Radios are a great way to communicate in the backcountry or anywhere a cell signal isn’t easy to get. But with all the different frequencies, specs and buttons, which ones do you even look at? What are the best 2 way radios to use on your adventure?

We’ve sifted through the details for you so you can get outside faster. In this article we’ll cover things to keep in mind when choosing a radio for your next trip and some of the top-rated models of the year.

For more of our top hiking gear recommendations, check out the Best Hiking Headlamps

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Quick Answer - The Best 2 Way Radios

  1. Midland GXT1000 VP4
  2. Midland LXT600VP3
  3. Backcountry Access BC Link
  4. Cobra CXT 145
  5. Cobra CXT545
  6. Uniden Atlantis 270
  7. Midland LXT500VP3 GMRS
  8. Cobra MR HH450
  9. Garmin Rino 750
  10. Motorola Talkabout MT350R

Comparison Table - Best 2 Way Radios

PictureNameTypeRangeWeightWater RatingPriceRating
Midland GXT1000 VP4FRS/GMRSUp to 36 miles8 ozJIS4, splash resistant$$$4.2
Midland LXT600VP3FRS/GMRS30 miles8 ozJIS4, splash resistant$4.1
Backcountry Access BC LinkFRS/GMRSUp to 20 miles12 ozIP56, very water resistant$$$4.6
Cobra CXT 145FRS/GMRSUp to 16 miles2.2 ozJIS4, splash resistant$4.1
Cobra CXT545FRS/GMRSUp to 28 miles2.31 ozJIS4, splash resistant$$4.1
Uniden Atlantis 270VHFUp to 5 miles16 ozJIS7/IPX7, waterproof to 3 feet$$4.1
Midland LXT500VP3 GMRSFRS/GMRSUp to 24 miles8 ozJIS4, splash resistant$4.0
Cobra MR HH450VHF/GRMSUp to 5 miles9.6 ozIPX7, waterproof to 3 feet$$$4.0
Garmin Rino 750FRS/GMRS and GPSUp to 20 miles12.8 ozIPX7, waterproof to 3 feet$$$$4.0
Motorola Talkabout MT350RFRS/GMRSUp to 35 miles3.6 ozIP54, dust and splash resistant$$3.9
PictureNameTypeRangeWeightWater RatingPriceRating

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Reviews - The Best 2 Way Radios for Hiking

Midland GXT1000 VP4

Specs
  • Battery Type: Lithium Polymer
  • Range: Up to 36 miles
  • Type: FRS/GMRS
  • Water Rating: JIS4, splash resistant
  • Weight: 8 oz
Features
  • Up to 3,124 channel options
  • Five animal call alerts
  • Weather resistant
  • SOS alert
  • Bright LCD backlight
  • Includes dual desk charger, AC adapter, mic headsets, and belt clips

BEST FOR: HIKERS NEEDING A FAST RECHARGE

PROS: Comes in packs of 2, fast recharge, headsets included

CONS: Only JIS4 splash resistant

Midland LXT600VP3

Specs
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable battery pack or 3 AAA batteries
  • Range: 30 miles
  • Type: FRS/GMRS
  • Water Rating: JIS4, splash resistant
  • Weight: 8 oz
Features
  • 36 FRS channels
  • 30-mile range
  • Up to 2,662 channel options
  • NOAA weather scan and alert
  • Hands-free

BEST FOR: HIKERS LOOKING FOR GOOD VALUE

PROS: 2-pack, 2 power options, NOAA weather alerts

CONS: No USB charge, limited range in use

Backcountry Access BC Link

Specs
  • Battery Type: Lithium ion rechargeable
  • Range: Up to 20 miles
  • Type: FRS/GMRS
  • Water Rating: IP56, very water resistant
  • Weight: 12 oz
Features
  • Water and dust-resistant to IP56
  • Option for pre-set channel selections
  • Glove-friendly controls
  • Push-to-talk option
  • Earphone jack

BEST FOR: COLD WEATHER ADVENTURES

PROS: Separate mic unit to clip to pack, glove friendly controls, separate batteries available, battery indicator

CONS: No hands-free, can’t use AA batteries

Cobra CXT 145

Specs
  • Battery Type: AAA rechargeable NiMH or AAA alkaline batteries
  • Range: Up to 16 miles
  • Type: FRS/GMRS
  • Water Rating: JIS4, splash resistant
  • Weight: 2.2 oz
Features
  • 10 NOAA weather channels
  • Roger beep tone
  • Call alert
  • Power saver

BEST FOR: HIKERS ON A BUDGET

PROS: Inexpensive, lightweight, NOAA weather channels

CONS: No scan feature, no privacy codes

Cobra CXT545

Specs
  • Battery Type: AA NiMh rechargeable or AA alkaline batteries
  • Range: Up to 28 miles
  • Type: FRS/GMRS
  • Water Rating: JIS4, splash resistant
  • Weight: 2.31 oz
Features
  • 10 NOAA weather channels
  • VibrAlert for notifications
  • Hands-free feature
  • Voice detection

BEST FOR: FAST AND LIGHT HIKERS

PROS: Small with good range

CONS: Only splash resistant, button lock doesn’t disable flashlight

Uniden Atlantis 270

Specs
  • Battery Type: Lithium ion
  • Range: Up to 5 miles
  • Type: VHF
  • Water Rating: JIS7/IPX7, waterproof to 3 feet
  • Weight: 16 oz

BEST FOR: ADVENTURERS ON THE WATER

PROS: VHF as well, floats, 1/ 2.5/ 6 watt (VHF)

