While normal mobile phones can be great in normal situations and circumstances, they can be a bit unreliable when using them in the mountains. Mountains – especially the untamed and uncharted ones – can give signal issues to cell phones.
That is why it is much better and more advisable to use two-way radios instead. Since two-way radios use radio waves to communicate (as compared to cell phone signals), they aren’t dependent on any cell towers or anything. The waves are transmitted from one radio to the other without any intermediary.
When you’re in the mountains, having a reliable way to communicate is essential. Different types of accidents and unlikely incidents can occur, and they can be all the more dangerous if you happen to be uninhabited and lonely without anyone around you.
Related: Best Ski Straps For Carrying
Considering these sorts of situations, it is highly recommended to have two-way radios with you. And not just any two-way radios. You have to ensure that you buy the right ones from trustworthy brands so that they don’t malfunction or stop working when you need them.
When you want to buy a two-way radio for use in the mountains, there are different features that you have to keep an eye out for. Among other things, you have to make sure that your contemplated radio has a big battery life, a large number of supported channels/privacy codes, and a long transmission range.
- What Is The Average Talking Distance Of A Two-Way Radio?
- The Pros And Cons Of A Two-Way Radio?
- When Should I Buy A Two-Way Radio?
- 1 . Motorola T200TP Roundabout Radio – Best Overall
- 2 . Midland X-Talker – Runner Up
- 3 . Baofeng BF-88ST – Budget Pick
- 4 . Midland 50 Channel Two-Way Radio
- 5 . Motorola T260
- 6 . Motorola Talkabout T465
- 7 . Motorola Talkabout T800
- Buying Guide: How To Buy The Best Two-Way Radios In 2023
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Average Talking Distance Of A Two-Way Radio?
The average talking distance of a two-way radio is around 5 – 6 miles. There are a lot of devices (some of which we will be discussed below) that go way above this, i.e., 20 to 30 miles. But, since we’re talking about the average, we also have to bring the smaller-ranged radios into the calculation.
Some two-way radios are designed to be used in a smaller setting, i.e., in a store or a particular building. These types of radios have a range of around a couple of miles at most.
Incidentally, using these radios can be fine even in the mountains if the particular area you plan on going to is not too large.
The Pros And Cons Of A Two-Way Radio?
The main benefit of using a two-way radio is that it can function without the need and presence of cell phone towers. Even in a desolate and completely empty area with no towers or buildings whatsoever, you will still be able to use a two-radio…provided that the device you are using has enough range.
Another benefit of using radios is (and this is a bit of an old thing now, in cell phones) that multiple people can talk to each other. They just have to tap on the same channel, and everyone will be able to hear…everyone.
This leads nicely to the con that we want to discuss. And that is the lack of privacy.
When using a radio, you use the same waves and signals as everyone else. While you can use privacy codes (more about these later on in the post) to block interference, you can’t enjoy the two-way encryption found in cell phone calls.
When Should I Buy A Two-Way Radio?
There are a lot of mountainous regions and areas that contain full-fledged habitations, i.e., towns and cities. These places have cell phone coverage, and you’ll be fine using just your phone. These places are not where you want to buy a two-way radio.
You have to get radios for places that don’t have cell phone coverage or if the coverage is sparse and problematic.
So, as we mentioned earlier, when you want to buy two-way radios for use in the mountains, you have to make sure that you buy the right ones. For the next part of this post, we will look at some good ones you can buy in 2023.
1 . Motorola T200TP Roundabout Radio – Best Overall
Coming up first on our list is the Motorola T200TP Roundabout Radio. This radio comes with a number of useful features and is also available at a reasonable price, which makes it an overall good package.
We’ll talk about the features one by one so as not to create a muddle. Let’s talk about the channels first.
The Motorola T200TP comes with 22 different channels, each with 121 privacy codes. Thanks to the many channels available, you can find a free one somewhat easily. The privacy codes make it all the easier to have interference-free communication.
After the supported channels, the power system of the Motorola T200TP radio comes next. The radio basically works on both, i.e. AA cells and chargeable batteries. You can charge the batteries using a standard micro-USB connector, whereas the cells can be swapped when the old ones run out. Thanks to this ‘dual-power’ system, the chances of completely running out of power in the middle of nowhere are drastically reduced.
The compatibility and range of the Motorola T200TP are also remarkable. It can work with other two-way radios without any issues. In other words, this radio is not restricted to only being used with others of the same model. You can use it easily with different radios – they are two-way. As for the range, the Motorola can be used from as far as 20 miles.
Mind you, the 20-mile range is not applicable in all conditions. According to the brand, this device will work 20 miles from a mountain to its valley. In open water, the range is around 5 miles, whereas you can use it for as far as 1 mile in a neighborhood. The difference in range is due to the presence of obstructions and interferences.
