Considering crucial radio features for marine use, like waterproof capability, power, battery life, sound quality, and features, we’ve concluded that Cobra MR HH35 is the best VHF marine radio for most users.

After thorough testing and researching, including following online customer reviews and feedback, we have come up with a list of the leading VHF handheld marine radios on the market, taking into account factors such as price, features, and durability.

Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or a recreational boater, this comprehensive review and buyer’s guide will help you choose the right handheld VHF marine radio to suit your needs, from budget-friendly options to feature-packed high-end models.

Best Budget
Uniden Atlantis 155
8.5
  • Power: 1/2.5 Watts
  • Waterproof: JIS8
  • Battery: 950 mAh (10hrs)
Best Mid Range
Cobra MR HH350
8.8
  • Power: 1/3/6 Watts
  • Waterproof: IPX7
  • Battery: 1000 mAh (8hrs)
Best Premium
Icom 94D
8.3
  • Power: 1/3/6 Watts
  • Waterproof: IPX7
  • Battery: 2400 mAh (10hrs)
Cobra MR HH350
Uniden Atlantis 155
Icom M94D
Standard Horizon HX890
Uniden MHS75
Icom IC-M25 21
Standard Horizon HX40
Uniden Atlantis 275
Cobra HH600 DSC
Standard Horizon HX210
Power
1/3/6W
1/2.5W
1/6W
1/2/6W
1/2.5/5W
1/5W
1/2.5/6W
1/2.5/6W
1/3/6W
1/2.5/6W
Waterproof
IPX7
JIS8
IPX7
IPX8
JIS8
IPX7
IPX7
IPX8
IPX8
IPX7
Battery
1600 mAh (7-16 hours)
950 mAh (10 hours)
2400 mAh (10 hours)
1800 mAh (11 hours)
1040 mAh (12 hours)
570 mAh (11 hours)
1850 mAh (10 hours)
1200 mAh (10 hours)
2000mAh (10-15 hours)
850 mAh (12 hours)
Audio output
250 mW
250 mW
1500 m
750 mW
N/A
700 mW
600 mW
N/A
250 mW
700 mW
AIS
No
No
Yes
No
No
No
No
No
No
No

1. Best Overall – Cobra MR HH350

If affordability without sacrificing essential features is your priority, the Cobra MR HH350 is an excellent choice. Its key features include:

  • Compact design for easy storage in a pocket or cargo tray
  • One of the largest screens in its class for clear visibility
  • Reliable connectivity even in challenging conditions

The Cobra MR HH350 is a top choice for boaters on a budget.

Although it lacks DSC or AIS capabilities, the MR HH350 provides reliable transmission and comes with a 2nd station microphone capability.

top pick for the highest fidelity headphones with best sounding open back design we have reviewed and tested

With a battery life of up to 16 hours when operating at one watt, you can trust this budget-friendly option to keep you connected during your marine adventures.

The Cobra MR HH350 handheld VHF radio is a solid option with a reasonable price tag and good features, making it particularly suitable for coastal boaters and small boats. It offers Tri-Watch functionality, a durable and waterproof design with a buoyant feature for easy retrieval, and a noise-canceling microphone. While lacking DSC and AIS features and having a somewhat flimsy belt clip, it provides impressive quality-to-price value, making it the best handheld VHF marine radio for most user.

Specifications

  • Power: 1/3/6W
  • Waterproof rating: IPX7
  • Battery: 1600 mAh (7-16 hours)
  • Bluetooth: No
  • AIS: No
  • Design & Build 80% 80%
  • Features 80% 80%
  • Sound 80% 80%
  • Value 80% 80%
POSITIVE
Open headphones are perfect for expansive soundstage and any music genres Great value
Top rated open-back headphones reviewed Compact design
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Reliable build and transmission capability
best sounding over ear headphones we have tested Noise cancelling microphone
best sounding over ear headphones we have tested Solid and reliable build
NEGATIVE
No DSC support
No AIS capability

2. Best Budget – Uniden Atlantis 155

The Uniden Atlantis 155 upholds Uniden’s reputation for delivering rugged and dependable handheld radios.

