NOAA Weather Radios

I’ve been thinking about getting one for backcountry trips, especially for lake work. All of my paddling is rivers and lakes, no coastal.

I see VHF ones with 16 channels plus 2 emergency channels with NOAA weather for Canada and US, CBs with similiar, or the Motorolas that advertise extreme weather reports with all kinds of gadgets.

HELP!!! Im confused. I am looking for something fairly simple. Don’t need many bells and whistles, just something that will get me the weather and has a few channel options to get me the weather if one channel doesn’t come in. I like the idea of the VHF with NOAA and 2 emergency channels to call out if needed. I want something that works, No gimmicks.

What works for you guys? What would you recommend? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


Radio shack has a nice one for only around $20 that brings in any of the 8 weather frequencies and scans for the one that is closest. You can leave it on monitor as long as the green light is flashing and it will alert you in the event of severe weather approaching. Some of the FRS radios have these frequencies built in and usually have a farther transmit distance than CB when you’re using a handheld. And in my opinion, you have a better chance of finding someone than you do on CB. Most people are going to FRS. Other than that, if you’re in an area with good cell coverage, just get the Rad shack weather radio and carry a cell phone. You can get dry bags for both. Myself? I’m a ham operator. If I’m going out on a long lake trip I take my ham radio hand held with me and that has Weather frequencies in it too. Transmit distance on those is anywhere from 20-50 miles or more depending on conditions and elevation. You might consider getting a license. (For ham it’s required, but well worth the little effort it takes these days.)

Ham Help
Dancingmouse: Getting a ham radio handheld and a license really appeals to me. Could you be kind enough to recommend the type of license, a good study guide, some good handheld models, features to get, and any other info for a clueless beginner? Thanks for any guidance.

we have Radio Shack weather radio and
a handheld ham with weather freqs. Don’t need a liscense to listen. Can transmit in a life and death emergency. Both work well. The Rad Shack is easy to use and goes with me everywhere during storm season.

Nice post
really nice thanks Pam!

Oregon Scientific
I just got an O.R. S.A.M.E. weather radio. It is very simple to use, has six frequencies, water RESISTANT and small. $60 at REI. I got it because I got good response here about it. The VHF would be better if you are on the coast or north or south of the border. The cost a bit more. The problem is if it malfunctions ALL your capabilities are lost. My 2 cents.

Radio Shack
I don’t go camping without it.

You have to be a zillion miles in the wilderness, to not pick up a signal. There are a few places where I paddled where it didn’t, but most of the time you can pretty much rely on it.

Up in Canada, it will pick up Environment Canada or whatever they call it.

Runs on a 9 volt battery, and that is good for a long time betwen changes.



Consider VHS.
If you can afford it, another $50.00 or so and you will have weather plus a hand held VHS that may come in handy later in your boating experiences. Lots of small models on the market starting at $70.00 or so. Some of them come with a dry bag made for VHS. Mine did not but on the next pegt over, was a great little bag for VHS for $11.00 I think.

Are your waters Coast Guard patrolled?
If so, you’d be better off with a marine VHF radio. Weather radios tend to be pretty lame in the reception department and a VHF can get you assistance in an emergency. If you’re in remote waters, the suggestion of a handheld Ham radio seems like the best one.

go for VHF
Being the proud owner of both a handheld VHF (Uniden Atlantis) and a handheld weather radio (O.R. S.A.M.E from REI)I strongly encourage you to spend the extra 40-50 and buy a VHF. I thought the range of the weather radio would be sufficient until I ended up on Isle Royale (Lake Superior)with no reception. I returned to Isle Royale the next year with a VHF and received weather reports from 2 stations in Michigan, one in Minnesota, and many in Canada with none of the reception problems. The VHF also gave me the ability to contact other boaters if there was a problem. If you’re serious about wilderness paddling a VHF is something that you will end up buying sooner or later.

Emergency hams
Unless the laws of ham radio have changed, I’m not sure about transmitting in an emergency even in life and death. Some have done it and still been fined, but I’m not sure of the details. If it was my life I’d take the chance, but people might take you for a bootlegger and ignore you without the procedural technique. They won’t usually respond without hearing ID and, sad to say, some might insist it’s a prank and not take it seriously as that sort of thing is rampant these days. Best off to get a license. It’s easy and cheap. Look up some books in Radio Shack. I recommend the ones by Gordon West, although I’ve heard great reviews about “Now you’re talking.” You only need a Technician license to get on the air, and no more morse code until you upgrade quite a bit higher now. I’m not sure what the cost is now for the test, but it’s very low. Last time I sat in as a VE it was still under $7. VERY WORTH IT! Your license is good for 10 years and renewal is free. I like Kenwood radios as they seem to be the most user friendly. Go to a store that sells ham equipment and talk to a few people. Always glad to welcome anyone into such a rewarding hobby.

