Best Two-Way Radios

In a Hurry? Editors choice:
Midland GXT1050
Test Winner: Midland GXT1050
Amazon Link
In your youth, did your parents ever give you and your friend’s walkie-talkies to play and mess around with? Or perhaps you went to an amusement park or camping with your family and your parents wanted you to carry around a walkie-talkie to check in on you. Essentially, two-way radios are amplified versions of those exact walkie-talkies that you had as a kid. As their name indicates, they provide two-way communication as a walkie-talkie would. However, with advanced technology, they will be nothing like you remembered. In fact, with their emergency features, they can also be ideal in situations where disaster strikes. If you are in the market for a couple of two-way radios for your next camping trip, you have come to the right place.

Standout Picks

Midland - GXT1030VP4, 50 Channel GMRS Two-Way Radio
In the world of two-way radios, Midland seems to be a step ahead of the competition. They consistently design excellent radios and their GXT1050, with its dual-power options and NOAA weather alerts, stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Amazon Link
$79.99
Motorola Talkabout Radio MH230R
Consider the Motorola MH230R Radio the little brother of the previous Midland radio. It can almost live up to the hype that its big brother set out, but has certain shortcomings that prevent it from being superior.
Amazon Link
$349.95
Midland GXT1050VP4 50 Channel GMRS Two-Way Radio
Midland radios take two of the top three spots, which should give you an idea of how great they really are. What makes their GXT895 model stand out is it integrates over 40 channels and has multiple animal call alerts, such as crow and duck, for hunters.
Amazon Link
$74.99
Cobra Electronics CBRCXR825 Cobra Walkie-Talkie
Cobra may not be on par with Midland when it comes to two-way radios, but their 22-channel model is proof enough that they can no doubt contend. Most noteworthy is the ultra-rugged construction that keeps your mind at ease when this goes through abuse.
Amazon Link
Uniden Atlantis 270 Handheld Floating 2-Way
Undoubtedly, the most noteworthy design aspect of the Uniden 2-Way Marine Radio is its capability to be completely submerged in water. Most high-end two-way radios will only be water-resistant, so the ability to actually submerge the device in water is a bonus.
Amazon Link
$289.99
Backcountry Access BC Link Radio System
The battery life of the Backcountry Access BC Link Radio System is absolutely superb. Unfortunately, and you may have guessed this, it does so at the expense of the range which is not the greatest.
Amazon Link
$319.90
Retevis RT-5R Dual Band Two Way Radios
In situations where you need to maximize the range you have and in others where you need to extend the battery life as much as possible, you can do so with the 5W/1W power switch of the RT-5R Radio from Retevis.
Amazon Link
$259.99
LUITON LT-188H VHF Walkie Talkie 10W
Probably the largest caveat of this next two-way radio is that it lacks an illuminated display for viewing. While this can be problematic, its 10 watts of power is a nice incentive as this provides an advertised 10-mile range.
Amazon Link
KOOBETON Walkie Talkie, KT-888S Two Way Radios
What is really nice about this specific two-way radio is that it comes in a pack of six. As such, if you had a large group, everyone can get in on the action. This is ideal because, for such a low price, Baofeng’s two-way radio packs a powerful punch with excellent functionality.
Amazon Link
Cobra ACXT145 Walkie Talkies
Simply put, the last two-way radio on this list, presented by Cobra, is built like a rock and can handle what you dish out. A battery indicator to inform you of your battery level would have been ideal, so you need to have an internal clock in your head.
Amazon Link
$29.98

Criteria Used for Evaluation

Battery Life

It pretty much goes without saying that the battery life of any technology device is important. However, when it comes to two-way radios, it goes far and beyond a simple number that you must analyze. While the rated battery life should still be important to you, other factors come into play that can alter it. For example, most two-way radios will have multiple power options and perhaps even a battery saver mode. If you run the radio on low power, which will limit the range, you could extend the battery life longer than by utilizing it on high. Also, with some circuitry designs, if there are no transmissions within several seconds the system will automatically switch to its battery saver mode.

