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The best walkie talkies in 2022 for hiking, camping, boating, and using at work

Young couple hiking and using the best walkie talkies
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best walkie talkies are still surprisingly popular in the age of the cellular phone. That's because they offer two things that smartphones can't. The first is the ability to connect people in areas of little or no mobile coverage. The second is to address more a group of people at the same time.

So how do they work? The classic walkie-talkie setup requires every user to have a matching radio on the same channel, which only one person can occupy at a time by pressing the ‘talk’ button; the other radios play what they hear through their speakers. (That’s why you're supposed to say ‘over’ and release the button when you've finish talking.)

The range of walkie talkies depends on line-of-sight. In theory, if two radios are about the height of, well, a human, then the range will be around six miles (10km); any further and the curvature of the Earth gets in the way. Valleys and mountains can change that dramatically, though, as can a repeating station.

Different walkie talkies can be very different in design, with some aimed at specific sectors, such as construction or search and rescue. But at the core they all work the same way, with multi-channels, frequencies, and some even have GPS. (Check the glossary below for all the terminology, acronyms and EU/UK equivalents.) Walkie talkies in the same band should all work together, whatever the brand, but you can often save money buying in packs of two or more. 

In this article below, we've selected the best walkie talkies on the market today. Meanwhile, if you're the adventurous type, you might also like our guides to the best (opens in new tab)satellite phones and best handheld GPS.

The best walkie talkies in 2022

(Image credit: Motorola)
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1. Motorola Talkabout T800

The best walkie talkie for going off-grid

Specifications

Channel: 22 (121 privacy) FRS (US model)
Power: 2 watts (US model)
Range: 35 miles (line-of-sight), 6 miles (outdoors)
Battery: 14h (rechargeable) 25h (alkaline)
Water protection: IPX4 Water resistant
Weight: 214g
Dimensions: 191 x 56 x 36mm

Reasons to buy

+
Data transmission app
+
Emergency Button
+
Sleek design

Reasons to avoid

-
Needs group to use all features
-
Water resistant, not waterproof

Going on a hike, expedition or camping holiday out in the wilds? Then here's the best walkie talkie for these purposes.

With a sleek and water-resistant design and ultra-cool reverse backlit LCD display, the T800 is more than elegant enough to hold its own against other consumer tech. The recessed raised buttons are easy to feel without looking, too. The stand-out feature, though, is a Bluetooth connection to your cellphone, which can create a mini messaging network even when you’re completely outside coverage.

Your phone – with a Motorola app – can send texts and GPS locations using the walkie talkie’s radio. If you download in advance, you can track your groups on maps outside coverage zones. Data transmission range is theoretically 20 miles (in practice about 5).

The phone is generously equipped in terms of features; emergency weather channel monitoring, auto-squelch, PTT power boost, dual-channel monitoring, emergency alert button, call tones and more. Given all the choice, it’s great that you can also use the app for readable access to the radio’s settings.

(Image credit: Huaker)
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2. Huaker Kids Walkie Talkies

The best walkie talkie for kids

Specifications

Channel: 22 FRS
Power: -
Range: 3 miles
Battery: 3-4 days
Water protection: -
Weight: 150g
Dimensions: 140 x 53 x 23mm

Reasons to buy

+
Full feature set
+
LCD display
+
Clear sound

Reasons to avoid

-
Sub-channels may confuse younger kids

The Huaker Kids Walkie Talkie are a great choice for kids. You get 22 channels and 99 sub channels; great for kids to find space to talk with friends in nearby home, and providing a boost to sound clarity. There's also a VOX (talk without pressing) function, which some kids might find easier.

The changeable call tone and LED torch are nice additions that will please kids. And the four-day standby from three AA batteries mean that if kids fail to switch off, it will stay on until toy collection time (power off requires a determined press-and-hold). The clear sound is useful, too, and the side-mounted talk button and camouflage styling makes the radio feel more ‘real’ than some children’s designs.

