This is The Wise Adventurer’s roundup of the best walkie talkies for skiing of the year for resort skiers and backcountry aficionados alike. When cell service fades, a good radio is the only way to keep in touch in the mountains: whether you’re just keeping the group together or handling a real emergency situation, clear, reliable communication is key, which is where a good ski radio distinguishes itself from the rest.
After testing and analyzing dozens of ski radios currently on the market, we found the Backcountry Access Link 2.0 to be the best walkie talkies overall. We love the Link 2.0 for its outstanding range, unmatched battery life, and rough-and-tumble build, as well as its excellent user-friendliness and included remote mic.
While we’re convinced the BCA Link 2.0 is the best-suited radio for any and every backcountry application, we know it won’t be every reader’s first choice. Some folks want something smaller and lighter to carry around, while others simply want a reliable radio at an affordable price. Rest assured, in the list below we’ve found a radio that works well for every application at any price point.
We’ll also note that if you’re new to radios and aren’t quite sure how to choose, you’ll find a handy buyer’s guide down at the bottom of the page. There we review all the key features of a good ski radio and how to choose the right walkie talkie for your next day in the snow.
Alright, let’s dive into the details of our favorite ski radios!
|Backcountry Access Link 2.0: Best Overall
|The gold standard for backcountry communication: A powerful, clear, and rugged radio with industry-leading battery life. See Review
|Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio: Highest Overall Quality
|An all-around great walkie talkie for any outdoor pursuit, delivering great clarity, battery life, and range for less money. See Review
|Backcountry Access BC Link Mini: Best On A Budget
|A scaled-down version of the Link 2.0 that’s more affordable and better suited to casual use. Solid range, battery life, and durability. See Review
|An extra powerful pair of GMRS radios at a great price. Reliable range and battery life with convenient hands-free voice activation. See Review
|Extremely light, compact, and easy to use. A simple yet effective radio for the least amount of money. See Review
Best Skiing Walkie Talkies
Backcountry Access Link 2.0: Best Skiing Overall
– Weight: 11oz (312g)
– Size: 6.5” x 2.2” x1.4” (16cm x 5.6cm x 3.5cm)
– Range: 40 miles (64km)
– Battery life: 40 hours in standby (8 hours constant use)
– Hands-free: Yes
– Price: $$$
The Backcountry Access Link 2.0 is widely considered the gold standard in backcountry radios, and its purpose-built design and features made it an easy choice as the best skiing walkie talkie overall in this year’s roundup. Tough, powerful, and feature-rich, the Link 2.0 does everything you need in the backcountry, and does it all exceptionally well.
Our favorite feature of the BC Link 2.0 is its reliable range, which makes the most out of the legally limited 2-watt power for FRS radios to reliably deliver 3-4 miles of usable range in clear line-of-sight conditions and around 2-3 miles in poor weather and/or rolling terrain. Battery life is the same story, as we’ve consistently gotten well over 20 hours of regular use (and upwards of 40 hours with minimal use) out of a full charge. This has been our go to ski walkie talkie for backcountry touring and multi-pitch climbing alike, and it’s yet to let us down in the field.
Two other factors make Access BC Link 2.0 stand out for us. The first is that this is one of the most user-friendly ski walkie talkies we’ve used straight out of the box thanks to its easy-to-master controls and included remote microphone. The second is that the BC Link 2.0 is built tough enough to handle the rigors of any and all backcountry use, and is also backed by IP56 protection against dust and water ingress. We especially appreciate that the BC Link is one of the most securely attaching radios we’ve used, both due to its powerful clip and its remote microphone design.
All things considered we believe this is the best radio for serious backcountry use, but the Link 2.0 also comes with a few tradeoffs. The first and most striking for us is its price point, which at nearly $200 per radio makes the BCA Link 2.0 by far the most expensive walkie talkie on our list. The second is that the extra large battery and remote mic make for a fairly heavy overall package, although we’ve found the extra weight to be well worth the added performance.
|– Remote smart microphone included
– Best in-class range
– Impressive battery life
– NOAA weather alerts included
|– Very expensive
– Heavier/bulkier than most
Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio: Highest Overall Quality
– Weight: 6.1oz (173 g)
– Size: 3.5” x 2.4” x 1.2” (9cm x 6cm x 3cm)
– Range: 35 miles (56.3km)
– Battery life: 4 days
– Hands-free: No
– Price: $$
While the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio is a relative newcomer to the scene, it also happens to be one of the most capable and versatile walkie talkies money can buy. This little wonder delivers comparable performance to our top pick in a more compact package, and handily edges out every other competitor for backcountry use.
