Updated: Nov 18
It might be quite a surprise to learn that, even in the digital age of the cellular phone, walkie talkies are still on the rise. Surprising as this is, it is because both devices offer a different type of flexibility in usage. The walkie talkie has been around for a while now and it first gained popularity during WW2 when American soldiers used backpack-sized radios. Technology has advanced the walkie talkies into compact handheld radios that serve many more purposes now,
Keeping in touch with others is an important key to success in any form of usage. The best walkie talkies will help you communicate with other people depending on your needs. If you are looking to buy a walkie talkie, you might be surprised to find that there are so many types and features you’d have to sort through. There are tons of things to consider when looking for a set that meets your needs. But finding the best walkie talkie for you doesn’t have to be that complicated! In this article, we will break down the best walkie talkies for your use. Whether it be the best walkie talkies long range, walkie talkies for kids, or walkie talkie apps!
Types of Frequencies
Walkie-talkies either operate on Very High Frequency (VHF) or Ultra High Frequency (UHF).
VHF walkie-talkies use frequencies between 136 and 174 MHz. They only need a minimum amount of power and can cover a large area. This is best used in open areas as it doesn’t penetrate obstacles so well. Normally you'd find VHF in use for walkie talkies long range.
UHF walkie-talkies use frequencies between 400 and 512 MHz. These walkie talkies are much more powerful and can get signals through obstructions such as forests and buildings.
Types of Walkie Talkies
Most walkie talkies you would be able to find in a store would operate on the family radio service (FRS). It’s a personal radio service that mainly serves the average consumer. These walkie talkies use FM waves, which provides clearer communication than that of the AM waves. The great thing about FRS is they don’t require a license to operate. So it’s a quick and easy buy then use. For most situations in which you’d need short-distance two-way communication, a set of FRS walkie talkies should do the trick. Although it is important to note that these aren’t ideal for longer range or obstacle heavy scenarios and environments. It operates on the UHF (Ultra high frequency). These aren't what you'd pick for walkie talkies long range.
Frequency Wattage: FRS radios generally only have 1 Watt of power.
License application required: None
Shared or Private Channels: Shared
Range under Ideal Conditions: 0.5-1 Miles
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radios are like the big brother of FRS radios. They can be modified to reach larger ranges and access other frequencies. It is important to note that GMRS radios require an FCC license to operate, but in return they provide better audio quality and a much wider reach in terms of range. The GMRS radios do have a larger reach in range but like all radios, that will also depend on terrain and elevation. People planning to really test the durability, range, and strength of signal, will want to consider a GMRS radio. It operates on UHF (Ultra high frequency). This is is normally the go to for use of walkie talkies long range.
Frequency Wattage: GMRS walkie talkies generally do not exceed 5 Watts unless you use a mobile radio with a repeater
License application required: FCC License Required
Shared or Private Channels: Shared
Range under Ideal Conditions: 2-20 (2 Miles for Walkie talkies, 20 Miles for Mobile Radios)
The Multi-use Radio Service (MURS) is quite similar to the FRS except for the fact that it operates on the VHF instead of UHF and that it has much greater range when used outdoors. The MURS radio is more popularly used by small businesses as it has the private communication feature. People who also like going outdoors for fishing, road trips, or basically anywhere much obstruction also use MURS because it operates on VHF which means it will get more range in open areas. A good thing about it is that it also doesn't require any license so it's free to use. This can also be the go to for use of walkie talkies long range depending on the situation and environment.
Frequency Wattage: 2 Watts
License application required: Not Required
Shared or Private Channels: Private
Range under Ideal Conditions: 2-8 Miles
What types are best for which situations
Before you decide to go to a store and purchase that walkie talkie you already have in mind, it is important to first think about what would suit you. Whether you might be interested in using walkie talkies for family trips, trekking, or for kid’s fun. Below is a breakdown of the two most common go-tos when deciding.
Hunting / Trekking / Camping: Walkie Talkies Long Range
When exploring the outdoors to go hunting, hiking, trekking, trailing, and use of walkie talkies long range, you would most likely be looking for the best long range walkie talkie that would prove useful when in harsh and far off environments. The best walkie talkie for the job would be the GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service). Much like the FRS radios, the GMRS has similar capabilities but is more durable, can be modified and equipped to reach much farther distances of 2-20 miles (2 Miles for Walkie talkies, 20 Miles for Mobile Radios), can access more frequencies, has better audio quality, and is built for frequent use in rugged terrains. The GMRS is ideal for these environments as it operates on the UHF (Ultra high frequency) and can penetrate thick forests and mountainous terrains.
