Best Long Range Two-Way Radios of 2017 – Buying Guide and Reviews

If you are looking for a two-way radio set which is going to give you long-distance reception, you will quickly discover that “long distance” does not mean what you would expect with 2-way radios. While many walkie-talkies are advertised as giving you “up to 35 miles” in range, you will usually only get several miles of effective range. If you shop carefully however and you follow best practices, you should be able to maximize that range. In this guide, we will share everything you need to know to get the most out of your long range two-way radio set.

Looking for the best long range two-way radios? Below we compare prices and features for top models on Amazon.com.

Midland GXT1000VP4Midland GXT1000VP4View on Amazon
Motorola MR350RMotorola MR350RView on Amazon
Midland LXT630VP3Midland LXT630VP3View on Amazon
Motorola Talkabout T460Motorola Talkabout T460View on Amazon
Cobra ACXT645Cobra ACXT645View on Amazon

Still need extra guidance in making your purchase? Read on to learn more about long range two-way radio.

What is a Long Range Two-Way Radio?

A long range walkie talkie is exactly what it sounds like: a walkie talkie designed to offer you a wide range of transmission and reception.

But many customers misunderstand what “long range” means in two-way radio terms. They buy a radio which says “up to 36 miles of range” and then feel ripped off when they get only two or three miles.

Three miles of range is actually pretty good in most circumstances. The key words are up to 36 miles. If you see that phrasing on a set of two way radios, it means that in ideal circumstances, they could feasibly give you 36 miles of range. That means a totally flat, open, unobstructed location like a desert.

Trees, buildings, hills and other obstructions all can significantly hamper range. In suburban and urban locations, it is common for range to be reduced to a mile or less. If you can actually get three miles in settings like these, you should be impressed.

Questions to Ask When Shopping for a Long Range Two-Way Radio

Where will you use the radios?

If you are going to be using your two-way radios in a heavily forested or urban setting, you simply cannot expect a very high range. That said, if it is important to have one, you will want to make sure you buy a two-way radio set which includes a long antenna and the option to boost your power.

What real range can you expect?

Unless you live in a wide open space, you should do some research to find out what kind of reception people are getting in other settings. If you live in the city, look up walkie talkie reviews from urban users, and so on. Remember to keep your expectations realistic.

How many channels do you need?

If you will be using your long range walkie talkie in a setting where a lot of other people use walkie talkies (such as a resort for example), consider getting a set which provides you with extra privacy channels.

Features and Add-Ons to Look For When Shopping for a Long Range Two-Way Radio

Antenna length

A good rule of thumb is this: the longer your antenna, the better your reception is going to be. If you like a particular radio but the antenna is short, check to see if you have the option to purchase an aftermarket antenna to extend its range.

NOAA weather channels

Your 2-way radio is more than a communication device; it can also help you to stay safe in emergencies. If you will be traveling with your radios, NOAA weather channels can provide you with useful alerts to steer you clear of inclement conditions.

VOX

VOX is a feature for hands-free operation, where you can activate your radio using only your voice. This can be very helpful if you will be using long range two-way radios in the workplace. It may also be useful to you if you are going to be using the radios while you are hiking, boating, or doing other outdoor activities.

Power Options

Some long-range 2-way radios include a feature which allows you to increase the wattage temporarily. You can do this to boost your signal when you need to achieve a longer range. A higher wattage drains your battery, but on a radio with a manual setting, you can reduce the wattage to conserve the battery when you do not need it.

Battery

If you will head out for long time periods with your radio on, look for a device with long battery life.

Size

Compact, lightweight radios are more comfortable to carry and use, particularly if you need them for work.

Out-of-Range Alert

If you are buying long range walkie talkie, one feature you might find especially helpful is an Out-of-Range Alert. This is a feature which transmits a code periodically in an attempt to identify if another radio is in or out of range. If the two radios are in range, the other radio will transmit back a confirmation code, and you will receive an alert to let you know that you can talk.