It offers comprehensive coverage, including all NOAA weather channels and USA, International, and Canadian marine channels.

With a JIS8 submersible waterproof rating and the ability to float, this radio is suitable for use in various weather conditions.

Its backlit LCD display ensures easy operation day or night.

Perfect for outdoor adventures and harsh conditions, the Uniden Atlantis 155 stands out as the first handheld VHF radio designed for rugged VHF marine radio use.

top pick for the highest fidelity headphones with best sounding open back design we have reviewed and tested

Although the range of the Atlantis 155 may be limited, its rugged design, waterproof construction, and NOAA weather alerts make it an ideal choice for those who enjoy outdoor activities and need a dependable VHF marine radio to keep them connected and informed.

Specifications

  • Power: 1/3/6W
  • Waterproof rating: IPX7
  • Battery: 950 mAh (10 hours)
  • Bluetooth: No
  • AIS: No
  • Design & Build 80% 80%
  • Features 70% 70%
  • Sound 70% 70%
  • Value 100% 100%
POSITIVE
Open headphones are perfect for expansive soundstage and any music genres Rugged design
Top rated open-back headphones reviewed Waterproof and submersible
Exceptional quality across the frequency response NOAA weather alerts
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Brilliant backlit LCD
NEGATIVE
Limited range

3. Best Premium – Icom M94D

The M94D is a flagship model from Icom which stands out as the ideal choice for boaters seeking a VHF marine radio packed with advanced features.

It is the first marine radio that comes equipped with an Automatic Identification System (AIS), Digital Selective Calling (DSC), and a built-in GPS receiver.

Accessing the AIS function was quite straightforward, and switching between different screens became smooth and swift once we mastered the button navigation.

Additionally, it offers an impressive 16-hour standby battery life, with a quick 3-hour charging time.

top pick for the highest fidelity headphones with best sounding open back design we have reviewed and tested

Notably, its larger screen enhances readability, even when displaying a significant amount of information, distinguishing it from smaller alternatives.

Although the ICOM 94D with AIS comes with a higher price tag compared to other VHF radios, its advanced features and reliable performance make it an excellent investment for those who prefer more advanced functionality in their marine radios.

Specifications

  • Power: 1/6W
  • Waterproof rating: IPX7
  • Battery: 2400 mAh (10-16 hours)
  • Bluetooth: No
  • AIS: Yes
  • Design & Build 90% 90%
  • Features 90% 90%
  • Sound 90% 90%
  • Value 70% 70%
POSITIVE
Open headphones are perfect for expansive soundstage and any music genres Feature packed
Top rated open-back headphones reviewed AIS receiver and DSC function
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Active noise canceling technology
best sounding over ear headphones we have tested Integrated GPS receiver
NEGATIVE
True professinal level bar has been set Higher price compared to other VHF radios
True professinal level bar has been set A bit heavy

4. Best Premium Runner Up – Standard Horizon HX890

The Standard Horizon HX890 is your go-to option if you’re seeking a high-end VHF marine radio loaded with advanced features.

This radio offers versatility and can function as an extension with GPS chart plotters, almost taking the place of more powerful fixed VHF models.

With a battery life of up to 11 hours, you won’t have to worry about running out of power during your adventures on the water.

The HX890 comes packed with advanced features, such as a built-in GPS receiver, standard DSC, and a man overboard feature (MOB).

top pick for the highest fidelity headphones with best sounding open back design we have reviewed and tested

Although it’s on the higher end of the price spectrum, its impressive functionality and advanced features make it worth the investment for those who demand top-notch performance from their VHF marine radio.

Specifications

  • Power: 1/2/6W
  • Waterproof rating: IPX7
  • Battery: 1800 mAh (11 hours)
  • Bluetooth: No
  • GPS: Yes
  • Design & Build 90% 90%
  • Features 90% 90%
  • Sound 90% 90%
  • Value 70% 70%
POSITIVE
Open headphones are perfect for expansive soundstage and any music genres Advanced features
Top rated open-back headphones reviewed Built-in GPS receiver
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Long battery life
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Water activated emergency strobe light
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Fast charging
NEGATIVE
True professinal level bar has been set Higher price range than competition
True professinal level bar has been set A bit bulky

5. Most Rugged – Uniden MHS75

Look no further than the Uniden MHS75 if a compact, reliable VHF marine radio is what you’re after.

