Two-way radios, such as walkie-talkies and ham radios, are useful to everyone from hikers to radio enthusiasts.
So whether you’re looking to enter the world of amateur radio or you’re preparing your next trek through the mountains, keep reading to find out which two-way radios will meet your requirements.
The Midland GXT1050VP4 often receives credit for striking the best balance between cost and quality. We think it’s the best Midland two-way radio available today.
With a 36-mile range, the devices are perfect for people who want to get outdoors. The manufacturer correctly states that the range could increase in flat, open plains.
The radio offers 22 regular channels, plus a further 28 extra channels. You can protect your communication on those channels with the 285 privacy codes—they give you access to 6,270 channel options that you can use to drown out other conversations. The GXT1050VP4 also comes with 10 calling alerts and five animal alerts.
Other notable features that make the radio suitable for outdoor folks are the SOS siren (which allows you to send a distress signal to all other nearby receivers when you’re faced with an emergency), and access to NOAA weather alerts.
Lastly, the Midland GXT1050VP4 has a JIS4 waterproof rating. The JIS4 standard implies that the device is rain and splash-proof from all directions.
The T600 Talkabout is a Motorola two-radio. As you’ll have noticed, the price is fairly close to that of the Midland GXT1050VP4. It’s thus no surprise to find that many of the same features are available on both products.
However, depending on the type of outdoor activity you participate in, you might find the T600 Talkabout to be more suitable than the Midland product.
The Talkabout has a range of 35 miles, one less than its Midland competitor. It offers 22 channels, each of which has 121 privacy channels. And this handset can connect to NOAA’s weather alerts.
The radio has a water-activated flashlight and can float. Its IP67 waterproof rating means it can withstand being under roughly three feet of water for 30 minutes. The Motorola radio is also luminous green/yellow, whereas the Midland product is camouflaged.
The leading Kenwood two-way radio is the TK-3402-U16P.
So far, we’ve seen the Midland two-way radio which is suited to hunting and activities in the backcountry, and the Motorola two-way radio that’s aimed at sports people, hikers, and other similar pursuits.
This Kenwood model strikes a more professional tone; it’s a good choice for people who work at events or in security.
The device’s casing is jet black and less garish. Its 36mm speaker can provide 1W of output, and it supports multiple signaling (QT, DQT, DTMF, FleetSync, PTT ID, and SelCall) over several zones.
The range of the Kenwood TK-3402-U16P is smaller than the Motorola and Midland models; it can only reach for seven miles. This is equivalent to 33 floors in a vertical office building, according to the manufacturer.
Although you can only use 16 channels, the two-way radio is packed with extra security features. They help to enhance the product’s reputation as a high-quality professional walkie-talkie. The features include a “radio stun” that can take a lost or stolen radio off the air, and voice scrambling that can make your communications unintelligible to eavesdroppers.
The TK-3402-U16P also has an emergency feature. When enabled, you need to press a sequence of buttons with a repeating timeframe. Failure to push the buttons within the allotted time will sound an alert.
The three two-way radio models we’ve looked at so far are the best walkie-talkies. They are primarily designed to let you communicate with other people in your vicinity who have one of the same devices.
If you’re more interested in the amateur radio side, you’ll need one of the best ham radios instead. They let you contact people all over the world. Indeed, there are often competitions to see who can reach the most fellow ham operators in far-flung locations.
Many enthusiasts will tell you that the BaoFeng UV-82HP is the best ham radio available today. It’s more weighty and professional-looking than the BaoFeng BF-F8HP, which is also a great choice.
The UV-82HP has VHF (136-174) and UHF (400-520) frequency ranges, a seven-watt output, and support for both single and dual push-to-talk. The VFO and MR frequency modes can be locked using the supplied software, and the device includes a high gain V-85 antenna (it’s like an antenna you can use on your router to boost signal quality)
There’s an FM receiver so you can listen to the radio while still monitoring your own frequencies in the background, and it’s also worth mentioning that the radio has an internal VOX for hands-free operation.
Note: Because of the complexities of using ham radio and the risk of causing interference on commercial channels, all ham operators need to pass a short test and acquire a license. There are more than 600,000 ham license holders in the United States alone.
5. Yaesu VX-6R
Another ham radio you should consider is the Yaesu VX-6R. It’s considerably more expensive than the BaoFeng UV-82HP, but it offers more features.
The BaoFeng two-way ham radio is aimed at sedate users, but the Yaesu VX-6R is the ham radio to choose if you want to use your device in more rugged situations.
The radio boasts a JIS7 waterproof rating. This is the Japanese equivalent of IP67; you can submerge your device in about three feet of water for 30 minutes without damaging it. Plus, this device will also give you access to emergency alerts.
Other features include the ability to pick up AM and FM broadcast radio, shortwave, CB, police channels, weather alerts, and aircraft and marine bands.
The Yaesu VX-6R offers five watts of power. While not the most powerful ham radio on the market, this is still high.
On the downside, some users have complained about the antenna. Thankfully, it’s replaceable with a third-party option.
Any Radio Alternatives?
There is a lot of competition in the world of ham radio and walkie-talkies. People who want to buy a two-way radio have a lot of options available to them.
However, depending on your usage case, you might not need to splash out on a fancy two-way radio. Did you know there are lots of smartphone apps that can turn your phone into a walkie-talkie? Alternatively, you could broadcast your own FM radio station using a Raspberry Pi.
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