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6 Best Overlanding Radios and Off-Road Communications Devices

Overlanding adventures typically require adventurers to head out into remote wilderness areas. Many of these areas have limited to no cell signal, making it nearly impossible to stay connected. A reliable off-road communication system could mean the difference between life and death in an emergency.

Most overlanders carry both a radio and satellite communication device. Most overland radios have a limited distance and are used for communicating between rigs on the trail. Sattelite coms are for reaching the rest of the world from anywhere and can be used in case of emergency as well.

Overlanding Truck
While in remote areas, you will want to ensure you have some form of a communication device on you.

What Features Do the Best Off-Road Communication Devices Have? 

The best off-road communication devices have several features that make them the best. Satellite communications are the most reliable to get a message out, as all you need is a view of the sky. Many of these devices connect to the Global Iridium Network satellite system. As long as you can see the sky, you’ll have a solid connection and can reach emergency services.

Another great feature of these overland radios is tracking. Overlanders and adventurers can share their device’s information with friends or family, who can check in on them occasionally. 

If the device hasn’t moved or isn’t where it’s supposed to be, then friends and family can start to respond accordingly. If for some reason, the adventurer gets separated from the device, it could provide rescuers with a location to begin their search.

While those are all great features, the best feature is having two-way text messaging. This can help communicate important information or stay in contact with others. Users can send and receive custom and preset text messages and emails. Some will even pair with other smart devices like watches and tablets.

Garmin In Reach Mounted on Dash
Send messages and share your GPS location while off-roading through a cell phone, short-range or long-range device, and even a personal locator beacon.

Pro Tip: An overland radio isn’t the only piece of essential equipment you’ll need for your off-roading adventure. Make sure you have these 11 Top Gear Essentials For Overlanding.

Types of Off-Road and Overland Communication Systems

You’ll find several types of off-road and overland communication devices, and each has pros and cons. Consider how and where you plan to spend your time when choosing which will work best for you. Off-roaders will often use a variety of systems, including cell phones, short-range radios, long-range devices, satellite communications, and emergency personal locator beacons.

Cell Phones

Almost everyone has a cell phone, making them the most common off-road and overland communication system. While cell networks can be unreliable and have limited coverage in some areas, they’re a long-range devices. Cell phones need to see the cell network, however to be useful. This all may be changing in the near future as android 14 may offer satellite communications.

Also, the iPhone 14, comes with Emergency satellite SOS features. Apple includes two years of service with the device. If you’re due for an upgrade and are a fan of Apple products, consider this for your off-roading communication needs.

Many beginners will start by using their cell phones and upgrade once they want to take their adventures to more remote areas.

Short-Range Radio Devices

Short-range devices like walkie-talkies, GMRS Radios, and CB Radios can be incredibly beneficial while overlanding. These overland radio devices work great for groups staying in contact at camps or while navigating trails. 

Short-range devices can improve communication with those around you but typically don’t work well for reaching emergency services. However, it could help if not everyone in your group has a long-range device.

Man using walkie-talkie while overlanding
While overlanding with others, short range devices can help you stay in constant contact.

Long Range Devices

Another type of off-road and overland communication system is a long-range radio. These allow users to communicate with other users over incredibly long distances, potentially even around the world. Cellular devices are the most common type of long-range devices, but Ham radios are another popular method.

Overland radio Ham systems are great options as they don’t depend on large infrastructures. They can help in reaching out for assistance during an emergency.

However, transmitting over a Ham radio requires a license. Though, you don’t need a license if you’re experiencing an emergency or other critical situation. These complex systems can also cost a little more than other options. 

Pro Tip: Unsure if it is worth it to get a license to broadcast on Ham radio? Check out these 5 Great Reasons to Get Your Ham Radio License.

Satellite Communication Systems

When it comes to the best off-road communication devices, it’s hard to beat satellite communication systems in an emergency. 

These devices allow you to send emergency alerts, text messages, and your GPS location to friends, family, and others. Adventurers who travel across international borders enjoy that they don’t have to switch between service providers as they provide global coverage.

You can’t expect a premium product not to come with a premium price. These devices can be extremely expensive and often come with monthly or annual service fees. 

