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Nearly everyone has a cellphone and/or a smartwatch these days, so getting in touch with your friends or family is as easy as firing up a text, calling them, or pinging them through a connected service or app.
Though connectivity is at an all-time high, it is likely that you’ve still faced a situation — say, at a music festival, or camping, or on the mountain — where cell phone service was nearly impossible to find due to topographical factors or density of users. If only there was another way to stay connected… Enter walkie talkies.
Yes, those walkie talkies that we carried around as kids are just as useful these days for adults. Whether you’re trying to keep up with the pack on an outdoor excursion, radioing directions for a large group, or tracking your friends (or your kids), the best walkie talkies help you stay in touch without needing reception — and without draining your phone battery.
Walkie talkies have two basic distinctions: professional (think first responders and construction crews) and consumer (think families at amusement parks, or friends at a music festival). The easiest way to tell the difference between the two designations is by the type of signal used. More professional WTs use the Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) systems, while consumer WTs use General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) or Family Radio Service (FRS) systems.
Though one wave system is used more frequently in professional operations, VHF and UHF are available to buy as consumer products as well, and are a bit more heavy duty than GMRS or FRS walkie talkies. UHF walkies have a more penetrative signal, making them better for settings where buildings will be separating users. VHF walkies are better suited for more open areas; these units cover greater distances without sucking up too much battery power.
GMRS and FRS walkies will work very well in most everyday outdoor scenarios; for example, keeping track of friends as they roam Coachella, or on the slopes at Big Bear. These walkies are super capable and carry plenty of range to be helpful when cellphone coverage is spotty or non-existent. Though it may be another thing to carry, a walkie talkie is a nearly surefire way to stay in communication and is an essential part of every emergency and survival kit too.
Here are some of our favorite walkie talkies to check out.
1. ArcShell Long Range Walkie Talkie
These walkie talkies are the most serious units on our list. There is no screen, just an audible programmed voice to let you know what channel you’re on.
The walkies come with an earpiece and push-to-talk function on the cord, say, in case you want to give each other code names and pretend you’re secret service, or private security. The walkies use UHF, meaning they are great for areas with heavy structure density.
PROS: Water-resistant construction, which is a nice feature for an outdoor tech component. The UHF signal is powerful and reliable.
CONS: No screen makes it a bit frustrating to program.
2. KomVox Long Range Walkie Talkie
KomVox’s walkie talkie set is perfect for the casual outdoors adventurer or urban explorer. The walkie boasts a nautical range of 10 km, a mountainous range of 5 km, and a urban range of 2 km. The two -one lit screen is helpful at night and the flashlight is a wonderfully useful addition – and great for when the power goes out too.
PROS: Easy-to-use voice activation and ability to recharge via USB make this a perfect “keep in the go bag” walkie.
CONS: Quoted range is an approximation and actual range may vary based on conditions.
3. Moico Long Range Walkie Talkie
Using FRS to transmit, the Moico walkies are great for families or friend groups to keep in constant contact while on the move in the great outdoors. With a five-mile maximum range these walkies are best suited for navigating amusement parks and festivals, though they deserve a place in your emergency kit too, thanks to their grippy, durable construction and reliable sound quality.
PROS: Backlit screen is clear and bright. Sound quality is clean.
CONS: Non-rechargeable batteries are not my personal favorite but certainly not a big mark against.