Written by 8:08 pm Communication, Survival

Best Survival CB Radios

Photo of hand holding a cb radio on a truck

CB radios have been around for a long time. You may have seen one if you’ve seen the film Smokey and the Bandit. Or you may be totally familiar with them.

They are useful in a whole host of different situations. In the event of power outages, cell phones, and cell towers being down and disaster situations. However many people use them when they’re off-road, trucking, or simply a fan, and radio communication is a hobby for everyone.

There are plenty of choices and below are the best 15 survival CB radios of 2020, taking into account lots of different wants and needs.

The 15 Best Survival CB Radios of 2020

1. Cobra HH50WXST

Dimensions: 6.3 x 2 x 1.75 inches | Weight: 0.64 Pounds

Description

Designed to be ready when you need it, the Cobra Citizens Band radio is intentionally simple compact, a strong rival to ham radios, and great for survival communications.

With the Cobra handheld CB radio, you can dial into all 40 CB stations and it also comes with 10 weather channels so you can rest easy knowing that you will be able to know what is heading your way.

Things get noisy out and about but that doesn’t take away the fact you want to be heard and to hear things clearly. Just in case you find yourself there, a noise reduction to limit the amount of interference you will experience.

Cobra has thought about the need for things to be easy and they have equipped this survival CB with an illuminated screen so it can be seen at the drop of a hat, leaving more time for your eyes to be on what’s in front of you.

Keeping things easy to use but highly functional, this radio comes equipped with a high/low power switch. This means that if you’re near the person you’re chatting with, you can save your radio’s power by switching to low power. Jacking it up for those long-distance conversations.

Easy to charge up due to the 12-volt charger power cord included and a great transmission distance of up to 4 miles will help keep communications going throughout.

Pro's:
  • Extremely sturdy design with a 250lb lid threshold
  • Internal cup holders prevent your beverages from spilling
  • Power saving high/low power feature
  • Noise reduction built-in
  • A great rival to ham radios
Cons:
  • Weak antenna

2. Retevis RT82

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

A well-known brand in the radio world and with good reason, Retevis offers quality feature-rich, communication devices wrapped up in a sturdy package. This survival CB is the first dual-band DMR radio on the market – though Retevis has continued to update and improve this model.

Particularly good for outside activities for ham radio operators and is compatible with the majority of DMR radios out there.

For really enthusiastic users, or those wanting ample flexibility and lots of discussions, this radio may be just the job. With 3000 channels and the ability to add up to 10,000 contacts, it should suffice most radio operators.

If that isn’t enough, the radio comes with a function that allows you to be able to monitor two frequencies at once so you can keep track of everything you could want to.

With a decent-sized battery of 2200mAh, this will provide up to 8 – 12 hours of normal use and a standby time of around 150 hours. You are also able to record up to 8 hours of support so you can keep a log of what has been discussed for future reference.

Sticking to their routes, the Retevis radio is 100% waterproof with an IP67 rating – this means the radio can be immersed in water for up to 30 minutes and it will come to no harm. Dust is also no issue for this radio.

When in digital mode GPS will be running and operating in the background. It will provide you with great positioning information and also the ability to send text messages via GPS.

Moving survival communication away from cell phones and ham radios but still providing portability as a good mobile CB would.

Pro's:
  • Temperature range -30C to +60C
  • Lone worker mode
  • Group call mode
  • Communicate with people miles away
Cons:
  • A little weighty

3. Uniden PRO520XL Pro Series

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

Another brand that is well known for truck drivers and other radio operators all over the world. Uniden aims to support you both on and off the road with this CB.

Small and mighty, it is a compact radio with 40 channels and instant entry to emergency channel 9. Offering a full 4 watts of transmitting power and rugged construction, this radio should see you through even the worst of situations.

The Uniden PRO520XL comes with an extra-long cord for the microphone for struggle-free communication. There are lots of additional controls such as Squelch control, volume control, and public address switch, plus many more.

The public address feature allows you to be heard outside of your vehicle, though this will require a PA speaker, which is not included. There is a jack fitted so that you can connect an extra speaker if you want greater flexibility.

The Uniden survival radio comes with a 2-year warranty for added peace of mind that this will see you through a disaster situation when cell phones won’t.

Pro's:
  • Can connect to an external speaker
  • Doesn’t cost the earth
  • Long-range
Cons:
  • May not be great off the grid

4. Midland 75-822

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

A smart handheld portable radio offering from Midland.

They have delivered on providing a truly portable radio with this one. It is great for keeping up with weather and surface conditions, as well as emergency situations. This radio can run on six AA batteries, you can be safe in the knowledge that you can power it from almost anywhere. For the times when wireless power isn’t in the plan, it can be powered using a cigarette lighter charger.