But, the type of battery or batteries it runs off of is vital. This is where dual-power options become prevalent. If a two-way radio runs off of both a rechargeable battery and standard AA batteries, you can simply swap them out when one dies. Thus, you can pack both power sources and extend the battery life in that manner.

Water Resistance

Two-way radios were designed for outdoor use and as such, should be able to withstand the elements of the outside world. Clearly, this means most manufacturers will design their radios to do just that. When it comes down to it, the durability and its tolerance against water are the two most important factors to assess. It is not unreasonable to expect a two-way radio that can be dropped from time to time and still remain operational. By the same token, you should expect it to be able to withstand water. Now, this is where you need to pay attention to the standards the radio abides by, for example, its IP rating.

Say, a device has an IP56 rating. What does this mean? The first number signifies its intrusion protection and the second its moisture protection. So, the higher the number the more tolerance it has against dust and water, respectively.

Stability

The walkie-talkies when you were a kid were painless to use. You simply pressed the button and talked to your friend. However, advanced two-way radios are a bit more complicated than that. Still, it should never be required for you to own a Master’s degree in computer science to understand how to operate one. Factors that can ease the experience are both a display and the included instructions. Some two-way radios will not have any kind of display and this could be problematic for novices. Also, poor instructions are certainly not welcome as this is not going to help anyone.

Overall, just remember that programming a two-way radio can take some getting used to. Especially if you are not accustomed to technology devices. If you find yourself at a crossroads, always remember that the vast majesty known as the internet can assist you.

Durability

Without a shadow of a doubt, the range of two-way radios is probably the most important design feature. By “range”, this is referring to how far each radio can be apart for their still to be a suitable signal. The power options, which tie right into the range, if they're present, can be subsequently used to either increase the range and decrease the battery life or vice versa. But, there is an important clarification that you need to hear in regard to the range capabilities of two-way radio. In fact, Motorola, who appeared on this list, states it perfectly.

For their two-way radio, they specifically mention how the communication range that is quoted is dependent on a few factors. One is that there is an unobstructed line of sight and the other being that the conditions are optimal. Conditions such as the weather, obstructions and electromagnetic interference all come into play. As such, a maximum range of say 36 miles is not really what you will be getting. Nine times out of ten, outdoor conditions are going to come into play. Simply put, go in expecting much less than the maximum.

Top 10 Picks

1. Midland GXT1050

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$79.99
Midland - GXT1030VP4, 50 Channel GMRS Two-Way Radio
Amazon Link

In the world of two-way radios, Midland seems to be a step ahead of the competition. They consistently design excellent radios and their GXT1050, with its dual-power options and NOAA weather alerts, stands head and shoulders above the rest.

Read more

Range and Power
The maximum range that this device is capable of before cutting out the signal completely is 36 miles. Now, this is in open areas with little to no obstruction so do not expect this range everywhere.

Integrated Channels
Midland integrates 22 channels and 28 extra channels and this offers clean and crisp communication. In addition to this, there are 142 privacy codes to help block out other conversations and NOAA weather alerts.

Battery Life
To conserve battery life, there are power options for medium and low. Also, there are multiple ways to power this radio with either rechargeable batteries or four AA batteries.

Construction
Per JIS4 standards, this radio is waterproof. However, while it is suitable to withstand light splashes and rain, a complete submersion in water is not advised.

Simplicity
Several features are in play to simplify the experience. This includes a backlit display to ensure easy viewing, hands-free operation with voice activation and direct call so you know which member of your party is contacting you.

Overall
Truthfully, you are going to be hard-pressed to find a better two-way radio. It seems to be a general consensus that the Midland GXT1050 Radio is the standard-bearer for all other two-way radios that precede it.

Amazon Link
$79.99

2. Motorola MH230R

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$349.95
Motorola Talkabout Radio MH230R
Amazon Link

Consider the Motorola MH230R Radio the little brother of the previous Midland radio. It can almost live up to the hype that its big brother set out, but has certain shortcomings that prevent it from being superior.

