5 Best Marine Handheld Radios in 2022 Reviews

5 Best Marine Handheld Radios in 2022 Reviews

 

Handheld marine radios are a huge contributor to your overall safety when out at sea. Whether you're a professional or a hobbyist, keeping communication lines open is vital during an emergency. 

To best achieve this, however, you need to make the right choice. 

There are numerous handheld marine radios on the market at the moment, so it's understandable if you're feeling a little lost. Don't worry, that's what we're here for.

In this guide, we'll take you through our top five picks for the best handheld marine radios, including their standout features and their pros and cons. By the end, you'll feel more confident than ever in making the right purchase. You might even learn a couple of things along the way. 

We've also included a breakdown of what you should be looking for when browsing the market. Enough introduction, let's jump in!

 

  EDITOR'S CHOICE        
  ICOM IC-M25
Moonraker MHR-100
ICOM IC-M37
ICOM IC-GM1600
ICOM IC-M87E
Frequency 156-162MHz 156-163MHz 156-162MHz 156MHz 146-174MHz
Power 5W 3W 6W 2W 5W
Size 56.6 x 134.2 x 30.5mm 63 x 119 x 35mm 59.7 × 140.5 × 38.7mm 65 × 145 × 44 mm 62 × 97 × 39 mm
Weight 220g 136g 293g 385g 280g
Waterproof Rating IPX7 IP67 IPX7 IPX7 IPX7
Battery Life Up to 11 Hours Up to 10 Hours Up to 12 Hours Up to 8 Hours Up to 15 Hours
Warranty 12 Months 12 Months 12 Months 12 Months 36 Months
Floating Float'n Flash Float'n Flash Float'n Flash N/A N/A
Dual Watch Dual/Tri-watch Dual/Tri-watch Dual/Tri-watch N/A Dual/Tri-watch
  VIEW PRODUCT VIEW PRODUCT VIEW PRODUCT VIEW PRODUCT VIEW PRODUCT

 

ICOM IC-M25 - Best for Features

 

Style meets functionality with Icom's IC-M25 buoyant marine VHF radio. Its design is slim and streamlined without compromising on any features, including an extraordinarily lightweight body coming in at just 220g. 

In addition to being able to float, the IC-M25 will also begin to flash when accidentally dropped in water, so you'll never have to worry about losing track of where it is.

You also never need to worry about running out of power. The IC-M25 comes with a handy USB connector so it can be charged through a variety of devices. The LCD display is large despite the compact body of the radio, measuring at just 30.5mm. In fact, the screen is 30% larger than the previous Icom release. The buttons are curved for easy use and with a total battery life of eleven hours, this radio was built to last. 

 

PROS

  • Exceptionally lightweight at just 220g so perfect for mobile use

  • 30% larger screen than the previous Icom release in this line so channel number and status icons are clearly displayed

  • An approximate eleven hours of battery life to keep you going for longer

CONS

  • Instructions for use could be simplified.

 
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Moonraker MHR-100 - Best Value

 

If you're looking for something a little more affordable, Moonraker MHR-100 have you covered. The lower cost doesn't mean a compromise on quality or features, however. With 200 programmable channels and built-in fast selection, this radio certainly holds its own. It's also float and flash, water-resistant, has large buttons for ease of use, and has a body designed for easy grip. It possesses affordability and practicality, all in one!

There is also a two-step power saver setting to ensure you can keep going for longer when you need to. The scan function keeps you connected when you need it most and the keypad lock keeps your broadcasting channels secured. The frequency range covers 156-163MHz.  The features are impressive for such a low priced radio. All in all, we're pleased with this device. 

 

PROS

  • Highly affordable price tag, perfect for beginners or those on a budget

  • Float and flash technology

  • 200 programmable channels available for a diverse transceiving experience

  • Two separate battery saver options, so you can keep going when you need to

CONS

  • Does not possess the same feature portfolio as higher-priced radios

 
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ICOM IC-M37 - Best for Ease of Use

 

With six watts of output power, the Icom IC-M37 packs a punch. The overall design is simple and comfortable to hold, which makes it one of the most user-friendly options on the market right now. This makes it ideal for both professional and hobby use alike. A simple yet effective interface is a benefit to all, regardless of your intentions! Better yet, the 700mW audio output allows for clear communication in even the loudest environments.

One of the more unique features of the Icom IC-M37 is its channel history. The last five channels you have used are stored within the device, so you can easily return to them whenever you need to. The radio can survive being submerged as deep as one metre for up to thirty minutes. Don't worry too much though, as thanks to the patented AquaQuake water draining function the radio can actively undo any waterlogging from the speaker grills. 

 

PROS

  • Powerful six-watt output

  • 700mW audio output makes for clear sound production even in noisy environments

  • AquaQuake technology works to prevent waterlogging of the speakers

CONS

  • May prove too expensive for lesure radio enthusiast with a budget

 
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ICOM IC-GM1600 - Best for Search & Rescue

 

Designed to be compliant with survival craft communications, the IC-GM1600 from Icom is the perfect choice for an emergency situation. This means it features an exceptionally durable body, created with the most extreme environments in mind. The latest Search and Rescue tech has been utilised in its development, so if you're looking for something capable of handling harsher climates, you've found it here. 

To be more specific, the IC-GM1600 meets the ‘wheel mark’ certification, which is the same international standard used for life rafts and emergency equipment. Not only that, but with built-in GMDSS technology, the IC-GM1600 can handle all outcomes, including extreme temperatures and superior drop resistance from up to one metre. 

