By Greg Illes
Everybody knows about walkie-talkies — we’ve seen them ever since Kirk and Spock showed us how they work. But in the last several years, these handy devices have really come into their own. They are smaller, handier, more powerful and lower in cost than ever before.
For the RVer, a walkie-talkie set can be a real boon. How about parking the rig in that tight campsite? One person on the outside with a walkie-talkie can give directions and warnings to the driver without having to shout, open windows, make hand signals, run back and forth, etc. Trying to caravan with a friend in another rig? Give them a W-T and you will be able to talk to each other up to a mile or two apart, without cell phone coverage or using up your cell minutes.
You can even take a walkie-talkie along on a solo hike away from camp, to keep in touch or for that unforeseen emergency. The opportunities are limited only by imagination. At one RV park (with lousy cell coverage), the laundry room was a quarter-mile from our site so we stayed in touch with the hand radios while the washers and dryers hummed away.
Today’s higher-end walkie-talkie units come with other useful features such as weather radio reception and NOAA weather alert service (very useful when you’re out of cell/Internet coverage). You can even get a walkie-talkie which uses the CB frequency, but most walkie-talkies typically use other dedicated FM channels which are less crowded.
Looking at the product “hype,” it’s unfortunate that the manufacturers brag about “36-mile range,” because these are FM radio devices and range is limited to line-of-sight. The true effective range in most practical situations is likely to be a couple of miles, and less in hilly terrain. But that is still quite useful — just don’t expect “Star Trek”-style performance.
Parked in their charger, walkie-talkies don’t take up much space, and the units can stay tucked away in a cupboard or drawer until you need them. You can get a complete setup (two hand units, a charger, two ear-set cords) from Target, truck stops, Best Buy, Amazon, and many other locations, for anywhere from $30 to $60, depending on features. For this cost, how could you not have such a useful tool?