None of us will be choosing a VHF marine radio for the looks of it, we’re all concerned with the functionality that it offers. Will it survive after being submerged underwater? Will it provide instant weather warnings? That’s what we’re concerned with when procuring the best handheld VHF marine radio that money can buy.
Some noobs might not guess the sorts of specs that handheld VHF marine radio might pack. Many of these can support communication even in Canada and many other countries. Just like that, some will overlook aspects and miss out on what they deserve for the price tag. Hence all these blabberings about the aspects and reviews of the most populous in the market.
Few Best Handheld Vhf Marine Radio Reviews
In the previous section, we have addressed and discussed all the basic fundamental features that you need to consider before purchasing a new handheld marine radio.
To make your job easier, below we have highlighted some strengths and weaknesses and technical specifications of a few marine radios which we think are finest among all other radios available in the current market.
Check out the best-rated handheld vhf marine radio reviews below.
1. Uniden MHS75 Handheld VHF Marine Radio
Uniden MHS75 Handheld VHF Marine Radio is designed to offer strong and stable performance with all the standard features including all US and Canadian marine channels, triple watch mode, NOAA weather channels. The triple mode automatically monitors multiple channels of your choice including channels 9 and 16 every 2 seconds so that you don’t miss any important weather or emergency news.
With a 4-hour rechargeable battery, this device can last up to 12 hours which is good enough for staying on water for a long day. It is extremely lightweight and portable and has a long-lasting life compact design. Not to mention, this device automatically scans signals from a programmed channel with its integral memory scan chip.
The backlit display of respectable size offers great performance both in direct sunlight and night with absolutely no disruption. Having only 5W of low maximum transmission power makes it ideal for an interference-free communication in short distances and also saves battery life.
Uniden MHS75 Handheld VHF Marine does not float on water thus it should not be submerged too deeply. This device is not equipped with GPS or DSC and also tends to get stuck on the same frequency for a long time without scanning. Moreover, many users frequently reported about the belt chip not being durable enough.
2. Cobra Marine MR HH150 VHF Radio
Cobra Marine MR HH150 VHF Radio combines user-friendly design, floating capabilities with efficiency and features of a standard marine radio to offer you a top-tier portable marine radio. This handheld VHF marine radio includes a belt clip, wrist strap, 12-volt power cord with a low transmission power of only 3 Watts.
With AAA rechargeable battery, even if the battery is dead in an emergency, it can be recharged quickly. This device also is quite capable of both long and short-range communication. You don’t have to worry before navigating through unknown waters with access to 10 NOAA weather channels, strong TX/RX signal, and battery status that ensures your security all the time.
What’s more amazing, its maximum range and low power consumption increases battery life and gives mariners immense reliability and assurance. Built with orange core and compact design, even if you drop it on water, it provides 30 minutes of protection in 1-meter depth.
Like the previous radio, Cobra Marine MR HH150 VHF Radio also does not include GPS or DSC. Many users complain that it is not 100% waterproof. At the same time, this device does not offer charger other than 12V charging port which may be an inconvenience to many.
3. Standard Horizon HX870 Handheld VHF Radio
Another great addition to this list is Standard Horizon HX870 Handheld VHF equipped with all the latest and impressive features to give you the most efficient and reliable marine radio possible. Due to its compact and user-friendly design, it is an excellent choice for kayakers and boaters.
If you are looking for the best handheld vhf marine radio with dsc, then check this item cause this handheld VHF marine radio includes basic security features like DSC, GPS, automatic weather channel monitoring.
Also, it has an alerting system, noise-canceling mode with clear sound quality. Moreover, you can access all the latest features like water alert, integrated GPS, store maximum of 10 channels, 4 scanning modes by just pressing a few buttons.
Even if by accident you drop it in water, not only its performance won’t reduce but also will automatically activate a programmable emergency flashlight. Ideal for short to middle range communication because of low transmission power. With long-lasting 10-hour battery life, it is also equipped with a battery tray which is usable when the battery is discharged.
Because of only 6W transmission power, this device is not capable of long-range communication. Its bulky design and heavyweight makes it less portable compared to others. At night, the white led light can be irritating to some users.
4. Cobra MRHH350FLT VHF Marine Radio
The Cobra MRHH350FLT VHF Marine Radio is highly admired for its durable, convenient and ergonomic design and sufficient features with maximum security. If you want a combination of both power and battery saving mode in one device, then you should go for it as transmission power varies to 1W, 3W, and 6W.
