VHF or Smart Phone?

When needing to check weather forecasts while on the water or at camp, do you prefer the VHF or a smart phone device to check for conditions?


On the water we usually use a VHF to check weather forecasts. Also when doing coastal paddling we check NOAA via VHF when planning, before launching, leave the radio on alert while paddling, and check when we take a break. On land we commonly use a smart phone.

I always carry a
VHF anyway. General forecasts are usually enough and NOAA special alerts cover any unusual activity. But a smartphone has certain advantages if you are in a widespread isolated or scattered Tstorm situation, common for southeastern coast summer pattern weather, and can download weather radar maps showing small storms activity that may not be broadcast as a special alert.

If you’re paddling in saltwater or a river with lots of commercial traffic, IMO, the VHF is the way to go - if you get into trouble, it’s easier to use, and broadcasts to everyone in the vicinity rather than calling one party, who may or may not be able to help you - say you’re a long way from home, and don’t know who to call. I guess you could have 911 on speed dial, and hope you have a signal in some places.

Now inland on lakes and small rivers, that advantage of the VHF is gone, but it will still get NOAA weather, which is why I carry one inland on days when the weather is questionable. I don’t have a cellphone, and never will, so I have to rely on what I have to get the job done.

I use my VHF

– Last Updated: Aug-19-11 7:02 AM EST –

but at home prior to a trip we use the Wunder Map weather

Jack L

I find that the vhf reports are pretty general and not up to the minute. Whereas radar on the internet sites (like wunderground or accuweather) are way more so. I was chased off the water two or three weeks ago by pop-up T storms that were not reported on the weather vhf. I could see large black clouds building in the west. The vhf had nothing, just the same general forecast. I took a few minutes to pull up wunderground on my blackberry (floating right in the middle of the river) THAT showed thunderstorms building 30 miles off to our west and moving directly our way. We turned around and raced back to the cars. We got there literally minutes before the skies opened and the light show began.

The morning forecast before we left, predicted a 30% chance of scattered t-storms over a large geographic area.

The smartphone was the only resource that gave us accurate, up to the minute weather info for exactly where we were.

Is Wunder Map a smartphone app? If not, where can I get it?


here you go

Jackl is right, great app and great weather site.

I would imagine it depends on where you

– Last Updated: Aug-19-11 9:42 AM EST –


Not all regions have phone service.

I don't even have cell phone service at home. Weather radio yes. A "smartphone" is not in the cards here.

Up on the Ontario coast of Lake Superior there is no cell phone service for hundreds of miles. There are weather station repeaters.

I have seen those smartphone doo dad weather apps and they do look neat if you are in civilization. I am happy still to watch the sky and have gotten quite good at the short term forecast. Its all up there. I fear that sky watching and predicting is a skill we are losing to technology..not unlike reconciling a checkbook or reading an analog watch.

Here it is

– Last Updated: Aug-19-11 9:17 AM EST –


Just pick up your area, etc here is ours http://www.wunderground.com/wundermap/

play around with it a bit, and you can see any storms, where they are heading, and the time that they will arrive.

jack L

smart phone
obviously still take the VHF but when I’m hanging around camp in the morning and need to know the latest update the phone’s internet connection (when you can get one) is way easier than waiting for the right moment of the weather channel broadcast only to get interrupted and have to wait through a whole new cycle of reports.

vhf weather is like 1950’s technology, times have changed.

The phone weather map has been useful for making go/no-go decisions when there were isolated, scattered storms. It can give you a good idea if you’re going to have bad weather for a few minutes or a few hours.

I trust the VHF to work in conditions where I wouldn’t pull out a phone.

the last thing
I want with me is a stupid smart phone. I use VHF.

Are you paddling Fishers tomorrow?

Got it. Thanks.
To both Jack and Slushpaddler.

I’m not the Wayne you are looking fer…


Waterproof Smartphone ???

– Last Updated: Aug-19-11 7:19 PM EST –

Until a smartphone is TRULY waterproof, dunkable, etc.
- stick with the trusted, reliable, handheld VHF.
Provides real 2 way communication in remote areas.

I've used VHF exclusively for this area.

When a smartphone gets LEVEL 7 certification - I may buy one

Some are ""borderline"" like :
NEC Medias N-06C rated IPX5

No tether, dropped in the water, bye, bye SAR team

can be both

– Last Updated: Aug-19-11 7:39 PM EST –

redundancy is good and a smart phone with internet connection is easier for weather than VHF giving very quick data for your exact spot and radar.

I keep my phone in a waterproof case in my day hatch and my VHF on my person. I mostly only need to check the weather on launch unless either that forecast or observed conditions suggest even a hint of a change later (my weather tends to be pretty predictable, yours may not). So I check the weather with the phone before launch as well as say hi to my wife (assuming I can get a connection).

I use this case: http://www.h2oaudio.com/store/catalog/product/view/id/162/

Then on the water I can always use the VHF or even phone if conditions permit. And if the VHF ever fails there's at least a chance the phone will work to get help.

win/win deal.