Few things are more endemic to the human experience than connection. After all, in his epigraph to Howards End, E.M. Forster distills his whole story of changing times and generational and class struggle to “Only Connect.” Everyone from Internet providers to smartphone companies to social media sites love to repeat and stress the importance of “connection.”
But what about in conditions where “connecting” is not exactly easy?
If you’re headed out on the waves for some fishing, skiing, or any number of professional or recreational water-based activities, you still need to stay in connection and communicate with those on the shore. If you work in an industry such as fishing or offshore welding, you may also need to communicate with people in different boats. Your smartphone may or may not get reception out there on the water, but chances are you don’t want to risk it plopping down into its depths, either.
Smartphones are hardly waterproof, but thankfully, many top-quality walkie talkies are.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what you should look for in a waterproof walkie talkie, along with some of the top models on the market in 2020.
Table of Contents
- What to Look For
- The Best Waterproof Walkie Talkies
What to Look For
If you are reading this, chances are you already have a basic idea of how walkie talkies work. After all, the basic unit is not all that complicated – simply push and hold down the button while speaking, and release it to be able to hear the other party. There are occasionally other features on more advanced models which can enable you to switch between different channels, but that’s the basic gist of things.
That being said, there is still a lot more to walkie talkies than meets the eye (or ear).
For one thing, those channels really do matter. After all, you probably aren’t the only person with the bright idea to use a walkie talkie while out on the waves. As such, you don’t want to be on the same channel as other people and accidentally hear their conversations (and have them hear your own). The more channels a walkie talkie has, the greater ability it has to operate at different frequencies and thus give you uninterrupted service.
Then there’s the matter of range. How far out do you need to go to operate your walkie talkie? After all, the further apart you are from the other receiver or receivers on your frequency, the further the signal has to travel, and thus the greater chance that it can weaken or become garbled. For indoor use, a few thousand yards will typically cut it, but that’s often nowhere near close enough for professional fishing vessels or those kayaking on different parts of the sea.
You thus want to look for water-safe walkie talkies with a range of a few miles at least.
Then there’s the waterproofness itself. If your boat springs a leak and you’re bobbing up and down on the sea, the last thing you want is for your one link to help to be short-circuited by the water. You’ll thus want to look for a floating walkie talkie which, yes, really can float in the water and will not sink like your boat. The IP rating on the walkie talkie can be an important indication of just how “waterproof” it is.
Some top-tier walkie talkies designed for outdoor use are able to connect to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, giving you weather forecasts on the go and thus allowing you to dodge storms and other inclement weather. Some even have GPS functions to help guide you.
Walkie talkie power ratings are measured in watts, and obviously, the more power it has, the stronger the unit typically is. You don’t want your walkie talkie burning out on you at a critical moment, so battery life is another big consideration.
The most cutting edge models feature VOX (which allows you to use the unit hands-free, which is useful when you have your hands full fishing or kayaking), Squelch (which cancels out background noise), and Rewind (which is just what it sounds like—it allows you to rewind to hear previous walkie talkie calls).
Finally, walkie talkies are designed to be portable, so you’ll naturally want to take the size and weight of the unit into consideration.
The Best Waterproof Walkie Talkies
Given those factors, let’s take a look at some of the top-tier water-worthy walkie talkies out there.
1) Motorola T600 Talkabout Radio
One of the big cell phone providers, Motorola also makes a lot of walkie talkies, including this model, which does a good job of ticking off many of the boxes mentioned above. It offers 22 channels, so you probably don’t have to worry about crossing over onto someone else’s. It also receives NOAA alerts, allowing you to stay apprised of the latest weather situations. Adding to that convenience, it can be used hands-free.
This model also enjoys great battery life – up to 9 hours with alkaline batteries and 23 hours with rechargeable NiMH batteries.
It doesn’t do the best at high elevations. Still, that’s more of a problem for hiking than for most waterborne situations. As long as you aren’t on a remote lake high up in the Rockies somewhere, chances are you should be fine. Pressure within the unit can cause a bit of extra sound occasionally, but nothing too serious.
All in all, this is a good example of what a modern waterproof walkie talkie is supposed to be.
Our rating: 4.4 / 5
2) Motorola MS350R 35-Mile Talkabout Waterproof 2-Way Radio
Another option from Motorola, this model boasts the same long battery life of 9 to 23 hours, depending on the batteries you use.
