My guess is you are probably operating a GMRS Radio which can be a useful tool. To answer your question about a walkie talkie on steroids, yes that would be a good analogy. Yes you do need a license which does take some studying, but the pass rate is high. Ham Radio licensing consists of three levels. To operate in the manner that I have been referring you only need the entry level license which is called "Technician". Here is a link that may be helpful.
Ham Radio is technical but not incomprehensible. It is widely misunderstood by many. But one of the main pillars of Ham Radio is that it does not operate on 120 Volt home current. it operates on 13.8 volts DC. Which means that a Ham Radio will operate on a well charged Car Battery. So thence another good reason to be an operator is not just for Hiking and being outdoors, but it is very handy when the lights go out at home. The same radio you would take on a hike could not only save your arse in the woods but it might do the same thing in your own backyard. For instance, the major snowstorm we had a few weeks ago not only knock out power for multiple days, but cell towers were down too not to mention the internet. The only point to point effective communication was via Ham Radio. https://youtu.be/DMF0SVUdxow
Be aware the above video displays the upper crust of Ham Radio operators. To effectively accomplish what I have described above one does not need to take it to the level these guys have. The correct handheld for field use with maybe a simple booster antenna for home-based operation is all that is needed. One can easily set them selves up for easily less than half the cost of a the latest greatest cell phone.