The Motorola T200TP can also be used with earphones and headphones thanks to the 3.5mm jack at the top. The radio also comes with a clip at the back, using which you can secure it to a belt or a strap. This can give you a comfortable ‘hands-free’ experience when using it.
What Makes The Motorola T200tp Ideal For Longer Outdoor Excursions In 2023?
The Motorola T200TP is ideal for longer outdoor excursions thanks to its large battery life and long signal range. According to the brand itself, the radio can work for up to 20 miles from a mountain to a valley, i.e., in an unobstructed mountainous region.
Theoretically speaking, someone standing on a mountain peak twice as tall as Everest would be able to talk to a person standing right at the base. (I.e., Everest is around 9 miles tall).
Besides the signal range, the 12-hour battery life of this radio also makes it suitable for long excursions. The 12-hour timing is impressive, but you can also benefit from the dual-power system to make the device last even longer.
2 . Midland X-Talker – Runner Up
The Midland X-Talker is yet another excellent two-way radio you can buy for your mountain trips. Like the Motorola, the Midland X-Talker also has impressive features, such as a large number of supported channels, long battery life, dual power system, hand-free operation, and so on.
Coming to the channels, the X-Talker has a total of 22. Each channel has a total of 38 privacy channels, which is a bit of a letdown considering the 121 codes provided by the Motorola T200TP.
But 38 privacy codes can still be ample, and you can easily communicate interference-free.
Coming to the battery of the Midland X-Talker, there isn’t really an exact figure of how long it lasts. The manufacturer tells us that the radio takes 12 hours to fully charge, i.e., from 0% to 100%.
But, judging from the customer reviews, the battery pack has an impressive bit of juice. One customer reported having charged the device for only half an hour and getting a full-day use out of it.
Another customer reported using the device for three full days without having to charge it (they had, in all probability, charged the thing to 100% beforehand).
Another remarkable feature that the Midland radios share with the Motorola T200TP is the dual-power system. The Midland X-Talker can be used with the included chargeable batteries and the AAA cells.
You can also use this radio ‘hands-free,’ i.e., by connecting earphones and latching it to your belt or strap, etc.
Regarding signal detection, the Midland X-Talker boasts a ‘maximum’ range of 28 miles. The 28-mile limit applies in places with no obstruction in sight, i.e., on a complete flat plan or from one mountain peak to the other.
In places with partial obstructions, the range is around 2 – 10 miles, whereas, in obstructed areas, you can use the radio in a range of around 1 – 3 miles.
One good feature you can find in the Midland X-Talker but not in the Motorola T200TP is the NOAA weather alert feature. This feature lets you know about dangerous weather conditions via the forecast in your area.
You can use these alerts to get an idea about the impending weather to plan your trip accordingly.
The Midland X-Talker also comes with a ‘Mon Scan’ button that you can press to check whether there is any activity on your selected channel. Overall, this radio has a compact design, an easy-to-reach ‘Talk’ button, and a small digital display at the front.
3 . Baofeng BF-88ST – Budget Pick
The Baofeng BF-88ST is a little simpler and plainer than the other two radios discussed above. For starters, there is no fancy digital display at the front of the device, nor are there any cellphone-type buttons that you can use for switching channels and whatnot.
The BF-88ST looks more like a ‘cop’ walkie-talkie, to be a bit fair. But we don’t mean this in a negative sense. Despite lacking a little in the fancy gimmicky touches, the Baofeng is still a pretty good radio you can buy on the mountains.
To begin with, you can use a total of 16 FRS pre-programmed channels. Although these are a little less than the 22 channels provided by the Motorola T200TP and the Midland, they can be ample in most cases.
The BF-88ST has an average range of 3 miles, which is also enough for most people. You can buy this radio if your planned excursion to the mountains is not very…extensive. In other words, if you are just going to a base camp or some other area that is not very remote or isolated, you can take a couple of these radios along for inter-group communication.
Another impressive aspect of these Baofeng radios is the battery life. Thanks to the rechargeable 1500mAh batteries, you will be able to use them for a long time before having to charge them again.
Like the other two products discussed above, the Baofeng BF-88ST can also be set up to be used with earphones for a hands-free experience. One of the special and unusual features that you can enjoy with this radio is the flashlight. You can turn on the LED at the top by pressing the button at the side.
4 . Midland 50 Channel Two-Way Radio
We’ve discussed some of our top picks as well as a budget option that you can buy for a reasonable price. Now, let’s move on to a premium product.
The Midland GXT1000VP4 (the name’s quite a mouthful, so we’re just going to call it the ‘Midland 50 channel’) comes with a host of useful features and perks coupled with a compact aesthetic design.
