I’ve owned many walkies over the years. I’ve used them on the ranch and around job sites to communicate with other workers. It seems there was always an issue with range. After a certain distance the signal would drop significantly forcing me to retrace my steps until the signal improved. I realized I needed something more robust to use in situations requiring long distance communication.
The problem with traditional walkies is even the most powerful models have a theoretical distance of 36 miles – and this number is very generous. To achieve a number of this distance would require absolutely ideal conditions – no wind, no obstructions, and a clear line of sight.
With that said, there are some walkie talkies known to blast a signal slightly farther than others. The Midland GXT1000VP4 boasts a very decent range and incorporates the max wattage allowed for 2 way FRS standard radios (5 watts.) When looking for good 2 ways you want to make sure you’re getting a pair with the most power output. Since these types of devices can’t exceed 5 watts, that’s what you’re aiming for. Many walkies I’ve seen fall short of this power output resulting in lackluster communication range.
But, even with these 5 watt walkies you’ll be lucky to reach such a lofty range. To truly reach the 100 mile distance requires something a little more serious – a ham radio. These types of radios operate using a higher power output and increased frequency range. They can tap into local repeaters which amplify the signal to send your transmission hundreds to thousands of miles across the globe. Ham radios can communicate worldwide with other ham radio operators.
**NOTE** In order to operate on the many available frequencies of these powerful devices you need a Ham Radio operators license. Do people use these radios unlicensed everyday? Of course. But so you don’t get spanked by the FCC strongly consider taking the test. The test is relatively inexpensive and once you pass you can operate and transmit on a number of frequencies. Whole communities have sprung up around ham radio and it’s one of the largest niche hobbies in the world.
Now let’s take a look at a couple handheld hams to get you communicating long distances.
This hand held radio is the most popular on the market. The UV-5r has versatile range of available frequencies and powerful programming features. Easily communicate with short range walkie talkies and program local repeaters to communicate with other ham radios hundreds of miles away. You can set it up as a scanner and listen in on local fire and police channels. The UV-5r makes a great emergency radio and NOAA reciever. If there’s a local emergency you’ll be the first to know if you choose to scan those frequencies. It’s also very inexpensive for the features it packs. Grab two of them to test out with a friend. You’ll certainly achieve a much longer range of communication than you could with a traditional walkie talkie.
The Yaesu VX-6R boasts every feature in the Baofeng UV-5r but is a much higher quality radio. It’s meant for easy programming and has superior scanning functions and capabilities. Ham enthusiasts also note the many ways the device can be hacked through software to perform advanced functions (don’t get yourself in trouble!) It’s also much more expensive but you get what you pay for. Again, using only a couple of these bad boys you can achieve impressive distances as standalone 2 way walkie talkies. Remember, we’re talking hundreds of miles here if you’re close to a local repeater.
The hardware inside of traditional walkie talkies simply cannot muster the power to transmit over a 100 mile range. If you require this type of communication you’ll need to look into the radios I listed above. Both Baofeng and Yaesu make great entry level radios to communicate across those types of distances. In fact, many have found a great hobby in HAM radio and are hooked! Do the research and don’t forget to get licensed for this type of equipment. While rare, the FCC has prosecuted individuals for transmitting over protected frequencies – especially those frequencies allocated to the local police and fire departments.