I won’t lie. I am a big fan of the original Rocky Talkie radio, now called The Mountain Radio. Over the past year, I’ve tested a ton of radios, and it remains one of my favorites. It’s lightweight, functional, and has great range for its class, not to mention it’s easy to secure to my pack.
However, I couldn’t help but think that a similar walkie-talkie with more power, the ability to hit repeaters, and waterproofing would be awesome.
Well, it looks like the good folks over at Rocky Talkie were reading my thoughts, because they just came out with the Rocky Talkie 5 Watt Radio. It has all the upgrades I was looking for. I just wish I had dreamed harder about the price because this thing is expensive.
I was lucky enough to get a full production model a little bit early for testing. Outdoor Empire paid full price for these two-way radios.
I’ve only had these for a few days, so consider this more of my first impressions since I haven’t had these long-term. Regardless, let’s dive deeper into the Rocky Talkie 5 Watt radio review.
Rocky Talkie 5 Watt Radio at a Glance
The Rocky Talkie 5 Watt radio is a premium walkie-talkie, with a price point to prove it. It feels good in the hand, is durable, and is waterproof up to 3 feet deep. This radio fully leverages its GMRS status with a full 5 watts of power, the ability to hit repeaters, and a swappable antenna.
I love the form factor and the alligator clip that comes standard with the radio. The biggest downside, however, is the price, with each radio selling for $165.
- 5 watt GMRS radio that requires an FCC license
- 9.4 ounces without leash (measured on my scale at home)
- IP67 waterproof rating (waterproof to 3 feet for at least 15 minutes)
- 1800 Li-ion rechargeable battery
- 22 FRS/GMRS channels with 121 privacy codes
- 8 repeater channels
- Up to 5 days of battery life (per manufacturer)
- Hard core outdoor use
- Need a waterproof walkie talkie
- Need to hit repeaters to extend range (advanced to professional applications)
- Need more range than a 2-watt FRS two-way radio
- Can benefit from a swappable antenna (e.g. flexible whip or vehicle mounted antenna)
- Desire to have the best and have the budget to back it up
- Can hide how much you spent on it from your significant other
- Budget conscious folks
- Casual users
- People who don’t need all the extra GMRS features (most of us)
- If your significant other keeps a close eye on your purchases
- Weight conscious ultra weenies
Is the Rocky Talkie 5 Watt Radio Worth It?
The Rocky Talkie 5 Watt Radio is one of the best walkie-talkies there is, but let’s be honest: for the price, it’s definitely not for everyone. In fact, the group of people it’s suited for is probably relatively small.
Take a good look at the ‘Best For’ list I made above. If you meet all, or at least most, of those criteria, then this radio is for you. Otherwise, there are many great radios available, including the original Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio.
For a more cost-effective choice, I would recommend the Motorola T801 or the Midland GXT1000 GMRS radio.
- Nice form factor, not clunky like many competitors
- Rugged enough to handle drops without breaking
- Great range in difficult terrain
- Swappable antennas for better range or different use cases
- Can use repeaters to extend range
- Waterproof to 3 feet means rain and snow are no problem
- Can program two separate channels and monitor both at the same time
- NOAA weather channels plus bad weather alerts
- Best in class clip securely grips almost anything
- Can swap the clip out for a carabiner
- Comes with a very nice leash that is removable
- Removable/replaceable battery (spares can be purchased)
- Expensive, can buy a pair of alternatives for less than one of these
- Heavier and bulkier than the original Rocky Talkie
- Need an FCC license to use GMRS radio
If you’re not looking to spend a lot of money and just want an inexpensive two-way radio that’s not fancy but can do the basics, check out our review of the best cheap walkie talkies.
Rocky Talkie 5 Watt Radio vs Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio
The Rocky Talkie includes more features than the Mountain Radio. I haven’t had the chance to try out all the features, but they did not interfere with the basic functionality of the walkie-talkie.
Rocky Talkie laid out some of the key differences between their radios and, even more helpful, between GMRS and FRS radios in this YouTube video. Check that out for a better understanding of the differences.
Here is a comparison table of the key differences between the Rocky Talkie 5 Watt Radio and the Rocky Talkie Mountain Radio.
|5 Watt Radio
|IP67 waterproof to 3 feet
|IP56 splash proof
|9.4 ounces without leash
10.7 with leash
|6.5 ounces without leash
7.8 with leash
|Alligator clip (carabiner optional)
|Battery Life (per manufacturer)
|Rechargeable with USB-C
|NOAA Weather Channels
|22 GMRS/FRS + 8 repeater channels (5W max transmission)
|22 GMRS/FRS (2W max transmission)
|121 (CTCSS and DCS)
|121 (CTCSS and DCS)
What’s the Range?
