Handheld VHF marine radios offer convenience of a portability and easy of use. They usually have adjustable power ranging up to 6 watts and work well on short distances. Since the antenna is built in, the effective radio range isn't as long as a 25 watt fixed marine radio with external mounted antenna.
The best handheld VHF marine radios will have: large display (up to 2 1/2 - 3"), long battery life (1800mAh capacity), submersible (look for IPX8 - submersible waterproof rating of 4.92 feet for 30 minutes), floating, clear voice audio, DSC and even GPS receiver.
Many of today's newer handheld marine radios have just as many features as the fixed mount radios including DSC, GPS, noise canceling, waterproofing and many more. The newest models with the most features are more expensive however you will be able to find a hand held marine radio that fits your needs and budget. There are several things to look for when selecting a handheld marine radio many of which depend upon where and when you will be using the radio as well as your budget.
We put together a list of some of the best selling radios on the market. Click on each radio to read detailed review. We have also put together some of the features you should consider when looking to purchase a handheld VHF Marine Radio.
How Powerful Does My Handheld Marine Radio Need To Be?
Unlike fixed mount marine radios that can have up to 25 watts of power handheld marine radios can only contain a maximum of 6 watts. This is mostly due to their size and lack of a tall antenna like a fixed mount radio. Many people go with the more power is better and get the maximum amount of power that that can in their handheld VHF marine radio and to be honest that is not a bad idea if you typically go on on long trips far from shore with little to no other boat traffic near. Your handheld radio can be your only lifeline if your boat sinks or your fixed mount radio malfunctions and you need to communicate with the shore or Coast Guard.
On the other hand if most of your trips are short excursions you are always in site of the shore and you have a lot of boat traffic near you then a less expensive hand held radio may be a great choice.
Does My Handheld VHF Marine Radio Need To Float?
This is one feature that I feel strongly about; having spent a lot of time on boats both in freshwater and saltwater I have come to find that sooner or later almost everything on a boat will fall into the water. Your radio is a vital piece of equipment as we talked about above and for the few extra dollars you will spend on a floating handheld VHF marine radio is more than worth it in pretty much any scenario you envision where you would need the radio. In addition we would recommend a waterproof rating of IPX7 (waterproof up to 3 feet under water) as this will ensure the radio will function should you have to abandon your ship and be stuck in the water for a period of time.
Does Battery Life Matter For My Handheld VHF Marine Radio?
Again, here this is more personal preference and how often and far your boat trips are; if your trips are shorter and you are in a heavy traffic area then a radio with a battery that is not long lasting is not a huge problem additionally if you have a charger on board or extra batteries then a shorter battery life is not a big deal.
Does It Matter What Kind Of Display My Handheld Marine Radio Has?
You will definitely want to make sure that your radio has as backlight display so you can see it at night although almost all marine radios made today contain them. The next choice is LCD (like a watch) which is easy to read but cannot show detailed images or Dot Matrix which is not as clear but does allow for more complex images to be shown on screen. We would recommend a Dot Matrix display if you are buying a radio with GPS and will be using the screen to help you navigate.