Our favorite feature of the Mountain Radio is its range. In clear line of sight conditions, the Rocky Talkie outperforms anything else we’ve tested, delivering over 6 miles of clear and reliable communication when the weather is good. In less-than-ideal conditions, the Rocky Talkie still holds its own with around 1-2 miles of usable range, which is plenty for most backcountry skiers to keep their group together.
The Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio also impressed us with its low weight and portable size, as well as its bulletproof integrated carabiner clip. This gated clip is a particularly smart feature, as we typically find ourselves adding one to our radios anyways for better security and peace of mind. We’ll also give Rocky Talkie props for its outstanding battery life, which easily runs for 20+ hours with regular use, and considering extra rechargeable batteries can be purchased for around $30, there’s no reason this radio can’t go the distance for multi-day trips.
Overall the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio is a home run for a first-generation product, but it does have a few shortcomings we’ll point out as well. The first and most glaring is that it doesn’t feature standard NOAA weather channels, which can be crucial for changing conditions in the backcountry. Our other concern is that the Mountain Radio’s IP65 weatherproof rating isn’t quite as robust as a BCA radio, making it fine for snow but less than ideal for heavy rain.
|– Super light and compact
– Great battery life
– Extremely durable
– Very clear
|– No NOAA weather alert
– Not fully waterproof
Backcountry Access Link Mini: Best On A Budget
– Weight: 6oz (170 g)
– Size: 6.25” x 2.5” x 1.25” (15.9cm x 6.5cm x 3.2cm)
– Range: 32 miles (6 miles usable)
– Battery life: 18 hours
– Hands-free: No
– Price: $$
While Backcountry Access radios are widely considered the best walkie talkie for skiing in the business, not everyone wants or needs quite as hardcore a radio as the BCA BC Link 2.0. A smaller, more affordable BCA radio is something we’ve been asking for years, and this year the brand finally delivered with the BCA BC Link Mini.
All of the best features of the full-sized Link 2.0 are preserved in the Link Mini including solid water protection, good battery life, and the same excellent usable range of around 6 miles (claimed maximum range for the Mini is slightly lower at 32 miles, but you’ll never see that kind of range anyways). All that power is shoehorned into a same-sized package that weighs about half as much, making the Mini ideal for clipping directly to your vest or pack without a weight penalty.
We also love that BCA listened to their fanbase and set this radio at an affordable price point, especially considering it’s such a solid piece of equipment. The new Link Mini is set to retail for under $100, yet outperforms options twice its price from the competition.
In terms of drawbacks, the biggest bummer about the Link Mini is that because BCA specced a smaller 1800 mAh battery to keep the Mini’s weight to a minimum, its battery life is about half of the flagship Link 2.0 at about 18 hours. That means you’ll likely want to pony up for the full-sized version if you’re looking to do extended multi-night trips in the backcountry, but for your average cross country skier, snowmobiler, or snowboarder, the BCA Mini is the right pick at the right price.
|– BCA power in a more affordable package
– Light, compact, and easy to use
– Fast USB-C charging
|– Less battery life than its bigger brother
– No remote mic option
– Weight: 7.4 oz. (with battery)
– Size: 7.75” x 2.5” x 1.4” (19.7cm x 6.4cm x 3.6cm)
– Range: 36 miles (58km)
– Battery life: 9 hours
– Hands-free: Yes
– Price: $
Midland radios are tough to beat from a value perspective, and the Midland GXT1000 model is our favorite offering of the bunch. This is the best-selling radio in the US according to Midland, and considering all the features you’re getting for your money, it’s really no wonder.
Our favorite aspect of the GXT is that it boasts above-average power for a handheld radio. Because this skiing radio is a GMRS model rather than a simple FRS, Midland is able to crank up the transmission power to a full 5 watts, which is more than double what’s legally allowed on FRS channels. This makes for a usable range of around 2 miles in most mountain conditions, or about 5-6 miles for clear line-of-sight use.