If you are looking to test the walkie talkie long range, durability, and strength of signal, the best long range walkie talkie for you would be the GMRS. Although it is important to note that the GMRS requires an FCC license to operate. You are eligible to apply for a license if you are at least 18 years old and are not a representative of a foreign government. If you do not want to get a license and still want to go outdoors, getting a MURS radio might be your best option.
If you're looking for a good GMRS radio, you may check out the Midland 50 Channel GMRS.
For Kids / Family use: Walkie Talkies Short Range
If you are looking to buy walkie talkies for kids, family, and recreational use, the best walkie talkie to buy would be an FRS (Family Radio System). These radios are ideal for recreational use because they’re much more affordable than other types, can reach a range of about 0.5-1 miles, and they don’t require a license to operate them. FRS radios are the best walkie talkies for casual use and communicating in short distances and it’s the easiest to find in almost any store you go to.
They would be your best friend on a camping trip, family outing, or just a day outside playing in the backyard. Although the FRS is not ideal if you plan on communicating using walkie talkies long range or through walls due to limited power. They operate on the UHF (Ultra high frequency).
If you're looking for a good FRS radio, you may check out the Midland - T10 X-TALKER, 22 Channel FRS Walkie Talkies.
Small businesses / Fishing / Road trips: Walkie Talkies Long Range
If you are looking for a walkie talkie that could provide you with good range when you're going to be outdoors with mostly open area, the MURS (Multi-use radio) would work best for walkie talkies long range. Compared to the GMRS that is best used outdoors and can penetrate thick forests and obstacles well, the MURS radio can cover a lot more range in open areas because it operates on the VHF (Very high frequency). It can be used for boating, fishing, road trips, and many more open area activities. It is also great as it doesn't require any FCC license.
MURS is able to use PL (Private Lines) which allows users to operate on that channel without having to hear chatter from other users. Businesses find this feature very beneficial to filter out non work related communications on their channels.
If you're looking for a good MURS radio, you may check out the Retevis RT27V MURS Radio.
Family use / Road trips / Leisure Activities: Walkie Talkies Long Range and Short Range
Other than UHF or VHF based traditional walkie talkies, Walkie Talkie Apps have been on the rise and have been placed themselves as a viable option for long range walkie talkie requirements. Walkie Talkie Apps work via the nationwide cellular networks so they are proving to be one of the best walkie talkies for those who need large area coverage.
With the VoicePing Walkie Talkie App, people can start using their own smartphones as walkie talkies and communicate with their friends no matter where they are. As opposed to the traditional walkie talkies, VoicePing operates using 4G or wifi connection expanding the range nationwide. With 99% outdoor service coverage provided by mobile networks (2G/3G/4G/WiFi), you will always be able to reach anyone wherever they are. This makes your smartphone walkie talkie long range.
Because you are reusing your own smartphone as a Walkie Talkie, you don’t have to purchase another device and this could be ideal for Family use / Road trips / Leisure Activities where the intended use is short term.
Family Use: If you need to maintain good communication with your kids and partner whether they’re at school, work, or just at home, VoicePing would be a good option to use. You’d never have to worry about not reaching your family anymore.
Road trips: When you’re on the road and need to communicate and coordinate with your friends on which route to take, where to stop, when to take breaks, having VoicePing would make all that easier. You could make and edit a specific group for you and your road trip buddies.
Leisure Activities: When you’re out on travels, trips, or in a festival with friends, VoicePing could help your group of friends stay well connected and make the whole trip much more enjoyable.
Asides from getting all the features you'd normally have from a traditional walkie talkie, you can get so much more with VoicePing. Features such as group PTT, customization of groups, voice calls, video call, location tracking, paging, and many more.
Your friend or whoever is on the other line hears you as you speak. VoicePing Walkie Talkie App works like a two way radio. This means you’ll never miss a message when using this.
With VoicePing, you're no longer limited to just plain and simple communications. You get to turn your smartphone into an all in one device and reap the benefits of it.
What Key Factors To Consider When Choosing What Walkie Talkie To Buy?
