Best 2-Way Radios - In Depth Review
(FRS, GMRS, MURS)
In today’s technological society, people are increasingly finding it somewhat strange to imagine a time when there was no way to go out and about without having a cell-phone glued to the inside of your pocket. Even heading for a walk on a frisk autumn morning and seeing your service provider as well as your beloved “4G” icon disappear can be enough to cause anxiety, stress and hesitation.
I know, it might seem strange to the rest of us outdoor-enthusiasts, but the truth is that immersing yourself in the wild and communicating without a phone is a very foreign concept to most people. The world is becoming one of digitalization which is why it’s unsurprising that our reliance on the digital world is also increasing.
Enter; the world of radios.
Most of you are probably already aware of this and have experienced the phenomena yourselves. However, I believe there’s something truly magical and immensely satisfying about being able to seamlessly communicate through hundreds of yards of deep forest. Or even thousands of yards, if you’re on flat terrain. No service provider can put their handcuffs on your communication with 2-way radios and that’s just one of the many benefits associated with using these devices.
Even though you might already have a good idea of how to navigate the market of 2-way radios, there are frequently new updates, capabilities and limitations being slapped onto these little devices. Though there’s no need to worry, during this deep dive into the world of radios, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the best 2-way radios of 2019.
So, let’s jump in.
Starting With The Basics
First of all, let’s start off by painting a simple picture of all the basic needs when it comes to finding the perfect 2-way radio, no matter how you’re planning to use them.
If you’re like me and consider yourself a bit of a nerd when it comes to this topic, I won’t mind (that much) if you skip ahead to the next section where we actually start digging into the main course of this review. If you, on the other hand, are in need of a quick refreshment on what factors to consider when finding the best 2-way radio for you and your necessities, stick around and we’ll get started on the basics.
Why Do We Use 2-Way Radios?
The first and most obvious reason why the use of 2-way radios has been kept intact is because cell-phone service providers simply aren’t able to follow us to all the cool and amazing places we want to go.
The evolution of 2-way radio communication has taken a big step in the right direction compared to the days when a mobile system took up the entire back seat of a police squad car, due to the limitation of the 2-way radio's range. As they say, that’s history.
Coming from the digital progress of recent years, the capabilities and features of these handy radio devices have significantly improved all communications for both commercial and industry purposes. Cell-phone who?
What’s The Difference Between GMRS, FRS MURS?
GMRS stands for General Mobile Radio Service, FRS for Family Radio Service, and MURS for Multiple User Radio Service.
A GMRS is a land mobile FM UHF radio service, specifically designed for two-way radio communication. They are normally portable, handheld, and mobile radios that are much like the more common FRS radios and walkie talkies.
The GMRS and FRS are both dual-service radios, which means the FRS are capable of operating on the 14 different channels assigned by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), compared to the 9 additional channels set aside for GMRS use.
However, there’s a little more to it, so stick with me here. All 14 channels on FRS are limited to half a watt of transmitting power. On the GMRS side of things, you share channel 1-7 with FRS and are able to transmit at up to 50 watts; 5 watts for handheld radios.
In terms of the MURS radio, its main advantage is the ability to transmit using 2 watts, providing you and your co-users with an increased range.
It holds a set of five frequencies that fall under the Very High Frequency (VHF) category and can be transmitted at 2 watts. Namely, four times the output of FRS radios.
You may also add some extra length to its antennas in order to score some additional transmitting and receiving range. This is a significant upside over the aforementioned FRS/GMRS units.
Another upside with MURS radios is the possibility of programming privacy codes into the radios, just like FRS/GMRS. This can help prevent interference on crowded channels whilst improving your overall experience.
If you’re planning on buying yourself and your hunting pals a radio, or simply interested in investing in a 2-way radio, it’s important to pay extra attention to the next section. We cover important details including all the licensing requirements you need to know about.
Do I Need A License To Use Any Of These Radios? If So, Where Can I Get It?
An FRS radio does not require a license, while a GMRS radio does. However, don’t worry, getting a GMRS license is a lot easier than you may expect.
In order to attain your license, there is no need for any tests. You simply need to apply and pay around 90 USD to the FCC.
Your GMRS license is then valid for 10 years. When you receive your license, you will be assigned a call sign, which you must use to self-identify when operating on a GMRS frequency at least once every 15 minutes. Not doing so could lead to a hefty fine. These fines can be up to $20,000 so you will want to make sure you’re safe rather than sorry on this one.
What Type Of 2-Way Radio Should I Buy?
It’s a great question and one worth considering.
GMRS radios are considerably popular, especially when it comes to commercial purposes. However, they’re often used by many civilians and are popular within hunting communities, as well as for outdoor activities (hikers etc.), due to their long-range capabilities.
Keep in mind though that even if some of these fancy camo-packages might be bragging about a 36-mile range (or something similar), it won’t be the case unless you and your hunting friends are on completely flat terrain.
For most people, FRS radios will meet their range needs, unless a very specific need is being filled.
In terms of MURS usage, it’s great for short-range communications and is available for both personal or business use, depending on your needs.
If you have any specific conditions you’re taking into account whilst figuring out what radio you or your business should invest in, feel free to shoot us a message and I’ll personally make sure you can find the right tool for the task!
The Best 2-Way Radios Of 2019
Before we get started, let’s quickly brush through the different factors taken into account whilst comparing and compiling this extensive in-depth review of the best 2-way radios of 2019.
The range is the maximum distance the radios can be apart whilst still having the capability to communicate with one another.
