Looking for a handheld radio unit that you want to take outdoors? Perhaps something durable and capable of taking the brunt of weather adversities? Then, you have come to the right place.
Today, we will look at the best handheld CB radio units you can buy. Be it for hunting, trucking, off-roading, or something like construction work, these handheld radios will not let you down and will help you get your message across. So, let’s begin!
7 Best Handheld CB Radio
We based this review on gauging factors such as price, dimensions, specs, etc. We have considered various scenarios and suggested units to tackle each accordingly. So take a seat, grab your drinks, and give it a read.
Full CB channel support? Check. Weather radio or emergency channel transmission support? Check. Dual-use power mode with either AA battery or Vehicle Power Port?
Double check. The 75-822 from Midland is a do-it-all unit, and it is not hard to see why it is the most popular unit from our handheld CB radio reviews list.
This unit features memory retention; that is, we can save up to our top 5 channels in the memory. A sweet deal by itself as most products do not offer anything close to this.
The included channel watch feature allows us to monitor any and all activities across all channels.
ANL and Squelch? Heck yes. We cannot stress enough about how important these two control features are for an absolute noise-free reception and transmission experience. The ‘Dual Watch’ feature is a godsend. With this, we can monitor any two channels that we want to at the same instance.
You can power the unit using either of the two ways. You can either use six AA batteries or hook up the unit to your car’s cigarette lighter with the included mobile adapter. The adapter is convenient and easy to use, as we rarely have random batteries.
And the battery life is further extended by the power extender feature. We recommend that you invest in a few rechargeable battery packs, making the unit as good as it can possibly be.
Let us now take a deeper look at the display. It is a backlit LCD, helping to conserve battery when not needed. The backlit feature aids nighttime visibility, thus making it very convenient to use round the clock.
Last but not least, the unit includes a hands-free mode. Simply attach a headset, and we are all set.
- Access to 10 NOAA channels
- Squelch and ANL control
- Can be powered by both AA batteries or a cigarette lighter
- Features dual-watch mode
- Limited to 3 watts on battery, small transmission range
Looking for all-round peak performance, especially during weather-related calamities or emergencies? Then look no further than this offering from Cobra. The HHRT50 from Cobra allows us 24 hours of access to all 10 of NOAA’s weather channels while utilizing a special Sound Tracker System.
And the Sound Tracker system commends some praise for itself. The good folks at Cobra managed to reduce any and all background noise (by up to 90 percent). So, we can be sure that we can and will be heard on the other side of the transmission even if we were making a stand against the windiest and harshest of weather.
But this is not a feature just for use during weather adversities. This feature allows us to hold crystal clear conversations with whoever is listening on the receiving side of the signal.
The unit has a magnetic mount CB antenna, which you can mount on any surface. This does wonders when it comes to improving the range of your handheld radio. Powerful with decent enough range, it’s not a surprise to anyone when we say that this is one of the most powerful handheld CB radios out there.
We should note that this variant is essentially an upgraded version of the Uniden HH WXST. Not that there is anything wrong with it. We figure it best to know everything about a product before leaping onto the buying bandwagon. This, by no means, is a legacy device. It is a brand new model.
Dimension-wise, it is not the smallest of units. However, it feels quite substantial in hand, and Cobra did a good job of the weight distribution. The high-low power extender switch is a very nice touch.
- Peak performance, even in harsh weather conditions
- Utilizes a special Sound Tracker system
- Includes a magnetic mount CB antenna
- All-day, 24-hour access to NOAA’s weather channels
- The included hand strap feels quite flimsy
Are you looking for a solidly constructed handheld radio for cheap? We have you back. Introducing our entry for the best handheld CB radio on a budget, the PRO401HH from Uniden. So, let us get on to the review.
This is by far the best-built handheld CB radio unit in the lower-end price bracket. Small in dimension, the PRO401HH does not feel heavy in hand. The weight distribution is on par with much more expensive models, and as such, it feels great in the hands. It is designed to fit into hands of all sizes.
For the price, the range of transmission that it offers is pretty good too. Clear audio received and transmission when used within the rated range. No complaints on that front. The unit offers access to all 40 CB channels. Therefore, we highly recommend this for all truckers and mobile CB radio enthusiasts.
We have already discussed the build quality. Now, let us talk about the battery life. The battery lasts fairly long and is further aided by the included high-low power switch, which we can use to conserve battery juice whenever the need arises. A thing to point out is that the best range is achieved when we use high-power settings.
Another good thing about this unit is that we do not necessarily need to go out on a buying spree for additional accessories in order to take the performance levels further. The included mic works great and is more than enough for decent sound quality, experience-wise.
Being cheap comes with its caveats. It is not a unit you should consider for communicating long-range. However, we stand by its other virtues and can confidently state that it is by far one of the premier options for close-range communication on a budget.
