You don’t need to spend a bundle of cash to get a first-class handheld VHF radio.
A handheld VHF radio is a useful tool for a variety of tasks aboard any boat, be it big or small.
On a kayak or skiff, these types of VHF radios serve well as the primary method of communicating. Plus, you don’t have to worry about running wires, or mounting the radio and antenna.
It can also play a role as a means of two-way communication if the dinghy is launched or a member of your party is ashore nearby.
What we found from our comparison is that dropping down a notch in price from a more expensive handheld VHF marine radio doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing quality or performance of the functions and features our testers believe are most important.
In our review, most of the less expensive radios performed as well as those units priced significantly higher.
So what do you lose by opting for a less expensive radio? Bells and whistles.
If DSC calling, scramblers, or the ability to make and receive transmissions on aircraft, AM/FM, or family radio bands are the special features you are looking for, then the lower priced radios we’ve tested won’t likely meet your needs.
However, if all you want is a high quality portable VHF radio to serve as an emergency backup to your fixed-mount radio, making short-range calls from your cockpit or dinghy, then a number of the less expensive portable VHF radios will serve you just fine.
Before you blast into the individual reviews, check out our how we test handheld VHF radios page so everything in the review makes sense to you.
As youll see in our reviews, the quality of the transmitters and receivers varies somewhat, as does the all-important battery life.
Here’s another value added feature when you use a handheld as a backup to a fixed-mount.
Some handheld radios will allow you to connect to the boat’s main antenna using an adapter and significantly increase your portable vhf radio transceiver range.
Just make sure you plan ahead and have the appropriate hardware aboard.
Do you have a marine handheld VHF radio you’ve been using that does a great job? Or one that has provided great service? Or perhaps survived a mishap and still keeps on? We’d like to hear about it. Give all your raves. Let’s hear lots of details. Tell us how has worked for you. Is the unit easy to operate? How is the screen? Battery Life? Ever dropped it? Any problems or issues? Let’s hear all the details, good and bad. Leave a comment at the end of this post to share with others.