We Tried the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio and Our Praise Is Loud and Clear

Updated: Apr. 17, 2024

Along 4,000 miles of roads, atop snowy mountain peaks and through a home renovation, we put our Rocky Talkies to the test. Here's how they worked.

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I’ve had a life-long fascination with two-way radios. I’ve relied on compact versions while climbing mountains and snowboarding down them, and I’ve also used bulkier pro-grade “walkies” for thousands of hours while working on film sets.

More recently, my partner and I have been using two-way radios on our home renovation project. Instead of yelling across the property, we’ve learned that we can request tools or a spare hand with the simple press of a button on our Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio. Walkies are also handy for mountain biking, kayaking and road trip caravanning.

Whether you need radios for outside fun, a job site, family theme-park visits, home emergency kits or security, here’s our Rocky Talkie review.

What is the Rocky Talkie?

LED Display of Walkie Talkie showing 100 percent Karuna Eberl for Family handyman

The Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio is a durable, rechargeable two-way radio. Two adventurers who longed for a tougher radio for the demanding conditions of backcountry climbing and skiing designed it.

“Rocky Talkie started as a passion project that kicked off when our co-founder Alex Page and I were climbing Castleton Tower in Utah,” says Bryce Jones, President and Co-Founder of Rocky Talkie. “We saw a climbing party above us grappling with a communication breakdown, and it got us thinking, ‘Why don’t climbers use radios more often?'”

“Our lightbulb moment came later that very same day when our generic, Amazon-bought radios bit the dust. We realized that radios weren’t a common sight in the backcountry because the existing choices proved unreliable and impractical for adventurers. That sparked a multi-year mission to craft our own solution, culminating in the launch of Rocky Talkie in late 2019.”

Because it operates on the FRS (Family Radio Service) communication band, it doesn’t require an FCC license to operate.

Out of the Box

Rocky Talkie Rugged Two Way Radio in snowKaruna Eberl for Family handyman

After unboxing for our Rocky Talkie review, we could tell our Mountain Radios were likely destined to become our new constant companions. Compared with other two-way radios we’ve owned and experimented with, these felt superbly solid. They’re encased in rugged, non-slippery plastic and sport no-glass shatterproof screens. They even include climbing-grade name-brand carabiner clips (made by Mammut). At first glance, the manufacturer certainly didn’t skimp.

They’re also incredibly simple and intuitive to operate. We started using them right away, neglecting to read any instructions first (we did, however, go back later and delve into all of their more subtle features).

While Rocky Talkies were designed to accommodate heavier-duty users in need of emergency radios, we were still excited to put them through some tests in our sub-zero temperatures and beyond—and we soon discovered why these radios have become a favorite with ice climbers, ski patrollers and others whose lives depend on reliable communication across varied terrain.

Mountain RadioVIA MERCHANT VIA MERCHANT

We Tried It

Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio

Created with climbers and skiers in mind, the compact radio is suited for any rugged adventure where communication is critical.

Rocky Talkie Features

Green LED Display on Rocky Talkie Rugged Two Way RadioKaruna Eberl for Family handyman

  • Long-lasting, cold-resistant battery: the 1550 mAh replaceable lithium-ion battery is capable of lasting up to four days, even at -20 degrees
  • 2-watt transmission power: the maximum legally allowed without an FCC license
  • Low-power mode of 0.5 watts: in case you need to conserve battery power
  • Max range of 35 miles in ideal conditions: but one to five is typical in the mountains; 0.5 to two in forests and hills; and up to one in the city
  • Shatterproof LED screen with thermoplastic protective covering (no glass)
  • 22 FRS standard channels, plus 106 preset channel/privacy code sub-channels
  • 121 privacy codes and 22 unique frequencies (giving thousands of options to find a clear channel). Channels 23 through 128 come with preassigned privacy codes
  • Metal carabiner clip, for securing it to a belt, jacket, backpack or harness
  • Coiled backup leash, for extra security against losing it in rough situations
  • Compact size: 6.4-inches tall x 2.5-inches wide x 1-inch thick (or 3.6-inches tall with antenna removed)
  • Five buttons, which are instinctive to use
  • Waterproof/snow-proof rating of IP56, which means it’s splash-proof and will survive heavy rain, but it’s not submersible
  • Weight: radio only, 6.1 ounces; including carabiner and leash, 8.0 ounces
  • Headset port: K1 (two-prong) style