The main feature you can enjoy with the Midland 50 Channel radio is the (you guessed it) a large number of supported channels. Fifty channels are pretty impressive, considering that our top two picks, i.e., the Motorola and Midland X-Talker, supported only 22.
But, while the Midland GXT does provide a large number of channels, it does come with a small catch.
The products that we looked at earlier on in this list were all FRS (Family Radio Service) radios. FRS radios are licensed from the start. In other words, you can simply take them out of the box and start using them without any preamble. You don’t need to have a separate license in order to operate them.
On the other hand, the Midland GXT is a GMRS device. GMRS radios can only be operated by people who have an FCC license. If you don’t currently have this license, you will need to make it before using the Midland GXT.
Other than this little hitch, the rest of the features on this radio are pretty good. For each channel, there are a total of 142 privacy codes. You can easily find an inference-free line to talk to your friends.
The Midland GXT has a maximum range of 36 miles, which applies in places with no obstructions. This gets reduced to less than one mile if you happen to be in a neighborhood full of buildings.
5 . Motorola T260
Features and looks-wise, the Motorola T260 is a lot similar to the T200TP discussed at number one. With the T260, you get access to 22 FRS channels, each with 121 privacy codes. This is the same number that you get with the T200TP.
The design and look of the T260 are also quite similar to the T200TP. Both have the same digital display on the front and the cellphone-ish buttons for changing menus, channels, etc.
The T260 has a dual-power system. It can be used with the included rechargeable battery for up to 10 hours or with 3 AA cells for up to 29 hours. This radio also has a clip at the back that can be used to secure it to a belt or strap. Thanks to the hands-free support, you can use it even with earphones.
One feature that is a little different in the T260 as compared to the T200TP discussed above is the weather forecast. To get weather updates in your area, you can either tune in to one of the 11 dedicated channels or turn on the NOAA alerts instead.
6 . Motorola Talkabout T465
And we’re back with another Motorola radio. The Motorola Talkabout T465 resembles the other two Motorola products on this list quite a bit regarding design and features. But there are some things that it provides better.
For one, the Talkabout T465 has a maximum range of 35 miles, i.e., with no obstructions. This can get somewhat reduced in the mountains, but you will still be left with a considerable distance.
Like the T260 and the T200TP, the T465 comes with 22 channels, each with 121 privacy codes. This makes it easy to find an interference-free line to talk to your buddies.
The integrated flashlight is one feature you can enjoy in the T465 (and not with the other Motorola devices mentioned on the list). You can turn on the torch at the radio’s top by pressing the small button at the side. It’s not very big, but it can be useful in some situations.
The T465 also comes with an emergency alert button. If you are in danger, you can press this button to let your friends know. The radio will emit a siren to help draw people to your location.
7 . Motorola Talkabout T800
The Motorola Talkabout T800 comes with a range of remarkable features and options and is reasonably priced, considering all that you can do with it.
For starters, the basic radio functionality of the T800 is more or less the same as the other products mentioned on this list. You can use it to access 22 different radio channels and set each one to a privacy code from a total of 121.
This radio has a maximum range of 35 miles, reduced to around 6 miles in open water and neighborhoods.
Mobile phone connectivity is a special feature you can enjoy with the Talkabout T800. You can use your phone’s Bluetooth to connect to the radio, allowing you to use the Motorola Talkabout app to send messages and share locations etc.
The T800 allows you to import its radio capabilities to your phone through Bluetooth.
Buying Guide: How To Buy The Best Two-Way Radios In 2023
When you want to buy a two-way radio, you have to think about your particular needs as well as the situations in that you are going to be using them in.
Depending on your particular situation, a certain radio could be more suitable than another one with seemingly better features and specs.
Keeping that in mind, there are a lot of chances that the radios we mentioned above aren’t really what you’re looking for. If that’s the case, don’t worry. Before we wrap up this post, we will be looking at a detailed guide on how you can buy one on your own.
In the guide, we will look at some features and aspects that you have to be careful of when purchasing two-way radios for use in mountains.
Let’s get started.
In the mountains, there can be different types of obstructions and interferences that can mess with the reception of radios with a low range.
For example, if a certain radio has a max range of 1 or 2 miles, this range could get reduced to just a couple of hundred meters in rocky and craggy mountains.
As you may have noticed in the products we discussed above, some radios had a max range of around 20 miles, which was left at only 1 – 3 miles in places like neighborhoods with many buildings around.
Considering all the above, the radio range is something you must be very careful of when making your purchase. You should check your contemplated device to see how well it performs in rocky and mountainous areas.
