Despite the expansion of cell coverage, small handheld radios continue to have a significant role in communication. The convenience of being able to communicate at the press of a button has proven to be invaluable and time-saving in multiple situations.
I can attest to this, having used radios professionally for the past 20 years in various capacities, including as a wilderness guide, ski patroller, and full-time paramedic for the past 17 years.
The Rocky Talkie is a small, handheld radio perfect for outdoor adventures. It is compact, light, and easy to use (once you watch the video). The Mammut carabiner easily clips onto whatever you want, allowing you to keep it within reach. The leash is a nice touch for times (like riding a chairlift) when dropping it could lead to problems.
If you are looking for a budget radio or something completely waterproof, then there are other options. But if you want a high-quality radio that is simple and rugged, then the Rocky Talkie should be at the top of your list.
Rocky Talkie at a Glance
- $110.00 for one radio
- License-free FRS frequencies
- 7.9 ounces for full system
- IP56 (splashproof and dust resistant but not fully waterproof or submersible)
- Recharges with USB-C cable
- Hard outdoor use
- People that like high-quality equipment
- When you need the radio fully secured to you
- Budget-conscious adventurers
- When you need a fully waterproof radio (kayaking with kids)
Is the Rocky Talkie Worth it?
This past fall, I was looking for a lightweight radio to help me keep track of my kids while skiing. In the past, I have tried cheap walkie-talkies and have come away unimpressed. So this time, I decided to spend a good chunk of money to buy a quality one.
After a significant amount of research, I bought the Rocky Talkie. This was long before my editor showed up with a box full of radios to test, but even after spending a month testing a bunch of different walkie-talkies, I am still happy with my choice and would definitely buy more of them in the future.
- Well-built and sturdy
- Small size
- Great audio quality
- Well-laid-out buttons
- Easy to find and use the “push to talk” button
- I wish you could switch out the carabiner for a more traditional clip
- Not completely waterproof
Recommended: Rocky Talkie 5 Watt Radio Review
What is the Range on Rocky Talkies?
Range Score: 5/5
Under optimal conditions and direct line of sight, the Rocky Talkies range is said to be about 30 miles. Does this mean that you will be able to talk with someone consistently at that 30-mile range? Well, no.
Rocky Talkie Range in Real Life
In my testing for my Rocky Talkie review, I found that the useful range was more like .5 to 2 miles. I wouldn’t plan on using it at any distance longer than that. Heavy tree cover and other obstacles like ridges reduced the range significantly.
I was pleased to be able to contact my kids anywhere on the front side of the mountain, but as soon as they or I went around the shoulder of the mountain to the backside, the radios would cut out.
In town, which in my case is pretty flat and treeless, the range was closer to 3 to 4 miles. I was able to get a hold of my wife from anywhere inside my neighborhood without any problems at all.
The Rocky Talkie was one of the clearest radios I tested this winter. They have a great mic and speaker built into them. There was very little static, and the voice quality was excellent after I finally got my son to stop talking into the mic like he was eating it.
The Rocky Talkie is Very Easy to Use
Ease of use Score: 4/5
This radio was very easy to use…once I watched the 5-minute video. I might be a bit old school but I miss having a paper user’s manual included with products.
The first time I used it, I just threw it in my pack and headed up the mountain for a day of skiing. Unfortunately, I did not preprogram it before I left and had this ridiculous idea that I could figure it out on the go. I didn’t realize that most buttons have dual purposes, and I was a little confused about what each button did.
When I got home, I watched the video, had my “aha” moment, and never looked back. I can now easily program the radio to talk to any other FRS radios I have. The Rocky Talkie radios are fairly simple devices without many extras, so once you figure it out, they are indeed easy to use. Just watch the video before heading out.
There are four buttons and a toggle switch on the radio. None of the buttons are on the face of the radio, which is nice. I never accidentally changed any settings even though I clipped the radio to the outside of my jacket all day. On the other hand, it only took my daughter an hour to accidentally change the setting on the Backcountry Access Link she was carrying, even with it in her pocket.
I won’t go into what all of the buttons do, there is a video for that, but they are well laid out. I could find the push-to-talk button without looking and activate it easily with my ski gloves on. The push-to-talk button is slightly recessed, and I never had any problems accidentally keying my mic.
The clip used to attach the radio to yourself or your pack is a little nontraditional. Instead of using a spring-loaded clip, Rocky Talkie went with a high-quality carabiner made by the climbing company Mammut. They definitely did not skimp on quality here.
The carabiner was easy to clip onto anything. Most of the time I just clipped it onto the collar of my jacket and it stayed put. When I was wearing a pack, it clipped easily on there.
My only problem was that the radio would swing during any dynamic movement. In the end, I wish that you could go back and forth between the carabiner and a more traditional clip that would hold it more snuggly against your body or pack.
There is a digital display on the front face of the radio. The minimalistic display turns off when the radio has been inactive for around 10 seconds. The display was bright enough to see even in direct sun.
I would have liked to see a couple of missing pieces of information on this screen. The first thing that is missing, and to me, the most critical, is the sub-channel or privacy channel that you are on.
The second piece of missing information is the amount of battery life left. It is possible to see how much there is by short pushing the on/off switch, but it would be nice to have that on the main screen for quick reference.
How Tough is the Rocky Talkie Radio and Can I Throw it in a Lake?
Durability/Water Resistant Score: 4.5/5
The Rocky Talkie radio has a rating of IP56. This means it is water and snow-resistant but not thoroughly waterproof. It is also rated to be dust resistant.
In real-world testing for my Rocky Talkie review, I spent many days with the radio attached to the outside of my jacket in snow storms without any problems. I *might* have even fallen several times right onto the radio without issue.
I also didn’t have any problems with durability during my testing. The thing just feels sturdy without being heavy. It has a hard inner plastic body covered by a slightly softer removable shell.
The real test is that I let my kids play with the radio and ski with it over multiple days and they did not break it or damage it in any way. After a full winter of use, it still looks brand new.
How Long Does the Battery Last
Battery Life Score: 5/5
Rocky Talkie put a 1550 mAh rechargeable battery in their radio with a stated battery life of 130 hours in standby mode. I appreciate the rechargeable battery via USB-C cable since I already have many of those sitting around my house. No need to keep track of a specific cable.
In my Rocky Talkie review, I found that the battery would last 4-5 days of skiing with moderate use.
The battery is also removable, and you can buy spares from Rocky Talkie online. The website makes it seem like this is pretty easy, but I lost one of my fingernails while getting the case off. It is doable, but I don’t plan to do it again unless I need to.
Does it Have Good Extra Features or Just Gimmicks?
Extra Features Score: 3/5
The Rocky Talkie is pretty short on extra features. Its selling point is being a high-quality walkie-talkie, not gimmicks. That being said, there are several simple features that I really liked.
The radio comes with a high-quality leash that clips on the outer case then you can clip the other end anywhere you want. I really appreciated this feature when I gave expensive radios to my two not-very-responsible children to use on a chair lift. The leash can also be removed if not needed.
I liked the leash so much that I bought two extras for other radios that I own. The leash saved them several times from falling to a cold death while riding the chair lift.
Low Voltage Mode
If you want or need to save battery life, you can reduce the transmission wattage from 2 watts to .5 watts. This does indeed save battery life but also reduces transmission range significantly.
A lapel mic does not come standard in the box but can be purchased separately if wanted.
Where are Rocky Talkies Made
Rocky Talkie is a small company based in Denver, Colorado. All of their radios are designed and tested there. According to their website, the actual manufacturing is done in China.