Anything could happen while you are skiing, backpacking, hunting, hiking or camping miles away from the closest town. Your walkie talkie could be the only thing that ensures your survival.
The chances of escaping would be higher if one of the best walkie talkies for survival is part of your gear.
Lack of cell phone service is common during natural disasters such as hurricanes, or floods and lots of people inadvertently find themselves cut off from the rest of the world without a means of communication.
That’s where the good old walkie talkie becomes priceless.
But there are so many of these devices it can be hard to determine the best walkie talkies for survival. This guide breaks down all you need to know about that problem.
That should ease the stress of choosing the right communication device you’d need to survive in dire situations.
Important Features the Best Walkie Talkies for Survival All Have
When you are in survival mode, the only thing that matters is how to get yourself out of that situation. The effectiveness of your handheld 2-way radio would depend on where you are.
For instance, dense forests affect communication differently from a mountainous area or a body of water if you are stranded on a boat during a fishing trip. Basically, you would get better range in open fields that in places with lots of obstructions.
The point is, you must consider where you would be heading to before getting a walkie talkie. But for natural disasters like hurricanes, location is not a major consideration as you could be anywhere when it happens. So, an all-purpose walkie talkie is best most of the time.
Also, if you are going for a GMRS unit because of the range and more channels-availability, you’d need to get a license before you can use it legally.
You don’t need an operating license for an FRS walkie talkie.
Now that you know the type of set you need and where you want to use it, your device must possess some crucial features to be any good to you during an emergency. These are:
Operating range – The operating range refers to the maximum distance between two sets for effective exchange of messages. Beyond this distance, the device is practically useless.
You must disregard the official operating range from manufacturers. That’s figures are unrealistic in real-world situations. The 10, 16, 20 or more miles you see can only be possible in ideal conditions that are almost impossible to get in reality.
Fact is, uneven terrain, weather, presence of obstacles, trees, etc., singularly or in combination reduce the range drastically. The best you can get most of the time from regular walkie talkies is 3 miles range give or take a mile.
The strength of the signal also affects the range. For instance, FRS sets are not allowed to use more than 1 Watt of power to transmit messages. In this case, the maximum range is a couple of miles.
GMRS devices come with options of higher power settings for transmissions. They are able to transmit at a longer range.
Channels and privacy codes – The number of channels in your device would take on more importance if you are finding it hard to transmit because of too much interference from other RF sources.
Most devices have a maximum of 22 primary channels for hybrid FRS/GMRS sets. The possibility of getting an unoccupied channel would be hard with only 22 frequencies.
With privacy codes though, the number of channels or frequencies available can get to over 2000.
With so many channels, that makes it easier to get a free frequency. This feature is very important if you don’t want an intruder listening in on your conversation.
Weight, design, and size – An important design feature to have on the best walkie talkies for survival is a belt clip. This is necessary as there would be times you would need your hands to be free.
Putting it in your backpack can be inconveniencing since you’d always have to unzip and rummage through your bag to get it. Besides, you might miss important incoming transmissions if the set is inside your bag.
Since you would be carrying it most of the time, it must be small enough to fit snugly in your hands without being heavy.
Also, the design must be ergonomic so that you can hold it comfortably even when you are wearing gloves. Something you might likely be wearing most of the time.
Battery life – How long the battery can power your 2-way radio is usually at the top of the most important features to have.
Generally, most devices are powered by rechargeable batteries. But the ideal device must also come with another power option. AA and AAA batteries are the most popular options.
They are easy to carry, cheap and can supply power for several hours. It is advisable to have several of them handy when you are going out with your walkie talkie.
Weather protection – protection from the weather is also an important feature to have on portable two-way communication devices suitable for survival.
After all, you might have to walk several miles in extreme weather caused by rain, snow, and dust to get help.
When you are buying a survival walkie talkie make sure it has a weatherproof rating of at least IP67. That rating offers protection against rain, snow, and dust. It is also waterproof for about 30 minutes if it accidentally falls in the water.
Other important features
Flashlight – You would that to find your way when it gets dark. It could be used to indicate your position in the dark.
