The VHF (Very High Frequency) radio, which is also known as the two-way marine radio, is the most essential communication device to have with you while kayaking. Kayaking, can be very isolating and you will often go a few miles away from the shore. The surest and most reliable means of communication in this scenerio is the VHF radio.
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The handheld VHF radios are great for small boats and kayaks especially when you plan to not sail too far away from the shore. Many VHF radios usually do not require an external antenna and they are portable. A handheld VHF radio’s power is limited to six watts and it has an approximated distance of about 5 miles, and this usually is dependent on the weather condition and the line of sight.
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Here is a list of the best handheld VHF radio kayak from the best manufacturers that you should buy.
This article and the products that will be listed are based on only the best (according to us and a few other users that agree) handheld VHF radios spread over varying price ranges, sizes, and their unique features. Most of the lower priced handheld VHF radios are truly not worth looking at twice, and that is why we have carefully selected what models we know will be best for you, providing you with the reliability and high performance that you expect from a tool like that.
We said that you should neglect the buying of the lower priced models, but this does not mean that we are asking you to get the higher priced ones, either. Whatever your budget is, there is always something that will work best for you.
You want to get a handheld VHF radio that has a 3-year or more warranty, as you are assured of a better quality. You also need a radio that has buttons that are easy to use, and that will work well even when they are put inside a waterproof case, which is recommended for when you go boating or kayaking.
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There are some handheld VHF radios that are, by the manufacturer, labeled “waterproof,” most times, these ones aren’t really what you would expect them to be: have the ability to be fully immersed in water and still be intact; and then, there are the ones labeled “submersible,” these ones you can trust to handle more than just the occasional splashes of water. Although, you most probably wouldn’t be using one while you snorkel, but you need a handheld VHF radio that is qualifiedly up to the task.
Most of the good quality handheld VHF radios that you will find on the market are IPX7 and IPX8 rated, and they have the ability to float. Some of the higher-end radios have an emergency light that blinks, making it easy for you to find when it gets lost in the water, and it floats back to the surface.
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The power of your handheld VHF radio tells you how far your radio can transmit when it is at a great distance. If your radio has a higher power rating, then it means that there is a high chance of it transmitting at a great range. When buying a handheld VHF radio, you need to get one that has a battery pack that can be switched with AA batteries in case you happen to run out of power.
Many handheld radios come with Nicad batteries that do not take a full charge if you do not discharge them after every use. Some of the newer models use the lithium-ion cells that really do not have this issue.
It does not matter if you are kayaking in a whitewater or in a lake, the best handheld VHF radios usually are able to receive alerts that are sent by the national and international weather centers and coast guards. This feature is quite useful especially in times of storms, giving a heads-up, and giving you ample time to come ashore and make any distress calls you might need to make.
Other great features that make the handheld VHF radio and ean xcellent companion for your kayaking trips are:
Now is the time for us to dive into the best handheld VHF radios for kayak. Below is the list.
This handheld VHF radio is rated IPX8 and it comes with MOB – which stands for Man-overboard emergency actions) – function, along with an emergency strobe light. Even if this radio is turned off, it will turn on, flash an emergency light, and will send your GPS coordinates if it is dropped in water.
It has an 1800 mAh Li-Ion battery that you can charge in the span of three hours; along with this is an alkaline battery tray that you can use with 5 x AAA batteries.
This handheld VHF radio falls under the high-end category, and it is designed for the serious boaters (or kayakers) who are interested in the latest features of handheld radios, great audio quality, and a built-in GPS. It has an internal 66 channel GPS that enables you to send your coordinates when there is an emergency and even in your day-to-day operation.
The radio comes with the submersible feature and a floating ability that saves your device if you ever need to ditch your kayak.
Other features of this model:
This is an easy-to-use device that comes with an icon-based menu system, although, many might not be so endeared to this product due to its bulkiness in size. And for those within the low budget range for a handheld VHF radio, this model is a bit on the high side.
This is a compact-sized handheld VHF radio that is both water resistant and, it is also submersible. It satisfies the JIS8/IPX8 water resistant standards. This device’s submersible ability can be seen in how you can put it in water with a 1.5 meter-depth for over 30 minutes without any damage being done to it.
This device comes with an adjustable output power between 1, 2.5, 5.0 Watts Switchable Output Powers, and these are usually very rare but are very useful typically not found in most marine radios. This feature affords you the ability to switch the output power anywhere and at any time.