Essentially, in terms of durability, you can't get much better.

 

PROS

  • Designed with emergency circumstances in mind, meeting wheel mark certification

  • ‘Speed Water Removal’ function reduces the risk of waterlogging so you maintain sharp communication even in harsh conditions

  • Large keypad buttons enable use even when wearing gloves, appropriate for use with insulated clothing in extreme weather

CONS

  • Focus on durability results in reduced features in other areas

 
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ICOM IC - M87E - Best for Extreme Conditions

 

Similar to the IC-GM1600, the IC-M87E is designed for use in extreme climates and emergency situations. It's highly durable and even possesses a built-in voice scrambler, with a total of 32 codes for private encryption. 

Built for use on both land and sea, this is a marine radio with grit. It was designed with the intention of use on oil rigs and petrol tankers.  This is a great business marine radio that meets both marine and simple Private Business Radio with 22 free channels for land use.  But there's nothing to say it can't be put to more leisurely use too.   

Not only is it exceptionally durable, but it's surprisingly lightweight and compact. It weighs in at just 290g and measures 62 x 97 x 39mm. This makes it one of the smaller marine radios, especially when compared to similarly tough designs. It's highly water-resistant, designed to withstand rainstorms and high humidity. It can also handle significant changes in temperature without performance being affected, which is especially helpful for indoor-outdoor use. The backlit LCD screen and buttons make it easy to navigate in even the darkest conditions. 

 

PROS

  • Perfectly designed for use in extreme conditions, so can travel with you just about anywhere

  • Resistant to high humidity and swift changes in temperature, able to handle rainstorms and similar extreme climates

  • Easy to use even in the dark thanks to the bright backlit LCD display and buttons

  • PBR mode (146-174 MHz) with 22 free programmable channels

  • Icom extended 36 month warranty

CONS

  • Not suitable for use in all territories due to legislation surrounding encrypted broadcasting

 
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What to Consider When Buying a Marine Radio

So, now we've discussed some of our top recommendations, it's time to talk about what you should be looking for in your next purchase. 

There is an enormous variety of marine radios out there, so it can be pretty daunting to make a final decision, whether you're buying your very first or your fifth. Listed below are some questions you should ask yourself before committing to a purchase. 

How easy is it to use?

Ease of use does not always mean a lack of features. Don't write off a radio just because it's described as user-friendly. When you're out at sea or in a similarly difficult climate, navigating your marine radio with absolute ease can be a lifesaver. The importance of this varies depending on how you intend to use your chosen radio. If you're exclusively a hobbyist, then looking for more complex radios may be an option. 

How waterproof is it?

Don't be fooled by the phrase ‘water-resistant’. That can mean a lot of things, from surviving full submersion to only withstanding a couple of splashes. What you really need to pay attention to is the IPX rating. An IPX7 rated radio will survive going beneath the water, but if it possesses an IPX4 rating then it won't handle much more than a light spray. Both of these ratings could be considered water-resistant, but they are vastly different. Don't get caught out. 

How long does the battery last?

This is relevant to both professionals and hobbyists alike. Whether you're in an emergency or simply want extended use out of your radio, you need to pay extra attention to how strong its battery life is. Lithium-ion battery-powered marine radios often possess the strongest lives and can last for longer comparatively. If you're concerned that your radio won't last the course, consider looking for one with a replaceable battery. That way you can always keep a spare on hand in case of an emergency. 

How powerful is it?

When we talk about power in the context of marine radios, we aren't talking about battery life. Instead, this relates to its output wattage. Higher power means a larger capacity for clearer, long-distance transmissions, but it isn't always a good thing. The more powerful a device is, the more battery it will consume over time. Consider which is more important to you, extended battery life or extended transmission capabilities. Prioritising one over the other is paramount to finding the right device for you. 

Does it possess noise-cancelling technology?

Using radios to communicate can be tricky at the best of times, but when you're out at sea it's a whole different situation. Noise from the ocean and a lack of signal can make for some choppy transmissions, so noise-cancelling technology can prove enormously helpful. Even if you operate the radio in an indoor location, oil rigs and motor cruisers can produce some significant interference. 

If you know you're going to be working in a noisy environment, try to opt for a radio that promises some Active Noise Cancelling. This can even affect how a signal is received in addition to the audio you send out, so it's beneficial for all parties. 

Are there additional accessories?

Most marine radios will come with a charger and antenna, but some manufacturers include a little extra. If you're a radio hobbyist, it will be in your interest to say how you could build on your purchase further down the line. Some brands get creative with what they offer beyond what you would normally expect, and that's part of the fun of collecting. If you're looking to dive into the world of marine radios for leisure rather than due to professional commitments, accessories can be an enormously fun investment. 

Does it come with a warranty and/or support?

Last on our list of tips, you should look out for what kind of warranty is in place with your purchase. Even the most durable of marine radios can suffer from freak accidents or poor manufacturing from time to time. Knowing that you're covered brings a much-needed peace of mind. Some brands offer years worth of protection as part of their warranty. Others may offer an extended warranty if you pay extra when originally purchasing. It could be worth looking out for these details, just in case something does go wrong further down the line.

Conclusion

So there you have it! Our full guide to handheld marine radios. Any one of our top five choices are ideal for both hobbyists and professionals, but naturally, each has their own individual strengths and weaknesses. 

Ultimately, the decision is yours. Keep in mind all of the points we have made of what to look out for when making your next purchase and you'll be good to go. Whether it's just for fun or all part of the job, there's a marine radio out there for you.