The five best two-way radios for emergencies

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You don’t want to compare a two-way communication you need for survival to the walkie talkie toys you used as a young child. For adults that enjoy the great outdoors, we need two-way radios that are more sophisticated. They will work to help you reach others across great distances and when you might be experiencing adverse weather conditions. Plus, many of these radios are also built to keep out eavesdroppers.

So, what are the five types of two-way radios that you can use for emergencies? The five best two-way radios for emergencies are:

  1. Midland GXT100VP4
  2. Uniden SX167-2C
  3. Socotran Ultra Slim Two-Way Radio
  4. Motorola T100 Series Talkabout
  5. Midland X-Talker T20X4

Our list of the best two-way radios for survival include very robust communications, that can hold up and help you communicate through a disaster. Below we’ll discuss how two-way radios can keep you and your family safe. After that, we’ll cover six questions to ask yourself before buying your walkie talkies and the best two-way radios. We’ll also discuss features to consider so that you can purchase the best walkie talkies for you and your family

Why You Need Two-Way Radios

Two-way radios are a necessity for most people, especially those who practice disaster preparedness. Unfortunately, many people still overlook the need for two-way radios since just about everybody owns a smartphone. However, most of us have experienced an emergency while our cell phone wasn’t working. For example, many of us have experienced our cars breaking down when we are without cell service. You already know that a smartphone cannot always reliably assist you during difficult times.

While two-way radios are often associated with outdoor enthusiasts and those that love camping in remote areas, the truth is that everybody should own a set. If there is ever a significant crisis, like a massive earthquake or an attack on your local area, you know you might not always have access to cell service when you need it. If there is a significant issue, cell phone networks can often go down or become congested, and if your family isn’t with you, you may have a problem. 

With a two-way radio, you’ll be able to ease your mind during an emergency and be able to accomplish the following:

  • Get in contact with your family
  • Ensure that everybody you love is safe and well
  • Designate a meeting area so you can find each other
  • Meet each other and then get to a safe place.

A two-way radio can help you address these needs and concerns during an emergency because they open up the lines for communication even when cell phone signals don’t work.

The best performing two-way radios work well for communication when people are experiencing an emergency, including situations like

  • Natural disasters
  • Nuclear detonations
  • Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks.

Many scientists nowadays fear that an electromagnetic pulse attack could destroy the grid necessary to maintain our society today. Without the functioning technological network that we’ve all become accustomed to, we’d experience a post-apocalyptic world, and a vast number of people would most likely perish because they wouldn’t be able to survive. 

If we were forced to live in a world that deprived us of our communication equipment, an EMP-proof two-way radio would be the only way you could communicate with others. 

Two-Way Radios are Reliable Communication Tools

If an electromagnetic pulse attack did occur and the grid for communication ultimately failed us, you’d need a two-way radio to ensure that you and your loved ones can find each other after a disaster like that via proper communication. We all know that it’s super important to be prepared for situations like this, even if we don’t expect incidents like this to happen anytime soon. 

The fact is, terrible emergencies of all kinds are likely to happen when you least expect them. To be as well-prepared as you possible can be, you should purchase two-way radios for yourself and your loved ones. When you start looking around for a two-way radio system for your family, remember that the best two-way radios will cost a bit more money. 

In this case, you do want to ensure you are paying for quality radios. That’s because you don’t want you and your family to experience an emergency where your two-way radios don’t work correctly. So, you must select a quality two-way radio that can protect you and your loved ones in case of emergencies. Most quality two-way radios can:

  • Give you plenty of range and durability when you need assistance
  • Provide you with privacy from eavesdroppers
  • Ensure that you can reach your loved ones at any time, especially during emergencies

The 5 Best Two-Way Radios

To help you find the best two-way radio for you and your family to use during emergencies, we compiled a list below encompassing the top picks you’ll find on the market today. All of these two-way radios will ensure that you can communicate with your family if there is a crisis. Since you cannot always rely on your cell phone to work during a major disaster, you should consider purchasing one of these types of two-way radios to ensure the safety of your family. 

#1: Midland GXT100VP4

Midland’s GXT1000VP4 is one excellent two-way radio option. This company has plenty of experience at making high-performing two-way radios as well, boasting several decades in the industry. One of their best two-way radios is the GXT01000VP4, which provides users with many useful features, including:

  • Over fifty channels to access
  • A 36-mile range
  • 142 privacy codes
  • Ten customizable alerts to inform you about any incoming messages
  • An easy-to-read backlit LCD screen
  • A whisper mode, so it’s easy to communicate when it’s quiet
  • A robust, durable device that’s waterproof
  • A rechargeable battery pack to keep your radio going for many hours. 

