Where I paddle on inland lakes, there is little use for a VHF radio. However, NOAA weather broadcasts and alerts are available. I'v had dismal reception results with the less expensive weather radios such as the one LL bean offers. Any suggestions for a quality handheld weather radio for paddling? It seems that as one approaches the $100 mark, I could end up buying a lower-end (a few Horizon models) VHF radio with weather alert anyways vs. just a weather radio. Also, how valuable is SAME?
What we’ve found…
While the lesser ones can be of some use if it’s a very good day on the signal and you aren’t contending with much background noise, we’ve found that the real reliability kicks in when you get to the submersible VHF’s that tend to go for about $150 on sale. If a rechargeable, best to have a backup battery back as well for real tripping. Can get them sized to clip onto a PFD these days too.
Also, it seems to take a better unit to get a good signal inland around here in upstate NY than on the ocean. With our VHF that is a heavy but utterly reliable tank on the coast, I’ve had to turn around and find just the right spot to hold a signal along the shore of the Mohawk River. More interference it seems.
What usually holds them back is their antenna. An antenna that’s big enough for good reception usually takes the radio out of the “handheld” realm. Compensating for it with amplification costs more $$$$ to manufacture, and that’s passed on to you, as you have said.
A VHF would usually have better electronics, but for where you paddle, it’s kinda pointless unless you can find a decent one on closeout, or something. If you paddled the Great Lakes or in salt water on occasion, it would be easy to justify. Maybe looking at online bargain bins might be your best option. If the price is good, so what if 80% of it’s functions aren’t going to be used so long as you get the ones you need.
Alternatives for Wx Radio
You might want to consider getting on of the handheld size receivers made by Icom and Standard/Yaesu. These typically have receiver performance equal to the handheld VHF marine/WX radios with the added benefit of wide band coverage for listening to AM-FM and TV broadcasts, safety, aviation, marine,WX, and more which for your use might be better than a simple WX radio or a marine radio.
Examples are Icom R3, R5, R20 and Yaesu VR-120, VR-500
Oregon Scientific WR601
I have both the Midland 74-250 and the Oregon Scientific WR601 handheld radios.
I MUCH prefer the Oregon Scientific as it is easier to setup and modify as I move from location to location. I'm a Boy Scout leader and this radio is standard equipment when we go out camping.
The Midland operation is not nearly as easy to use and since I got the Oregon Scientific it has been stored in a drawer.
How far from your car
are you on a paddle? If you are wanting up to the minute weather alerts you need a portable hand-held. If it is good enough to listen to a forecast before putting in and keeping your eyes open, get a Radio Shack combo CB/Weather Radio. I’ve had one in my truck for several years and it gets great reception. The only thing better would be a base radio that runs on 120VAC. I am using a through the glass antenna and still get good results. A 1/4 wave whip would do awesome. SAME is a nice feature and is built into my CB. I get notified of weather alerts with the unit in CB mode. A flip of a switch gives me the alert broadcast. Develop a good weather eye, pay attention to the forecasts, and you may not need to depend on a portable gadget.
this VHF as option
I found a lower-end VHF radio, STANDARD HORIZON
HX270S Handheld VHF, on sale new for $81. Not much more than a stand-alone weather.
While I know this budget model does not compare to the best selling Icom models, for someone inland who will rarely use VHF, is this a decent option just for the weather alert use?
There is nothing “wrong” with the 270S. Its RF performance is excellent and you will find its ability to receive WX stations is as good as any of the “top-rated”, more expensive models. It is a very solid, basic radio. Its audio output is one of the highest among handheld marine radios and its sensitivity and selectivity is equal to the best. Does it have a LiION battery and fancy features? No. Is it a great price for a very good radio? Yes.
Remember: Fresh Batteries, and vhf are line of sight radios. VRF