The 8 Best Long Distance Walkie Talkies
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in October of 2017. Whether you're traversing the wilderness, working on a construction crew, or just looking for a fun gift for the kids, long-range walkie talkies can provide for your communication needs. Offering compact designs with multiple channels and plenty of useful features, these two-way radios can make staying connected over long distances entertaining, efficient, and practical. When users buy our independently chosen editorial selections, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
November 25, 2020:
Too many of the models on our previous list had major drop offs in certain situations, and a few couldn't come close to the distances achieved by the selections we've added this time around. One of those new selections is the Uniden SX507-2CKHS, a pair that delivers a range up to 50 miles while still offering better battery life than just about anything out there. We also upgraded a previously included Motorola model to the Motorola Talkabout T800. These walkies boast Bluetooth connectivity, which is gaining traction in the industry as consumers which to pair with their phones for everything from geolocation sharing to data transfers.
One of the most useful sets if you aren't yet sure where you'll most often be using your walkies is the Retevis RT56 Two Way. These are capable of both UHF and VHF transmission, allowing you to use one esetting to get as much range as possible in relatively open areas, and the other to get the most signal penetration possible when you have to contend with the steel and concrete of an urban environment.
March 01, 2019:
Our previous selection included a pair of kids' models, and while children certainly could have a lot of fun with a couple of radios, their specs didn't quite live up to the "long-distance" part of the category. Fortunately for parents, many of today's offerings aren't much more expensive than the kids' models, and you can always take them and use them for yourself as needed. In their place we've included a great Motorola option, as well as a few other new entries, including a nice camouflage model from Cobra. At the top you'll find the same brand as our previous number one choice, but an upgraded model with a brilliantly integrated LCD readout and a nice, rugged design.
The Magic Of Walkie-Talkies
Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that get in the way of that advertised two-mile range.
I was fortunate enough to grow up before the explosion of the internet and even before the ubiquity of cell phones. My family had one land line, and if it was tied up, no one could reach us. For a kid with a best friend across town, that meant we had to find another way to keep in touch when we wanted to chat. We were certainly too far apart to try a pair of tin cans and a string, and our parents weren’t too keen on the thought of us utilizing smoke signals. What was left to us then, were walkie-talkies.
We didn't mind having to use them; in fact, it was quite the opposite. We'd long enjoyed the kinds of films that young boys enjoy, many of which feature spies and other characters who rely heavily on walkie-talkies to get through their various missions. We were thrilled at the thought of using them.
For our age and budget, the best we could do was a pair of walkies that boasted a two-mile range. These were nowhere near as powerful as the long-range walkie-talkies on our list, but we had our hopes up, especially since we’d calculated the distance between our houses at approximately 1.3 miles. Theoretically, these should have done the job.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that get in the way of that advertised two-mile range. Sure, over an open field with the ground helping the signal along and nothing standing between us, we could easily have talked over a two-mile gap. But in a congested town with a few hills and a pharmaceutical plant standing between our houses, the signal couldn’t quite reach. If we each headed outside and to the end of our respective blocks, we could hear a crackled version of each other’s voices, which, for us, was a victory.
Nowadays, long-range walkie-talkies are far less expensive than they were back then, and friends and family members can use them to keep in touch in a way that might feel a little nostalgic compared to the ease and clarity of cell phone use. If you have a cellular plan that limits your minutes, these can be a great boon to your bills, as you can give a pair to your kids and their friends and have them share instead of talking on their phones.
The more likely scenario, however, is that you’re going to use these for professional use, or for recreation when hiking in the wilderness.
Which Long-Range Walkie-Talkie Set Is Right For You?
If you’re purchasing your long-range walkies to let your kids keep in touch with their friends, you can probably afford to go with a less expensive set. Anything with enough range to keep them in touch will do, and battery life should scarcely be an issue if the units rarely leave the house.
Professionals and hikers looking for a more serious set should prioritize things like battery life and charge time, as well as potential distance. Keep in mind, however, that even long-range walkie-talkies will suffer from a loss of reach whenever obstacles — from hills to buildings— stand in the way, so it’s wise to overreach in terms of the distance you need to cover.
In a professional setting, a black set akin to what you’d see in the hands of a security guard is usually the smart way to go. These tend to be rechargeable, and to come with a dedicated base for each unit. They also often come with ear pieces that boast in-line microphones, so you can keep their noise at a minimum. This is not only ideal in security situations, but also comes in handy on film sets, and at concerts and theater performances where radio chatter would be unwelcome.
Hikers tend to prefer bright-colored models with big digital screens. These tend to be both smaller and lighter than the black, professional models on the market, as they need to take up as little space as possible in a hiking backpack. Their bright colors make them easy to find quickly in such a pack, as well.
Whichever style you want, make sure it features multiple channels, and always agree to a set of channels with whomever you need to reach on the other end. That way, if you get separated during a hike, you won’t spend half your battery life switching channels and calling out for responses that may never come. It’s also vital to agree to multiple channels in case another signal occupies the one you start out using, or one begins picking up a lot of interference. That way, you can easily switch to a backup and have a private, uninterrupted conversation.
A Brief History Of Walkie-Talkies
The first thing we could consider as a walkie-talkie was a portable radio signaling system invented by Canadian inventor Donald Hings in 1937. By 1942, this backpack-based system was deployed by allied military forces in the Second World War. During the war, the US developed its own such system, the Motorola SCR-300, which was the first of its kind to be called a walkie-talkie.
Of course, these monstrosities were nothing like the tiny, powerful devices we have today. That said, a handheld model did exist in the war, though it looked more like the giant cell phones of the 1980s than today’s sleek walkies.
Over the next few decades, the technology became available to average citizens, and CB radios exploded in popularity. In 1977, the FCC saw that smaller radios were having their signals hijacked by CB traffic on a regular basis, so they designated a slightly different frequency range for these “toy” models. That range is still employed by the long-range walkies on the market today.
Nowadays, high-powered, long-range walkie-talkies are relatively inexpensive and easy to come by. They can provide you with the means to communicate with anyone within reach who happens to be on your channel.