Digital Compass

Many people who purchase two-way long range radios are doing so for use in the wilderness while they are on backpacking, camping or hunting expeditions. If you plan to use your radios in this way, one helpful feature is a digital compass. This will show you which direction you are facing. Not only can this help you to stay oriented in your environment, but it may also help you to figure out where you are located in reference to the other person who you are speaking with.

Now you understand the limitations of long-range 2-way radios, you have a much better idea what you can realistically expect if you purchase a set. Think about how and where you will use them, and then check customer two-way radio reviews to see if buyers in areas like yours achieved the range you need. Purchase an aftermarket antenna if you need to in order to boost reception. Scroll back up to our product comparison chart to get started!

1. Midland GXT1000VP4: Comes With Headsets

Midland GXT1000VP4Midland has been making two-way radios for over 50 years. The GXT1000VP4 is another good product from this manufacturer. It comes with excellent privacy features and boasts a very powerful mic that works especially well in whisper mode. Also, it comes with a free headset.

Good

  • Communicate privately. Set up private chat using one of this radio’s 142 privacy codes.
  • Powerful microphone. With whisper mode on, listeners can hear very quiet noises.
  • All day battery performance. You can use this radio on high for 8 to 10 hours without having to recharge it.
  • Comes with two chargers. With the GXT1000VP4, you get an A/C adapter and a car charger that you can plug into a cigarette lighter jack.
  • Alerts you when there is a weather emergency. It scans weather channels and alerts you if foul weather is approaching.
  • Long range 36 mile communication. In perfect conditions, this radio has a 36 mile range.
  • Comes with two headsets. The basic black “around the ear” style headsets that come with this radio are comfortable and work well enough.

Bad

  • The rechargeable batteries wear out quickly because of a design flaw. The wall charger keeps running current through the rechargeable batteries even after they are fully recharged.
  • It’s not waterproof. The GXT1000VP4 has a JIS4 rating. If it gets splashed, it’ll be okay. But if you drop it in water, it will break.
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2. Midland LXT630VP3: Portable and Durable

Midland LXT630VP3The LXT630VP3 is more portable and durable than Midland’s other two-way, the GXT1000VP4. Like Cobra walkie talkies, the LXT630VP3 has a rubberized shell. However, this radio is not quite as powerful as other walkie talkies on the market.

Good

  • Small and lightweight. This radio won’t weigh you down at all if you clip it to your belt.
  • Very long battery life. This radio is extremely energy efficient and can last for several days without a charge.
  • Voice activated sensor works well. When the VOX sensor is on, this radio does a good job of switching on when you speak.
  • You can switch from high to low power. To extend the battery life even more, you can switch to power saving mode if you don’t need long range functionality.
  • Confidential codes for private communication. Use one of this radio’s 121 privacy codes if you don’t want anyone to listen in on your conversation.
  • Standard NOAA weather alerts. If a big storm rolls in, this radio will sound an alert tone.
  • 30 mile max radius. This two-way is not a strong as some competing radios, but its range is still fairly decent.

Bad

  • This walkie talkie will survive light rain, but will break if you drop it in water.
  • This radio has no memory. You have to reprogram any settings that you changed each time you turn it on.
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3. Motorola Talkabout T460: A Weatherproof Radio Set Great for the Outdoors

Motorola Talkabout T460Another Motorola two-way radio set to consider is the T460. This review focuses on the “Active” style, but you can also shop for Family, Hunting, and Emergency Preparedness versions. All are reasonably priced and ideal for outdoor use.

Good

  • IP-54 rated. These walkie-talkies are not waterproof, but they do have sufficient weatherproofing to protect them from splashes of water as well as dust.
  • Built-in LED light. In an emergency, this handy light can help you find your way.
  • VibraCall. If you do not want an audible ring tone, you can switch to vibration mode.
  • 10 call tones. There are 10 audible call tones which you can set for your outgoing calls (these are the tones which others hear when you call them on your walkie talkie).
  • 35 mile range. The long distance range for these walkie talkies makes them an excellent option for hiking, cycling and other outdoor purposes.
  • Hands free. iVox allows you to operate your walkie talkie without pushing any buttons.
  • An abundance of other fabulous features. An Emergency Alert Button, NOAA weather channels, dual power, and PPT Power Boost all add to the functionality of these outdoor-oriented walkie talkies.