There are 40 channels with this radio and delivers up to 4 watts of power output. Built-in with an easy way to find active channels, the channel scan will search for channels and stop on active ones for five seconds. Up to five of these can be stored instantly and this means you can retrieve these quickly.

Powering on the device from last use will start up with the last channel chosen before the radio was powered down.

Midland has factored in lots of emergency features which, although nobody wants to be in a position to use it is always good to know you have. There is instant visibility to the latest weather and hazard information in your area whenever required.

As with lots of other radios, there is immediate contact available to emergency C9/C19. A nice little touch this CB has built-in is the extra reassurance to be able to monitor channel 9 at the same time as monitoring another channel of your choosing.

A nice and easy to use CB with a large LCD screen which is backlit making it easy to read, no matter the time of day. Also kitted out with a keypad lock function so the setting isn’t changed by accident.

Pro's:
  • Range of temperature -30C to +50C
  • Great portability
  • Lots of emergency communication features
  • Will look after you when cell towers won’t
Cons:
  • Charged through the cigarette lighter

5. Texas Ranger Elite

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

40 channel radio from Range Communications, the Texas Ranger Elite is their latest addition to a line up of quality CBs.

The Texas Ranger Elite comes fitted with a frequency counter so you can be certain that you’re on the correct frequency at all times.

A great tool to monitor your own communication is variable talkback, so you will be able to hear your own voice as well as other communications with this one.

There is a certain old school ham radio vibe about this survival communication when it comes to controls.

Pro's:
  • Keep you on the power grid
  • Installation is speedy
  • The design may appeal to a ham radio operator
Cons:
  • Not as many features as other CB radios

6. Uniden BEARCAT 980

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

For those with a long drive ahead of them, the Bearcat 980 will get them through. It comes with all the features any good survival radio comes with; 40 channels, easy access to emergency channel nine, and NOAA weather channel at the drop of a hat.

The screen is easy to read at a glance with a backlit control panel and a display option for every situation, which 7 to choose from.

It comes with noise-canceling microphones and this helps reduce background noise, ensuring your words are heard clearly at all times.

If that doesn’t quite tick your box, there is always the option of using a wireless microphone with the Bearcat 980, and this providing great adaptability.

This survival radio works and works well – it may not have channel scan functionality but if that isn’t something you need, you won’t miss it.

Overall this scanner is easy to mount, easy to use, and gives the majority of users exactly what they want in radio communications.

Pro's:
  • Easy to tune
  • Crisp and clear audio
Cons:
  • No auto channel scan

7. Radioddity CB-27 Mini

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

The Radioddity may be the perfect survival radio for those after a small, compact radio and easy to carry around, occupying little space.

This can be held in place using a universal mount and has a factor in an element of flexibility with two thumbscrews allowing you to adjust the angle.

A scanner which features RF gain control, meaning that you can adjust the sensitivity. Generally speaking, this would be dialed to the far right, allowing you to reach the father signal.

Equipped with flexible 9 levels of automatic squelch control (ASQ), reducing the amount of background static you are going to hear. In addition to the automatic controls, there are 29 manual squelch levels – a great amount of control.

Staying out of trouble is what we all want and aim to do. Knowing you have a CB that can really help with that can be really important. The CB-27 comes with great entry to emergency services in the style of C9 and C19.

If you find yourself working in a loud environment, you may still want to communicate via your radio, Radioddity understands that could be something you’ll want. You can connect the amplifier into an external speaker jack giving you the flexibility to be heard about loud vehicles and other noises at a time when it could be critical.

Pro's:
  • Emergency use
  • RF gain control
  • External speaker capability
Cons:
  • Sound quality

8. President Electronics BILL

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

A super ultra-compact survival radio – think about the size of your mobile! That is a similar size to what you’ll be getting here.

Highly recommended for any driver who is after a small CB radio but doesn’t want to stint on features.

Nice added features are the filters and noise blanker with an auto squelch. As well as giving you a USB charging point that you can use to charge other devices – very useful!

Don’t let the size put you off, the President Bill has a loudspeaker. Loud enough to be heard over thunderstorms.

Despite its size, this CB (unlike some larger ones) has a scan tool and access to the weather radios. Both are pretty necessary for different reasons. Weather channels are obviously useful to hear about any adverse weather conditions up ahead. The scan is useful to find channels!

As for the build quality, it is made mostly of metal so provides great assurance of durability.

Not lacking in features, the CB comes with 40 channels, a volume adjusts switch, manual squelch, and ASC. A quick and easy-to-use roger beep and a multi-functional LCD screen.

If you need to connect to an external speaker, there’s a jack to do exactly that.

Pro's:
  • Brilliantly compact
  • Noise limiter
  • Strong build
Cons:
  • Easy to lose

9. Galaxy-DX-959

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

A top of the range survival CB for those who want the ultimate set up.