With this versatile tool, you can program unlimited channels and scan them according to your needs. This radio also includes a triple watch with which you can operate 3 channels at the same time. Although the speaker is loud and clear, the feature of adding an external microphone adds more efficiency to the device.
This handheld radio includes all the necessary international channels and weather alters with noise-canceling mode. By just pressing one button, channel 16 which is an emergency station will automatically be connected.
It is one of the best waterproof handheld VHF marine radio choices in 2020. Not only it is waterproof, but also the BURP function removes any water out of the speaker grill by vibrating with ease.
The main downfall of this Cobra VHF Marine Radio is it does not include basic security features like GPS or DSC. The bulky and less compact design makes it less portable and user-friendly. This radio also includes a belt clip that many users don’t find durable enough.
5. BaoFeng UV-5R VHF/UHF Radio
BaoFeng UV-5R VHF/UHF Radio is an adaptable dual HAM band radio with dual frequency, dual standby and huge LCD. The 1850 mAh Lithium-Ion battery with battery save mode provides long 72 hours of continuous use. With all these latest unique and reliable features on both TX and RX., it is a top-tier product for your buck.
Among others, the most highlighted and interesting features are the transmitter time-out timer and keypad lockout. You also can choose between 1W and 4 W for short and long communication. At the same time, the menu is highly responsive and very easy to operate without any instruction.
This handheld radio’s most noticeable downfall is it is not water-resistant or floatable. The process of programming radio’s built-in keypad seems time-consuming and difficult.
Moreover, you can only program frequency of the top display thus it is not responsive to bottom display frequency. Not to mention, the manual that comes with this product, does not have detailed instructions on some aspects.
6. Standard Horizon HX210 Marine Handheld Vhf Radio
The compact Standard Horizon HX210 Marine Handheld radio is rich with all the latest features including the new large capacity of 1850 mAh Lithium-Ion battery technology with a 3-hour quick dual voltage charger. Unlike other ordinary radios, you are allowed to choose output transmission power between 6W, 2.5W or 1W.
This handheld VHF DSC marine radio is equipped with a Built-in FM broadcast band receiver so a user can tune into his favorite channel anytime. The ergonomic and user-friendly design gives it both better outer appearances with solid backing power. Moreover, the programmable function keys and speaker mike jack ensures more efficient use.
Upon being in contact with water, this submersible radio automatically activates the emergency strobe light function. This strobe light helps greatly in night rescue situations to easily locate things or people. Not to mention, you will be able to access all of the standard USA, Canadian and international channels and receive weather alerts in case of emergency.
The Standard Horizon HX210 Marine Handheld radio does not come with basic security functions like GPS. The battery cannot be used as a backup as there is no spare battery given with this radio. Some user prefers a knob for turning on and off as it seems a hassle every time.
A Comprehensive Guide to the Best Handheld VHF Marine Radio
What fits you and your job, may not be suitable for others. To help you further, here is our step by step guide that will cover every aspect and features you should take into account before grabbing the handheld VHF marine radio possible that fits your requirements.
Handheld VHF Radio Range
Because of a lack of a tall antenna and a small dimension, a handheld radio can only transmit power up to 6 Watts. At the same time, mounted marine radios can have power up to 25 watts which are 4 times than handheld marine radio. On the other hand, when it comes to frequency range, mounted radio wins again. Handheld marine radio works in small frequency but very versatile and functional.
A rule of thumb, in this case, is ”Higher the watt, the longer the signal will go”.
Yes, floatable!! There’s some that will float when dropped on the water. Be it today or tomorrow, you’ll drop it on water. You won’t have to take a dive to retrieve it. Almost none of these radios will get damaged since they’re waterproof. I mean, just cause it floats doesn’t mean it necessarily enhances durability.
But if you think about it, it does indeed enhance durability. How? Well, when it drops it won’t get submerged. Most have a limit to how far it can be submerged. So, it won’t be exceeding the limit.
Since VHF marine radios are designed for emergencies, a radio with water-activated emergency light can be pretty handy. Not to mention, compact and user-friendly design provides maximum security and functionality. At the same time, lightweight and small in size radio can fit into your palm and you can move around with it with ease.