(Image credit: Motorola)
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3. Motorola T92 H2O

The best walkie talkie for boating

Specifications

Channel: 16 channels + 121 sub channels (Europe model)
Power: 2 watts
Range: 10km
Battery: 23 hours standby
Water protection: IP67
Weight: 246g
Dimensions: 180 x 61 x 38mm

Reasons to buy

+
Submersible for up to 90 seconds
+
Floating design
+
Red/white torch

Reasons to avoid

-
Average range

If you're going out on a boat, the T92 H20 – yes, that’s its full name – is the perfect choice. That’s not to say it’ll have any trouble on land; it is compatible with other PMR446 radios (look at Motorola Talkabout T402 for a US equivalent). Just that the bright casing and ability to float means you’ll be able to carry this over water without being too worried about dropping it. Not only that, but it’s engineered to right itself (so water stays out of the speaker) and activate the flashlight. 

On that subject, in the base is a torch with red and white LEDs giving you a handy choice in the dark (red is great for map checking without wiping out your night vision). You can opt for the supplied rechargeable batteries if 17 hours standby is enough, or swap for AA for that alkaline boost. Finally, for bold adventurers, there is not only an emergency alert but a whistle in the belt clip.

(Image credit: Motorola)
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4. Motorola Talkabout T200

The best walkie talkie for families

Specifications

Channel: 22 channels FRS + 121 sub channels
Power: 2 watts
Range: 20 miles
Battery: 12/29 hours standby
Water protection: IP67
Weight: 180g
Dimensions: 163 x 54 x 32mm

Reasons to buy

+
Small, light and durable
+
Custom call tones
+
USB charging

Reasons to avoid

-
Average range

If you’re looking for a pack of walkie talkies for the family, whether it’s for a camping trip or an advanced game of hide and seek, the Motorola T200 series (the TP stands for triple pack) represent great value. 

Motorola’s extensive drop-testing will likely pay off at some point if your kids get boisterous. And even if not, Motorola have managed to make the radios look and feel good rather than cheap toys. They also charge in a familiar way, through MicroUSB sockets, and boast Motorola’s Eco Smart charge management system to avoid power waste.

If you’ve got a bigger family that doesn’t want to share, you can add more FRS/GMRS compatible units (Motorola or otherwise) on the same channel. And for long trips you can switch to disposable batteries.

(Image credit: Cobra)
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5. Cobra MR HH500

The best walkie talkie for marine expedition

Specifications

Channel: 88 VHF marine channels
Power: 6 watts
Range: 20 miles
Battery: 5 days standby / 8 hours talk at 6 watts
Water protection: IP67
Weight: 272g
Dimensions: 138 x 67 x 53mm + antenna

Reasons to buy

+
Small, light and durable
+
Custom call tones
+
USB charging 

Reasons to avoid

-
Average range

If you’re going out boating for more than a couple of hours, the HH500 is ideal. The rechargeable battery provides several days of charge, which should be well suited to vacation fun. If you drop it, it's submersible and will float back to the surface, so as long as you can spot the bright orange back, you can quickly recover it. Even better, its vibrate function can “burp” the water from the grille, so it works again fast.

If you’re struggling to understand a transmission, the continuous looped recording means you can rewind a potentially crucial 20 seconds to listen again, plus the NOAA weather alerts should keep you out of harsh conditions. The radio also features Bluetooth, so you can connect it to your phone (kept somewhere dry but within range) and make calls using the more element-resistant handset. 

(Image credit: Baofeng)
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6. Baofeng BF-F8HP

The best cheap two-way radio

Specifications

Channels: 128 channels,
Tuner: VHF + UHF (GMRS)
Power: 8 watts
Range: over 15miles
Battery: 1800mAh rechargeable
Water protection:
Weight: 219g
Dimensions: 109 x 32 x 58mm

Reasons to buy

+
Clear display
+
Dual scanning
+
Built-in FM radio (for listening)
+
Programmable channel names

Reasons to avoid

-
Dual PTT buttons can confuse
-
You need a license

A two-way radio it is, at its heart, a walkie talkie, but also provides scanning receiver functionality on VHF/UHF frequencies and an FM tuner. The antenna is replaceable with a common standard, providing an opportunity improve radio performance or fit to a vehicle kit.