The Galaxy gives you access to a long-range SSB mode. There is a large frequency counter so it is easy to see your current frequency.

DX 959 is one of the more popular models from Galaxy as it has such an extensive list of features.

On AM the DX 959 will give a maximum output of 4 watts. In SSB mode, it will go to 12 watts.

Being able to hear your own voice through talkback is a welcome feature for many people. Those who appreciate it can control it from the dial on the top row. Those not a fan, can switch it off and forget it exists.

This CB comes with a built-in SWR, this is particularly useful as it saves any need to purchase an external meter. The meter that this comes with is backlit, which is also adjustable so you can get the perfect brightness level. If seeing the screen is not what you want, you can switch it off so it won’t distract you.

Pro's:
  • 2-year warranty
  • Noise filters
  • Lots of controls
Cons:
  • Quite large

10. Stryker SR-655

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

Marketed as an amateur radio providing clear and precise communication at the click of a transmitter button. Offering great customizability through being able to connect this amateur radio up to a PC, meaning that you can change the beeps and other things to suit your style.

The display has seven different options giving you comfort knowing you can set up your radio communications like no one else. A dimmer switch is also fitted so you will still be able to take in the radio service whatever time of day.

Pro's:
  • Great for two way conversation
  • Lots of power controls
  • 3-year warranty
Cons:
  • No using SSB tech with this radio

11. Uniden PC78LTX

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

Incredibly easy to install and will fit into a center console no problem.

This CB is designed to be tough and provides so many customizable options to achieve a fantastic sound. You should never miss another communication again with this radio.

There is an integrated SWR meter, this means your CB will always be performing at its best, getting the best signal out there.

So you can keep up with what’s going on you’ll want and potentially leave a reply the Uniden has a great range of settings for the microphones. Providing clarify so no one should have any difficultly hearing what you’re saying.

Pro's:
  • Integrated SWR meter
  • Provides communication with the family and others
  • Emergency communications in place in case of a power outage
Cons:
  • Not the most powerful radio available

12. President Andy AM USA

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

For someone who wants a compact CB and a few neat features, President Andy may be just the man. Ideally suited to those who have smaller cabs or 24-volt equipment. It is small enough that it can be hidden in the console but sharp-looking enough that it won’t look out of place on a dashboard.

A 2 to 5-mile communication distance can be achieved with this survival radio signal and the clarity is fantastic. It comes with automatic squelch so that takes away the need to be constantly trying to take care of that yourself and potentially missing calls.

Getting a heads up about road conditions is possible and it also has the NAOO option to listen into.

A real survival communication tool that can be relied upon in emergencies.

Pro's:
  • 2-year warranty
  • Decent range
  • Roger beep
  • Great way to keep in contact with loved ones
Cons:
  • No dedicated scan button

13. Uniden (BC15) Bearcat

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

Designed to amplify CB radios, this little speaker packs a big punch. The build quality is solid and this helps produce good sound quality.

This is good for someone who needs greater volume from their CB. There is more to it than just amplifying, it does have a built-in noise blanker button. You will find this will soften static and noise from the background.

All of this combined can really make a difference to the sound quality you receive from a standalone radio.

Pro's:
  • Audio is clear
  • 15 watts
Cons:
  • Can’t connect to a ham radio

14. Emergency Weather Crank Radio

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

With four different ways to charge this radio, it really can be a contender for the ultimate survival tool for emergency communications.

Charge it using the solar panel and this will help to maintain the internal battery. When no other power source is available, this is when the hand crank shines. Spinning the handle for 1 minute at 130 rpm will start to charge the unit.

When all is well, the radio can be charged using a USB wall charger. This will charge the radio fully within 6 to 7 hours. It is well worth carrying 3 x AAA batteries as this works as a great way to power the unit when out and about.

This radio may be of interest to people who for hiking or camping are a priority and do so frequently as there are lots of added features that could really appeal. You can turn this radio into a speaker and play music from your smartphones using the AUX port. There is also a flashlight included in the built so for those dark nights it can help prevent accidents.

Pro's:
  • Great weather alert system
  • 4 examples of charging
  • Huge battery
Cons:
  • Not as suitable for truckers

15. Standard Horizon HX890

Dimensions: 9.05 x 6.96 x 4.13 inches | Weight: 1.9 pounds

Description

Standard Horizon is all about keeping things simple for anyone, they claim you won’t need to memorize the manual and be able to use this CB straight out of the box. It is designed and marketed as the most intuitive handheld device on the market.

With features like position sharing, distress call, and route navigation, it is easy to see why.

A new feature built into the HX890 is the Group Monitor, position call. What this will allow you to do is store up to 9 vessels and track them all at the same time, continuously. This information is displayed relative to your position on the compass page.

