Hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, mountain climbing, kayaking and many other outdoor activities are a lot of fun when you venture out into the wilderness alone, but they can be even more enjoyable when you take your friends along with you. However, communication issues can often create problems– especially if you venture into an off-the-grid part of the world that doesn’t have great cell phone service coverage. Even though the holes in cell phone maps are getting smaller by the day, the leading cell phone service provider in the United States still only covers 70% of the country according to CNET.
Two-way radios that are designed for recreational activities can substitute for cell phones in these types of situations. They come in handy when you’re out of earshot and you need to communicate with your friends. All you have to do is press a button and you can chat with your group from afar. In addition, most are waterproof and can float. NOAA weather alerts are another common feature that you’ll find in these types of walkie-talkies. These alerts will let you know if a storm or some other dangerous weather condition is on the horizon.
Here are the best waterproof radios you can buy:
The best two-way radio for fishing
Motorola T600 Talkabout
While the Motorola T600 is a versatile two-way radio that has many potential use cases, its unique features make it an excellent choice for fishing. You can use the flashlight’s red mode to avoid scaring away fish. Plus, it floats and the flashlight turns on automatically when exposed to water.
- Switch to red flashlight mode. Use the flashlight in normal mode to maximum luminosity or change to red to help your eyes stay adapted to the dark.
- Floats in water. If the T600 falls out of your boat, it will remain on the surface of the water.
- Easy to find if you drop it. Upon contact with water, the flashlight automatically turns on.
- IP67 waterproof rating. The T600 can survive complete water immersion for as long as 30 minutes.
- Receives NOAA weather alerts. NOAA alerts help you avoid storms, tornados and other dangerous weather conditions.
- 23-hour battery life. It’s of the most energy efficient waterproof two-way radios we’ve seen and you can use ordinary batteries as well as rechargeable ones as a power source.
- The belt clip can be used as a whistle. You can use the whistle to signal to other fishermen or call for help.
- An unseen splash of water can result in accidental battery drain. The accidental splash may activate the flashlight– and if it’s bright out, you may not notice what has happened until it’s too late.
In a nutshell
The T600’s unique flashlight is one of its best features. You can use it as an ordinary flashlight, or switch to red mode to avoid scaring off fish in the early morning or disturbing others at night. Another nice thing about the T600 is that it floats. The flashlight turns on automatically when exposed to water.
The best waterproof two-way radio for camping
Uniden’s SX507 group mode feature is just one of this two-way radio features that’s great for camping. You can use it to send private messages to anyone in your camping party. In addition, you can use it to receive NOAA weather alerts. It’s above the industry standard in the area of battery efficiency and the fact that you can use standard batteries to charge it is another significant perk.
- Unique group mode feature. You can set up nicknames for your friends and communicate with each one directly, without others listening in on your conversation.
- Receives NOAA weather alerts. The weather updates will let you know if you need to cut your camping trip short.
- Works with standard batteries. This is convenient for extended camping trips because it means that you can take as many batteries as you need to ensure that you never run out of power.
- Built-in flashlight. You can use the flashlight like a normal light, or switch to strobe light mode in the event of an emergency.
- JIS7 waterproof rating. The SX507 can survive in three feet of water for up to 30 minutes.
- Floats in water. The buoyant design makes it easy to retrieve if you accidently drop it into a body of water.
- 14-hour battery life. A fresh set of batteries allows for 14 hours of continuous use.
- Replacing the batteries is a bit of a hassle. The awkward design of the battery panel sometimes causes frustration.
In a nutshell
The Uniden SX507 lets you set up shortcuts that open private channels. These channels give the ability to send and receive transmissions to an individual without broadcasting to the whole group. This– together with the fact that you can power the SX507 with regular batteries– make it ideal for camping situations.
The most user-friendly waterproof two-way radio
The most unique thing about Cobra’s ACXT1035R is that it automatically stores incoming messages to memory. That means that if you didn’t understand an important transmission, you can review the last 30 seconds of it to find out what you missed. This, together with its affordable price and easy-to-navigate interface, makes it one of the most user-friendly two-way radios we’ve seen.
