Many factors contribute to walkie talkie range, including how powerful the system is and where it is used. Usually, these radios fall into two categories: short-range and long-range walkie talkies. Short-range walkie talkies tend to cost less and are often designed for use in smaller areas. They have a range of around 500-1000 yards (about 460-920 m). Long-range walkie-talkies may require radio operator licensing and tend to cost more. They also offer a greater number of channels and more power. Manufacturers often claim ranges for these walkie talkies from 1 mile (1.60 km) to more than 30 miles (48.2 km).
Long-range walkie talkies are available in different ranges, such as a 1-watt radio capable of reaching 8 miles (12.8 km) or a 2-watt unit that transmits up to 20 miles (32.1 km). Usually, the more power a unit has, the farther the walkie talkie range will be. For example, a powerful 4-watt radio can have a range of 27 to 30 miles (43.4 to 48.2 km). Not all of these two-way radios live up to their walkie talkie range claims, however, as many things can affect actual range, including radio interference, cars, trees, rocks, buildings or concrete.
Although some manufacturers claim a walkie talkie range of well over 30 miles (48.28 km), it is unlikely that these radios will transmit that far. Often these units are tested on fairly flat terrain, using line-of-sight tests, under optimum conditions with no obstructions. The walkie-talkie range claimed by these tests may not be accurate in a different environment, such as a city full of skyscrapers or a forest full of trees.
Walkie-talkies are used for many different reasons, from keeping in contact on hiking trips to corralling extras on a movie set, but the same unit may yield different results in each of these locations. The walkie-talkie itself may have characteristics that limit its range, including the size of the antenna, how many channels it has and the battery charge. Something else to consider is that although a unit may claim to have a certain range, actually having a conversation with no interference may not be possible at that distance, unless conditions are ideal. For the best reception, being at an altitude higher than the surrounding area may offer the best and clearest vocal quality, similar to what happens with cell phones.