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30 Miles? The Truth About Range

Midland GXT2000 Two Way RadioYou may have noticed that most of the consumer two-way radios you see around advertise a range of up to 30 miles. The truth is, consumer FRS/GMRS radios will not even provide close to the advertised "maximum range".

The range that a two-way radio advertises is the range that the radio should get in "ideal" conditions. Ideal conditions are line of sight, such as from a mountaintop to a valley below -- no interference at all. Most likely, you will not be using the radios in these circumstances! You will probably want two-way radios for things such as hunting, skiing, malls, car trips or vacations. Under these normal conditions, the range of the radio will be limited because of obstructions, such as trees, hills, or buildings. These obstructions block the signal and dramatically reduce the range of a two-way radio.

So what type of range can you expect from your radio? Usually half a mile up to two miles, depending upon your terrain and the power of your radio. In the same environment, a 2 watt radio with a long antenna would provide considerably more range than a half watt radio with a short antenna. When choosing a radio, it is very important to consider both the amount of range that you need and the environment in which you will be using the radios. Naturally, you wouldn't have as many obstructions in a football stadium as being in the middle of a heavily wooded area. For use in a stadium you would likely be fine with a small, one watt radio. In a wooded area, however, that same radio may not provide sufficient range. These are things that you need to take into consideration when choosing which two-way radio is right for you.

Related Resources
Getting The Most Range From Your Radio
The Two Way Radio Show TWRS-05 - Radios in Range
The Two Way Radio Show TWRS-45 - The Truth About GMRS Radio Range
Radio 101 - The truth about FRS / GMRS two way radio range
How To Optimize Range for Motorola Talkabout Two Way Radios

89 Comments

Are you really serious about this 1 1/2- to 2 1/2-mile range of a 5 watt radio?!! I knew that I should not be naive about radio range when I started my search for a good two-way radio set, but I am really surprised. I am looking for a solution to communication requirements that will take place over short distances in places like Yellowstone National Park. I expect us to be at least 5 to 10 miles apart at any time, with wooded sections between us. Should I search for another solution to my communication needs? Thanks! (Great weblog!)

I would recommend a repeater system with a high-powered two-way radio or a high-powered CB radio.

Hello, I have 2 XTN 2100 in place at my factory and have added a XTN 2600 but cannot get to work with the others. Are they supposed to be compatible? and I am following all instructions. The only thing I can think of is that since the first have only 1 channel and the latter have 6, that I might not be setting it correcly. Need to know if these radios are compatible.
Thanks

Within the XTN series radios, you have the XU and the XV series. Make sure those two aren't mismatched. If they are the same, make sure that channel one on both radios is set to the same frequency and privacy code.

The best thing to do is get a CB with SSB or use a 5 Watt Ham Radio with a license and a repeater. Repeaters can reach over 25 miles between two radios and even more if linked.

So what knid of range can I expect from a 5 watt Midland radio in a lightly wooded area?

I have a Motorola T5720.

It has a 1 watt power.
In my location, its just houses and short buildings.

A friend and I want to keep in touch in from our houses. We live in a suburban area, so I'm aware we will most definitely not get half the range advertised. Our houses are a 1/2 mile to a mile away. Please tell what watt or power and range we should get for our needs.

Any 4-5 watt radio using the GMRS channels will work great. I would give these a look: http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/midland/midland-gxt-720-vp3.aspx You will get a mile of range as long as there are not too many obstacles (large buildings, hills) between the two houses.

I have a pair of midland GXT720's. I have been unable to get an answer to this: Can I leave them on while in the charging cradle?
I need to buy at least 10 pair for a security network for our remote village. Those I have do the job, but they need to be left on 24/7. I contacted Midland, but they never responded.

I asked around in here and it is not recommended to leave radios turned on all of the time while charging. It will drastically reduce the battery life, and probably that of the radio as well. If you need 20 working at all times, then you will be better off to get 40 and rotate them.

I need to connect two buildings about 30 miles apart, and 12-15 trucks running between and around them. What set up would you recommend? I have intentions of putting towers in at both buildings, but don't know what type of antenna to put on top.

You will need a repeater setup, call us at 1-800-584-1445 or send us an email and one of our consultants will help you pick the best radio/repeater/antenna package. Thanks!

a Two Building Church two floors ,Brick ,Block and plaster walls what brand and model ULF Radio do recommend in the $50.00 each Price.

