The BAC BC Link 2.0 radio scores high overall, and we recommend it to a wide range of users. Its two-piece design, with the main body physically connected to an external microphone, makes for such smooth operation that it became hard to go back to a traditional one-piece radio. On top of that, it has well thought out buttons and dials, good range, and excellent weather resistance.
We loved the convenience of having easy adjustments and a PTT button at our fingertips.
Photo: Caroline Miller
Range and Clarity
While the BCA radio only performed with the middle of the pack in the unobstructed range test by transmitting at 2.8 miles, it showed its real-world usefulness by performing very well in poor weather and obstructed range tests. When it was within range, all of our transmissions were clear and easy to hear. When using it in the field to keep track of our backcountry partners, we found it to consistently have enough range to stay connected over the distances that we naturally separated.
There are more powerful radios out there, but almost all of them are more complex, require specialized knowledge, and, potentially, licensing to operate. This radio is ready to go out of the box without any training necessary while also besting others of its kind in range and clarity.
The BC Link 2.0 is at home in the snow and rain, shown here during our rough weather range test. Due to its design, however, this radio could be a bit awkward to handle if you don't have a good stash spot for the body.
Photo: Michelle Powell
Ease of Use
Usability is where this radio really shines. It is clearly designed for the outdoors enthusiast, offering a perfect blend of features and simplicity. The external microphone has dials to change the volume and channel, and a good-sized PTT button. It has a clever rotating metal clip on the back that allows you to customize how the mic is attached and keeps it solidly in place throughout a rough day. The rotating clip on the external microphone allows versatility in clip orientation, and it has strong metal jaws to stay put all day long. It would be hard to understate how convenient it was to have the external microphone always ready to access on a shoulder strap. We were more likely to communicate with our partners using this radio compared to other radios where we had to pull the radio out of a pocket or unclip it from a waist strap.
If you follow the nicely sized cord down to the main body of the radio, you will find five large buttons and an easy to read display. Using the more advanced settings by navigating the menu on the body of the radio took a minute or two to read the supplied information card, and is straightforward after learning the basic symbols and menu pathways.
The radio comes with six preset channel and privacy code combinations that make minimizing your radio overlap in busy areas (think national parks, ski resorts, etc.) convenient. Privacy codes allow a second layer of differentiation (in addition to the FRS frequency) between which radios are communicating with each other. Many radios allow you to set a privacy code, but few already have them preset into the default channels as the BC Link does. This feature makes it easy to separate your radio traffic from other parties on FRS frequencies in the area.
Finding a nice routing for the cable is key to streamlining this radio.
Photo: Caroline Miller
One Improve We'd Like To See
The preset channel dial on the handset of this radio does not lock in place. This generally isn't an issue with ungloved hands. When gloves (or even impact) are involved, we see the potential for inadvertently switching to another preset channel when handling the handset for a transmission. We didn't accidentally do this during testing, but we have had friends report it happening.
Weather Resistance and Durability
Few manufacturers of the radios we tested make any claims of weather resistance. BCA states their Link 2.0 meets IP56 standards, which means it is protected from "limited dust ingress" and "strong jets of water." The tightly sealed casings and rubber-coated buttons met this standard throughout our testing period of several months. Tahoe's dusty bike trails, fall rains, a snowstorm, and even a garden hose did not seem to affect the operation of this radio.
The radio's resistance to the bangs and bruises of life in a backpack is also quite strong. The plastic casing feels strong, and the metal clip for the external microphone is undoubtedly more stout than other plastic offerings. The only question of durability came where the cord attaches to the main body of the radio. One end of the attachment point has a nice metal screw, but the other end has a plastic hook that some users have reported breaking. We only managed to find a minor scratch or two on our radio after testing, but we see how this plastic tab could be a potential weak point. Any questions about the durability of this product should be softened by the fact that it comes with a three-year warranty.
We have heard reports of the plastic clip on the left breaking with rough usage, compromising the connection of the mic to the body. However, we had no problems with ours after many days in backpacks and repeated removal of the mic from the body.
Photo: William Gray Grandy
When we tested the batteries, this radio was one of the top performers. It lasted 22 hours and 45 minutes when we made a ten-second transmission every five minutes. Note that while this test is useful in comparing the battery life between the radios we tested, user experience should be expected to vary depending on factors like frequency of transmissions and ambient temperature. The accuracy of its battery indicator also stood out from the crowd. Its three battery indicator bars disappeared in a linear relation to the life of the battery - something that few other radios we tested can say. At the end of its life, it beeped a few times, and it would not make a final transmission.
One downside of the battery is that it is fully integrated into the body of the radio. This means that you can't have a second battery charging to swap out when the first one dies. This should not be a problem in most cases but could be a challenge for a longer, multi-day trip. However, most people carry a battery bank or solar charger on trips these days, which they could use to charge their BCA radios. This adds pack weight, but many of our testers found this worth it for a reliable radio when heading into the backcountry.
An IP56 rating means the BCA Link 2.0 is comfortable in dust and with water.
Photo: Caroline Miller
Weight and Size
The BC Link 2.0 is one of the largest radios we tested, but it didn't feel that way in most situations. The body of the radio was plenty small to fit in the top of a backpack (AKA the pack's "brain"), and the external microphone's weight was not bothersome riding on our shoulder, clipped to the shoulder strap of our pack. A secure clip system and distribution of the weight between the two parts made this more comfortable to carry than some radios that were smaller and lighter.
There are some situations that make the size and weight a bit of an issue. We would be less likely to choose this radio for technical rock climbing where weight is at a premium, and having a two-piece radio with a cord is less appealing. Also, if you aren't planning on carrying the radio with the microphone clipped to your shoulder strap and the main body tucked away in your backpack, this model becomes more cumbersome. It's not the radio to give to your kid to hold in their hand or pocket. That said, for the intended backcountry use of this radio, we expect nearly every user to be traveling with a backpack, negating this issue.
The external microphone is a defining characteristic of the BCA radio. It keeps all the basic adjustments and indicators at your fingertips. It fits nicely in hand and the orange rubber PTT button is easy to find without looking. Volume and privacy channels are easy to access and manipulate as well.
Photo: Gray Grandy
Yes, this radio is quite a bit more expensive than other radios on the market. You are paying for a product that is better equipped to maintain clear communication while you are in the backcountry. This is not one of those electronics that you buy and use a few times until they die and then they sit in your closet until you throw them away. This model will last you for years, keep going through tough weather, and minimize frustration while operating it. If this style of radio fits your activities, we feel that the higher price is fair for the quality product.
For the convenience and reliable communication it provides, we're not surprised so many backcountry skiers find it worth the price to spring for this BCA model.
Photo: Caroline Miller
The Backcountry Access BC Link 2.0 scored highest overall in all our tests combined because it is refreshingly easy to use, and it boasts solid range, battery life, and resistance to harsh environments. Weight and price could be a factor in deciding to buy something else, but we feel this radio will be a great option for most users and backcountry adventurers.
We would be stoked to be loading this radio into our pack for just about any adventure we can think of.
Photo: Caroline Miller