Best Waterproof Walkie-Talkies for Kayaking in 2023

Stay connected and safe on the water with the best waterproof walkie-talkies for kayaking. Our top picks float and offer emergency features.

Best Waterproof Walkie Talkies

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Why trust us?

Whether you’re paddling on the open ocean or your local lake, it’s no secret that communication can be a challenge on the water.

With the gusting wind and crashing waves all around you, being able to talk with your paddling buddies isn’t always easy. What’s more, making a call for help can be next to impossible in remote waters without the right equipment on hand.

The solution? A waterproof walkie talkie.

With the right handheld radio, you can easily communicate while you paddle. Plus, the best waterproof walkie talkies offer several features that help ensure your safety on the water. For more information, check out our comparison table and buying advice.

Our Top Picks

If you’re in a hurry, here are our top picks. Or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.

Best Overall: Motorola T605 Talkabout

Dimensions: 7.8 x 2.4 x 1.5 in | Weight: 1 lb 9 oz | IP Rating: IP67 | Number of Channels: 22

Motorola T605 Talkabout

Leading the pack as the best waterproof walkie talkies on the market, the Motorola T605 Talkabout is a rugged handheld radio designed for any adventure.

The Talkabout is built to IP67 waterproof specifications, which means it’s crafted specifically for submersion in up to 1 meter of water. Plus, the radio floats and has a built-in LED light that activates when submerged, making it easier to see and recover.

As far as communication performance goes, the T605 is no slouch. This model can access 22 FRS and GMRS channels over a range of up to 35 miles. It also includes 121 privacy codes so you can increase your chances of finding an open channel the first time around.

The radio comes complete with NOAA weather radio alerts for when you’re paddling off-shore. It also includes an integrated emergency alert system that you can activate to start an audible alarm if you’re hurt or injured.

Unfortunately, the Motorola T605 H20 Talkabout Radio is pretty darn pricey, even though it is sold in a two-pack. As these radios can operate on GMRS channels, an FCC license is required if you use them on their high-powered mode. But you do not need a license if you just use them on normal mode. If you want a powerful and fully-featured waterproof walkie talkie for your paddling adventures, this one is tough to beat.

Reasons to buy:

  • Waterproof when submerged for short periods
  • Includes NOAA weather radio alerts
  • Built-in emergency alert system
  • Floats in the water and illuminates for easy retrieval
  • Provides access to 22 channels and 121 privacy codes

Reasons to avoid:

  • Expensive for a walkie talkie
  • High power mode requires an FCC license

Best Value: COTRE Swan Walkie Talkies

Dimensions: 7.9 x 2.4 x 1.5 in | Weight: 1 lb 12 oz | IP Rating: IP67 | Number of Channels: 22

COTRE Swan Walkie Talkies

Perfect for the budget-conscious paddlers among us, the COTRE Swan Walkie Talkies are a set of two durable handheld radios ideal for kayaking trips with friends or family.

COTRE built these handheld radios using a rugged ABS, TPU, and silicone frame for enhanced durability as you paddle. Each radio also features an IP67 waterproof rating so that it can withstand being submerged in water for up to 30 minutes.

With these walkie talkies, you have access to 22 channels on FRS frequencies as well as 121 privacy codes for streamlined communication. The company also advertises a maximum range of 32 miles. However, this number will vary based on your location and current weather conditions.

The COTRE Swan Walkie Talkies provide access to 11 different NOAA weather channels. These radios also include a built-in panic button that initiates SOS signals and a flashing red light to help attract passersby to your location.

That being said, they have reasonably limited battery life. The integrated clip is also a bit flimsy; however, this issue can be fixed with a quality radio harness. Overall, the COTRE Swan Walkie Talkies are an excellent choice for paddlers that want a functional communication system that doesn’t break the bank.