With this two-way radio, you’ll also get a device that’s great to use during emergencies. You’ll receive an SOS siren, for example, when other people need assistance. Plus, this radio also features an NOAA weather alert radio so that you’ll know when severe weather is coming. Another nice bonus that comes with this product is boom microphones, which allow users of this device to have hands-free communication. 

#2 Arcshell Rechargeable Long-Range Two-Way Radios

Arcshell’s Rechargeable Long-Range Two-Way Radios provides you with a great kit option and a pair of convenient, small two-way radios that you can use. These radios are only about 4.53 inches high if you don’t include the antenna, and only about 1.30 inches in thickness. The radios only way 6.3 ounces a piece, making them very lightweight. Although they are light, they are also very durable. Plus, these radios are simple to use, so you won’t have to worry about a learning curve.  

These two-way radios offer several wonderful features, including:

  • 16 pre-programmed channels. Both radios that come in your kit have an identical frequency on each of these channels once you take them out of the box. 
  • The channel switcher gives you a 16-position rotary dial so that it is easy to figure out what channel number and channel frequency you are using. 
  • When you change the channel, a synthesized voice tells you your frequency and channel number. 
  • Both radios that come in this kit already have a 1500mAh recharbable Li-ion battery inside of them. They also comes with a charging doc that features an AC Type A plug. Each radio takes around two and a half hours to fully charge. 
  • These radios come with quality built-in speakers so that you’ll always get excellent sound quality. 
  • A push-to talk button and built-in mic on each radio makes them very easy to use.
  • You’ll also get a single earbud style earpiece for each radio, making the radios even simpler to use. 
  • The range you’ll get with these radios depends on the terrain that surrounds you. You’ll get about five miles of range if there are no obstructions. 

#3 Socotran Ultra Slim Two-way Radio

Socotran’s Ultra Slim Two-way Radio is a great option when it comes to dealing with emergencies in areas that are very urban. This radio comes with UHF capabilities, which means the signal can penetrate through various items, including:

  • Wood
  • Concrete
  • Steel

That means this radio’s signals can easily pass through walls and buildings, which are prolific in cities. The radio waves are not only able to move through most buildings, but also around them. So, that means you’ll get plenty of access to other nearby radios using the same frequency when you have an emergency. 

Some of the other features that this radio offers include:

  • Small, slim design so that the radio is very portable and easy to carry in a pocket.
  • These radios come in a pack of two.
  • You’ll also get a 1500mAh battery, which will last for 96 hours on one charge. 
  • A maximum power capability of 3-watts
  • High-quality speakers so that you can easily hear other people. 
  • 155 privacy channels to prevent eavesdropping
  • A low power alert capability so that you know how much battery you have left. 

#4 Motorola T100 Series Talkabout

Another excellent two-way radio option to consider for you and your family is the Motorola T100 Series Talkabout. This two-way radio provides users with many useful features that will help you out in case of an emergency, including:

  • A decent range of up to a sixteen-mile radius. 
  • Great sound quality
  • Several different call tones
  • A bright, easy-to-use LCD screen
  • Access to all 22 radio channels
  • An active keypad lock which helps keep you from accidentally changing settings
  • A radio system that is easy to use
  • An excellent, long-lasting battery life of eighteen hours, which will last on one set of AAA batteries. 

Plus, this type of two-way radio system is also very affordable. For instance, you can purchase a set of three for as little as fifty dollars. 

#5 Midland X-Talker T20X4

Midland’s X-Talker T20X4 is another two-way radio option that would be excellent for people that need something simple and easy-to-use. With this two-way radio option, you’ll get the following features:

  • Access to the standard 22 GMRS and FRS channels
  • A scanning option that lets you see if there is any activity on other channels
  • CTCSS support so other conversations can be blocked out for privacy reasons
  • Voice-activated operation so that you won’t need to press any buttons when you need to talk
  • Built-in NOAA weather alerts
  • A sixteen-mile range of use

So, if you need a simple type of two-way radio that everybody in your family could use, this would be an excellent option. 

