Grossly confused

I need to buy newer walkie talkies, and am quite confused despite a lot of reading. Please advise. (1) If I buy what I gather is a “hybrid” radio that works on FRS and GMRS, do I need an FCC license? (2) Are there really any QUALITY FRS IP54 or …67 rated radios? I read manufacturer site reviews and they seem pretty good (any bias there?? ha ha) but reviews on places like Amazon show 20-25% responses in 1-star and 2-star categories. The GMRS radios seem to fare better, but I don’t really want an FCC license for everyone who uses my radio; family and friends. Any ideas? I need to communicate with another boat, and we may be a mile or two apart, with perhaps some islands inbetween us; braided rivers. Thanks for any suggestions/answers! john

First, since you mentioned boats, where do you plan to use the radios? Will they be primarily used for marine activities, terrestrial use, or both? Will they be used in the US or international waters? The answers to your questions depend on where and how you will use them.

Now, assuming you will be using them in the US on land or a combination of land and lakes, the following applies:

  1. (a) In 2017 the FCC redefined the rules for what are commonly known as hybrid FRS/GMRS radios. Any of those radios that operate under 2 watts are no longer considered FRS/GMRS, but FRS only and are now “licensed by rule”, meaning that you don’t need a license to operate them. However, if the radios are over 2 watts, they are considered GMRS radios, and require a GMRS license to operate.

(b) FRS and GMRS share the same channels and frequencies. The difference is that if you are using them with a Part 95 approved radio with a fixed antenna at under 2 watts (which covers nearly all the FRS/GMRS hybrid radios on the market, you are operating on the FRS. If you are using the frequencies with a higher wattage radio that is Part 95 approved, has a fixed or removeable antenna, or is capable of using GMRS repeaters such as the Midland GXT1000 (2.95 watts) or MicroMobile GMRS radios (5-40 watts, external antenna and repeater capable), you are using those frequencies on the GMRS.

  1. There are FRS radios designed as waterproof. Some are submersible, and a few even float.

  2. If you decide to get a GMRS license, you don’t need to buy one for every member of your family. One GMRS license covers them all, including spouse, children, grandchildren, stepchildren, parents, grandparents, stepparents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and in-laws. Read more.

If you are only using the radios over open water, or will be in international waters, you may want to consider a marine radio instead. No license is required when operating marine radios on recreational vessels operating domestically which are not required by law to carry a radio or do not travel to foreign ports. However, If your vessel travels to ports in other countries, you will need to have a license.

Rick: Wow. That is a brain full. Thanks very much for clearing up a lot of issues. I just ordered Motorola T460’s, and like a dunderhead, I did not think to check first; ever heard of them? ha ha. That cost me an extra $20! I will try to cancel the order and order from