7 Best Long-Range Two-Way Radios in 2020 (Review)
The term “long-range” can be misleading. Many radios will advertise transmission and reception distances upward of 35 miles—but that’s under the ideal circumstances where they are in an open field and have high visibility.
More often than not, two-way radios provide the best audio quality when they are within three or so miles of each other. That’s because rural and urban obstructions, such as woods and buildings, get in the way of the signals. Understanding these nuances can make all the difference when it comes to purchasing a long-range two-way radio.
Our goal is to highlight the essential features and cut through potentially misleading marketing. That way, you can make an educated choice when it comes to shopping for your next walkie talkie radios. Here is everything you need to know about the best long-range two-way radios in 2020.
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The Best Long-Range Two-Way Radios
1. Midland GXT1050VP4 Long Range Two-Way Radios
Midland Radio has produced radio communications products for more than 60 years. The company is one of the most respected names in the industry and is known for its high-quality, weatherproof products. The Midland GXT1050VP4 50 Channel GMRS Two-Way Radio is no exception.
The package comes with two two-way radios that offer 50 general mobile radio service (GMRS) bands. That includes a channel scanning feature, so you can quickly find interference-free communication. Midland also includes 142 CTCSS/DCS privacy codes to block other conversations in the area.
The Midland GXT1050VP4 is ideal for hunters. The exterior features a JIS4 waterproof coating as well as four different colors, including Mossy Oak’s break-up country camouflage pattern. You can also take advantage of five animal call alerts, such as cougar, crow, duck, turkey, and wolf.
Hunters will love the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather scan and alert system, too. These messages send urgent messages through ten weather band channels to warn outdoorsmen of severe weather. In addition to the radios, you’ll receive two rechargeable batteries, two boom microphone headsets, two belt clips, 120-volt dual desktop charger, an AC adapter, DC adapter, and a manual.
2. Midland LXT500VP3 Long Range Two-Way Radios
The Midland LXT500VP3 Long-Range Two-Way Radio marks the second of four Midland entries on this list. The industry giant is the oldest US manufacturer of CB Radios and has affiliates from the UK to Ukraine. Simply put—the company makes products with undeniable performance and versatility.
The Midland LXT500VP3 is notable for its simplicity. The intuitive display features a PTT button, a call/lock button, a scan feature, and a togglable menu. You can initiate the keypad lock when it is not in use to prevent unwanted keystrokes.
The device has a signal with up to 24 miles of range. The signal and audio quality are best in an open field where there are minimal obstructions. During usage, you can select between 22 Family Radio Service (FRS) bands, which comes with a channel scanning option.
Each Midland LXT500VP3 comes with two long-range handheld radios, two rechargeable batteries, a desktop charger, an AC wall adapter, two belt clips, and a manual. There are also three color options, including black, black/blue, and black/mossy oak camo.
3. Motorola MR350R Long Range Two-Way Radios
Motorola is well-known for dabbling in all forms of telecommunications. The multinational company producers everything from digital video records to wireless networks to telephones. One of their shining stars is the Motorola MR350R 35-Mile Range 22-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio.
Motorola designed these two-radios specifically for avid outdoorsmen. You will find every feature necessary to conquer the outdoors from a rugged exterior to NOAA weather alerts to 22 channels and 121 privacy codes. It also has a mobile range service of 35 miles.
One of the understated benefits of the Motorola MR350R is its design. The lightweight two-radios have an easy-to-read display with large buttons, which you can operator even with gloves. It can also handle iVOX hands-free communication without additional audio components.
Some of the other handy features include a built-in LED flashlight, dual power sources, and water-resistance. If there is any hesitation, it is the price tag, which is on the high side. Regardless, no matter what you encounter in the great outdoors, the Motorola MR350R will get you where you need to go.
4. Midland LXT600VP3
When it comes to straightforward and reliable communication, it’s hard to do better than the Midland LXT600VP3 36 Channel FRS Two-Way Radio. This compact device features a simplified interface that even the non-technically inclined can decipher. That includes hands-free operation with Sound Activation Transmission (eVOX).
The Midland LXT600VP3 has 36 FRS channels that you can scan for interference-free communication. There are 121 CTCSS privacy codes, too, which, when multiplied together, give you 2,662 channels for a group call. The devices will also work up to 30 miles, depending on the number of obstructions.
Midland prides itself on the sound quality of its radio communication. You’ll note crisp, clear channels, especially in an open field. The two-way radios come with additional NOAA weather alerts when severe weather is imminent.
The two-way radio comes with a modest price tag. Beginners and seasoned veterans will savor the high-powered performance, durable construction, and lightweight design. Note the channels 23 through 36 are a mixture of pre-programmed FRS/GRMS options.
5. Midland LXT118VP
The Midland LXT118VP 22 Channel FRS Two-Way Radio is the most budget-friendly option on this list. It includes six rechargeable batteries, an AC adapter, two belt clips, and a manual. This value makes it an ideal option for beginners or amateurs.
Let’s start with the basics. The Midland LXT118VP has a respectable 18 miles of range and 22 FRS channels. While other options have longer range potential, none of them come in at this price point. You can opt to have hands-free operation, too, thanks to the Easy Voice and Sound Activation Transmission (eVOX).
As for the interface, the keypad features four buttons, including up, down, scan, and mode. You can prevent accidental keystrokes when it is not in use with a lock feature. You can turn keystroke tones for audible confirmation, or turn it to silent, depending on the environment and personal preferences.
The Midland LXT118VP has an ample number of features, including weather-resistance, call alerts, and HI/LO power settings. These enable you to get the most out of your two-way radios wherever it takes you. While the device lacks the battery life and durability of its counterparts, the price tag is a bargain.
