Close banner

Support Outside Online

Love Outside?

Help fund our award-winning journalism with a contribution today.

Contribute to Outside
GearTools & Tech

What's a durable two-way radio for outdoor activities?

I looking for a two-way radio. I don't know much about them and need some advice on a dependable and weatherproof model for outdoor activities such as camping and boating. So it would need to be. I hear you need a license for anything that has range of over five miles and would like to avoid that. KJ San Diego, California

A: Well, there are two things you need to know. One, the radios you see at ski resorts, such as the Kenwood Freetalk, use what is called the Family Radio Service (FRS) frequency set. Those have a range of about two miles, line of sight, although from a practical standpoint about one mile is the limit. Everything else uses frequencies that are governed by the FCC, and that require a license for use. So as far as a radio with five miles of range and no license, there's no way.

That limits your choices. A few of the Family Radio units are pretty durable. The Motorola Talkabout 6300 ($90) would be a good choice, and you can always put it in a heavy-duty freezer bag to give it some waterproofness. These units have obvious limitations in terms of range, but they're pretty good for use around camp or when out on the water. They won't reach over a mountaintop, but then neither will more powerful radios without a repeater or some other device that can intercept the signal and forward it to the next station. So my advice would be to get pair of FRS radios, live with the shortcomings, and call it good. Somehow we all got by for years without ANYTHING like this, so I think you'll find a FreeTalk or Talkabout a suitable device.

Support Outside Online

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.

Contribute to Outside
Filed To: CommunicationsCell Phones