The method for choosing the best two-way walkie talkie system comes with first determining the primary application for the units. The best system for long range use over rugged and mountainous terrain is different from the system necessary in urban environments, cluttered with ambient interference across the electromagnetic spectrum. Once a consumer has determined the primary environment that the walkie talkie system is to be used in, other matters of taste and preference must be accounted for. Long range systems tend to be bigger, bulkier and heavier, and can be cumbersome for hikers and rock climbers.
Multi-channel two-way walkie talkie systems offer a wide variety of uses. Having many channels available allows users the ability to overcome interference caused by atmospherics, static and other prevailing conditions by switching channels. These systems also allow better and more efficient coordination for teams or groups consisting of more than two people, who need to handle different aspects of a particular task without cluttering up the system. Even if the consumer's needs only involve communicating with one other person, multi-channel capability offers a better overall system for most applications.
For rural environments, ruggedized walkie talkies offer a good balance between mass and usability over long distances. For consumers who plan to use a system primarily outdoors, exposed to inclement weather, ruggedized systems are the way to go. These systems are water resistant and rated to military specifications for dirt, dust, shock, temperature extremes and electromagnetic interference. Ruggedized walkie talkie systems can be expensive, but the added value provided by their durability and performance in adverse conditions may be worth it.
There are two types of frequencies used by two-way walkie talkie systems on the market. VHF systems provide a greater operable range and work well in open, uncluttered environments. They do not perform well in urban environments or in mountainous terrain, however. For those uses, consumers should select a system that operates on a UHF frequency. UHF systems perform well in areas with buildings, higher levels of electromagnetic interference, and dense walls, tall structures or mountainous terrain.
Power performance should also be a factor to consider when selecting a walkie talkie system. One-watt systems offer a limited range for users, up to 1 mile (1.6 km) in ideal conditions. Two-watt systems double the range in ideal conditions but may not be useful for certain outdoor applications. For long range two-way communications, five-watt systems provide extended range in nearly all conditions.