Handheld vhf radio

Looking  for suggestions on  a handheld vhf radio,durability is my first concern. Reviews I've found  on the Internet look bogus

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RE: Handheld vhf radio

Intereste in same. No prior experience with them either, done nothing yet towards making a selection. Will be following this thread with interest.

RE: Handheld vhf radio

Dang.... A 'd' somehow fell out of that last post'o'mine. My apologies.

RE: Handheld vhf radio

I have a Standard Horizon HX300 I bought from West Marine in 2016.  Excellent little radio.  Floats, seems durable, will charge from USB, and has the optional battery tray to run from AAA's. Generally sloshes around the bilges of my Passagemaker Dinghy in a mesh bag (clipped off to a jackline) with some other stuff, like the mouth horn, etc.  Fairly easy to set up a two or three channel watch if you want to monitor, say, 16, 9 and 13 (or some other channel if you aren't lookin' to hear from towboats at close quarters or drawbridge tenders) at the same time.  Pretty straightforward to use, but it does take some study to figure out how to use the multipurpose buttons.

I picked this one from several options based on my son's recommendation.  He used to work for a local radio supply catalogue operation, is very knowledgeable about radio stuff, and holds some level of ham license.  He once rigged up a temporary antenna to the masthead of our Menger 19 catboat during a short cruise on Lake Erie and made some "marine mobile" contacts, which somehow is especially exciting to ham radio enthusiasts.  But, I digress....

One of the things I like about the HX300 is that it is difficult to turn on accidentally and thus leave you with a dead battery.  I also have in older Icom IC-M88 (I think that's the right model) handheld which still works just fine, mostly used to communicate with grandchildren off in the Passagemaker out of hailing distance of the mothership when we're doing a fleet action that way.  I don't think that's in current production now.  The only thing I didn't care for about this one was the power/volume knob.  Too easy to turn on accidentally, which meant that one needed to store it with the battery pack disconnected when not in use, which rendered it non-waterproof.

Hope that helps.


RE: Handheld vhf radio

"Hope that helps."

Yes, it's a start! Gives me something to look at, get familiar with, maybe compare other options against.


RE: Handheld vhf radio


   I got a Standard Horizon HX40 from West Marine last year.  The old handheld was really old and the NiCd battery wouldn't charge anymore. The HX40 is a LiPo battery like a lot of them now, which is good.  

I got it because it's compact, waterproof, and floating, and was on sale.  Icom has generally good ones too.  It has a solid belt clip and I wear it on my hip with it on and tuned to 16 whenever I'm in the boat (skerry I sail on the Chesapeake and now Long Island Sound) since I'm generally solo and if I go over, I have it with me.  I could wear it on one of the lash points on my PFD, but that gets in the way and I don't think it will easily detach from my belt.

I use a foam PFD, originally for paddling, so it's got pockets and lash points.  I always have my whistle and a pocket knife in the PFD.  I know a lot of folks like the rescue knives, but I've just never gotten one.

On marine waters, I prefer a VHF for safety over cell phone.  Just learn how to use it, including how to properly hail (Mayday vs. Securite vs. Pan-Pan) and which channels to use.

RE: Handheld vhf radio

Mine is a Standard Horizon HX290. Nothing much to say about it except that it always did what it was supposed to and still works today. Floats and is submersible to 5 feet for 30 minutes.



RE: Handheld vhf radio

   I found an ICOM IC-M24 bobbing at waters edge a few years ago. It worked so I cleaned it up and bought a charger for it and it's still working. Marine frequencies are line of site so with the handheld's little bitty antena transmitting five miles is about it reliably. Reception of stations with large antenas such as Coast Guard and weather warnings carry much farther. It is very important to carry one because you can't rely on cell service.

RE: Handheld vhf radio

Hey Greg,  You did not mention what type of boat you will be using the radio in and why you want/need a radio.  It makes a difference when it comes to radio features.

If you will use it in a small craft primarily for rescue purposes, I strongly advise a radio with DSC/GPS capability.  In some conditions, the two-way voice feature of VHF is worthless when it comes to a rescue.  If you are paddling in rough conditions, you may not be able to take your hands off the paddle to hold the radio.  Wind and waves can make it very hard to hear a radio.  If you are swimming, using the radio will be even harder.  In bigger waves, you will loose communications when you drop into a trough because VHF is line of site only.  In those type of conditions, all you have to do is hit the "panic" button and your radio transmitts a digital mayday along with identification and GPS coordinates.

While you are deciding what to buy, you may want to read this thread from a popular surfski board.  Make sure that you click into the link for his radio review.  Also make sure that you scroll down to read his comments about trying to use the radio during a rescue. 

After reading Robin's words above, I recently bought a Standard Horizon HX890 but I have not even taken it out of the box yet.  

RE: Handheld vhf radio

God stuff getting added here, thanks all for expanding my horizons. Keep it coming!  

RE: Handheld vhf radio

Oops sorry, forgot the link to the surfski forum.       Make sure that you click into the link for his radio review.  Also make sure that you scroll down to read his comments about trying to use the radio during a rescue. https://www.surfski.info/forum/2-announcements/19800-vhf-radio-review-standard-horizon-hx870.html

RE: Handheld vhf radio

Just an FYI - a VHF radio's range is mostly determined by the antenna height, not the antenna size, nor the output power.

Seated in a kayak, the range to the horizon is about 2 miles. Put that same antenna up on top of a 12-ft mast and it becomes just over 4. 

The height of the other station's antenna also has an effect. If that other station is the Coast Guard and they have a 128-ft high antenna tower, you'll be able to communicate with them up to 17 miles away seated in your kayak.

As far as power goes, VHF bands actually need relatively little, especially in a small boat. The max range you'll be working with will be around 20 miles, typically less. For that 1 or 2 watts is plenty, 5 is approaching overkill. The lower powers will make your batteries last longer.

Finally, beware of waves. In kayaks, 2-3 ft waves can blanket you and block your signal. 



RE: Handheld vhf radio

   Thanks for the info,I'll be kayaking relatively

 near shore Florida waters.not going out on anything too crazy.

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