When looking for a walkie talkie, one of the most critical buying aspects is range. When you scan through the specs of most two-way radios, you’ll be appealed by the long-range claims of most brands. However, the truth is, such ranges are only achievable under ideal circumstances.
The standard walkie talkies cover up to a few miles and are known as short-range walkie talkies. On the other hand, long-range two-way radios covering extensive distances vary from 30 miles to even a few hundred!
Some of the factors to consider to get the maximum range include FRS/GMRS frequencies, power, and environmental conditions.
How far can a Walkie talkie reach?
Walkie talkies work by transmitting directly from one device to another. The expected range out of the most standard units can go from a few hundred meters to a couple of miles.
Most brands advertise their products as having the ability to cover vast distances. However, this is only possible in ideal circumstances that are created by the brand. A device with a range of 10 miles in flat terrains may cover 2-3 miles in suburban settings in real life.
How does one then identify the actual range of a two-way radio?
A walkie talkie’s range mainly depends on factors such as power output, frequencies, and antenna quality/size. You can get an idea of a radio’s true range by looking at its power output. Typically, devices with the same power output will more or less cover the same distances.
The actual range can only be determined by looking at factors such as the landscape and elevation where you will be using it. It is best to test the radio in the desired location before giving the nod to the unit.
In a nutshell, you must be aware that the device’s actual range will be far less from what is claimed by the brand.
UHF walkie talkies are known as line-of-sight devices as their signals propagate in a straight line until they’re met with obstructions. In mountainous regions, you can expect such devices to reach 5-25 miles. The same device will be able to achieve 2-5 miles in a packed city.
In short, the more obstructions you have, the weaker the signal strength will be. You can’t expect your radio to get you much range in a densely-wooded area like a forest. The Archshell AR-6 is a fantastic UHF radio with 5-mile coverage in sites with no obstruction.
Walkie talkies are now increasingly gaining popularity among adventure-lovers for outdoor sports. It has become essential for those interested in kayaking, cruising, skiing, hunting, hiking, etc. Depending on your need, you can find devices with extensive coverage for over 20 miles, as well.
If you’re planning on spending your summer nights camping out in the woods, you cannot do without the Motorola T200TP. The sleek device reaches as far as 20-miles in open areas.
One of our highly recommended devices for skiing is the Motorola T800 with its waterproof design. This model from the brand’s Talkabout series covers a vast distance of 35-miles in no obstructions.
Expecting to hit a hundred miles on UHF/VHF bands is unrealistic. You will need to operate on the HF band of radios, which provides long-distance communication.
Furthermore, if you’re looking for the authentic two-way communication experience, what you need is a high-powered radio. Broadcasting at power wattage above the FCC-permitted limits is illegal and requires a license. The increased wattage helps in overcoming prevention by adding more pressure to the signal flow.
This one-time investment is undoubtedly worth your money given the end-results! The Uniden SX507-2CKHS reaches as far as 50-miles in ideal circumstances and lives up to the claims. It is best suited for your hiking and trail running needs!
The MOTOTRBO CP160 is a commercial walkie talkie that you may use for your long-range communication needs. It hits about 100-miles away and operates on 32 channels.
The MOTOTRBO DP4800E is a professional two-way radio designed for retail, healthcare, management, and other settings. These powerful devices have been tested to military standards and are a workhorse of connectivity. The DP4800E are fit for use both indoors and outdoors and cover a distance of 500 miles with complete ease.
They are also designed to deliver loud and clear audio, thanks to the industrial noise cancellation technology.
Another method is to operate on commercial frequencies through repeaters in elevated regions point for broader coverage. You may want to note that the cost of repeaters and high-end, long-range walkie talkies is relatively high.
Conclusively, if high range coverage is your top priority, here’s how to increase it on your current radio device:
- Switch to the GMRS channels on the high power mode.
- Use a whip antenna instead of the stubby one.
- Install a repeater by looking for a repeater service in your locality.
Long-range vs. short-range walkie talkies
Long-range walkie talkies are generally high-powered. To use the GMRS models, you need first to obtain the FCC license. Such devices were initially designed for commercial use; however, you can now find long-range recreational radios for those traveling in outlying areas.
The average units handle 30-50 miles of range. To achieve this, you need to operate these in open spaces with flat terrains. If you’re an adventure lover and go hiking or hunting quite often, these are the best choice for your needs. Remember that this range will drop to a few miles in suburban settings due to the geographical factors and obstructions around.
Short-range, FRS radios operate on ½ watt and do not require licensing. That’s one of the reasons why most individuals use such units. FRS radios have several benefits, while the only downside is the limited range.
Due to the lower power wattage, the signal strength is hampered in the process. Thus, you can only expect a few miles of coverage in city centers. If you’re looking to stay connected with neighbors, kids, or friends closeby, such devices are pretty useful!
Choosing the right walkie talkie becomes an easy task if you know how you plan on using it. The vast majority of users prefer license-free operation by staying within the FCC-permitted power limit. Such walkie talkies are inexpensive and cover short to mid-range distances of up to 10-20 miles.
On the other hand, those traveling through the countryside or having professional needs can look into the GMRS-capable devices. These are pricier than your average radios because of their extensive coverage. These vary in range from 30-miles to up to 1000-miles.
If you plan on heading to heavily wooded or mountainous areas, we recommend opting for long-range devices. You must also spend a few extra bucks for obtaining the FCC license to operate on the GMRS frequencies for the best results.