This submersible marine handheld VHF radio comes with a variety of features. It offers U.S., International, and Canadian marine channels and 10 weather channels.

Its compact size and impressive performance during testing make it a popular choice among boaters.

The Uniden MHS75 boasts a 3-year warranty for the radio and a 1-year warranty for the battery, ensuring peace of mind.

Although it doesn’t float, its IPX8 waterproof rating guarantees it can withstand water exposure, making it a reliable and compact choice for your marine communication needs.

top pick for the highest fidelity headphones with best sounding open back design we have reviewed and tested

Specifications

  • Power: 1/2.5/5W
  • Waterproof rating: IPX8
  • Battery: 1040 mAh (12 hours)
  • Bluetooth: No
  • GPS: No
  • Design & Build 80% 80%
  • Features 70% 70%
  • Sound 80% 80%
  • Value 90% 90%
POSITIVE
Open headphones are perfect for expansive soundstage and any music genres Rugged design
Top rated open-back headphones reviewed Compact and lightweight design
Exceptional quality across the frequency response 3-year warranty + battery has a 1-year warranty
best sounding over ear headphones we have tested Big and bright display
NEGATIVE
Does not float

6. Lightest  Marine VHF Radio – Icom IC-M25 21

Prioritize portability in your VHF marine radio? Then, the Icom IC-M25 is a top recommendation.

Its lightweight and compact design makes it easy to carry and use during your marine adventures. The large LCD display ensures clear visibility, allowing you to stay connected even in challenging conditions.

While it may not be suitable for diving applications, the IC-M25 offers a range of features, including a built-in GPS receiver, for those who prefer a lightweight option.

Its IPX7 waterproof rating ensures it can withstand water exposure, making it a dependable choice for boaters who need a lightweight yet functional VHF marine radio.

top pick for the highest fidelity headphones with best sounding open back design we have reviewed and tested

Specifications

  • Power: 1/5W
  • Waterproof rating: IPX7
  • Battery: 1500 mAh (11 hours)
  • Bluetooth: No
  • GPS: Yes
  • Design & Build 80% 80%
  • Features 70% 70%
  • Sound 90% 90%
  • Value 100% 100%
POSITIVE
Open headphones are perfect for expansive soundstage and any music genres Lightweight and compact design
Top rated open-back headphones reviewed Large LCD display
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Different color bodies
best sounding over ear headphones we have tested Flashing red LED light and LCD backlight
best sounding over ear headphones we have tested 550 mW audio output
NEGATIVE
True professinal level bar has been set No GPS

7. Most Compact Marine Radio – Standard Horizon HX40

Designed for marine communication safety and portability, the Standard Horizon HX40E is a compact VHF radio.

Its smaller size compared to the HX300 allows for easy storage and use while maintaining essential functionality.

The HX40E features a USB charging port for convenient charging from various electronic devices, similar to mobile phones.

Although it does not float without the optional case, its IPX7 waterproof rating guarantees it can withstand water exposure, making it a reliable choice for those in need of a compact VHF marine radio.

top pick for the highest fidelity headphones with best sounding open back design we have reviewed and tested

The HX40E’s simple design and easy-to-use functionality make it a popular choice among boaters who require a compact VHF radio for their marine communication needs.

Specifications

  • Power: 1/2.5/6W
  • Waterproof rating: IPX7
  • Battery: 1850mAh (11 hours)
  • Bluetooth: No
  • GPS: No
  • Design & Build 80% 80%
  • Features 80% 80%
  • Sound 90% 90%
  • Value 100% 100%
POSITIVE
Open headphones are perfect for expansive soundstage and any music genres Ultra compact design
Top rated open-back headphones reviewed Easy to use menu system
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Dot matrix display
best sounding over ear headphones we have tested Built in FM broadcast band
NEGATIVE
True professinal level bar has been set Does not float without optional case

8. Largest Display – Uniden Atlantis 275

Boating enthusiasts in need of a durable, simple, and reliable communication device will find the Uniden Atlantis 275, a rugged VHF marine radio, worth a look.