Apart from range, the GXT1000 also delivers a respectable battery life of around 9 hours (which can be further extended by swapping out a set of AA batteries), ample weatherproofing for snow and rain, and access to all NOAA weather broadcasts to keep up with changing conditions. We’ll also note that at under $100 a pair, the Midland GXT1000 represents solid value for the money, delivering mid-tier performance at a bottom dollar price.
The main drawback of the GXT1000VP4 is that because it uses over 2 watts of power, this walkie talkie is classified as a GMRS radio rather than a standard FRS, which means you’ll have to log onto the FCC website and pay a fee (about $35 the last time we checked) to get a license. There’s no test required and the license lasts for 10 years though, so all things considered it’s a small price to pay for reliable range in the backcountry.
|– Two solid radios for the cost of a single premium model
– More powerful than a standard FCC radio
– Hands-free voice activation
|– GMRS license required
– Less than ideal battery life on full power
– Weight: 2.7oz (77 g)
– Size: 5.5” x 2” x 1.2” (14cm x 5cm x 3cm)
– Range: 20 miles (32km)
– Battery life: 8 hours
– Hands-free: Yes
– Price: $
If your ski days rarely stray far from the chair lifts, a basic set of hand radios is really all you need to stay in touch on the mountain. For that purpose, we really can’t recommend the Midland T10 highly enough.
The Midland T10 may not have the range or battery life of our top picks, but considering the fact that you’re getting two radios from a reputable brand for just $30, you really can’t complain here. We’ve found the T10 reliably delivers around two miles of range in typical mountain-to-valley conditions, and a fresh set of AAA batteries lasts a full 8 hours regardless of the temperature outside.
In addition to the outright value of this cost-effective pair of walkie talkies, we also love the T10 because it’s both the lightest and most compact radio on our list. These little radios fit easily into the palm of anyone’s hand, and tip the scales at under three ounces a piece! Inside you get 22 channels to choose from, 38 privacy codes, reliable weather reporting, and an easy-to-use channel lock to keep your whole team on the same page.
Drawbacks here are about what you’d expect for a radio this affordable: The usable range is limited to around 2 miles and your mounting options are limited to a basic pocket clip. Let us be clear here, the Midland T10 is not suited to backcountry use for any period of time, but if a casual radio for recreation is all you need anyway, it can’t be beaten for the money.
|– Dirt cheap
– Works well for casual use
– No need to recharge
|– Limited range
– Limited battery life
– Alkaline batteries only
Buyer’s Guide To The Best Skiing Walkie Talkies
While there are dozens of good walkie talkies on the market nowadays, not every radio is ideal for skiing, be it at the resort or through the backcountry. In the buyer’s guide below, we’ll explain the crucial features we evaluate when considering a radio for use in cold weather to help you decide which model is right for your next run down the mountain.
Range is a common sticking point with walkie talkies, so it’s important to understand what it is and how it works. The range figure you’ll see quoted on the spec sheet of your walkie talkie is what’s called the “maximum range” which describes the furthest possible distance the radios can transmit under perfect conditions.
In the real world, the maximum range figure is nearly identical between all consumer walkie talkies (assuming they all use the legal limit of 2 Watts of output power), and is somewhere between 20-30 miles, but this figure does us no good unless we happen to be floating in mid-air on a cloudless day.
The information we’re actually interested in here is what’s called “usable range.” Usable range describes the actual experienced range of a radio in real-life conditions. Geography, elevation, weather conditions, and interference from other radios will all impact the usable range of your skiing walkie talkies, so it’s important to set realistic expectations here.
Luckily for skiers, we happen to use our radios in one of the most ideal environments possible: In the mountains at high elevation. The most common scenario is what’s called “peak to valley,” which describes two radios separated by distance (but not physical geography) in a more-or-less “line of sight” situation.
In our experience, any good ski radio provides somewhere between 2 to 10 miles of range in the mountains (assuming there aren’t any peaks between you and your friends), with the best skiing walkie talkies delivering closer to the 10 mile mark in this scenario.
Weight and Size
Because most ski radios are carried on your person (typically clipped around your shoulder), both size and weight are important to consider. At the end of the day, you have to lug your walkie talkie around with you for several hours in the snow, so you don’t want it to be overly bulky or burdensome.
In our experience, the best ski radios typically weigh in around 6 ounces, but never weigh more than a pound. We’ve also found it’s typically worthwhile to add a remote microphone (assuming it isn’t overly heavy/bulky itself) for convenience in exchange for a few extra ounces.