Weather stations – NOAA channels are important to let you know what the weather is going to be like
VOX – You would need this to operate the device without having to hold it. The belt clip takes on more importance here.
Emergency alerts – This feature, when activated, transmits emergency messages intermittently.
Top 5 Best Walkie Talkies For Survival: Review
1. Uniden SX327-CK Two-Way Radio
You can’t get it better than this FRS/GMRS handheld two-way radio from Uniden when you desperately need to contact other people for help.
It comes with all the important features you’d ever need in an extreme emergency. You would have access to the maximum allowable 22 channels with 121 privacy codes to give you 2662 channels to choose from.
The weather-proof device also features NOAA weather channels with alerts; a range of 32 miles in ideal conditions; 10 call tomes with vibrate feature; etc.
And like all the best devices in this category, it can be powered by a rechargeable battery pack and disposable alkaline batteries. And of course, there is the USB charging feature so you can charge it anywhere there is a power source with USB ports.
- Uniden GMRS/FRS Radios keep you in touch when you are out and about with family and friends. Use them when you are camping, shopping, biking, car caravaning, and more without using your mobile phone’s minutes or data plan.
- The radio’s 22 channels let you select the channel that is right for you. Pick a channel that no one else is using for uninterrupted communications. These channels operate on industry-standard frequencies, so you can easily communicate with people using other models or brands.
- Combined with the channel selection, setting a privacy code keeps you hearing only the people you want to hear. Set everyone in your group to the same channel and privacy code to keep other groups comms from interrupting yours.
2. BAOFENG GT-22 FRS Two Way Radio
Baofeng’s GT-22 handheld portable radio is a simple, uncomplicated dual-band communication device that is specifically designed for outdoors and for emergencies.
The device is slim and lightweight making it an easy gadget to carry around. In terms of features and functionalities, it packs all the essential features germane to an emergency.
These include 16 channels with privacy codes; wide/narrow bandwidth selection; VOX function for hands-free operations; auto scanning to search for active transmissions; squelch function for clear reception; and much more.
The easily programmable units (they are sold in a pair) are powered by a 1500 mAh rechargeable to give you several hours of power. There is also a low battery alarm to warn users if they are running out of power.
- [Handsfree FRS Radio] Press to talk easily on programmed FRS channels right out of box with each other. Its slim design is perfect for business use. Handy to keep around for quick use even for beginners and kids. Part 95 certified FCC ID: 2AJGM-BFR5. Radios can be programmed to FRS frequencies and be license free in the US. Get programming software: https://baofeng.s3.amazonaws.com/BAOFENG%20GT-22%20US.zip
- [Long Service Life] 1500mAh battery in this mini walkie talkie. Allow up to 40 working hours after about 3h charged. No screws needed -- you can fast clip GT-22 on your belt.
- [USB Y-charging Cable] More convenient than recharging through the mini USB port. GT-22 could be easily recharged with power bank, car charger, and Laptop whenever you need to work outside. Allows to recharge two radios at a time.
3. Arcshell Rechargeable Long Range Two Way Radios
For an amazing price, you would be able to purchase two pairs of this awesome walkie talkie from Arcshell.
The lightweight radios are small and very convenient to hold. They are all pre-programmed with 16 channels making them instantly usable straight out of the box.
You would love the voice prompt that informs you the channel you are on when you turn the rotary channel selector to pick a new frequency. It also comes s with 155 programmable privacy codes to give you hundreds more channel options.
Each set is powered by a 1500 mAh rechargeable battery capable of up to 96 hours run time on a single charge.
It also comes with emergency alarm; busy channel lock; scanning function; low battery alert and power-saving feature; protection against over-charging the unit; built-in flashlight; and high/low power selection among others.
