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The best walkie talkies in 2022: keep in touch anywhere

Best walkie talkies
(Image credit: Getty Images)

You might be surprised to learn that, in the age of the cellular phone, sales of handheld transceivers are on the up, but that’s because they offer a very different flexibility. The term ‘walkie-talkie’ has been around since Motorola first supplied backpack-sized radios to American troops in WW2; now the technology has not only shrunk considerably but moved on in several ways and found plenty more uses.

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 not only why you should say ‘over’ and release the button when you finish talking, but why in many-user environments you’ll be given a list of spare channels to switch to for a longer conversation.

If you are the adventurous type, you might also like to view Best satellite phones and Best handheld GPS to asset you on your travels.

For small-scale use, the US explicitly created the weaker FRS and GMRS channels (the later requires a license which costs $70 for ten years). Walkies in each band should all work together whatever the brand, but you can often save money buying in packs of two or more can often save a good deal. The ‘walkie’ shape is also used by some marine radios, though the frequencies are different. Check the glossary below for all the terminology, acronyms and EU/UK equivalents.

A bit of science to remember when browsing specifications of all walkie talkies: range depends on line-of-sight: Assuming a perfectly spherical planet, if two radios are about the height of, well, a human, then the range will be around 6 miles / 10km – any further and the Earth gets in the way. Hiking valleys and mountains can change that dramatically, of course, as can a repeating station, but that is another story.

The best walkie talkies in 2022

(Image credit: Motorola)

1. Motorola Talkabout T800

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

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 cell-phone 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: Baofeng)

2. Baofeng BF-F8HP

Best budget handheld 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

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. Clearly, as 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.

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.

(Image credit: DeWalt)

3. DeWalt DXFRS800

Best walkie talkie for construction sites

Specifications

Channel: 22 FRS
Power: 2W
Range: 6 miles, 25 floors
Battery: 8 Hours
Water protection: IP67 waterproof
Weight: 350g
Dimensions: 185 x 66 x 55mm

Reasons to buy

+
Shock-proof
+
Waterproof
+
Automatic battery-save mode
+
Vox 

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively heavy handsets

The DeWalt walkie is license-free but the 800 series uses the maximum power available to communicate through up to 25 floors. Built firmly (in every sense) with the knowledge that the radio is there to help – not be the focus of attention – the channel display is clear and simple, clarity enhancing auto-squelch is included and operation is straightforward with a beep tone confirming the end of each transmission. Equally handy is the automatic shift to lower power to save battery when the channel isn’t busy. 

The design has the perfect balance of familiar – the button and volume knob are traditionally located – and striking, with dust and water protected casing which will be easy to spot even if dropped. The included charging dock is also reversible, so it doesn’t matter which way the handset is dropped in, it’ll still charge; if you’re rushing off site for refreshment at the end of the day, that’s reassuring.

(Image credit: Huaker)

4. Huaker Kids Walkie Talkies

Best walkie talkies 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
+
Excellent value three-handset pack

Reasons to avoid

-
Sub-channels may confuse younger kids

The Huaker Kids Walkie Talkie are a great choice for kids. Some major manufacturers slash the features aggressively for usebility, but if your kids are old enough to be persuaded to agree a channel (5 or 6 in our experience). If not, an adult can easily set a channel and sub channel for them. Huaker provide 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 is also a VOX (talk without pressing) function which some kids might find easier.

The changeable call tone and LED torch are nice addition which will please kids, and the 4 day standby from three AA batteries ensure 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 and the side-mounted talk button and camouflage styling makes the radio feel more ‘real’ than some children’s designs.

(Image credit: Uniden)

5. Uniden MHS75 VHF marine radio

Best budget handheld radio for boat use

Specifications

Channels:
Tuner: VHF (Marine Frequencies) / GMRS
Frequencies: 156~158 MHz. US marine channels, Canadian marine channels, International marine channels & Weather channels
Power: 5 Watts
Range: 10 miles
Battery: Up to 12 hpirs
Water protection: IPX8 / JIS8
Weight: 10.2oz, 290g
Dimensions: 6.4 x 6.2 x 3.4 inches

Reasons to buy

+
Fully waterproof
+
NOAA Weather Alerts
+
Adjustable power

Reasons to avoid

-
No GPS

A handheld marine radio is like a walkie-talkie for the ocean, and the Uniden MHS75 is everything you could want as you begin to explore the waves at an accessible price. It can be held underwater for up to 30 minutes and the wrist strap will help you keep it to hand.