Some will even require users to sign contracts for a particular time. While they provide nearly global coverage and only require a clear line-of-sight to the sky, service could be non-existent in areas with dense tree coverage.

Personal Locator Beacons

Another commonly used overlanding communication system is a personal locator beacon. These devices use GPS tracking to monitor the location of the device and send information by satellite. 

These may not provide as many fancy features as other units, but they’ll do the job. Adventurers can share their device’s information with friends and family, who can then keep an eye on them from anywhere they can access the internet.

These personal locator beacons will also allow users to send an SOS beacon. This sends the user’s exact location and alerts to pre-assigned contacts. If the user experiences a serious situation, friends and family can provide the information when they contact authorities near the user. 

Truck camper parked on cliff while overlanding
Overland radios can keep you safe and connected no matter where you roam.

6 Best Overland and Off-Road Communication Devices 

We’ve found the six best devices to consider when shopping for a communication device for your overland and off-road adventures. We’ve selected a variety of devices to fit the needs of just about every situation. Let’s dive in.

#1 Garmin InReach 

About: Garmin is one of the most popular names for GPS and navigation systems. Unsurprisingly, they offer some of the best possible Overlanding and off-road communication devices like the Garmin InReach. We are a huge fan of this device for simple, reliable satellite communications.

These range from $299 to $599 and can help people stay connected with emergency services and important safety information while traveling. You can receive weather alerts, access a variety of maps, and allow others to track you. 

These are great options if you already have other compatible devices. You can connect them to your devices and access a wealth of information on your watch, smartphone, or other compatible items.

Garmin GPSMAP 86i, Floating Handheld GPS with...
  • Water-resistant, floating design, sunlight-visible 3” display...
  • Stream boat data from compatible chartplotters and instruments to...
  • Stay in touch from anywhere with in reach satellite communication...

Special Features: The two-way messaging feature is a tremendous benefit of the Garmin InReach products. Since they use the Iridium satellite network, you’ll have service in more places and can enjoy your travels without worrying about service coverage.

Best For: The Garmin InReach series is ideal for anyone who plans to spend a lot of time off-roading, overlanding, or hiking in remote areas. Their price tag may be steep for beginners or those who spend time sparingly in remote areas. However, if they help keep you safe in an emergency, they’re worth every penny.

inReach Mini 2: What You Should Know

About: Starlink is a full-featured internet system that communicates with a set of low earth orbit satellites launched by Starlink. This has been our primary internet provider for a few years and allows us to work from anywhere. The service is mainly intended for residential applications but has found its way into Overlanding.

Special Features: Starlink is currently the fastest and most reliable satellite internet provider available today. The phased array antenna automatically orients itself and provides high-speed internet. New models in the future are expected to offer in-motion capabilities.

starlink internet on overlanding vehicle
We had no cell here but blazing fast internet thanks to Starlink

Best For: Starlink is best for those with extra space in a larger overland rig and a robust power system. The system takes time to set up and is not great for operation in an emergency. The system also requires quite a bit of power, so a larger solar system, battery bank, and generator will be required to operate it continuously.

#3 BlueCosmo Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 Satellite Phone Kit

About: The Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 comes with a $759 price tag. However, the dust, shock, and splash-resistant materials help it withstand the harshest conditions, except at polar locations. 

The battery life on this device can last for eight hours of talk time or up to 160 hours in standby mode. However, the phone does require a SIM card for service, which is available in monthly and prepaid plans. 

The device, at 11 ounces, is relatively lightweight and can easily be charged via the micro-USB charging port.

Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 Handheld Satellite Phone
  • PACKAGE INCLUDES: Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 Satellite Phone,...
  • RANGE OF FLEXIBLE AIRTIME OPTIONS: The SIM included with your...

Special Features: Many love the large emergency button on the IsatPhone 2. Pressing this button gives the user three options for reaching emergency services. 

The device will automatically call a recipient of your choice, send a text or email alert to one or more recipients, and register the emergency response alert with GEOS. 

GEOS is the team responsible for managing emergency notifications. They’ll reach out to the user and then contact the appropriate search and rescue authorities.

Best For: Due to the costs and features, it works best for those who spend most of their time overlanding and off-roading. It may be a bit overkill for hiking and more recreational uses. However, it can be a solid option for many different applications if you don’t mind the price.