Ideally, you should look for a radio with a +20-mile range on leveled plains. This would mean that the range would shrink to around half or ¾ of the maximum when being used in the mountains. That way, you’d still be left with around 3 – 4 miles, which is pretty ample for most cases.
The next thing that you need to check when buying a two-way radio is the battery life. It is necessary to buy a radio with long battery life so that you don’t run into problems during your trip/excursion.
Some products, like the Motorola, discussed at number 1, and the Midland X-Talker, discussed at number 2, have a dual-power system. They can be used with a chargeable lithium battery as well as with removable AAA/AA cells.
Buying radios that provide this feature can be very useful. Even if you run out of juice in your cells/battery, you can switch to the other power source.
You should look for a radio that gives at least 8 hours of battery on a single charge. Ideally, your contemplated product should also support AA or AAA cells so that you can keep using it even if the charge is depleted.
Other than the total battery life provided by the radio, you should also look at how long it takes to charge fully. For example, a radio that provides 8 hours of battery life after being charged for just 1 hour is a lot better than a radio that provides 24 hours after being charged for…24 hours.
Number of Channels Supported
The more channels that are supported by the radio, the more chances you have of getting an interference-free line to talk to your friends and family…or whoever is holding the other radio.
The radios that we discussed above supported around 22 FRS channels at the maximum, e.g., the Motorola and the Midland. This is ample in most cases. If you are in an isolated mountain range with no other radio users nearby, you can find most of the channels to be free.
Other than the number of channels, another thing that you have to be mindful of is the number of privacy codes. Let’s actually talk a little about those before we move on.
Privacy codes are not, contrary to what their name might imply, the names of private channels that you can tap on to make your conversations private from other people. The ‘privacy code’ feature is more of a technique to block out interference rather than securing a private encrypted channel.
For example, if a person tunes in to Channel 15 and sets the privacy code to 23, his radio will become muted except for the person that communicates with it on Channel 15 and also with the privacy code 23.
However, that does not mean that the other people on the channel will not be able to listen to their conversation. It simply means that those two particular people will not be able to listen to the rest of the speakers on the channel.
This will make their conversation garble-free.
So, coming back to the point at hand, when you want to buy a radio, make sure that it has a sufficient number of channels as well as a sufficient number of privacy codes.
If you’re going to the mountains, you need durability. Your radio can get wet during your excursion or fall down accidentally. If something like this happens, you must ensure the device can take it.
There are basically two things that you should keep an eye out for as far as durability is concerned. Firstly, you should check whether the radio you are contemplating buying is waterproof.
This can be more of an issue if the device has a headphone jack. In devices such as the Midland X-Talker and the Motorola T200TP, the headphone jack comes with a rubber flap to prevent water from seeping in.
Other than that, you should also look at the general hardiness of the radio. It should be made with good quality plastic and preferably have a short antenna (since they are less likely to snap).
Size is another important factor you must be careful of when buying a two-way radio. You should neither go for a tiny-toy-like device nor should you opt for a hulky army-grade receiver.
The size of a two-way radio should ideally be on the smaller side since this can help it stay intact if it happens to fall down. The larger an object is, the more likely it is to break apart on impact.
Another benefit of having a compact radio is that you can easily carry it on your person, i.e., by clipping it on a belt, etc., without a lot of trouble.
You can also store it in your hiking gear without worrying about it taking up too much space. And, of course, you will be able to hold it comfortably in your hand without getting tired.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is UHF Or VHF Better For Mountains?
VHF (Very High Frequency) is better for mountains. Waves from VHF radios are not as likely to get weakened when traversing large empty expanses since they have longer wavelengths.
Do Walkie-Talkies Work Better In The Mountains?
Yes, walkie-talkies work better in the mountains because of the lack of obstructions. In neighborhoods and in open water, the range of walkie-talkies can get significantly reduced.
What Type Of Radio Works Best Over Varied Terrain?
VHF radios with a long range, i.e., more than 20 miles, can be suitable for use over varied terrain. Minor obstructions, i.e., such as hills, rocks, sparsely-spaced buildings, etc., can somewhat reduce the total range, but you will still be left with around 5 – 10 miles.
If you’re planning on going to the mountains, you want to ensure that you have a reliable medium of communication to keep in touch with your friends/family. While your phone’s probably working fine in the city, it won’t be as responsive on an isolated mountainside.
In this post, we looked at some two-way radios you can buy for your mountain trips. All the products we listed are worth purchasing, and each has its own perks.
But, in the final analysis, you should always consider your particular situation and requirements before purchasing. If you think you’ve found a good device, there could be another one that could suit your needs better. Research as much as possible before finalizing an option is always a good idea.
Let us know in the comment section which two-way radios you think are ideal for mountains in 2023. Thanks for reading!