Best Handheld Marine Radio – Top Recommendations

I just can’t think of leaving for a marine trip without one of these on-board. Of course, I am talking about my handheld marine radio!

As far as my experiences travel, be it for fishing, sailing, and boating activity…. For a beginner or a professional boater, this necessary piece of equipment is what you will always need.

All due to their special functions like they can help you contact the Coast Guard-in an emergency/distress call or otherwise. From strong communication even in the absence of mobile signals, communicating with other vessels to timely weather, and information updates, the marine radios offer everything. Some of them can float too!!

Though there are fixed VHF (very high frequency) radios too but handheld models make use of battery power and work wonderfully for emergent situations and you can have both of these for your convenience. This is what the experts recommend and I also support this.

Shockproof, waterproof, withstanding harsh marine conditions, battery power, size and shape, much has to be considered before you invest in a handheld radio.

Let us navigate further to know more about the best handheld marine radios ever:

Best Handheld Marine Radio Reviewed

5 Handheld Marine Radios Reviewed, Below

1. Cobra MR HH350 FLT Handheld Floating VHF Radio

Key Highlights

  • Offers maximum coverage: This allows the operation of channels in Canada, the US, and internationally. At 1, 3, or 6 watts, long and short-range communication along with access to NOAA weather channels.

  • Clear Communication: The Burp features improve performance and vibrate the water out of the boat speaker grill. For clearer conversations, the background noises are blocked by the noise-canceling microphone.

  • Safety First: They provide instant access to Channel 16 for emergency situations. You can use the Tri-Watch feature to monitor three channels.

  • Sea Ready: This features a floating design with an orange core which makes it easy to retrieve even if dropped overboard. This meets the JIS7 (IPX7) standards and can remain submersed at one meter deep.

This is a rugged, lightweight and an ergonomic design that can be held easily. A wide-view LCD screen with a bright orange backlight makes visibility in all weather and light conditions.

The Cobra Electronics is a U.S. based company that specializes in the distribution of navigation technologies and wireless communication. This is waterproof, submersible, with a single lithium-polymer battery power-up device that includes battery chargers also.

Pros:

  • Wide-view screen with orange backlight.

  • Clear communication.

  • Burp feature.

  • Three-channel map.

2. Uniden MHS75 Waterproof Handheld 2-Way VHF Marine Radio

Key Highlights

  • IS8 Waterproof Level: This handheld Radio won’t give up no matter how wet it gets. This radio can take anything from whitecap slash, tidal wave, to gusty spray.

  • 1 /2.5/5 Watt Switchable: For long and short-range communication this enables you to select between 1, 2.5, and 5 Watts and you can save a bit of battery life too.

  • Covers all channels: This covers all international, USA, and Canadian marine channels and keeps you updated.

  • Instant Channel 16/9/Triple Watch: While you listen to the currently selected channel the Triple Watch Mode monitors channels 16 and 9 for a signal.

Uniden MHS75 2-way Marine Radio is built rugged and comes with a full JIS8 submersible waterproof rating and remains submersible for up to 30 minutes at 5ft. Most of the situations 1-Watt transmission power is all that you will need and if more is required then you can boost the power from 1 Watt to 2.5 Watts or 5 Watts.

The MHS75 covers all USA keeps you up-to-date with all the latest marine activity. For every 2 seconds, the marine radio checks channel 16 and 9. The lithium-ion battery of 1200 mAh can last up to 10 hours of use, if on a full charge.

Pros:

  • Submersible, floating, and glow in the dark.

  • Covers all international channels.

  • Up to 10-hr battery life.

  • Built-to-last.

3. Standard Horizon HX890-Handheld VHF

Key Highlights

  • HX890 comprises a 12V charger, Alkaline Battery Tray, charging cradle, 110V wall charger, PC programming cable, and belt lip with lanyard.

  • Built-in Integrated 66 channel WAAS GPS Receiver | 11-hour Operating Time with 1800mAh high capacity Li-ion battery.

