GMRS radio systems are used to communicate on hiking and camping trips and in general where there’s no cellular coverage. They offer the benefit of long range – up to 20 miles – and are built for frequent use and in rugged terrain.
As the market for GMRS products grows, the number of new products increase as well. With so many products on the market it can be overwhelming and confusing for consumers.
We’ve done the research to identify the best GMRS radios for different budgets and applications. So without further ado, let’s get into the details.
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Editor’s Choice: Midland GXT 1000VP4
Of all the available GMRS radios on the market, Midland’s GXT1000VP4 excels in almost all parameters making it our top choice. It has a 36-mile range that is claimed to be reliable in certain environments.
But what is more impressive is, even with this range, the unit is able to maintain excellent sound quality and smooth transmission over 50 channels.
The easy voice and sound activation (eVOX) features make hands-free operation possible. Set at the right sensitivity level, it can respond to “whispered instructions” with its whisper feature, which is useful in situations where you need to get in touch with one person without having to disturb others.
Of course, it’s equipped with NOAA weather scan and NOAA alerts that we believe are important in monitoring weather conditions. When it comes to durability, there is no doubt that GXT1000 will survive daily rugged use making it the best handheld GMRS radio. It meets JIS4 weatherproofing standards which means that it is resistant to dust dirt, and light splashes of water.
The dual power option is also useful. It comes with a rechargeable battery pack yet may also be powered using 4 AA alkaline batteries, which are easy to find and replace. Despite its bulky build, it’s comfortable on the hands and is surprisingly easy to operate, thanks to the generously-sized menu buttons.
- good range
- superior sound quality
- easy to operate menu buttons
- NOAA weather scan and alerts feature
- can be powered by rechargeable battery or alkaline battery
According to reviews, the most impressive features of Midland’s GXT1000 are the clarity of sound and ease of use. It is a very handy device and users find it easy to operate. Although range is highly dependent on the environment and terrain, most users are satisfied that they are able to get decent range for this product. The farthest reported range is 30+ miles on flatland or in areas without much obstruction. Customer feedback on battery life is mixed. There are users who have complained of short battery life while there are others who say it lasts a few good hours of use. Users trust the brand for the durability and quality of the product and commend the manufacturer’s excellent customer service.
Runner-Up: BTECH GMRS V1
BTECH’s GMRS V1 proves to be one of the most competitive GMRS radios when it comes to specs and this show on how popular it is with users today. The range on this unit is claimed to be 50 miles and this radio is compatible with GMRS repeaters. Impressive features for a start.
One of the unique functionalities of the GMRS V1 is its semi-duplex feature which simply means that users can listen for calls from two different frequencies at the same time. This simultaneous monitoring is even possible on different bands. This also allows users to continue to monitor weather broadcasts on NOAA channels while using GMRS. For more convenience, it has a VOX feature that allows hands-free activation. The device is powered by a lithium ion battery and can be charged using a CH-8 charger, which is also conveniently included in the kit. These features, as well as the adjustable backlight and channel skip all contribute to ease of use. For users who are fairly new to the brand, BTECH is shipped from the US and this product comes with US supported warranty.
- good range
- has built-in flashlight
- has voice activation feature
- no pre-programmed NOAA channels
- low sound level
Users believe this is a great radio for the price. Apart from being jam-packed with cool features, it is easy to operate and program. When used with repeaters, users reported successful transmission across 30-50 miles. Without a repeater, some users were able to transmit over 12-15 miles. While some had trouble when charging the radio, still, a lot of users are satisfied with the range and battery life. Some reviews mentioned customer support being prompt when responding to their inquiries or complaints.
Best Mobile: Midland MXT-115
The MXT 115 from Midland is, for us, one of the most powerful GMRS radios you will ever find today. With its detachable mobile antenna, this radio has a reported range of 60 miles. Of course, this, again, depends on how densely obstructed the area is. Nonetheless, if a radio can transmit over 50 miles and still deliver crisp, clear sound quality, then that, definitely, is power. Even without a repeater, 20 miles is a decent value.
When paired with the right device such as the GXT1000VP4, communication becomes impeccable. These two make the best mobile GMRS radio bundle that is extremely useful when someone located inside a vehicle needs to communicate with other parties that are on foot or are more mobile. Equipped with preprogrammed NOAA weather channels and alerts, the MXT 115 makes it easy for users to be notified of extreme weather conditions. Installation is simple as the unit comes with a flip-frame detachable mount. The multicolored display is customizable to suit users’ needs for better visibility. Private communication is also possible through the 142 privacy codes. All these features make this bundle a great choice for families or groups going on a camping trip.