- Small and convenient size;it easily fits on your hand;it measures 4.53 inches in height without antenna(antenna length:4.3 inches);1.30 inches thick;2.36 inches in width;6.3 oz light-weighted;solid built;water-resistant;easy to operate for all ages;2 Wattage power output; each radio has a removable belt clip
- Frequency range is UHF 400-470MHz;16 pre-programmed channels;each radio has identical frequency on each of the 16 channels out of the box;16 position mechanical rotary switch channel selector;when you turn the knob to change the channel,a synthesized voice will tell you the channel number;channel frequency is programmable within the frequency range;you can program any of 50 CTCSS tones and 105 CDCSS tones on each programmed channel
- Each radio comes with a 1500mAh rechargeable Li-ion battery and a charging dock; the charger comes with an AC wall-wart Type A plug and works in 110v-240v; it takes about 2.5 hours to fully charge; battery life is determined by transmit time;it lasts around 8 to 96 hours on a single charge depending on how much you transmit;you can charge the battery alone or charge the radio with battery installed
4. Midland LXT118 FRS Walkie Talkies
The Midland LXT118 is also sold at a very modest price in a pack containing two pairs. The cost is just one of the things that make it awesome.
The long-range ensures you can make contact with your party no matter the distance while the hands-free feature means you don’t have to hold your Midland anytime you want to send a message. You can simply activate it with your voice while it is still attached to the belt clip.
Other features important to survival include automatic channel scan; keypad lock to prevent accidental activation of functions; call alert tones; auto squelch for clearer reception; signal strength indicator; and battery life extender among others.
- 2-WAY RADIOS - These walkie-talkies feature 22 FRS (Family Radio Service) channels, along with channel scan to check for activity
- 18-MILE RANGE - Longer range communication in open areas with little or no obstruction
- HANDS-FREE - Easy Voice and Sound Activation Transmission (eVOX) for hands-free operation
5. Cobra ACXT345 Walkie Talkie
With a 23-mile range in ideal conditions, 2662 channel combinations, 10 NOAA weather stations, and resistance to adverse weather conditions, this Cobra walkie talkie ranks as of the best hand-held 2-way radios to get you out of a serious jam.
The compact radio comes with a rechargeable battery and coupled with the USB charging feature, you are unlikely to ever lack a means of recharging the set. Besides, you can also use AA alkaline batteries to power it if there is a need to. Basically, you’d never run out of power if you have enough AA batteries.
Sold as a pair, each radio features VOX for hands-free operations, 5 call tones to distinguish parties for incoming calls, and 121 privacy codes.
- LONG RANGE UP TO 25 MILES: Provides an extended long range signal with 2662 channel combinations
- 10 NOAA WEATHER CHANNELS & WEATHER ALERT - Be prepared for storms and emergencies with the built-in NOAA radio receiver providing coverage of all government operated weather channels
- VOX - VOICE-ACTIVATED TRANSMISSION: The user's voice is detected and the radio transmits without the need to press any buttons, freeing hands for other tasks
How to get a GMRS license from the FCC
If you have a GMRS radio, you’ll need a license to be able to operate it legally in the US. In addition to the license, you would also get a call sign that is unique to you when you get approval.
The best license costs about $70 and you don’t have to take an exam to get it. You would be given a 10-digit FCC registration number that is valid for 10 years.
The 10-digit number is your login detail in the FCC’s Universal Licensing System (ULS). Keep it safe somewhere.
GMRS 2-Way Radio Registration/Licensing steps
- Head to the FCC website and create a user account there. Provide all the details required.
- After creating the account, you would be required to log into the registration portal to continue.
- Start the GMRS application process. You would be asked some simple questions. Simply provide the correct answers.
- Submit the application. First, though, go through the information you provided to check for errors.
Then sign your name and click on the ‘Submit Application’ button. You’d be prompted to make payment at this point.
It takes at most a couple of days for your application to appear on the ULS Application Search. You can check your pending application there and even make more correction if you want.
- Keep checking the ULS daily. In a few days, you would see your call sign under ‘My licenses’. You are now ready to use the GMRS frequencies.
- Go to the ‘Filter by Radio Service’ box and choose your GMRS call sign. Add it to the ‘Authorizations to Download’. Then click download.
You would be given the license which you can then print and carry along with you.
This review was all about identifying and choosing the best walkie talkies for survival.
The features and functions that make for a great portable 2-way radio were also highlighted if, for one reason or the other, you don’t want any of the five products here. That should serve as a comprehensive guide as you go searching for your choice.
That said, any one of the product here is all you need in an emergency. And the good thing about them, they are so versatile you can use them for a variety of outdoor and indoor activities.