Two ways radios are generally known as walkie talkies. They are portable small handled devices which transmit and receive radio signals for short-to-long range communication. This allows you to stay in touch with family and friends, employees or co-workers even in remote locations with no cell phone signal. They may also include additional handy features such as NOAA weather alerts. These alerts can aid you stay safe while you are out in the wilderness.
The working principle of two way radios is based on simple radio signal which is used to send and receive information through radio signals, which truly means that they rely largely on line-of-sight for very strong communications. They work best in a wide and open unobstructed area, but can also transmit through walls and other obstacles to some extent. This is why they have limited range, especially in urban and suburban areas as well as densely-wooded regions. The best two-way radios widely in demand are Midland GXT1000VP4, Motorola MS350R and Kenwood TK3402.
Types of two-way radios
- GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service): These high power 1-2 watts operating device can use up to 22 channels. You need a license to use these. Earlier, it was only available for commercial use, but now you can grab recreational GMRS radios.
- FRS (Family Radio Service): These devices can be used to operate on a half-watt and can transmit on a total of 14 channels. They do not require any license to use.
Other ways of classification includes:
- Hand-held: Your standard walkie talkies devices
- Vehicle mounted mobile: These devices can be mounted on your vehicle, as the way you expect to do, and are able to do and they will consume power by draining your vehicle’s battery. An external antenna can be used to augment their range.
- Desktop base station: These can easily draw energy from wall and function on AC power. To boost the range you will need external antenna.
- There can be a lot of variation in range. Some are good enough to go up to 8 miles while others may be up to 20. If you are standing on a flat plain right across from someone, you might actually get the full range. Otherwise, with interference of trees and walls of buildings in the way, the signal will get disrupted and you will only get some fraction of it.
- No matter what the signal range you see on the package, you can only get reception for up to 2 miles. It will be very tough if you are planning to use it on urban areas. Open wilderness conditions are best, preferably with flat terrain like plains, deserts or valley.
Power can be boosted with range variation. The higher the wattage, the better will be the range of your radios. Note that if you have GMRS radio, when you transmit on the FRS channels, you will automatically drop to a half-watt while you are operating on those channels.
When you are considering the range, the antenna is also an important part. The decree of thumb here is quite simple: The bigger the antenna, the better. Bigger antennas will have an advanced “Effective radiated power”, which may prolong your range. The only reason to go with a small antenna is if you have to in order to conveniently carry or stow the device.
No matter which type of radio you will be picking, you will perhaps come with 22 channels, each channel up to 121 “privacy codes”. These decrease the interference on the same channel. In a busy region where a lot of people are using two-way radios, you may hear interference on all of the channels. For this very reason, radios come equipped with privacy codes called CTCSS or CDCSS. These allow you to use the same channel as other users, but speak privately without interference.
Here are some additional features you can look for in your two-way radio set:
- VOX (Voice Activated Transmit)
- MIL-STD or MIL-SPEC
- IP (Ingress Protection)
- Noise filter
- Keypad lock
- Headset jack
- Weather radio
You can shop radio units by size, shape and weight, especially if your intended use is backpacking. You will want a lightweight radio that isn’t bulky. Get a radio with a good range and a long battery life that can assist you better when you go for hiking or biking.