All features play their roles with a different level of importance, depending on what you’re using them for. No matter if you’re prepping for a construction project or if you’re using the radio for hunting in the outback with your pals, you’ll want to make sure the 2-way radio you invest in has the right features. I’ve listed the various features of each radio below.
Weight & Size
This factor comes into play if you’re looking for a portable GMRS radio for backpacking, for instance. We all know those ounces have a tendency to quickly turn into pounds.
This is a crucial factor if you’re planning on bringing the radio outside. Weather can be unpredictable at times so it’s never a bad idea to get a waterproof radio.
Repeater Cable Radios allow the device to re-transmit frequency at a higher wattage, leaving you with a better reception and greatly increasing the radio’s range capabilities.
Why not stay ahead of that unpredictable weather we just mentioned by receiving up-to-date weather alerts? This increases the safety and security of your 2-way radio.
This allows you to pair your radio to a headset. This feature comes in handy on a regular basis, especially if you don’t want everyone to hear your transmissions, or if you are planning on using the radio in a mounted position.
This factor determines how long the radio will last on a single charge. This is an essential point to consider, as most of us are owners of the renowned cell-phones we’ve been talking so much about.
It’s always helpful hearing what people like and dislike about certain radios.
1. Midland GXT1050VP4
Easy-to-use power output settings (Low, Med, High)
Vibrate feature to silence all tones
Comes with desktop chargers and AC/DC adapters
2 boom mic headsets and belt clips included
Comes with rechargeable batteries and AA-battery compatible
NOAA weather scan and alerts
Available in Camouflage and several other color schemes
One of my initial thoughts upon taking this beast of a radio for a spin is how good and how optimized it is for hunting, day trips and for hiking. I primarily say day trips because one of its more obvious weaknesses is its battery life. It’s a great option if you’re looking to go hunting for the day, or if you are going for a solid hike up in the mountains. If you’re planning a multiple-day trip, just ensure you have a way to charge the battery or bring an extra set of AA batteries; easy fix.
Another feature making it a great option for hunting is its five animal call alerts, as well as its vibrate feature which you may use to silence all tones. It also holds a NOAA weather alert feature, splash resistance (no, that doesn’t mean waterproof) and 142 programmable privacy codes for anyone wanting to stay away from crowded channels’ interference.
The 36-mile range stamp the company slapped onto it sounds great, but keep in mind that it won’t be the case unless you’re out roaming a super flat terrain or on water.
In terms of technical usage, the Midland GXT1050 VP4 is listed as a 50 channel GMRS radio, but it really only holds 24 GMRS channels, and it is not a repeater capable. The other 26 channels are FRS only, which is fine but can be misleading to some. Keep in mind that a few of these channels are pre-programmed Midland channels, meaning you won't be able to use all 50 as classic FRS/GMRS channels.
In terms of license, I recommend getting one for these radios. However, legally, you can operate these radios on channels 1-7 and 15-22 with the “M” power setting enabled, which puts the radio under 2 watts. You may use channels 7-14 if you want to stay below the updated max output (0.5 watts) power standards set by the FCC.
Other than that, it’s also the most reviewed (and I guess most frequently bought too) 2-way radio on Amazon, which I take as a good sign. People buy it, and people like it. I leave you to do the math on that one.
2. BTECH GMRS V1
50 privacy codes
1800mAh rechargeable lithium ion battery with charger
V-85 Dual band antenna (removable)
Earpiece kit and belt clip included
This is actually a Baofeng UV-82 re-purposed for transmitting on GMRS frequencies only. A superb radio if you’re looking to rock the repeater capable capabilities. In terms of 2-way radios, I believe the BTECH GMRS-V1 might actually be the best way to bank your buck if you’re looking for a GMRS radio.
It’s a solid product and holds great value for the price you pay. The V1 has recently been updated in order to meet the new rules set by the FCC, and has all 30 possible channels (23 GMRS and eight repeater channels) for GMRS radios. It also comes with dual-band channel receiver and can transmit on with a repeater.
Taking a look at its technical aspect, GMRS Channels 1-7 and 15-22 are hard coded into the transceiver. An additional 8 channels with a +5 MHz repeater offset are also hard coded into the radio.
Additionally, the V1 is an easy-to-use radio with excellent range and battery capacity. It can also last for multiple days on a single charge (depending on how frequently you used it.) It has an FM radio that can play while you monitor up to 2 channels.
3. BTECH MURS V1
No license required
15 modifiable MURS two-way channels
FM radio and built in flashlight
High (2W) and low (2W) power settings
Earpiece kit, belt loop clip and wrist strap included
No list of the best 2-Way Radios of 2019 is complete without a solid MURS option.
This product is a great option for anyone looking to score a solid and high-quality 2-way radio. This choice is one that’s able to fulfill most needs out there, without having to get a license from the FCC.
It’s possible to use the previously mentioned radios, if they’re properly set up of course, without obtaining your license. Although, if you’re someone who isn’t tech savvy or familiar with navigating your way through the jungle of radio technology, you’ll most likely find this option more suitable.
The BTECH MURS-V1 can be used for most fields ranging from serious business, manufacturing, retail, construction or commercial use, to personal ventures like hunting, fishing trips, hiking or camping. This is, without engaging full geek-mode, a full power, full compliance, Part 95J certified, MURS, 2W business and personal transceiver.
We hope you enjoyed this in-depth review, exploring the wonderful world of 2-way radios. If you have any queries or questions, feel free to send us a message and we will be sure to get back to you as soon as possible!