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A two-way radio is, as the name suggests, a radio that allows for communication in both directions — sending and receiving signals. When you imagine two-way radios, truck drivers may be the first thing that comes to mind. And though they’re great for staying in communication on the road (for trucks, RVs, and cars too), you don’t need to be driving cross-country to get the most out of a two-way radio. These are ideal for taking hiking, camping or anywhere you may need to send out an SOS. Some radios even offer tracking features, so rescue is always a click away if you get stranded. Read on for our complete buying guide.
Two-Way Radio Buying Guide
When you’re shopping for the best two-way radio, there are multiple factors to consider before you add it to your cart. Here’s what you need to know.
Reliability: Even with cellular towers everywhere nowadays, getting a signal on your phone isn’t always a given, and satellite phones are extremely expensive and impractical to take along. That’s where these offer peace of mind.
Clarity: Modern radios have come a long way from the garbled, unintelligible broadcasts of the past. Today’s two-ways cut down on static and boost voice. A backlit display that’s large and easy to read in dark, rough conditions is important for night driving too.
Connectivity: Modern radios can often connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth, and have lots of different channels (some with privacy codes) so you can speak freely without being interrupted. You can even have the ability to monitor two channels at once, and get NOAA weather alerts before storms hit.
Build Quality: Since these are often designed for jobs where it’ll risk some rough treatment, most models are durable and can take a beating, along with being waterproof too.
Battery Life: Depending on how long you’ll be away from a power source, there are different options for fueling a radio on-the-go. Rechargeable ones are great, especially via USB, but the option to use a few AAs can be a lifesaving backup. Operating on a lower transmission range can help save battery life as well, and a life of about 15 hours is an average range.
Finally, check the requirements and your local laws before buying. You may need an FCC license to operate some two-ways.
What Are the Best Two-Way Radios?
With the above tips in mind, here are our top picks for buying your next two-way radio.
1. Midland Micromobile Two-Way Radio Kit
Midland’s Micromobile kit includes everything you need to get started talking to other radios while keeping one hand on the wheel.
This has an impressive 50-mile range, thanks to its 15W, subtly external “ghost antenna” and mirror-mounted bracket. It also automatically scans for the nearest (and strongest) NOAA weather signal, keeping you updated on any impending storms with a loud alert.
Sound quality is crystal clear, with 15 GMRS channels and eight repeater channels. It also features plenty of options for privacy and blocking other conversations. The main unit is small, easily fitting onto a standard car’s dash, and it also has an additional USB charging jack.
2. Uniden Two-Way Radio Walkie Talkie
With a clear view, the range of these Unidens can reach up to 50 miles, keeping you in contact with others even if they’re using different brands. You can also contact individual people in your group privately, without everyone hearing your conversation, and 22 channels give you plenty to pick from.
A charging cradle is included, as are the 6 AA batteries it requires, which can power it for up to 14 hours.
NOAA weather alerts come standard, and these are also waterproof, able to survive being submerged in three feet of water for 30 minutes, and designed to float for easy retrieval.
3. Midland GMRS Two-Way Radio
Another awesome option from Midland, these two-way radios work best for off-road and outdoor activities (but still work great for long drives).
This pair can reach up to a 36-mile range, and offers 50 channels to choose from (with privacy codes), all with clean HD audio that cuts down on irritating crackling and crunching. There’s even a designated Whisper Mode too, letting others easily hear you when you need to keep your voice down. For safety, there’s an emergency SOS button for easy access when you need it.
Ideal for hikes, this pair is both lightweight and waterproof, and the kit comes with everything you need including chargers, cables, and batteries.
4. Motorola T100 Talkabout Radio
This colorful little Motorola accesses 22 total FRS low-power channels and GMRS higher-watt channels, and has an interface that’s easy to use even for first-timers or children.
There’s a scanner feature, along with talk-tones each time you’re done speaking, and works best when there’s a clear line of sight between the two.
The small size (5 inches) and low weight (4 ounces) make it an ideal companion for short range, with a 1000mAh battery (and option for AAAs) that can last up to 15 hours on one charge.