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The 5 best walkie-talkies you can buy

When backpacking and camping, cellular reception isn’t always the most reliable. You’ve been there too — you know what we’re talking about. This makes staying in contact with the rest of your party difficult. Walkie-talkies are a convenient way to ensure a reliable line of communication with your group. While some more adventurous outdoorsmen and women may need a device with a wider signal range, most will be more than satisfied with a basic two-way radio option.

Thankfully, there are hundreds of models to choose from. Here are our favorites.

More: GoTennas keep you connected where normal cell phones fear to tread

Best overall Cobra ACXT1035 FLT CAMO ($99)

From an overall utility and design standpoint, the ACXT1035 FLT CAMO is hard to top. This two-way radio has a range of up to 37 miles, which is more than enough distance for most outings. The walkie-talkie also has a water-resistance rating of IPX7, meaning you can submerge the unit in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. And since it’s designed to float, you shouldn’t have to worry about it sinking that far in the first place.

Cobra’s ACXT1035 FLT CAMO also doubles as a flashlight, thanks to a series of LED lights that line the bottom, and the device features a dual-port charger as well as support for alkaline batteries. One of the most impressive features with this unit, however, is its voice recognition technology. The walkie-talkie actually detects your voice, allowing you to communicate hands-free. A convenient rear clip on the device makes this even easier.

There are units with a wider communication range and more enhanced battery preservation settings, but the rugged build of Cobra’s flagship makes it our top pick.

Buy a pair now from:

Amazon

Best long-range — Uniden GMR5088-2CKHS ($119)

When choosing a walkie-talkie, it’s best to first determine the maximum communication range you’ll need. Although some units claim to function at distances greater than 30 miles, inclement weather and hilly terrain may greatly reduce this distance. That being said, the Uniden GMR5088-2CKHS is designed to communicate up to 50 miles from a paired device. This means even in storms in the mountains, this model should have more than enough range for most activities.

This unit is also waterproof, and can be submerged in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes. The walkie-talkie doesn’t float, however, meaning it will probably be shot if you happen to drop it in more than three feet of water. Uniden’s offering also comes as a pair, allowing you to communicate with your party at all times, and the back-lit display delivers large, clear readouts for convenient nighttime use.

There aren’t a lot of knocks against this model: You’re limited to 22 channels, for one thing, and, frankly, most people won’t need a device with a 50-mile range. Nonetheless, the GMR5088-2CKHS is one of the best walkie-talkies in its pricing bracket, especially if you’re looking for a long-range offering.

Buy a pair now from:

Amazon

Best for privacy — Midland Consumer Radio GXT1030VP4 ($63)

Communicating over a private channel is preferable when using a walkie-talkie. Unfortunately, many models limit individuals to only a handful of frequencies. In more congested areas, these channels can be quite cluttered with traffic and noise.

Luckily, the Midland Consumer Radio GXT1030VP4 offers 50 channels, as well as 142 privacy codes to ensure you always have a private channel. Sometimes it isn’t other parties muddling up your airwaves, however — it’s your own group! Midland’s model allows you to make direct calls to individuals in your party, so you don’t have to alert everyone at once. The GXT1030VP4 also offers a vibration setting to help keep excess noise to a minimum, so you can engage silent communication over a span of 36 miles (pending conditions).

This two way-radio may not be waterproof like some of the others on our list, but it is JIS4 certified for heavy downpours. The unit is also one of the few models that’s capable of sending a distress signal during emergency situations. You’ll also automatically receive National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather and hazard alerts.

At nearly 10 inches in length, it’s one of the larger units on our list. Sure, the lack of waterproofing isn’t ideal, but given its range and privacy setting, it remains a solid choice for under $60.

Buy a pair now from:

Amazon

Best budget — Motorola MH230R ($47)

The Motorola MH230R is one of the most popular walkie-talkies on the market, and for good reason. It offers a standard range of 23 miles, along with the ability to deliver automatic weather and hazard updates. One of the exceptional features of Motorola’s device, however, is the battery life. The unit can last up to 10 hours when using alkaline batteries, or eight if you opt for the rechargeable counterpart.

Like the aforementioned Midland model, this two-way radio comes with plenty of channels to ensure the utmost privacy. The MH230R uses 22 channels and 121 privacy codes, allowing for more than 2,662 combinations. It won’t blow you away with noise cancellation technology or more advanced features, yet if you’re looking for a budget model with adequate range and excellent battery life, this walkie-talkie is the real deal.

Buy a pair now from:

Amazon

Best for kids — UOKOO Kid’s Walkie-Talkie ($30)

Rather than shell out money for cell phones, some parents may choose to purchase a pair of inexpensive walkie-talkies to stay in contact with their children as they romp around the neighborhood. In these instances, UOKOO’s kid-centric model is the way to go. The walkie-talkies let you communicate over a range of four miles — more than enough if your child is playing in the neighborhood or if you become separated at the supermarket.

Each unit is also fairly loud, meaning your child won’t need to actually wear the device when out and about. A rear clip does ensure convenient hands-free stowing, however, making it more difficult for them to misplace. Other features, such as a handy auto-squelch tool designed for blocking unwanted background noise in chaotic environments, add to the package.

As for battery life, the two-way radios allow for 3.5 hours of continuous use, or about nine hours on standby. More importantly, however, is that they won’t break the bank when your child inevitable loses them.

Buy a pair now from:

Amazon