I think we can all remember a time as kids sneaking around the house with siblings or the neighborhood with friends talking to each other on walkie-talkies. It made us feel official and our parents liked them because it was something to keep us busy and out of their hair for a bit. Fast forward to today, and those fun walkie-talkies of our youth have led way to useful, rugged two-radios we can use on the job, for safety purposes, as well to communicate during outdoor adventures.
When you find yourself out of cell phone range, having a satellite phone or long-range two-way radio will allow you to stay connected. This can be helpful as you navigate or need to speak with someone immediately, and is also important to have in case of an emergency.
Today we’re looking into the best two-way radios: both models operating on the Family Radio Service and General Mobile Radio Service bands (FRS/GMRS) as a couple of alternative options with key features.
Who Needs a Two-Way Radio
Though you may not have previously determined a need for a two-way radio, it’s one of those things that once you have one, you wonder how you ever survived without it. Well, you probably would’ve survived (though two-way radios can be vital in life and death situations), but they sure can make work and adventuring a lot more convenient.
Particular industries rely on the use of two-way radios and these are some of the people and personnel who can benefit from having a two-way radio:
- doomsday preppers
- police officers
- hikers and climbers
- construction workers
- school personnel
- security officers
- vessel crew
Anywhere that cell coverage may be unreliable requires a two-way radio or satellite communication.
Features to Look for in a Two-Way Radio
When determining which two-way radio works best, you’ll want to consider your needs and what you’ll be using it for the most. Here are some of the top features to look for when choosing a two-way radio:
- Range of Use: When purchasing a two-way radio, note the mileage range it can cover. If you’ll be using it with colleagues or friends in close proximity, this will matter less than with outdoor adventurers out on a distant excursion. Be aware though that even though some range out to 36 miles, performance will be much more clear in a closer range.
- Weatherproofing and Ruggedness: The two-way radios on our list all tout different levels of weatherproofing and toughness. Being outdoors or in extreme conditions means you’ll need a two-way radio that can handle it.
- Whisper Mode: Whisper mode comes in handy when in a situation where you don’t want to be heard within your surroundings. Hunters, in particular, will find the whisper mode helpful.
- Emergency Alerts: This feature is important for staying safe. If your two-way radio has an “emergency” or “all hazard” alert, it means it will receive emergency alerts happening in the area such as fires or landslides. This can be crucial for staying up-to-date out in the wilderness.
- Direct/Group Calling Modes: Being able to toggle between direct and group calling can be helpful. Want to talk to one member of your team? Choose direct. If you want to talk to 2 or more members at once, the group calling feature can handle that.
Best FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radios
What’s nice about these two-way radios is that they come in a set of two. Outdoor adventure seekers will likely find that one of these options fits their needs.
Motorola MS350R 35-Mile Talkabout Waterproof 2-Way Radio
This high performing, durable two-ray is perfect for extreme outdoor adventures.
Key features of the Motoroal MS350R include:
- ingress protection-67 waterproof – can even withstand water dunking and heavy rain
- up to 35-mile long range of communication (users report it’s much clear, however, in a much closer range
- 22 channels, plus 8 repeater channels
- 121 privacy codes
- uses rechargeable batteries with pack included
Midland GXT1050VP4 36-Mile 50 Channel GMRS Two-Way Radio
Midland has been offering reliable radio communication for over 50 years. We recommend this two-way radio.
Key features of the Midland include:
- camouflage pattern
- 50 GMRS channels with channel scan
- 5 animal call alerts make it great for hunting
- a long-range of communication with little obstruction (up to 36 miles)
- weather scan means you can be up-to-date about severe weather in your area
- JIS4 Waterproof (splash resistant)
- allows for hands-free operation
- rechargeable batteries with option to conserve battery life
Best Alternative Two-Way Radios
Though most two-way radios operate on the FRS/GMRS bands, not all do. The following two-way radios are great options beyond what other typical two-way radios can do. A two-way radio functioning on a satellite network, for example, allows you to speak to anyone without range limitations. Others may seek a more rugged option built to withstand far tougher conditions than typical two-radios can.
If you’re looking for global push-to-talk capabilities where you can utilize your two-way radio to talk to anyone in the world, the ICOM IC-SAT100 PTT is the perfect choice. It operates on the Iridium satellite network.
Key features of the ICOM IC-SAT100 include:
- can be used for communication in remote, isolated areas
- ingress protection-67 waterproofing and dust-tight – useful in harsh outdoor environments
- large front-ported speaker for loud audio
- talkgroup selector
- wide area global communication – Iridium covers the entire Earth
- built-in emergency key
Operating on ultra-high-frequency radio waves is the Sailor 3965 Firefighter. It’s specifically designed for use by firefighters in the most extreme and dangerous situations (and meets SOLAS requirements making it a suitable radio aboard vessels.)
Key features of the SAILOR 3965 UHF Firefighter include:
- its red color designates its use for emergency purposes
- provides effective communication even amidst a fire outbreak
- easily communicate vital information at the push of a button
- 16 pre-programmed channels and 85 additional channels
- a rugged and explosion-proof device
- easy to use with a simple keypad
- clear display
- a cost-effective solution compatible for integration with other SAILOR accessories