VHF for kayaking

-- Last Updated: Aug-04-08 3:09 PM EST --

I was thinking of putting together a really good all around rescue kit to just take with me and store in my kayak out of habit. One item I thought would be good to have in this kit is a small VHF radio for emergency purposes. I stopped by the local boat place and was eyeing a Uniden Voyager....small, compact, water resistant etc. Anyone have any experience with this or can suggest something else that might be better?

Uniden does not typically get good reviews for their VHF units.

No experiences personally, but for that price I would think you could do a lot better.

ICOM and Standard Horizon are more common and well respected brands in the VHF world.

West Marine has customer reviews on their site now…


Submersible and location
The waterproof rating you want is submersible, not water resistent, for a VHF to be reliable in an emergency when kayaking.

Do you paddle in an area where you are likely to get a prompt response from the VHF bands? If yes, you should get one that also functions as a weather radio with the Weather Alert feature.

(And yeah, the price tag just went up.)

use of a VHF…
I’m not sure what the response is here on Cayuga lake. I know the coast guard is regularly patrolling the lake. Even so, if I am going to spend money on one, I’d like it to last me pretty much forever. My wife and I talk about moving someplace along the coast maybe in a few years…i.e. Maine etc. If I am going to spend the money on one, I want it to be functional for what I am likely to use it for. I would expect weather would be a big plus…

For the use you describe
we vacation in Maine each summer… I’d suggest that you also get one with an optional battery back. It’s kinda tough to plug into a tree to recharge them at night if you are hanging out on an island. Also something in a case that will absorb a lot of shock.

The next one we get will have all of the above plus be compact enough to clip - when those prices knock down a little more.

ditto submersible
"waterproof"“water-resistant” don’t cut it. If you really need it,it should be on you tethered to your pfd pocket. If it’s in a dry bag in the compartments you’re only going to get it when you’re ok and on shore.

If you want it on the boat I’d suggest rigging an underdeck placement instead of some kind of deck bag. Things in deck bags can be steam heated even if sealed from water. I’ve had a vhf in an underdeck mesh bag after the boat was used at the beach and maytagged with sand and water then taken home and forgotten. The radio was fine, covered in salt and sand but dried out. I’ve seen a friend use a gps in a sealed plastic pouch on the deck and the sun steamed moisture into the display

Its a nice radio, but

– Last Updated: Aug-04-08 5:03 PM EST –

I have a Voyager and was happy with it. Its RF performance both transmit and receive have been excellent and easily the equal of any Icom or Standard radio I have compared it to. It has survived many drops onto hard surfaces, it has often been submerged in fresh and salt water and has never failed to work. It is also about the smallest radio you can get, but the display is good sized and clean, and it is very easy to use the WX alert and other monitoring features. Although battery life is not rated as high, it has easily lasted on four day trips for me.
On the negative side, I don't care for the concentric control for squelch and the volume knob is really too small. The knobs have a tendency to get stuck if you do not rinse radio carefully after salt water use making adjustment of squelch and volume difficult. This became problematic for me on multiday trips and when the battery aged out I did not get another one for that reason. The buttons are also rather small. Its a bit expensive for what it is and measured against the competitors.

I have a fondness for the Standard HX-270 which is bigger, but also a great basic radio and a great bargain. This past weekend I was easily copying the Ellsworth WX station with the radio at ground level on an island south of Brunswick Maine, which is quite a distance. I have also easily copied the Jonesboro WX station as far south as Muscongus Bay with the 270. I agree that Icom and Standard are the recognized brands and deservedly so. I would also not pay much attention to reader reviews on websites. Especially when there is only a handful of reviews if that.

can’t go wrong with an

– Last Updated: Aug-05-08 5:29 AM EST –


Fror lots more discussion, use following search engine:


Enter "vhf radio"

I have a Uniden, a different model
and and it hasn’t failed me yet. The description for the Voyager says

“meets JIS7 waterproof specifications”. Frankly I prefer a model that

takes AA batteries; as someone else notes above, it’s hard to recharge

your batteries using a tree.

