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GEAR REVIEW

MILO ACTION COMMUNICATOR

The two-way radio reinvented, with some seriously cool tech.

(This review originally featured in Wild #191, Autumn 2024)

 By James McCormack

ONE OF THE BEST THINGS about the great outdoors is sharing the experience with someone. Usually, however, actually being able to talk only occurs once you’ve stopped moving, when you can cluster close enough together that you can talk without shouting. The Milo action communicator changes that. It enables easy communication with your outdoors playmates (and lots of them too; up to eight can join a group), but lets you do so over distances of up to 600m, and to do it hands-free. The easiest comparison to make is that they’re like walkie-talkies, except they have some cool, advanced tech features that separate them from mere mortal two-way radios.

Milo says its system is for anyone on the trail, in the water (yes, they’re fully waterproof, with an IP67 rating), or on the slopes, and it was on the latter on a January 2024 ski trip with my family in the US that I put the device through its paces. (Although I’m going to talk largely about skiing here, what I’ll say will hold true for many other activities too.)

But to start, I’ll explain the devices. Each weighs about 80g, which you keep close to your mouth via a number of means—armbands, pack straps, pockets, to your bike’s handlebars—and it locks to these using a magnetic clip mechanism that’s super quick and easy. Occasionally, we found the devices could be dislodged, however; there’s a small leash that comes with the Milos that we used as a backup.

 

Getting the devices into the group is effortless; just hold them close to each other while holding a side button. And then speak away. It’s that simple. You don’t need to use your hands at all, and the devices only allow one speaker at a time; you won’t all talk over each other.

One of the coolest features is that the devices adjust their volume, or switch off entirely, depending on how close you are. Milo calls it “proximity mute”. What that meant was that I could be on the chairlift with my wife, with my son on the chair ahead, and my words wouldn’t come through my wife’s device (because Milo figures out that, thanks to our proximity, we can hear each other’s natural voices easily), but my words would still transmit through to my son’s device (again, Milo could figure out he was far enough away that he wouldn’t hear my voice without the device). There’s actually some super cool tech here. It also can figure out, when you’re close, to not echo through the neighbouring device. Largely, anyway; I still found some echo on a few occasions.

The hands-free operation can be switched off, or turned to mute so that it only communicates with a PTT (push-to-talk; similar to most two-way radios) if you don’t want everything you say to be transmitted. There’s also a feature to have voice-controlled one-on-one side chats, where you can simply ask the device to have you only speak with one member in the group, and then ask it to return you to the group once you’re done.

Milo’s wind and background-noise suppression works well, up to a point; really blustery chairlift rides pushed its limit. There’s apparently up to ten hours’ battery life, but in the cold, we found we got a little less than that. Speaking of cold, if you’re wearing ski gloves, the device’s volume buttons are unfortunately too small to manipulate.

“Milo has the most amazing, innovative tech of any communication system on the market.”

Perhaps the biggest drawback, however, is the lack of range. Two-way radios can be used to communicate over long distances, with even most low-end devices giving several kilometres, and high-end ones many more. With Milos, you’re restricted to 600m line of sight; it meant I couldn’t just send my son off to a different lift to the one I was skiing at, let alone communicate with him from the far side of the ski hill.

One important thing to know is that it can take a bit of trial and error to get the settings—such as tweaking the voice-detection sensitivity and the proximity-mute distance—working well, and until I realised this, there was some occasional frustration. Once I got the settings right for my needs, though, I was far happier. But because these features are controlled via the Milo app on your smartphone, adjusting them out on the slopes in the cold and snow just isn’t that feasible; you need to do this before you head out.

I found our Milos super useful while skiing with my son to be able to give him ski tips on the go. And Milo heavily pushes the devices for not just skiing, but hiking, MTB-ing and surfing. But here are some additional use scenarios I could see being great, when communication is necessary (to convey info, say, about a set of rapids, or an abseil or climb sequence, or the snow conditions), but when shouting at each other from a distance is difficult: whitewater paddling, canyoning, climbing, and backcountry skiing. They’d be helpful for adventure photography, too.

The devices won’t be for everyone, for sure. They’re not cheap, for starters, and not everyone actually wants to be able to communicate hands-free on the go. And there’s still a slight sense of crackly, radio voice coming through the devices (but not as bad as if you were actually using a radio). But all in all, if you’re someone who wants, or needs, to be able to communicate with others on the go, and you don’t necessarily need the range that two-way radios can provide, Milo has the most amazing, innovative tech of any communication system on the market.

NEED TO KNOW 


WATERPROOF: 

Yes (IP67), submersible to 1m for 30 minutes

RANGE:

Up to 600m line of sight, although multiple devices can ‘relay’ or create a mesh network to get greater

WEIGHT – (AS TESTED):

80g

RRP:

$399


MORE INFO:

okmilo.com