Long range walkie talkies

I’m new to the forum today, and know very little about communications.
I have owned a couple of gmrs radios by motorola and uniden which are
rated up to 15-20 miles. They work fine and are reliable, but in most urban
settings and the hills and bush for hunting and hiking, the range is limited to
1-2miles. Though these units can be found on sale at walmart for about
$40-60, what can some of the experts advise in a higher wattage and true
longer range portables that can achieve a reliable 10-20 miles in the city and
rough terrain, at a budget price?
Most of my use would be in a hunting or hiking setting for emergency contact.

I appreciate any advise, Earl.

That’s the best you will do. Without repeaters and such, you are not going to get much range. Do not pay attention to the outrageous range claims manufacturers talk about.

I agree, you will not find anything that will reach that kind range without a repeater system. A repeater takes the signal from your radio and boosts it dramatically. A repeater system would be a lot more money and from my understanding you have to be licensed to use it. Expect 1 to 2 miles. You would only get those long ranges if you were talking from one mountain top to another on a clear day.

Thanks guys for the info on my walkie talkie post, and it would appear that
even if I invested in a quality vhf 5watt set, as opposed to the family 1watt sets, I wouldn’t achieve any more range without a repeater?
So onto the next logical step, finding the longest range gmrs uhf set available.
So my last question to those who can offer comment, is when looking at
cobra, motorola and uniden etc., would I achieve any more range from the
same two locations with a set that is rated at say 10miles, vs the more
expensive set rated at 27miles?


No some are better than others. A lot has to do with frequency, antenna length and watts of output. Dont buy those FRS half watt chepo radios, they wont even make it a mile. Here are a couple of radios that a lot of people like.



Now I personally like the first listed, the Cobra. I like the fact that its both marine and GMRS at 5 watts. I also like its many options and all the extras you can buy for it. Ofcourse, its a bit more pricey and only comes one at a time not two to a package. I have used to Midland before and it worked alright. It had range between one and two miles.

Actually, when dealing with FRS and GMRS radios, the main factors determining link distance are height and obstructions, not power and not antenna gain (which is closely related to antenna boom length for beams or antenna length for monopoles). For example, if you take a 0.5W FRS radio up on top of a mountain and someone else does the same thing 20 miles away on a similar height mountain, that signal may be quite good in both directions if the conditions are right. In some cases it may go 50 or more miles under excellent conditions.

Conversely, in the congested city where there are very tall buildings blocking the signal, it wouldnt matter if you used 50 watts because it would be blocked by tall buildings and bounce around like a pinball. You might not even get a 1 mile radius there reliably even with 50 watts.

The attenuation from buildings and other obstructions can be much more than any gain of a high gain antenna or a power amplifier. That is, if your low to medium gain antenna is low to the ground, you would probably be better off just raising it rather than upgrading to a higher gain antenna. Of course if raising the antenna is not possible, then a higher gain antenna is worth a try.

If you just want an off the shelf UHF radio, the 5 watt Midlands are pretty good. I think you can select low, med, high on those which are 1W, 3W, and 5W respectively. The antenna length is also a fairly good indicator of performance you can expect. Usually cheapie FRS/GMRS radios have very short “stub” antennas whereas the better models are a little longer. The closer the antenna is to 1/4WL on a handheld unit, more likely the better the performance will be. For FRS/GMRS that is about 6.5 inches and for MURS it is about 19 inches.

If you want significantly longer range than a rubber duck can provide and have a GMRS license, you can attach a 3 element beam to a short aluminum pole (enough to reach a few feet over your head) and rig it up so you can carry it in a backpack. The UHF beams for those frequencies are small enough to do that. You should get about a 4x effective power increase so if you use a 5W radio, it will perform more like a 20W radio and have much better receive too (assuming you point it in the proper general direction).

To answer your question, usually the GMRS radios rated with the highest advertised range perform best. That is, it is fair to assume that a 30 mile radio will perform better than a 10 mile radio. As I stated previously, Midland models seem to work pretty well I have tested them. UHF is great because the antennas are small and dont usually get in the way like the old 3 and 4 foot long telescoping CB antennas (I still have some of those).

I hope this all helps.

I agree .

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The ranges advertised are the most optimistic, best case type -estimates-! They are never guaranteed. One way is to figure maybe a 1/3rd of that range figure. HTs are only for short range communications and convenience, don’t expect ‘reliability’!

There are plenty of web sites that are devoted just to the question you asked. Basically because of the curvature of the earth, the height above ground of the antenna, the antenna gain, the path loss, about the best range you can expect is about 3.2 miles - on flat ground, and Im talking about Nebraska flat. All effective communications is line of sight - period.
UHF is like a flashlight -it goes in a straight line, VHF is more like yelling, it goes in all directions. Fm - Frequency Modulation is very inefficient - but very quiet. Nothing short of getting amateur radio licenses for everyone that wants to talk is going to solve your problem. Even then if you insist on a handheld, the range is not going to increase without a usable repeater. And most people that are hams aren’t going to want to hear conversations that should be reserved for a telephone, and you can’t expect any sort of privacy on a radio.
I tried to get family members to get a ham license and they all saw eewe, why would I want to do that. Some said they would get one if they could buy it, but none of them actually wanted to be hams, so why bother?
GMRS is no better. Since Corona, everyone wants to put up a repeater.
But GMRS got away from that a long time ago, and now it seems to be going in the other direction. Some people trying to turn it into ham radio, but its never going to take the place of ham radio so why try?
Good Luck, hope you find the magic bullet that solves your problems.