Best Walkie Talkies [UK]: Top two way walkie talkies for kid, construction, and camping
Table of Contents
Walkie talkies have been around for as long as I can remember. I have memories of getting a cheap kids version for Christmas when I was about eight or nine years old and playing with them non-stop with my brother and friends until the batteries ran out (which wasn’t long in those days).
The practicality of walkie talkies can’t be denied and to this day they are still used in so many different industries as a way for workers to keep in constant contact with each other, from security in shopping malls, music festivals, etc. to construction workers operating on large sites. They are also extremely popular with people who go hiking or camping in the wilderness on a regular basis as they are a much more reliable form of communication than mobile phones when you are in the middle of nowhere.
They are especially useful when going out into the wild with kids, you know, those little people who have the terrifying tendency to wander off when you’re not looking. A walkie talkie can get you back in contact with them instantly if you lose sight of them, allowing you to track them down and avoiding a heart attack in the process.
There are two main classifications of walkie talkies in the UK- licensed and unlicensed. Licensed walkie talkies are more powerful and so require licensing so that the Office of Communications (OFCOM), the national regulatory body, can assign frequencies and control the amount of traffic on certain lines. This makes it less likely to be interrupted and so they are usually the type used by businesses.
Unlicensed models don’t need to be regulated like this because they are under 0.5 watts when it comes to their output power and are limited to the number of channels they can have. These are the types that a lot people use for their camping trips and such just to keep in touch with each other. They are usually much cheaper than licensed walkie talkies but don’t offer the same level of range, privacy and security.
Below you will find reviews of the most popular walkie talkies that people are buying these days and also a buyer’s guide that will provide you with hints and tips about what to look for in a good walkie talkie.
Best walkie talkies
1. Motorola TLKR T80 Extreme two-way radio - PMR
This twin set of walkie talkies from Motorola is probably the best deal you will find for really sensible money and is my best walkie talkie UK choice. While that is considerably more expensive than a lot of the other products we reviewed here, you really do get what you pay for with these excellent walkie talkies. First thing I have to mention is the quality of everything. The walkie talkies themselves are extremely solid and well put together from robust materials, and all the buttons and dials feel like they will have a long working life without any issues.
Even the accessories that come with the walkie talkies such as the dual charging dock, headphones, and hand strap are much better than what is usually offered up as part of these kinds of packages, and the carrying case to fit it all in is solid and durable with clearly defined spaces to keep everything tidy.
When it comes to range, a lot of cheaper walkie talkies advertise distances that are far greater than what the actual device can manage without getting ‘garbled’ but the Motorola T80 actually still provides crystal clear sound and reception from 1-3 kilometers in town and more like 5-8 kilometres out in wide open countryside. That’s still shorter than the 10km claimed, but it’s closer than most and still a decent distance for an unlicensed walkie talkie.
These T80 walkie talkies run on 4xAAA rechargeable batteries that are supplied with the devices. You simply insert them into the walkie talkies and then sit the devices in the charging dock. You can keep an eye on the charge level on the LCD screen of the walkie talkies much like a mobile phone. A half day’s charging should give you about a whole day’s worth of use.
The different functions and features available include 8 main PMR channels and 121 sub channels to choose from, voice operated transmission, a keypad lock, auto squelch with prevents white noise, room monitoring mode, channel scan, a stopwatch, clock, and LED flashlight.
All of these, and more, can be selected with ease due to the simple and intuitive controls on the T80 walkie talkie. There are no overly complicated menus to get confused by and everything can be operated using the few clearly marked buttons on the device. The feature that stood out for me the most was the voice operated transmission that allowed me to use the walkie talkie hands free. I like to wear sheepskin mittens in winter while I’m hiking, and this function would definitely make things easy for me to operate the walkie talkie without talking them off.
In summary, this is an excellent pair of walkie talkies that don’t really have many drawbacks. If you want a device that actually does what the makers say, then do yourself a favour and shell out the extra money for these. You won’t be disappointed and they are definitely some of the best walkie talkies you can buy for the price.
2. Retevis RT24 Walkie Talkie
The Retevis RT25 walkie talkie is yet another outstanding two way radio, but this time for a bargain price. The device is constructed of a sturdy alloy metal middle frame encased in strong and hard wearing plastic. The antennae, dials, and buttons all feel substantial, especially the large PTT button on the side, and the button gives a reassuring feedback sound when you press them to let you know that it is working properly.
A great feature of this Retevis walkie talkie is that there are multiple charging options. It contains and runs off a 1100mAh lithium ion Battery that will last about 12 hours while in use and will last for around 72 hours when on standby. If your battery is getting low, you can either charge it by plugging the charging dock into your car cigarette lighter, or by inserting a USB charging cable (not supplied, but they are very common and cheap to buy) and powering it up via the mains, a laptop or even a power bank.
