3 Best Handheld Marine Radios Under $200
Carrying a VHF radio with you at all times on the water is one of the most important safety measures you can take. In this article, we show you three of the best handheld marine radios under $200.
If you enjoy spending time on your boat, yacht, or kayak, it's important that you can call for help if you find yourself in a dangerous situation.
A marine radio ensures that you have line-of-sight communication between your boat, other vessels, and most importantly, rescue agencies like the Coast Guard, TowBoat U.S., and Vessel Assist.
Many larger vessels are equipped with built-in VHF maritime mobile band radios that provide high-powered communication, but it's still recommended that all boaters carry a handheld VHF marine radio as an extra measure of precaution.
If your vessel loses power, your main communication system might go down as well and a handheld radio could be your ticket out of a potentially life-threatening situation.
Handheld marine radios are also ideal for smaller vessels like fishing boats or kayaks, as they are battery operated and self-contained, requiring no external power.
So, if you are just getting into boating and fishing, especially in the ocean, do yourself a favor and get a handheld marine radio before you head out to sea.
Before we get into our recommendations, let's go over the basics of what to look for in a handheld marine radio.
If you find yourself in a compromised situation at sea, the last thing you want to worry about is losing your radio overboard.
The good news is that most of the handheld marine radios on the market today are built to float. That means if you do drop your radio into the deep blue, all you have to do is fish it out.
A floating radio isn't much good if it's susceptible to water damage. Luckily, all of the marine radios on our list are highly water resistant.
Marine radios have water resistance ratings that are determined by how deep and how long the unit can be submerged under water and still work.
At a minimum, the best handheld marine radios can withstand 30 minutes of submersion under one meter of water.
Since handheld marine radios are freestanding units, they rely on batteries for power. Most radios use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that generally have a minimum of eight hours of battery life.
Depending on the radio's power output and battery pack size, some handheld marine radios can last up to 20 hours, but most are in the 10- to 18-hour range.
There are two main types of displays used in handheld marine radios: 7 segment LCD displays and dot matrix displays.
A 7-segment display uses classic calculator-style digits and each area of the screen displays specific information that stays fixed in place.
Dot matrix displays, however, use a screen technology that's similar to that used in smartphones, where the entire screen can is used and more information is displayed.
Under the 200-dollar mark, you'll be looking at radios that use 7-segment displays. While these displays aren't as robust as the more expensive dot matrix displays, they provide you with all the information you need and the cost savings can be huge.
Coming in under $100, the Uniden Atlantis 270 is the least expensive handheld marine radio on our list, but it's a very reliable unit that shouldn't be missed.
The Uniden Atlantis 270 has everything you need in a handheld marine radio.
It floats, it's water-resistant up to 1 meter for 30 minutes, and it has a full 10 hours of battery life on a single charge.
It has three broadcast frequency power settings — 1, 2.5, and 6 watts — allowing you to conserve battery life by using the lower settings, while still having the higher powered option in case you need the extra range of signal reach.
With the Uniden Atlantis 270, you have access to all NOAA emergency weather channels along with all USA, International, and Canadian maritime channels.
The unit also has dual and triple watch functionality that allows you to monitor two or three separate channels simultaneously.
The backlit seven segment LCD screen is bright and has excellent contrast making it easy to see, and the control buttons are simple and straightforward to use.
If you're simply looking for a high-quality and reliable handheld marine radio to use as a backup to your main system, the Uniden Atlantis 270 is a great choice, especially considering its low price.
One of the most compact handheld marine radios on the market is the Standard Horizon HX300.
Thanks to an ultra-small 1560mAh 3.7V lithium-ion battery that has a huge capacity, the size of the Horizon HX300 is greatly reduced while still offering 10 hours of battery life.
And while the unit is small, the LCD screen is still a full 1.75 inches, displaying all the information you need without feeling cramped.
Some of the weight and size savings is accomplished by utilizing a slightly lower power output than some of the other handheld marine radios out there — only 1 watt on the low power setting and 5 watts on the high power setting.
With the Horizon HX300, you get all the NOAA weather channels along with all USA, Canada, and International marine channels. Functions like priority scan, dual-watch, and tri-watch give you access to all the information you need on the water in addition to the ability to call for help whenever you need it.
Unlike the other radios on our list, the Horizon HX300 uses a versatile USB charging system in addition to the standard 110VAC charger.
Plus, an alkaline battery tray can be purchased separately allowing you to power the radio from disposable batteries if you're unable to charge it.
The Standard Horizon HX300 floats, but unlike the others, it's equipped with a water-activated LED light that strobes to help you locate the radio if you happen to drop it overboard at night. The HX300 also has a higher-than-average water resistance rating of 1.5 meters for 30 minutes.
The most feature-rich handheld marine radio on our list is the Icom IC-M73.
While this unit is more expensive than the others (still under $200), the higher price gives you a longer battery life (18 hours), louder and clearer audio output, a high water resistance rating (1.5 meters for 30 minutes), and a special water-draining design.
The louder audio output of the IC-M73 is produced by an integrated BTL amplifier that essentially doubles the audio output of the 700mW speaker.
The IC-M73 also has 6 watts of power output, increasing its range of communication.
The display on the Icom IC-M73 is by far the brightest, clearest, and easiest to read of all the handheld marine radios on our list. If you're looking for a do-all handheld VHF radio, the higher price of the IC-M73 is definitely worth it, especially if you're solely relying on the unit in a small boat or kayak.
Now that you have three options for the best handheld marine radios under 200, all that's left is to buy one and use it. This one small investment will provide peace of mind and increased safety as you enjoy your time on the water.