Some of the key features of the Uniden Atlantis 275 include a built-in GPS receiver for easy navigation and tracking on the water, as well as Power Boost PTT key functionality.

It also comes with an IPX8 waterproof rating to withstand water exposure.

Although the audio may be noisy at high volumes, the Atlantis 275 has a rugged design and reliable performance all in one.

top pick for the highest fidelity headphones with best sounding open back design we have reviewed and tested

Specifications

  • Power: 1/2.5/6W
  • Waterproof rating: JIS8/IPX8
  • Battery: 1200 mAh (10 hours)
  • Bluetooth: No
  • GPS: No
  • Design & Build 80% 80%
  • Features 70% 70%
  • Sound 70% 70%
  • Value 80% 80%
POSITIVE
Open headphones are perfect for expansive soundstage and any music genres Rugged design
Top rated open-back headphones reviewed Built-in GPS receiver
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Waterproof and submersible
Exceptional quality across the frequency response 3 year warranty
NEGATIVE
True professinal level bar has been set Noisy audio at high volumes

9. Best With Bluetooth – Cobra HH600 DSC

For those seeking advanced functionality in their marine radio, the feature-packed Cobra HH600 DSC Floating VHF Marine Radio could be a top choice.

With a built-in GPS and Bluetooth connectivity, the HH600 DSC offers a comprehensive range of features, including Digital Selective Calling (DSC) for immediate placement of distress calls to rescue personnel.

Its floating design and waterproof construction ensure that it remains reliable and functional even when accidentally dropped in water.

In addition, NOAA weather support provides access to weather channels and support weather alerts.

top pick for the highest fidelity headphones with best sounding open back design we have reviewed and tested

Although it comes with a higher price tag compared to other VHF radios, the Cobra HH600 DSC’s advanced features, multiple transmission power options and reliable performance make it an excellent investment for those who demand top-notch performance from their marine radios.

Specifications

  • Power: 1/3/6W
  • Waterproof rating: IPX8
  • Battery: 2000mAh (10-15 hours)
  • Bluetooth: Yes
  • GPS: Yes
  • Design & Build 80% 80%
  • Features 100% 100%
  • Sound 80% 80%
  • Value 80% 80%
POSITIVE
Open headphones are perfect for expansive soundstage and any music genres Packed full of useful features
Top rated open-back headphones reviewed Sports a GPS
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Bluetooth connectivity
best sounding over ear headphones we have tested Rewind-Say-Again feature
NEGATIVE
True professinal level bar has been set Higher price compared to other VHF radios

10. Best Warranty – Standard Horizon HX210

With its easy-to-navigate buttons and menu, the Standard Horizon HX210 handheld VHF marine radio proves to be an ideal choice for paddleboarders.

Although it is not a DSC/GPS equipped model, it still provides basic level function for those who don’t require advanced features.

The HX210 is charged via a cradle and can be powered by either a 12v or 240v power supply, making it convenient for travel.

Featuring an FM radio receiver, this radio is perfect for tuning in to weather forecasts or other broadcasts while out on the water.

Its bright orange facia, PTT side buttons, and waterproof and floating design make the HX210 an ideal companion for paddleboarding, kayaking, or coastal rowing adventures.

top pick for the highest fidelity headphones with best sounding open back design we have reviewed and tested

Specifications

  • Power: 1/2.5/6W
  • Waterproof rating: IPX7
  • Battery: 1850 mAh (12 hours)
  • Bluetooth: No
  • GPS: No
  • Design & Build 80% 80%
  • Features 70% 70%
  • Sound 70% 70%
  • Value 90% 90%
POSITIVE
Open headphones are perfect for expansive soundstage and any music genres User-friendly design
Top rated open-back headphones reviewed Waterproof and submersible
Exceptional quality across the frequency response FM radio receiver built-in
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Clear display
Exceptional quality across the frequency response Easy to navigate buttons and menu
NEGATIVE
True professinal level bar has been set Not a DSC/GPS equipped model