It features an enormous range of 35 miles, allowing you to communicate with fishing, kayaking, sailing, and other waterborne teams up and down entire coastlines. That said, reception can vary wildly depending on distance and interference. In addition, it not only has 22 channels like the model above, but also offers 8 repeater channels, each of which has 121 privacy codes, so you can rest assured that your conversations are secure.
This model also features IP clearance, being IP-67 waterproof. Adding to its weather-savviness is the fact that it comes with 11 different weather channels as well as a built-in weather alert function as well as different NOAA channels. All of this can allow you to stay up to date on the latest weather developments and plan your activities accordingly. It also has a built-in flashlight, which is far from the flashiest feature that this model boasts, but is still nice to have.
This model can cost quite a bit more than its more affordable Motorola counterpart above, but as demonstrated by its features list, you get quite a bit of bang for your buck.
Our rating: 4.3 / 5
3) DeWalt DXFRS300 1 Watt Heavy Duty Walkie Talkies
Another big name in rugged outdoor activity, DeWalt is one of the biggest names in tools for construction and carpentry as well as fishing and welding gear.
This model has a lot of the good qualities of the Cobra. It features 2662 channel combinations and is IP resistant. This model also features voice activation, making it all the easier to initiate calls. The casing is heavy-duty as well, as you would expect from DeWalt.
If there is a weak link to this model it’s the antenna. Some users have reported problems with them, which can leave you with potentially weak service for some calls. With that said, that’s a risk you take with any walkie talkie, and this is a model that is, on the whole, built to last.
It only has 1 watt of power, which limits the range to “just” a few miles, but this little unit still makes that single watt go a long way.
Our rating: 4.1 / 5
4) Cobra Electronics CXT 1035R FLT Floating Walkie-Talkies
It’s fair to say that Cobra walkie talkies are among the most ubiquitous and best-reviewed waterproof options on the market. These Cobra floating walkie talkies are a perfect example of why, featuring connectivity to NOAA and other weather alerts.
This model has an even longer range than the previous Motorola model, and is able to extend its signal range to up to 37 miles away. What’s more, not only does it have 121 privacy codes as well, it also has an astonishing 2662 channel combinations, giving you even more security.
This is another IP cleared model, featuring IP-X7 clearance.
This unit also comes with a wide range of those aforementioned modern communication features, including VOX, Rewind, and a Call Alert feature to inform you via sound or vibration of incoming calls. That said, you’ll want to speak very closely to the receiver, because otherwise it may not pick up your voice. And, yes, this model has a handy dandy built-in flashlight too.
All of that makes this one of the best options in terms of all-around value.
Our rating: 4.0 / 5
5) Uniden Waterproof 2-Way Radios – Green (GMR-2838-2CK)
As with Cobra, Uniden makes a range of different water-savvy walkie talkies.
There is a lot to like about this particular model, beginning with the fact that it has pretty decent range at 28 miles. You get 22 channels and 121 privacy codes, and a scan feature makes it easier to find others on the same frequency if you and your coworkers or kayaking mates have trouble connecting.
Adding to the waterproof nature of this model is the fact that it is J1S4 compliant, which means that it does a good job of working well in damp or rainy environments. You get a charging kit as well (always a nice touch) and the lightweight, ergonomic nature of these models makes them the ideal waterproof walkie talkies for kayaking and other intense activities.
This unit doesn’t have the same long battery life of other models, although you can still get a few hours out of it without worrying about it losing power.
Overall, this is another affordable, lightweight, accessible choice.
Our rating: 4.0 / 5
6) Retevis RT6 IP67 Two Way Radio
These are among the most waterproof options on this list. they are not just IP-67 cleared but can stay in 1 meter of water for as long as 30 minutes, which is pretty good for a floating walkie talkie (and, yes, they do float).
Another nice feature is the fact that this model gives you a greater degree of control over how much power you use and thus the overall battery life. You can use 1, 3, or 5 watts, giving you a choice between a high-powered unit or a more energy-saving one.
It doesn’t have the bells and whistles of many of the other models listed here, but for what it is, it’s a solid waterproof walkie talkie.
Our rating: 3.8 / 5
Which of these waterproof walkie talkies is right for you will naturally depend on your needs. Are you fishing over large areas and in need of long-range communication capabilities? Do you need something lightweight and accessible? Do you want a more affordable unit, or are you willing to pay top dollar for VOX, NOAA alerts, and other features?
No matter your needs, these models can be a lifesaver while out at sea.