Factors to Consider When Purchasing Two-Way Radios

If you’re ready to purchase a two-way radio system, then you’ll want to look over our list of factors to consider when purchasing two-way radios. Those factors include:

  1. The NOAA weather channels
  2. Transmission distance of your radio
  3. How many channels you’ll need
  4. How well you and your family can use a two-way radio
  5. The types of batteries you’ll need
  6. If your radios are all compatible with each other
  7. The warranty offered with your radio

Below we’ll discuss each one of these factors in more detail. After we’ve covered them, we’ll review our list of the best two-way radios to use in emergencies. 

1.Two-Way Radios and the NOAA Weather Channels

Many two-way radios, although not all of them, provide access to the NOAA weather channels. If you don’t know what the NOAA weather channels are, you’ll probably want to have access to this information in case of an emergency. These weather channels function as government automated radio channels, and they are found all over the nation. However, these channels have specific relationships to every region in the country and provide information about the local weather.

When extremely adverse weather conditions are afoot, like a hurricane, for example, these channels operate only to provide updates about 

  • The weather
  • Safety conditions
  • Unsafe areas you should stay away from
  • Information about where to find local shelters for safety, if you need it
  • Traffic conditions
  • Non-weather information if your local area is experiencing a natural disaster
  • National security statements referring to the current emergency.

Obtaining access to your local area’s NOAA channels is something that many emergency preppers and survivalists often do. So if you are ready to get yourself prepared for emergencies with an excellent two-way radio system, you might want to consider one that gives you access to the NOAA channels. Most two-way radio systems already do this, but there are some in existence that do not. 

2.Transmission Distance of Your Radio

One factor you’ll need to consider before purchasing your two-way radios is how far you expect your radio transmission to go. Often, the distances that are advertised by the manufacturers haven’t been tested in the most challenging areas, so they aren’t as accurate as they could be. If there are items that can get in the way of your transmission, it will cause interference. These items include things like:

  • Trees
  • Buildings
  • Traffic
  • Dust

So, you may not be able to believe the specs listed by the manufacturers completely. Instead, when you are searching for the two-way radios you want to purchase, we encourage you to read user reviews to get a more accurate picture of the radio’s transmission distance. 

In addition to this, you also need to know that two different kinds of radios exist, and whatever type you purchase will determine your overall transmission distance. These two categories of radios include Family Radio Service, FRS, and General Mobile Radio Service, GMRS

  • Family Radio Service (FRS)

Family Radio Service (FRS) two-way radios offer a ½ watt power system. However, in 2017, many of the FRS radios provided on the market were upgraded so that they could then offer a 2-watt power system. These kinds of radios do well when you are transmitting things locally. 

  • General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS)

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) offers higher power levels when it comes to transmission. Typically, a GMRS radio can provide between 1 to 5-watts of power. Also, these types of two-way radios can be modified with an additional external antenna if an individual needs even more power. Using an extra antenna on a GMRS radio system can give you five times more reach with your radios.

Several manufacturers offer combined versions of FRS and GMRS radios. However, back in 2017, when the FCC first dictated changes that needed to be made to two-way radio systems, they wanted to phase out many of these hybrid radios. However, that hasn’t happened yet, and many hybrid radios are still in existence. Plus, these hybrid radio systems work well, so for now, it seems that the FCC has left them alone, and their presence continues

How Many Channels You’ll Need

Today, we now have twenty-two mobile radio channels. Depending on where you live, you may have assigned channels for the particular street or area where you reside. Some neighborhoods will designate a channel to communicate on in case of an emergency. Businesses often use two-way radios, too, and many of them will assign specific business channels to particular business operations. 

Regardless of how your neighborhood or your business decides to organize its channel use, you’ll need to consider how you’ll designate your communication protocol before figuring out how many channels you’ll need to access on the two-way radio that you purchase. 

When the FCC finally changed the structure of the two-way radio system in 2017, they allowed all twenty-two channels to be shared. So, that makes things confusing at times. If you buy an FRS radio, 

  • You’ll be able to use your 2-watt power systems on all channels. 
  • However, with an FRS radio, to use channels 8-14, you’ll need to power your radio down to .5-watts. 

On the other hand, GMRS radios need to use 

  • .5-watts on channels 8-14 as well. 
  • However, GMRS can also use up to 5-watts of power on channels 1-7
  • Also, you can use as much as 50-watts on channels 15-22. 