- great range
- has NOAA weather channels and alerts
- easy to install in vehicles
- a little expensive
The most mentioned feature of this product is the range. So far, for most users, range has been reliable, except in heavily forested areas, which is understandable. But with overall quality – this includes sound and build – you can never go wrong with a Midland. Reviews state that the bundled MXT 115 and GXT1000VP4 work great together and just makes communicating easier and stress-free. In areas with few obstructions, range was maximized when GMRS repeater sites were available, reaching as far as 60 miles according to some users. Without a repeater, some were able to get 20 miles of range.
Best Range: BTECH 50X1V
With superior range, an easy-to-read LCD display, and an easy-to-setup vehicle mounting bracket, the 50X1V from BTECH is also a great option for a mobile GMRS radio.
But what makes it stand out is its impressive range that can be optimized using an external antenna such as the NMO-200C from Nagoya.
Users have testified that the BTECH 50X1V can reach as far as 60 miles given ideal conditions and environment.Now, when installed in vehicles, a really helpful feature is the large LCD display which makes values easy to read even from the driver’s viewpoint. This display also allows selection of different text colors because of its tri-color feature. This unit can be used with almost all types of FRS and GMRS radios. As for installation, the mounting hardware and bracket also make setup simple and hassle-free. It can be installed easily in vehicles without worrying about it falling off. The sturdy build makes it very ideal for off-roading trips with multiple vehicles and in situations where range is of optimum importance.
- great range
- easy to install in vehicles
- has large LCD display
- difficult to program
Users love the radio because it works great and stays true to its 50-mile claim. A number of users have mentioned hitting repeaters 40-50 miles away, some even 60 miles with nearby repeater sites. Although some bought their units as backup devices, they say that the product really is compatible with other units. There are opposing claims on quality because there are some users who reported defects after some time of using the radio. But, there are also others who have had their radios for some time and these still work great.
How we picked the best products
In the competition for the best type of radio, range is always a game-changer. This is one of the first of the many specs users must consider in order to determine if a radio is any good. So, for this article, we made sure to choose GMRS radios that exceeded the average range. However, because the value is highly dependent on location, terrain, and overall environment, we looked at both the manufacturers’ claims and the user reviews. While no product is guaranteed to have any specific range, what we’ve seen on actual tests is a good gauge.
Being all too familiar with the scenarios where GMRS radios are mostly used in, we know that durability must also be considered. Whether they’re used for off-roading, hiking, mountaineering, camping trips, or simply as communication devices between multiple parties, a GMRS radio, to be considered good, must be durable enough to survive the test of everyday use, varying environmental conditions, and time.
Radios, being handy or mobile devices, are not exempt from having cool features. If you look at our list again, you’d see how the products we have selected have useful, some unique, features. For instance, hands-free operation is a very welcome functionality as most people prefer the convenience of voice activation. Because of the nature of the usage of GMRS radios, access to weather channels and alerts is another good addition. While there is no completely waterproof GMRS radio, what comes close is a weatherproof one that is resistant to slight splashing, dust, and dirt. Other helpful features include easily readable displays, built-in flashlights, dependable batteries, privacy channels, and of course, sound quality.
Of course, there is no better way to tell whether what the brands claim are true or not than actually experiencing the products firsthand. While we’ve gathered diverse opinions and accounts on the different products, GMRS mobile radio reviews really helped trim down our list. If majority says that a product is not good, then it’s a no. But if there are mostly positive reviews, then we give that a product a chance and see how it fairs against other competitors.
GMRS Repeater Compatibility
GMRS repeaters help extend a radio’s range. And although not all GMRS radios are repeater compatible, it is definitely a good additional feature. If a radio already has good range, being able to use it with repeaters will multiply its capabilities. Some of the picks on this list have this feature. If you have repeater sites in your area, then it would be good to consider this factor when choosing a product.
GMRS radios may have similar specifications and features but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to find a unit that will stand out. So, consider your needs, consider your location, and then decide which GMRS radio is best for you.
In this post we have reviewed the best GMRS radios depending on your application. As a recap, the top GMRS radios are: