emergency radio

I am debating between a VHF and a GMRS(family) radio for emergency contact while out kayaking. Any input or suggestions?


No one is listening…
to the family radio…

Depending where you paddle the Coast Guard should be monitoring the VHF.

all the way… puts you in touch with almost everyone else on the water. I also use it for travelling thru locks

Thanks but ??
Thanks but also what is the range of the VHF?

I agree
I agree FRS/GMRS radios are useless in an emergency. Buy a good icom VHF radio. Or in all honesty a cell phone would be best.


line of sight
Range depends on setting and how high you are over the water. At a foot and a half (kayak height), 2-5 miles. From the deck of a boat, 5-10.

VHF gives you WX weather radio and the ability to talk with your party, other boats, ships, ferries, or hail the Coast Guard in an emergency. Kind of nice.

Advice: Carry spare batteries and back up your VHF with an aquapack.

cell phone is not best
1) A cell phone is party-to-party, connecting only two people at a time. VHF is one-to-many, allowing people to stay in the loop and coordinate in an emergency.

2) Some places lack coverage. I tried making a call not long ago from Hope Island, just off the north end of Olympia WA, only to find no signal (Olympia is the state capital).

Thanks and I now show my lack of knowledge about this again, what is an aquapack?

Consider a Personal Locator Beacon
Can you be more specific about your needs?

Do you want a radio in order to talk with other people in your group? If that is the case then a GMRS radio would do OK if you pretty much in line-of-sight range.

Do you want to contact other people in the area? How do you know they’ll have radios too?

If you really want something that will get help in an emergency, then what you really need is a personal locator beacon … like this:


If you do get one, spend the extra for one with a built-in GPS. The push of a button will send a signal out that will tell rescuers that you need help, it will give them your GPS coordinates within about 100 meters (without the GPS the accuracy is within about 1.5 miles), and it also broadcasts a locator signal that might help them as they get nearby (if they’re equipped to use that signal).

Here is a good description of how they work:


You didn’t say where you are paddling
and someone please correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t believe anyone is monitoring the VHF when you are on a inland lake or river.

I have a VHF, and don’t leave home witout it when I am on the ocean or the Gulf, but the only thing it is good for in land is the weather, or talking to your friends.

when I was down in the Keys this past winter we were listening to the Key West Coast Guard Station which was over thirty miles away from us.

They evidently have a much more powerful signal than our little hand helds.





Where I live the state marine patrol has jurisdiction on lakes over 10 acres, and they monitor channel 16 when they’re operating. But it’s not always 24/7, and they’re not always on the same lakes

Aquapack is a brand of flexible, waterproof bag designed to protect a radio and still let you operate the controls.

Some folks swear by such bags, some swear at them. The consensus seems to be that if you use one, leave it open when you’re off the water to eliminate the chance of trapping moisture inside with your radio.

Don’t bother getting a radio that isn’t submersible. Icom seem to be the favorite brand among posters here, but Standard Horizon, Uniden, and West Marine have their fans as well.

Float Plan
Always file a float plan…maybe nothing official but make sure some one not attending knows where you are and when you should be returning. Good maps help too, so if you are in trouble you can have a good idea of where you are to tell the Coast Guard. I have a cheapy pair of VHFs from Cobra and put them in aquapacks. They are by no means seaworthy. But I am mostly on inland lakes and rivers lately and the mortgage, vet bills and car problems of late are cutting into the fun budget. Eventually, I will upgrade to a better radio. But in the meantime the pair was $26 including two chargers (and I have to say I am REALLY impressed with the battery life). This means that on group paddles we have communication (brief only on these channels) and I have emergency communication if I run into problems. We also have 2 weather radios for the price of 1 of the larger ones. The radios also use AAs if I ever need that back up. Until I can fork over the dough they’ve been a cheap and effective substitute. Like I said, not meant to be permanent but better than just a cell for now. Got them at West Marine and couldn’t be happier with the purchase.