Baofeng have iterated this product a couple of times and, though those prepared to get involved in the GMRS spec (and the license required), this handset is an affordable way to experiment with the possibilities. All 30 GMRS channels, including the 8 repeater channels, are supported in receive and transmit mode, and dual PTT buttons make it easy to take advantage of the semi-duplex function. This monitors two channels at once, giving priority to the one with an active call.

The keypad and matrix LCD (with backlight of a tone you can choose) make choosing channels and privacy codes relatively easy, and the radio is compatible with a range of accessories like speaker mics and a PC programming lead (to customize channel names). Vox is built in, and a MURS-V1 edition (see glossary) is available which might better suit local regulations.

Glossary of walkie talkie terms

FRS
Family Radio Service is an FCC defined set of channels – 22 + 8 for repeaters – shared with GMRS, however FRS does not require a license as it is limited to lower power. These channels are 462-467 MHz UHF..

GMRS 
Using the same frequencies as FRS (see above) the GMRS system allows for operation at over 2 watts of power; up to 50 watts on some channels. The down-side is that you need a license which costs $70 for ten years and – unusually for a government outfit – applies to all immediate family members of the owner. GMRS is often described as offering over 30 miles of service and, realistically, can manage around 5 (which isn’t that bad – remember what we said about the planet’s shape earlier).

MURS
Stands for Multi-Use Radio Service, and is a different group of frequencies (151-155 MHz VHF) which the FCC allocate for non-licenced use in a similar manner to CB radio.

FCC
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.

Channels
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.

Privacy codes
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. 

PMR446
The European equivalent of FRS, PMR stands for Private Mobile Radio and covers 16 channels around 446MHz. The frequencies aren’t exactly the same, which is why you’ll rarely find the same model numbers for Europe and America from big-name manufacturers like Motorola.

Squelch
This is another term for using sub-audible tones to filter out unwanted chatter from other users on the same frequency – see Privacy Codes. 

Triangulation
This is a method of determining the location of a walkie talkie, which isn’t easy, making them relatively private in this regard. Triangulation can only be done when the talkie is turned on because it is broadcasting radio waves. This is unlike, say, a mobile phone which is always broadcasting a pulse so that the network knows where to find you, plus probably sends a GPS location via an app which, again, a walkie talkie doesn’t do.

VHF v UHF
Frequency spectra are somewhat arbitrary groups selected to some extent for the benefit of regulators, but VHF is 136-174 MHz and immediately above it is UHF at 400 to 512 MHz. This makes them better able to penetrate structure, so people sometimes think of UHF as ‘more powerful.’

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For nearly two decades Sebastian's work has been published internationally. Originally specialising in Equestrianism, his visuals have been used by the leading names in the equestrian industry such as The Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI), The Jockey Club, Horse & Hound and many more for various advertising campaigns, books and pre/post-event highlights.


He is a Fellow of The Royal Society of Arts, holds a Foundation Degree in Equitation Science and is a Master of Arts in Publishing.  He is member of Nikon NPS and has been a Nikon user since the film days using a Nikon F5 and saw the digital transition with Nikon's D series cameras and is still to this day the youngest member to be elected in to BEWA, The British Equestrian Writers' Association. 


He is familiar with and shows great interest in medium and large format photography with products by Phase One, Hasselblad, Alpa and Sinar and has used many cinema cameras from the likes of Sony, RED, ARRI and everything in between. His work covers the genres of Equestrian, Landscape, Abstract or Nature and combines nearly two decades of experience to offer exclusive limited-edition prints to the international stage from his film & digital photography.

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