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How Do I Choose the Best Two-Way Walkie Talkie?

A few black walkie talkies.
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  • Written By: Bobby R. Goldsmith
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 14 July 2014
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The method for choosing the best two-way walkie talkie system comes with first determining the primary application for the units. The best system for long range use over rugged and mountainous terrain is different from the system necessary in urban environments, cluttered with ambient interference across the electromagnetic spectrum. Once a consumer has determined the primary environment that the walkie talkie system is to be used in, other matters of taste and preference must be accounted for. Long range systems tend to be bigger, bulkier and heavier, and can be cumbersome for hikers and rock climbers.

Multi-channel two-way walkie talkie systems offer a wide variety of uses. Having many channels available allows users the ability to overcome interference caused by atmospherics, static and other prevailing conditions by switching channels. These systems also allow better and more efficient coordination for teams or groups consisting of more than two people, who need to handle different aspects of a particular task without cluttering up the system. Even if the consumer's needs only involve communicating with one other person, multi-channel capability offers a better overall system for most applications.

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For rural environments, ruggedized walkie talkies offer a good balance between mass and usability over long distances. For consumers who plan to use a system primarily outdoors, exposed to inclement weather, ruggedized systems are the way to go. These systems are water resistant and rated to military specifications for dirt, dust, shock, temperature extremes and electromagnetic interference. Ruggedized walkie talkie systems can be expensive, but the added value provided by their durability and performance in adverse conditions may be worth it.

There are two types of frequencies used by two-way walkie talkie systems on the market. VHF systems provide a greater operable range and work well in open, uncluttered environments. They do not perform well in urban environments or in mountainous terrain, however. For those uses, consumers should select a system that operates on a UHF frequency. UHF systems perform well in areas with buildings, higher levels of electromagnetic interference, and dense walls, tall structures or mountainous terrain.

Power performance should also be a factor to consider when selecting a walkie talkie system. One-watt systems offer a limited range for users, up to 1 mile (1.6 km) in ideal conditions. Two-watt systems double the range in ideal conditions but may not be useful for certain outdoor applications. For long range two-way communications, five-watt systems provide extended range in nearly all conditions.

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Discuss this Article

sunshined
Post 4

We used to take walkie talkies with us when we went skiing as a way for our whole group to stay in touch. This worked out great as a way to keep in touch about where to meet for lunch, what chalet to go to, etc.

This was before cell phones were so popular, and many other people had the same idea as we did. This made it hard sometimes to find a channel that other people weren't using or where there wasn't much interference.

Sometimes it could be kind of interesting to hear what other people were saying, but it could also be annoying. Every time you would hear the beep notifying you someone was talking, you didn't know if it was for you or not.

myharley
Post 3

@bagley79-- As far as lack of cell phone reception, we run into this when we go hiking in the mountains. We are up far enough that there is no cell phone reception available, and we use walkie talkie radios when we need to communicate with each other.

I feel so much better knowing I have a way of communicating if we happen to get separated. We didn't purchase the most expensive set, but went with something that had a minimum of a 2 mile range.

One thing about talking them this far up in the mountains is you don't usually have to worry about other people being on the same channel as you are. You can pretty much pick any channel and know it will only be your party using it.

bagley79
Post 2

My kids went through a phase where they loved using spy gear, and a set of walkie talkie watches was one thing they enjoyed using. Their interest in this was a passing phase, and towards the end, I don't think the walkie talkie watches were working.

I can see how the price of a set of walkie talkies that was made to endure the elements and be used for long range communication would be very expensive.

Most of the time it seems like a cell phone might be an easier way to communicate, but if you were in areas where there was no cell phone reception available, you would need to rely on something like walkie talkies to communicate.

Mykol
Post 1
One year for Christmas my sister and I received a set of kids' walkie talkies. Our cousins happened to be visiting and we had a lot of fun with these. We lived in a small town, and our goal was to be able to talk to each other across town.

This was my first experience using walkie talkies, and even though they were a cheap set, I think my parents got their money's worth out of them.

Now when you walk through the toy aisle of a department store, you can find walkie talkies that are marketed for kids. Some of them even come in the form of a princess or super hero. The quality is probably about the same as what I had as a kid, they just look more appealing for kids to use.

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