CONS: Low battery life

Midland LXT500VP3 GMRS

Specs
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable battery pack or 4 AAA batteries
  • Range: Up to 24 miles
  • Type: FRS/GMRS
  • Water Rating: JIS4, splash resistant
  • Weight: 8 oz
Features
  • 22 selectable channels
  • Up to 24 mile range
  • Water resistant

BEST FOR: HIKERS WHO WANT A SMALL BASE STATION RADIO

PROS: Small and light, keypad lock, base station available

CONS: No weather channels, no privacy codes, low max volume

Cobra MR HH450

Specs
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable lithium Polymer battery pack or 4 AA battery pack
  • Range: Up to 5 miles
  • Type: VHF/GRMS
  • Water Rating: IPX7, waterproof to 3 feet
  • Weight: 9.6 oz
Features
  • Rugged design
  • Recording feature
  • Ability to float
  • Weather alerts
  • 3 different watt selections

BEST FOR: HIKERS NEEDING WATER RESISTANCE

PROS: Replay VHF calls, Weather alerts, floats

CONS: expensive, GMRS volume is low, no FRS support

Garmin Rino 750

Specs
  • Battery Type: Lithium-ion rechargeable or AA battery pack
  • Range: Up to 20 miles
  • Type: FRS/GMRS and GPS
  • Water Rating: IPX7, waterproof to 3 feet
  • Weight: 12.8 oz
Features
  • Large touchscreen display
  • Electronic compass with accelerometer and barometric altimeter sensors
  • Active weather forecasts
  • Smart notifications

BEST FOR: HIKERS WANTING GPS AND A RADIO IN ONE

PROS: GPS too, touchscreen, can use battery pack or AA’s

CONS: Expensive, low battery life

Motorola Talkabout MT350R

Specs
  • Battery Type: 3 AA NiMH rechargeable or alkaline
  • Range: Up to 35 miles
  • Type: FRS/GMRS
  • Water Rating: IP54, dust and splash resistant
  • Weight: 3.6 oz
Features
  • Weatherproof
  • Quiet-talk functionality
  • Dual power
  • Rugged housing
  • Mini-USB car charger

BEST FOR: HIKERS LOOKING FOR A ROBUST RADIO

PROS: USB charging, LED flashlight, battery meter, robust

CONS: Bright orange color, no base station

 

 

HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST 2 WAY RADIOS

FREQUENCIES

Most of the handheld radios use FRS or GMRS frequencies. FRS channels are free to use without license. GMRS frequencies have longer range but require a license from the FCC to use. VHF are marine channels only for use on the water. If you’re out sailing, you’ll be using VHF to communicate. Ham or Amateur radios have more frequencies and longer range but require a written test to get the license.

 

PRIVACY CODES

Privacy codes or “Extra Channels” are additional combinations of the 22 main FRS/GMRS channels that radio makers add to help you find a quiet place to talk. These need to be used with radios from the same manufacturer.

For example, we could decide to talk on channel 13, code 10 and it should eliminate chatter from any other code on channel 13. It’s not perfect and sometimes you can hear people on other channels talking. If the specs list anything more than the 22 main channels, they are just privacy codes and may or may not work with other radios.

 

RANGE

Maximum range with a radio is very dependent on conditions. The range stated in the specs of the radios will usually be the maximum range under perfect conditions, say 35 miles. Up to 5 miles is a common range for GMRS frequencies and up to 2 miles for FRS frequencies. If there is anything blocking line of sight to the other radio like trees or a building will reduce the range.

 

WATERPROOFNESS

Many radios claim to be waterproof but are actually just water resistant. If you are in a wet environment, make sure you get a decent waterproof rating. The IP or JIS rating will tell you how resistant they are. The higher the number the better. Many radios are JIS4 which is splash resistant. IPX4 will be splash resistant as well whereas IPX7 will be waterproof to 3 feet.

 

BATTERY TYPE

Some radios use Lithium-ion batteries which will be better in the cold. Some have different options to use either a battery pack or AA batteries depending on the situations. Newer models can charge through a USB power pack or solar charger. Think about what conditions you will be in and how you want to charge your radio. You might even consider getting a solar backpack to make sure you’re able to recharge while you’re outdoors.

 

BATTERY LIFE

Battery life can range from a few hours to a few days. How long will you be using your radio each time? Can you take extra batteries or battery packs?

 

WEIGHT

How much can you carry in your pack? You might need to stick with the smaller lighter radios that might not get the range or battery life as the larger units.

 

NOAA WEATHER CHANNELS & ALERTS

Most radios these days can use the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather channels to get updates on local weather. Some will alert you if severe weather is heading your direction. Look for NOAA weather alerts if you want to be notified without having to continuously monitor them.

 

MULTI-USE UNITS

Some units have other capabilities like VHF radio or GPS on them. These can be useful to eliminate carrying 2 items. Make sure the battery life is long enough for your trips while doing both functions. If you are just looking for a dedicated GPS, check out our article on the best GPS for hiking.

 

CELL PHONE EXTENDERS

New cell phone attachments like the goTenna plug into your phone and allow you to text other phones with a goTenna when out of cell range. You can’t communicate with anything else but if you just need to chat with friends or family it might be a simple way to go.

 

 

READ MORE

For more of our top hiking gear recommendations, check out these popular articles:

Hiking Headlamps | Day Hiking Backpacks

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2 Responses

  1. Christina

    This is an excellent list of key features to identify to ensure the best buy. Good battery life and range can be especially important.

  2. Christina

    A solar backpack is a creative idea. You make a good point when suggesting people consider their environmental conditions and then choose the battery type from there.

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