When it comes to available channels, the RT24 gives you the maximum allowed for walkie talkies without paying for a license, that’s 16 channels, twice as many major channels as the Motorola T80, so you have less chance of getting interference from other, third party users.
We tested these in the town and also out in the Yorkshire countryside to see what kind of range they could muster. In town was about what you would expect from walkie talkies that are going for under 30 pounds, about 600 metres, but out in more open, yet hilly areas the range increased to about 2 kilometres before we started losing decent connections.
In its working range, the RT24 walkie talkie produces a very loud and clear sound quality and not at all like some of the muffled communications that I have had with other models of the same price. For the low cost, I was surprised at what was included in the packaging. There were 2 RT24 walkie talkies and each came with its own charging dock, lithium ion battery, sling, belt clip, and earpiece. That’s very good value for money and while the accessories aren’t quite up to the very high standards of the Motorola T80, they are still more than adequate.
The RT24 doesn’t have all the special features that the Motorola T80 has, nor does it have the same top level quality, but it does have all the basic functions needed and it performs very well for something that costs a quarter of price of the Motorola model, and that is why it is a best seller and on our list of best walkie talkies in the UK.
3. Radioddity GA-2S Walkie Talkies
Customisation is always a welcome trait on any electronic device, so I was happy to see that Radioddity had taken this into account with their GD-2S walkie talkie. It arrives with 16 channels already set up for you to use, but you can edit these and other settings by using a cable to connect the walkie talkie to your laptop and working with either GA-2S software or CHIRP software. The cable doesn’t come as standard but you can request a free one from Radioddity or use an old Baofeng one if you have one lying around as they fit and work just fine.
Another very useful customisable feature of the GA-2S walkie talkie is the removable/changeable antennae. While the stock antennae is perfectly fine for most tasks, and will give you about 500 metres of range in town, if you feel you need to use it over a much longer distance, you can always swap it out for a longer one.
It’s this flexibility that I really like about this walkie talkie. You can either use it as it comes as a very good basic unlicensed model, or tinker with a few settings, change the antennae, and you have something far more powerful. Just remember, if using this on the full 2 watt power and a larger antennae, you will be breaking the law if you don’t get a license.
Even though the GA-2S is lightweight and compact enough to easily sit the hand, it is still a solid bit of kit. Just like the Retevis RT-24 walkie talkie, this one has a solid middle frame and sturdy plastic casing. The buttons and controls also feel durable.
Speaking of buttons, there is an extra button that sits under the PTT button on the side of the walkie talkie that can be programmed to function as either an alarm or monitor button. You do need the programming cable and software to do this though, but the instruction manual is really good and explains the process well. Radioddity also has a good customer service line to help with programming the device should you run into trouble.
On the other side of the device there are the ports for the air acoustic earpiece and a micro USB port. With the supplied headset in place it makes using the VOX voice activation mode all that much easier, and the USB port means that charging can be done via the mains using a mobile phone charger, straight from your car, your computer or laptop, and a power bank. The battery life on this device is excellent, giving you a whopping 96 hours standby time on a full charge and running for a full day and more, quite easily.
For a walkie talkie that costs under 30 pounds there are lots of functions to tinker around with such as the VOX function, time out timer, busy channel lockout, and battery saving mode. The sound quality is also surprisingly clear and comes from a 1 watt speaker.
For 30 pounds you get two walkie talkies with charging stations, USB cables, belt clips, and ear pieces. There is also the option to buy a set of 4, or even 6, and you save a few quid by doing so. These are great walkie talkies that offer you up some nice customisation options. They are well built, and low on the price range. What’s not to like?
4. eSynic Walkie Talkies
Available to buy at just under 23 pounds when I wrote this, the eSynic double set of walkie talkies offer you a lot of ‘bang for your buck’.
In fact they might offer a little too much ‘bang’ as they arrive set up on frequencies and at a power setting that actually makes them illegal to use without a license. You need to plug them into a computer and use CHIRP software to lower the power settings and change the frequencies to make them legal before switching them on and using them. Again though, the program cable isn’t included (I don’t know why none of these companies provide one??) so you’ll need to invest in one separately. I read that you could connect the charging dock to a PC and program it that way, but I couldn’t personally get it to work. Then again, I’m not the most computer savvy person in the world.
On full power mode, and with a license, you can use these eSynic walkie talkies to communicate over a distance of about 3 kilometres in very open spaces and still have a clear sound coming through, but when using them on unlicensed settings that drops significantly, especially in a building or built up area where we struggled to get 400 metres.
They come with the usual array of accessories- slings, charging docks, belt clips, earpieces, etc. and the quality of them is very decent for the low price except for the earpieces which I can’t see lasting long.
The charging docks use USB cables and will fully charge the lithium ion batteries within half a day or so. The batteries can slide out easily to be mounted in the charging dock or you can choose to just insert the whole walkie talkie unit instead. There are LED lights that let you know when charging is complete.
