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Choosing A 2-Way Radio For Hunting [Buying Guide]

A popular form of communication particularly if you are spending time outdoors with a group of friends or family, is the two-way radio. Ideal for keeping in touch if you venture away from the main group.

However, when being used while hunting, you don’t want a radio suddenly blaring a message at you while you’re trying to conceal yourself. Hence, it is advisable that you get something with a headpiece. It allows you to communicate fully with the other party without any issue.

The radios come in a variety of sizes, shapes and weights.  Obviously if you are backpacking, you would probably choose a lightweight model, but if you are mountaineering or skiing then an ergonomic shape would make it easier to use while wearing gloves.

When asking our friends at Palmetto State Armory what they would suggest, we were told:-

“You should always be in contact with another party if you are not hunting alone. There are so many scenarios where a 2-way radio can help you - including knowing where your hunting partners are!

No one wants the worst imaginable happening, and this is a great way to avoid confusion. You really should not go hunting without one”

5 Main Benefits of a 2 way radio

1) Higher Power & Coverage

The main benefit of higher-powered radios (1 or 2 watt models) is their ability to fill in coverage dropouts, for example behind hills or buildings, which often occur within the line of sight of a radio user.

The higher power tends to improve the overall quality of the signal.  Higher watt radios obviously use more battery power and are more expensive so consideration should be given to the proposed use of the radio and whether the need for range outweighs the need for battery life.

A low watt FRS model may be sufficient if your main priority is to keep track of your family on the trail.

2) Privacy during communication

In busy areas, such as a ski resort, 22 channels can quickly become occupied and as a result many radios provide a Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) or a Continuous Digital Coded Squelch System (CDCSS) which still allows the use of a busy main channel via the use of privacy codes.

Instead of trying to communicate with friends or family members by simply using channel 5, privacy codes let you connect with a combination of channel and code, for example Channel 5 and Code 3. 

The use of CTCSS or CDCSS  ‘codes’ can minimize although not eliminate the amount of unwanted chatter on the main channel which the user would otherwise hear.  It is important to remember that a ‘privacy code’ will not make your communication private and this is why some manufacturers call this feature an ‘interference-elimination’ code.

A Pre-set ‘calling’ tone can let you attract the attention of other members of your party before you start talking.  Some models can also be set to vibrate instead of making an audible tone. Scanning allows you to skip through channels to find the one that your group is using. This can also be used to find an ‘empty’ channel for your group to use.

3) Keypack Lock

A keypad lock will allow you to lock your settings in order to prevent them from accidentally getting changed as you go about your outdoor activity. VOX which is a voice activated feature begins broadcasting automatically when you speak in the direction of the radio enabling you to operate the radio ‘hands free’, mountain bikers and skiers will find this to be a useful feature.

4) Enhanced Range

A noise filter will allow clearer signals and an enhanced range.  A further useful feature to have particularly for a backcountry adventure is the NOAA weather band station which gives the local forecast and conditions.

Most two-way radios claim to have a range of up to 25 miles in optimal conditions whereas in most situations a radios actual range will be approximately 2 miles. FRS only models will put out the FRS maximum of a half watt and give a maximum range of 5 - 6 miles. 

GMRS will technically allow a maximum power output of 50 watts (used for base stations) and most recreational handheld radios offer 1 or 2 watts to keep the size and weight low, and these will typically have a maximum range of between 8 - 25 miles.

4) Convenience

Particularly suitable for skiing, kayaking, cycling or for when it is not always possible to stop to answer the radio are Jacks for microphones or headphones allowing you hands free operation. Though more expensive, some units offer an all-in-one nav/comm capability.

5) Sharing Location

One of the key advantages being peer-to-peer positioning which will allow you to broadcast your location coordinates so that they appear on your fellow users’ screen.

Texting/GPS units are ‘non-traditional’ radios which don’t allow you to talk and listen but do allow you to link a cell phone and exchange text messages with other users who are set up in the same way. They will also transmit a GPS location. 

Smart tips that you can Apply

Most two-way radios run on AA or AAA batteries and are designed to accept disposable alkaline batteries or rechargeable nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) batteries.  Others come with their own rechargeable battery packs. 

Obviously the higher the radio’s power output, the faster it will drain the batteries, so perhaps consider a model which will send a unit into a low-power battery-saver mode after a certain length of time has elapsed between broadcasts, or maybe consider a solar charger for in-the-field replenishment of rechargeable batteries.

When planning any outdoor adventure be aware that certain conditions may affect the efficiency of a two-way radio, such as the Topography (hills, deep canyons, ridgelines or tall formations), the weather such as thick clouds, electromagnetic interference - lightening.

Other obstructions such as dense forest structures and large metal surfaces such as inside a vehicle where the range usually becomes less than a mile. To optimise the range of your radio ensure a good line of sight between you and the other radio operator.

Any two-way radios broadcasting on the same frequency (FRS or GMRS) and supporting the same channel can be made to work together.  To obtain full use of your radios other features you would need another radio with the same features, therefore it makes sense to purchase in pairs.

Roderick Harrington

Hi, Roderick here! I love to hunt and shoot. I started hunting at a very young age of 18 when I used to go with my father to hunt deer. As time passes, my interest in hunting kept increasing. With all the knowledge and experience, I thought that I should write insightful and thoroughly researched content on hunting equipments for my readers.

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