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Handheld VHF marine radio design is improving with new functions added every year.

Handheld VHF marine radio design is improving with new functions added every year.

Handheld VHF marine radio design is improving with new functions added every year. We take a look at some of the best handheld marine radios on the market.

Significant improvements in a number of areas in recent years have seen handheld VHF marine radios move from being purely portable communications devices to something altogether more useful. 

Waterproofing has increased with many of the best handheld marine radios now able to float for sustained periods of time without any damage to the internal electrics. Many of these floating handheld VHFs also offer some form of automatically activated strobe to help you find it in the dark if it has been dropped in the water. RM40 is a feature-rich, top spec handheld VHF, with impressive functionality. It features a large screen, which is easy to read but also points to the array of functions available. The handheld radio floats with a highly visible strobe light activated when in the water and is fully waterproof with an IPX7 rating.

The RM40 has a built-in GPS receiver, something you will not find in other models offering less functionality, and is DSC-capable – so you can send a digital message to other DSC-capable receivers, including your GPS coordinates. If you send a distress message, it will automatically activate alarms on all DSC-capable receivers.

We like the dedicated volume buttons and the squelch is easy to find and falls naturally under the finger next to the push to transmit (PTT) button. Overall it is well laid out and easy to operate. The menu is easy to navigate and the Emergency distress button is easy to locate on the rear and can be activated single handed.

We got 27 hours from this on standby monitoring VTS ch12 in a busy  shipping port

Of course, as is the case with any handheld, mobile, battery-powered device there are trade-offs to consider. The more feature-rich the handheld marine radio, the bigger it will be, the more screen real estate it will need to display options and thus the more prone it is to increased battery drain. Smaller units might well offer fewer features but may counter this through increased battery life – even with a smaller battery – or better convenience or value.

Don’t forget though that although you can buy a radio easily online, if you don’t have one already, you’ll need to obtain a licence to operate a VHF radio in the UK and USA and various other territories.


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