- It can replay hard-to-understand transmissions. This two-way radio is the only one we’ve seen that automatically records audio so that you can play back misunderstood messages.
- Runs on standard batteries. You can stock up as many batteries as you need for your trip to ensure you’ll never run out of power.
- Affordable price. It’s one of the least expensive two-way radios we’ve seen.
- IPX7 waterproof rating. While it’s not rated for resistance to dust, it can survive submersion in up to one full meter of water for a half hour.
- Floats in water. The fact that it doesn’t sink means that you can easily retrieve it if you drop it into a deep lake, ocean or river.
- Receives NOAA weather alerts. It delivers notifications that let you steer clear of approaching weather hazards.
- Built-in flashlight. The LED bulb is energy efficient and bright.
- The microphone isn’t very sensitive. You have to hold your mouth very close to the mic in order to be heard. The waterproofing around the mic seems to impair the microphone’s performance.
In a nutshell
Ease of use seems to be the Cobra ACXT1035’s main area of focus. If you lost track of a conversation or if the transmission came in garbled, you can rewind it and play it back again. No other two-way radio we’ve seen can do this. The affordable price and buoyant design add to its appeal.
The most rugged waterproof two-way radio
When it comes to toughness, you’ll be hard pressed to find a waterproof two-way radio that can match what the DeWalt DXFRS300 brings to the table. It’s one of the only devices of its kind that comes with a lifetime warranty. The main reason why it’s so durable is that its casing is protected by a thick layer of textured rubber.
- Rubber-reinforced shell. Most two-way radios are made of hardened plastic, this one has an additional layer of rubber around it– and that’s what makes it extra tough and durable.
- IP67 waterproof rating. The DXFRS300 is built to withstand water immersion for a full 30 minutes.
- Swiveling holster. Since the holster that comes with the DXFRS300 can rotate, it’s less likely to break when you sit or squat.
- Private communications. There are 2600 combinations you can use to create private communication lines, including 22 preset channels which are available for easy setup.
- Automatic squelch. This feature filters out weak signals and cuts out interference.
- 18-hour battery. You can use it all day without having to worry about its batteries wearing out.
- Lifetime warranty. This is one of the only two-way radios we’ve seen whose manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty.
- No built-in flashlight or NOAA emergency weather alerts. You won’t miss these features if you plan on using this two-way radio at a worksite, but you may if you intend to take it with you when you go camping.
- Doesn’t float in water. If you drop it into a deep body of water, you’ve probably lost it for good.
In a nutshell
If you had to sum up the DXFRS300 in three words or less, “tough and affordable” would do it justice. It doesn’t have a whole lot of features, but it’s one of the most rugged two-way radios you’ll find. Since DeWalt offers a lifetime warranty on it, it may be the last two-way radio you’ll ever buy.
The best value waterproof two-way radio
Bang for the buck is what sets the Retevis RT47 apart from the pack. The box comes with four two-way radios, each of which has its own professional-looking speaker mic. You also get four charging stations, four power adapters, four USB cables and four belt clips. Thanks to its sturdy clip design and reinforced antenna, the RT47 is tougher than most other two-way radios you’ll run into.
- Comes with a speaker mic. The included speaker mic accessory adds versatility and portability.
- Good value. In addition to a robust collection of accessories, the box comes with four two-way radio devices.
- IP67 waterproof rating. The sealing is not only dust proof, but also fully waterproof. It can resist full water immersion for up to 30 minutes.
- Sturdy construction. In order to guard against bending and snapping, Retevis reinforced the antenna and made it extra thick. The spring clip, which is built to last longer than an ordinary plastic clip, also adds durability.
- Above average signal reception. Retevis says that the RT47 has a 20% better range than other two-way radios in its class, thanks to the high-density copper wire contained inside its antenna.
- Low battery alert. A warning noise lets you know when you’re running low on power.
- Doesn’t float in water. If you happen to drop the RT47 into a body of water, it’ll sink all the way to the bottom of it.
- No built-in flashlight. Most two-way radios have some type of flashlight feature, but this one doesn’t.
