The Top 5 Handheld Marine VHF Radios for Every Boater’s Needs


Handheld Marine VHF Radios are essential communication devices for boaters. These radios operate on Very High Frequency (VHF) bands and are specifically designed for marine use. They allow boaters to communicate with other vessels, marinas, and emergency services, ensuring a safe and enjoyable boating experience.

Communication is crucial while boating, as it helps boaters stay connected with their fellow boaters and emergency services. Whether it’s coordinating with other boats for navigation purposes or seeking assistance during an emergency, having a reliable means of communication is vital.

Key Takeaways

  • Handheld marine VHF radios are essential for boaters to communicate with other vessels and emergency services.
  • When choosing a handheld marine VHF radio, consider factors such as VHF frequencies, battery life, floatable models, clear reception, compact and portable design, emergency features, and waterproof design.
  • The top 5 handheld marine VHF radios for every boater’s needs are the Icom M93D, Standard Horizon HX870, Uniden MHS235, Cobra MR HH600, and Garmin VHF 115i.
  • These radios have various features and specifications, such as GPS, DSC, weather alerts, noise-canceling technology, and long battery life.
  • Boaters should choose a handheld marine VHF radio that meets their specific needs and budget, and always keep it charged and easily accessible in case of an emergency.

Importance of Having a Handheld Marine VHF Radio on Board

There are several reasons why every boater should have a handheld marine VHF radio on board. Firstly, it enhances safety on the water. In case of an emergency, such as a boat breakdown or a medical situation, a VHF radio allows boaters to quickly call for help and receive assistance from nearby vessels or emergency services.

Secondly, it is a legal requirement in many countries to have a VHF radio on board. This is because it ensures that boaters can comply with regulations and communicate effectively with other vessels and authorities.

Lastly, a handheld marine VHF radio enables communication with other boats in the vicinity. This is particularly useful for coordinating navigation in busy waterways or sharing important information about weather conditions or hazards.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Handheld Marine VHF Radio

When choosing a handheld marine VHF radio, there are several factors to consider to ensure you select the right one for your needs.

  1. VHF Frequencies:
    • Utilize Very High Frequency (VHF) bands for communication.
  2. Waterproof Design:
    • Essential for durability and reliability in marine environments.
  3. Emergency Features:
    • Often equipped with distress signals like DSC and SOS functions.
  4. Long Battery Life:
    • Crucial for extended use during boating trips.
  5. Floatable Models:
    • Some radios are designed to float if dropped in water, aiding retrieval.
  6. Clear Reception:
    • Advanced noise-canceling technology ensures clear communication on the water.
  7. Compact and Portable:
    • Easy to carry around on boats or kayaks for convenience.

Top Five Handheld VHF Marine Radios

1. Icom M94D Handheld VHF Marine Radio: This radio offers a wide range of features, including GPS capabilities, a large display, and a floatable design. It also has a long battery life and excellent audio quality.

2. Standard Horizon HX890 Handheld VHF Marine Radio: This radio is packed with features such as built-in GPS, DSC functionality, and a large color display. It also has a waterproof rating and a long-lasting battery. An Amazon overall pick as of 2024.

  • Built-in GPS for location tracking
  • DSC calling for emergency situations
  • Floats and flashes when dropped in water


3. Uniden MHS275 Handheld VHF Marine Radio: This radio offers a rugged design with a waterproof rating and a floating capability. It has NOAA weather alerts, GPS capabilities, and a long battery life.

  • Waterproof: Submersible for up to 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter.
  • Floating Design: Allows the radio to float if dropped overboard.
  • Emergency Strobe Light: Provides visual alert in emergencies.
  • Built-in GPS Receiver: Allows for position tracking and sharing.
  • NOAA Weather Alerts: Keeps you informed about weather conditions.
  • Long Battery Life: Up to 12 hours of use on a single charge.
  • Instant Channel 16/9 Access: For quick emergency communication.


4. Cobra MR HH600 Handheld VHF Marine Radio: This radio features a compact design with a floating capability and a waterproof rating. It has NOAA weather alerts, GPS capabilities, and a long-lasting battery.

  • Compact and portable design
  • Waterproof construction
  • Long-lasting battery life

5. Garmin VHF 115i Handheld VHF Marine Radio: This radio offers reliable communication with its clear reception and long battery life. It has built-in GPS capabilities, DSC functionality, and a waterproof design.

  • Compact Design: Portable and easy to carry.
  • Communication: Allows clear communication with other vessels or coastguards.
  • Safety Features: Includes distress button for emergencies.
  • Weather Alerts: Receives weather alerts for safe navigation.
  • Battery Life: Long-lasting battery for extended use.

Advanced Safety Features in Modern Handheld Marine Radios

  • GPS Integration: Provides accurate location information in case of emergencies.
  • Man Overboard (MOB) Function: Allows quick alert and tracking of a person falling overboard.
  • Emergency Alert Button: Sends out distress signals to nearby vessels and authorities.
  • Waterproof and Floatable Design: Ensures the radio remains functional even when submerged.
  • Long Battery Life: Essential for prolonged emergencies or distress situations.
  • Digital Selective Calling (DSC): Allows direct communication with other vessels and rescue services.
  • Weather Alerts: Keeps users informed of changing weather conditions for safer navigation.

Comparison of Features and Specifications of Top 5 Handheld Marine VHF Radios


When comparing the top 5 handheld marine VHF radios, several factors come into play.

1. Range: The range of these radios varies, with some offering a range of up to 20 miles or more.

2. Battery Life: Battery life is an important consideration, with some radios offering up to 18 hours of continuous use.

3. Waterproof Rating: All of the top 5 radios have a high waterproof rating, ensuring they can withstand exposure to water and harsh marine conditions.

4. Emergency Features: Each radio offers different emergency features, such as built-in GPS, DSC functionality, and NOAA weather alerts.

5. Price: The price range for these radios varies, with some being more affordable than others. It’s important to consider your budget when making a decision.

Conclusion and Recommendation for Boaters

In conclusion, having a handheld marine VHF radio on board is essential for boaters. It enhances safety, ensures compliance with regulations, and facilitates communication with other vessels and emergency services. When choosing a radio, consider factors such as VHF frequencies, battery life, floatable design, reception quality, portability, emergency features, and waterproofing.

Based on the top 5 handheld marine VHF radios mentioned above, the Icom M93D Handheld VHF Marine Radio stands out for its extensive features and reliability. However, the best choice ultimately depends on individual needs and budget. It is recommended that boaters carefully assess their requirements and choose a radio that meets their specific needs.

In conclusion, having a handheld marine VHF radio on board is not just a luxury but a necessity for boaters. It provides peace of mind knowing that you can communicate effectively in case of emergencies or when coordinating with other vessels. So before setting sail on your next boating adventure, make sure you have a reliable handheld marine VHF radio on board to stay connected and stay safe.