The importance of your walkie-talkie’s battery life largely depends on how you use it, but naturally more is always better. The best walkie talkies in our analysis delivered well in excess of 20 hours on fully charged batteries, but we’ll also note that not everyone needs several days’ worth of juice for recreation.
The best results we’ve found thus far in our testing fall between the 30-40 hour mark, and typically do so using larger capacity rechargeable batteries. We’ll also point out that while non-rechargeable alkaline batteries have largely fallen out of fashion, carrying a few extra fresh batteries in your pack is a guaranteed way to double your battery life in the backcountry without needing to carry an auxiliary power bank.
On that same note, we generally prefer our walkie talkies to have some form of swappable batteries. This is why models that come with rechargeable batteries but also accept standard alkaline batteries tend to score high in this metric: Reliable walkie talkies paramount in the backcountry.
Durability, Security and Weather Resistance
Walkie talkies are typically mounted externally on your body, and as such, they’re prone to considerable wear and tear. While skiing typically isn’t quite as hard on equipment as something like multi-pitch climbing, we prefer our radios to be robust enough to handle all manner of outdoor use.
For this reason, we give high marks to radios using scratch and/or shatter resistant screens, and find backlit displays particularly useful. We’ve used radios in the past whose screens quickly scuff up and become difficult to read, so this is something we feel is worth paying extra for as needed.
In terms of weather resistance, a durable walkie talkie doesn’t need to be fully waterproof (aka submersible), but it should be highly water resistant, which means an IP rating of IPX5 or above is strongly preferred. If you plan on using your radios for fishing, kayaking, or pack rafting as well, you’ll want to opt for something that’s fully submersible, which means an IP rating of IPX7 or higher is needed.
Security, on the other hand, refers to how solid/secure a walkie talkies’ connection to your pack or your body is. While any reliable walkie talkie includes a basic rear clip, our favorite models either include an integrated carabiner for a worry-free connection or, at minimum, an attachment loop somewhere on the body of the radio that’s large enough to run a carabiner or a length of paracord through for a more reliable connection.
Ease of Use
A good ski radio should include frequency selection, privacy channels, volume control, and (ideally) a way to lock your settings in place. While these requirements aren’t particularly complicated, making them user-friendly and intuitive is a major challenge for radio manufacturers.
While every walkie talkie comes with some degree of learning curve, skiing radios have a fairly straightforward task: Keeping in touch with your buddies. As such we typically prefer models with fewer buttons and easy-to-interpret displays, although experienced operators may prefer added features like customizable settings and additional data readouts.
Clear communication is essential in the backcountry. The ability to hear and be heard is paramount to your personal safety, whether you’re trying to locate a lost friend or navigate a difficult pitch.
Clarity is a hallmark of a good skiing walkie talkie. While some communications will inevitably come through scratchy and difficult to decipher, you shouldn’t need to constantly repeat yourself within a reasonable range.
Much of this comes down to the quality of your walkie talkie’s microphone, especially in terms of protection from wind noise. Unfortunately the only way to truly determine the clarity of a radio is to get it out into the field firsthand, which is why reviews such as ours are so important.
Our Testing and Review Process
While our team at The Wise Adventurer is still relatively small, we’re lucky enough to have multiple snow enthusiasts in our midst. Much of our experience with testing and reviewing skiing walkie talkies comes from our own recreation, whether it’s cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling throughout the winter.
While we’ve yet to test every model firsthand ourselves, we’ve spent time with many of the industry’s highest-performing models from brands like BCA, Motorola, and Midland. Anything we haven’t tested ourselves we evaluate through rigorous secondhand research, which includes speaking with friends and family who use the product, combing through existing customer reviews, and speaking with our friends who guide adventures professionally in the backcountry.
The Wise Adventurer’s Verdict on Skiing Walkie Talkies
Taking all the above factors into consideration, we found the BCA BC Link 2.0 to be the best skiing walkie talkie on the market at the time of this writing. The Link 2.0 is the choice of professional guides and weekend warriors alike for a reason, most notably for its bulletproof build, outstanding usable range, and unmatched battery life.
If you’re just looking for a recreational walkie talkie for day-to-day use, we believe both the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio and BCA Link Mini are outstanding options. These radios are smaller, easy to use, and more affordable, while still delivering outstanding performance and more than enough battery power for 99% of outdoor applications.