The Rocky Talkie 5 Watt radio’s range is said to exceed 35 miles. While possible, that’s primarily theoretical with the power and frequencies used under optimal conditions and with direct line of sight. But does this mean you can consistently communicate with someone at that 30+ mile range in typical real world conditions? Well, no.
Rocky Talkie Range in Real Life
Range can be a bit tricky to gauge since I only used it for a few days. If you’re expecting this two-way radio to have twice the range of a 2 watt radio, you might need to temper your expectations. That’s not exactly how it works.
That being said, I had no problems with line-of-sight communication during my bike ride. I also conducted a quick, unscientific test outside my house, comparing it with the Mountain Radio and the Midland GMRS GXT walkie-talkie. With the Rocky Talkie 5 Watt radio, I achieved reception at 1.5 miles and even behind a hill. The Mountain Radio maintained connectivity up to 1 mile, and the Midland was effective up to 1.3 miles.
However, power output isn’t the only trick up this radio’s sleeve. I was able to extend the range to 2 miles using the longer whip antenna provided by Rocky Talkie as a bonus for pre-orders. This walkie-talkie also offers 8 repeater channels that should further extend its range, by allowing you to daisy chain well-positioned radios. Though I haven’t tested this feature yet.
The clarity was good, but not great. To be honest, I was slightly disappointed here. While I could hear everything just fine, I found the Mountain Radio to have better sound quality. It’s not a deal killer by any means, and it will probably vary depending on the conditions or terrain, it just wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.
Again, these are just my first impressions.
The waterproofing also helps keep the mic clear of water. Even heavy rain, snow, or spray from the motorcycle in front of you can bog down the mic on the regular Mountain Radio making it almost impossible to for anyone on the receiving end to understand what you’re saying. Not so with the 5 Watt radio.
The Rocky Talkie 5 Watt Radio is Easy to Use…
…but I had to read the manual.
It’s actually pretty easy to use, but the first time I tried to program the right privacy code, I had to refer to the quick start guide. I was pleased that a paper copy was included in the box so I didn’t have to try and Google it from the mountain.
In general, Rocky Talkie uses a different user interface than every other two-way radio out there. Both the Mountain Radio and the 5 Watt Radio use a similar setup, so if you’re familiar with the Mountain Radio, then the 5 Watt will feel familiar. However, the 5 Watt Radio is a bit more complicated due to its additional features.
During my brief testing, I accidentally changed channels several times, so I would recommend using the lock feature. You use the top and bottom buttons on the side of the radio to toggle between your A and B channels. The PTT (Push-To-Talk) button was easy to find and press. The bottom two buttons on the side are primarily for volume control, but the ‘+’ button also activates the NOAA weather channels and the ‘-‘ button programs the privacy channels.
The Rocky Talkie 5 Watt Radio comes standard with a metal alligator clip. The spring is nice and strong, and it rotates 360 degrees. I’ve only used this walkie-talkie in the field once, but I loved it.
I was able to clip it onto the narrow strap of my running vest and ride down 17 miles of single track on my mountain bike without any issues. It didn’t bounce or come close to falling off, and I didn’t even notice it was there. My friend, who wore the other radio, had a similar experience, even with more jumping and speed.
All radios should have a clip like this one.
It’s worth noting that the clip can be removed with a Philips head screwdriver and replaced with a carabiner clip, similar to the Mountain Radio. While I appreciate the option, I feel that, at this price point, the carabiner should have been included in the package.
Should You Buy It?
Time and more testing will tell if this radio holds up as well as I expect it to. Let’s assume it does and that the price isn’t a burden on you. If that’s the case, the Rocky Talkie 5 Watt radio is arguably the most utilitarian, modern, and rugged two-way radio available right now. They took a relatively old technology, the two-way radio, and made a modern piece of technical outdoor gear.
Optimized for range, clarity, battery life, security, and the elements, this is the ultimate walkie talkie for the most hard core outdoor adventurers. Rocky Talkie is also working on extra accessories like vehicle kits (mounts and antennas) that make it extremely versatile and useful even for professionals like ski patrol or Search And Rescue teams.
Photo credit: Alex Marshall, Author