Are you worried that you might not connect with someone when going boating or somewhere else where cell phone reception is almost zero? Well, the only answer, or you can say, the solution for this thing is to get a handheld VHF ( Very High Frequency) radio. It is a reliable option for an emergency back-up or as a personal radio for members of the crew. These handheld VHF radios are small in size and easily portable, making them perfect to use in such situations.
Well, to help you get the best, in this article, you will find the handheld VHF radio reviews for the best options that you have. To make it more simple for you, I have also mentioned some of the essential things that you must consider.
So, let’s get started with the reviews of some of the best handheld VHF radio first.
- Best Handheld VHF Radio Reviews
- 1. Uniden MHS75 Handheld VHF Radio
- 2. Cobra MRHH350FLT Handheld VHF Radio
- 3. Standard Horizon HX890 Handheld VHF Radio
- 4. ICOM IC-M25 21 Handheld VHF Radio
- 5. Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld VHF Radio
- 6. Standard Horizon HX400 Handheld VHF Radio
- 7. Radioddity Voyage RV6 VHF Radio Handheld
- 8. Standard Horizon HX870 Handheld VHF
- 9. Retevis RT 55 VHF Radio Handheld
- 10. ICOM IC-M93D VHF Handheld Radio
- 11. Standard HX300 Handheld VHF Radio
- 12. Standard Horizon HX40 VHF Handheld Radio
- What to Look for When Buying a Handheld VHF Radio
- Other Important Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Best Handheld VHF Radio Reviews
1. Uniden MHS75 Handheld VHF Radio
The Uniden Handheld 2-Way VHF Marine radio is indeed one of the best products available due to its JIS8 Waterproof level. Such a feature prevents it from getting damaged no matter how wet it gets. In fact, this radio can function well at a distance of 5 feet for around 30 minutes underwater.
The best thing about this radio is that you can easily select between 1, 2.5, and 5 Watts depending upon your need for communication.
It plays all USA, International, and Canada Channels. Hence, the radio will help you to keep up with all the marine activities that are happening, which is another fantastic factor about it. I will also mention the rugged built-in quality of the radio that enables it to take the rigors all day and still give you a good performance.
Furthermore, you will love its Triple Watch mode, which monitors channels 16 and 9 for a signal when you are still listening to the selected channel. It also checks channels 16 and 9 for activities every two seconds, allowing you to monitor every activity very quickly.
The radio has a frequency range from 156 MegaHertz to 158 MegaHertz to get signals 15 to 20 miles away from the shore.
of all, you Best can easily switch among the three main modes- normal, scan, and weather mode. While the normal mode monitors all your saved channels, and the weather mode monitors the weather channels. It also allows you to add up to more than a hundred saved locations.
2. Cobra MRHH350FLT Handheld VHF Radio
The Cobra brand is famous for providing the best handheld VHF marine radios; and this particular model can be your best pick. It allows you to operate channels in the US, Canada, and other parts of the world.
You can efficiently operate the radio at 1, 3, or 6 Watts depending upon the range of communication you want. You can also access NOAA weather channels, which is a great thing because when you want to communicate in a short-range, you can choose the power accordingly.
It will be working appropriately even if you try to submerge it in 3 feet deep water for around 30 minutes. Also, I recommend this model as it has a burp feature that vibrates the water from the speaker grill to improve the speaker’s performance. With the help of the noise-canceling microphone, it can reduce the background sounds, allowing you to have clear communication on both ends.
The next thing that I find good about this radio is its floating design, which makes it easy for you to retrieve it. In my opinion, this is not only the best choice for VHF radio but also the best option for a walkie talkie.
Apart from that, the Cobra MRHH 350 also gives you a strong connection and a tri-watch to monitor three different channels simultaneously. Its battery life is about 16 hours when the power is at 1 Watt and 8 hours when the power is at 6 Watts. Hence, you can rely on the device for a day trip.
