Walkie talkies are portable handheld radios. A walkie talkie is also known as a two way radio. They were first developed by Donald Higgs a Canadian inventor.
There are many types of walkie talkies and in the UK we tend to define walkie talkies as consumer leisure radios. On this basis walkie talkies in the UK and EU are licence-free PMR446 radios. This means you do not require an Ofcom licence to use them and they can simply be used straight out of the box.
Walkie Talkie FAQs
Here are a list of the most common walkie talkie frequently asked questions
What is a Walkie Talkie?
A walkie talkie is a two-way radio that allows you to communicate with other people who have a walkie talkie. The walkie talkies need to be using the same radio frequency to be able to communicate with each other. A walkie talkie can transmit to an unlimited amount of other walkie talkies provided they are within the signal range and are using the same frequency.
Why Are They Called Walkie Talkies?
Interestingly, the term ‘walkie talkie’ was coined by none other than the inventor of the two-way radio, Donald Hings. He came up with the name while working on a portable radio system for the Canadian military during World War II. The name stuck, and it can refer to all two-way radios, regardless of their make or model.
However, in this post and type in the two-way radio industry, a walkie talkie tends to be referred to as a consumer or leisure-style personal product.
What Is A Good Range For A Walkie Talkie?
All walkie talkies operate on a line-of-sight communication principle. If something is in the way of that line-of-sight then the distance you can communicate over is affected.
Consumer walkie talkies typically come with a power output of 0.5watts and the range can vary from a few hundred meters in built-up areas to 6 to 10 km in perfect atmospheric conditions, with a clear line of sight. This could be from one hilltop to another hilltop.
Manufacturers of walkie talkies use the hilltop method when establishing the maximum range, which often confuses buyers as it is expected to achieve those distances in any area.
What Impacts The Range Of A Walkie Talkie?
The range of a walkie talkie can be impacted by several factors, including terrains such as hills, valleys, and buildings. The weather, such as rain and snow and interference from other electronic devices can all affect the range of your walkie talkie signal.
How Do I Hold A Walkie Talkie?
First, hold the walkie talkie in your dominant hand. You also use your other hand to adjust the volume or change the channel.
With your dominant hand holding the walkie talkie, use one of your fingers to press the Push-to-Talk (PTT) button on the side of the walkie talkie and start speaking into the microphone.
Hold the walkie talkie upright. This is so the signal that comes out of the antenna can be distributed most efficiently.
Top 5 Useful Walkie Talkie Phrases
‘Copy that’ – This phrase is used to confirm that you’ve received and understood a message.
‘Over’ – This phrase signals the end of your voice message. The person on the other end will then have a chance to respond.
‘Roger that’ – This phrase indicates you have understood a message.
‘What’s your 20?’ – This phrase is used to ask someone their location.
‘Stand by’ – This phrase is used when you need a moment to respond to a message.
‘Over and Out’ – This phrase signals the end of your conversation.
Top 4 Useful Walkie Talkie Features
Scanning: This allows you to scan through all the available channels to see which ones are currently in use.
Monitor: This lets you listen in on another channel without actually transmitting on it.
VOX: This stands for Voice Activated Transmission and it allows you to transmit without having to press the PTT (push-to-talk) button.
Squelch: This helps to reduce background noise and static on the channel so that you can hear conversations more clearly.
How Do I Choose A Good Walkie Talkie?
You need to consider what the walkie talkie will be using it for. The cheaper the walkie talkies, the cheaper the materials to make the walkie talkie will be. If you need a durable walkie talkie then typically a more expensive model will be more robust.
If the distance is a consideration, then you will need to understand that the power output of all consumer walkie talkies will likely be the same, so the only variation will be the quality of the antenna. If you require specific features, then simply check the specification of the product to ensure they are included.
How Much Does A Good Walkie Talkie Cost?
Consumer walkie talkies are typically priced from $30 (£25) to $200 £170). The price will depend on the features and the robustness of the product.
As a rule of thumb, a more expensive walkie talkie will likely have better build quality, more features and a better antenna.
Note: A better antenna will not have a huge effect on the distance covered as the power output on all consumer walkie talkies will likely be the same but should be a slight improvement.
Walkie Talkies For Kids
Walkie Talkies are a great gift for children of all ages to get them started learning about communication.
