How to Choose the Best Walkie Talkie for Camping & Hiking

We have been through some challenging times since the past few months. Now that the global lockdowns are being slowly lifted, a lot of us are already planning our long-awaited camping, trekking and hiking trips in order to improve the state of our mental health, and quite rightly so.

If you are planning on one of these trips and if you know how to choose the best walkie talkie for camping & hiking trips, you could have a really nice adventure. Since most of those destinations and locations usually do not have cellular service, you really need to equip yourself with these devices to ensure communication with the rest of your group members.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Walkie Talkie

Let us now have a look at the factors that you need to keep in mind before buying a walkie talkie for yourself.

Should be Waterproof

This is one of the most important features that your walkie talkie should have. You might have planned for destinations or routes taking into consideration the weather forecasts during your travel days. However, it is quite usual for these forecasts to not be as accurate as you might expect them to be.

If you are not equipped with durable water resistant walkie talkies or 100% waterproof radio sets, you might land yourself in trouble as poor communication plus rains or thunderstorms can get dangerous for you and your group members’ safety. 

You should know that there is a difference between a water resistant and a waterproof walkie talkie set. A water resistant radio set will only be able to withstand some sort of water exposure. On the other hand, a waterproof set will work even if it is completely submerged under water.

Adequate Range

Depending on your travel destinations, routes, hiking trails, number of people in your group, etc., you need to ensure that your walkie talkie should have sufficient range to be in communication with your group members at any given time.

Most of the two-way walkie talkie radio sets available in the market work on both FRS and GMRS frequencies. FRS (Family Radio Service) is a low power frequency with free channels and has a shorter range. The GMRS (General Mobile Radio Services) is a high power broadcast frequency that can give you longer ranges, however, these channels need an FCC license.

Most walkie talkie brands offer somewhere between 20-50 miles of range, however, these are under ideal weather conditions and broad daylight. In reality, these devices will offer a far lower range – around 1 to 3 miles at the most.

Voice Clarity

You can have a walkie talkie 2-way radio set of 50+ miles, however, if you can’t really understand what the other person is saying from the other end, it is quite useless.

Voice clarity is as important as the range of the radio set. When we mentioned 1 to 3 miles above, by that we meant the range a decent walkie talkie set will offer while ensuring voice clarity.

Emergency Features

You need to make sure that the walkie talkie radio set comes with the basic emergency features such as NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) updates related to weather and natural disasters.

These updates are broadcasted over emergency radio channels and some models even have the functionality to notify you via alerts, instead of you having to manually check for these updates. Just like the notifications that work in your mobile phone.

Battery Life

A lot of communication and safety precautions will be based on your walkie talkie sets. The last thing you would want is your radio set running out of battery at a wrong time.

Most walkie talkies use AA, AAA or lithium-ion batteries, nickel-metal hydride or a Nickel-Cadmium battery – depending on the model that you go for. A regular walkie talkie set should give you between 7 to 15 hours of battery time with normal usage.

Weight & Size

The design of the product matters a lot, since you do not want to be carrying a walkie talkie radio set that is too big or too heavy. Remember, there will be a lot else that you will be carrying with you or on your trekking suit that you will be wearing, so you need to be very precise about the size and weight of your gadgets that you will be carrying along.

Most of the devices these days weigh somewhere between 6 to 10 ounces. Apart from the device’s weight, you also need to count in the weight of those rechargeable battery packs that is very much advised, particularly if your trip is of a longer duration. 

VHF VS UHF Radios

Another important factor to consider is whether the walkie talkie you are about to purchase is a VHF (Very High Frequency) or a UHF (Ultra High Frequency) radio set.

VHF sets work at 126-174 MHz. They can perform well on locations with less number of buildings or landscapes. On the other hand, UHF walkie talkie radio sets operate at 400-512 MHz and can penetrate through structures and buildings without affecting voice clarity.

However, you need to be aware of the fact that UHF and VHF frequencies are not compatible. So if you are going to buy more than one pairs, make sure they all are of the same type.

Choosing the Best Walkie Talkie – In a Nutshell

Keeping all the aforementioned factors into consideration, make sure you go for a walkie talkie radio set that performs well in most of these areas, if not all. Remember, it all depends on the nature of your hiking or camping trip. 

The various elements that are associated with your trip like the conditions, terrain, duration, size of group, etc. will all make a difference here. So the first step is to know your own requirements and then look for products that meet those requirements.

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