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Prepping & Survival

Best GMRS Radios for Two-Way Communication

When you need more than a walkie-talkie but don’t have time for amateur radio, a GMRS radio could fit the bill. You’ll need a license to operate it on GMRS channels or FRS over two watts, but those are now inexpensive and less restrictive in the US. With the ability to hit repeaters and transmit with more power, you can use powerful radios once only common with businesses and the military. There are plenty of brands, models, and types of radios to consider.

This is where we come in. We’ve researched the best GMRS radios, compared them, and now the results are in: the overall best, an upgrade option, and a vehicle solution. If you need to keep in contact or stay informed, one of our picks is your mid-distance solution.

Contents (Jump to a Section)

Baofeng UV-5G GMRS Radios

The Best GMRS Radios

Baofeng UV-5G

Inexpensive, FCC-compliant, and Effective

Very similar to the flagship UV-5R Baofeng radios, these can hit GMRS receivers with the channels pre-programmed.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

Baofeng leads the pack of value radios, and this is their best GMRS radio in that it comes pre-programmed and FCC-compliant. Other repeater-capable radios have lower transmission wattage, don’t have the GMRS channels pre-programmed, or cost twice as much.

It’s essentially the same as the HAM coveted UV-5R, just configured differently. All of the UV-5R accessories work with this one, including antennas, batteries, and cases.

Here is everything you get with these radios:

  • 2 handheld radios
  • 22 GMRS channels, 8 repeater channels (pre-programmed), 11 NOAA, 220 UHF/VHF scan
  • 7.4V, 3-5W output
  • 1800mAh battery, charging cradles
  • 1.2″ D x 2.1″ W x 3.7″ H (without antenna)
  • 6 ounces

With an unbeatable price and powerful transmission ready right out of the box, it’s easy to see why the Baofeng UV-5G GMRS Radios top the rest.

Midland MXT575 MicroMobile

Vehicle GMRS Radio

Midland MXT575 MicroMobile

Powerful, Long-Distance, and Trusted

With the maximum legal wattage for GMRS, this is the premier radio for your vehicle or home base.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

With similar models pushing only 15W transmissions, this is the top model with a whopping 50W output for the best distance you can get in a stand-alone GMRS radio. It can hit plenty of repeaters from far away with pre-programmed channels and is ready to mount and wire into any vehicle.

If you plan on using it in place you’ll need a desktop power station.

Here is how this vehicle radio measures up:

  • Microphone w/ magnet mount
  • 15 GMRS channels, 9 repeater channels (pre-programmed), 11 NOAA
  • 50W output
  • Antenna included
  • 5.5″ W x 7″ D x 1.5″ H
  • 3.6 pounds

If you are looking for a communication option for your vehicle, the Midland MXT575 MicroMobile GMRS Radio is the best GMRS option with the most power.

Midland GXT1050VP4 GMRS Radios

Upgrade GMRS Radios

Midland GXT1000VP4

Easy to Use, Versatile, and High Quality

All of the GMRS channels with FRS crossover let you rely on these radios for plenty of different situations.

*Price at time of publishing; check for price changes or sales.

This radio is cross-compatible with other Midland radios, including their FRS models. With a ton of GMRS/FRS channels and a whopping 36-mile open-area transmission radius, this pair of radios will help you stay connected reliably.

Here is how these radios measure up:

  • 2 handheld radios
  • 50 GMRS/FRS channels, 10 NOAA
  • 6V, 5W output
  • JIS4 Waterproof
  • 700mAh battery, charging cradle, 4x AAA compatible, AC & DC adapters
  • 1.5″ D x 2.4″ W x 7.9″ H
  • 4.8 ounces

If you are looking for reliable full-featured GMRS radios, the Midland GXT1000VP4 GMRS Radios are the best option.

Everything We Recommend

Baofeng UV-5G GMRS Radios

Baofeng UV-5G

Very similar to the flagship UV-5R Baofeng radios, these can hit GMRS receivers with the channels pre-programmed.

Where to Buy

$40* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

Midland GXT1050VP4 GMRS Radios

Midland GXT1000VP4

All of the GMRS channels with FRS crossover let you rely on these radios for plenty of different situations.

Where to Buy

$80* at Amazon

*at time of reviewing

The Radios We Compared

Our research narrowed the field down to several brands of GMRS radios that we compared: Baofeng, Midland, Retevis, Radioddity, Btech, Motorola, and more.

You can see our full list of review criteria below in the What to Look For section, with an explanation for each.

We’re always looking for new and better gear, so if you have a GMRS setup you trust, let us know in the comments. We review most of our tested gear annually so we can try to get it in the next roundup round and see if it will beat out our top picks.

