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 these popular articles: 

TentsHammocks | Bivy Sacks | Tarps

Sleeping Bags |  Sleeping Pads | Stoves

Backpacks | GPS | Headlamps | PolesWatches

Boots | Shoes | Sandals | Pants | Shorts

Base Layers | Fleeces | Down Jackets | Rain Jackets

 

 

 

 

QUICK ANSWER – THE BEST 2 WAY RADIOS

1. MIDLAND GXT1050VP4 

2. MIDLAND LXT630VP3 

3. BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS BC LINK

4. COBRA ACXT 145

5. COBRA ACXT545 

6. UNIDEN ATLANTIS 270 

7. MIDLAND LXT500VP3 GMRS 

8. COBRA MR HH450

9. GARMIN RINO 750

10. MOTOROLA TALKABOUT MT350R

 

 

COMPARISON TABLE – THE BEST 2 WAY RADIOS

PICTURE
2 WAY RADIO
TYPE
RANGE
WEIGHT
PRICE
RATING
PICTURE
2 WAY RADIO
TYPE
RANGE
WEIGHT
PRICE
RATING
Midland GXT1000 VP4
FRS/GMRS
up to 36 miles
8 oz
$$$
4.2
Midland LXT600VP3
FRS/GMRS
up to 30 miles
8 oz
$
4.1
Backcountry Access BC Link
FRS/GMRS
up to 20 miles
12 oz
$$$
4.6
Cobra CXT 145
FRS/GMRS
up to 16 miles
2.2 oz
$
4.1
Cobra CXT545
FRS/GMRS
up to 28 miles
2.31 oz
$$
4.1
Uniden Atlantis 270
VHF
up to 5 miles
16 oz
$$
4.1
Midland LXT500VP3 GMRS
FRS/GMRS
up to 24 miles
8 oz
$
4.0
Cobra MR HH450
VHF/GRMS
up to 5 miles
9.6 oz
$$$
4.0
Garmin Rino 750
FRS/GMRS and GPS
up to 20 miles
12.8 oz
$$$$
4.0
Motorola Talkabout MT350R
FRS/GMRS
up to 35 miles
3.6 oz
$$
3.9

 

 

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2-WAY RADIOS REVIEWS

MIDLAND GXT1050VP4

Check out the latest price on:
AmazonREI

BEST FOR: Hikers needing a fast recharge

TYPE: FRS/GMRS

WEIGHT: 16 ounces for 2

RANGE: up to 36 miles

SPLASH/WATER RATING: JIS4, splash Resistant

BATTERY TYPE: Lithium Polymer

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

CONS: Only JIS4 splash resistant

 

 

 

MIDLAND LXT630VP3

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Hikers looking for good value 2-pack

TYPE: FRS/GMRS

WEIGHT: 16 ounces for 2

RANGE: 30 miles

SPLASH/WATER RATING: JIS4, splash resistant

BATTERY TYPE: Rechargeable battery pack or 3 AAA batteries

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

CONS: No USB charge, limited range in use

 

 

 

BACKCOUNTRY ACCESS BC LINK

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST FOR: Cold weather adventurers

TYPE: FRS/GMRS

WEIGHT: 12 ounces

RANGE: up to 20 miles

SPLASH/WATER RATING: IP56, dust resistant, very water resistant

BATTERY TYPE: Lithium ion rechargeable

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 ACXT 145

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Hikers looking for budget option

TYPE: FRS/GMRS

WEIGHT: 2.2 ounces

RANGE: up to 16 miles

SPLASH/WATER RATING: JIS4, splash resistant

BATTERY TYPE: AAA rechargeable NiMH or AAA alkaline batteries

PROS: Inexpensive, lightweight, NOAA weather channels,

CONS: No scan feature, no privacy codes

 

 

 

COBRA ACXT545

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Fast and light hikers

TYPE: FRS/GMRS

WEIGHT: 2.31 oz

RANGE: up to 28 miles

SPLASH/WATER RATING: JIS4, splash resistant

BATTERY TYPE: AA NiMh rechargeable or AA alkaline batteries

PROS: Small with good range

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

 

 

 

UNIDEN ATLANTIS 270

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Adventurers on the water

TYPE: VHF

WEIGHT: 16 ounces

RANGE: up to 5 mile

SPLASH/WATER RATING: JIS7/IPX7, waterproof to 3 feet

BATTERY TYPE: Lithium ion

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

CONS: Low battery life

 

 

 

MIDLAND LXT500VP3 GMRS

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Hikers who want a small base station radio

TYPE: FRS/GMRS

WEIGHT: 16 ounces for 2

RANGE: 24 miles

SPLASH/WATER RATING: JIS4, splash resistant

BATTERY TYPE: Rechargeable battery pack or 4 AAA batteries

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

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

 

 

 

COBRA MR HH450

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Hikers who are also on the water

TYPE: VHF/GMRS

WEIGHT: 9.6 ounces

RANGE: up to 5 miles

SPLASH/WATER RATING: IPX7, waterproof to 3 feet

BATTERY TYPE: Rechargeable lithium Polymer battery pack or 4 AA battery pack

PROS: Replay VHF calls, Weather alerts, floats

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

 

 

 

GARMIN RINO 750

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon | Backcountry

BEST FOR: Hikers wanting GPS and radio in one.

TYPE: FRS/GMRS

WEIGHT: 12.8 ounces

RANGE: up to 20 miles GMRS, up to 2 miles FRS

SPLASH/WATER RATING: IPX7, waterproof to 3 feet

BATTERY TYPE: Lithium-ion rechargeable or AA battery pack

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

CONS: expensive, low battery life

 

 

 

MOTOROLA TALKABOUT MT350R

Check out the latest price on:
Amazon

BEST FOR: Hikers looking for robust radios

TYPE: FRS/GMRS

WEIGHT: 7.3 ounces for 2

RANGE: 35 mile

SPLASH/WATER RATING: IP54, dust and splash resistant

BATTERY TYPE: 3 AA NiMH rechargeable or alkaline

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

CONS: Bright orange color, no base station

 

 

 

LEARN HOW TO CHOOSE HIKING GEAR FOR YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE

 

 

 

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.

The 10 Best 2 Way Radios – Best Hiking Gear For Beginners – Backpacking Gadgets – Hiking Equipment List for Women, Men and Kids

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