Updated: Mar 19, 2021
Climbing Communication Made Easier
Communication while climbing is a huge safety concern, and a lack of communication can cause serious issues. We've all been to the crag and heard the back and forth: "Off belay." "What?" "OFF BELAY!" "What? I can't hear you." Let's face it...we've all done this, or seen first hand what it looks like when climbers can't communicate. Even though radios and walkie talkies have been around for a while, climbers haven't used them because of their durability, bulkiness, and unreliability. Instead, we've always just shouted, pulled on the rope frantically, and hoped that our partner knew what they were doing. Enter the Rocky Talkie.
To be quite honest, I had never really used a radio to communicate with my partner or clients while climbing. I wasn't quite sure I would like carrying an extra piece of gear up harder routes. Heck, I didn't even consider this an option! As a guide, we use information overload to replace communication, and I have definitely had those days were folks take me off belay halfway up a pitch or undo their clove hitch while they are not on belay. This is nerve-racking and a little on the spot communication could have solved these issues pretty quickly.
I have put almost 40 field days on these radios so far, and am pleasantly surprised, both by their performance, and their durability. Many of these days have been in below zero temperatures, gale force winds, and just all-around miserable conditions. I've used these for rigging photoshoots, multipitch rock climbing, hard ice routes, and cragging days in the Ouray Ice Park. The Rocky Talkie has exceeded all my expectations for a radio. Everyone should be carrying one of these!
Radio Service - FRS (meaning no license to operate required)
Channels - 128
Range - Up to 25+ miles with line of sight and 1 mile in the city
Battery Type - Rechargeable 1550 mAh Li-ion
Weight - 7.9oz fully equipped, or 4.8oz for just the radio
Waterproofing - Splashproof/snowproof, but not submersible
About the Company
Rocky Talkie is a small Colorado based company founded in 2019 in Denver. Both owners/founders had witnessed many close calls due to a lack of communication while out adventuring and decided to build their own radios using high quality components. They are committed to providing quality radios for backcountry adventures at an affordable price - $95 per radio. Their warranty program is excellent (2 years from the date of purchase and they will repair or replace any defective product) and they hand test every radio they sell. They even donate $2 per radio back to local search and rescue teams!
A Perfect Radio for Multipitch Climbing
Weighing in at just under half a pound, the Rocky Talkie features 128 channels and a variable range up to 25 miles depending on the terrain. Easily charged by a USB cable, the battery life that lasts over 3 days in warmer temperatures. On the coldest day out so far with these (-23℉), the battery drained much faster. On warm, sunny days, I noticed between a 5 & 10% drop in battery life throughout a full day of use. A durable and rugged shell protects the radio and provides a solid connection to the included Mammut Carabiner. I had a client drop one of these over a hundred feet off the side of a cliff and it still works like new! Granted, the case is pretty dinged up, but the shatterproof screen lived up to it's name.
This is a great, lightweight way to communicate on big multipitch routes where leader and follower cannot see each other. The attached lanyard gives you additional security to prevent the big drop. I've found that these radio's work best when attached on your backpack, versus clipped to your harness. This way all you have to do is turn your head, push a button, and talk normally without any unclipping. Just make sure to have the radio clipped onto the right side of your backpack so you don't stab yourself in the neck with the antenna!
My Favorite Features
It's hard not to love how thought out the design on the Rocky Talkie is. My absolute favorite part about these radios is the large push to talk button. This is very easy to manipulate, even with thick gloves on and frozen hands. On the coldest days out, I found myself using just the lanyard to keep the radio attached to my pack, and storing the radio in my coat. It's awesome that the attached carabiner is removable to shave off some extra weight!
One Small Problem
The Rocky Talkie boasts of a channel lock feature which prevents accidental switching of frequencies. Throughout a handful of days out with these radios, I have had issues where the channel changes on me mid-pitch, despite this feature. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how this happens and has created some unforeseen communication issues and defeated the point of the radio.
It is still best to communicate with your partner ahead of time in the off chance this happens.
The Rocky Talkie: Who Should Buy
Let's be honest...every climber and skier should own a pair of these! No more silly rope tugs or shouting at the top of your lungs. This radio is definitely worth the $95 price tag and will make your climbing adventures that much easier. The adventures you can take these on are endless. The Rocky Talkie provides an excellent way to communicate in a small and rugged package
Pros: Sturdy, durable, lightweight, great warranty.
Cons: Not changing channels requires care and constant checking despite the locking feature.
A Big Bang for Your Buck!
All in all, I am thoroughly impressed with these radios and am very excited to see how they hold up throughout the upcoming rock climbing season!
Rocky Talkie supplied me with two radios for this review, however, it didn't influence my review in any way.
Written by Ben Coryell
AMGA Certified Rock Guide