One of the biggest challenges with organizing large groups of people on the road is maintaining communication. It is absolutely crucial to communicate in a safe and effective manner. From calling out road hazards to organizing photo opportunities, having a solid form of communication is a necessity.
So what is the best form of communication? Safety is obviously always a main concern, so shifting away from looking at a tiny screen while hurtling down a track or a road is of the utmost importance. Here at NEDE, we have found decent success using the widely available walkie talkies.
"But there are so many options! This one is cheap, that one says 36 mile range! Which one do I get?" Don't worry, we will break down a few solid options at a few different price points that we have found to work very well on our drives.
Most walkie talkies are advertised to have a range of somewhere between 16 and 36 miles. That should always cover it right? Not quite. The actual effective range in an obstructed environment (like inside a bunch of cars in the city or a wooded area) is much less. Think a half mile or less with one of those radios advertised as "36+ miles". Less than a single city block for a radio advertised as 16 miles. Here is a great little chart showing the max range you could see in certain conditions, and how certain conditions effect the range.
"Okay you sold me on the range, but there are still so many price points and brands." We can help there too.
First on the list is the Midland GXT1000VP4 (found on Amazon here). Typically found for between $60-$70, and available pretty widely across multiple chains, this is a great radio option. They can be used outside the car for a variety of activities, and we have found that the transmit and receiving quality is rather nice. The pack comes with two radios, and it is always helpful to have a spare in the car. The set also comes with headsets for the radios, making them a bit more hands free while driving.
Second up is the Baofeng UV-5R (found on Amazon here). This is basically a mini HAM radio at a very low price point, around $25-$50 on Amazon. The 3rd generation of the UV-5R, the BF-F8HP can be had for slightly more, with a boost in range as well as a slightly larger programmable frequency range. These radios are great for a variety of applications, and come through very clear in the car transmitting on walkie talkie frequencies. Programming can be a bit daunting from the keypad, but once it is set up you should be good to go. Since this is a radio capable of transmitting at variety of power levels and frequencies, our official disclaimer is that you need to ensure that you have proper licensing for your area to transmit on certain frequencies.
Third up is Motorola. How could you go wrong with the biggest name in the wireless communication game? The Motorola T460 radio is a great option. These radios tout the same range as the Midland option, with the name Motorola to back it up. These can typically be found for about $60-$70 on places like Amazon here. Great for outdoors as well with a weatherproof rating, and the option to add accessories like a headset on Amazon throws this radio up into our top picks.
These radio picks are all in the same price area. There are some that are cheaper, and some that are grossly more expensive. We believe in the buy once, cry once philosophy. You really do get what you pay for, and paying once for a quality bit of kit goes a long way. Would you slap cheap tires on your car and expect them to perform well at the track?
Hopefully this provides some helpful insight into the radio world and helps with your decision before our next Official Drive!