Read more

Range and Power
Motorola advertised their two-way radio to possess the ability to communicate with another device within 23 miles. However, in a residential area, one reviewer tested it and found it inoperable beyond 0.5 miles.

Integrated Channels
In times when you want to keep a sharp eye on the weather, 11 weather channels (seven of them being NOAA) allow you to do just that. Plus, with 22 channels and 121 privacy codes, interference protection is all but guaranteed.

Battery Life
All in all, you could get up to 24 hours of battery life out of this radio. With NiMH rechargeable batteries, you can expect up to 10 hours and afterward, you can use three AA batteries for around 14 hours.

Construction
This is rated per IP-51 standards and what this means is this is adequately protected against dust, vertical drops, and dripping water. It is able to achieve this because of its strong, plastic shell.

Simplicity
To ease the operation process, there is an eVOX feature for hands-free operation and also a VFD display which outputs a clear image no matter the time of the day.

Overall
Despite the limitations, this radio has when it is used in highly-populated residential areas, it provides all the goods that make two-way radios so convenient.

Amazon Link
$349.95

3. Midland GXT895 42

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$74.99
Midland GXT1050VP4 50 Channel GMRS Two-Way Radio
Amazon Link

Midland radios take two of the top three spots, which should give you an idea of how great they really are. What makes their GXT895 model stand out is it integrates over 40 channels and has multiple animal call alerts, such as crow and duck, for hunters.

Read more

Range and Power
Much like their advanced GTX1050 model, this has a maximum range of 36 miles. Again, this is accounting for open areas with practically no obstructions.

Integrated Channels
When all is said and done, with the 42 channels and 142 privacy codes, there are over 3000 channel options to help block out other conversations. When needed, there are also NOAA weather alerts that will lock on to your local weather channel.

Battery Life
One reviewer noted that they operate for around 17 hours a day on a single charge. Now, with high, medium, and low power options you have control of it a little bit. Plus, it sports dual-power options.

Construction
Overall, the durability and build quality are impressive and they will be able to handle standard drops and common accidents. But, it is worth noting, it is water-resistant but not waterproof.

Simplicity
The menu operations are fairly straightforward, the buttons and knobs are easy to utilize, and the hands-free operation all combine to create a user-friendly experience.

Overall
Midland may have perfected their design with the GTX1050 two-way radio but this model holds up well in its own right with excellent battery life, dual-power, animal call alerts for hunters and NOAA weather alerts.

Amazon Link
$74.99

4. Cobra 22

Where to buy
Amazon Link
Cobra Electronics CBRCXR825 Cobra Walkie-Talkie
Amazon Link

Cobra may not be on par with Midland when it comes to two-way radios, but their 22-channel model is proof enough that they can no doubt contend. Most noteworthy is the ultra-rugged construction that keeps your mind at ease when this goes through abuse.

Read more

Range and Power
With an impressive maximum range of 35 miles, albeit depending on the terrain and the conditions, you should always be able to get a signal between two devices.

Integrated Channels
Besides 22 separate channels, there are over 140 privacy codes and this combination will prevent interference from other radios. Plus, with its built-in NOAA radio receiver, you will be alerted of upcoming storms and inclement weather.

Battery Life
Thanks to the circuitry of this radio, if there is no communication or operation within 10 seconds it will automatically switch to its battery saver mode. All in all, expect up to 10 hours of battery life.

Construction
While it is not advised to dunk this radio in water, the durability is top-notch and even if it is thrown around in your luggage or baggage, the integrity should not be compromised.

Simplicity
Even at night, this is easy to operate thanks to the illuminated LCD display. If your hands are full, literally, the voice recognition system allows for hands-free operation.

Overall
To be honest, as a total package, this is one of the most impressive two-way radios on the market. Very few shortcomings or caveats are present and there is nothing but pure quality.

