Top Ten Two Way Radios for Hiking and Buying Tips for Choosing the Best for Your Hiking Needs
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When people decide that they are going to begin a regime of hiking or camping, they tend to also go on a spending spree during which they try to find some of the most exciting or cool camping gadgets and two way radios that they can in order to make themselves feel as though they are a bit more invested in the hobby. With that being said, it can be a significant burden on people when they are trying to buy gear for certain hobbies, especially if they do not have a great deal of experience in the field. How does a person know what they need to buy if they have no experience with it to begin with? Hopefully, some of the tips and suggestions in this article will help solve that problem.
The Top Ten Two Way Radios for Hiking
Here is a list of the top ten two way radios for hiking:
1. Midland GXT1000VP4 – This model is fairly popular. It has great voice clarity and has many features that you would expect to find in a consumer grade radio. This includes NOAA weather channels and alerts, group mode, and the ability to use it in a hands-free capacity. It also has vibrate alert, for times when you are out in the wilderness or in an area which is sensitive to sound. The unit also comes with headsets. A car adapter also comes with the unit so you can use the charging base when you are out on the road. That is a feature not found on many similar units. The price point is $69.99.
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2. Motorola MS350R – This is one of the best Motorola Radios on the market. It is definitely the best model that Motorola has on the market. It is a high powered radio that is waterproof. It even floats when it is dropped into a body of water. It has repeater functionality as well, provided you have the proper registration with the FCC to use that function. Another thing that bears mentioning is that this radio comes with a built in flashlight. Aftermarket accessories are available for the MS350R as well, making it one of the best choices overall.
3. Kenwood TK3402 – While this radio is primarily meant for business use, it will work fine out in the wilderness as well. The frequencies can be programmed for GMRS either by yourself or by an authorized dealer. The radio is both powerful and has a worthwhile battery life. Range is an issue, but the range seems to be not as huge of a concern with this radio as it is with some other radios of similar make on the market. This is extremely expensive compared with most radios that you might find on the market, but it is also a higher quality than most other radios as well.
4. Baofeng UV5RA – One of the more inexpensive options on the list, this radio comes with a sturdy case and more features than many of the other radios produced by Baofeng. Though it does have some limitations, it is a good choice if you are looking for something in a lower price range. The digital display is very simple and easy to read, with a blue backlight. To see the true value in this radio, you have to look at the price and then compare it with other, similar models. The only real downside to this radio is the fact that it is right next to impossible to properly program it when using the front panel of the radio. That can be overcome through the use of computer assisted programming, however, so the drawback is not too bad to be overcome.
5. Uniden GMR16352 – A 16 mile, 22 channel FRS and GMRS two way radio, this unit from Uniden is one of the best from Uniden models. This radio does not include a rechargeable battery pack or a base stand and, instead, works with the use of three AAA batteries. There is a power saving feature which automatically kicks in so that the unit will save some battery life as well. Belt clips are included. One thing to note about this radio is that it also features an auto-squelch so that you can kick out any unwanted interference.
6. Midland LXT500VP3 – With a 22 channel interface and a 24 mile range, this compact radio is tough to beat as well. Big things, they say, can sometimes come in small packages. This is a relatively simple example of a two way radio, but that does not stop it from packing a punch. With dual power options and call alerts for incoming calls, this has all the basics. The price is variable and could be anywhere from between $30 and $50 for a set of radios. Great for hiking and an affordable price.Midland makes one of the best sleek two way radios for recreational use.
7. Baofend BF888S – Higher priced, but these come in a pack of six instead of two. The perfect choice for people going on a group hike together who want to maintain good levels of communication. These all come with an earpiece so you can utilize them in a more effective way. With a large frequency range and the addition of a Lithium-ion battery, these units have a very good battery life and are great for short range communications. Some of the features on the radio help to extend the battery life and a low voltage alert lets you know when the battery is running down so you won’t be caught off guard.
8. Motorola MG160A – A more inexpensive offering from Motorola, this unit is perfect for people looking for a radio on the cheap. It is both easy to use and easy to understand. The range is around 16 miles (2 in actual use) and there are multiple volume levels. The batteries last for an estimated 20 hours and take alkaline batteries. If there was a downside to this unit, then it would likely be the color of the unit itself. The radio comes in light blue and a light pink color.