- Very lightweight and well-balanced unit
- Best-in-class performance on a budget
- Long battery life
- Access to all 40 CB radio channels
- Not an option to consider for long-range communication
Need a handheld unit that will hold its ground against the harshest conditions Mother Nature has to throw at it? Well, look no further than the 785-785 from Midland. Just clip this to your belt and run out to the trails.
Nice and compact, this unit is also on our list of the best handheld CB radios for communicating in small distances. 7 watts of input and an output capped out at 4 watts, you will be able to extend your transmission range if and when needed, ensuring a safe hunting and camping trip.
But we have already taken a look at another weather-resistant handheld unit before. What makes this one so special? Well, this one has squelch-control features and ANL, ensuring that we get optimal performance and quality when it comes to transmission and, of course, background noise reduction.
For close-quarters communications (within a radius of 1 mile), the 75 785 works surprisingly well, given its compact size. To us, these dimensions and the weight are pretty much the best features of this handheld unit. Midland claims a 33% smaller dimension for this unit over its legacy models.
Access to the 40 channels means that you will not feel bored anytime soon whilst camping out in the great outdoors. You would not go hungry for power, either. You can charge the unit using either of the three methods:
- Hook the radio to your car’s cigarette lighter using the included DC charger
- Or use nine AA batteries
- Or you could also invest in a few rechargeable batteries for added convenience.
Given its one-mile range of operation, we highly recommend investing in a CB antenna later down the line for an added boost to the overall range. With its 7 watts of input, we can easily put this for the most powerful handheld CB radios out there.
- A very weather-resistant unit
- Suitable for camping or hunting expeditions
- 3 ways to power the unit
- Best-in-class performance for close-quarters communications
- Compact size, easy to carry around
- Not suitable for long-range
- Needs an additional antenna for boost range
Pretty much a household name by now, we present to you another great unit from the manufacturers: the HH50WXST. A very compact and fairly rugged unit, you would not go amiss on any features if you went ahead and picked this one up for yourself.
One of the contenders for the smallest units on our reviews list, the unit manages to be ultra-portable. All the while retaining some of the more premium features, such as very long battery life (about a month’s worth), courtesy of the not-included six AA batteries.
The output power is capped out at 4 watts, a very capable unit. Much like other conventional handheld radio units, it performs its best when directly seeing another unit. Under favorable environmental and atmospheric conditions, you could achieve a transmission range of up to 5 miles.
One thing to note: we have noticed many reviewers complaining about not getting adequate range when they use it inside their cars. Using these radios in the car does not fall under optimal operation conditions. Therefore, do not be surprised if you do not get a range of 0.5 miles or less.
Remember, contrary to the reviews, this is not a fault of the devices themselves. Battery-operated, handheld CB radios are not meant to be used in cars.
There is a reason as to why there are separate CB radios and mounts for vehicle operations. These handheld units are meant more for open space close communications. You could get a slight improvement in performance by hooking the units with the included or separate power adapter, but no major improvements.
Now, back to the unit at hand, this particular unit also features the infamous sound tracker system, effectively sizing down any and all background noises by up to 90 percent. Built right into the unit, you will receive standalone alerts for weather and emergencies, courtesy of NOAA.
The unit allows us to access the 40 aforementioned channels, with the channel scan feature automatically sifting to the network with the best signal quality. And with the Dual Watch functionality, you can successfully monitor 2 channels, ensuring that you do not miss out on any important updates or alerts.
- A premium product from a household brand
- Very compact and fairly rugged
- Output power is capped out at 4 watts
- Long battery life
- Sound tracker system built right in
- Does not support channel memory
- We recommend investing in an additional antenna later down the line
Okay, let us start with this one thing. That orange LCD display is quite the looker. Big and bold, it really makes this unit gain the lead on most of the offerings. With an automatic noise limiter built into the unit, you can be sure you will be heard clearly on the flip side of the transmission.
Now, on to the review. This is one of, if not the best, handheld CB radios regarding sound quality. We were thoroughly impressed with the quality right from the box. There’s not much to do in terms of setting it up. Just flick the on switch, and you are good to go.
Design-wise, it is quite bulky. It is not the lightest of units out there, but it feels quite premium. Some decent choices of materials went into its construction. There is a lot of competition in the price bracket in which this unit is offered, but it gains the lead through its sound quality.
It sounds fantastic under ideal conditions (of course, subject to your environment and atmosphere quality). Nothing else comes remotely close. Hook on a pair of earphones to the included audio jack, and you have got quality sound for days, courtesy of its included rubber antenna.
We reckon you could give stiff competition to extremely high-end CB radios (and not just the handheld ones, mind you) if you were to hook this up to a decently specced-out CB antenna.
The unit also connects us to 10 of NOAA’s weather channels. The included automatic scan feature means that the radio will automatically sift through all the channels for activity. And with one flick of a button, you reserve the capability to switch over to the emergency line of Channel 9 instantaneously.