Amazon Link

5. Uniden Marine

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$289.99
Uniden Atlantis 270 Handheld Floating 2-Way
Amazon Link

Undoubtedly, the most noteworthy design aspect of the Uniden 2-Way Marine Radio is its capability to be completely submerged in water. Most high-end two-way radios will only be water-resistant, so the ability to actually submerge the device in water is a bonus.

Read more

Range and Power
The power and range you desire are selectable. You have the options for 1, 2.5, or 5 watts of power. Clearly, the higher the wattage the longer the farther the radio can communicate. Some users claim the signal is weak unless you use the 5-watt setting.

Integrated Channels
Uniden programmed its radio with all international, Canadian and United States channels. In addition, for emergencies and weather alerts, it does support NOAA weather channels.

Battery Life
This is powered by a LiON rechargeable battery but for whatever reason, a DC charger is the only one that is included. But, the battery life is claimed to be up to 12 hours which is stellar.

Construction
While the battery and charger clips are a bit flimsy, the clear advantage this two-way radio has is its ability to be submerged in water. Thus, making them ideal for water activities.

Simplicity
For the most part, not too many users have griped about the operation being overly complex. On the plus side, the backlit LCD display and keypad are easy to see at any time.

Overall
Very few radios are like the Uniden VHF Marine Radio in that it will not be compromised if dropped in water. Most are merely water-resistant and not waterproof.

Amazon Link
$289.99
Where to buy
Amazon Link
$319.90
Backcountry Access BC Link Radio System
Amazon Link

The battery life of the Backcountry Access BC Link Radio System is absolutely superb. Unfortunately, and you may have guessed this, it does so at the expense of the range which is not the greatest.

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Range and Power
In a typical environment, you can expect a range of up to four kilometers (which is around 2.5 miles). However, the power options of one watt or 0.5 watts are a bit limited.

Integrated Channels
There are 22 FRS and GMRS channels and 121 sub-channels; which significantly aids in reducing the amount of interference. Yet, the preset weather channels only cover the United States.

Battery Life
Being run off of a rechargeable 3.7-volt lithium-ion battery, it is claimed that this will last up to 140 hours. Even if this claim is a bit exaggerated, it is still more than impressive.

Construction
As this is rated per IP56 standards, this is a water-resistant and dust-resistant design. Complete submersion is certainly not recommended but light rainfall and splashes should not affect the performance.

Simplicity
This comes equipped with a Smart Mic that provides an easy push-to-talk button. Also, the user interface is optimized to be used in coordination with gloves.

Overall
Backcountry Access has designed a unique two-way radio in that theirs comes with a Smart Mic that allows you to change the settings of the radio. Plus, while the range is a little disappointing, the battery life is amazing.

Amazon Link
$319.90

7. Retevis RT-5R

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$259.99
Retevis RT-5R Dual Band Two Way Radios
Amazon Link

In situations where you need to maximize the range you have and in others where you need to extend the battery life as much as possible, you can do so with the 5W/1W power switch of the RT-5R Radio from Retevis.

Read more

Range and Power
The choice is yours from either five or one watts of power. If you set it to five watts, you can expect the signal to be operable up to around three miles. Of course, with one watt, this is significantly reduced.

Integrated Channels
A special VHF receive band, which is from 65 to 108 megahertz, in integrated and it also includes the regular FM, broadcast band. Past this, both dual-watch and dual-reception are supported.

Battery Life
When your battery is about to run out, a low battery signal alert will inform you of so. Also, you can greatly enhance battery life by running this radio off one watt of power.

Construction
Overall, it seems like the ruggedness of this design should allow it to withstand decent amounts of punishment. For example, being dropped on concrete or being exposed to light splashes or rainfall.

Simplicity
A few reviewers have warned that the included manual is very poor and that YouTube may be a better option to get over the learning curve. But, as a whole, due to the interface, it is fairly easy to operate and learn.

Overall
The consumer-friendly controls, a bright LED light that can also be utilized as a flashlight, and high/low power options all combine to create a two-way radio that is highly-competent and ideal for the average person.