Reasons to buy:

  • Affordable price point for a set of two radios
  • Access to NOAA weather information
  • Durable design with IP67 waterproof rating
  • Integrated panic button for emergencies

Reasons to avoid:

  • Battery life could be better
  • Clip attachment system isn’t robust

Cheapest Option for Large Groups: Retevis RT48 Walkie Talkies

Dimensions: 9.5 x 2.6 x 1.5 in | Weight: 1 lb 5 oz | IP Rating: IP67 | Number of Channels: 16

Retevis RT48 Walkie Talkies

An ideal communication solution for large paddling groups, the Retevis RT48 Walkie Talkie multipack is a reliable option for families and friends that want to keep in contact while on the water.

With the Retevis RT48, you get a set of 6 waterproof handheld radios and an accompanying bulk charging station. Each radio is made with a sturdy plastic shell rated for IP67 waterproofing.

They’re also designed to operate on FRS frequencies, meaning you don’t need an FCC license to use them. Furthermore, the Retevis RT48 walkie talkies come with access to 16 channels that you can easily switch between using the device’s quick-access channel knob.

For added performance on the water, the Retevis RT48 also comes with a built-in alarm system so that you can alert the rest of your group if you’re in distress. The radio also has a secure integrated clip mechanism for attaching to your PFD while you paddle.

Nevertheless, some features of the Retevis RT48 don’t quite impress. This includes the fact that this radio doesn’t float and doesn’t illuminate when dropped in the water for easy retrieval. The radio also doesn’t have NOAA weather alerts, so it’s not ideal for sea kayaking. But for group adventures in inland waterways, it’s a sure bet.

Reasons to buy:

  • Comes in a six-pack for group use
  • Durable plastic exterior with IP67 waterproofing
  • Includes an alarm system for emergencies
  • Secure clip mechanism for attaching to PFDs

Reasons to avoid:

  • No access to NOAA weather alerts
  • Doesn’t float or illuminate when in water

Waterproof Walkie Talkie Comparison Table

Waterproof Walkie TalkieDimensionsWeightIP Rating# of ChannelsWeather ChannelsBattery LifeFloatable
Motorola T605 Talkabout7.8 x 2.4 x 1.5 in1 lb 9 ozIP6722Yes23 hoursYes
COTRE Swan Walkie Talkies7.9 x 2.4 x 1.5 in1 lb 12 ozIP6722Yes20 hoursYes
Retevis RT48 Walkie Talkie9.5 x 2.6 x 1.5 in1 lb 5 ozIP6716No12 hoursNo

Waterproof Walkie Talkie Buying Advice

Walkie talkies are great gear to have with you on the water. However, deciding which handheld radio is right for you can be challenging because these devices are jam-packed with features.

This section will demystify some of the most essential features you’ll find when shopping for waterproof walkie-talkies.

Intended Use

With so many different models to choose from, understanding how you plan to use your handheld radio will help you narrow down your options.

For example, if you’re looking for a walkie talkie that you can use for communicating with your friends while paddling on a local lake, then you may not need all the complex features that come with models designed for more remote use.

At the same time, if you’re looking for a radio that will allow you to communicate with motorboats, port authorities, and general maritime traffic, you’ll likely need a dedicated marine VHF radio, which is a different type of communication device with unique licensing requirements.

Waterproof Rating

As this is a guide to the best waterproof walkie talkies, we’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss the importance of waterproof ratings when researching what device is suitable for you.

The first thing you’ll notice is that each radio comes with an IP rating. IP, or “Ingress Protection,” is a standardized coding system outlined by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). This system aims to help consumers identify how waterproof and dustproof a device is before they buy it.

While the specifics of how this system works aren’t really important, it is critical that you understand what each of these codes means. As you’ll see in all of the waterproof walkie talkies we’ve reviewed, these IP ratings are listed as an “IP” followed by a series of two digits (e.g., IP67).

The first digit in the series refers to the device’s protection level against solids, such as dust. Meanwhile, the second digit refers to the device’s protection level against liquids like water.

When shopping for waterproof walkie talkies, you’ll want a device with a minimum IP rating of IP67. That’s because the “6” indicates that it is dust-tight. While the “7” means that it can be submerged in 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes.

