As kids, we poked holes through tin containers, corded them with simple threads, moved to different rooms and bellowed “helloooooo” through these basic walkie-talkies. This basic model would be replaced by corded phones unwinding over acres of telephone wires and poles. We’ve now mastered the art of communicating via radio signals and satellites, completely doing away with the cords. While most of our mobile networks are accessible around the globe, much of the unmapped wild terrain, without radio towers, still happens to be out of network range.
Now, if you were to go hunting in any of these unchartered territories, relying on your mobile network to keep you connected to your group would be out of question. Enter two-way radios. These are cordless phones operating at limited radio frequencies.
They come in pairs of two that are designed with similar features and hardware to lock into the channels they can operate at. You could also buy them in packs of more than two.
Since these devices are extremely helpful in situations where normal mobile networks are unreachable, they find a big audience with archeologists, hunters, and folks working in similar fields. Two way radios for hunting and uneven terrains have been gaining a lot of retail traction lately with market leaders Motorola and Midland leading the way.
We are going to recommend one of each for the best two way radio experience for hunters, highlight the salient features, provide a short review, and also give a concise guide to find the best two way radio for yourself based on your needs and price points.
Here’s a quick guide to purchasing a good two-way radio for hunting:
- Battery Life – Since a hunting expedition could last for anywhere between 5 hours to an all-nighter, it’s best to have one that has a long battery life, or has lightweight, easily replaceable batteries. You could also go for one that can be charged in your vehicle.
- Range – It’s no good if the only person you can communicate with is standing in your normal hearing range. Standard radios these days provide a coverage of 30 miles plus.
- Quality of receiver/transmitter – 35 miles coverage is useless if a block of wood can block your signal. Receivers and transmitters should have a sturdy composition to be able to relay radio signals and not fail at minor obstructions. This is also a good reason to invest in a branded product.
- Price – This is a relatively affordable product with prices ranging from $35 for cheap sets to $ 125 for fancy gear. A relatively medium $70 for a set of two usually serves the purpose.
- NOAA Weather – Having a decent number of weather channels on your radio is a bonus when it comes to roaming around in unpredictable weather conditions.
- Weather Proof – Devices that are water and dust proof, and can be used in all terrains.
- Handsfree Model – This is a no-brainer, we’re in 2017and you shouldn’t have to hold your device in one hand while you aim at a moose with the other. Blue tooth and head set support is a must.
- Voice Activated Talking (VOX Support) – This enables you to answer or make calls without engaging your hands.
- Privacy Codes – The ability to use the same radio channels as others while keeping your conversations private by using codes that are known only to your group.
Let’s move on to the best two-way radios for hunters that satisfy all the above criteria. We are reviewing 3 top two way radios by market leaders Motorola, Midland and the popular BaoFeng.
Motorola MT350R FRS Weatherproof Two-Way (35-Mile Range)
The Motorola MR350R was specially designed for hunters who need to communicate over uneven and rocky terrains. Apart from checking all the 9 points listed above, here’s a bit more that it offers. Its compact design weighs in at 5.44 ounces. Works on AA batteries, excellent audio clarity, abundant features, rechargeable battery pack for both sets, emergency led light, and can be charged with USB cable. Vibracall feature that supports silent vibrations for calls, power boost button to switch frequencies, and belt clips to pin it as an accessory.
It does have a couple of drawbacks in the form of the number of channels available. While the listing has 22 channels with 121 privacy codes, and technically this feature is provided, channels 15 to 22 are General Mobile Radio Service(GMRS) exclusively.
For the uninitiated, you need a license to use these frequencies. 35 miles is an inclusive range to work with, but current high-end models come with a 50 miles range, which is usually not required but does happen to be an improvement on the range covered.
Midland GXT1030VP4 Two-Way Radio (36-Mile Range)
Right out of the bat this one provides a range of 50 channels with 142 privacy codes within a 36 miles range. Its slightly heavier than the Motorola MR350 has less voice clarity and range, the LCD display has less features, and again, channels 15 to 22 can only be used with a valid license. It has an SOS siren feature in case of emergency.
Configuring the power button is a little tricky. It does, however, have a better transmitter that’s more sensitive to reception. Can be used with AA batteries though it comes with two nonstandard batteries. If you are going in for a tough weather hunt, use this model instead of the MT350R. It also comes with a car battery charger which is another plus in its favor. It also comes with a whisper feature that enables it to pick up the slightest sounds in the vicinity.
BaoFeng BF-888S Two Way Radio (35-Mile Range)
BaoFeng’s two-way radios are also gaining a steady customer base. This set is built for amateurs. Let’s do a quick inventory of the tech specs. It offers 16 memory channels, customisable programming for setting frequencies, low voltage indicator, battery saving options, rechargers, VOX enabled, emergency alarm with flash light, smaller and much more lightweight than other radio sets. They are, however, not to be used on GMRS or FRS frequencies unless you’ve programmed them to work with legally allowed channels. Straight out of the box usage, without frequency reprogramming might land you in a soup.
Having said that, once you’ve programmed it for work, it gives really good service for years, has sturdy transmitter/receiver combo that relays clear signals, works with different antennas if you wish to add more range, and costs a fraction of what the other market leaders charge. For this price, you can begin your amateur hunting expeditions without spending a bomb!
None of the sets include headsets in the package, so those have to be bought separately. It’s also worth mentioning that an actual 35-mile range isn’t practically accessible unless you have a plain field with no obstacles. Keeping all of these criteria in mind, which one would you go for?