In a nutshell
When it comes to pure value, you will be hard pressed to find a better deal than what Retevis offers with its RT47 combo kit. You’ll find not just two but four two-way radios in the box and each unit comes with its own professional-looking speaker mic and charging station.
Buying guide for waterproof two-way radios
IP (Ingress Protection) is the most common waterproof standard you’ll encounter when shopping for waterproof two-way radios. The last number in the code refers to the degree of waterproofing that you should expect. Most waterproof two-way radios are rated at IP67, which means that they can survive complete water immersion in up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. JIS (Japan Industrial Standards) is another rating system you might encounter, but it uses the same criteria for evaluating waterproofing as IP. In other words, a JIS7 two-way radio is just as waterproof as an IPX7 two-way radio. The United States military has its own separate waterproofing standard: MIL-STD 810.
Not all waterproof two-way radios can float. If you intend to use your device for fishing or some other activity that involves bodies of water, you may want to make sure that yours can. Otherwise, there won’t be much you’ll be able to do iif an accident happens and your walkie-talkie goes overboard.
If you intend to use your waterproof two-way radio for outdoor activities, battery performance is one of the first points you should consider. More hours of use time means that you won’t have to worry about running low on power when you’re in a park or some other similar place where you don’t have instant access to electrical outlets.
NOAA stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency operates radio stations located all over the country. These stations send out alerts and other weather information. If your walkie-talkie can pick up these alerts, you’ll have more time to prepare for storms and other dangerous weather conditions.
Almost all waterproof two-way radios are equipped with some kind of flashlight feature. Brightness varies, so be sure to check the flashlight’s lumen rating if available before you buy.
Some two-way radios come with charging stations, charging cables, headsets, speaker mics and other accessories, while other two-way radio manufacturers only give you a couple of handsets and that’s it. Two-way radios that come with lots of accessories tend to cost a bit more than those that come with none or just a few.
Almost all waterproof two-way radio casings are made from impact-resistant plastic. However, you will find some waterproof two-way radios that are equipped with rubber-reinforced shells. The later type tends to be tougher– but also heavier and not as buoyant– as the former.
You can get a decent quality waterproof two-way radio kit for around $70. At this price range, the quality and number of the accessories that you get is a bit below average. On the other hand, budget waterproof two-way radios are competitive with mid-range devices when it comes to features.
In general, waterproof two-way radios that fall into the $100 price range tend to be a bit tougher compared to their slightly more budget-friendly counterparts. Since they tend to have more wattage, the sound quality is often better as well.
Waterproof two-way radios that cost $200 or more have more bells and whistles, like lots of private line codes, reinforced antennas, high-power transmitters, above-average quality accessories and other similar nice-to-have features.
Frequently asked questions
Q: What’s the difference between analog and digital two-way radios?
A: Digital two-way radios are far more consistent in terms of signal clarity. This isn’t the case with analog two-way radios. The farther two handsets are away from each other, the more static their transmissions will contain. Backwards compatibility is the only reason why two-way radio manufacturers are still supporting analog. Modern two-way radios that can be used in analog mode also have digital capabilities.
Q: Are waterproof two-way radios resistant to salt water?
A: Yes, but you should definitely perform maintenance on your two-way radio if you happen to drop it into salt water or if it gets exposed to ocean spray. Check all the battery contacts for signs of corrosion and wipe them down with WD-40 or some other similar type of grease. You may also want to remove your two-ways knobs and inspect the insides of those as well.
Q: What kinds of obstacles can reduce the range of a two-way radio?
A: The earth itself is the biggest obstacle that will reduce your range. Two-way radio handsets can only communicate in a straight line. As a result, if the person at the other end of the line is located somewhere over the horizon, you probably won’t be able to establish communications.
- Read the manufacturer’s product description carefully before you commit. Words like “weather resistant,” “weatherproof” or “water resistant” indicate that the handset will probably break if you expose it to a prolonged period of complete water immersion.
- Observe standard two-way radio communication protocols when communicating in a group environment. Identify yourself and who your message is intended for before you speak and wait for them to respond before you begin.
- If you plan on storing your two-way radios for an extended period of time, be sure to remove their batteries before you box them up. This will prevent corrosion and other types of damage caused by battery leaks.