Long-range walkie-talkies (which we’ll abbreviate here to LRWT, for short) come in many different shapes and sizes. They also typically boast a wide variety of extra features, such as LCD screens, weather warnings and emergency buttons. It is up to you to decide which of these extra features are worth spending out on.
Shopping for an LRWT is essentially the same deal as shopping for any other kind of walkie-talkie or two-way radio. Of course, you should ignore any claims that the radio can communicate across distances of 30, or even 25, miles, such claims are always to be considered fallacious (as we’ve discussed elsewhere this month). In addition, it is worth investing in a radio that has a ‘privacy’ function if you are planning to use it at a crowded event, or indeed in any place that is likely to play host to a lot of signal traffic.
Remember also that VHF and UHF radios are completely incompatible. DO NOT attempt to buy a VHF radio to go with a UHF radio (or vice versa), just trust us on this.
It also pays to be aware of licensing requirements. Many radios will need to be used with a license, which you can attain relatively easily (and often surprisingly cheaply). It does, however, absolutely need to be done. Of course, an LRWT that is listed as PMR446 (or has a power output of less than 0.5 watts) requires no license.
Other questions you could ask yourself are:
What type of batteries does your prospective LRWT use? Are they AA, AAA or rechargeable (we recommend the latter)?
Is the radio water/shock proof? Does it need to be?
Another consideration is ease of use. In order to be truly effective, a walkie-talkie needs to be easy to use. There is a school of thought which suggests that, the more buttons there are to press and functions there are to master, the less effective the user will be in a crisis. If you can get extra functions that do not otherwise impede the simplicity of layout and use, then you’re probably onto a winner, but otherwise, we reckon simplicity is key.
The most important thing to keep in mind, however, is what you want the radio for. Do not, under any circumstances, lose sight of the task at hand. If you are looking for a professional piece of equipment, many of these decisions must be made with your staff in mind. However, if you’re just looking to have a bit of a laugh, then you needn’t be as picky as we’ve suggested.