It comes ready to use a drop-in battery charger, AC and DC charger, Lithium-ion battery pack, belt clip, and a wrist strap. So the set is ideal for use as soon as it arrives.
3. Standard Horizon HX890 Handheld VHF Radio
I like the Standard Horizon HX890 as it is a handheld VHF radio with DSC (Digital Selective Calling) and Class-H operation. This device also allows you to select from 1, 2, or 6 Watt of power transmission output based on the range of communication that you require.
This radio comes with a built-in integrated 66 channel WAAS GPS Receiver and an easy-to-operate menu system along with a large, full-dot matrix display. Further, it gives you loud audio of 700 mW and features noise-canceling, which allows you to have clear communication at both ends.
As expected, it features submersible IPX8 construction and a floating design. Another highlight of this radio is the selectable display mode using which you can select the Day and Night mode accordingly for better visibility on display.
It also has a MOB (Man overBoard) feature and water-activated emergency “White” strobe light. This gives you a versatile scanning operation with its Dual and Triple Watch functions, and you can also access NOAA Weather Channels with weather alerts. I like the overall operating time too, which is 11 hours due to a 1800 mAh high capacity Lithium-ion battery.
4. ICOM IC-M25 21 Handheld VHF Radio
The IC-M25 is another excellent handheld VHF radio to consider from this list. The slim design and light body makes it a perfect choice as a portable VHF radio. Yet, with such a compact design, its performance is not compromised under any circumstance.
It has an LCD screen that is 39% bigger than the radio’s predecessor, which gives you a clear view. It is easy to operate by using the front panel buttons to offer smooth performance.
One fantastic thing about this radio is that it floats, and comes with a flashing red LED light and backlight on the LCD and keys. Thus, it is effortless for you to find the radio when dropping it in water.
Besides, this radio comes with a standard Micro-B USB connector to charge the radio. You can also buy an optional HM-213 speaker-microphone, which gives a commercial-grade convenience when the radio is attached to the waist belt. Even it gives users a powerful, loud audio output with 550 mW to enjoy clear sound quality.
5. Uniden Atlantis 155 Handheld VHF Radio
There are multiple excellent features incorporated in the Uniden Atlantis Marine Radio. Even though it is small in size and has a compact design, it still has all the essential functions that will help you feel safe and secure at sea.
The first reason to utilize the radio is its submersible IPX7 / JIS7 construction that allows floating on water. The next feature of the product is its large LCD screen and a Paper White Backlight display for Day time, and Red Backlight display for Nighttime for clear visibility.
It can also receive all Marine Radio Channels, including USA, Canada, and International Marine VHF Channels. This can also access all NOAA Weather Channels and their alerts. Besides, the radio has clear speakers and a vibrating tone when it is submerged in water to hear the voice.
The radio transmits the power of 1 or 3 Watts, and you can easily select between them depending upon the range of communication that you want. One of the good things about this radio is that it comes with 3 years of waterproof warranty and a construction that can last for a long time.
6. Standard Horizon HX400 Handheld VHF Radio
The HX400 model, another well-made device from Standard Horizon, is one of the best portable marine radios to use while in the sea area. After all, it has all the necessary features.
This radio’s unique features that I like the most are the built-in noise-canceling microphone and the voice scrambler, which allows your voice to be heard clearly. One more thing worth mentioning is its audio power supply of 700mW that gives extremely loud audio even in a noisy environment.
The radio is supplied with a 2300 mAh Lithium-ion battery. Hence, it gives you a remarkable battery life of up to 17 hours. We can fully charge the unit in just 3 hours. You can also benefit from its dual watch function, and a battery bar graph gauge on the display that informs you of the radio’s remaining battery.
Along with these features, it receives all USA, Canadian and International channels with NOAA Weather Channels. There are ten NOAA and Canadian weather channels that you can easily select by the dedicated WX key. The main reason why this is the perfect marine radio is that it can program 40 Land Mobile Radio channels that have CTCSS and DCS signaling.
