REVIEW: Cobra Road Trip Handheld CB Radio
While modern cellphones have made it easier than ever to stay in contact while on the go, there are still plenty of places where cell coverage remains elusive. Finding a way to communicate while traveling through remote locations can be a major challenge, even in the 21st century. Thankfully, there are a slew of options available to backcountry travelers and overlanders, ranging from two-way radios (think walkie-talkies) to handheld or vehicle mounted CB (citizen band) radios.
The Cobra HH RT 50 Road Trip falls into the latter category, delivering all of the benefits—as well as some drawbacks—of a CB in a handheld package. Because it operates on the citizen band, the device can broadcast on up to 40 channels in the high-frequent, short-wave range. But it is limited by a relatively low power rating (just 4 watts), which can impact range and sound quality. Still, it is a handy, versatile device to have at your disposal the next time you venture off the well-worn path.
Range (4) ★★★★
Range on a device like the Road Trip is always tricky to assign a rating. That’s because there are so many factors outside of the radio itself that come into play. For instance, the surrounding terrain, elevation differences, amount of other radio traffic, and even weather conditions can impact how far the device is able transmit. Still, the Road Trip offers consistent performance up to a mile away, allowing users to communicate in a clear fashion. Longer distances are possible, but performance starts to suffer the further apart the two devices communicating to one another go. This is part of the tradeoff with using a CB like this one, but as long as you understand and recognize that going in, you won’t be disappointed. It is also important to note that there are antennas that can be added to the Road Trip in order to extend its range further, both while in handheld mode and in a vehicle.
Sound Quality (4) ★★★★
Sound quality is very good on the Road Trip, although performance is closely tied to the transmission range of the device. When operating within the one mile radius mentioned above, voice broadcasts are clear and easy to understand. Unsurprisingly, things get a little more muddled as the distance between radios grows to the point that volume and clarity are reduced significantly at extreme range. As noted above, provide you work within the limitations of the radio itself, you’ll be more than happy with how things sound. Beyond that and you’ll start to experience frustrations that are common with this method of communications.
Portability (3) ★★★
While the Road Trip is indeed a handheld CB radio, it isn’t as easy to carry around as one would hope. When compared to a walkie-talkie, those devices tend o be smaller and lighter, although they don’t offer as many channels to broadcast on and suffer from similar limitations to their range. When not operating on the included 12-volt vehicle DC power adapter, the Road Trip is powered by nine AA batteries, which adds significantly to its weight. Out of the box, the device clocks in at a little over half a pound. Add the batteries to the mix and that weight nearly doubles. That makes it a bulky device to carry with you on your outdoor adventures.
Overall (4) ★★★★
We love the versatility of being able to use this CB radio both in a vehicle and on the trail—even thought it does add some weight to our packs. The Road Trip also gets bonus points for being easy to use, ruggedly built, and having good sound quality and battery life. It even comes with 10 built-in NOAA weather channels for keeping track of changing conditions, something that can be extremely useful in the backcountry. Add in the ability to monitor two separate channels at once, options to swap out antennas, and the ability to connect to a range of accessories, and you get a very well-rounded communications system for use in remote areas. In other words, exactly what you need when leaving cell coverage behind.
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