6. Cobra CXR925
Cobra is one of the many popular private labels made under Uniden. The Japanese wireless communications company has been in business for more than 50 years and, at one point, was the world’s largest producer of cordless phones. Today, they continue to produce a wide range of radio communication products, including Cobra CXR925 Walkie Talkies.
The Cobra CX925 Walkie Talkies come with two-way radios capable of call tones up to 35 miles. The devices also include 22 channels and 142 privacy codes for 3,124 unique combinations. Additionally, there are ten channels dedicated to NOAA weather alerts.
There are plenty of memory features to make life easier for you. That includes a Rewind-Sway-Again Digital Voice Recorder, which plays back the last 20 seconds of audio, in case someone misses it the first time. There is also a 10 Channel Memory that lets you program combinations for easy access.
One of the knocks on the Cobra CX925 Walkie Talkies is the audio quality. Customers consistently report low sound volume and occasional issues with the hands-free operation. Regardless, the pros of the walkie talkie outweigh the minor setbacks.
7. Uniden GMR5095-2CKHS
Outdoor enthusiasts should check out the Uniden GMR5095-2CKHS Submersible Two-Way Radio. Whether you are planning on exploring the open water or rugged hiking cliffs, the durable construction will hold up to the elements. It can even stay afloat on water or stay submerged for up to 30 minutes.
The Uniden two-way radio features 22 channels with 284 privacy codes. Half of those privacy codes are standard, while the remaining 142 are for exclusive group call modes. The FRS channels are ideal for short-range communication, while the GMRS is better when talking at the maximum range.
The convenient charging base makes it easy for you to ensure a charge wherever you go. The two-way radios can utilize a standard USB mini cable, too. Additionally, the device offers NOAA weather alerts and comes with two headsets upon delivery.
One drawback to the Uniden longest range two-way radio is their quiet audio levels. This feature can be particularly problematic when you are at the outer limits of their range. Note that the 50-mile range is closer to four or five in clustered environments.
How to Choose Long-Range Two-Way Radios – 5 Key Features to Look For
The reasons to choose a long-range two-way radio will depend on how you plan to use it. Different terrains and conditions merit unique features and solutions. Here are a couple of factors worth considering when buying a two-way radio:
- Company reputation
- Audio quality
- Range coverage
- Ease of use
Trust and legacy go a long way when reflecting the caliber of a company’s products. It is not a coincidence that some of the most trusted businesses, such as FedEx, Google, and PayPal, also dominate their industries. Trust is not easy to obtain, though. It reflects a long-standing commitment to serving customer needs with high-quality and reliable products.
Some of the most trusted names for two-way radios, include Midland, BaoFeng, and Motorola. These companies consistently test at the top year after year. While the brand name shouldn’t make or break a purchase, it can be an influential factor.
A two-way radio can have all the practical features in the world. Still, it will be worthless if the signal is unclear. Minimizing distortion or interference is an essential part of reliable communication and should be a top priority for any customer. Additionally, make sure the radios have high sound volume, in case of usage in a noisy environment.
Remember, the range coverage will depend entirely on the environment. Even a sparsely wooded area can dramatically cut down on the maximum coverage. Most of the models on this list offer 30 to 50 miles of range, though, in tight circumstances, that figure will likely be in the single digits.
A well-made two-way radio can last you for decades if properly maintained. Part of the longevity comes from high-quality parts, while the other comes from a rugged outer shell. Ideally, you want to purchase radios that are resistant to shock and water and can handle whatever wear and tear come along with the job.
Midland and BaoFeng radios are notable for their durability. Midland offers compact two-way radios that have well-protected knobs and antennae. Meanwhile, BaoFeng products are chunky and dense but highly resistant to shocks or falls.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is crucial, especially for beginners or introductory users. You want to quickly find open channels, talk with others, and receive alerts without the process being a hassle-free. Anything obstructs this flow is a waste of time.
The Motorola MR350R is a prime example of outstanding design. The device has a lightweight design and an easy-to-read display. Additionally, the two-radio has hands-free operation and is usable even with heavy gloves.
3 Things to Think of When Using a Two-Way Radio Over Long Distances
Obstructions are the most influential factor when it comes to determining the maximum range of a two-radio. That is because radios frequencies operate on a line-of-sight path. The signal wants to travel in the straightest possible line and can’t pass through metallic objects, rocks, or trees. Even the curvature of the earth can impact audio quality.
If you are planning to use two-way radios over long distances, you must consider the environment. Unless you are on open water, a meadow, or a desert, there will likely be obstructions. In those cases, you should be cautious about testing the outer limits of the coverage.
FRS versus GMRS
The wattage of the two-way radio will influence the overall signal strength. FRS models are ideal for a maximum range of five or six miles, while GMRS products can handle anything up to 25 miles. ]High-powered radios are more expensive, but they are a worthy investment in higher-risk scenarios.
The use of a long-range handheld radio from the United States is not typically permissible outside of North America. As of 2005, the United States and Canada have had the same frequency requirements for two-way radios. However, in Mexico, outside of law enforcement and the military, users can only use FRS channels.
Which Two-Way Radios Are Best Suited for Outdoor Activities?
The outdoors usually comes with a range of hurdles for wireless communications. Whether there are trees, mountains, rocks, or valleys, these obstacles can obfuscate or block a signal. That’s why it is critical to have a two-way radio with robust signal strength.
One key component is the antenna. A well-placed antenna will ultimately shape the quality of the transmission and reception between radios. It also helps to be high-powered, in case the location is less than ideal.
How Much Should You Pay for a Top-Quality Long-Range Two-Way Radio?
The radios listed here cost anywhere from $30 to $400. That includes two receivers instead of one. The price will depend on the style as FRS radios are often the cheapest. Commercial business two-way radios can cost anywhere for $200 to $500 while professional models go from $500 to $1,200.