On a just in case basis, Standard Horizon has installed an emergency strobe light. This will be activated automatically if the radio is submerged in H2O (this also applied if the CB is turned off).

Pro's:
  • 3-year waterproof warranty
  • 11-hour battery life
  • Distress call services
Cons:
  • Pricey than others

Buyers’ Guide: Considerations for Buying CB Radios

With so many different CB radios on the market, it can be tricky to know where to begin. You want the right gear that will work for you at the end of the day.

What features are necessary? What is the reason for wanting a CB when you have a phone? People intending to use it when cell phones fail miles away from home will have different considerations for those who enjoy amateur radio usage.

Below are many features that should be weighed up when considering a CB radio.

Channel Scan

The channel scan feature allows you to scan through all 40 channels in search of activity. Depending on the model, you can sometimes find ones that will search through a smaller selection of channels from those you have stored.

Having this feature for people who use CBs purely for a hobby will be good as it will speed up the process of finding people to listen to or interact with.

Weather Capabilities

Seriously useful for people on the road a lot (or off the road for that matter), knowing what the outdoors is doing in real-time is key. It happens to be one of the more popular features buyers look for.

Some models will have the capability to receive weather alerts which are severe even when the radio is turned off. This information and disasters information is available 24/7.

Transmission Distance

Distance is always a key detail. No one wants a short-range. One which is very difficult to answer as there are so many variables. Location plays a big factor, mountains will be different from buildings in a city, which will be different from the fields of trees.

All being well (conditions are right) you can expect anywhere between 1 and 15 miles with a portable unit. A base station will give you a greater distance of up to 30 miles.

RF Gain

Arguably one of the most important features to have on a survival radio and could be something you’ll want.

RF gain means that you can filter the signals and communications that are being received based on signal strength. One major upside to this is being able to block out any unwanted background noise when you are trying to communicate with someone nearby.

Using this over using the squelch controls means that you can extend the distance which can be received.

Bluetooth and Connectivity

Not a hugely common feature on CBs is Bluetooth, although it is starting to crop up more and more and is of benefit. People can find it very handy because it will give you the ability to send and receive calls. Texting can be totally hands-free so the cell phone can stay out of sight. Storing information such as name email on a CB is super handy.

For those behind a wheel a lot of time, this can be a real safety bonus.

FAQs

What is the best type of radio for survival?

It is a toss-up between ham radios and CB radio technology.

Ham radio is often the choice for emergency service people because as a rule they often more power and versatility than CB radios in world disaster events.

For ham operators, they will have access to a million different frequencies so this opens avenues and provides scope for a great range of communication.

When disaster strikes, a ham radio repeater can be used and this will maximize the radios band and when it comes to emergency communications, this can be vital and literally life-saving.

Having said all of that CB radios are a great alternative for those looking for a survival radio. The range communication may be limited due to having a power limit of 4 watts. What it does give CBs a good name is how you can do certain modifications to increase their transmissions.

Is a CB radio good for emergencies?

CB radios are a great tool for use in an emergency situation as they are an extremely reliable way to communicate – often there when other options have failed.

It does not take much for other communication to fail but a CB radio can be powered from a car battery or in some cases AA batteries. This is great for knowing that you will be able to stay in contact, whatever happens.

Overall those wanting an emergency communication device will find one in a CB or ham radio, with ample communication options.

What is a CB radio good for?

Citizens Band is a way for people to communicate over short-range.

They are popular amongst truck drivers, survivalists, and hobbyists.

An advantage CB radios have is that they can be operated without a license. A Ham radio will require a ham radio license.

How many miles can a CB radio transmit?

An important question and one which will undoubtedly play a huge factor in deciding which CB radio is right and unfortunately there is no easy answer.

There are a lot of influencing factors when it comes to the distance radios are capable of transmitting.

Antenna length and type will play a big part in the range. As a general rule, longer antennas will have a longer range than those which are shorter. It doesn’t stop there, depending on the type of antenna that will also affect the range. Fiberglass antennas tend not to be able to transmit as far as center-loaded ones of the same length.

Where an antenna is mounted should also be factored into how far the CB radio will transmit. Placement can drastically reduce the range if not chosen well and it is better to go for a higher location to mount a radio – this will increase the range.

It is important to install an antenna correctly as this can impact the range and lead to high SWR. Your antenna must be installed correctly to get the best out of it.

Depending on where in the world you are will also affect your overall range, locations are key to results. Terrain changes the range due to radio signals not being able to successfully transmit as well in areas such as heavily wooded areas for example.

What brand of antenna used can alter the range. It is usually worth looking at spending a little more to increase the range. You will likely see a greater range when using a well-known brand over a generic branded antenna.

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