It is important to consider the maximum range indicated in each walkie talkie and to note down if this is a range you would possibly be using it in. Some people may need to bring them only to a short distance but some bring their walkie talkies long range.
Always note that there are some distortions when you switch channels on your walkie talkie. When choosing one, it should be able to switch between other channels smoothly.
Design and Durability
It is important to choose rugged and strong walkie talkies if you plan on taking it with you to tough terrains. Damage and water resistant walkie talkies would be the ones you’d look for.
Having a good battery life on your walkie talkies is a must depending on what you plan on using it for. Being able to keep the communication going for extended periods of time is a great help to maintaining your teamwork
In times of emergencies, walkie talkies are always present. Some walkie talkies are equipped with emergency features such as weather alerts and flashlights to counter these emergency scenarios. .
What other Features do walkie talkies have and why might they be best for you?
Here are some extra features that you might want to consider when making your purchase:
Backlit LCD Screen
This feature helps you see in dark environments. This is important to inform you of battery percentage, time, and many more.
This feature helps inform the user when there is an incoming transmission.
Saving different channels can be a benefit to those who sort through many different channels when using their walkie talkies.
Knowing the weather can give you a heads up on your trip and how to prepare for it.
Q: Do I need a license to use walkie-talkies?
A: The FRS (Family Radio Service) walkie talkies do not require any license. However, the FCC does require a license for the GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service)
Q: Can you trace walkie-talkies?
A: If your walkie talkie is licensed, it would be illegal for you to be traced. Although it is possible as the walkie talkies work as a transmitter and a receiver which means once the antenna from a transmitter and receiver communicate through radio waves, these can be traced back to you.
Q: What is the difference between walkie talkies and two-way radios?
A: Walkie talkies are two way radios but there are other types of two way radios too. Walkie talkies are just the handheld and compact version of them. Another popular form of a two way radio would be a mobile radio. It still functions like the walkie talkie but has more power and isn’t as handy as the walkie talkie.
Q: Can any walkie talkie connect to another?
A: As long as the walkie talkies are on the same frequency and are within the same range, it is possible to communicate with others. It is important to note that this only applies to some walkie talkies as other types operate on different levels of frequencies. A GMRS radio may operate on the same frequencies as an FRS radio but there are other radios such as MURS (), CB, and PLMR that operate on different frequencies. These radios are less for recreational purposes and more for professional use.
Q: How long do batteries last in walkie talkies?
A: Most walkie talkies offer rechargeable batteries nowadays meaning these should last you a very long time depending on your usage.
Q: Can walkie-talkies be completely waterproof, or are they only water-resistant?
A: These will highly depend on the model and brand that you are looking at. Some walkie talkies are already completely waterproof and can be submerged underwater and can function fully. Some walkie talkies will also indicate that they are only water resistant and cannot function properly if fully submerged underwater at a certain depth and length of time.
Q: Can someone else eavesdrop on your conversations with a walkie-talkie?
It is possible for others to listen in on your conversation on a walkie talkie if you are using a public channel. This would only be possible of course if these people are also within the same range and frequency as you. But if you are able to secure a private channel, then only those with access can hear you.
Q: Why would I use a walkie-talkie if my entire team has phones?
A: The benefits and features that a smartphone can provide differ from that of a simple walkie talkie. The greatest advantage a walkie talkie can provide is the ability to instantly get someone else to listen and communicate with you with the PTT feature. This is especially important depending on your use.
Learn the Lingo
Learn a few of the most common phrases and terms of radio operators and communicate like a pro! Here are some examples below
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
Glossary of walkie talkie terms
Federal Communications Commission license radio frequencies in the USA; there is a similar body in most countries as the bandwidth must be shared, though believe it or not government agencies do try and cooperate across borders – to some extent, the FRS channel group is acceptable in Canada, Mexico and – at least some channels – in South America too; handy for trips abroad.
Frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum are divided into broad categories (visible light is one of these) and the subcategories are known as channels. For convenience, these are named with simple numbers within GMRS/FRS For example, Channel 1 is 462.5625 MHz.
Despite the name, these offer no protection from eavesdropping; when you broadcast with a walkie talkie it is not encrypted. Instead you can agree on a tone (which you won’t be able to hear yourself) which will tell your handset which is the preferred signal.