Bad

  • Range is not always the best in obstructed settings. There are other walkie talkies which seem to do a better job in cities, forests, and other settings with obstructions. That being said, they do not do much better. It is always tough to get more than a couple miles of range with walkie talkies outside flat, unobstructed areas.
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4. Cobra ACXT645: Great Waterproof Radio Offering Numerous Channel Combinations

Cobra ACXT645If you have been shopping for walkie talkies, Cobra is a brand that you have probably encountered time and again. While Cobra makes a lot of great two-way radio sets, the ACXT645 walkie talkies are particularly worth looking into.

Good

  • Range up to 35 miles. This is an excellent maximum range in a flat, unobstructed area. It can also contribute to a solid range within less-than-ideal circumstances (no more than several miles, but that is typical with two-way radios).
  • 3,124 channel combinations. Having a huge selection of channel combinations like this is great if you are in a crowded area (a city, a cruise boat, a resort, etc.).
  • 10 NOAA weather channels. You will always be alerted if inclement weather is on its way.
  • Waterproof. This radio set isn’t just weatherproof, it is actually waterproof up to IPX4/JIS4 standards. There are also rubberized grips. These make it easier to keep a firm hold on your radio even in the rain.
  • Hands free operation. With VOX, your hands are free, so these radios are excellent for active use.
  • Built-in flashlight. Need to find your way in the dark? A flashlight is built right into your radio.
  • Dual power options. You can either use the rechargeable NiMH batteries which come with the radios or you can switch over to AA alkaline batteries.
  • VibrAlert. If you choose, the radio can vibrate instead of ringing a tone to alert you to incoming calls.

Bad

  • Sometimes range and clarity are not ideal. Even in situations where you are relatively close to the other radio you are communicating with, you might experience some disruptions (static, crackling, etc.).
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34 thoughts on “Best Long Range Two-Way Radios of 2017 – Buying Guide and Reviews

  1. For me, I would want to get a radio that had a good range and a long battery life. No sense in changing the batteries before the day is even over. Since the weather is warming up, I’ll for sure see about taking a pair with me when I go hiking or biking.

    • I think one of the bigger challenges selecting a radio is trying to balance out priorities when it comes to getting a higher power model vs. one that won’t eat through batteries so fast. What model do you use?

  2. We live in the desert wilderness. Our kids like to go down the canyon out of sight of the house. They never go very far, no more than a mile or so. However, given that we have rattlesnakes and practically carnivorous cactus out here I’d like them to be able to contact me if they have an emergency. Cell service is spotty on the mountain and pretty non-existent in the canyon. Can you recommend a sturdy, strong radio for us?

    Thanks.

    • Consider the The Motorola MS350R. It’s got a rubberized shell which provides some good protection, plus it was built for outdoor use.

    • Are you using the radios mainly in open areas like valleys, or do you need to call around obstacles (i.e. from one side of a mountain to another)? In general, I can recommend the Motorola MS350R. It’s got a long maximum range and it’s well-built. Just remember you won’t get the full range in mountainous terrain.

  3. I need a radio that my mom can have in the house with a metal roof and my dad can carry to the barn with a metal roof. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Carri. Pretty much any UHF radio would (hopefully) work, I think. Since the roof is metal and not the walls, I wouldn’t think they would obstruct the signals.

      If any of our readers has any suggestions for Carri or experience specifically with metal roofs, please chip in. Thanks!

    • It’s unlikely. Maybe if you have a totally straight shot up a completely unobstructed street running 14 miles (not going to happen). I think you’d be lucky if you got 5 miles. You’re more likely to get about half that (or less).

  4. Hi! I’m looking for a radio that is water proof, transmit far and the best for driving across country . Budget is 300$ and less…

    Any good ideas?

    • The Motorola MS350R is waterproof with an IP67 rating; it can be submersed for up to 30 minutes. It’s got a 36 mile maximum range. It should be well within your budget.

