who here uses or carries a VHF?

I’m just curious. it seems to be a very wise piece of equipment to carry with you, especially in the case of an emergency.

at the same time, what about hose personal emergency beacon’s? I’ve read it could be a good idea to have one with you, but I haven’t seen them anywhere.

I can see the wisdom of having a GPS if you carry those, so if you do get a response when you request help, you can tell them where you are exactly.

also, what about those FRS radios, or whatever they’re called? it adds up to a lot of electrical equipment to take along with you…which should you take if you’re going on a longer trip into the middle of nowhere?


I carry a vhf
when I’m in saltwater. Don’t think anyone monitors freshwater and from what I recall vhf’s are for marine(onboard a boat) use only. Gps’ are awesome, I have a big one on my sailboat that is always on when I’m moving due to it’s tide correction factor and speed over bottom readings, nevermind letting me know where I am and how to get to where I’m going. The portable gets “home”(truck) position plugged in when hiking or paddling rivers, so I know where my truck is(long story, longer hike ;-)) i would think frs is a good walkie talkie for communication with partners on the same band, and as I believe vhf is marine only, it would be the way to go on freshwater paddling and camping.

guess I’ll have to do some research…
…and see what VHF regulations/operations are for fresh water, being I’m a land locked lubber and will probably only be cruising in big lakes rather than the ocean or anything.

Yes and no
Any seriuos paddler who does big coastal water, and even big lakes over long trips, carries a VHF including a weather alert feature. The basic units are fairly affordable these days. The higher prices get you better submersibility, compactness or reception.

The personal locator beacons (PLB) are migrating from use by motor boats to paddle boats. Seems that they are coming up as options for which people can pay an extra cost when they rent boats. I believe they already have information on your position similar to cell phones - once deployed they are automatically broadcasting location. If you really need to deploy one there’s a decent chance that the VHF is not an option due to boat loss or injury.

The PLB’s remain controversial for paddle boaters, especially since the signal is generally not responded to once the nearest satellites have passed over the beacon twice. That’s according to someone I know currently training in one of the major merchant Marine academies on the east coat. OK for someone in a big honking motor boat with no engine and communications down, but maybe too long for somone swimming in 54 degree water after having been separated from their kayak. People do get these things and assume that it means that they will be plucked from danger very quickly, but so far the jury is out on that.

VHFs on inland lakes
VHFs are perfectly legal (and common) on large inland lakes, such as the Great Lakes. I assumed that anywhere the Coast Guard was active, VHFs were used, but it’s worth checking with the Coast Guard on that. I carry a uniden voyageur VHS and a small, cheap, submersible GPS unit as well (so I can give exact coordinates in the unlikely event of an emergency, and also so I can monitor our speed and distance travelled). GPSs are fun to have along; VHS radios are basic safety gear, and good for getting updated NOAA marine forecasts.

about the PLB…
I would hope it wouldn’t be due to having an unexpected wet exit and loss of boat that I’d use it. I was thinking more along the lines that if a VHF or FRS/GMS don’t work, you could turn it on and see if you get some sort or reaction.

I will have to see about the VHF in our area tho, being we don’t have any ‘coast guard’ on the lakes I’d probably frequent. looking thru The Source, I am seeing VHF and FRS/GMS radio’s with integrated GPS…could be a consideration, depending on battery life, of course.

Mafor Codes
I’ve been using the Mafor Codes on the VHF all summer. Never bothered before but they give more accurate weather reports in 3,6,9,12 and 16 hour increments.


I do…
When I’m paddling on Lake Michigan or Lake Superior and I am responsible for a group of people, I definitely have my VHF radio with me.

the lakes I’ll be on are smaller…
…not like the landlocked sea’s of the Great Lakes. the Kamloops, Okanagan and Shuswap aren’t huge, but they aren’t small either…but I’m pretty sure there aren’t any form of patrol craft on them. I don’t know if that makea a difference or not.

Carry both.
If you are paddling somewhere Channel 16 is being monitored it is best to carry a radio and a GPS. I live near Atlantic City, NJ and the first thing the Coast Guard will ask a vessel in distress is what are their cordinates. You will get help a lot faster if you have your long/lat to give them instead of making the Coast Guard triangulate your radio signal.

When I am on the ocean I carry a VHF
attached to my pfd. On Tahoe, I use a cell phone. I carried an EPIRB with me when I was paddling from Okinawa to Amami. It is not a replacement for a VHF, but can summon help to remote areas when the situation is truly dire. Hefty fines are imposed for misuse.

Combine where possible…
Rhino 120 combines GPS and FRS with automatic position updates to other users…let’s your friends know where you are…

I’m using both a Cell and a 5 watt VHF handheld, even where the VHF has no use as a communications device, it still gives me the time and weather updates…

For what it’s worth
I do

Have a GPS and VHF
I generally carry the gps and will bring the vhf if I am paddling offshore.

Happy Paddling,


I do I do

In the coastal waters of Alaska the VHF Marine radio is the only communication device that is worth carrying. That is also true for Canadian Eastern Arctic waters – at least from my experience around Baffin Island. It is important to know appropriate protocols when using the Marine radio. It isn’t a C.B. Channels 16 or 9 should only be used to hail other vessels, who will then suggest another frequency for communication.

On our long trips I carry a Satellite phone for emergencies, and because I have a nervous Irish mother-in-law. The sat-phone works better on water than along our coastal mountains. Mine has been used from Greenland to the Bering Strait and is worth the investment. It’s great entertainment for friends who don’t want to miss a birthday greeting even if they are a week from any cell site.

My 2 cents on the EPIRB is it is a nice thing to have in the high arctic, but I’m not so sure the responders should be heading out because someone is cold and on shore from a capsize, even in Southeast Alaska.

But we mostly paddle on salt water. VHF is great or monitoring boat traffic and for getting up-to-date weather info. As a group we use FRS/GMRS radios for chatter, they’re also great for travelling in vehicle convoy to and from launch sites.

GPS is invaluable in unfamiliar areas, or when the fog rolls in. I get waypoints from Google Earth before each trip and plug them into my Garmin etrex.

There is, of course, no substitute for map & compass but the GPS is nice in big water. Just follow the arrow!

VHF etc
I am directionally impaired and cautious. (I have a compass watch because I get so easily turned around). I use a Garmin MAP GPS76 which i mount on a bracket bungied to the deck. It helps navigate and also gives speed readings. One nice side benefit is it gives me rapid feedback on the effect of concentrating on paddling form. I also use the Topo & Garmin map software–you can upload GPS data to your computer and download computer data to the GPS. I also use it to print custom maps for the trips I have planned (the National Geographic Waterproof Paper from outdoor stores works great with a regular printer).

For coastal paddling (NY, CT, MA) I carry a Standard Horizon Submersible HX471S. The manual says that the marine bands are for use only on water, no particulars salt or fresh. The radio has the marine bands, weather bands, AM/FM and also the FRS channels-so it covers the spectrum. It could broadcast coordinates if plugged into the right GPS. It is reassuring having it along and hearing all the marine traffic communications. I think of the VHF as one of those things I want to have and never need. I have found the weather/AM/FM helpful, and it is fun to hear where the fish are biting.

"you could turn it on and see if you get some sort or reaction."

It’s an emergency beacon. You’ds darned well better have an emergency to turn it on.

I carry a VHF
Haven’t had a need to buy a GPS