Amazon Link
$259.99

8. Luiton VHF

Where to buy
Amazon Link
LUITON LT-188H VHF Walkie Talkie 10W
Amazon Link

Probably the largest caveat of this next two-way radio is that it lacks an illuminated display for viewing. While this can be problematic, its 10 watts of power is a nice incentive as this provides an advertised 10-mile range.

Read more

Range and Power
With 10 watts of power, you can rest assured that this is not an area of concern. Indeed, it is advertised that this will deliver a 10-mile range. As always, this will depend on various factors.

Integrated Channels
There are standard and non-standard CTCSS Codes available and in addition to this, the selectable channel spacing is 12.5 kilohertz/25 kilohertz.

Battery Life
This is run off of a 2800mAh battery and with the option to save battery life, by switching to the low power option, you can optimize it to meet your needs. Plus, when the battery does get low you will be alerted to it.

Construction
Several have found that the design of this VHF radio is impressive. In times where you accidentally drop it or it gets tossed around a little, you should not have to worry about the structural integrity.

Simplicity
Really, all you need to do is install the antenna and turn it on to operate it. Problem is, many will dislike the lack of an illuminated display. In addition, the included manual is a joke.

Overall
While this is not without its flaws, it still remains a stellar piece of equipment that you will no doubt find use out of. But, just understand what you are getting when you buy it.

Amazon Link

9. Baofeng

Where to buy
Amazon Link
KOOBETON Walkie Talkie, KT-888S Two Way Radios
Amazon Link

What is really nice about this specific two-way radio is that it comes in a pack of six. As such, if you had a large group, everyone can get in on the action. This is ideal because, for such a low price, Baofeng’s two-way radio packs a powerful punch with excellent functionality.

Read more

Range and Power
With two to five watts of power, depending on how you program it, the range will fluctuate a bit. However, with a maximum of just five watts, do not expect a super long signal range.

Integrated Channels
This is a universal radio that is programmable for 16 channels. All in all, this FM transceiver operates in the 400 to 470 megahertz range.

Battery Life
The average battery life that is advertised as up to eight hours. Now, you can enhance the battery life with the power-saving features that are present with this radio. As such, you may be able to get more than eight hours.

Construction
Much like the other two-way radios that have preceded it on this list, the construction gets a massive thumbs up. Not only is it both lightweight and durable, but it can also handle light rain splashes.

Simplicity
Once again, there is no display which can complicate the programming a bit. It can be harder to do so without a physical display but alas, the interface is simple as a whole.

Overall
One important note worth noting is that due to the functionality, this can’t be used in the United States without breaking FCC rules and regulations. In order to do so, you must have a license that is issued by the FCC. But, it will be worth it.

Amazon Link

10. Cobra Acxt145

Where to buy
Amazon Link
$29.98
Cobra ACXT145 Walkie Talkies
Amazon Link

Simply put, the last two-way radio on this list, presented by Cobra, is built like a rock and can handle what you dish out. A battery indicator to inform you of your battery level would have been ideal, so you need to have an internal clock in your head.

Read more

Range and Power
At its best, this can work with two devices within 16 miles of one another. For most situations, however, do not expect this type of range.

Integrated Channels
Thanks to the NOAA band receiver, you have access to 10 NOAA weather channels which will prove beneficial when you need to be informed of upcoming storms and emergencies.

Battery Life
Expect up to eight hours of continuous use with these batteries. But, thanks to the circuitry, within 10 seconds of no transmissions the radio will switch to its battery saver mode.

Construction
Despite a hard-to-open battery compartment, this radio is rugged enough to handle the adventures of the outdoors. Even more so, it is compliant with IPX4/JIS4 waterproof standards.

Simplicity
Patience, effort, and practice will all need to be executed here. Using the advanced features can be a tad confusing but with some training, you can become educated in no time.

Overall
For what it is, Cobra has developed an impressive two-way radio. Sure, there are better options out there but for a bang for your buck selection, this is very good.

Amazon Link
$29.98

Sources

  1. Ross Collicut, BEST 2 WAY RADIOS OF 2018, Blog