It also has a submersible IPX8 rating and can be submerged under 4-5 feet for about 30 minutes. Further, the radio allows you to select between 5 and 1 Watt transmit power output depending upon the range of communication you need.
The last stunning thing about this radio is that it comes with a 3-year waterproof warranty. So, if the radio is damaged due to water, you get free replacement or repair service in the first three years.
7. Radioddity Voyage RV6 VHF Radio Handheld
The Voyage RV6 radio is a reliable marine handheld radio that I bought without any doubt. This radio is the best in terms of safety as it gives you a dual-watch and Tri-watch function. Thus, you can monitor three channels like Channel 16, Channel 9, and one other channel at once.
It is also effortless to access Channel 16, an emergency channel, and you can quickly call the coast guard for help using the 16/C button. Apart from this, it is also IP67 waterproof and is submersible for about 30 minutes under 3 feet of water. Not just it can float on water but it even boasts a Red Flashing light on the bottom, helping you to locate its position.
Even if it slips in water, the speakers are not affected because its speaker grill produces a vibrating sound that removes the water from it; hence, affording clear audio.
Besides, it can access around 10 NOAA weather channels to tell you change in the weather when you are on a boat. Thus, you can make the right decisions accordingly.
The radio also covers all USA, Canadian, and International marine channels, keeping you updated with all the marine activities. This also has a 1500 mAh Lithium-ion battery, which gives you a reasonable runtime.
8. Standard Horizon HX870 Handheld VHF
The HX870 VHF radio receives rave reviews for its distinct functions as a water-proof unit. In my opinion, it is among the best 6 Watt handheld marine radios in this list.
Firstly it has an internally built GPS and also meets ITU-R M493-13 Class D Digital Selective Calling (DSC). So, it makes sure that your location is tracked quickly in case of an emergency, and you can communicate without hassle. Thus, it is the right choice for you one in terms of safety.
It is the first handheld radio to have an in-build GPS and comes with float on water design. Besides, the radio has a large full dot matrix display, and the screen also has a bright backlight. Thus, I can easily locate the radio if I drop it in water.
Best of all, the radio allows you to continuously view and track the position of around nine vessels using the group monitoring aspect of the radio. Moreover, with the radio’s preset keys, you have the freedom to save up to ten channels of your choice.
This VHF radio boats a 66- channel WAAS GPS receiver and can access NOAA weather channels to update you with all-weather conditions. Further, it has a submersible IPX8 waterproof rating with which it can be submerged under 4-5 feet of water for 30 minutes.
Additionally, its active noise-canceling feature ensures a clear and loud conversation at both ends of the radio. It also includes a 1900 mAh Lithium-ion battery with an operating time of up to 10 hours even when GPS is on.
9. Retevis RT 55 VHF Radio Handheld
This VHF radio comes with 100% floating assurance for us to use while on a sea trip. In detail, it has a 1-second automatic floating function, which means that as soon as you drop it in water, the radio takes one second to come and float above the surface.
Besides, IP67 waterproof quality also makes it a durable product. The self-contained drainage function can eliminate the water that enters into the speaker and mic, giving you a clear sound every time.
Another reason to like this radio is that it has a tri-watch function for you to monitor the current channel and the other two more channels, including channel 16. It also has a TAG hot button to quickly collect the channels you want and achieve priority fast scanning.
Further, its wide frequency range covers all the USA, Canada, and International marine channels. If you operate it on high power, it can give you an excellent high range to easily communicate without losing the signal.
The radio can access NOAA weather channels and features a weather alarm to scan and alert you of the extreme weather conditions. In case of a risk, its integrated alarm will instantly give you an indication.
The LCD screen is another fantastic feature in this VHF radio that has an automatic backlight. Also, the clarity of the screen can be adjusted from high to low to adapt to bad weather.