(Hey people: what’s up with the really long links?!)

Consider VHF on PFD
One of the most important times you need to call for help is when you are in the water and your boat has blown away from you. If your VHF is in the kayak it is gone. This is Less likely if you are paddling with someone or a group, but even then both of you may go in the water or no-one can catch and retrieve your kayak in the conditions that caused your capsize.

Of course if it is on the PFD it must be submersible.

I have the West Marine VHF150 that appears to be a rebranded Standard Horizon (construction looks identical). It has survived a good amount of rolling practice.

Good luck.


I would add that which ever
you buy you get a waterproof bag for it. I bought one at West Marine and with my gloves on for winter paddling I can still work the knobs on mine. The bag will help it float as well as give it better protection from the elements.

Great radio for the price. My 10 year old HX150S finally sold the Buick last fall, and I replaced it with the 270S for a fraction of what I paid for the 150 (Like $79 on sale — how do you beat that? And it has more features to boot).

Mine has been repeatedly submerged while rolling and punching through surf and waves, and so far, wonderful.

The car charger that comes with it is a huge plus, too.

Voyager good
Mine is three years old at this point - still going strong.

I find the battery life to be exceptional - although I rarely transmit.

I purchased an ICOM M-34 earlier this year and have been happy with it’s performance so far. Submersible is good, but if you drop it in 50 feet of water it’s gone. That was one of my reasons for selecting one of the floating models.

New Standard Handheld
Standard is just coming out with a marine VHF handheld with a built in gps which will report your position when you activate the distress button.

It also has an SOS strobe light. Google for “Standard HX850”-- the radio is not available yet.

I’d wait on the
DSC handheld. As time goes by they will drop significantly in price. More importantly, only a handfull of CG units in the U.S. have DSC capability (comes with the new Rescue 21 system). We just got ours last week, but the skip from the signal could go on forever. Been getting alerts from fricken South America to the Kamchatka Peninisula.

Cobra MRHH325 VP
I just bought this radio from Amazon.com for about $97.00 I have not yet used it, I bought it for my trip to Tofino this week. It is submersable, scans all 10 weather service channels, has all marine channels (101) you’d ever need already programmed into it, and it comes with multiple battery options. Additionally, it is programmed to work in the US, Canada, and some other international waters. It’s also a 2-way radio with default channels set to 9 and 16, which I just learned are the channels the Coast Guard monitors (16). You can, of course, transmit on any of the other 100 channels. The manual is in english and spanish and even provides instructions for sending distress signals. I spent about 45 minutes with the manual and can now easily navigate through all the features and controls. The best part, in my opinion, is that it has 3 power settings for transmitting messages: 1, 3, or 5 watts. It is quite powerful.

I plan on spending time testing it before getting on the water, as I would recommend you do with any new piece of equipment, especially electronics.

I hope this helps.

About those other channels
Actually, you shouldn’t be transmitting on any old channel. There are a bunch that the CG doesn’t use, but other entities do for critical communications.

For use to transmit with other paddlers, you are generally looking in the high 60’s or low 70’s in the northeast, but even there some of these channels aren’t good to use. One training we were at off of RI it turned out that 71 was in use by local authorities for some reason I forget.

68, 69, 71, 72 and 78A
are designated non-commercial communication channels (http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/marcomms/vhf.htm). 9, 13 and 16 can be used by non-commercial vessels for specific puposes. There are other channels that are assigned to uses that most people would seldom need.

is/was on sale for $129 and Boaters World.

you can’t beat that

I submerged mine for over 30 minutes with it on and it was fine.

The M72 for $200. It’s a little smaller but doesn’t float. both get good reception.

I also put mine in a VHF bag so the M34 is just right.

Even a non water proof in a bag would probably be fine. But the M34 is a really nice handheld.