10 Best Walkie Talkies For Rescue and Emergencies

By Just In Case Jack | Last Updated: June 14, 2022

One Of The Best Walkie Talkies Held By A Firefighter

If you’re actively researching the best walkie talkie, we’re here to help.

As a Mountain Rescue Team member, I’ve used many brands and types of walkie talkies.

And each walkie talkie has both its pros and cons. That’s why the RIGHT one depends on HOW you plan to use it.

For example, reliable long-range communication is essential to any rescue or emergency plan.

While the price will be a bigger factor when coordinating a family road trip or checking in on a day hike.

Cell phones are great, but we’ve all run across areas where coverage is, well…less than perfect.

Sure, you could invest in a satellite phone. But that’s not the most cost-effective option, and you may “still” run across areas where you can’t get a reliable signal.

Often, a better answer is direct, person-to-person radio communications. Handheld personal radios (a.k.a. Walkie Talkies) are dramatically better today than even ten years ago.

Plus, the list of new features keeps growing steadily.

Walkie Talkies are generally smaller, lighter, and more rugged than ever before. Making them one of our favorite survival radios.

Plus, prices on walkie talkies have come down in recent years. You can finally afford to outfit everyone in your group without breaking the bank!

So today, I’m going to use my research and rescue training to teach you everything I know about walkie talkies. My ultimate goal is to help find the best walkie talkie for YOU!

Here’s what I’ll be covering:

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walkie talkie radios in a line

Best Walkie Talkies Available Today

Walkie talkies are great for all sorts of activities, from time-sensitive search and rescue missions to fun hikes. Or from business communications to backyard BBQs. And everything in between.

And everyone is looking for the best walkie talkie for their specific situation. How do I know this? Because of the massive search volume and keywords online.

So let’s go over the best-rated walkie talkies on the market today, and I’ll point out which ones are best for which activities along the way.

1 Our Top Pick
Midland - LXT600VP3, 36 Channel FRS Two-Way Radio

Our favorite walkie talkie is from Midland Corporation, which is USA based and established in 1959.

The Midland LXT600VP3 36-channel FRS radio is an excellent example of an entry-level FRS radio.

They're inexpensive and are ideal for outfitting an entire family for outdoor adventures.

The Midland LXT600VP3 can operate on the included battery pack or purchased AAA batteries. So they can share batteries with other handheld electronics.

This is helpful because gear consolidation always reduces pack weight.

Best Uses: Hunting / Camping / Skiing / Most Outdoor Sports or Adventures

  • Over 20 channels and 121 privacy codes help to block unwanted conversations.
  • The Weather Scan feature monitors NOAA weather reports to update on hazardous conditions.
  • The inexpensive price point allows you to purchase enough for a group.
  • Battery pack quality degrades over time - this fact can leave users with less operational time on a single charge
  • Swapping to AAA batteries can alleviate the issue
  • The range is generally much less than the 30 miles reported as the maximum range - using the GMRS frequencies may improve performance

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BaoFeng UV-82HP 2 Way Walkie Talkie Radio

Starting in 2001, BaoFeng has become one of the major manufacturers of wireless communication equipment in China.

The BaoFeng UV-82HP radio is a great low-cost HAM radio with a wide range of features.

It features a high-power 8W transmitter, which helps to boost ranges reported by some users to over 10 miles!

Plus, the commercial-grade body can withstand the rigors of daily use and keep working.

A full-featured keypad allows you to program frequencies on the fly. But you can also load all the presets via a computer link cable and Baofeng’s software. This flexibility makes it easy to update settings and add the most used channels.

It's a full-featured HAM radio, which means that you'll need a license to use it!

Best Uses: Hunting / Camping / Skiing / Most Outdoor Sports or Adventures

  • High/Med/Low power settings allow you to conserve battery
  • Dual-band capability allows you to use both UHF or VHF frequencies to best suit the situation
  • And the 128-channel presets can hold all your most frequently used settings
  • Many features are worthless without an FCC amateur radio license
  • Some users have reported difficulty in switching to 8W high power mode

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Midland GXT1000VP4 50 Channel GMRS Walkie Talkie

The Midland GXT 1000VP4 Set is perfect for all kinds of outdoor pursuits.

