Originally Posted by willfully armed
CB is garbage. 15 miles if you're lucky at legal wattage.
Get your amateur radio license and a low cost 2 meter rig. I've gotten 120 miles on 5 watts. My Yaesu rig is capable of 65 watts.
HAM it or go home.
That's probably very sound advice. Still being a newbie myself, I'm not sure if the range is due to the nature of the wavelength(s) and how it propagates or if it's due to lots of repeaters being up and running all the time. How would a HAM HT do out in the middle of absolute nowhere versus a different type of radio. Any insight you can provide would be welcomed!
Getting a Tech level license for HAM operation isn't difficult and lets you experiment legally. A lot of HAM equipment can be picked up cheap (last year's models instead of brand new stuff). There are a bunch of HT (handheld) units available, too.
Alternatively, single-sideband CB will reach out a lot farther than regular CB. I know of no handheld SSB CB radios, but vehicle-mounted ones are well under $200. Base station models are available, too.
If your concern is security more than range, the eXRS radios from Trisquare might fit the bill. The radio "hops" through 10 billion channels automatically in a pseudo-random way to ensure secure communication. You can program multiple handheld radios with the same key so those radios are always in sync but other similar radios aren't. Two or three channel-hops per second keep snooping ears from listening in.