  • 6W transmit power output (Selectable 6/ 2/ 1 W).

  • DSC – Digital Selective Calling.

  • Water-activated strobe light whether the device is off or on.

  • Noise-canceling function – Ensures quality sound in receiving and transmitting audio.

The handheld VHF by Standard Horizon’s floating marine radio features a round case design that offers brilliant ergonomics and is plausibly the first one with an integrated global positioning system.

Its’ easy-to-operate menu along with system comes with a comparatively full-display screen and an extremely bright light that add ease of navigation and use of this marine radio. You can get the positional information of up-to nine pre-determined vessels with the group monitoring aspect of the radio.

Pros:

  • Group monitoring features.

  • Integrated GPS features.

  • Relatively large full-dot matrix LCD screen.

  • Floating and submersible.

  • Strobe lights that activate with water contact.

4. Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld

Key Highlights

  • The submersible and floating handheld design of Atlantis 155’s allows you to stay connected and secure while you are having fun on the water.

  • This comes with the largest LCD screen with paperwhite backlight display for daytime and red backlight display for night time.

  • The radio flaunts the toughest waterproof standards IPX8 / JIS8 and even clears its speaker of water after being submerged.

  • Receives all Marine Radio Channels, including all USA, Canada, and International Marine VHF channels.

The Atlantis 155 features an ergonomic, hand-held design in a prominent black pitch-color. This boasts of one of the widest LCD screens of its class. This is submersible to depths of up to 4.9 feet for as long as 30 minutes. This has a built-in tone and when the radio gets submerged in water this clears the speaker cavity also.

For any emergency or distress signalling the device is armed with an emergency strobe-light. Capable enough to receive all NOAA weather channels along with alerts. This works on four-NiMH AAA or 950mAh NIMH rechargeable batteries. The battery-life of the device is up to 10 hours and that too on a full charge.

Pros:

  • Massive LCD screen.

  • Provides high visibility in all light and weather conditions.

  • Full three-year waterproof warranty.

  • NOAA weather channels.

5. Standard Horizon HX210 6W Marine Handheld VHF

Key Highlights

  • Comes with a compact case design and water activated emergency strobe light.

  • This connects to all USA, International, and Canadian channels.

  • Selectable 6W / 2.5W / 1W output power.

  • Floating / Submersible IPX7 Waterproof rating (3.3 feet or 1 meter for 30 min. duration).

  • Receive WX and FM radio bands 76MHz to 108MHz.

The Standard Horizon a California-based company is well-renowned since 1969 and has manufactured many electronic-communications and navigation products.

This is a slim, compact, yet rugged design which features a high-resolution dot matrix LCD screen. The lightweight feature of the VHF marine radio makes it stand out. In case of accidents this is easily traceable as it floats and makes you get in touch with emergency services. The user-friendly device also features a built-in FM band receiver for frequencies.

Pros:

  • Emergency strobe light activation on contact with water.

  • Floating and submersible.

  • Easy-to-operate menu.

  • Built-in FM band receiver.

Top Vhf Marine Radio Features You Should Consider:

This could appear to be a straightforward task but you would need to consider a number of things before you actually shop for a VHF marine radio.

So, when you are on the hunt then just keep these following things in mind:

1. Purpose

Firstly, you will need to keep in mind your kind of boating requirements. Such as:

  • If heading towards an open ocean you will need a fixed VHF radio.

  • If you are heading towards the sea then a radio that can monitor several channels at once will be your need.

  • In case you are just exploring the coast, a small-sized radio with less power will probably the best investment.

marine two way radio

2. Battery Power

When it is a fixed mount radio then you will be supplied with the power from the battery of the boat, and this will leave you with a limited operating time.

About 5 amps are drawn by marine VHF radios in order to transmit a maximum of 25-watt power, while receiving 0.5 amp. This will lead to a long time to exhaust 12V batteries.