You can purchase them in standard packs of 2 or value packs of up to 12 units. Plus, there is a wide range of accessories to can add to each radio!

It comes with 50 channels and 142 privacy codes to keep your conversations secure.

It also features Midland's eVOX voice recognition technology. The tech allows for automatic transmission when the user speaks - without the need to press a button.

The GXT1000VP4 receives weather warnings and forecasts from the NOAA weather radio service. And it can also provide automatic audible weather alerts.

Best Uses: Hunting / Camping / Skiing / Most Outdoor Sports or Adventures

  • Excellent battery performance and dual battery option
  • Comes with both an A/C adapter and a car charger
  • Automatic alerts for severe weather
  • An extra headset allows for hands-free operation
  • Advertised as waterproof, but the spec is only "splash proof"
  • Rechargeable batteries lose efficacy over time, reducing useful operational life
  • The range is dramatically less than the maximum range listed

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Motorola RMU2080D On-Site 8 Channel UHF Rugged Two-Way Business Radio

Motorola is one of the biggest names in small electronics devices.

The Motorola RMU series is ideal for communications in construction or business settings. Places where many groups all use similar radios and need simple, easy-to-use features.

The durable construction meets military specs for water, dust, and shock resistance. The powerful speaker makes it easy to hear radio traffic over background noise.

It operates on eight pre-programmed MURS frequencies. But it also includes 99 "business exclusive" frequencies and 219 privacy codes.

These all help to ensure secure transmissions and more reliable connections.

But these features come at a price, with the RMU2080D coming in near the top of our list.

Best Uses: Business Operations / Construction Sites / Factories / Warehouses

  • Durable construction meets military specifications
  • MURS frequencies are generally less busy than FRS/GMRS - this reduction in traffic helps to keep conversations clear and private
  • There is no specification on "business exclusive" frequencies - so it may require additional licensing to use
  • Frequencies must be pre-programmed - can not program in the field without a computer

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Yaesu Original FT-65 FT-65R 144/440 Dual-Band Handheld Transceiver

Yaesu isn't a household name in the US - yet...But their radios are gaining a good reputation in the amateur radio world.

The FT-65 is a great compact and durable ham radio with a full set of features.

And it's compact enough to fit in your pocket. It also features a tri-band transmitter capable of working on 144/440 MHz frequency bands.

With a full keypad, you can program in the field if needed. But it also includes a link to the program via computer software.

They house all this technology in a magnesium body that's waterproof up to 1m. So it’s more than just "splash resistant."

Best Uses: Hunting / Camping / Skiing / Most Outdoor Sports or Adventures

  • Compact and durable
  • Full feature keypad for field programming
  • Great tech support from the company
  • Complicated menu system
  • Ergonomics of button layout not the best on small form factor body

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Baofeng BTECH MURS-V1 MURS Two-Way Radio

The BTECH MURS-V1 is a solidly built radio that features the MURS frequency band. This feature means it’s capable of transmitting further in open areas than FRS radios.

It also comes pre-programmed with three banks of 5 MURS channels. Including unique privacy codes for each bank.

Each bank can be field-programmed with the keypad menu system.

Voice-activated and scanning modes make this radio more capable than most. And features like a built-in flashlight and AM/FM radio add extra versatility.

You can even monitor two incoming frequencies at once with independent push-to-talk buttons.

Best Uses: Hunting / Camping / Skiing / Most Outdoor Sports or Adventures

  • MURS frequencies give more privacy and better range
  • Dual-channel mode allows you to keep track of two different conversations
  • Power adapters seem to be missing QC steps, occasionally needing returns/replacements
  • Wear issues on volume adjustment can make control difficult after prolonged use

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COBRA CXT1045R-FLT 37 Mi Waterproof Floating 2-Way Radios Walkie Talkies

The CXT 1045R radio from Cobra is the right choice for any trip that involves water!