What to Look For

The best GMRS radios have a few features to look for:

  1. Value
  2. Power/Range
  3. Ease of Use
  4. Size/Weight
  5. Versatility

When you get the right blend of these, you can find the perfect radio for your specific situation. Below, we break down what each of these features means for the models that truly set themselves apart.

Value: Cost vs. Benefit

The amount of money you spend on something like a radio shouldn’t blow out your entire budget. They come in a wide range of prices that mostly depend on the output power and features.

You never want to spend too much money on one resource, even when it comes to communication. It’s better to diversify your spending to make sure you are covered for a wide range of scenarios.

Power & Range

The power (measured in wattage) and the effective range are related but don’t tell the whole story. Typically, GMRS radios have higher power since they aren’t as limited on the FRS bands to just 2 watts. This can help them reach up to 50 miles out on their own, depending on the terrain.

Another boost to their range is that they can hit repeaters. This can help them jump even longer distances with chained repeaters.

Ease of Use

Programming a radio isn’t always easy. Pre-programmed channels and intuitive controls can go a long way for us typical GMRS users since we don’t have any training or tests with amateur radio.

The closer a GMRS radio can operate to an FRS walkie-talkie out of the box, the easier it’ll be for everyone in your family to use.

Size & Weight

Desktop and vehicle radios can weigh a few pounds, which can be a burden if you have to carry them any distance. Handhelds have been trimmed down to several ounces though and can easily fit in a day bag.

Versatility

GRMS radios have a few versatile options to consider, including monitoring other bands (UHF, weather, etc) and having accessories available (hands-free, extended batteries, cradles, etc).

They won’t be as versatile as a HAM radio, typically, but can still hit that sweet spot above the basic walkie-talkie for longer distances and less-crowded transmission channels.

GMRS vs. FRS, CB, & HAM

GMRS, FRS, CB, HAM- there are many options when it comes to communicating with radio setups and they are more different than just the frequency/amplitude bands they rely on.

Type Name Mode Channels Max Watts License Test
GMRS General Mobile Radio Service FM FRS+8 50W Yes No
FRS Family Radio Service (Walkie Talkie) FM 22 2W No No
CB Citizens Band Radio AM 40 4W No No
HAM Amateur Radio Any Many 1500W Yes Yes

GMRS bridges a gap between FRS and HAM, and unlike CB allows you to stay with frequency modulation. Although a license is needed, the lack of a test makes it immediately accessible since the price of the license was recently slashed and you can pick one up online.

Get a 10-year license for $35 by signing up at the FCC site and navigating to GMRS License in the license manager: FCC Cores Registration.

Who Needs GMRS Radios?

GMRS radios are improved FRS radios (walkie-talkies), in that they have higher power output, broader frequency range, and can hit repeaters for higher transmission distance.

You do need to get a license to operate a GMRS radio, but it does not require a test like amateur radio (HAM).

GMRS radios are a solid communication option for these kits:

They can hit the ‘sweet spot’ between a traditional walkie-talkie and a full amateur radio setup.

How We Review Products: We research thoroughly before selecting the best products to review. We consult experts in the field for a better understanding of what makes the gear great. Hours on end are spent field testing gear in stressful conditions. We assign performance criteria and impartially rate each tested item. You can support us through our independently chosen links, which can earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. After our review process, some of the items reviewed end up in our giveaways.

Sources and References

All of our experience and the testing we do to determine the best GMRS radios are useless without listing our research sources and references. We leaned on these for the book knowledge that we paired with our hands-on testing and practical survival experience:

Worley, G. (1983). Wilderness Communications. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. Volume 22. Issue 3. Pages 262 – 269. (Source)

Price, K. (2006). Communication Systems for Emergency Operations. Defense Technical Information Center: South Carolina State Guard. (Source)

Stagner, C., et al. (2012). Locating Noncooperative Radio Receivers Using Wideband Stimulated Emissions. IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement. Volume 62. Issue 3. Pages 667 – 674. (Source)

The Final Word

While texting is a solid plan when emergencies and disaster strikes, you should be prepared with alternate methods of communication. GMRS radios can be one of those alternate methods that can keep you connected in an emergency.

Here are a few other gear reviews and guides our subscribers have found helpful:

We presented quite a lot of information, but as always: if you have any questions let us know and we would be happy to help. Our testing found the Baofeng UV-5G GMRS Radios to be the best solution given their value, power/range, ease of use, size/weight, and versatility.

Keep exploring, stay prepared, and be safe.


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The Best GMRS Radios



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