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How to Choose the Best Two-Way Radio

Midland two-way radios

Featured Radio: Midland 50 Channel Waterproof GMRS Two-Way Radio

Two-way radios provide a simple, cost-effective means of communication for anyone needing immediate, reliable information. From short-range walkie-talkies to long-range and multi-channel systems, understanding the different features and functions is essential to finding the best two-way radio for your needs.

I use a handheld radio almost every weekend. Two-way radios are great for communicating in areas that do not have cell phone coverage. We use them nearly every time we pull the camper because many campsites are dark and have zero reception. I also bring them on family hiking trips; the kids love talking back and forth with each other, allowing us to stay in touch while taking different trails. 

Two-way radios are valuable for staying connected when cell phone service is unreliable or unavailable. Whether hiking in the mountains, working on a construction site, or coordinating a team event, a two-way radio can provide reliable communication between you and your group. But with so many available options, it can take time to know how to choose the best two-way radio for your needs. This article will outline the key factors to consider when selecting a two-way radio.

Understand the different types of two-way radios.

A wide range of two-way radios is available, each with different features and capabilities. Commercial-grade two-way radios often provide incredible transmission range, power, durability, and additional features. If cost is an issue, consumer-grade walkie-talkies or handhelds may be more affordable. Understand the various types and capabilities to make an informed decision when choosing a two-way radio. Also, consider installing a CB radio in your vehicle in case of emergency. 

Hand-held or portable two-way radios are among the most popular radios and are great for outdoor activities such as hiking and camping. They are lightweight, highly durable, and have an extended battery life. On the other hand, mobile two-way radios are typically larger than handhelds and more potent with longer transmission distances. Another type of two-way radio is the base station radio which is installed either in a vehicle or at a fixed location and often includes external antennas to help strengthen signals during transmissions. It’s essential to research various types of two-way radios before purchasing so you can choose the suitable device for your needs.

Consider factors like frequency, weather conditions, and range.

Consider what type of features and capabilities your two-way radio needs. Frequency, weather conditions, and range are essential for selecting a two-way radio. Different frequencies provide greater or lesser coverage, so finding the right frequency for your environment is crucial. UHF two-way radios offer an improved range in urban environments, while VHF radios provide a better range in rural locations. Weather conditions can also affect a radio’s performance – select a resistant and waterproof model to function appropriately in any environment. Consider the model’s transmission range to ensure it fits your communication needs.

People who require communication over a significant distance often use long-range two-way radios. In addition to considering factors such as frequency, weather conditions, and range, the power output is another factor to consider when selecting a long-range two-way radio. Search for radio broadcasting at higher power levels as they can provide more excellent coverage in rural areas. Additionally, choose a model that uses an internal or an external antenna that is highly efficient to have maximum reception performance over long distances.

Understand how two-way radios use power sources.

Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Lithium-Ion (LiIon) are familiar power sources in two-way radios. NiMH batteries offer a longer battery life but require occasional charging. LiIon batteries have shorter battery life but do not suffer memory effects and can be recharged more frequently. Many two-way radios feature rechargeable solar panels and hand-crank generators.

When considering a two-way radio, it is vital to understand the differences between the power sources available. NiMH batteries are cheaper and offer a longer life but may require occasional charging. LiIon batteries have shorter battery life but do not suffer from memory effects and can be charged more frequently. Additionally, newer two-way radios feature rechargeable solar panels and hand crank generators, making them ideal for emergency communication where access to power may be limited. Knowing the differences between these power sources will help you decide when purchasing a two-way radio.

Take features like noise canceling into account when selecting a two-way radio.

Depending on where you plan to use the two-way radio, features such as noise-canceling can significantly improve your experience. For instance, if you plan to use it outside with motorcycles or in a noisy environment, noise canceling will help filter out unwanted background noise and provide clear communication. Some two-way radios also feature water-resistant technology, especially for outdoor activities like hiking and camping.

When selecting a two-way radio, make sure to read the specifications to check if it includes noise-canceling technology or not. You should also look for other features to enhance your experiences, such as private line (PL) access, push-to-talk (PTT) capabilities, and long battery life. With the right features, a two-way radio can provide reliable and clear communication in any environment.

Consider the features you need for your two-way radio.

When shopping for two-way radios, you should also consider what available accessories and features. You may find that accessories like headsets and microphones make communication much more manageable in a noisy environment. Some two-way radios have additional features such as built-in emergency transmitters, transceivers (to help you extend your range), and privacy screens for personal information. Consider what accessories you need to use your two-way radio effectively, and look for models that offer those features.

Additionally, if you’re using your two-way radio outdoors, it’s essential to have a model that can withstand any rough treatment. Many modern-day two-way radios come with ergonomic designs and waterproof finishes, so they won’t break or damage when exposed to the elements. Make sure you invest in a high-quality two-way radio with features designed for harsh use — even more so if you plan on taking your two-way radio for long journeys. With the right accessories and parts, you can stay in touch easily wherever your travels take you.


One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a two-way radio is its range. The range of a two-way radio refers to the maximum distance over which it can transmit and receive messages. This can vary widely depending on the specific radio model and factors such as terrain and weather conditions.

When considering range, it is essential to think about your specific use case. If you use the radio in an area with many obstacles, such as buildings or trees, you may need a radio with a more extended range than if you were using it in an open field. Remember that the content listed by manufacturers is often based on ideal conditions, so you may want to err on the side of caution and choose a radio with a slightly extended range than you think you will need.

Battery Life

Another critical factor to consider when selecting a two-way radio is battery life. You want to choose a radio with a battery that will last long enough for your needs without frequent recharging or battery replacements.

Battery life can vary widely depending on the specific radio model and factors such as usage patterns and temperature. It is essential to consider how often you will be using the radio and how long you will use it each time. If you are using the radio for extended periods, choose a model with a larger battery or use external battery packs.


If you will be using your two-way radio in rugged or outdoor environments, choosing a durable model that can withstand the elements is essential. Look for radios that are waterproof, dustproof, and shock-resistant. Some models are also designed to meet military standards for durability.

Ease of Use

Another essential factor to consider when selecting a two-way radio is the ease of use. You want to choose an intuitive radio that is easy to operate, even in stressful or emergency situations.

Look for radios with clear and easy-to-read displays and simple and straightforward controls. Consider how easy it is to program the radio and whether it has features such as voice-activated communication or hands-free operation.

Frequency Band and Licensing

Finally, when selecting a two-way radio, it is crucial to consider the frequency band and licensing requirements. Radios operate on specific frequency bands, and your chosen frequency will affect factors such as range and interference. In addition, some frequency bands require a license to operate, while others do not.

Before choosing a radio, research the frequency bands available in your area and determine whether you need a license to operate on that band. If you need clarification, consult a professional or government agency to ensure you follow all regulations.

In Conclusion: 

Choosing the best two-way radio requires careful consideration of your specific needs and circumstances. Factors such as range, battery life, durability, and ease of use should all be considered when selecting a two-way radio. It is also essential to consider your chosen radio’s frequency band and licensing requirements. By researching and weighing these factors, you can select a two-way radio that meets your needs and provides reliable communication when you need it most.