It features a fully submersible design that floats if dropped into water.

It also features a high-intensity LED flashlight that functions as an emergency strobe light.

It’s compact enough to fit in your palm but still gets a realistic 2 to 4 miles of clear reception.

It also includes weather updates from NOAA.

Plus, it has a useful replay function that records the last 20 seconds of audio. That way, you can replay any vital information if not understood during the original transmission.

Best Uses: Hunting / Camping / Skiing / But REALLY GREAT FOR Fishing or Boating

  • FLOATS in water!
  • Great walkie talkie radio for hunting, boating, and fishing
  • 22 channels and 121 privacy codes provide plenty of options for secure transmissions
  • The sound quality is not excellent, especially after being submerged
  • The range is 2-4 miles, not the 37 miles advertised

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Retevis H-777 Walkie Talkies for Adults

Since 2008, RETEVIS has been serving the radio needs of different consumers from general personal users, commercial users to amateur users.

The Retevis H-777 radios are not as rugged as some other walkie talkies. But they are economical and practical.

They feature a large-capacity battery that recharges via USB. USB recharging allows you to use external battery banks or solar chargers when you're low on power.

They work with all other FRS/GMRS radios and can support the same channels and privacy codes.

Unlike similar radios, the Retevis appears to work well in indoor settings. So they may be the right solution for warehouses and other steel structures, as well as outdoors.

Like all radios, the listed maximum range is difficult to achieve. But they tend to perform well in forested and mountainous terrain.

Best Uses: Business Operations / Construction Sites / Most Outdoor Sports or Adventures

  • Inexpensive
  • Performs well indoors and in steel structures (which usually reflect radio waves)
  • Compatibility with other radio models is excellent
  • Some users do not like the ~1-second delay on pushing transmit before the channel is open.
  • The range is less than advertised
  • Durability isn't up to heavy daily use

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9 Our Budget Pick
Motorola T100TP Talkabout Radio

The Motorola Talkabout Series is perfect for keeping in touch with a young family during any outdoor adventure.

They're inexpensive, feature easy-to-use controls, and a bright LCD screen.

A keypad lock prevents accidental changes to the settings. And a flashing low battery alert draws your attention before you run out of juice entirely.

Best Uses: Great For Families with Young Kids (local events/backyard fun)

  • Compatible with all FRS radios
  • Runs on 3AAA batteries for easy replacement
  • Effective range out to 5 miles (16 miles maximum listed range)
  • The battery compartment is difficult to open
  • Indoor use can dramatically reduce the overall range

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Midland X-TALKER 22 Channel FRS Walkie Talkie

The Midland X-Talker is another excellent option for those with kids. The Midland X-Talker has kid-friendly controls and incorporates colors that kids love.

It utilizes the FRS frequencies and requires no licensing to use.

These are not high-powered radios. So don't expect long-distance communication from them. But they work great for around the yard and in the house.

They can help teach children how to use a walkie talkie before you move on to more powerful (and expensive) options.

Best Uses: Great For Families with Young Kids (local events/backyard fun)

  • Inexpensive
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Simple kid-friendly controls
  • The range is generally less than a mile
  • Battery life is only 1-2 days, especially if left on continuously
  • No ability to charge batteries internally; you must remove them for charging

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different walkie talkies in a row

Different Types Of Walkie Talkies

There are LOTS of walkie talkies on the market today, from basic models with simple features to professional setups for a worst-case emergency.

With such a wide range, it’s important to learn the main types of walkie talkies.

Now, the most significant difference between types of walkie talkies is the frequency band in which they operate. Different radio frequencies have different characteristics. And thus, licensing requirements are different as well.

There are two major walkie talkie branches to choose from:

  1. UHF frequencies
  2. VHF frequencies

1. UHF Walkie Talkies

UHF (Ultra High Frequency) radios operate between 400 and 512 megahertz (MHz) frequencies.

The FRS (Family Radio Service) radios that many people are familiar with fall in the UHF class.