9. Cobra CXT235 – Another 22 channel radio. This one is made by Cobra, one of the best companies in the business. The radio works utilizing UHF and FM frequencies and the range is around 20 miles. When actually using the radio, the practical range is more like 5 miles, but again, for hiking that is not a big issue. With a low price tag of $30, this is not a bad choice. It is one of the cheapest and best you can get from a good company.
10. Cobra CXT1035 – A higher end two way radio. These have a high price point of around $100. With that being said, they have a very sturdy build and they more than make up for the steep price in their usage. The radio include NOAA weather alerts and channels. It also floats if you drop it in water. The orange case helps to make the radio be more easily spotted if it is dropped on the trail. It also features voice activated transmission, which allows you to use the radios without actually having to touch them. This is extremely useful. The sturdy build and the quality craftsmanship make this a good choice, but the price is a bit of a turnoff.
Two Way Radio’s Buying Tips
Even when you have a list of the best radios for a specific purpose, it can still be extremely useful to have a bit more information about when specific radios will come in handy versus other ones. One of the most important things that you can do for yourself before you go out to make a purchase is to fully understand exactly what you need the radios for and to have an idea of what your general price range is. Different radios are good for different purposes, as nearly everyone should be aware. Besides that, there is a vast difference in prices. Knowing how much you have to spend is important in narrowing down your potential choices when buying two way radios.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when choosing two way radios for hiking:
• Know what configuration you need the radio to have. Depending on what you will be using the radio for, you may need FRS (family radio service) or GMRS (general mobile radio service) for your particular needs. Typically, GMRS or a combination is what you will want. FRS works well on flat land and travels close to the ground, but it might not be the best choice if your hike is going to include rough terrain or a lot of trees. Out of the two, GMRS is the more powerful choice.
• Do not take range into account when you are picking a radio. You want to use specification of the particular model as a guide to which one to buy if you are concerned with range. The ranges that are listed on the boxes will usually be extremely exaggerated and based on “optimal conditions” which will never be met in the real world. The longest range you can usually expect is going to be under 5 miles. Range can also be affected by obstructions, metal surfaces, topography, and weather. Most hikers will not need more than a 1 or 2 mile range for their radio but this bears mentioning nonetheless.
• Understand the conditions that you will be using the radio under. This comes into play with the above, but it definitely needs to be mentioned again. If you are going to be hiking, the needs that you have for your radio are going to be very different than the needs someone will have who is simply going to be talking to a neighbor in the city.
• Weight is another thing to keep in mind. The longer you walk with your radio, the more the weight will begin to matter to you. Find something compact and lightweight with a sleek enough design to be held in the hand comfortably.
• Having a belt clip will be very important. You definitely want to look for a unit that either has an attachable belt clip or already has one attached. Most radios come with this, but it is definitely something that you will need to keep an eye out for just in case. For good communication, you need to have easy access to your radio. Having to constantly hold it in your hand is inconvenient, as it having to store it in your backpack. Clipping it to your belt is a much better option.
• You definitely want a unit that takes loose batteries (in addition to the charging pack that comes with it). Without the ability to supplement batteries in the field, you could very easily run out of power and be left holding the metaphorical bag out on a trail somewhere with no recourse.
• Keep in mind the area that you plan to use the radio at. Most radios available in the United States will not meet communications guidelines or requirements in other countries and, thus, are not fit for use outside of the United States.
• Check for the availability of headphone jacks or silent use. If you are going to be hunting, you want to avoid having your hunting two way radio make loud sounds. Hands-free use is convenient and might be the best option for people who are hiking.
Going hiking does not necessitate the purchase of cool camping gadgets. With that being said, there is nearly always going to be a use for a communication tool when you are out in the wilderness for an extended period of time. Whether you are camping or hiking, having a reliable two way radio can mean the difference between staying lost and being found. It could be the difference between living and dying. Keep these tips in mind and try to keep your own needs in mind when trying to find a two way radio for use on your next hike. Any of the two way radios\walkie talkies on this list will suit the need, but some are better than others for specific situations.