2 prong headphone jack on rocky talkie rugged two way radioKaruna Eberl for Family handyman

  • Rechargeable with USB-C charger

C type Port on Rocky Talkie Rugged Two Way RadioKaruna Eberl for Family handyman

  • Optional waterproof hand mic
  • Optional extra batteries
  • Two-year warranty
  • Company commitment to sustainability through net-zero practices, sustainable packaging, product durability and supply-chain influencing

How We Tested It

Job Site

The first trial for our Rocky Talkies was during a house renovation. It wasn’t the most extreme of conditions, but they did get stomped on and dropped quite a bit, as we generally didn’t bother to use the nifty carabiners to secure them to our clothing. One even slid off the second-story roof, surviving without as much as a scuff.

Even though it’s not a huge property, having radios helped us keep in communication without the frustration of yelling. Where’s the hammer? Just push the button to ask. Held up a heavy beam and dropped the screw gun? No problem. Just push the button, and help will appear.

Beyond typical radio conveniences, the Rocky Talkies did an excellent job of weathering sawdust, drywall dust and even the frequent dust storms that blanket our valley. When we’d forget and leave them outside overnight, they also survived rain, frost, snow and subzero temps.

Adventure Sports

Woman holding Rocky Talkie Rugged Two Way Radio on top of mountainKaruna Eberl for Family handyman

Unlike our unintentional abuse of the radios during the home renovation, we’ve gone out of our way to manhandle them on our mountain biking and hiking adventures for this Rocky Talkie review. We’ve run over them with our bicycles, packed them in snow and banged them against rocks while scrambling up mountainsides.

Other athletes have put them through far more extreme conditions than we have, so we’re not astonished that they held up to our simple tests. But what did surprise us was how effortless it was to use them with winter gloves on, and in my case, mittens.

Orange Push Button on Rocky Talkie Rugged Two Way Radio Karuna Eberl for Family handyman

The large, push-talk button and the smaller volume buttons are not only easy to push, but they have a nice feel, so you can always tell when they’re depressed.

Scan Button on Rocky Talkie Rugged Two Way Radio Karuna Eberl for Family handyman

In contrast, the top toggle button, which controls the channels, is nicely protected by the housing, so it doesn’t get tripped accidentally.

Road Trip

Rocky Talkies on RocksKaruna Eberl for Family handyman

Last fall, we took an epic six-week camping trip from Colorado to Montana, then down through the Utah desert. Typically, when we’re going places we want to explore, we’ll bring two vehicles: our converted van for camping and our Xterra for off-roading. It’s a hassle (and a danger) to have to call or text each other en route, so we habitually communicate with two-way radios.

With our old radios, we always kept communication at a bare minimum. But the sound clarity and range of the Rocky Talkies were so good that we ended up having actual conversations just for the fun of it. We found that the signal typically stretched for at least a mile, sometimes more. I would certainly recommend this camping product.

The only downside was that, depending on the engine and road noise, the volume was a little soft at times, which required us to hold the radios closer to our ears versus leaving them in the cupholders. Also, in the vehicles, the carabiners and coil leashes proved to be a bit of a hassle, as they kept the radios from sitting upright in the center consoles. But that was easy enough to remedy by removing them for the driving portions of the trip (though that led to us losing one set of them—klepto-camping gremlins are real!).

Battery Life

The actual battery life (versus the company’s claims) was a testing element we were particularly interested in for our Rocky Talkie review. It didn’t disappoint. We only had to charge the radios twice over a few thousand miles and six weeks. Even after forgetting to power them off before being holed up for ten days in a hotel room with COVID-19, they still had enough juice to get us 1,000 miles from northern Montana to Lake Powell, Utah. More than just a convenience, this kind of battery life also makes these ideal walkies for home emergency kits since they’re likely to work even if they haven’t been attended to for an extended time.