Extra functions include a powerful LED torch light for nighttime use (which I think all walkie talkies should have), a low battery alarm, and noise reduction.
The noise reduction features help to give a clear sound quality and you won’t have problems understanding each other, but it is not quite up the standards of our three previous reviews above. For just over 20 quid you can’t grumble too much at that though.
And that sums up these walkie talkies. They are good for the price, and would make excellent gifts for the kids to play with, but there are superior models out there for around ten pounds more.
5. Retevis RT628 Kids Walkie Talkies
Kids love playing with walkie talkies but trusting them with your 100 pound or more priced gadgets is probably not at the top of your agenda. This is why there are a lot of companies who make walkie talkies specially designed for children. Unfortunately, a lot of them are not really worth the money you pay for them and you might find that they have very short range, pick up a lot of interference, and break very easily. This is not the case with the excellent RT628 walkie talkies from Retevis.
These devices would make great gifts for kids over the age of six. They are designed to be held comfortably by small hands measuring just 16 x 2.8 x 5.5 cm and weigh in at just over 90 grams.
Retevis have done really well to make something that is compact and lightweight enough for kids to play with but still durable enough to take the kind of abuse that can only come from kids at play. The outer casing is a very strong plastic and all the external parts like the antennae and buttons will be able to take a hammering without breaking any time soon.
These are available in four different colours –black, red, camouflage, and silver, with the army camouflage being my nephew’s favourite. We tested these out in the town and got a decent reception at 500 metres on the high power setting which is really good for kid’s walkie talkies. I don’t doubt that they will work even better once out in the countryside. Of course, if you want to save battery life and opt for low power mode, your range will suffer a bit.
The RT628 walkie talkies have 8 usable channels and 10 different call tones to choose from. There is a vox hands free mode and even a keypad lock designed to let even young kids play without worrying that your settings will be changed. In action though it only takes them to figure out that they hold the menu button for a few seconds and it unlocks.
Retevis have really thought about making these walkie talkies safe for kids and have added a privacy code feature so that no third parties can listen in on your children’s conversations. If you have more than two of these walkie talkies, they can all speak to each other using the same channel and privacy code.
The front of the walkie talkie features an easy to see LCD screen that displays various information such as battery level and channel, and below and to the sides of this screen are where most of the control buttons can be found. These buttons are clearly marked and made of hard wearing rubber.
Power comes from 3 AAA batteries which you have to buy separately. As far as kid’s walkie talkies go, these are top notch, and my only problem with them is that I never had anything like this when I was a kid.
Walkie Talkie Buyer’s Guide
So, you’re looking at buying a decent set of walkie talkies for your next camping or fishing trip, for use at work, or just something for the kids to play with, but you don’t really know what you should be looking for. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could list down the main characteristics that go into the best walkie talkies so you could get a better idea? Well, aren’t you lucky? We have done just that.
License free or licensed walkie talkies?
Most low cost walkie talkies are license free and this means that they are limited to 0.5 watts of power output and also to 16 channels. They have less range than licensed walkie talkies too.
Licensed models also called GMRS models, are much more powerful, even up to ten times as powerful as some unlicensed walkie talkies, and thus have a much greater range. They are generally more expensive and also require you to have a license to use them.
There are low cost models out there that can act as both though but require you to set up the device correctly.
CHIRP is software that makes it easy to program your walking talkie by using your computer or laptop. You can change all kinds of settings using CHIRP and program the channels as you want them. On some higher powered models you can change the power settings so that you can use the walkie talkie legally without needing a license.
Before buying a walkie talkie online read through the comments section and reviews like the ones on this page to see what people are saying about the quality of the sound. There’s no point a walkie talkie having a great range if you can’t understand a word that is being said by the other person.
Advertisers will always exaggerate about the maximum range of their walkie talkies, some a little, some a lot. It may state that the device has a range of 10 kilometers for example, but this is in perfect circumstances and conditions and you are very unlikely to get anywhere near what is claimed. There are exceptions to this though, so once again I would read up on what customers are saying about the true range of a walkie talkie rather than believing the adverts. Also, you have to understand that using walkie talkies in built up areas will drastically shorten the practical range of any model.
If you’re using a license free walkie talkie, there is always the chance that someone could be listening in to your conversation. This is where privacy codes come in.
privacy codes don’t completely stop third parties from being able to hear you, but they do help a lot. If you are going to let kids play with walkie talkies, privacy codes are a very good feature to have because you never know who might be listening.
Other features to look out for
Other features that are useful are VOX, or voice activation which allows you to operate the walkie talkie without having to use your hands to press the PTT button, waterproofing to a good IP level, lithium ion batteries and USB charging function. An LCD screen can be handy when it comes to keeping an eye on battery level and signal strength, and removable antennae can also be a good way of getting more range by swapping the standard one with a larger unit. LCD flashlights for nighttime use, alarms, call tones, and auto squelch are also handy extras.