I will drive from LA to Salt Lake City with several friends, we will drive in two cars so we want to be in contact in case the second car gets lost or something. We don't live in the US so we don't have cell phones. I want to use the Motorola MR350. What recomendations you have? What channels we should be using? We don't know anything about 2 way radios. Can you please give us advice for this situation. Thanks a lot!

The Motorola MR350 will work fine. You may also like this one: http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/midland/midland-gxt-740-vp3.aspx You are supposed to use the FRS channels 8-14 unless you have a GMRS license. If you get a license then you can use any channel that is "open" and not being used.

a friend and want to keep in touch from our house. we live about 19 miles away seperated by a busy highway, houses, buildings etc. is there any brand of walkie talkies that will have the range and power to accomplish this?

I am afraid without the use of a repeater (a rather expensive bit of equipment) you will not find any two way radio that is able to communicate that far.

I am driving along with 3 other vehicles from San Diego to 800mi into Baja. I am looking for two radios(first and last vehicles) which will allow for communication during the trip. First day will be 12 hours driving, so battery life for 12 hours is necessary. Which Midland radio sets do you recommend, and why?

GIve these a look: http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/midland/midland-gxt-1000-vp4.aspx They have 5 watts of power so you will have good range. They also have a battery saver mode, and selectable power levels to help conserve the batteries. Please remember though that the battery life is dependent on usage.

Another option is this Motorola, it can be recharged with a USB cable: http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/motorola/motorola-mr350r.aspx You could recharge this in the vehicle and do not need to use a charger.

We are looking for small radio for hunting use in steep terain. Is there a compact, maximum power, unit available that would fit in a shirt pocket? One with a folding antena would be ideal.

I would give these a look: http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/cobra/cobra-cxr700.aspx They are compact, and have small antennas.

My church wants to set up an emergency communications network from a building that is 6miles apart from the farthest buildings. Land is fairly flat, but heavily populated. Would GMRS be ok, or do we need to go to a Ham radio set up?

A GMRS radio might get six miles. If the line of transmission is unobstructed by other building you should be able to communicate. If there are a lot of buildings though, your range will be about 2 miles.

I really like the Midland GXT-1000-VP4. Can these hand-held radios take a much shorter antennae when you don't need the extra power and then have the longer antennae when you do?

The antenna is fixed and cannot be removed. They had to do this because radios capable of using the FRS frequencies are not allowed to have removable antennas.

I have a midland gxt 720. Is it possible to use this radio on a business network that uses motorola radius cp200s?

Probably not. What frequencies are the CP200s using? There are also limitations as to how GMRS frequencies may be used for business purposes.

hi, I need to buy a set of radios for my wife and I, possibly a few other members of my family, we live within a 30 mile radius. Are there any radios , or equipment including radios that I can purchase that can guarantee me communication? How much am I looking at if this can be accomplished? Do I need any type of licensing? if so, how do I go about obtaining it? Thanks

You can get that kind of range through specialty communication equipment. Two repeaters with large antennas will cover 30 miles or more: http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/icom/ic-cy6000.aspx You will then need repeater capable radios (such as these): http://www.buytwowayradios.com/products/icom/ic-f4011-41.aspx and a license from the FCC: http://www.fcc.gov/

hi, iam from india i got midland gxt635 from usa .. when i purchased in the store they've advertised it has 22 mile range. but here in india i can able to acess my radios only up to 2miles kindly suggest me how i can boost my radios signals.

Sorry, but two miles is about the best they will ever work at.

please my company known as CESSCO Ltd would like buy radio phones but we would need some education on the varieties you have as well as their area/distance coverage. Please send us pictures of these varieties and their price list.
Thank you.

Nice thread, the claims of long distances on frs and gmrs radios are so very misleading. It is true that between two mountain peaks they may reach these long distances but truely thats not what the average user will use them for. I needed to reach 8 miles into a heavily wooded area, no cell towers, no ham repeaters, no gmrs repeaters and no private land where I could install a repeater in between. I installed a tower on the one side and still could not reach it from the wooded area. Dont forget gmrs requires a license as well, and we wanted to have 3 handhelds out in the woods and a base , we might have used the base as a repeater but since the handhelds couldnt reach it anyhow it wouldnt work. One solution would be to put up a temporary repeater in the woods but goodness thats surely alot of hassel, we even looked into a simplex repeater on a handheld but couldnt get the heigth up high enough in an easy fashion. CB on ssb works ok but the handhelds then are much larger not to mention the antenaes. We were able to use the largest truck with a mobile in it on a hill as the unit that could talk to the base (CB band SSB) and then all the individuals used the cheap handhelds (frs band) to talk the half mile to each other , then in case of emergency someone would have to go back to the mobile in the truck and call the base.....
Kinda of not what we wanted, but better than nothing at all. Perhaps if we all were ham operators we could set the truck up with a repeater but then everyone would have to be licensed. Anyhow thats how we handled the situation for now.