- That LCD display is a looker
- Outstanding sound quality
- Feels quite premium in the hands
- One button switch to the emergency line of Channel 9
- Fairly on the bulky side
Are you looking for something to communicate within a construction site? Tight on the budget but need some rugged, durable design and excellent transmission capabilities thrown in? We figured as much. Let us introduce you to the 7w44 from Midland.
A very rugged and durable construction, we figure it will take quite the beating and bruising to make it breathe its last, perfect for construction site use. You would not be left wanting for much either on the transmission side of things.
Granted, looks-wise, it is not that great, and the low price may seem confusing to some. But you can take our word for it. This is one of the premier rugged, budget-friendly handheld units out there. Max output of 4 watts; it also allows us access to all 40 channels.
This very affordable handheld offering comes with the PLL channel selection feature straight from the Midland factory.
In the simplest terms, what it does is that it correctly points and tracks down the appropriate frequency when we go about tuning our radio. Meaning we get the highest possible audio quality from the transmission.
Noise control feature? It has got that too, built right in.
It does not work as great as that sound tracker feature from Cobra, but still, it counts for a very decent listening experience on the receiving side of the transmission. Remember, this is a budget-priced unit so that noise reduction feature is a major plus.
The unit also features squelch control.
However, considering its competitive pricing, it forgoes ANL, which is definitely forgivable. The included high-low power-saving switch means that you will not be running out of battery juice any time soon. Simply flick the switch, and you are good for more days of continuous usage.
- Includes a 3.5mm audio jack
- Squelch control feature
- Durable and rugged build
- Forgoes the ANL feature
Features to Look for Before Buying
So, we have looked at the lineup of the best portable CB radios. Certain features help differentiate each of them, making the offerings unique enough to stand out from the overwhelming majority of the offerings available in the market. When everything is said and done, purchasing a unit is still in your hands.
Therefore, what features should you note down before you take the leap? There is a handful.
The Portability Factor
The product must be easy to use. However, what is easy to operate for others may not necessarily be the same in our case. Hand sizes differ, and so do the dimensions of the radios. Therefore, we must acquire a radio that feels comfortable in our hands.
Ideally, the radio should weigh in at less than 0.5 lbs. And since portability is a factor, the lower the weight, the better. The best portable CB ratio for you should be the best combination of size and weight; that is to say, the weight distribution should be optimal, and it should not exert any unwanted pressure in your hands during use.
The Range Factor
The adequate range is essential to any radio, whether handheld or fixed in place. That being said, in the case of handheld radios, it is a fair bit on the difficult side to try and source a radio that offers a good range.
These radios are best for close-range communications, courtesy of their small form factors. Hence, it is something to take into account. We must not expect a radio tower level of range and performance from a unit we run around.
Thus, the best handheld CB radios provide exemplary performance in close-range communication.
The Compatibility Factor
Does the unit we want to source play well with any given accessory? We must look into this by asking around in our local CB radio community or sorting through the reviews available online.
But the question remains. Why would we want additional accessories? Well, perhaps we want more range out of our unit. Adding a longer antenna could help boost the range. Perhaps we want a longer use period. A bigger battery should do the trick.
It is natural to want to boost the performance of the unit we plan on buying later down the line. Hence, it is best to look into compatibility with accessories before we take that investment leap.
The ANL Factor
ANL, or Automatic Noise Limiter, is a must-have feature for any handheld radio. Although it is a feature included in most of the radios we have featured on our list, it is not true for all units. Take note and try to acquire a unit that features ANL.
All in all, the chances of you acquiring the units we have featured just by reading about them, is slim. Thus, we included the important features for any handhold CB radio unit, should you want to acquire something that we did not include in our best portable CB radio review list.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Below are the most commonly asked queries regarding the best handheld CB radios:
How far is the range on these handheld radio units?
The range depends heavily on your environmental and atmospheric conditions. You can get up to 5 miles on some models, but it is generally assumed and rated to be around 1 to 1.5 miles of range.
What is squelch control?
A squelch control helps us curb any background noise when there is no presence of any transmission signals. Turn the control unit, and the background noise goes away.
What is the use of channel 9?
Channel 9 has been dubbed an emergency line by the FCC. This is true only for the United States. There are designated stations all around the states, both the police and rescue agencies that keep an ear out on this line for various emergencies, such as accidents to medical emergencies.
Is an external antenna essential for a handheld unit?
Not necessarily. It depends entirely on your unit. And it can help improve the range of your radio but is not essential in its operation.
Within what range should a handheld radio be used?
Ideally, within a radius of 1-1.5 miles. Any more would be really stretching it. These units are restricted to 4 watts, so best make do with that.
These handheld radio units are perfected for anyone looking to communicate on the fly without worrying about driving up their phone bills. Small form factors mean they can be taken anywhere. We hope our handheld CB radio reviews article helped instill some knowledge about these units. Happy hunting!