How to use the Inmarsat IsatPhone 2 satellite phone

#4 Baofeng BF-F8HP

About: The Baofeng BF-F8HP weighs 10 ounces, and with the 2,000 mAh lithium-ion battery, you can get nearly 24 hours of use. We have a few of these radios that we use when traveling with a group.

It’s a high-powered handheld device that can allow users to stay in contact with services over many miles. Remember that these are HAM radios and require a license to operate in some frequencies. Technically you can operate on open frequencies without a license, as this is fully programmable.

Many users love that this kit comes with a budget-friendly price tag. You can have a high-quality handheld overland radio for less than $100.

BAOFENG BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band...
  • Upgrades from our Previous Generation UV-5R: Twice the Output...
  • High / Med / Low Power Settings (8W, 4W, 1W); Frequency Range:...
  • The BF-F8HP was designed in the USA and because not everyone is a...

Special Features: The BF-F8HP has a tri-color display and a 7-inch high-gain antenna. You’ll have little trouble reaching others on the frequency. This is the fourth iteration of the Baofeng Bf-F8HP, and they’ve made some drastic improvements since its first version.

Best For: This is a great option for those who spend short periods adventuring in remote locations. The limited battery capacity makes it hard to recommend for anyone who wants to spend a long time off the grid. 

With only 24 hours of battery capacity, users will likely need to stay closer to a charging source. It could be a great radio if you overland or off-road and can leave it connected to a power source until you need to use it.

Baofeng BF-F8HP Radio Review by TheUrbanPrepper

#5 Motorola T100 Talkabout Radio

About: The Motorola T100 is a short-range device with a maximum range of 16 miles. However, this is under perfect circumstances. You can expect a decrease in coverage from trees, changes in elevation, and other obstacles. 

These two-way radios weigh only 4 four ounces. Motorola has a positive reputation for being the best at creating high-quality communication devices.

Motorola T100 Talkabout Radio, 2 Pack
  • Call Tones: A call tone is what people calling you can hear...
  • Quickly Find a Channel: Use the scanning feature to see which...
  • Flashing Low Battery Alert: Low battery alert reminds you when...

Special Features: The Motorola T100 Talkabout two-way radios are quality walkie-talkies. Each radio requires three AAA batteries, so you can swap out dead batteries with new ones and not have to wait for them to recharge.

Best For: These radios are best for overland groups adventuring together. Aside from communicating with other users on any of the 22 channels, you can’t connect with emergency services. To optimize safety, you’ll still need to have some way to communicate with emergency services.

Motorola T100 Talkabout Radio, 2 Pack

#6 Uniden PRO520XL Mobile CB Radio

About: CB radio is a license-free radio spectrum that was popular among truckers for a long time. The Uniden PRO520XL is one of the professional models of CB radios. This 4-Watt CB radio has RF gain control, 40-channels of operation, and a handheld microphone. 

It features an automatic noise limiter, volume control, and squelch control for an optimal experience. Additionally, it has an instant emergency station on channel nine.

Uniden PRO520XL Pro Series 40-Channel CB Radio....
  • Uniden’s Professional Series PRO520XL Heavy-Duty CB radio...
  • The PRO520XL has a front mount 4-pin electret microphone with...
  • Extremely popular for Industrial, Commercial, and Off-Road use....

Special Features: The Uniden PRO520XL mounts to the inside of your vehicle and can even connect to your internal speakers. This can make it easy to hear inside and outside of your vehicle. The extra-long coiled cord makes it easy to talk with other CB users on the same channel.

Best For: As this device mounts inside a car, it works best for overlanding and off-roading vehicles. This isn’t a great option if you plan to hike. CB radios are great for short range between convoys but they are not as popular as they used to be and won’t be as much help in an emergency.

Is This The Best Budget CB Radio? Uniden PRO520XL Pro Series Review

Stay Connected on the Road and Off With Reliable Overland Radio Communications

There’s no excuse to head out on an adventure without a reliable overland radio. You have plenty of great options to keep you safe during your travels. You can’t put a price tag on your safety in remote areas without emergency services. If you choose one of the options we’ve shared with you today, you’ll enjoy the journey more and worry less.

Which overland radio do you think is right for you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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