Vhf marine radio whats your opinion

I am wondering what other paddlers opinion is of having a vhf marine radio on board there kayak while paddling especially if you are in rural areas paddling rivers…I recently just bought one cause there nothing like being properly prepared no such thing as not being properly prepared in my opinion.just wondering what others opinion are.please let me know.

I think you made a wise decision. I have a VHF/DSC radio that I use for specific areas of Lake Michigan. When I do carry it, it’s on me since I’m a believer that if you don’t have it on you, you don’t have it. Reading the two Deep Trouble books ingrained that in my sometimes feeble brain.

There was an incident during a symposium a few years back on Lake Superior when a sudden storm popped up. There were multiple capsizes and even a USCG rescue. No communication between the coaches because the radios that were carried had all been stored in hatches. I think one of the participants had a radio on him, but no way to communicate with the coaches. He might have called the USCG.

Also have a small PLB that lives in my PFD pocket and a cell phone with the USCG app in another pocket. Hope I never need to use any of them.

Are they good on rural areas that I paddle in in country on rivers in the country where you got to pump sunlight into

VHF can be very useful when in areas where VHF is used and monitored such as coastal and large inland lakes. Not so useful if there is no one listening. Range is limited especially in a low sitting kayak even on open waters.

VHF radios have extremely limited use for emergencies inland because, as Andy says, more often than not no one is listening. The Great Lakes are an exception as are some more major boatways like the Erie Canal. . But as Andy says above they aren’t worth much except for chat between members of a group when away from major commercial areas. Weather alert has similar limitations.

That said, in really rural areas a cell phone is often not all that useful either. And the minute you are near a coast, the VHF gets very useful very fast. It is a good tool to have in your kit.

On my sailboat, VHF chatter is frequent. At my home, near a few rivers, very little communication, all work related. VHF is line of sight communication. I’d say if you’re on a major river with commercial traffic, Hudson, Mississippi, etc. or a coastal area of a river it’s a good investment.

All depends on what you mean by rural.

In areas with boaters that tend to have/use VHF radios, it could be very useful. In areas where there aren’t boaters or aren’t the type of folks to have/use VHF radios, not so useful. Commercial boats in area, larger recreational boats, or coast guard marked waterways generally mean VHF usage. Smaller recreational boats, lots of non-powered boats, and unmarked boating channels are often signs of less/no VHF usage.

For safety purposes, a PLB or Spot or InReach could be safer in all locations, but the time from pressing the emergency button to when the calvary arrives could be longer (where a VHF usually would be faster, if someone heard your call).

As daggermat said, if you are on or near a navigable waterway with barge, seagoing, or lots of motorboat traffic, a VHF can be a life saver.

For paddling somewhere such as the Buffalo River or other white water or float streams, the VHF would be of limited use except within a group you are paddling with if all/most members of your group have it on or know to monitor at set intervals. I carry mine except when on non-navigable waterways. Wash it after every use, especially after salt or brackish water paddles, and your VHF will last for years. My old brick is over 15 years old and still going strong.

Location, location, location.

I once thought this was a good safety item but where/when I paddle the odds are poor of connecting with help when needed.

I do use it in high traffic areas to alert cruisers of my presence when crossing marked channels. This is of limited use though, as the ones monitoring their radio are also more likely to be paying attention to not hitting anything/anyone.

I carry a PLB now as my “last resort” safety item.


I don’t think a VHF would be useful on inland rivers. Something like an InReach would be better. Works off satellites and is in the long run cheaper than a satellite phone.
Yes wear it. We lost three people a couple of years ago in Maine as the guide kept the radio on the yak and not on him. He could not get to it and all died.

I tend to be close enough to civilization and fair weather or out where I doubt anybody would hear me. Actually a CB would be better where I like to be. At least there may be a logging crummy on a mountain near me that is listening.