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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
GMRS Radio Range Chart
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

118 thoughts on “30 Miles? The Truth About Range”

  • Amanda N.

    I need to find some good handheld radios that reach at least 20 miles. Do you have any suggestions?
    Thank you!

    • Rick

      As the article suggested, range will depend on a combination of factors, no matter which radio you choose. You may get 20 miles on a mountaintop with a pair of lower power FRS radios. You may get only 200 yards in the middle of a city full of skyscrapers with a 5 watt business radio. The make and model radio is only one consideration. In other words, it is difficult to recommend a specific radio for your situation without details on where and how you will be using them.

  • Forest Anderson

    For longer gmrs radio range try using a repeater on the highest ground you can find
    There are also repeaters that are private owned that you can use all over the country now ask around however you will have to have a current gmrs license and call sign before you can get authorization to use them
    You can also purchase a repeater they run from about 60$ to 1000s of $ depends on what you want to do.
    The repeater in my area let's me talk almost a 100 miles on a handheld 5 watt

  • Incorrect Grammar
    Incorrect Grammar December 3, 2018 at 9:34 am


  • philipcotton

    what is the longist range you can get in the uk in walkie taulki radios say about 30 miles would do for me in the uk if not then no good for me what model do i need for 30 miles or more thank you mr pcotton 15 keepers swalk castlfields runcorn cheshire wa72jh

  • Rick

    While it may be possible to get 6.5 miles with CB, it is not guaranteed. A lot will depend on where both of you are situated in and around your area. If you are both on the top of the hills, and your antennas are optimally positioned, you may have a good signal each way. If not, you may not get far at all. This range chart may help. Although it was written for FRS/GMRS radios, it applies to other radios as well. It's a guideline for realistic expectations when operating two way radios in general.

    For more information A Beginner's Guide to CB Radio is a good starting point when considering CB radio for communications.

  • Genevieve

    My sister and I want to see if we can set up CB radios at our homes so our kids can chat and learn to use radios. We live about 6.5 miles apart. It is hilly terrain, mixed use with agriculture and strip malls between us. What options do we have? Thanks!

  • Jack Freedomcis
    Jack Freedomcis March 29, 2017 at 7:41 pm

    I've got a GMRS license, I know my radio may pick up other radios that are beyond 10 plus miles. And I know mine will transmit that far or further. In an open area you can pick up signal, like a highway or the interstate that is in between cities or towns. So as long as there are not many trees like hundreds of them or hundreds of other structures. This is tricky because of small towns and cities where your limited signal can get out and go the distance it is advertised on the box. So if you live in a metropolis your GMRS radio would range would be shorter. If you live in a regular city, you range would be a bit shorter. If you live in a small town, it would be a bit less. If you live in the open country with farm land, your range would be as advertised on the box. But if you have a forest near you it would be shorter if you are transmitting in it or on the opposite side of it. I have to travel on an interstate regularly, with wide open areas. So I can pick up on others signals very easily. I can also talk back to them because my mobile unit is vehicle mounted and at 5 watts power, but that unit does not have channels 8 through 14. So I use a portable hand radio to scan those channels. I scan all channels on both radios, if the mobile one picks up but not the hand unit, I know their unit is much further out. If my portable unit picks up, they are closer to me. And depending on the chatter, I can tell if they are a personal use or if a business is using them.
    I know of a child dare care on an army base is using one because of the chatter on that channel. I've been using them for years now. It is a great tool to have. Not very many people read the fine print to know to get themselves licensed.

  • Rick

    Radio operates by line of sight, so any radio will be subject to this limitation. It doesn't matter which make and model of radio used, location, terrain, height and distance to horizon are going to determine your range.
    This GMRS Radio Range Chart may help you determine your best options.

  • Jimmy D Johnston
    Jimmy D Johnston March 7, 2017 at 6:26 am

    Are there any walkie talkies that can get a 3 mile range in trees or mountains? Seems like you can't get a mile range except with line of sight.
    Wanted something for hiking, but doesn't seem to be anything that will work.

  • Shirley Marie Storer
    Shirley Marie Storer October 8, 2016 at 9:55 am

    Would a VHF radio work for my husband to communicate with me at home from 6 miles away over hilly terrain? We have our cattle on another property and there is no cell service, so if he was ever hurt, it would be impossible for him to get help. Could you suggest a model or two? Under $100, pls. Thanks a million.

  • Sean K

    Im looking at BaoFeng UV-5R radios. I'm going to be using them on a lake so boats can communicate. Several hills and trees. With longer antennas do you think they will work. Possibility of up to 10 miles in between boats and/or cabins.
    Thank You

  • Rick

    Hi Amy, you did not mention the model number of your Midland radios so I'm going to respond on the assumption these are FRS/GMRS portable handhelds. The radios transmit on the FRS channels at low power and typically transmit on the GMRS channels on high power. This is by design as it is required by the FCC. Channels 1-7 are shared FRS/GMRS channels, channels 8-14 are FRS only channels limited to a maximum of 1/2 watt. Channels 15-22 are GMRS only channels and are limited only by the maximum transmit power of the radio. For a full explanation, read Getting The Most Range From Your Radio.

  • Amy

    Can you get longer range/clearer signals on different channels? If so, what are they or do they vary depending on the radio?
    I have Midland walkies and they seem to pick up better on higher channels. Is that normal?

  • US Ghani

    I need a radio device to work in all type of Areas like heavily crowded urban area, forest, mountains with effective long range and clear voice. Recommend a device for me.

  • Jen

    I want to get my 5 children two way radios on 30 acres of wooded, hilly and areas of flatter farm land. I want to keep one with me in our house while they carry theirs in the woods. What type of radio should I look for?

  • Hi. I have a pair of these radios and I am trying to get a PTT to work with them with no luck at all. The system I am using is an eBay special, military style headset with the oversized 4 way plug and a PTT button with a 2.5m plug for the radio end. The speaker works fine but the PTT either doesn't work at all or will activate the mic for a second and then it shuts off. Any tips would be appreciated, I am having a real hard time finding anything useful (read very ammature level) for this.

  • Ryan

    I have a tow truck business, I want the most miles I can get using a 2 way radio. And what set up would you recommend ?

  • Hi! I have two-way radio (walkie Talkies). It was given to me by my American friend as my gift last year December. I am in Bahrain and I’m afraid to use it because anytime I switch on ON, I always picked-up cross-line signal and heard voices from different people who are using walkie talkies.
    I’m really afraid and maybe the local authority traced my signal and catch me and send me to the jail.
    Is there any problem with me? What should I do? Do I need to registered it to authorize local agent/government? Please advice. Thanks

  • Great post! Thanks you so much for the share. It is indeed a helpful one. I am looking forward of reading more article with the similar topic as this one.
    Best Regards

  • Rick

    Hi Claudia, depending on how many buildings and layout of the terrain, a 5 watt FRS/GMRS radio will probably work, however, you may be better off with a business class radio. If you are using them both indoors and outdoors or outdoors around buildings, go with UHF. There are many available UHF business radios to choose from that should work for what you need.


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