Marine VHF Radios

  • This topic has 9 replies, 6 voices, and was last updated 8 years ago by Hugh Davies.
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  • #10770
    Hugh Davies

    I’m a new member, and attended the April meeting earlier this week. The short presentation on VHF radio’s was very helpful – but I was wondering if the forum might add to the conversation re:

    • favoured make/model
    • cost, and where to buy
    • desirable features (DCS,  5 Vs 6 watts etc.)
    • battery life
    • usability etc.

    Also – are they really waterproof/submersible? Or is it wise to always use in a case?

    Thanks! Happy paddling!


Viewing 9 replies - 1 through 9 (of 9 total)
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  • #11250
    Hugh Davies

    A follow up: I just purchased a Standard Horizon 870 GPS-enabled (DSC) handheld from Amazon for $215 USD that seems to be the cheapest I have seen anywhere since I started looking. Also gives free delivery if you can ship it to US (we use, it’s “pay-what-you-think-its-worth” and easy to organize).

    Anja Pakendorf

    Sandra…sorry didn’t see earlier.   The port moody power squadron. I know they still have an opening may 30 or 31st.  It’s a one evening course.

    Hugh Davies

    Thanks everyone for your feedback!

    Sandra Waddle

    Anja, Who is doing the radio course? Sandra

    Karin Hartner

    I have an old Standard Horizon (pre GPS) waterproof–definitely so as I’ve dumped with it unprotected in my PFD several times. It has been of great service as I’ve had to speak with Coast Guard and others on numerous occasions. It has the rechargeable and the extra battery pack with the AA’s (a must-have).

    Both Standard Horizon and ICOM brands appear to be comparable.

    Check what MEC has–they will meet everyone else’s price–and also check the Marine stores. Steveston has a selection and as Nick mentioned-numerous locations. As Bruce said at the meeting Radios are affordable these days. I believe any kayaker who paddles out of mobile phone range needs a radio (and a watertight case for their phone-it’s useless in the hatch).

    I’ll be purchasing a new radio this season as I want one with the GPS feature as I don’t carry an actual GPS. Makes it easier to have Coast Guard locate you if you or someone in your party needs a ride.

    Karin Hartner

    Graham Lorimer

    Nicks comments are excellent.  I managed to get six or seven years out of my last Standard Horizon radio with DTS and it is stored unprotected in my PFD pocket.   The radio is fully soaked during every paddle and seems to stand up fine with a mild rinse at the end of the paddle.   This radio floats which is a great feature.

    Anja Pakendorf

    I had bought the cheaper version thinking why need another GPS. ..since I already have one.  Then I found out that the more expensive model has a special red emergency button you can press. ..once you registered the unit in your name ….that will then send the distress signal with GPS coordinates automatically when pressed.

    Nick Heath

    Tough questions for this format, Hugh.  Each paddler has his biases.

    Good names St/Horizon, ICOM, Humminbird etc

    Cost depends on what features you want. Some features are frills, in my view.

    Where to buy – locally Steveston Marine at 3 locations esp if offered on sale.

    Must have waterproof rating

    must accept regular AA batteries as well as having NiMh not NiCd battery pack. This usually means having 2 battery trays. Also must have Weather Wx channels but I think this is standard, 3 yr warranty

    Nice to have – battery strength indicator, dual watch, channel lock

    Not needed but not bad either Dig Selective Calling, GPS, tri channel watch, scan, floating

    5W vs 6W not material

    battery life – specs tell some of the story but unbiased reviews are better. Want good standby (receive mode) life. Adding features reduces battery life.  Turn off gizmos for decent battery life – usually one day, maybe two.  Turn off radio for extended trip or have some means of charging or use many, many AA batteries Can be rechargeables, but they have shorter battery life.

    I would normally use a radio bag and not rely on the waterproof rating which depends fully on the radio being regularly rinsed with fresh water (you could carry an extra few litres of water just to rinse your radio I suppose!)

    See quite fancy S/H HX 870 $285 on sale at Steveston but probably comes without AA battery tray. Too many features in my view, so look downwards from there. Should get a nice one around $150.

    Most are sold to boaters who leave them in on board chargers 90& of time and use them just for shore trips in the tender. Hence battery life has been sacrificed to compact size, convenience somewhat, to suit that market.

    I can’t comment on various ways to charge your NiMh batteries on long er trips – i suspect the wall wart chargers make the whole process too inefficient to contemplate so it is nice if the radio is chargeable directly from say a 9 -12 V DC source.  Some are.


    Anja Pakendorf

    I bought the Standart Horizion HX 870 from MEC.  Found it on sale last year at Steve stone marine and MEC price matched.  It’s GPS enabled.  It has a rechargeable battery as well as ability to power with 5 AAA batteries…which might come in handy on long trips.


    Taking the radio course April 26th with the port moody power squadron.  You can also buy material online and then arrange to take test with one of the squadrons.




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