Best Two Way Radio

Two Way Radios Review

The best two-way radio has many convenient features that help you get the job done when you’re out in the field.  Some of these helpful features include a longer battery life, automatic weather scanning, and plenty of available channels.  Our pick, the Midland GXT136-Mile 50-Channel Two-Way Radio, combines these features with a host of others to provide users with a truly exceptional two-way radio that is reliable out in the field.

Introduction to the Two Way Radios

Two way radios are electronic, handheld devices that you can use to talk to and hear people who are far away but within a certain distance of you. Many people think that a two way radio is the same as a walkie talkie but advancements in technology has set walkie talkies and two way radios apart in many ways.

There are many different types of two way radios on the market for you to choose from. There are also many features they can have depending on the model you are considering. Knowing what to look for and what features enhance performance of the two way radio you are considering purchasing is always a good idea.

This buyer’s guide can help you understand two way radios better so you can sort through the many choices and choose the one that will meet your needs the best. We will go over many of the different features and characteristics of the different models so you can see which type fits your preferences and which are better suited to other needs.

Best Overall Two Way Radio

Midland GXT136-Mile 50-Channel Two-Way Radio

Midland is a well-known name in quality two-way radios with many different models to choose from.  The GXT136 two-way radio provides an impressive 36 mile range in areas with little or no obstruction.

There are 22 standard channels plus 28 extras that provide the user with crisp, clear communication and simple button access.

Other features include a handy vibrate alert, 9 levels of VOX that provide operation without needing your hands and 142 privacy codes so you can block other conversations if needed.

This two-way radio will automatically lock onto the local weather channel for your area and provide alerts for severe weather that might happen around you.

A feature we found very helpful is the SOS siren that allows users to send out locator signals in the event of an emergency.  This radio is waterproof and won’t get ruined when used in light rain or if it is splashed with water.

The reception is so clear that you can whisper and still be heard by others within range on the same channel.  You can set animal call alerts or regular call alerts to notify others of certain animals in the area or if you need to distinguish between different callers in your group and know right away who is calling.

We also found the dual watch, which allows monitoring of two channels and the keypad lock features, to be very convenient.  This two-way radio provides users with every convenience and feature you can think of which makes using it very easy.

These radios can even be used easily at night thanks to the bright LCD, backlit display. The battery life extender provides users with a longer battery life for long excursions. You can either use 4 AA or 4 rechargeable batteries. Batteries are sold separately.

Midland LXT600VP3 36-Channel Two Way Radio

Midland does it again with the LXT600VP3 two way radio that provides users with 36 channels and up to 26 miles of reception in unobstructed areas.

Features include an all-hazards alert that allows the handsets to automatically receive Amber Alerts, fire warnings, landslide warnings and other emergency announcements.

The convenient weather channel scan feature locates the nearest NOAA channel so you can stay up to date on any weather emergencies or hazards in your area.

These radios run on rechargeable batteries which are included, as is a dual desktop charger for convenient recharging. Each channel offers 121 privacy codes and there are other convenient features too such as the battery save circuit and the keypad lock.  There are 5 call alerts that can be set and it is also water resistant.

Best Budget Two Way Radio

Motorola 23-Mile Range 22-Channel RS Two-Way Radio

Motorola is a well known name in electronics and these two-way radios show just how much quality their products have. This 23-mile-range set provides 22 channels, each one equipped with 121 privacy codes which provides exceptional interference protection.

Each radio will run for 10 hours on an alkaline or 8 hours on a rechargeable battery. There are 11 NOAA weather channels along with alerts and 10 different call tones that can be assigned to the different members of the group. These Motorola two-way radios are also water resistant so you don’t have to worry if you are caught in the rain.

These must-have radios provide excellent communication for outdoor enthusiasts, search-and-rescue workers, and others groups who need to stay in touch. They can even be used indoors and can be perfect for camping and hiking trips by adding a level of safety to being outdoors.

TTwo Way Radios Summary

Two way radios are used for a multitude of activities including camping, hiking, search-and-rescue missions, natural disasters, concerts and much more. There are many different types of two way radios on the market and there are tons of features on the many different models.

The three models that we reviewed above are good-quality radios that are feature rich with good ranges. Any one of them would be an excellent choice for those looking to have a reliable and secure connection with other group members when they are outdoors or in a packed arena.

If you are looking for something different than what these three, top-rated two-way radio sets offer, read the buyer’s guide below to learn more about what a good quality, two-way radio offers and how to tell the difference from the available choices.

