Going out on a camping trip with friends? Booked a log cabin in a far away secluded area? Prepping for doomsday? Watched one too many horror movies?
There are a variety of reasons you may be considering investing in some survivalist style walkie talkies. Almost all of them are entirely valid. The best walkie talkies for camping and survival will be able to help you out, whatever your reason for buying is.
Walkie Talkies are absolutely invaluable in the event that cell service goes down. This can happen during natural disasters or simply due to human error on the part of those responsible for maintaining coverage in an area.
At a glance:
- Floats in water
- Includes an LED light
- NOAA weather alerts
- 250 hours standby battery / 24h use
- Earpieces included
- Durable, built to military standard
- Huge value for money
- NOAA weather alerts
- SOS siren
Finding yourself isolated and unable to communicate is not a good situation to find yourself in – you may feel that the odds are particularly low, but is that really a risk you’re willing to take?
There is however, one big problem with this plan. The walkie talkie market is so saturated with cheap, knock off electronics & bad advice that it can be hard to make a decision on which product is actually worth your money.
The following guide is a comprehensive breakdown of what features to look for in survivalist walkie talkies + the walkie talkies we would personally recommend for this purpose.
Table of Contents
- 1 What To Look For In a Walkie Talkie
- 2 The 5 Best Walkie Talkies For Survival
- 2.1 5 – Arcshell Rechargeable Long Range Two-Way Radios
- 2.2 How Do I Get My FCC License To Operate On GMRS?
What To Look For In a Walkie Talkie
There are a variety of factors to consider when you’re shopping around for a walkie talkie. This is compounded greatly when you’re actively picking a walkie talkie you think you may need to rely on to actually save your life.
Ask yourself first: what circumstances might I be using this walkie talkie under? What environment will I be in?
Most people would reasonably answer that question with a simple “I Don’t Know” – You never know when an emergency might occur – you could be at home, or miles out in the countryside when you need to use your walkie talkie. So it’s best to opt for something less specialised with a more broad range of functionality.
It may be tempting to look into obtaining a GMRS walkie talkie – they have a greater range of channels to choose from. The only setback is that you need a license to operate one. If this is a prohibiting factor for you then you may need to opt for a more advanced walkie talkie operating on regular bandwidths such as FRS.
If you’re interested in registering for a GMRS license, check out the bottom of this article.
What Are The Most Important Features For Survivability?
There are a handful of key features to consider here, namely:
Durability – You want something that can take a bit of a beating. Weatherproofing is a great thing to look out for. You want a weatherproof rating of AT LEAST IP67. This will ensure stray dust, snow or water doesn’t completely destroy your device. If you drop your device into water it should remain waterproof for at least 30 minutes at this rating – this is an invaluable feature.
You may find yourself in a position where you need to face the elements and endure harsh weather conditions in order to be rescued, this is the worst possible time for your communications system to fail on you.
The ability to withstand a reasonable level of trauma is really important too. Can you imagine you found yourself in a situation where you needed to use your walkie talkie for survival purposes and it broke because you dropped it?
Range – This is another key factor in selecting your handheld device. Range will determine whether or not someone is even capable of hearing a distress call. Walkie Talkies with poor range may be ideal for cutting costs if you’re running concert security, for example. But if you find yourself stranded miles away from civilization, the range of your walkie talkie can be the difference between making contact with another human and remaining isolated.
Beyond the effective range of a walkie talkie, it gets harder to communicate and eventually impossible. It’s important to note that the manufacturers only provide you with the maximum operating range under ideal conditions. These ideal conditions are not easily replicable and real life. If you purchase a set of walkie talkies with a maximum operating range of 20 miles, it’s very unlikely that you’ll find yourself in an environment where you can achieve that kind of range.
The presence of trees, mountains, buildings etc will all contribute negatively to the effective range of a walkie talkie – so keep this in mind whilst making your purchase.
The power (measured in watts) allowed in the device also affects range, the higher the watts – the greater the distance you can transmit across. If you’re using a walkie talkie that doesn’t require a license to operate, it’s unlikely you will be able to transmit across more than a couple of miles due to the power limitations placed on these devices.
Battery Life – It may seem obvious, but this is an often overlooked and incredibly critical feature of any kind of equipment intended to be used for survival purposes. You can have the best walkie talkie on the planet – if it dies after 5 minutes of use then it’s effectively useless, especially if you find yourself in a situation with no power where it can’t be recharged.
Battery life is also really important if your opting for a walkie talkie with advanced features such as a flashlight.
Ideally you want a device with both the option of rechargeable and pre-charged batteries (such as AA or AAA), this will allow you to stock up on batteries in case you run out of charge at a critical moment.
Number of Channels – This is a critical factor in most devices that broadcast/transmit/recieve signals. It’s particularly important for HAM radio operators but it’s critical for walkie talkie operators too. Having access to a greater volume of channels means you can switch channels if a particular frequency is experiencing too much interference.
Purchasing a walkie talkie which allows for the use of privacy codes will allow you to transmit across an incredibly diverse range of channels: well over the 2000 mark. (This is a huge difference from the standard 22 channels found in many FRS sets)
Design – This is important for a couple of reasons: if they’re unrealistically large or have an awkward design, you may find yourself dropping them consistently. This can be rectified with a survival clip.
Regardless of design a survival clip is a good investment because it can prevent you losing your walkie talkie in a stressful situation.