Pros

  • Over-the-top durable
  • Intuitive and simple to use
  • Easy to use with gloves on
  • Very clear audio
  • Longer-than-average range
  • Rechargeable
  • Good battery life
  • Feel good in the grip

Cons

  • More expensive than some run-of-the-mill two-way radio sets
  • Non-standard lithium batteries
  • Not fully waterproof (though the optional handset is)
  • No weather radio (but including that makes units bulkier)

FAQ

How far do Rocky Talkies reach?

Rocky Talkie Mountain Radios have a max range of 35 miles under ideal conditions. Under most real-world conditions, though, one to five miles is typical in the mountains; 0.5 to two miles in forests and hills; and up to one mile in the city.

Do Rocky Talkies work with other radios?

Yes. The Mountain Radio can connect with all other FRS or GMRS radios using channels one through 22. Remember to match both the channel and privacy code (also known as the subchannel) on the radios. There is also no limit to how many Rocky Talkies you can use together, or in combination with other brands of FRS and GMRS radios.

Who makes Rocky Talkies?

Rocky Talkie is an independent company that makes radios. Their headquarters are in Colorado, where they design and test all products. For parts and electronics assembly, they rely on manufacturing partners in China, Taiwan and Italy.

What Other Reviewers Had to Say

In her Rocky Talkie review, verified buyer Lauren M. writes, “We purchased these for ski trips and to keep in touch easily with one another while working on our property. These walkie-talkies are easy to set up and get on the same channels and the usage with the hand mics are awesome!! We just ordered two more mics as it made it so much easier to keep accessible while skiing! We love our Rocky Talkies!”

Nick T. says these radios are built to last in his Rocky Talkie review. He writes, “It is really rare to find products today that are built in a single-minded way—this is a durable radio that has a great range and battery life. What else do you want? It feels sturdy and really performs.”

Rocky Talkie vs Motorola

The two Motorola models that are most comparable to Rocky Talkie are the T600 and the Talkabout T100.

The T600 is slightly smaller than the Rocky Talkie and specifically designed to be waterproof, so if you’re an avid boater or work in particularly wet conditions, this may be a better bet for you. It also can receive NOAA weather alerts and emanate a red and white flashlight beam. On the downside, if you’re not using it on the water, it’s less of a value, as the battery life is significantly smaller and the range is not quite as good.

The Talkabout T100 is a bit smaller and significantly less expensive than the Rocky Talkie. But it performs accordingly with that cost difference, with less impressive range, clarity, ease of use, durability and battery life.

Final Verdict

If you need a sturdy, compact radio that you can rely on both under tough working conditions (especially cold ones) and dangerous situations, the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio is hands-down the one to bet your life on. That also makes it a no-brainer if you’re worried about launching it off of your roof or your kid dropping it in the mud at a music festival.

The only caveats:

  • If you’re going to be using it in extremely wet conditions, purchase the waterproof hand mic, so you can protect the main unit under your jacket.
  • If you need a longer range or a submersible waterproof unit (up to one meter), try Rocky Talkie’s new 5W radio (but keep in mind with that wattage you’re legally obligated to register for a license with the FCC). It has the same durability and ease of use as the Mountain Radio, with more power to penetrate dense forests. It also has expanded features, including dual weather channel watch, NOAA weather channels, emergency alert monitoring and GMRS repeater capability.

Otherwise, enjoy the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio’s simple operation, outstandingly burly design, and excellent range, clarity and battery life. After this Rocky Talkie review, we know we’ll use ours for a long time. They’re so small and light that they’ve become permanent fixtures on our camping checklist in our day packs and on our job sites.

Where to Buy the Rocky Talkie

Mountain RadioVIA MERCHANT VIA MERCHANT

We Tried It

Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio

The radio transmits a max range of over 35 miles and provides over four days of battery life.

The Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio retails for $110. Find it directly on the company’s website and at some local mountaineering and outdoor stores.