Two Way Radio Comparison


Midland GTX136
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Midland LXT600
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Motorola
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BaoFeng BFF8HP
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BaoFeng BF888S
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Midland LXT500
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Uniden
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Retevis H777
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BaoFeng LYSB
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Cobra
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Channels5036221281622161612822
Miles36302330352420233523
ColorCamouflageBlack
/ Camo
/ Yellow
YellowBlackBlackBlackBlackBlackBlackBlack
Privacy
Code
142121121505012112112150121
Levels
of VOX
9373339533
Call
Alerts
10510101051010105
Battery4 AA3 AAA3 AAA2000mAh2800mAh4 AAA1500mAh1500mAh1800mAh6 AA
Warranty
(Years)
3311133111
Package222 / 311 / 2 / 20211052

 

Two Way Radio Buying Guide

Two Way Radio Reviews

Types of Two Way Radios

There are two types of two way radios that are on the market today and they operate on different bands. Hybrids are available too but the main offerings you will find will be one of these two, basic types.

  • FRS – The first FRS band was created in 1966.  This type of two-way radio operates at ½ a watt, which is a lower point than the GMRS radios.  They usually transmit on a minimum of 7 FRS channels and also on shared channels.
  • GMRS – These are more powerful that the FRS radios and operate at a max of 50 watts.  This is significantly more powerful than the FRS’s ½ watt operation.  In the 1940s, the FCC created the GMRS band for commercial use. Now consumers can purchase GMRS radios for recreational use but may be required to obtain a 5-year license from the FCC.

Two Way Radio Features

There are several features you want to look at when you are shopping for the best two-way radio for your needs. We have listed these below so you know exactly what to check into when you start your research.

  • Channel Capabilities – Most radios on the market, especially those used for outdoor activities, have 22 basic channels that are either on the FRS or GMRS bands.  Many of the radios (including those we reviewed above) offer extra channels.  This is a good feature, especially in crowded areas where finding a clear channel can be more difficult.  The more channels offered, the better your chances are of finding a free channel. Don’t forget that using the GMRS channels require a 5-year family license that you can get from the FCC.
  • Range of Coverage – Two way radios offer coverage that ranges from 25 miles to as much as 50 miles.  However, consumers need to be aware that those distances are based on testing done in optimal conditions which often include flat terrain.  Real world conditions are not typically flat which will affect the range of your radio. 

    The FRS-only models may provide a maximum range of 5-8 miles and the GMRS may offer coverage that goes from 8-25 miles. Larger GMRS models are more often used for base-type operations and not for hand held activities.  The more power a model has the better the quality of the signal.  Higher powered two way radios are more expensive but if signal quality and range is high on your priority list, it may be worth spending the extra money.

  • Size/Weight – Two way radios come in all shapes and sizes.  If you will be using the radios for hiking and camping you want to look for two way radios that offer a less bulky weight and size.   If you will be using the radio while skiing or hiking where cold weather is prevalent, you will do well with ergonomic models that fit easily in your hand even when wearing gloves.  Look for radios that have an antenna as long as the radio’s body for peak power.
  • Calling/Paging – There are many pre-set tones that a two way radio can offer.  This works well to alert group members that you are getting ready to talk.  Some models also have vibrating alerts.
  • Keypad Lock – A keypad lock protects your settings from being erased or changed when you are actively moving around.
  • Weather Radio – The NOAA weather stations are those that most two way radios tap into automatically.  This is a very important feature for those who are using radios in the wilderness.  This ability to know the weather will help you keep track of emergencies and bad conditions occurring in your local area.
  • Noise Filter – This feature helps two-way radios achieve better signals and a broader range when in use.
  • Batteries – Two way radios will either run on 2 or 3 AA batteries or rechargeable batteries if you have them.  Some models do come with rechargeable battery packs.  If your two-way radios are high powered, the batteries will drain much more quickly so it is always a good idea to keep plenty of extras on hand.
  • Scanning – Most radios have channel scanners that make finding the channels you are looking for much easier.  This scanning feature also kicks in when the two-way is looking for the local weather stations.
  • Compatibility – Two way radios that are broadcasting using the same FRS or GMRS frequencies and that support the same channels will work together.  One thing to keep in mind is that radios that offer the same features will work the best together and allow those features to be fully utilized.  Most radios are sold in pairs but if you are outfitting a group of people, there are sets sold in packs of 6, 10 and even more that will work together and support the same features.
  • Usage Area – If the two way radios you are considering are made for use in the USA, they are not going to be legal to use outside of North America.  Canada is aligned with the US on the frequencies and Mexico only uses FRS frequencies. The best way to find out about this if it is an issue is to check with the FCC for information.  Most other countries use FRS or GMRS frequencies for police, military and other professional applications so you may need to find out if those channels are restricted or not.

Conclusion

Two way radios are used for professional, commercial and recreational use. If you are interested in purchasing a set of two-way radios it is important to know what features they offer and what those features will provide in real world applications.

With many choices of radio available, you are sure to find a model and style to fit every need you might have for a two-way radio. The information we provided in this buyer’s guide is designed to help you understand all the features and capabilities of two way radios. With this knowledge you will be able to choose the best two way radios for your needs.

Resources

  1. Midland – https://midlandusa.com/
  2. Motorola – http://www.motorolasolutions.com/en_us.html