Water Resistant Rating
When you are on the water, things easily get wet or submerged in water. So marine radios need to be waterproof and resistant to any amount of water. With the high waterproof rating, a handheld radio can fully function underwater and can be your lifeline in an emergency.
The best waterproof rating that you’ll get for these is IPX8. You can keep these submerged to a depth of 1 meter underwater. But there’s even a limit to how long you can do so. And that’s usually specified by the manufacturer.
Since a handheld marine radio is a piece of vital equipment in an emergency, make sure that your radio has a large backlit display which allows reading in dark. Nowadays most marine radio has this feature, so missing it out isn’t what we recommend. At the same time, if you will be using it for navigation then it is recommended to buy a marine radio with a dot matrix display.
Output power is the primary indicator of how far a signal can transmit. Although the maximum power of a handheld radio is 6 watt, the power can vary depending on the type of communication. If you are going on a long trip, it is not efficient to use a low powered radio. So make sure to check output power before purchasing.
Marine radio with long battery life increases its functionality and durability. If you are intending to use it to go on a long day trip then a radio with Li-On battery cannot give the best result. However, using a strong and quick charger with extra battery can solve this problem in no time. Also, make sure to buy a radio with a battery-saving mode for long-lasting performance.
When it comes to marine radio’s controls, simpler is better. Nobody wants to read pages after pages to educate himself about how to operate his new marine radio. So go for a marine radio which offers truly simple menus with a large display as such displays allow you to see more options at once.
The GPS inside your radio provides the advantage of broadcasting your location in latitude and longitude coordinates. So during an emergency, your radio can transmit your position to near emergency responders for easy rescue.
Using a marine radio with digital selective calling (DSC) increases your survival rate during a difficult situation. With just a push of a button, DSC allows sending distress signal with GPS position.
So, choose a better handheld vhf marine radio with GPS. You will also need an MMSI number to identify your vessel.
AIS or Automatic identification system is another feature for tracking. This is especially useful if your vessel is around shipping lanes where large cargo ships can easily run over smaller ones. With this feature, a variety of information like your name, your position, size of your vessel can be transmitted.
Noise Cancelling Technology
Noise-canceling technology ensures transmission without any disruption. When you are on a boat, engine, wind or waves can make loud noises which may cause a disturbance in transmission. Thus make sure to look for a marine radio with a noise-canceling feature.
Dual or Tri Watch
In marine radios, the dual watch allows you to monitor two channels and tri watch allows you to monitor three channels at the same time. Moreover, you won’t miss any news, discussion or any announcement from other channels with this feature.
Automatic Weather Alert
You never know when the next storm is coming so you need to stay alert all the time on the water. National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) and Specific Area Message Encoding (SAME) sends alerts to help you prepare for any type of weather. With the automatic alert system, the radio immediately switches to the forecasting channel so that you never miss out.
Apart from these features, there are few extra features like hailer, listen-back, active canceling that enhances functionality and reliability. You can connect an external speaker for broadcast with a hailer function. On the other hand, the listen-back function amplifies audio from a distance and active canceling feature improves both transmitting and receiving a signal for better communication.
Q: Is it obligatory to get a VHF license?
Ans: Yes, you need a license before using a VHF radio mostly for international traveling. For this, you need to pass an examination which will last for 10 years. The license is divided into 3 categories: technical license (for primary level), general license (for world-wide communication), and amateur extra license (provides all operating advantages for USA amateur radio).
Q: Should you always keep your radio on while staying on water?
Ans: Although it is not strictly required, for safety purpose you should always keep your radio on. Moreover, when your radio is on, you are required to monitor America’s emergency broadcast channel 16 for weather alerts.
Q: Will onboard electronics devices interfere with your marine radio reception?
Ans: Yes, onboard electronics can interfere and generate noise on some or all channels.
The reviews, backed by the detailed buying guide of ours, have certainly helped you to make your mind about which marine radio you should buy. However, if you are still in a dilemma, you can choose from our personal favorites among all other radios we have talked so far.
If you are looking for a durable and low-cost marine radio with all the latest features, then you can go for Uniden MHS75. With triple watch function, power switching mode, automatic weather alerts this might be one of the best VHF radios for offshore fishing.
One the other hand, Standard Horizon HX870 Handheld VHF radio is perfect for people looking for user-friendly, portable marine radio. It also comes with high-quality navigation and tracking technology to prepare you against any serious emergency. Thus, we feel this is one of the best handheld VHF marine radio with GPS.