All right all, lets talk VHF and HAM

Thanks for all your advice gang, but can you help out a little more?

What is Ham and what does it do? Benefits? What are my limitations? How big is it. Don’t mean to sound ignorant, but I’ve never heard of Ham before.

Im leaning towards a VHF (as it requires no license) but how about benefits and restrictions? Whats the difference between VHF and VHS? Or is the S a typo?

Whats the O.R. S.A.M.E you guys are talking about?

Remember gang, Im thinking user friendly, reliable and practicle. Im not overly concerned with $ as I believe you get what you pay for if researched in advance. But, if it costs 10 bucks and I can get reception anywhere, I’ll be pshyched.

My paddling is central to northern NH, VT, ME and Quebec.

Thanks gang,


Amateur Radio
Ham radio uses certain frequencies that at set aside for amateur radio operators. You need a license to operate on those frequencies. I am not that familiar with it, but my father in law is a ham operator and tried using a hand held while hiking on the AT. The power on hand helds is not that good so you need to use repeaters, which you need access codes from the clubs that own the repeaters. It probably is not hard to get the codes, but I am sure you will have to be licensed to get them. Plus you would need to get them for the area you are paddling before you left. I do not believe that the test to get a basic technicians license is very hard but I am not sure that a ham radio would be better than a marine band VHF radio in most places, unles you are out in the boonies and know which repeater yuo will be using.


Ham radio knowlege
Ok, folks, looks like I opened up a real tasty can of worms. Here are the particulars.

Amateur radio does require a license. It’s very inexpensive and easy to get. You just have to study for a while out of books you can get at radio shack and take a test. There is a small fee to take the test. If you pass, you’re on the air as soon as you get your call sign or “Station ID” which you would use when transmitting. Mine is KD1UK. No one else in the world can have that call sign. It’s assigned by your country, license grade and location in the country. (Usually by state or group of states.)

What can you do with it? A hand held can reach anywhere from 5 to 50 miles or more depending on terrain and elevation. Hook it up to a computer and you can talk via amateur radio around the world, like internet chat rooms but exclusively ham radio. That’s just for starters. You can talk to astronauts in space, go on search and rescue missions with the police, report to the National weather service about severe weather, aid in disasters with emergency communications, send messages relayed by ham radio like an audio postcard, relay health and welfare messages into and out of disaster areas or, as happened to me once, get involved with military operations. (That’s a long story, but just driving home one night I got involved in setting up a comm circle for navy search and rescue.) Or you could just keep in touch with your fellow kayakers on the lake and chat it up and decide where to land for that picnic lunch! There is literally no end to what you can do with it. It’s very common to have hams aiding in comms for walk-a-thons and bike-a-thons. VERY WELL WORTH IT AND VERY WORTHWHILE!!! Your license is good for 10 years and renewal is free. Please DO GO FOR IT!!!


License is worth it
Especially since you don’t have to know morse or memorize all of the 10 codes. Just the basic ones. Our unit can do a number of functions. Actually, we have several cause the techno hubby likes his gadgets.

Lame in the reception?
I realize that a VHF can do a lot more than a weather radio, but can you give me a idea on the reception of a VHF vs a weather radio.

I have a weather radio, and there have only been a few places where I couldn’t get any reception.



Renewal costs
Are $6 now…just mailed it in.

I got a Standard Horizons brand VHF+NOAA radio.

I don’t know enough about HAM to compare, but I can say that I’m happy to have both options in one unit.

The Standard Horizons stuff has the added bonus of being submersible waterproof (which I’ve tested, unexpectedly, during some rougher waters) so you don’t have to worry about dry bags or anything.

I’ve got model HX260S which is their entry level model. Unfortunately, I think I paid close to $200 for this thing, so it’s not quite in the same price range as some of the other options discussed here.

That said, I’m happy with it and have recommended it to other friends who’ve enjoyed theirs as well.

AD-ENDUM on ham freqs
Someone mentioned needing repeater codes to access the repeaters. I think he’s talking about PL tones. These are subaudible tones transmitted with your keyed transmission. It acts like a key to a lock. Without it, the repeater “doesn’t hear you.” Anyplace that sells ham radios will also have a repeater guide that usually contains those tones associated with repeaters that use them. If not, just listen for a while; most repeaters announce them. Most all repeaters are “open” for anyone to use. If you plan to use one in your home area on a regular basis, most will request that you join the association and support the repeater with small annual dues.

Renewal costs???
Eskimojoe, if you paid a cost, you must have gone through the W5YI group. They’re doing that as a liason service. You can file on-line for free. There is no cost if you do it yourself.