We are a group of 4 who would want radios at the Coachella music festival in Indo/Palm Springs ... that's a rather small radius for the festival area, but lots of people and other potential disturbing factors...

Do you have any recommendation what might work best?

In an ideal world, I would love to use these for skiing in the Rockies as well, but from what I see above in the thread, that may be a different requirement, asking for a different device? Any tips and hints welcome!
thanks

I ADQUIRED TWO MOTOROLA 2WAYRADIOS TO USE IN THE RANCH OF MY PARENTS I DONT KNOW IF THIS WILL WORK THERE ,BUT I TESTED THIS IN THE URBAN LOCATION AND ONLY HAD OF RANGE 1/4 OF MILE AND ARE OF 5WATS ,MAYBE ANY PERSON GIVE TO ME ANY BETTER SUBJESTION ,THE PUBLICITY OF RANGE IS NOT THRUE.

2 way radios are good to go to the park with childrens,the best are the cellulars phones.

my husband is on the road alot and i wanted a cb for home and one for him in the truck and then walkie talkies for the kids when they are out. is this possible? can someone tell me a list of equipment i will need to buy?

what is a site license or license for a two way radio?

Hi,

I am looking for a set of good two -way radios to use for regatta management, on an inland river. Ideal range would be 5 miles, assuming conditions similar to a wooded area, without line of site for more than a mile at any given distance. Any suggestions? I was looking at the Midland or Motorola product lines. Thank you!

Ellen

Outdoor range in the back woods- My inquiries over they years have led me to believe that where life threatening circumstances are involved, at least in "the Great North Woods' , hunters have found the marine radios are the best, perhaps only choice. The range is great enough to be a problem with a distant water-way if the radio does not have power selections and is not used only sparingly. This may need an update but this option used to be the only choice.

I recently bought and returned a motorola 2 way that stated the range as being 30 miles (under ideal circumstances). When I needed to communicate with our headquarters less than 1/2 a mile away and down a hill (not direct line of site, lots of trees) I was surprised how poorly this unit worked. Voice was inaudable and broken at best. Any suggestions. I need two units for times when we lose power and phone lines (happens once or twice a year).
Thanks,
Joe

The problem with this scenario is that marine radios are intended for use on open water only. I am not sure what the laws are in Canada, but in the US it is illegal to use marine radios for land based communications.

The real question is what we are comparing the marine radios to. Are we comparing them to FRS/GMRS radios or business radios? If we are talking about consumer FRS/GMRS radios, a marine radio will provide greater range, since consumer radios offer well below one watt on the low end and max out at 5 watts on the high end.

While mobile marine radios usually offer higher wattage, handheld portable marine radios are typically around 5 watts, about the same wattage as a typical business VHF or UHF handheld radio.

For twice to three times a year and needing Two radios spending the money for VHF or UHF Radios seems like a waste. I can think of 2 ideas for you 1.The old 27 MHZ CB work great if you needed batteries no big deal nearest 7-11. Need to add another radio no problem. Not that easy with business band radios. 2. Nextel or Boost mobile cost $50.00 a month 2way plus Phone. Verizon also offers this service but you are still got the cost if you can use cell service try Tmobile prepaid plan unless you are going to use a lot of min get the phones set them up with a $100 that will give you a 1000 min. and 1 year of service. Once the min. are used up you can add more and you can add as little as $10 and your number is good for 1 year or until you use all your mins. up. Remaining mins. will roll over when you add them to your account. So if you only use 35 min. a year buy a $10 card or just add $10 via your phone if your account is set up for that.
3. If you are doing point to point like a Generator shed to the Main building can not beat the old military field phones 2 wires pick up the phone turn the crank and alert the other phone no batteries sound powered hand sets! Hope this helps, Tom

How do the trisquare radios measure up to the FRS/GMRS radios as far as city distances? I like the privacy behind these radios and am hoping they can get at least 2 miles in a city setting

Hello I have feild work in north west Africa I need a two way radio with a range of 10 miles. The terrain is flat with 20' tall trees no buildings. Can you help

While the other neighborhood parents let their toddlers (2-4) roam the neighborhood freely, we've told our son he may not leave the house or yard without one of us. We've decided for his 5th birthday, he'll be old enough to go a few houses down to a friends house to play, but only if he'll take a 2-way radio with him. We live in a VERY safe neighborhood, but psychos are everywhere. I'd feel better knowing all he has to do it click a button to get my attention. What do you recommend? Do any radios include some kind of distress call, noise, siren, etc? Given nicely spaced houses in a neighborhood with relatively large yards (1/4 - 1/2 acre), I'd like it to have at least 1/2 mile range. Thanks!