Lastly, it comes with a 1200 mAh Lithium-ion battery, which gives you a good operating time. Its ultra-lightweight and ergonomic design offers an anti-slip design for a good grip of the radio and comes with a 2-year warranty.
10. ICOM IC-M93D VHF Handheld Radio
The ICOM IC-M93D VHF marine radio coming with a 2-tone body and a slim design is the perfect tool for serious sailors. The radio has an integrated GPS meeting ITU-R M493-13 Class D Digital Selective Calling (DSC), and a dedicated built-in DSC receiver for CH 70.
It is mainly built for captains due to its flat sheet keypad that offers consistent operation based on the common Marine family user interface of ICOM. Also, the radio has a large full dot-matrix display and high contrast display, for you to see under direct sunlight easily.
Another amazing thing about this radio is that it has an integrated GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System) receiver. Thus, it shows your location, speeds, and bearing quickly and accurately using the information from GLONASS, QZSS, GPs, and SBAS (WAAS/ EGNOS/ MSAS). The radio also has a red rear panel button, allowing navigation function for distress calls from your current position to the specified 50 waypoint memories.
As many radios in this list, this one features dual and tri watch functions, enabling you to monitor Channel 16 along with the other two channels simultaneously.
To locate the position of this radio if dropped in water, you can rely on its flash. With the active speaker grill draining function that removes the speaker’s grill’s water, it allows you to hear the audio clearly.
The radio also offers an active noise-canceling technology to have clear and loud communication. Moreover, it comes with a five-watt of transmission power, providing you a good range of communication.
11. Standard HX300 Handheld VHF Radio
The Standard HX300 is an extremely compact and floating handheld radio that gives you a power output of 5 Watts. The amazing thing about the radio is that it has a flashing strobe light, which activates when it is dropped in water. Thus, it is way more comfortable for you to locate the radio even in the dark.
The radio has many more benefits that makes it a worthy purchase. It gives you a programmable scan, priority scan, and a ten channel preset key selection with which you can select and save up to ten channels. Further, you can monitor two or three different channels simultaneously with the help of its Dual and Tri watch function.
One more fantastic thing about the radio is its 600 mW internal audio speaker, which delivers superb audio quality even in a noisy environment. It means you can hear the voice very clearly without any disturbance.
As this is a floating radio with a submersible IPX8 rating, it implies the radio can sustain deep into the water of up to 4.92 feet for around 30 minutes.
It can also access all USA, Canadian, and International marine channels along with NOAA weather channels and has a weather alert that keeps you updated about weather activities.
Further, the LCD also has volume and squelch indicators, making it more convenient for you to use. The radio also allows you to select between 1 and 5 Watt transmit power output depending upon the range of communication you require.
Besides, with a high capacity 1650 mAh 3.7V Lithium-ion non-memory rechargeable battery, it gives a good runtime of up to 10 hours.
12. Standard Horizon HX40 VHF Handheld Radio
This radio has an ultra-compact design and promises an excellent performance. Being small in size, the radio still holds a 6 Watt of transmit power output. Also, it allows you to select from 1, 2.5, or 6 Watt power range for breezy switching.
Further, with its 600 mW audio output, you will get extremely loud audio even in a noisy environment. Hence, while on the sea, we can have a clear communication without focusing on the background noises.
Best of all, we can be aware of all weather activities since the radio can also access weather channels and alerts. With its preset dedicated keys, you can select and save up to ten channels. It also has an FM Broadcast Radio Receiver to pick AM/FM radio stations of the frequency band between 76 MHz to 108 MHz; hence, it also serves the entertainment purpose.
As it has a dual watch and triple watch, you can monitor two to three channels simultaneously without leaving any updates. It also has access to NOAA weather channels to give you alerts of all the marine activities.
It features a large 1859 mAh battery for a longer usage time. Its submersible construction of an IPX7 waterproof rating of up to 1 meter let the radio work in water for around 30 minutes. Lastly, the simplified operative menu of the radio gives you convenient and quick control of all the options.