This dual-way radio has the Triple watch feature; and the benefit of this is that you can monitor three different channels and emergency channels every two seconds. This is also very helpful at night when the weather can be very unpredictable and very dangerous, too.
Another interesting feature of this handheld radio is its cast aluminum casing with a 2 x 4 inch and 1.5 inches in depth. It has a 1040 mAh lithium-ion battery with a quick charge of 4 hours and a 12-hour battery life that you can easily connect to a cigar lighter or a power port. Cool, right?!
For the battery, there is a battery gauge that displays battery indicators on your device that helps you to measure the remaining power, letting you know when your device is full so you can unplug it to avoid any overcharging.
Its other features:
Although this device seems fragile and delicate to handle, it is a great option for those who would want to opt for a mid-cost quality radio that you can truly rely on.
This is one amazing device; it is waterproof, weatherproof, and it can float, too. You need your handheld VHF radio to have this feature just in case you accidentally drop it into the water. It has an IPX7 rating, and this means that it can stay up to 1m in water for up to 30 minutes without any damage to its function.
It has an AquaQuake Water Draining function that helps to remove water from its speaker grill, and this is another great design for when it falls into water or is drained by the rain.
This device comes fitted with an automatic weather alert that keeps you updated on weather changes even when you find yourself miles off the coast. On the Icom M36, you can set your favorite channels anytime with channels scanning: 59, for the US, 63, for Canada, and 59 international Marine Channels that are on this device.
Like the UNIDEN MHS75 handheld device model, the Icom M36 has the dual and Tri-watch feature, and it also has a 980 mAh lithium-Ion battery pack along with rechargeable battery. After just a single charge, the battery can last up to 8 hours.
You can use this VHF radio with the help of the available 10 push buttons. It has a push-to-talk switch that can be found on its side. You can also choose various levels of RF power of up to 6 Watts.
There are the wrist wrap, belt clip, and battery pack features for your convenience, along with a removable antenna that you can connect to a larger mounted radio that will help increase your range.
Its other features include:
This device is known to be loud and to also have an extended battery life, making it reliable and a great choice of purchase for your safe padding. The only downside to this radio is its inability to transmit at long distances.
The Cobra MR HH350W handheld VHF radio can easily be called one of the best handheld VHF radios currently on sale because it has a great signal quality with a high-power output (and it has a choice selection within the ranges of 1/3/6 Watts).
This device has all the NOAA weather channels and weather alerts, that helps you to keep track of storms for when you are out on the sea.
It comes with main features like the noise canceling microphone, JIS7 and IPX7 rated submersible (it can be submerged for up to 30 minutes in water that is 3.3 ft. deep), there are also the Tri-Watch feature, memory scan, and BURP (Burp makes sure that it vibrates, removing water from the speaker grill, and reducing any kind of distortion).
This device also floats with the orange inserts on its body that makes it easy to spot. The Cobra MR HH350W handheld VHF radio also comes with an adjustable power of 6 Watts VHF (this has a selection range of 1, 3, and 6 Watts for both long and short range communication).
It is easy to carry about, and this is due to its very compact design, and you can easily store it in your boat or kayak. Its compact design does not in any way affect its floating ability.
Its other features:
Its bright function keys, its reliable design, and its reasonable price makes this handheld VHF radio model a great value among the many portable VHF radios that are manufactured by reputable manufacturers.
Since this device has an extended battery life, many users feel very comfortable and happy using it, giving it good ratings.
This device is for kayakers who aren’t looking to get anything expensive, making it very affordable. Its features have made it relegated to one of the very affordable handheld VHF radios in the market. It has compact design that is also rugged, with all the necessary features needed for a device within its price range.
The Cobra MRHH125 VHF radio is JIS7 certified, and this means that it is only splash-proof and not the typically full-on submersible device. Its VHF operates at either 1 Watt or 3 Watts dual output power for both short and long-distance communication.
This feature makes the device limited and totally not suitable for those who plan to sail out into the deep sea.
It has a keystroke tone signal that you can use to confirm key activation, a feature that you can choose to either turn off or on.
There is a weather alert that blares coupled with an audible tone and a visual alarm for when there is a threatening weather nearby; there also is a selectable roger beep tone that indicates the completion of a user’s transmission, letting other users know that it is clear for them to talk.
Its other features:
It takes a while for its battery to get fully charged, and that is the only downside to this device. For any kayaker, this device is easy to use and handle especially if you do not plan to travel far out into the sea.
With this review, we hope that you will be able to make an informed buying choice and find one that falls within your budget. You should also ensure to check out our post on the Best GPS Watch for Kayaking