How To Choose The Best Handheld VHF Marine Radio – Buyers Guide

Having covered the top 10 best VHF marine radios on the market, understanding some key factors will aid in making an informed purchase decision. In this buyer’s guide, we’ll delve into:

  • Understanding VHF marine radios
  • Their features
  • Waterproof ratings
  • Important frequencies

Understanding VHF Marine Radios

VHF marine radios are essential communication devices for boaters, enabling clear and reliable communication between vessels and shore stations. Unlike fixed and handheld aviation radios which use Aviation band, Marine radios operate within the frequency range of 156 to 174 MHz and are ideal for short-range terrestrial communication. VHF radios provide superior sound quality and are not impeded by structures, ensuring clear communication even when indoors.

Familiarizing yourself with VHF marine radio terminology is crucial for facilitating clear and precise communication with other mariners. Some of the most common VHF expressions include “Roger that,” “Break,” and “Mayday”, but there is much more communications lingo to get yourself familiar with. It’s essential to avoid idle chatter on VHF radios, especially on critical channels such as Channel 16, which is reserved for distress calls.

Handheld VHF vs Fixed Mount VHF Marine Radios

There are two primary types of VHF marine radios: handheld and fixed mount. Handheld VHF marine radios, also known as handheld marine radios or handheld radio, offer portability and are powered by their own internal batteries, making them an ideal choice for boaters who require a compact and easy-to-carry communication device. However, these radios typically have a limited range of about five miles.

Fixed mount VHF radios, on the other hand, offer higher transmission power, with some devices capable of operating up to 25W. This results in a range of 25 to 30 miles, before a base station device would be required to further propagate the signal. This makes the fixed mount VHF radio a better choice for those requiring a longer communication range. However, fixed radios are more expensive and require a fixed position on the vessel, making them less portable than handheld options.

Waterproof Ratings

Waterproof ratings are crucial when selecting a VHF marine radio, as these devices are predominantly used in aquatic environments and must be able to withstand water exposure to prevent any unfortunate incidents. VHF marine radios are typically rated according to their waterproofing capabilities, with the most common ratings being:

  • IPX4: Water resistant, can withstand splashing water from any direction
  • IPX7: Can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes
  • IPX8: Can be continuously submerged in water deeper than 1 meter

An IPX4 rating indicates that the radio is protected against splashing water, while an IPX7 rating means that the radio can be submerged in water up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes. An IPX8 rating signifies that the radio can be submerged in water deeper than 1 meter for an extended period of time. It’s essential to select a radio with a waterproof rating suitable for your specific needs and usage environment.

VHF Marine Radio Features

When purchasing a VHF marine radio, it’s essential to consider its features. Some key features to consider when selecting a radio are:

  • Battery life
  • Frequency scanning
  • Weather reports
  • GPS integration
  • Automatic distress signals

These features will help make sure the radio is suitable for your needs. Digital Selective Calling (DSC) is one such feature that allows you to transmit a digital call directly to another vessel or shore station with DSC capability.

Another important feature to consider is the built-in GPS receiver, which enables accurate location tracking and distress signal transmission. A VHF marine radio with a built-in GPS receiver allows you to send your exact location with the press of a button, providing added safety and convenience during your marine adventures.

Important VHF Marine Radio Frequencies

Knowing the crucial frequencies for marine communication is essential for any VHF marine radio user. Channel 16, for example, is the designated SOS frequency and also serves as the channel for coast guard and weather alerts. It is vital to keep this channel open at all times and to avoid idle chatter on it.

Other important channels include:

  • Channel 22A: dedicated to the US Coast Guard marine information broadcast
  • Channel 13: utilized for hailing and initial communications between vessels
  • Channel 6: utilized for intership communications
  • Channel 9: a supplementary channel for recreational voyagers

Most Import Channels

As mentioned in the previous section, the most important channels for marine VHF radio users are:

  • Channel 16
  • Channel 22A
  • Channel 13
  • Channel 6
  • Channel 9

These channels ensure clear communication between vessels and shore stations, as well as enabling distress calls to be made when necessary.