It covers the key US, Canadian and international channels, at up to 6 watts via a boost key. Since that kind of power can provide 10 miles of range, it’s handy that it can usually be switched between 1W or 2.5W to save batteries.

The noise and volume knobs are easy to grip, and the buttons well separated for even damp hands to operate, plus the system’s triple watch mode automatically monitors channels 16 and 9 for emergency alerts. The only complaint is the newer 4-digit or Canadian “B” channels aren’t supported and the only charger is a 12-volt car-style socket, but NOAA weather alerts are available.

(Image credit: Midland)

6. Midland GXT1050VP4

Best walkie talkie for emegencies

Specifications

Channel: 22 FRS/GMRS (+28 ‘extra’)
Power: 2.5W
Range: 36 miles max
Battery: rechargeable or 4xAA
Water protection: JIS4
Weight: 136g
Dimensions: 248x64x44mm

Reasons to buy

+
SOS button
+
Weather alert scanning 
+
Whisper mode for hunting

Reasons to avoid

-
Fixed antenna
-
Not fully waterproof

Midland’s GXT1050, like the GXT1000, is available in a variety of cost-effective packs and some brighter case colors making helping it suit a variety of users. It’s functionality, and reasonable price, makes it well suited to being the emergencies contact device on an expedition of any kind (as well as helping you keep in touch just for fun). Top of that list is the NOAA weather scan and alert system which can automatically cycle through ten WX (weather band) channels, lock onto the strongest, and pass on any sever weather alerts. As a GMRS radio (though only pushing up to 2.5W) it has more power than standard FRS, letting you travel further into the wilderness (though do check FCC rules if switching to the upper TX level). There’s also a siren you can use to seek attention if you’ve landed in a tricky spot and help is coming, and an “eVox” whisper mode for wildlife photographers (or hunters) to communicate quietly without constantly reaching for the button. All this with 6-8 hours of power.

(Image credit: Backcountry Access)
Best outdoor walkie talkie for emergencies

Specifications

Channel: 22 channels FRS + 121 sub channels(US model)
Power: 2W
Range: 40 miles
Battery: 6 hours talk, 40 hours standby
Water protection: IP56
Weight: 312g
Dimensions: 160 x 56 x 36mm + 90 x 54 x 40mm (mic)

Reasons to buy

+
 Snow-shielding
+
Long battery life
+
Good range
+
Loud

Reasons to avoid

-
Relatively heavy

The BC Link is two-way radio which pairs the portability of a walkie’s body, with the firm feel of a handheld mic more commonly associated with CB radios. Why, you might ask? The external microphone (with snow-protected grille) allows you to keep operating in difficult conditions (perhaps cross-country skiing?) Despite the higher weight, you can tuck the body of the device away in a pocket or pack and clip the radio to your pack’s straps, which might make chatting more appealing than reaching to the belt all the time.

The radio is rugged, thanks to its removable rubber case; the only area that looks like it could be stronger is the clip on the mic connector, but a screw-in mount seems to 

For those hiking popular areas like national parks, the BC Link features privacy codes pre-set into the default channels. Even overnighters will find the 22-hour battery impressive, though if you need to top it up it’s a fully enclosed 2,300mAh lithium so you’ll need a battery bank or equivalent to hand, but the mini-USB charge port makes that straightforward.

(Image credit: Motorola)

8. Motorola T92 H2O

Best walkie talkie for wet conditions

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

The T92 H20 – yes, that’s its full name – is perfect for boating. 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), but 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)

9. Motorola Talkabout T200

Best walkie talkie for camping

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, an advanced game of hide and seek or something else, 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 while you’re using the devices with the family, and even if not they’ve managed to make the radios look and feel good rather than cheap toys. They also charge like so many other things round the home – through MicroUSB sockets – which makes life easy, and even 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 simply, and for long trips you can switch to disposable batteries.

(Image credit: Cobra)

10. Cobra MR HH500

VHF 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 looking for a device to take with you boating, the HH500 is ideal. It might not be perfect for a commercial fishing boat, but the rechargeable battery provides several days of charge which should be well suited to vacation fun. If you drop it, it is submersible and will float back to the surface, so you’ll see the bright orange back and quickly recover it. Not only that but it’s 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, though 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. 

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.’

What we look for in Walkie Talkies

Walkie Talkies can be very different in design, with some even being designed for various 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. Within this guide you will find a mixture of walkie talkies that can be used or a variety of applications and offer a whole range of features and are built to last. Budget is also an indicator and within this guide you will find walkie talkies to suit everyone's budget.

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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.