  5. I need some radios for a racing team.
    There will be LOTS of other teams using radios so I need something that I can rely on to connect me to my team mates (and not other teams).
    It must also be rugged since they will be handled by “mechanics” and people who work with oil, dirt and it “could” drop off their belts as they work on cars.
    Would LOVE any and all advise!!

    • The Motorola MS350R has a rugged shell and offers 121 privacy codes. So I think it would probably fit both of your criteria.

  6. I am looking for a radio that my truck drivers can carry in their vehicle so if I need to contact them I can (they did not have cell phones) and they normally travel about a distance of 65 miles from me. Would a CB be a better option? Or even a radio through a phone provider?

  7. I am looking for a 2 way radio (or perhaps some other device depending on cost) that can be used as a communication device between two workers in Costa Rica. Location is mountainous, dense rainforest. The actual “driving distance” between where the two workers live is 1.3 miles. However one lives on top of a mountain, and the other lives lower down more at sea level – however there is a mountain between them, so absolutely no line of sight at all – quite the opposite!
    Ideally the devices are also waterproof as will be used at times when working outdoors in rain.
    Any feedback would be very much appreciated.

    • The Motorola MS350R might be worth considering. It’s waterproof and rugged (it can even be submerged for a time). It has a 35 mile range in unobstructed territory, which is pretty good.

      As to whether it will provide what you need across those 1.3 miles, there is no way to be certain without testing it. If you can get that kind of reach in obstructed territory, that is quite good. So keep that in mind–there are no guarantees when it comes to range and two-way radios in mountainous environments.

  8. Is there any way to have a 10 mile range radios for the farm? We live in rolling hills. Can an antenna be used with a hand held two radio?

    Ray Tinsman

    • I have seen antennas you can purchase for two-way radios. As to the 10 mile range, that depends on your environment. If there are a lot of obstructions, you probably are not going to get a 10 mile range no matter what you buy. If your farm features a lot of wide unobstructed open land however, it is possible. Realistically however, it is very hard to get 10 miles of range from handheld radios anywhere.

    • You might go for the Motorola MS350R. These have a 35 mile maximum range (in unobstructed conditions), and they have a rubberized shell which apparently holds up pretty well to wear and tear. One thing I would emphasize to you though is that getting a 3-4 mile range in the middle of NYC will be very difficult. You are surrounded by obstructions there. So go in with realistic expectations.

  9. Longer antenna length is a bad rule of thumb when setting up a radio. The length of the antenna is resonant at a certain frequency. You cant get good performance if a vhf length antenna is connected to a uhf radio. Do the math and research.

    • Possibly, especially if you are standing in a wide open valley and are calling across to someone who is within line-of-sight. If there is a lot of terrain between you however, you will probably struggle to get much in the way of range (3 miles would be quite good).

  10. Hi There,
    Very useful info thanks. I am looking for radios with VOX and an Out-Of-Range Alert, are you able to suggest any please? I am having trouble finding any that do this so help appreciated! Melissa

    • The Midland GXT1000VP4 is a solid model with VOX. I don’t believe it has an Out-Of-Range alert, but it does have great range in unobstructed terrain, so that might be one to consider.

  11. I have a bar, and i’m looking for a set of 6-8 two way radios that my staff can use. I need one for front door security, back door security, and 3-4 floor staff security. We are located in Atlanta, our building is an old concrete/rebar structure. There are 5 shotgun style buildings partitioned from the one building. The ceiling, both side walls, floor and all thick concrete. There are also bars on both sides of us. Can you recommend something for this?

    I bought some off Amazon, they were maybe $200 range? For 6 of them. It seems like they just won’t work on a Friday night. There are bars all around us that use radios also, so we were getting interference already. But it also seems like the signal can’t get through/around walls, etc.

  12. I need a walkie talkie that works in a suburban area with a 5mile range. My dad had a stroke and I need to be able to communicate with him and I live across town. Is this possible?

    • Probably not. Even though a lot of walkie-talkies are marketed with “up to 36 miles of range,” that is supposed to be under totally ideal conditions (no obstructions whatsoever, completely flat terrain). In town, getting even 1-2 miles is pretty good. You might get a little higher than that, but I don’t think you will get 5 miles in the suburbs.

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