VHF Radio Suggestions

I will be doing some solo kayaking along the Eastern Shore of VA in the Chesapeake Bay in October. I want to get a hand-held VHF marine radio before I do this. I would appreciate hearing from other paddlers about the VHF radio they use. Thanks.


Most any of the major brands are fine.
Look for something in the 5-6 watt transmit range for the high power setting. Lithium Ion batteries are the best. Also, you want IPX-7 waterproof (submersible to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes). Don’t be fooled by waterproof to IPX-8. It can mean anything. Unless the manufacturer specifically states it has greater immersion time or depth than IPX-7 it does not even have to meet the IPX-7 standard. I would look for handheld VHF sales at West Marine and get something that fits your budget. Also, since you will be using this in a salt water environment, I would get the extended warranty West Marine offers. Many people have stories of the radio failing on a trip, and with an extended warranty you can just go to West Marine and pick up a new one.

The Standard Horizon HX280S is about the cheapest I would consider at West Marine. It’s a 5 watt IPX-7 radio. I currently own an ICOM M34 which I picked up new for $100. It has been replaced by the M36, but you might find a new M34 around at a good price, but probably won’t get an extended warranty.

Good luck,


Standard Hx851

– Last Updated: Jul-30-12 3:25 PM EST –

If your budget allows you to spend just over $200, get the Standard HX851 or HX750.

There is a single red button to push if you are in imminent danger...like getting smacked by a power boat or going over to avoid one. The radios on nearby craft will hear the signal and forward it the CG, which is important because 6 watts close to the water line does not go that far. The signal has your kayak description and gps position.

Otherwise here are a list of desireable features in this radio and others
-long warranty
-flat rate repair for flooding
-being waterproof without relying on rubber covers which tend to dry up and slip off
-6 watts of power
-being able to scan 9/13/16/22a
-weather (wx alert?-maybe too late by the time you get one)
-light--settable to on or SOS
-dsc features such as test, distress
-takes an accessory AA battery pack so you can carry spare batteries.

West marine brand
They have stores in every coastal city on the east coast and in many smaller towns. They provide really good support for their store brand radios and other gear.

I have had one for 5 years now. The battery life is exceptional, has all the features you want, operation is easy, ergonomics should place it in the MOMA, talk and listen clarity is great. There are other good radios out there, but based on my experience with this one I wouldn’t have anything else.

Agree Completely - NM