Are you planning to spend some time outside the city, go hiking, go skiing or just relaxing somewhere away? In this case, you and your friends are still needed at least some kind of communication method.
Cell 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 effectively communicate with the rest of the group and the outside world, when something goes wrong?
One option is satellite telephone, which works even in remote areas. However, such devices are expensive, as well as a monthly fee for their maintenance. Fortunately, there are much cheaper options - the old good bilateral radios remain an effective and affordable option for offline communication. There are hundreds of models to choose from, most of which are not bad on the wallet. Having studied the various sites and reading dozens of customer reviews, we chose some of the best:
Ten years ago, no one heard about Baofeng, but today the company's walkie-talkies are among The best selling (and most popular) on Amazon. UV-5R is one of the models that is no longer produced, but continues to be sold at Amazon at the lowest prices and has become a favorite among the fans of the radio as a cheap portable device. It can take and transmit at any frequency between 136-174 MHz and 400-520 MHz with power up to five watts, as well as take in the range of 65-108 MHz. Other features include two-frequency monitoring and standby mode, as well as a built-in alarm.
To use this radio without channels, as in the case of most of the options from the list, you need to obtain the appropriate licenses (if necessary) for transmission.
Midland produces double-sided radio receivers for a long time, but always tries to bring something innovative. GXT1000VP4 is an excellent example: the radio has 50 channels, 142 privacy code and an impressive 57-kilometer range. The device is equipped with a bright LCD screen with highlighted, offers 10 customizable alerts for incoming messages and a quiet mode. The radio is also durable, waterproof and comes with rechargeable batteries, so that the device can work for several hours.
In addition to basic functionality, Midland has developed GXT1000VP4 to use in emergency situations. SOS Sirena warns others when assistance is required, and the built-in NOAA function informs users about the weather. Midland even releases radio with microphones for speakerphone.
Motorola T100 SERIES TALKABOUT
Instead of spending a lot of money on cell phones, some parents buy a couple of inexpensive racies to stay in touch with their children. Motorola T100 Talkabout is an excellent option for a number of reasons: the device allows you to communicate up to 25 km, but our experience has shown that the device works best at a distance less than 8 km.
Data Bilateral Radios provide good sound quality, possess a bright LCD screen and 22 channels to communicate. The keyboard lock prevents accidental settings. The T100 also has excellent autonomous time: the device is able to work 18 hours in talk mode from one set of three AAA batteries. Do not worry about price - a set of three racies costs less than $ 50 (about 3000 rubles).
Midland X-TALKER T20x4
Another convenient model for children - Midland X-Talker T20x4, colorful four-band GMRS / FRS width of increased strength. The T20x4 supports the standard 22-free-free GMRS and FRS channels with the scan function to test activity on all channels. The device also supports CTCSS to block other conversations and voice activation, so you do not need to worry about pressing a special button for conversation. Another wonderful function is a built-in NOAA weather alert, which scans local radio channels to, for example, warn the user about the approaching shower.
While Midland declares a radius of use of 25 km, it is best to run at a distance of 1.6-3.2 kilometers. Similar to that short antenna on the device - it is not the best for long distances. However, this is an excellent option for children.
It's not the prettiest radio on our list, but the ArcShell AR-5 with rechargeable batteries is by far the most economical. For less than $70 (4300 rubles), you get six walkie-talkies, each of which comes with an earpiece and a charging dock. There are 16 pre-programmed channels in the 400-470 MHz range, but you can also set your own channels in this frequency range. While a headset is the best way to use theradioin noisy environments, the speaker is loud enough and automatic voice activation allows transmission without having to press a button.
Considering the price, some flaws may affect your decision. The maximum transmit power of the AR-5 is only three watts, which slightly reduces the range of the walkie-talkie compared to other models. Users report excellent performance up to a kilometer and a half, and ArcShell says the AR-5's range peaks at around 8 kilometers in unobstructed conditions. The device also has a shorter battery life and needs to be recharged quite often. Heavy use can kill the battery in as little as eight hours, and it takes two to three hours to fully charge it.
If you need a truly powerful walkie-talkie, the Baofeng BF-F8HP is a great option. F8HP is an upgraded version of the popular BaoFeng UV-5R. The BF-F8HP boasts a whopping 8W of power compared to 2W or less on most FRS radios.
Given the power, however, the Baofeng BF-F8HP is not exactly an easy-to-use walkie-talkie. It is designed for true connoisseurs with the ability to broadcast on FRS public channels. Some people buy this model for use on the unlicensed FRS bands because they want a radio that is strong and durable. Radio amateurs will appreciate the versatility of a device that can transmit on FRS as well as GMRS. If you want to use all the features and functions of the F8HP, you must obtain a license for ham radio or GMRS, or both.
The Midland LXT630VP3 is one of the most popular FRS walkie talkies on sale on Amazon right now. The model is equipped with many features, 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 its beautiful bright yellow faceplate, and the durable outer shell is perfect for use anywhere. The device even includes weather alerts. The eVOX system (Voice Controlled Switch) allows the radio to be switched to transmit mode as soon as the operator begins to speak.
Customers praise the walkie-talkie for its impressive sound quality and range (although, as is often the case, up to 16 km is optimal). Although it only includes two walkie-talkies, and the price is higher than most models, we think it's worth it.
What is GMRS/FRS and amateur radio?
We showed walkie-talkies that operate on different radio frequencies and in different services. But what is the difference between them and do they need a license? It depends on the frequencies and channels you are using.
FRS stands for Family Radio Service and operates in the 462-467 MHz band. The technology was created by Radio Shack, a company that successfully lobbied the FCC in the 1990s to allow companies to manufacture walkie-talkies with pre-tuned channels in that frequency band. The changes allowed walkie-talkies to have exceptional range, with much less interference. On such channels, users are limited to two watts of power, and no license is required to use the frequencies. Channels 8 to 22 on the walkie-talkie are FRS frequencies.
GMRS stands for General Mobile Radio Service and resembles the FM version of SB radios from the 1970s and 1980s. Much higher output power is allowed here - up to 50 watts - resulting in much larger ranges. You cannot use these channels or GMRS equipment without a license - it costs about $70 (4300 rubles) for 10 years. With the license, you will also be able to use eight relay channels located on channels 23-30, which allows you to use radio communication for conversations beyond "line of sight".
Finally, amateur radio offers a band of frequencies from shortwave to microwave, which requires a series of tests to be passed in order to gain access to more frequencies. Luckily, you only need to pass and complete one test to use the frequencies that these portable radios operate on. The advent of FRS and GMRS made it unnecessary to obtain an amateur radio license (some radio channels are quite close to FRS/GMRS frequencies), but radio frequencies are much less saturated and it is easier to find a "clean" frequency than with FRS or GMRS, especially in more urban areas.
How to choose the right walkie-talkie
Choosing the right walkie-talkie is pretty simple - it all comes down to how you plan to use it. The vast majority of users will be more than happy with FRS walkie-talkies (you're unlikely to be that far apart). In addition, they are also the cheapest. However, for those who go to explore remote areas, a GMRS radio with a long range is better suited.
Although you have to pay 70 dollars (4300 rubles) for a license, it will be useful not only for you, but for the whole family. We think the extra range is well worth the cost, especially if you plan on using the walkie-talkie frequently in dense forests or mountainous areas. If you are a radio amateur (or might be interested in becoming one), our recommended BaoFeng handheld units are a great choice.