I want to buy a two way radio for comunicating with my kids on a cruise ship.what do you recomend?

Kenneth, there are several options available. Some key considerations when choosing radios for a cruise are range, battery life and weather proofing.

Cruise ships are quite large with a number of decks and a lot of steel to get in the way, so you want a radio that can give you optimal performance in those areas. There are a lot of activities on cruise ships so chances are you will be out and about a lot more than in your cabin, so it's a good idea to choose radios that work with both rechargeable and displosable batteries and to bring along extras. You will be surrounded by water and it can be humid. Salt water can also be corrosive, so radios that can weather a cruise is a wise choice.

Before making a purchase, you may want to listen to The Two Way Radio Show Episode 19 - Cruising With Radios first. We went into great detail on this very topic and made some recommendations on specific radios, such as the Midland GXT1000VP4 and the Motorola MR350R.

so after cruising through some of the Q&A I still have a question. My gf I live on opposite sides of SF Bay, probably a distance of no more than 20 miles (line of sight) perhaps less. In case of an emergency (earthquake) we would need to connect. So what to buy to insure we do connect? something durable and possibly waterproof. Are there radios available to the general populace to meet those details?

Ok call me a dip stick but I'm trying to figure out if my 2 way radio's are strong enough to take with me on my cruise. I have the HYT TC-1600. All it gives me is its frequency and its 460-470MHz. Can you help me?

Hi I purchased 2 way Weierwei vev3288s what is the range of this radio in a mile? is this same with the range of motorola mr350? tnx.

As with all portable hand held radios, your mileage may vary. Whether it's a business or consumer radio, your range will depend on a number of factors, including the antenna, terrain, obstructions, power and even the weather.

For a more in-depth discussion on range, listen to .

All the manufacturers have a "line" of radios that advertise a range from 10 miles up to 36 miles. Most of the radios advertise "maximum allowed power." So what is it about the radios that warrant advertising 36 miles vs. 27 miles, vs. 22 miles, etc.? Is it the antenna? The internal circuits? In practical use is it closer to 3 miles, 2.5 miles and 2 miles for each of these?

Or is "miles" just hype and the only real difference might be just some of the features, e.g. "waterproof" or something else?

A lot of factors determine range. We actually addressed your specific question in The Two Way Radio Show Episode 5 - Radios In Range. It is a very interesting discussion. If you want to know what really determines range, I highly recommend this episode.

I would suggest getting your ham radio license. Radio to radio what hams
Call "simplex" I have talked 10 miles max 60 miles. And using the extensive ham radio repeater network you can talk world wide. The most popular is the 2 meter band 144 MHz to 148 MHz. This would be your permanent solution to your radio Comunication needs. This license is for personal hobby use and cannot be used for business. The entry level license is easy to study for. A little effort will be worth the time. Each radio operator will need a ham radio license however. Well worth the time investment. The license is about $25.00 for ten years. Google
"arrl" on the Internet for more info.....

Lyndon.
Ham call sign K7XV

is it possible to have a 2 way radio reach 20-25 miles across hilly terrain?

If all the radios are on top of the tallest hills and/or if they are using repeaters located on top of those hills it is possible. Otherwise, it's not likely.

Hi was wanting to know what would be the best walkie talkies to you on about 100 acre wooded area for hunting with friends and to the house as our base.

It depends. Are we talking linear or square acreage? If it is the latter, a hundred acres is under two tenths of a square mile, so coverage with a typical GMRS radio should not be a problem. However, since it is wooded, you will probably need one with the highest wattage available, preferably around 5 watts. The Midland GXT1000, GXT760 or Motorola MT350R should provide the coverage you need.

The Midland XT511 could serve as a decent base station for the house.

From personal experience, yes this is very serious. The only way to achieve really long range with a handheld is to reach a tower high on a hill that can hear your signal and then retransmit it with considerably more power.

The length of the antenna needs to match or be 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 of the length of the radio wave you are transmitting. Higher frequencies have a much shorter wavelength. The shorter the wavelength the harder for the signal to get around objects. The bigger the wavelength the easier the singal gets around objects. Even to the point where the signal will permeate objects.