What to Look for When Buying a Handheld VHF Radio
Whenever you buy something, I am sure that you never rush into purchasing the first thing that catches your attention. Similarly, it would be best if you are careful while buying a handheld VHF radio. After all, this might be the only help in an emergency. So, let’s discuss some of the things that you should look for before finalizing any handheld VHF radio.
- Water Resistance
The most important thing to look for in a marine radio is its water-resistancy. To make it clear, you must go for a submersible waterproof model, which is IPX7 or IPX 8 and not just splashproof as that is IPX4 grade quality.
Nowadays, you will also find some VHF radios which have features of buoyancy. This feature makes the radio to float on the surface even if you accidentally drop the radio. Also, in terms of emergencies, you might be needing a radio which can easily float on the surface of the water so that you can use it conveniently.
- Noise Cancelling Technology
Having an active noise-canceling technology on the radio would be best if you will be operating it in a noisy environment like a motor cruiser with the waves and engine noise. This technology will reduce the background noises to a certain extent, making your voice transmitted and heard very clearly. Also, it helps in improving an incoming signal and voice quality as well.
A built-in GPS in a VHF radio will give you additional safety in times of emergency. It will help others locate your position very quickly because it will provide a navigational capability to the radio. Also, you must know that not all the VHF radios have a GPS built-in, so it would be better to search for the one that has a GPS in it.
- Consider DSC capability
You may want to consider a digital selective calling (DSC) capability in your VHF radio because this function will help you send a direct location to emergency services.This feature will help them to locate your location quickly.
- Range and Antenna
You also need to make sure that the handheld VHF radio that you buy has good coverage, which is suitable for places like sea.Even as the radios transmit signals in a straight line, it is better to have one that has a long antenna. You must know this factor that the radio range depends upon power. So, the higher the power, the higher will be the range.
It is considered that the more the MilliWatts(mW), the louder the volume will be. It is essential to have a loud volume because you can be in a noisy place due to wind, waves, and engine, where listening to the audio can be challenging. So, you must also check the quality of audio that the radio gives you.
- Other things
Your priority must be that marine radio should be easy to use and operate because if it is complicated, it won’t be of any help at the time of emergency. Plus, a straightforward and detailed instruction should be included in the package.
Buying a radio that has high power Watts will increase the signal’s chances from the radio to be heard better. So, it is better to look for a high power VHF radio.
Also, you need to make sure that whichever radio you buy has a good battery life. A short battery life means you have to charge it frequently and it may not last in times of an emergency. So, ensure that it has a high battery power and can also be charged quickly.
Other Important Factors to Consider
What is a handheld VHF radio?
A handheld VHF (very high frequency) radio is a portable radio that is the tool used for getting help from the crew of a boat. It is the best option to get help in an emergency as cell phone reception is not accessible in offshore areas. Thus, it is the most popular way used to communicate with other boats as well.
Who this is for?
It is for people who travel in oceans, crew members of a boat or ship, or traveling to those areas where cell reception is not available. They can use a handheld VHF radio to communicate with others and use it as an emergency tool. It is also used for bidirectional communication between two ships, ship, and shore, or even ship and aircraft.
Having a handheld VHF radio onboard ensures safety for all the members, as it can help them communicate and let others know about their location and situation. Overall, a VHF radio is useful in ships, boats, military agencies, police departments, Aircraft, many government agencies, and more.
How does it work?
The frequency band of a VHF radio is between the range of 30 to 300 MegaHertz (MHz). Besides, the propagation mode for the radio waves of VHF is via direct waves that travel in a straight line. Since these waves travel in a straight line, they become weaker as the distance increases.
VHF is mainly used when there is no obstruction in the path between two radios, the line of sight (LOS). To have effective communication, the transmitting and receiving antennas of the VHF radios must have the ability to see each other. Because of this, the height of the antenna is an essential factor that is used in determining the range. Apart from this, the elevation of the antenna at the time of use is also necessary to transmit and receive the waves.
