given the power, the Baofeng BF-F8HP is not easy to use walkie-talkie. It is designed for true connoisseurs with the ability to transmit on FRS public channels. Some people buy this model for use on unlicensed FRS bands because they want a powerful and durable walkie-talkie. The harnesses will appreciate the versatility of the device, which can transmit to FRS, as well as GMRS. If you want to use all the features and functions of the F8HP, you must obtain a license for radio or GMRS radio, or both.
Price: 4,000 rub.
Midland LXT630VP3 is one of the most popular FRS walkie-talks sold right now on Amazon. The model is equipped with many functions, including 36 channels, a belt clip, fast charging and a range of up to 48 kilometers (according to the manufacturer). The walkie-talkie is easy to find thanks to the bright yellow color plate, and the durable case is ideal for use anywhere. The device even includes weather alerts. The eVOX (voice controlled switch) system allows you to turn the radio into transmission mode as soon as the operator starts talking.
Customers praise the walkie-talkie for its impressive sound quality and range (although, as is often the case, a distance of up to 16 km is optimal). Although this includes only two radios, and the price is higher than most models, we think it is worth it.
What is GMRS / FRS and amateur radio?
We have shown walkie-talkies that work on different radio frequencies and in different services. But what is their difference and they need a license for them? It depends on the frequencies and channels you use.
FRS represents the Radio Family Service and operates in the frequency range 462-467 MHz. The technology was created by Radio Shack, a company that successfully lobbied with the Federal Communications Commission in the 1990s to allow companies to produce walkie-talkies with preset channels in this frequency band. The changes allowed the walkie-talkies to have an exceptional range, with far less interference. On these channels, users are limited to two watts of power and no license is required to use frequencies. Channels 8 – 22 from the radio are FRS frequencies.
GMRS stands for General Radio Mobile Service and resembles the FM version of SB radios from the 1970s and 1980s. Much greater output power is allowed here – up to 50 watts – which results in much wider intervals. You cannot use these channels or GMRS equipment without a license – it costs about $ 70 (4300 rubles) for 10 years. With a license, you can also use eight relay channels located on channels 23-30, which allows you to use radio communications for conversations outside the "hotline."
Finally, the amateur radio offers a set of frequencies from shortwave to microwave, which requires a series of tests to gain access to more frequencies. Fortunately, you only have to pass and test to use the frequencies at which these portable radios work. The emergence of FRS and GMRS has made it unnecessary to obtain an amateur radio license (some radio channels are quite close to the FRS / GMRS frequencies), but the radio frequencies are much less saturated and it is easier to find a "clean" frequency than in the case of FRS or GMRS, especially in more urbanized areas.
How to choose a walkie-talkie
Choosing the right walkie-talkie is pretty straightforward – it all comes down to how you intend to use it. The vast majority of users will be more than just FRS talk-talkers (you are unlikely to travel that far away from each other). In addition, they are also the cheapest. However, for those who will explore remote areas, a GMRS walkie-talkie with a large range is better.
Despite the fact that you have to pay $ 70 (4,300 rubles) for the license, it will be useful not only for you, but for the whole family. We consider that the extra range is worth the cost, especially if you intend to use walkie-talkies often in dense forests or mountainous areas. If you are a radio amateur (or you may be interested in becoming one), the BaoFeng portable devices we recommend are a great choice.