Handheld Marine VHF Radios

I hope you already have a safety kit on board in your abandon ship bag. A handheld marine VHF (Very High Frequency) radio is your trump card, and should be in everyone's safety kit. No matter how messed up your situation has gotten, this radio helps you quickly call for help from nearby boats or the Coast Guard.

Arguably one of the most important safety items onboard your boat, your marine VHF radio will be the primary way for you to communicate in the case of an emergency. A marine VHF radio from LRSE is far more reliable than a cell phone, as the cell phone was never designed to be used for maritime communication.

What is a VHF Radio?

A radio with very high frequency ranging between 156.0 and 174 MHz, that’s used for a variety of purposes, including summoning rescue services. A combined transmitter and receiver that operates on standard and international frequencies known as channels, with transmission power ranges between 1 and 25 watts. Channel 16 is the international distress channel.

Features to Look for in Handheld VHF Radios

A handheld marine VHF radio is a lifeline to the outside world, and vital to your survival. It’s a piece of equipment that all boaters should have with them on board when they are out on the water. Today's units are much better than ever before. But before you pick one up, it’s good to know what key handheld VHF radio features to look for.

  • Size/Weight
  • Today’s technology seems to be getting smaller and lighter by the year. Look for a VHF radio that’s an appropriate size for your hand, and one that’s comfortable to operate.

  • Multi-Channel Monitoring
  • Many VHF radios offer Dual or Tri-Watch technology, which allows you to monitor multiple channels at the same time. Having access to channel 9 and 16 for emergencies are invaluable features.

  • Digital Selective Calling
  • It’s smart to get a VHF radio that offers the protection of digital selective calling (DSC). When you activate the distress function, the built-in GPS will broadcast your information and coordinates.

  • Floatability
  • Having the ability to float helps if you ever need to abandon ship, or it accidentally falls overboard. Be proactive and purchase a VHF radio that features a floating design.

  • Waterproof
  • You want to be sure to get a handheld VHF radio that is completely waterproof, not weather-proof or water-resistant, which means it will likely not work if it becomes submerged.

  • Noise Canceling Microphone
  • When you are out on the water, there is almost always wind. It’s a good idea for your marine VHF radio to come with a noise-canceling microphone for better communication.

  • Weather Alerts
  • Weather changes quickly, so it’s important to have access to weather emergencies. A VHF radio with a weather alert feature helps you be better informed, in case a weather warning is issued.  


    Bottom Line

    Having a proper way to communicate on open waters can mean the difference between life and death. While bringing your cell phone with you when you are spending time on your boat is never a bad thing, it’s definitely not something you should rely on. Every boater should have a handheld marine VHF radio onboard.