What VHF Radio to get?

I was thinking about getting a VHF radio to use for kayaking and jetskiing. Which ones are good?

I have the Icom m88, it’s quite popular around here. It’s a little expensive around $289, but has held up very well for 2 seasons now.

Standard Horizon has just come out with 2 new models…the hx270s & hx370s. they made some good improvements on these including a drop-in charger instead of the old plug. The plug in port was a source of water leakage. These new models also have a new reduced price around $129 & $159. I would take a serious look at these new models.

ICOM M88 and M1V…
…seem to be the most durable units on the market at the moment. I have both and they’ve never given me any problems. The M88 is usually available for $250 or less (watch for rebates) and the M1V can be found for well under $200.

I haven’t seen the new Standard Horizon models, but I’ve gone through five HX460’s and I know many others who’ve experienced similar failures.

don’t think many kayakers have VHF…
…yet few powerboaters are without…we are certainly as likely to get in trouble, especially if you paddle big water. Should maybe be on our Christmas present suggestion lists.

VHF Radio
I’ve had a Uniden Preident for the past 3 years. Has the normal WX Channels and Marine Channels. And, it certainly has survived the punishment I’ve subjected it to. Cost me $109 and I bought two of 'em so I could have one to loan in case a paddling partner needs one.

Standard Horizon?
I hear good things about the Standard Horizon brand.

Check the archives on this
Lots of good info and recommendations. I am also considering the ICOM 88, but the cheapest I have found it is $269 - a little steep. Will have to check out the new Standard Horizon models mentioned. Also saw recommendations in the archives of the Uniden Voyager which can be found for under $200.

VHF/ Weather Radio
We have a two year old ICOM - not sure what model - and have found it to be very hardy.

One thing to keep in mind about the VHF units - the pricier ones also make great weather radios and have weather alert. We use the VHF as our primary weather radio when checking out weather and during a kayak trip because it has much better reception than the straight weather radio we had. So we get two for one functions - well worth the price.


Std Horizon VHS failures
Yes, I’m one of those Brian is talking about. I’m on HX460S number 3. But all their newer models in that form factor now seem to have drop in chargers, which means that you can seal the charger port (if there is one) with silicon caulk. In any case, you should seal the mic port (if there is one) as well. Given that, I’d expect it to hold up very well.

But why buy a radio you have to “outfit”? Until the two new models came along (HX270S and HX370S) I would have agreed. But these look very attractively equipped and priced. Has anybody actually gotten their hands on one?


Most of my paddling friends and I have
been using Standard HX350S radios for several years. Although they are submersable, most of us keep then in a small drybag that still fits in our pfd pockets and have had no troubles.

Those who don’t use the drybags have had failures. A breaking wave on your chest far exceeds the conditions that are used to test “submersability”.

What are you going to use the radio for? A cell phone works for emergencies. UHF radios have weather channels. You can carry a UHF around your neck if you want. I used VHF in the mountains because the signal would bounce a little better than UHF. I wouldn’t buy a VHF if I were you unless you plan on having to call a passing ship. UHF radios are cheaper and VHF radios aren’t programmed with cop channels anyway.

Handheld radios have little use while your sitting in your cockpit because the curvature of the earth gets in your way after about three miles. When using one on shore look for a high spot to stand. Don’t stand at the water’s edge.

Inland perspective?
If you’re going to give advice like this, best to note where you’re coming from. VHF is what the Coast Guard and a lot of other boaters are monitoring on the ocean and other big water. The USCG has a nice habit of putting antennas up on high places and flying aircraft around, which helps a lot with the line-of-sight issue. Cell phone is a lot better than nothing, but not equivalent to VHF for open-water paddling.

DLonborg is right
All vessels that are equipped with a VHF are required to monitor Ch 16 at all times. With a cell phone, you can’t call another boat unless you have their phone number.

Although I’m sure there are a lot of recreational boaters who don’t monitor their radios, there are a lot of craft out there that do.

Your chances on the ocean of communicating with someone via cell phone are much lower than if you used VHF.

VHF prices
I got my M88 for just under $200, including a $50 rebate. I’ve seen this same rebate repeated several times since I bought my radio.

I paid $169 for my M1V at Defender, when it was on sale.

The Uniden Voyager is typically available for $160 or less.

Cell Phone Coverage
Limited at best in the Everglades National Park Area. I typically have trouble getting reception on my nextel just at the nearest chickee 5 miles out, imagine any further south or deeper in the glades no reception.

Im all for a cell phone and VHF when getting away from town, but just cell phone, no way.


I use a Standard
model unknown off hand but it has push button tuning and volume, figured the buttons a better option for operation within a dry bag.


does not mean waterproof.

“Submersible” means waterproof. The standard is supposed to be 1 meter of water for 30 minutes, still works.

Submersible = JIS class 7.

Waterproof = JIS class 4

The manufacturers’ through these terms around without regard, so research carefully.

Thanks for the input!
I do carry a cell phone in my dry bag but in some areas the reception is lost. I definitely would like to be able to listen to the weather channels and advisories.

Same as
Cell phones do not work in all areas on the coast, in fact if you do island hopping in much of Maine you can pretty much count them out unless your emergency is on the mainland. And yes, the Coast Guard tends to assume that sailboats, all other craft will have and monitor frequencies on a VHF. For example, VHF frequencies are supposed to be used when a sailboat enters a harbor. Kayakers should use the same precautions.