If you love the outdoors, sooner or later, you would find yourself on a road trip – either alone, or coordinating one, or a member of a group on one.
That the route would pass areas without cell coverage is a given. In such situations, the very best walkie talkies for road trips are your most reliable fall back options for communication.
Sometimes, especially if several vehicles are involved, people can be separated by miles of backcountry roads during road trips. Keeping in touch regularly is the best way to ensure nobody takes too many wrong turns and gets lost.
Because there are numerous walkie talkies on sale, it is quite easy to purchase units that are unsuitable for road trips.
This guide is a detailed review of the best walkie talkies for road trips. The 5 portable 2-way radios all come with features that would ensure you (or your group) are never without a means of communication while on a road trip.
Features To Look For in the Best Walkie Talkies for Road Trips
When you go to purchase handheld 2-way radios for the upcoming road trip, the following are the features you must take into consideration to avoid the adventure becoming a disaster as far communication is concerned.
Range – Aside from the basic fact that the sets must be able to send and receive messages, the range is of utmost importance in road trips.
It is inevitable that cars would become separated; sometimes by miles. To make sure everybody is on the right route, the radio must have a decent range to easily get in touch with even the furthest car.
In real-world situations, a range of at least 2 miles is ideal for road trips. In most cases, the time to start getting worried is when you can’t spot the other vehicles on the horizon in route with many forks. So a radio with a range of at least two miles is the lower limit for a suitable set.
Weather stations and alerts – On road trips, the weather patterns can change really fast as you transit from one area to the next.
A unit with NOAA weather stations to give real-time weather updates is very important. This would help you plan your trip better and pick routes that avoid extreme weather conditions.
Channels and privacy codes – The best walkie talkies for road trips should give users the options of at least 22 primary channels on dual band GMRS/FRS sets. Single band FRS or GMRS units come with less than that though.
But with privacy codes, it is possible to get up to a couple of thousand more secondary channel combinations.
Generally, the more channels you have access to, the more likely it is to get a free frequency to communicate.
That is where the privacy codes come in. With these codes, the likelihood of a stranger eavesdropping on your communication is very low.
Design – The default material for making portable hand-held radios is plastic. But not all plastics are durable.
The products in this review have all been tested to ensure they are durable and can withstand the rough handling expected on the road.
Apart from the durability of the material, the design must take into consideration the weight (lightweight is better), size (must sit comfortably in your palms), and must be easy to grip. You don’t want a unit, even if it is sturdy, to regularly slip out of your grip.
Other design features to look out for include protection from dust, water, and hands-free options so you don’t always have to stop driving if you want to use it.
Charging – Since you would be in a vehicle most of the time, you won’t always have access to the power grid to charge your set. The preferred charging option while on a road trip is via the vehicle’s cigarette lighter port.
The set must, therefore, come with a USB charging feature with an adapter you can plug into the cigarette port.
Usability – Road trips are usually a time to relax and have fun. You don’t want something like how to use the walkie talkie to take up a large chunk of your time while on the road.
You should make sure the devices you get are easy to use and doesn’t take up too much time to set up.
You should make sure the devices you get are easy to use and doesn’t take up too much time to set up.
Top 5 Best Walkie Talkies for Road Trips: Review
1. Craftsman CMXZRAF333 Walkie Talkies
The CMXZRAF333 by Craftsman is one of the ‘not-so-popular’ models of handheld two-way radios keeping older established names on their toes. The radio has everything you’d need for a road trip and you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg for the two units in the package.
Each unit is a GMRS/FRS device equipped with 10 NOAA channels for weather alerts and information, 22 primary channels and FM frequency to listen to local stations.
You also get 121 privacy channels if you purchase this handheld device. This gives you over 2000 channel combinations to choose from. It would be easy to select a private unoccupied frequency.
The dual power battery gadget also comes with a key lock, VOX for hands-free operations, a range of up to 25 miles in ideal conditions, USB charging with a cable included and much more.
- EXTENDED SIGNAL LONG RANGE: Up to 25-mile distance provides long range with 2, 662 channel combinations.
- HANDS-FREE USAGE: VOX (voice activated transmission) detects the user's voice and transmits without the need of pressing any buttons
- WEATHER RESISTANT: Keeps moisture out
2. Quansheng UV-R50 Dual Band Walkie Talkie
The Quansheng UV-R50 is a dual-power, dual-band walkie talkie packed with so many features that some users consider the price tag too low. In any event, the black-colored gadget made of durable plastic would be awesome for your communication needs when you go on a road trip.
You would love the Rapid Charger that takes just one and a half hours to fully recharge your battery. And still sticking to power features, there are five power-saving modes to extend your battery life and a meter to show how much power you have left.
There are so many other functions to love about it. This includes the 128 memory channels, VOX, built-in flashlight, auto squelch for clear signals, easy scan and save, DTMF to instantly make contact with somebody without alerting others, and fantastic speakers among others.
It also comes with high/low power settings able to transmit fully on UHF with an additional 258 privacy codes giving you hundreds of additional channels for private messages.
- High / Low Power Settings (5W, 1W); Frequency Range: 65-108 MHz(Only commercial FM radio reception) VHF: 136-174 MHz(Rx/Tx), UHF: 400-520 MHz(Rx/Tx); Broad (Wide) / Narrowband (Narrow) Selectable; FCC Certification
- Features: Busy Channel Lock Frequency/Channel Scan Monitor Reverse Frequency Vox for Hands-Free Operation Emergency alarm Automatically search CTCSS/DCS code Repeater Tail Tone Elimination DTMF, and Plenty More
- 128 Memories Channels; Up to 5-7 Mile range communication in open areas with little or no obstruction; 9-Grade Automatic Squelch System easily reduce interference that block out noises caused by signal intensity; Built in High-Power speakers with Acoustics Technology, Clear and Loud
3. Proster Long Range 16 Channel Two Way Radios
For a modest price, this package a pair of walkie talkies. But it is not just the price tag that makes this a wonderful choice for a group road trip though.