FRS is available for personal and business use but doesn’t require any licensing from the FCC.

That’s because power transmission on an FRS radio is limited to a maximum of 0.5W.

The GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) frequency band is also an example of a UHF radio class.

However, an FCC radio must be licensed to operate on any GMRS frequencies. This requirement is due to the frequencies involved plus the extra transmission power (up to 5W).

Many consumer-grade UHF radios combine FRS and GMRS capabilities. And this combination allows for greater flexibility in communications.

UHF radios work well for many walkie talkie users because the radio waves are shorter. Shorter waves allow them to penetrate areas of interference, such as dense urban areas or woods.

Also, some UHF walkie-talkies can handle a larger, more powerful antenna. And in general, the more powerful the antenna, the further the transmitter distance.

Examples of UHF Walkie Talkies

The Best Walkie Talkies for Kids Use A Simple Design

For young kids, simple features and easy-to-use controls are best.

Fortunately, walkie talkies built around this principle are often inexpensive. And they tend to use standard, easy-to-find AA or AAA batteries.

They also tend to feature large buttons and simple menus. These features help keep things from getting confusing and frustrating for kids.

But their range is often limited to only several hundred yards – though there are a few more powerful models out there.

Best Survival Walkie Talkies Are Rugged And Inexpensive

Once you outgrow the simple features of a short-range kid’s walkie talkie, it’s time to turn your attention to a rugged sports model.

Lightweight, waterproof radios with more channels and a range of up to 2 miles are popular.

They’re commonly sold in packs of 2 to 4 radios, making it easy to outfit a family with compatible units.

Best Long Range Walkie Talkies Use GMRS

What if your communication plans involve vehicle travel or coordination across vast expanses? Then you’ll need an extended range walkie talkie setup to communicate.

Unlike FRS radios, these radios use the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) frequencies. Thus, allowing them to transmit a more robust signal that can travel up to 35 miles!

Unfortunately, they’re also more expensive. This higher cost is due to the frequency range and higher-powered transmitter. Plus, GMRS requires an FCC license to operate.

Combined FRS/GMRS Walkie Talkies

What if you have multiple people coordinating over the radio?

Then you might want the flexibility of a hybrid FRS/GMRS radio. These allow you to bridge the gap between different groups.

2. VHF Walkie Talkies

VHF (Very High Frequency) radios operate between 136-174 MHz.

The main advantage of a VHF walkie-talkie is that it can cover more distance with less power. How? Simple VHF waves are longer.

However, two-way VHF radios work best when there’s a clear line of sight between the sender and receiver.

That’s why VHF radios are used almost exclusively in aviation and marine communications. Why? Because this is where you can transmit across open bodies of water or between the sky and the ground. These applications have nearly no physical obstructions.

However, VHF band walkie-talkies can still work great for open fields, golf courses, or other low-obstruction situations.

Examples of VHF Walkie Talkies

MURS Walkie Talkies

Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) is also available for both business and personal use.

MURS is assigned 5 VHF frequencies (151.820, 151.880, 151.940, 154.570, 154.600), and power is limited to a maximum of 2 watts.

No license is required, and there’s no age restriction for MURS.

These are not as popular as FRS or GMRS radio. Hence, there are fewer radio models to choose from on the market.

But MURS frequencies are not as crowded; thus, MURS operators may have a little more privacy than other walkie talkie options.

Also, many MURS radios, such as the Motorola RMM2050, are designed for business use. They tend to be more rugged and durable than the typical consumer-grade FRS or GMRS radio.

MURS falls under Part 95 of the FCC rules.

HAM Radio Walkie Talkies

Amateur Radio Service (or “Ham Radio”) is for hobby and personal use.

Some amateur radios can operate on many UHF, VHF, and HF frequencies. But the VHF frequencies are especially useful in amateur communications.

These are used extensively during search and rescue operations by HAM operators.

However, there’s a limit to the number of these frequency bands available. That’s why an FCC license is required to operate amateur radios.