But you should be careful, as the battery system fails simultaneously the VHF radio fails. It is recommended by experts that one should always keep an additional handheld VHF radio on-board for dealing with emergencies.

3. Antenna

For transmitting VHF signals, the line of sight plays a major role. The operating range will be maximized if the antenna is mounted as high as possible.

It is essential to use shielded coax cable of a large diameter along with rightly installed connectors for reducing the signal loss when your location is on the uppermost position.

4. Automatic Identification System (AIS)

Your Vessels:

  • Unique identification

  • Position

  • Course

  • Speed could be tracked by integrating a VHF receiver along with a positioning-system like the GPS receiver.

AIS base stations along the coast-lines get information by the vessels that carry automatic identification systems. In case when out-of-range then they get tracking information through a growing number of AIS receiver satellites.

vhf handheld radio

5. Channels

These radios flaunt 55-channels with the U.S., Canada, and International menus. All those boaters who are out could listen to any of these channels but the transmission is limited to just a few (say a dozen).

Many of the channels are also kept reserved for Coast Guard use, shipping industries, and government.

6. Maximum Power

If it is a fixed-mount VHF then they are limited to about 25-watts or less of power. These radios tend to transmit 1-watt of power as the stronger VHF-signals will always overpower the weaker signals.

This way any sort of short-range conversations are prevented from causing any interference with the boaters. Before switching to a higher output it is the marine etiquette to reach your party on 1-watt while some of the VHF marine radios come with 1, 3, or 6 Watt output options.

7. Digital Selective Calling- DSC

This is a great feature which is possessed by all fixed, hard-wired VHF since the late 90s. This is not so mandatory for the handheld marine radios to possess though many of them have this.

This is a great feature and only one-button-push directly transmits a distress call to the Coast Guard in case of an emergency. This single button will save lives and time too.

Expert Tip: It is better to have this feature rather than not having.

These are also equipped with GPS technology, and directly transmit the location coordinates making the rescues quicker and easier when emergency services are needed.

portable vhf radios

8. Additional Features

Some nice add-ons could sway your decision before you buy a handheld marine radio.

Weather Updates

NOAA alerts are usually nation-wide, and this is a wonderful tool for receiving weather-updates (regional). This will prove to be a valuable asset on-board.

Noise Reduction

Noise-cancelling or noise-reducing features are useful. In times of emergency, the noise-canceling technology could save your life too by removing the sounds of crashing-waves, blowing-winds, or a noisy-engine that could interfere with your communications especially when you need to be heard.

Rewind Say Again

This is again a very useful feature that could record the last transmission for you properly and will help you listen again if you have missed something important for the first time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How Much Range Does A Handheld Marine Radio Have?

Ans1. If you want for a normal handheld at – 5-watt transmit power, you need to figure on a three-to-eight mile range from a small-sized boat. In comparison with a fixed-mount radio, you will need 25-watt to transmit power for 15-20 miles. A minute difference is brought on the range of communication with increased transmit power.

Q2. Can A Marine Radio Be Used On Land?

Ans2. According to the law the Marine VHF radios, be it the handheld or fixed ones may not be used on land. Without a Coast Station License, once after going ashore, the VHF radio can’t be used for marine band transmission.

Q3. Why It Is Essential To Have A Vhf Antenna At A Height?

Ans3. The higher heights lead to more communication and this will directly affect the transmission range too. Hence, the higher you install your VHF antenna the better it is.

Q4. What Should I Do After Hearing A Distress Call?

Ans4. In case you hear a distress call from a vessel you should surely answer, in case it is unanswered. If you are sure about the distressed vessel isn’t in your surroundings then you should surely wait for some time for any other ones to acknowledge.

Q5. Are The Handheld Vhf Marine Radios Any Good?

Ans5. The Uniden models of VHF marine radios are an ideal option when we talk about a handheld submersible unit. They have powerful features, are highly affordable, superior-quality radios that keep you safe on the water.

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