The receiver receives the radio waves, which translates the information carried by the frequencies while a transmitter will send the radio waves to the receiver of another radio. You will also find a tuner on the radio, which helps you sort the different frequency signals and receive the signal from one particular frequency.
What are the different types of handheld VHF radios?
There are mainly two types of handheld VHF radios that are commonly used. These two are:
- Handheld VHF Air Band Radios – They are used for navigation and communication in aircraft and are usually 5 watts.
- Handheld Marine VHF Radios – They are used to communicate between two ships no matter whether they are large or small, or between ship and shore.
Apart from these two, there are a few more radios that operate on VHF frequencies, like:
- Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) has five assigned VHF frequencies and is available for business and personal use.
- Amateur Radio Service (Ham Radio) also operates on VHF frequencies, but it requires a license to use.
Why do you need a handheld VHF radio?
As this radio can act as a safety tool in emergencies, so it is essential to carry when you are going to places where mobile reception is not available. It helps you to communicate with others regarding the situation of the ship or aircraft you are on. The radio is mainly needed by crew members to communicate with each other or communicate with other ships, aircraft, or on the shore, depending upon the usage.
Even though there are fixed VHF radios in the vessels or planes, you still need a handheld VHF radio. Since in case you get separated or there occurs any situation where you cannot use the fixed radio, then the only option you will be left to survive is to use a handheld VHF radio.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most trusted handheld VHF radio brands?
Always go with the trusted brands as they sell a good quality handheld VHF radio. These include Standard Horizon, Uniden, ICOM, and Cobra. All of them offer you a good variety and quality of handheld VHF radios.
Thus, you can easily trust these brands when buying a VHF radio. Among all these brands Uniden MHS126 handheld VHF marine radio has the best handheld marine radio reviews.
How many miles can a VHF radio transmit?
The transmission range of a VHF radio depends on its transmission power, ranging between 1 and 25 Watts. This power range can give a maximum transmit range of up to 60 nautical miles, which is 111Km.
How to use a handheld VHF radio?
To use a handheld VHF radio is quite simple; you can follow the steps below to use it for making a call:
- Turn the power on and adjust the squelch to eliminate static. When the static is no longer heard, you can stop turning it.
- Now you need to tune the radio channel that you want, and in case of emergencies, you can tune the radio to channel 16 because USCG continuously monitors it. But if it is not an emergency, you can select the channel, key the mic and hold it at a 90-degree angle and speak clearly without smashing it up against your mouth.
- If it is an emergency, you can use the call sign of “mayday,” and you can say the appropriate call sign three times in a clear voice, followed by the name of your ship or aircraft or vessel.
If you have to perform a radio check, you can use any open channel but not channel 16 and use the call sign of “radio check.”
Using a handheld VHF radio is easy, but it also depends on the model that you buy because every model has different features to use. However, the fundamental way of using them remains the same.
How to care and maintain a handheld VHF radio?
As they are your best options to survive in emergencies, so you need to take proper care of a handheld VHF radio. Firstly, you need to find a suitable place to store it safely. Ensure that when it is not in use, you turn off the radio and remove the batteries.
You must also use only those batteries and chargers that are compatible with the radio because using other chargers or batteries can damage the radio. Further, make sure that you never overcharge it, so whenever it gets fully charged, unplug it immediately.
It is not recommended to hold the radio with its antenna, which will disrupt the signal and quality of transmission. Besides, you must not use chemicals, cleaners, or spray to clean the radio because they can easily damage the radio. Rather clean it with the help of a cloth to remove all the dust.
As you know that there are numerous varieties of handheld VHF radios available for you to buy, so it is better to choose the best one for you. With the help of reviews of all the options mentioned in the article, you can easily discover which features are necessary. Analyzing all the factors properly will help you find the best handheld VHF radio for yourself.