Before I get into the review of this particular 2-way radio, it might be worth discussing 2-way radios as they pertain to backcountry skiing. People don’t usually say “beacon, probe, shovel, radio” when discussing essential backcountry gear, but maybe they should. We don’t bring radios on every trip ourselves, but sometimes that’s because we’d be the only ones in our group with them. Which is a shame. Here’s some scenarios where radios can be extremely effective in the backcountry.
1- Especially here in North America, we often ski in gladed and treed terrain. What this often means is that the skier descends out of sight and sometimes it’s hard to tell if it’s time to drop in yourself or if the first skier hasn’t made it to a safe zone yet. You don’t want to drop in on your partner, do you? This problem is easily solved by radios.
2- For the second skier, radios can make your run better. Let’s say skier #1 notices halfway down their run that the best snow is on the left side of the run, or that there are some nice pillows they missed. A quick call up to the next skier, and skier #2 might just have the run of their lives.
3- Routefinding. On technical routes, sometimes it can be hard to see if you’re on top of your intended route. Again, the skier below can call up and confirm the route.
4- The first skier can warn skiers of bad or dangerous conditions. This may be the most important feature for backcountry skiers.
–One additional thing to remember about radios and all electronic devices is that they can interfere with beacon searches. Make sure to turn it off before starting a search.
Now, on to the review of Motorola’s Talkabout MT350R radios, which were given to us by Motorola for review.
The first thing I noticed was that these radios are rechargeable, which I originally considered a liability since it isn’t always possible to recharge batteries on a hut trip or expedition. Thankfully, these radios also run on AA batteries, so it’s the best of both worlds.
The radios are a bit bulky, but that makes them easier to use with gloved hands- they’re also burly looking, waterproof, and packed full of unique features. With 2,662 different channel and privacy combinations, you should be able to find an empty channel even near popular ski areas. A power-saving feature that I found interesting is the call button has 2 modes for close and more distant calls (more or less). Like many radios, they can be used hands-free- either as-is or with optional accessories.
One of my favorite features as a skier is the weather radio coverage, which means the radio can pick up automated broadcasts from NOAA and Environment Canada as well. How awesome would that be on an extended trip? And let’s not forget the light, the emergency mode, the vibration mode- yes this radio is feature-packed to say the least. With Christmas coming up, this might just make a great gift.
Retailers: Bass Pro, REI, Amazon, Kmart.com, Sears.com, etc.
Weight without batteries: .34 lbs.
Reported range: 35 miles (but this is extremely dependent on topography, weather, and other factors)