It’s important to familiarize yourself with the purpose and usage of each of these essential channels to ensure clear and accurate communication while using your VHF marine radio. Remember, Channel 16 is reserved for distress calls and should only be used in emergency situations.

Marine VHF Radio Lingo

To communicate effectively using a VHF marine radio, it’s important to understand and utilize the proper marine radio lingo. Common terms include:

  • “over”
  • “out”
  • “roger”
  • “wilco”
  • “affirmative”

These terms help facilitate clear and precise communication among mariners.

By familiarizing yourself with VHF marine radio terminology, you can ensure that your communications are clear, concise, and easily understood by other mariners, enhancing the safety and effectiveness of your marine communication.

Conclusion

In conclusion, selecting the right VHF marine radio is crucial for ensuring clear and reliable communication while on the water. From budget-friendly options like the Cobra MR HH350 to high-end models like the Standard Horizon HX890, our list of the top 10 best VHF marine radios of the year offers options for every boater’s needs.

Remember to consider factors such as waterproof ratings, transmission power, and advanced features like Digital Selective Calling when choosing your VHF marine radio. With the right radio and a solid understanding of marine communication, you can enhance the safety and enjoyment of your time on the water.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    What is a DCS?

    Digital Selective Calling (DCS) is a standard for transmitting predefined digital messages through the MF, HF, and VHF maritime radio systems. DCS enables the capability to transmit a digital call directly to another vessel or shore station with DSC capability, enhancing the safety and efficiency of marine communication.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    What is MMSI?

    The Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) is a unique identifier assigned to a vessel upon registration. It is necessary for the successful transmission of a Digital Selective Calling (DSC) signal. The MMSI functions similarly to a phone number, allowing for the transmission of one’s exact position with the press of a button.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    What is an Automatic Identification System (AIS)?

    An Automatic Identification System (AIS) is an automated tracking system that displays information regarding the presence of other vessels in the vicinity. It consolidates and identifies marine communication channels, furnishing real-time data on:

    • vessel positions
    • speed
    • course
    • heading
    • destination
    • other pertinent data
    AIS is particularly useful in foggy conditions, providing an extensive view of every large vessel and vessels with AIS equipment.
  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    What Does SOS Stand For?

    SOS is an acronym that stands for “Save Our Souls” or “Save Our Ship”. It is used as a distress signal in maritime and aviation communication, indicating that a person or vessel is in need of immediate assistance.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    Do Sailors Need Licenses to Use a VHF Radio?

    Licenses are not necessary for sailors using a VHF radio domestically on voluntary ships, such as recreation or pleasure craft. However, it’s essential to be familiar with local regulations when traveling outside of US territorial waters to ensure compliance with any licensing requirements that may be in place.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    Can the Weather Affect the Performance of a VHF Radio?

    Yes, the weather can have an effect on the performance of a VHF radio. Precipitation such as rain, snow, and fog can interfere with the signal, making communication more challenging. It’s essential to consider the weather conditions when using your VHF marine radio and take any necessary precautions to maintain clear communication.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    How can I improve the range of my VHF marine radio?

    To improve the range of your VHF marine radio, ensure there is a clear line of sight, use a high-quality antenna, and select a radio with higher transmission power.

  • image/svg+xmlimage/svg+xml
    Is it necessary to have a license to operate a VHF marine radio?

    A license is not necessary for domestic use of VHF marine radios on recreational or pleasure craft, but local regulations should be checked when traveling abroad.

Best Overall
Cobra MR HH350
9

The Cobra MR HH350 is a handheld marine radio that offers reliable communication capabilities for boaters and sailors. With its compact design and rugged construction, it's well-suited for use in harsh marine environments. Clear reception, long battery life, and convenient features like NOAA weather alerts make it a valuable tool for staying connected and safe on the water.