While some devices are rated IP68, meaning they can be submerged in much deeper water, this is generally considered overkill for a waterproof walkie talkie. Plus, these devices are costly, so they’re not practical for most paddlers.

So, waterproof walkie talkies rated IP67 are considered the gold standard for kayaking trips.

Radio Type & Licensing Requirements

If there’s one universal truth in the walkie talkie world, it’s that navigating varying licensing requirements for different radio types isn’t easy. Since radio licensing requirements vary from country to country, we’ll focus primarily on the rules in the US, which are governed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

As far as walkie talkies go, you’ll generally find devices that can work on either or both of the FRS (Family Radio Service) or GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) frequencies. Interestingly, the FRS and GMRS function on the same radio frequencies (462 MHz – 467 MHz) but have different purposes and licensing requirements.

FRS radio is designed for private, short-distance communications between friends and family. Meanwhile, GMRS radio, while designed for the same purpose, is crafted to be more powerful and to function over a slightly longer range.

In reality, there’s not much practical difference between FRS and GMRS for most users. However, anyone using a GMRS-enabled device must have an FCC license. Getting this license is simple enough for US citizens, but it is an extra hassle. Alternatively, you do not need a license for FRS radios.

Does this FRS/GMRS distinction matter for your needs?

It depends. If you just want a radio that anyone in your group can use without issue, then FRS radios are often the best bet. But, if you’re buying a radio solely for your own use, the slightly increased power of GMRS radios might be worth the hassle of getting an FCC license.

Communication Range

If there’s one aspect of walkie talkies that’s sure to cause confusion, it’s the radio’s stated communication range. Every manufacturer advertises communication ranges of many miles, perhaps as many as 35, to wow potential customers with their device’s prowess.

Unfortunately, these stated ranges are purely theoretical, and you’re not likely to be able to communicate over these distances except in truly exceptional circumstances. That’s because the communication range of a radio is a factor, not only of the device itself but also of the terrain around you and current weather conditions.

Of course, this isn’t to say that your radio won’t be able to communicate over long distances. Instead, it’s just to say that it’s important to be realistic with expectations.

In reality, most FRS and GMRS radios can communicate only 1 to 2 miles in good conditions—a far cry from the 35 advertised on some devices.

Channel Selection & Privacy Codes

All walkie talkies have access to a certain number of communication channels, which are effectively different frequencies that a given device can operate on. Access to more channels provides you with a better opportunity to find an open channel when you need to communicate.

Since all the walkie talkies you’ll find are FRS or GMRS devices, you’ll only have access to a maximum of 22 channels. If you’re paddling in busy areas, you may find that all 22 channels are occupied when you need to communicate.

To combat this issue, some radios have privacy codes. These codes are a method to carve out space for your communications on busy radio channels.

To use these codes, you and your partner need to set your radio to a specific channel and a particular code. Doing so ensures that your radios will only unmute transmissions aligned to that channel and code. This then mutes all other communications, so you don’t have to listen to other people talking on the same channel.

However, note that privacy codes don’t stop someone else from using your channel and code. These codes, despite their name, are public, and anyone can use them. But, they can help you communicate efficiently in areas with a lot of radio traffic.

Weather Alerts

Weather alert functionality is the final prominent feature to consider when buying a walkie talkie for kayaking.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides free weather information on several dedicated weather channels in US waters. Access to these channels is essential for anyone paddling in remote, off-shore, or coastal waters where rapid weather changes pose a safety risk.

If you’re mostly planning on paddling in inland rivers and lakes, access to these weather alerts might not be helpful for you. But NOAA weather alerts are a must-have for sea kayakers.

The Verdict

Waterproof walkie talkies are invaluable gear for paddlers who want to communicate on the water.

After reviewing the best models available, it’s clear that one stood out among the pack: the Motorola T605 H20 Talkabout Radio.

We particularly like that the Talkabout Radio is durable enough for everyday adventures. Its floating design and exceptional features, like its built-in alarm system and NOAA weather alert functionality, make it a super choice for most paddlers.