If you do decide to purchase a GMRS radio, you’ll also need to buy an FCC license for the use of that GMRS radio. Luckily, that license comes at the affordable price of $70 and lasts a decade. 

If you’d like to learn more about the FCC’s changes, rules, and regulations, you can go here

Also, when you start doing your search for two-way radios, you’ll most likely come across several new, affordable walkie-talkies that can access more channels than just the standard 22 issued by the FCC. However, that may not offer you any real benefit in case of an emergency. Several of the additional channels available are restricted for officials. 

So, you may be buying something that’s got more than what you’ll use. That’s because your radio must be programmed only to access the 22 regular channels, anyway. So, just pay attention to what you are purchasing, because you don’t need to spend additional money on extra channels you’ll never be able to use, anyway. 

How Well You and Your Family can Use a Two-Way Radio

Two-way radios are, in reality, just another type of electronic gadget. While many of us are used to using electronic devices in our daily lives, each time you purchase a new electronic device, you’ll need to figure out what your comfort level with that item is. After that, you’ll need to teach yourself and others how to use that device. 

Since two-way radios are essential to know how to use in case of an emergency, you’ll need to ensure that both you and your family members know how to use these devices. You also want to make sure that you won’t forget what needs to be done in case you incur an extremely stressful situation. 

When it comes to electronic devices, typically, the smaller the size of the item, the more functions the buttons have to create. Usually, most children and teenagers nowadays can figure out how to use a two-way radio system relatively quickly. However, for people that weren’t born with a smartphone already available to them, there may be a learning curve. In that case, you may want to purchase a more massive radio, since they are typically more comfortable to use. 

For example, on more massive radios, you’ll have apparent buttons designated for one particular use, like:

  • A channel button
  • A volume button
  • An on/off switch
  • A battery compartment that you can open
  • A robust case to keep the radio together

However, keep in mind that particular users will require a certain level of training. You also need to remember that during an emergency, you’ll be under so much stress that it can be challenging to remember how to do everything correctly. The anxiety you feel during the midst of that situation can often take over, making it difficult for you to act appropriately.

Once you and your family understand how to use a two-way radio, you should practice together and take some time to train regularly. That way, everybody can learn how to feel comfortable with their radios. It’s also important to play around with them now and then to ensure they are functioning correctly, and that their batteries are still charged. 

The types of batteries you’ll need

You’ll have many options when it comes to powering up your two-way radio. Different kinds of two-way radios utilize a wide variety of batteries, including:

  • Disposable alkaline batteries that are AA or AAA
  • Rechargeable batteries featuring a plug-in charger
  • Some two-way radios offer both of these charging methods. 

When it comes to an emergency, however, it’s almost always better to have a two-way radio that uses regular batteries. That’s because, during an actual emergency, you most likely won’t have access to any power. That means once your rechargeable battery is used up, your radio will be done unless you are lucky enough to have a solar charger. So, in this case, it’s better to purchase a two-way radio that uses disposable alkaline batteries, or both disposable alkaline batteries and a plug-in charger. 

If you’re wondering what types of disposable alkaline batteries are best to use in your two-way radio, the brands that typically last the longest are:

  • Duracell
  • Everready
  • Costco brand batteries. 

Are your radios all compatible with each other?

During the 9/11 tragedy, police and fire departments had difficulty getting a hold of each other because many of their emergency radios were not compatible with each other, and only worked on particular channels. Since then, a lot of technological progress has occurred within the world of two-way radios. However, there are still issues when it comes to two-way radio compatibility.

Some of the best and most renowned two-way radio brands won’t be compatible with each other. So, if you need several two-way radios for your business or family, you should attempt to purchase the same type of device for each person. That way, you’ll be assured that all of your two-way radios can communicate with each other during a crisis. 

Two-Way Radio Warranties

Another thing you’ll need to consider when it comes to purchasing the right two-way radio is your two-way radio’s warranty. Legitimate manufacturers of two-way radios will always offer a standard warranty. However, you’ll want to check on that warranty to make sure you understand what features are covered. Below we list a few things you should consider about your warranty before buying your radios. 

  • Do you need to purchase the radio from a particular dealer to get your warranty? 
  • Do you have to be the original owner of the radio for the warranty to apply?
  • How long of duration will you be able to use the warranty?
  • Will you have to pay for shipping if you have to return the radio? 
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