Handheld VHF Radios: What to look for

I have never had a problem using
my VHF radio while it is in it’s bag. I do not want to take chances with my radio and I will always keep it in a dry bag designed for a VHF radio. But to each his own, just MHO.

Grade 8 is better than that
It’s for continuous submersion, but it’s not a fixed standard. Here’s the details:

Grade 8

Protected against the effects of continuous immersion in water.

Ingress of water in quantities causing harmful effects shall not be possible when the enclosure is continuously immersed in water under conditions which shall be agreed between manufacturer and user but which are more severe than for numeral 7.

Test conditions for Grade 8: continuous immersion subject to agreement

Unless there is a relevant product standard, the test conditions are subject to agreement between manufacturer and user, but they shall be more severe than those prescribed in 14.2.7 and they shall take account of the condition that the enclosure will be continuously immersed in actual use.

Summary of test conditions for Grade 8:

Test means: Immersion tank. Water level: by agreement.

Water flow rate: not applicable.

Duration of test: by agreement.

Sorry, apparentIy I was recalling…
…Icom M72 info.

With IPX8, you need to know what the level of testing was that the manufactuer agreed to as it’s a bit of a moving target. See below:

“The moral of the story is to be totally conversant with IP ratings and remember that tests up to IPX6 are dynamic spray tests and tests for IPX7 and IPX8 are static immersion tests. The key test for product which has a ‘quoted’ IPX8 rating is simply to ask the manufacturer or supplier at what pressure and for what duration of time the test was carried out.”

From Icom M72 website info:

Submersible PLUS (IPX8)

The IC-M72 offers Icom’s best-ever protection against water intrusion. This radio has been tested to survive after being submersed in 1.5m (4.9ft) depth of water for 30 minutes.

normally I defer to you in all things
kayak-related, B.

All I can say in this instance is that my VHF takes 6 AA batteries, is submersible, and is comparable in virtually every other way I can think of to other VHF marine radios on the market (info from the Uniden website below). Sure you can buy smaller, but this was the standard size for years.


Uniden Atlantis 250G

Handheld Two-Way VHF Marine Radio

JIS4/CFR46 Waterproof Level

1 Watt/5 Watt Switchable

NiMH and Alkaline Battery Capability

Instant Channel 16/9/Triple Watch

Backlit LCD Display

Backlit Keypad - Makes it easy to use in low-light conditions.

All N.O.A.A. Weather Channels with Weather Alert

Memory Channel Scan

Optional Speaker/Microphone

Flexible Rubber Antenna

Category: Handheld

NB: JIS4/CFR46 submersible level (but, yes, as a prudent mariner I back mine up with an Aquapac).

There is no IPX8 standard
As JMDEN correctly points out, there is no standard for IPX8 as there is for IPX7 or the lower IPX numbers. Without the description of the pressure and time used for the test, there is no way to know if two IPX8 rated devices have similar levels of “waterproofness” when immersed. For example, one might be rated to 100 meters for 12 hours and another 2 meters for 30 minutes. The Icom standard for IPX8 is really not that much beyond IPX7. It is also well to keep in mind that IPX7/8 are static immersion tests and devices that pass IPX7/8 may not pass the dynamic tests of say IPX6 where a stream of water at a given pressure is directed at the device. So it is a bit misleading to say a device that has an IPX7/8 rating is more “waterproof” than a device with an IPX6 rating. The contrary might be true.

JIS4/CFR46 is only for spray and splash
All “waterproof” is not created equal. From the Atlantis brochure: “JIS4 waterproof rated and designed to protect against spray and splash”

JIS4 specification requires “unit to withstand steady stream of water from a hose for 5 minutes without leakage”. Not intended for submergence."

In other words, it is really only “water resistant”. Maybe that’s waterproof enough for you, but it is not really comparable to the level of protection offered by other handhelds.

Only JIS-7/IPX7 & IPX8 are “Submersible” ratings (and check exactly what that means for each unit).

Keep your Atlantis in that Aquapac - it probably needs it for kayak use. My IPX8 rated M72 doesn’t.

thus the Aquapac
(and a desecant pack, pirated from something that came in the mail, to stave off humidity–not a problem, but “prudent mariners” 'n all …)

If you must use a bag…
…the desiccant pack is a good idea. Choice of radio is a personal thing, but IMO, there are simply too many disadvantages to non-submersible radios in dry bags for me to consider going that route.

I’m disappointed…
…in Icom’s interpretation of IPX8. In particular, their idea of “continuous immersion” is pretty lame. I’ve seen other IPX8-rated devices that are rated for indefinite time periods. Still, as you say, Icom’s IPX8 is still somewhat more stringent than IPX7. The difference is not great enough that I would choose an M72 over an M88 strictly for that reason. It does offer other compelling features.

we buy what we can afford and make do

There’s not much of a price difference
JIS/IPX7-rated submersible radios are available for under $150. It wouldn’t make economic sense to go out and buy one now that you have a radio, but for first-time buyers, the extra $20-$40 is money well spent.

please send check
I paid $60-70 for my Uniden

1/2 the price but …
…half the reliability and twice as hard to use when bagged. Seems like an odd sort of bargain to me.

You also have to factor in whatever you paid for that Aquapac - or more to the point - from an advice perspective you need to consider what someone else would likely pay for an Atlantis 250 and an Aquapac to go with it (not what deal you had, or if you already had a bag, etc). Odds are the average low end price is then closer to $120. Close enough to the prices of the submersible units not to skimp - and a bargain when you factor in the better features/functionality.

Thanks Ed
I have seen and heard this before … that IPX6 may be more waterproof than IPX7 depending upon circumstances. This is a good explanation of why you might choose one over the other.


$90 for HX270
The Standard HX270 is a great basic radio and rated IPX7. It is one tough radio and you can buy them for around $90. Fine RF specs. Lots or good radios around $150. While $90 can be viewed as almost double a radio costing $50, its still only $40 more and that is not a huge difference considering what you are buying and its importance. I understand not wanting to pay out $150+.

you know, greyak
we pay what we can afford

I don’t know how to say it in any clearer way

At least you have a radio…
…which puts you one step ahead of those who don’t. It may not be the optimum choice, but it’s definitely better than no radio at all.

I meant to add…
… same comment at the end of my last post…

No doubt.
It is a sad thing that so many sea kayakers in areas with great VHF reception don’t bother to purchase a radio at all. Of the sea kayakers that die local to me every year, not one (to my knowledge) has had a VHF. A cheap radio in a bag may save your life or the life of someone else.

"someone else"
That’s the main reason I carry one, and I mostly paddle solo. You never know what you’ll come across. Mine’s nearly always off, but also nearly always there if needed. I look at carrying a VHF as just part of being a boater.