It can be tough to know which one to choose, but if you keep it simple and start at the cheapest first until they gain some experience and learn how to look after the walkie talkie. Then if they like using them, you can progress them to walkie talkies that have more features and are more expensive.
Should I Use Walkie Talkies On My Holiday?
Have you ever been on a camping, hiking or skiing holiday where there is no cell phone signal? Perhaps your children are too young to own a cell phone? Walkie Talkies offer a great communication solution to keep your family or group of friends co-ordinated. As long as they are in range you can quickly and safely communicate with each other.
Knowing which product to choose can be tough, but if you can establish the features you want, and the type of environment they will be operating in then you will narrow down your search.
An example would be skiing. If you drop your walkie talkie in the snow then you need a walkie talkie that can withstand water ingress. For this reason, you will need to look at walkie talkies that have an IP67 rating.
If a product has an IP67 rating, that indicates it is “waterproof.” This means it can be fully submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes.
If you want walkie talkies for fishing then again an IP67-rated walkie-talkie would be ideal and perhaps one that can float as well.
Motorola Walkie Talkies
Do you pay more for branded walkie talkies? Almost certainly yes. However, Motorola walkie talkies are some of the best in the industry, are competitively priced and offer a range of walkie talkies from leisure specific to professional grade quality.
Motorola offers a great range of walkie talkies specifically designed for the leisure industry so you know they have passed stringent quality testing before they have made it to the market for resale.
Best Walkie Talkies
Everything is subjective when it comes to claiming the best of any product.
There are many factors to consider when choosing the best walkie talkie such as battery life, durability, features and product warranty. The best walkie talkie for you will depend on your specific needs.
If you need a walkie talkie for leisure such as hiking then you will want one with good battery life and that is durable and perhaps waterproof.
Cheap Walkie Talkies
If you’re looking for cheap walkie talkies then there is a lot to choose from. More often than not you will not recognise the brand name and they will be brightly coloured and look like they are aimed at children.
Does this mean they aren’t very good? In a lot of instances it possibly could do, but when you are at marketplaces like Amazon and provide many verified positive feedback purchase reviews match your requirements, then maybe not.
Walkie Talkie Range in a Forest
The range of walkie talkies in a forest will depend on a few factors. How dense is the forest? Is the forest on the undulating ground? Is it a humid forest environment? No hard and fast calculation can specifically state what the range of a walkie talkie will be. If anyone is telling you they know exactly what it will be is telling porky pies.
The only way to know what an approximate range will be to take the walkie talkies with you and test them. As you move around the forest the range will change depending on tree density etc.
For safety in a forest, we would advise constant walkie talkie checks to be performed with constant location reference points being mentioned so that if you do hit a dead spot you can safely move within range of each other again.
Walkie Talkie Range in a City
The range of a walkie talkie in the city depends on a few factors, including the terrain and the number of buildings between you and the person you’re trying to reach.
Modern office buildings have additional fire protection layers added into the construction which can deflect walkie talkie signals making it harder to transmit through them.
Keep in mind that the range of a walkie talkie can be affected by interference from other electronic devices, so it’s always best to test them out before relying on them in an emergency.
For these reasons, the range of walkie talkies in a city can vary from approximately 200 meters to 500 meters
Walkie Talkie Range In Hills and Mountains
The range of walkie talkies in hills and mountains can be the environment where you can expect the best possible range.
This of course relies on you being in the line of sight of the other walkie talkie user, with limited or no objects in the way of the communication.
Manufacturers provide range claims of 6 to 10 km based on tests from hilltop to hilltop or mountain top to a mountain top with near perfect atmospheric conditions.
These distances can be achieved but for safety, we recommend testing the walkie talkies in the intended area of use before relying on them in an emergency.
Walkie talkies are licence-free (unlicenced) leisure radios with a maximum power output of 0.5 watts. This is compared to business or professional licenced handheld two way radios that have between 1 and 5 watts. We can now start to understand the range limitations of walkie talkies. Manufacturers do not help with massive range claims that are based line-of-sight communication in perfect conditions. Realistically, walkie talkies are a low-cost simple communication device intended for short range communications. Of course in the right conditions they can reach the manufacturers claims but not many users will ever achieve these results.
If you want to learn more, head over to What is the Difference Between a Walkie Talkie and a Two Way Radio?