The design should be good enough that you can operate the walkie talkie easily without having to remove your gloves, which can be a massive waste of energy in colder conditions as you’ll constantly have to reheat your hand.
Additional Features – Weather & emergency alerts & headset attachments are all absolutely ideal if you’re looking to increase the useability of your device.
You can take this knowledge and apply it to your own shopping and really pick out an ideal product, using this information above. We also recommend checking out websites like Gear Exploit who frequently talk about survival related topics.
The 5 Best Walkie Talkies For Survival
1 – COBRA ACXT1035R FLT Floating Walkie Talkies
Let’s start off with a pair of radios from Cobra, which are an excellent overall choice, but even more so for waterproofing.
They’re not only waterproof to IPX7 standards, but they even float. They come with 38 channels + privacy codes to ensure you don’t encounter any sort of unwanted interference. NOAA weather alerts are available, which is another bonus.
A great selling point for these walkie talkies is that they do not require a license to operate, so if you can’t be bothered with the headache of applying for a license these may be for you.
It’s common to get about 1.5 miles of range out of these due to the wattage limitations placed on them. This is actual real world range and not ‘ideal conditions’ range (37 miles) however, so it’s still great for the price.
The battery life on these is reasonable, but there are other radios with stronger battery life, so perhaps keep scrolling if you’re looking for long life.
2 – Midland 50 Channel Waterproof GMRS Two-Way Radio With Weather Alerts
This Midland radio is hugely popular. If you have, or can get, a GMRS license, I’d definitely recommend checking out these radios.
Priced in the region of $70 for a pair, they’re very affordable. When buying walkie talkies for outdoor / survival purposes, I wouldn’t recommend going any lower than this price, otherwise you’ll start to sacrifice important things like range and battery life.
In optimum conditions, this radio has a range of 36 miles.
It has a maximum of 50 channels, helping you sift through interference in emergency situations. It has up to 142 privacy codes to allow for private communication too!
It has NOAA weather channels, and will auto-scan to check for severe weather alerts.
It is advertised as ‘splash resistant’, so while it is technically waterproof, if you expect to get drenched or fully submerged, another option may suit better.
3 – Retevis RT29 Long Range 2 Way Radio
This pair from Retevis is an excellent choice if you can afford to come up slightly in price.
All of the same boxes are ticked in terms of being waterproof, having a solid range.
For the extra money, you get a huge battery life (up to 250 hours on standby, 24h of use), and a sturdier walkie that is built to military standards. It also comes with comfortable earpieces to make audio as clear as possible.
Compared to the other radios mentioned so far, the main downside is that there isn’t the NOAA weather channels. So this might not be the best choice if you’re going somewhere with a high likelihood of extreme weather.
4 – Uniden SX327-2CK 32-Mile Range FRS Two-Way Radio Walkie Talkies
The Uniden SX327-2CK is a personal favourite. Aesthetically – they look amazing. They come in a variety of colours (and also camouflage) but the red casing really compliments the red backlighting.
In terms of functionality – it’s rated for up to a 32 mile range, which translates well in less-than-ideal conditions.
It has up to 22 channels with up to 284 privacy codes – fairly standard for walkie talkies in this price range.
It has NOAA weather alert capability and even has a built in LED flashlight/strobelight for when lighting conditions are poor!
They can be easily charged with a USB mini cable from any standard usb source such as a laptop, video game console or pc. Alternatively they can be placed on the charging cradle between uses to ensure they constantly retain battery.
It also has a direct-call function, allowing you to directly call any individual in your group whilst everyone else’s radio remains silent. You just select their 4 letter nickname (yes, it has nicknames!) and effectively ring them up like you would on a cell phone. Returning to all mode brings you both back into the party channel.
5 – Arcshell Rechargeable Long Range Two-Way Radios
Simple and to-the-point, these walkie talkies are excellent on a budget and get the job done.
They’re amongst the cheapest of all the available ones, largely because of the lack of a display screen.
They’re small, easy to use and convenient. The solid build make them harder to damage and they’re water resistant too. They operate on 16 channels and come with ear pieces to boot.
In ideal conditions the range is about 5 miles, so expect a reduction in heavily populated terrain with lots of obstructions.
This is another set of walkie talkies that are absolutely ideal to be used as a backup set or as a first-purchase whilst you work on sourcing a more powerful pair.
They’re still great in their own right though – they’re incredibly reliable which is why you’re likely to see these guys in use if you take a closer look at venue security next time you’re at a concert or event.
If you haven’t found what you need in this article, then we’d recommend checking out this guide about the best two-way radios on the market today.
How Do I Get My FCC License To Operate On GMRS?
Operating on the general mobile radio service requires a license. If you have one, you legally must register it before you are actually allowed to operate it.
Licensing has the benefit of assigning you a unique call sign that can be traced back to you upon approval. You can pay 70 dollars for a 10 year license, after paying you will be provided with an FCC registration number (10 digits long) which can be used to access the FCC’s ULS. (Universal Licensing System).
So Where Do I Sign Up?
All you need to do to get licensed is register an account on the FCC website and input all the details requested of you.
Once you’re fully registered, you must navigate to the registration portal. Begin your GMRS application, answer the questions provided, sign your name and click “submit application”!
Please remember: your equipment must be GMRS certified, you must be older than 18 and you must stay within the power limitations assigned to each individual frequency.