A CB radio operates way down on AM frequencies around 27 MGHZ. A VHF radio in FM and operates between 140 to 180 MGHZ. A GMRS/UHF radio operates around 460 MGHZ.
For this reason, State POlice/Highway Patrol uses radios both in the 50 MGHZ range as well and the VHF range.

Generally, almost all walkie talkies will be able to go 0.5 to 1 miles. I recommend you buy a Motorola, Midland, or Cobra radio. Also, I recommend you buy at least $45 walkies, because usually ones with better range cost more

I have received the Cobra 2-way walkie talkie radios as a gift. Model number CRS299. My father and I got these to communicate in case of emergency. They advertise 35 mile range, but it stopped working somewhere between 1.5 and 2 miles from his home. There are 2 hills that separate our homes approximately 10-12 miles away. I am shocked that these don't even work 10% of what they say they do on the package WITH OBSTRUCTIONS COBRA ADVERTISES 15 miles??? WHAT GIVES. WHAT A HUNK OF CRAP! I wish they would advertise what this product really does, than we can decide if it's really worth the money.

As we've said many times, the manufacturers list the maximum range possible under optimal conditions. The term optimal means completely clear line-of-sight with nothing in-between, no trees, buildings, hills, curvature of the earth or anything else, generally achieved only if one or both radios are elevated well above the ground.

As mentioned in this article and in other sources such as The Two Way Radio Show Ep #45 - The Truth About GMRS Radio Range, the maximum range one can reasonably expect from the highest wattage handheld GMRS two way radios is 1-2 miles. There are many factors that determine range. Hilly terrain is one very important one. If you want to communicate between two hills, either you must be on top of them or have access to a repeater that is situated on top of one that can push the signal over. If not, your houses could be on opposite sides of the same hill and you still won't hear each other.

There are other factors to consider as well. For more information, listen to the podcast in the link above and Episode 5 - Radios in Range.

My husband is wanting us to get some kind of two way radio to communicate with while he is at work. His jobsite is approx 20 miles from my home which of course is in a somewhat wooded area. Can you suggest what would work best for us to use? I would prefer to NOT go through purchasing a license as I feel that would be complicated and more than likely costly. Thanks!!

What radios would you recommend for maximum range and ruggedness for hunting in the mountains? I would like to be able to communicate to someone five miles away is there a radio that would work for that?

i mean good radios for you are Cobra cxr 825 they are the best radios and with 30 mile range

Hello there,

My Wife & I are in the middle of Putting Together Some Bug Out Packs For the two of us & I got to thinking of looking into Hand Radios However we would be looking for something Durable , have some kind of Distance & we are able to use Hands free ? Like tactical Use For say ?

We have tried Cobra 45 mile and a Uniden 15 mile units, and have found the Uniden to be much better clarity at equal ranges. We use them for work and found the Uniden outperformed the Cobra. These were inexpesive units(we buy many and replace them often). In urban settings look for about 1/4 - 1/2 mile range. Open rural enviroment was much better 1 to 2 1/4 range. I agree that the usable max range of all these radios is about 2 miles...any ones rated 15 miles or more will work esentially the same.

im looking for a radio that i can use while i am riding my dirt bike in mexico. i have a cobra 148 glt in my chase truck. what type of hand held do i need in order to keep in communication with the truck. i would like to have something with long range..i have 1 month to get this set up ready..can anyone send me in the right direction if not helpme with your knowledge.

(Beware of False Digital Advertising):

The new (Digital) FRS/ GMRS Two Way Radios only cover about
one-tenth the range that their advertisers seem to like to boast ...
thirty miles actually only extends to three miles, twenty miles actually
ends-up being about two miles, and ten miles barely makes to one
mile .... Considering 75% of North and South America Is covered
by trees and other forms of vegetation, these ridiculous range
estimates are completely inaccurate and unrealistic !!!

Hello,

I'm thinking using a 90m Mast at the coast to install a 25w BS; will permit to some Handheld boat radio to talk to each other within 50 mile range and even 50 mile away from the Mast

Is-it this feasible ?, did someone have some related experience to help me with

Thanks & best regards

I am looking for hand held radios with a 30 mile range in heavily wooded areas. I know nothing about radio systems. Please help

In the end I think you just can't beat a good old CB radio be it be a hand held or a home/auto radio they will be the only way of communication once the zombi apocalypse starts hehe

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