hand held marine radio/vhf

looking to invest in a hand held radio any suggestions, I welcome info.

thanks spanky

It’s down to budget and priority
If you’ve gt teh bucks and you view you radio as a defense for you life is you mess up several other things. (skills contingency plans etc) let me suggest an Icom M88 or m1V. some folks like alkaline battery packs as an option but beware many of those are not waterproof. Jis 7 is a mimimum standard for me. I like lithium rechargeable batteries as part of the unit.

I believe in using a radio without a bag just attached to your PFD strap.

iComm M88
I second the iComm M88, mine has been mounted to my PFD for 2 seasons now with no problems. Just just give it a quick rinse with fresh water after each paddle.

My next will be…
the smaller ICOM - whenever my Uniden Voyager needs to be replaced - unless something better comes out before then…

iComm M88 Rebate
Starting on May 2nd iComm will be offering a $50.00 rebate on the M88

I also have this VHF and it’s survived alot of abuse.

not an answer but a question-
Would such a radio be useful in a place like BWCA or is this more of a coastal thing?

More Coastal And Big Inland Waters
like the great lakes, Hudson, Miss Rivers, etc. I doubt there would be coasties monitoring the BWCA waters. You may need good radios within the party. I doubt cell phone would work there. Emergencies may require satellite phones.


AFAIK, radio type isn’t standardized across the varied park systems. Best option is to phone wherever you paddle most frequently and ask them directly what they recommend. FWIW, I know that many park systems use VHF for ranger communication and have repeaters set up for exactly that purpose.

definitely check first. Don’t know the landscape myself of the BWCA. VHF is “line of sight” communications. Varied terrain gets in the way.


ICom M1V
I keep the ICom M1V attached to my PFD. I’ve only had it a little over 2 years but it has survived frequent rolls and has good battery life. It gets dunked several times each outing even through the winter. It’s also significantly less expensive than the ICom M88. My wife has the ICom M88. The M88 is also great, has a few more features and is shorter, but it is also fatter and the extra features don’t seem significant for a kayaker. For the money I still prefer the ICom M1V.


Icom M88 or M1V
I have both and they’ve been completely reliable, unlike other radios I’ve owned. They’ve both been on the market for several years and are proven products.

Park Service Radios
Don’t even think about using Park Service radio frequencies. You can’t get them programmed into VHF handhelds.

Why would someone wear a radio on their PFD? If you’re in the water they have very limited use.

Shut up and drown
"Why would someone wear a radio on their PFD? If you’re in the water they have very limited use."

Yeah, you’re right. If you’re so incompetent that you’ve lost your boat, you don’t deserve to live. Just take your punishment like a man instead of calling for help like a sissy.

Pash you take the cake!

– Last Updated: Apr-25-05 11:39 PM EST –

You so funny! Now to answer your question.

Those of us who occasionally paddle with friends especially large groups of friends, sometimes get radio messages. Having a waterproof radio outside of a PFD lets you hear this with ease. then for those who mount the PFD at neck/chest height, you can just turn you head, mash the talk button, and get it done. If you are in "conditions" where such communications might be vitally important the ease, elegance, and relaibility of this method becomes clear.

Yes you can bag it, tether it, and keep it in a pocket, and I do do this if paddling with a small, tight, group where I will not need to be getting a radio message, but if I need to get the radio out I have to unsnap the pocket strap, grab the tether, pull it up and get the radio out. If I am in conditions and doing a one arm over-the-shoulder sculling brace I want to get on it, get off it and get to business. Although I can usefully perform that stroke, it's not that good or my favorite. Anything works on a pond but I do not want to tune my emergency systems to that environment.

I'll call the CG if it comes to that, but I work on my skills and judgement so that I do not have to.

submersible marine radio
Comments of mine from a similar post about 3 weeks ago:

I think the most important thing(s) for a kayaker to look at in a VHF marine radio (in order of importance):

  1. Make sure the radio has a submersible rating. This is typically a more stringent test that that of “waterproof” or “water-resistant”. A kayaking radio will often get very wet. Some radios say submersible, but in “small” print mention that the this does not include the battery compartment. If water leaks into the battery compartment and renders the radio useless when you most need it, a “submersible” rating doesn’t do you much good. So try to find one where the submersible rating includes the battery compartment.

  2. Make sure your new VHF marine radio comes with a battery pack that lets you use AA’s so that you can take a mess of AA’s with you on an extended trip. Your NiMH or NiCd rechargeable battery that comes with the unit will die at some point on a multiday trip if you use the radio much. I have found alkaline AA’s to be nearly useless. Even in summer on the north pacific it’s cold enough that alkalines don’t seem to have the “juice” to transmit on high power very long. I’ve realized that if I was really in trouble, even brand new Duracell alkalines (advanced performance version or not) would provide me precious little transmit time. Alkalines are just not designed to give big chunks of electrical energy at a time as lithium, NiCd or NiMH can. Transmitting at 5 watts on hi-power really seems to test a battery pack with my radio at least. I’m using the Energinzer Lithium AA’s exclusively now. They have a 15 year shelf life, work tremendously better in cold conditions than alkalines, have tremendously more power (for those hi-power transmissions) and are much lighter, not that that matters when kayaking. But they are not cheap.

  3. After all that, put the radio in a dry bag from which you can still use it. And, get a radio that can be operated completely by pushbutton. Dials don’t work to well from a dry bag. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a form-fitting drybag on the market. All the dry bags for radios seem to have the “rigid bar” closure at the bottom which precludes the radio being put in PFD pocket generally. I finally made my own drybag out of heat sealable nylon with a clear window to view the controls and the typical rolled dry bag closure. It works very well–wish I could post a picture. Is there a way to do that?

  4. Wear the radio on/in your PFD so that if you get separated from your boat you still have a means of contacting help.

    Good luck.

Other solutions
Get a sumbersible radio with a rechargeable lithium ion battery and it will last for several days. If you’re going on an extended trip, carry a spare battery. Although there may be some out there, I haven’t seen any radios with AA battery packs that are submersible.

I suggest forgetting about the dry bag. When you really need your radio, a dry bag is an impediment to using it. It makes the controls harder to use, the speaker harder to hear and you can’t mount the radio conveniently where you can operate it with one hand.

I’m new at this,too
I ordered a radio from Standard. Can’t recall which model right now. There was a thread on it a couple of weeks ago and the price seemed right. Most of my paddling is on smaller lakes and rivers, but I live near the Great Lakes and plan on doing more on the bigger water in the future. That’s why I got the radio.

Anyway, I like the idea of keeping it on my PFD, but I’m not sure where to locate it or if I should trust the clip that came with it. It’s one of those clips that snaps in and won’t release unless the radio is rotated around. That’s okay until I roll or capsize and the thing sinks.

Also, when I try and clip it to my PFD strap, it seems to be in the way.

Does some one make an add-on pocket or case that can be secured to the PFD?



This is Nystroms kayak gear page:

– Last Updated: Apr-25-05 10:51 PM EST –


you can find it by searching "outfiting kayak" (no quotes in search) on webshots and this is his kayak gear page. It will give you lots of advice backed by the experience of a paddler who has helped lots ant lots of people find efficient systems that suit them.

Nystrom is so generous to publish this stuff! Please notice that he uses a shim and a bungee in tandem with the clip.

Do not depend on just the clip! Careful wiht the Horizon. If it has an antenna and a power port plugged by rubber plugs, consider glueing them shut.


The possibility of losing my boat offshore is the main reason I carry a radio in the first place.