Communication is essential for fishing, especially when exploring a new reel. Over the years, handheld marine radios have developed from just communication devices to devices having features that make them more convenient and efficient.
However, there are many handheld VHF marine radios, and making the right choice might be difficult. This article reviews the best radios and offers tips for buying the right one.
Our Top Picks
Top 5 Handheld Radios
- Best Overall – Standard Horizon HX870 Handheld Marine Radio
- Best Value for Money – Cobra MRHH 350 FLT Floating Radio
- Most Durable – Baofeng BF-F8HP Handheld Radio
- Best for Emergencies – ICOM IC-M94D Handheld Marine Radio
- Best Budget – Cobra MRHH 125 Handheld Marine Radio
Many handheld marine radios are on the market, but not all of them will tick your boxes. Having the right radio can make a difference between being safe and at the mercy of dangerous situations.
This chapter reviews the five best handheld VHF marine radio you can choose from.
- 6W transmit power output (Selectable 6/ 2/ 1 W)
- 700mW Loud Audio and Noise Canceling Function for both TX/RX…
- Rugged case construction conforms to Military Standard…
This handheld marine radio has all the necessary safety features and is highly practical. It is lightweight and designed to survive water up to 25 ft, having an IPX8 waterproof.
This radio comes with a large screen that makes operation and deciphering relatively easier for users. It comes with DSC and GPS features that make it extra secure and reliable.
In the case of an emergency, the user can quickly contact the coast guard or other security providers with this handheld radio.
This VHF features an 1800 mAh battery making it extra reliable. Its battery life makes it one of the best companions for boaters who go out in the ocean or explore other fishing spots.
It comes with a speed charging charger that makes using it even better and more comfortable.
- DSC and GPS empowered
- Long-lasting battery
Best Value for Money
- Noise-Cancelling Microphone – When embarking on a marine…
- 6 Watt VHF – This radio provides the ability to customize…
- Backlit + Floats – This radio is backlit and has an…
This radio is one of the best from the Cobra stables. It is durable and designed to withstand harsh fishing conditions.
This device is waterproof up to IPX8 standard and designed to vibrate off water from the speaker.
The device features an impressive battery life of 8 hours and has a charging time of 5 hours. It is lightweight, at just 9.6 ounces, and can float on water if it falls in.
This Cobra radio comes with three years warranty that secures you against the manufacturer’s default.
- Durable battery life
- Lightweight and floatable
- 3 years warranty
- Upgrades from our Previous Generation UV-5R: Twice the…
- High / Med / Low Power Settings (8W, 4W, 1W); Frequency…
- The BF-F8HP was designed in the USA and because not everyone…
This device is reputable for its durability. It is built to withstand harsh conditions, and its antenna makes it useful for emergencies. It has a durable battery life that lasts for 20 hours and charges for about 8 hours.
The device weighs 1.1 lbs, making it suitable for maneuvering and used in any fishing conditions. It comes with a one-year warranty that secures you against manufacturer’s defects.
- Durable material
- One year warranty
- 20 hours of battery life
- Antenna for clear signals during an emergency
Best for Emergencies
This very high-frequency radio features DSC and GPS receiver, making it suitable for emergencies and passing a distress signal. It has an IPX7 waterproofing that makes it durable and usable even if it falls into the water.
This device has 9 hours of battery power and charges for 2 hours. It is lightweight, weighing 544g, and floats on water.
- DSC and GPS receiver
- 9/2 battery life
- Lightweight and floatable
- WATT SELECTION – Chose between 1 or 3 watt output for short…
- PREMIUM LCD SCREEN DISPLAY – Easy to view LCD screen…
- 10 NOAA WEATHER CHANNELS – Be the first to know of incoming…
This marine radio is designed to withstand light rain to a certain degree, although it is not as waterproof as other products. It features backlit for easy operation at night.
The rechargeable battery on this VHF marine radio is designed to last for nine hours. It weighs 228g making it suitable for use while fishing.
- Suitable for any weather condition
- Backlight for easy night operation
- Durable battery
What To Consider When Buying Handheld VHF Marine Radios
Buying the best radio for yourself depends on knowing what features to look for in them. When purchasing, there are several things you need to take note of, including:
The purpose of needing the marine radio will determine the type you will buy. A radio with several channels monitor is best for people who fish out in the sea.
A fixed VHF radio is best for people who fish out in the ocean. Knowing which type is best for your kind of fishing is a key point in making the best choice.
The Transmission Clarity
The transmission clarity in your radio determines how far you will be able to use it. If you need to get in touch with someone several miles away from you, a radio with a high transmission clarity is best for such long-range.
If you want a radio that can travel several miles, you have to go for one with high power. A radio with high power is best if you would be fishing out into the sea or ocean and can come in handy if you need to call out.
However, radios with high power tend to drain the battery faster. It is most advisable to get a radio with adjustable power settings. This radio will let you preserve your radio’s power until you need it.
It is always better to go for a radio with a longer-lasting battery. However, considering how portable radio is, there is a limit to how much power you have at your disposal.
If you want to go for a radio with longer battery life, you will pick one that is not as portable and handheld as you would want.
The best way to approach battery concerns is to go for a radio with a power range that you want and use it as is necessary. If you have the means to charge it, then you have to do so before you set out.
Radios for boaters are usually designed to withstand water to a certain degree. This is great for the eventuality of falling into the water or having your radio wet.
Although most handheld VHF radios are designed to float on water and withstand the impact, it is best to go for a radio with a high rating for water resistance.
IPX7 and IPX8 radios are the best because they can resist water to an impressive degree of 3 ft and 5 ft, respectively.
A radio with built-in GPS can come in handy for adventurous boaters and fishers with specific locations in mind. that is not one of the features that will deter you from buying a radio.
It is a feature that you may want to look out for if you like exploring fishing locations.
This is because it will come in handy in using charts, maps, and other purposes. In the case of an emergency, a GPS-empowered radio will come handy in contacting the coast guard and other rescue options.
Handheld VHFs with digital selective calling, DSC is very common because of the importance of the feature. In the case of an emergency, pushing that emergency button in a DSC radio is a lifesaver.
Most handheld marine radios come with DSC, so it is advisable to get one that has this feature.
The active noise canceling technology is an essential feature that the ideal handheld radio ought to have.
If you are passing a message across with your radio, the engine noise-canceling feature will block out every external noise from engines, water, people, etc., and let your message come clear.
Rewind Say Again
Rewind Say Again is an essential feature for every handheld VHF radio. It comes in handy if you are listening to instructions or directions and the speaker does not repeat themselves.
You can also record transmissions and replay for better understanding and clarity with this feature.
Frequently Asked Questions On Radios
Can I use a cell phone instead of a radio?
Most boaters and fishers have cell phones. Cell phones have their functions, but they cannot replace radios. The radio is the best option when it comes to making distress calls and emergency services.
Also, cell coverage has limitations when it comes to remote areas. However, radios are better for such areas. Another advantage of handheld marine radios is that they are waterproof.
If you drop your phone in the water, it can sink, and even if you retrieve it, it may be damaged.
But radio is lightweight and waterproof, making them most suitable for boating and fishing than phones.
Can I buy a marine radio that does not float?
Yes. However, it is better to buy one that floats; you can retrieve it if it falls into the water. While maneuvering, your device might fall into the water and sink and get damaged if it does not float and is not waterproof.
A handheld VHF radio with a strobe light that can monitor channels with impressive transmitting power is an advantage.
Go for those that are GPS equipped with DSC capabilities, high battery life, weather channel monitoring capability, and other necessary features. The radios reviewed here are some of the best in the market.