The UHF sets feature 16 channels each with the full complement of privacy codes for extra channel options, privacy, and reduced interference.
With the USB charging feature, the units can be conveniently charged with a car charger, PC, mobile phone charger and anywhere there is a USB port. You would never run out of battery power.
Other desirable features include the decent range, an original earpiece, and built-in flashlight.
- (1 Pair Walkie Talkies) UHF 400-470MHz, 16 Channels --- (License Free) Enables to contact your partner in a long range about 2 Miles (Max in OUTDOOR Open Field, it exactly depends on your surroundings).
- DCS and CTCSS Function --- It can shield external interference signal and reduce noises.
- USB Charger --- (Your outdoor partner) Charging even you are outside with car charger/power bank. Most of your USB Charger is suitable for this convenient charging, You may use a PC charger, Car charger, mobile phone charger to charge it.
4. Luiton LT-188H UHF 2 Way Radio
The Luiton LT-188H is an easy-to-use walkie talkie that has the look and feel of a sturdy device designed for durability and functionality. It is so intuitive that even kids would be able to operate easily.
It features 9 levels adjustable squelch for effective canceling out of interference in high RF areas; VOX for hands-free operations; priority channel scan; low battery alert; built-in flashlight; automatic battery saving features and much more.
The radio’s come with UHF channels with a further 155 privacy codes giving you hundreds of options in terms of channels selection. It would be very easy to find a free frequency for private communication with it.
And in ideal conditions, you’d be able to get a range of up to 20 miles at 10 watts power output.
- Great structure design, anti-wrestling; 10Watts power output; Flash torch; 12.5KHz/25KHz channel spacing selectable;
- High/Low Power Switchable; Monitor ; Auto Battery Save ; Low Battery Alert; Busy Channel Lockout;
- VOX; CTCSS-50/CDCSS-105, standard & nonstandard CTCSS codes available; TOT (Time-out timer);
5. Motorola T200TP Talkabout Radio
Motorola’s T200TP is a very light, compactly-designed durable radio that holds up well in any situation. It features can easily be adapted for camping, mountaineering, road trips, and other outdoors and indoors activities.
It features a micro-USB charging for easy and flexible charging of the NIMH battery pack; 20 call tones for incoming transmissions to grab the attention of the people around you; 22 Channels with 121 privacy codes; and great compatibility with other walkie talkies.
With this 2-way communicator, you are unlikely to run out of power with the dual power feature. You can swap in AA batteries to power the unit when the rechargeable battery runs out of juice. But you would receive adequate warning with the low battery alert and battery meter.
- Power through Your Adventures: There are two ways to power your radio: use the included NiMH rechargeable batteries for up to 12 hours or use 3 AA batteries for up to 29 hours.
- 22 Channels Each with 121 privacy codes: With 22 channels and 121 privacy codes, totaling 2, 662 combinations, it’s easy to find an available channel.
- Quickly Find a Channel: Use the scanning feature to see which channels are currently in use. Low Battery alert: Low battery alert reminds you when batteries are running low.
Road Trip Walkie Talkies Frequently Asked Questions
Can VHF and UHF hand-held 2-way radios communicate with each other?
The short answer is no.
This fact must be borne in mind especially in purchasing several units at once for a group or party. All of them must either be UHF or VHF. Ideally, though, preference should be given to dual band VHF/UHF models at the point of purchase.
Which one should I choose between UHF and VHF?
UHF models are generally more adaptable to road trips and other outdoor activities. Because the waves are shorter, they are better are getting around or penetrating obstacles.
For longer reach (and in forests too as VHF can penetrate trees and foliage better), you might want to consider VHF. But this longer range is only possible if there are no obstacles from buildings and landscape.
What is the difference between FRS and GMRS?
Family Radio Service (FRS) walkie talkies are consumer products made for casual users. For road trips between friends or family members, it is the recommended one. They are generally cheaper but have fewer available frequencies for use.
GMRS, on the other hand, have longer range and more frequencies. Like FRS, they can be used for recreational purposes, but the drawback is, a license is required to operate them legally.
FRS/GMRS dual-band radios combine all the channels available to users. Generally, these dual bands units come with a maximum of 22 channels. In most cases, users with hybrid radios need to get a license before they can use the GMRS frequencies.
Do privacy codes encrypt communication?
In the context of 2-way radio communication, the phrase ‘privacy code’ can be misleading.
What the codes actually do is to eliminate interference to the absolute minimum possible. A third party can accidentally stumble in on your ‘private’ frequency and listen in to your communication.
The codes simply provide more channels so that the chances of getting an unoccupied channel and making it exclusive for the duration of the communication are high.
When you are on a road trip with multiple vehicles, portable hand-held radios are a great way to stay in touch. The unreliability of cell phone networks is all too common and it’s so cheaper using the handhelds.
To get the full benefits of these devices though, you’d have to ensure you get only the very best walkie talkie for road trips. The 5 products in this review fit that bill completely.
Each of them comes with a variety of features and functions guaranteed to make radio communication during your road trip a worry-free experience. And they are not so expensive that you’d have to question the wisdom of investing in them. Besides, their versatility means the sets can be used for other outings such as camping and hiking too.