There are three levels of licensing available. These levels determine which bands and frequencies an amateur operator can legally access.

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best walkie talkie features

The Best Walkie Talkie Features You Want

Let’s say you’ve now decided on the type of walkie talkie that suits your needs. How do you choose between all the various market models in that category?

Here are some of the top features to consider when making your selection.

Overall Transmission Range

For many users, range will be the most critical feature to consider.

Radios often list their maximum range in the specification sheet. But that should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The “maximum range” is just an estimate in perfect environmental conditions. We’re talking no atmospheric interference, no obstructions, and with fully charged batteries. In the field, this is hardly ever the case.

Buildings, trees, heavy rainfall, or snow can all interfere with radio transmission ranges.

Be sure to plan for a reasonable margin of safety and find a radio with a much longer range than you think you’ll need.

That’s also why you need a good understanding of how to minimize interference. It’s a critical skill when you use your radio out in the field.

Estimated Battery Life

Walkie talkies run on all sorts of different battery types, from cheap AAs to rechargeable lithium-ion cells.

The listed battery life is also just an estimate with the following assumptions:

  • 90 percent standby time
  • 5 percent reception time
  • 5 percent transmission time

So, if you plan to talk a LOT on your radio, expect your battery to run down much quicker than the maximum listed life.

You’ll need more batteries in this situation.

Types And Number Of Channels

Depending on the type of walkie talkie you choose, you may have limited frequency options.

You may find other users on those frequencies in a crowded area, like a ski resort or urban setting. So finding privacy may prove to be complicated.

However, some radios include privacy codes. These offer more options, but multiple users in most situations can access even those.

The bottom line is:

The more frequency and privacy code choices come at a premium, meaning a more expensive radio.

Additional Walkie Talkie Features

There are plenty of other features to consider when purchasing a walkie talkie.

Some of them are luxuries, while others are more pragmatic – let’s go over a few.

Keypad Lock

To help prevent accidental channel changes, a keypad lock is a smart feature.

It’s frustrating to switch frequencies in your pocket accidentally. That’s how you MISS a crucial message.

Backlit Display

It’s never fun to fumble with buttons in the dark, and you don’t want to have to turn on a headlamp every time.

A backlit display makes it easy to tell what you’re doing in the dark. It’ll allow you to make adjustments with minimal effort, even at night.

Belt Clip

All walkie talkies made for outdoor and long-distance use include a belt clip on the back. But not all belt clips are created equal. 

If you plan to use the belt clip to hang your walkie talkie on your survival belt, tactical belt, or a plate carrier setup, it is up to the task.

Look for durable commercial-grade plastics and a strong spring mechanism.

Preset Keys

Speaking of “easier,” preset keys allow you to store your favorite settings and can help speed things up.

Preprogram your most-used frequencies and share them with the rest of the team. That way, you can adapt to a new communication plan at the push of a single button!

Microphone, Earbud, Speaker/Mic Support

Depending on how hands-free you want to be, look for a radio that supports an external mic and speaker or earbud.

This walkie talkie setup prevents the need to raise the radio to your ear every time you want to hear or talk. Thus, helping to remain discrete and hidden in evasion situations.

Weather Radio

Being able to monitor the weather is critical for many missions. So you’ll want a way to tap into the National Weather Service. This will help keep you on top of incoming storms and hazardous conditions.

Final Thoughts

When cell phone signals fade, your need to communicate does not have to follow suit.

At a bare minimum, everyone should own a hand crank radio. But it’s not nearly enough for those who are serious about their adventures and backup emergency communications.

Reliable communication is important for everyone, especially those on search and rescue missions in the wilderness. Or if the local power goes out for an extended time during a crisis.

The bottom line is:

You need a direct two-way radio solution to communicate with your family and team.

And there are plenty of handheld walkie talkies available on the market today.
So make sure you – and everyone else in your group – have a radio that’s up to the challenges you see ahead.

Get Your Walkie Talkies. Practice. Get your licenses. Be successful when other forms of communication fail!

Jason K.

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