floating? VHF radio recommendations

Rodnak Kayak

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Joined
Dec 19, 2007
Messages
545
Location
Victoria, BC
So, after 12 or so years, my Uniden still works fine, but I cannot find new batteries, getting less than an hour out of one, the other has corrosion. Yeah, I wash/rinse and dry my equipment every time, but time has taken its toll. So, I am on the hunt for another radio. The Uniden does not owe me anything!
I am looking for floating, somewhat submersible, 1W/5W, although I have seen 1W/2.5W/6W. I don't want all the fancy gizmo stuff, just a dependable simple radio. I saw a number of Standard Horizons on Amazon, most under $200.
so, please pipe in, and tell me what you would recommend. Thx!!!
 

CPS

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Oct 27, 2020
Messages
278
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BC
I got the little (non-floating) Standard Horizon HX40. It fits nicely into my PFD pocket and I always keep it tethered.

I believe it shares features and gizmos with the HX210, whose larger body allows it to float.

Been pretty happy with it so far.
 

Philip.AK

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Joined
Jun 30, 2012
Messages
195
Location
Kodiak, Alaska
I have a floating Standard Horizon HX300 that I have owned for many years and recently replaced the battery in. The button layout is good, it lights up if you drop it in the water so you can find it in the dark, and it works fine. A basic unit, and one of the first radios on the market that allowed recharging via USB cable, which is one of my favorite features in all modern electronics. I also have an ICOM IC-M25 floating unit. Same sort of thing; fine button layout decent display, basic functions, USB rechargeable. Both seem to work fine and no issues with either. One thing is that on the HX300 when the radio gets wet with seawater, the two electrodes which are meant to detect the fact that it has been dropped overboard can become activated and the ‘find me’ light will start to flash. This doesn’t happen often, and it being an LED light, I assume it does not consume much power.
 

cougarmeat

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Sep 17, 2012
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995
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Bend OR USA
I have a Horizon HX300 too. One feature I look for is if they have an AAA or AA battery pack option (the HX300 has). That way, if for some reason you run out of juice, you don't need a long extension cord to change it. Because it uses USB, you can also use one of those charging bricks people carry these days for the phone. But charging cables have been known to fail (or are forgotten).

If you do rely on spare batteries for your marine radio or GPS, it's much handier to have them accessible from the cockpit, on the water, rather than stored in a drybag towards the bow of your boat - or so I'm told. :)

Note that Lithium batteries have a plus and a minus - feature set, not polarity. The plus is they run full out until they drop. The minus is, that they run full out until they drop. So you might see a battery indicator showing full charges when, in fact, you only have 10 minutes left.
 

alexsidles

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Joined
Jan 10, 2009
Messages
522
Location
Seattle WA
I’ll insert John Abercrombie’s standard warning so he doesn’t have to!

USB-chargeable handheld radios only draw 3.7 volts, as opposed to the 7.4 volts that is standard in non-USB radios. Using half the voltage means the USB radios must deplete the battery’s amperage twice as fast to achieve the same power (usually 5 watts for handhelds).

So when you are comparing the battery capacity of a USB radio to the battery capacity of a non-USB radio, remember to divide the USB radio’s capacity in half to achieve an apples-to-apples comparison. If you do, you’ll find many of the cheap USB radios aren’t as attractive as they appear at first glance.

That said, I use a USB-chargeable HX300. I love the convenience. When it dies, however, my next radio will have DSC. I discovered that a push-to-talk radio has serious drawbacks during an emergency, namely:
  • It’s hard to manage a radio, plus a GPS (to read coordinates), plus hold the boat and paddle, plus swim.
  • Kayakers struggle to accurately transmit longitude and latitude coordinates. Listeners struggle to accurately record and relay latitude and longitude coordinates. Problems occur at all stages of the communication, including reading, transmitting, hearing, writing, and relaying, to say nothing of the confusion surrounding the various possible formats of the coordinates themselves.
  • Following repeated submersions, the radio’s microphone becomes waterlogged, after which no one else can hear the transmissions.
DSC certainly introduces problems of its own, but its push-button-for-distress would solve all three of the problems above that I experienced. I think it’s a bell-and-whistle worth having.

Alex
 

Tongo-Rad

Administrator
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Feb 14, 2019
Messages
109
Location
Victoria
If spending $200 (USD) on a VHF radio, you might want to consider a DSC for the same price. I have a floating Standard Horizon HX890 DSC VHF (also $200 USD here and here) and while this one in particular is a tad on the tall side, it sits fine on my PFD and doesn't get in the way of strokes or rolling. It's well designed and brings better piece of mind with the GPS features. It'll of course cost more in Canada (at $249 CAD) but is worth it in my opinion.

This posting may be of interest for reference: MMSI numbers --- only for large vessels or kayakers also?
 

IanC

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Joined
Mar 1, 2006
Messages
166
I replaced some stolen gear a while back and got the SH HX890, but I have not yet used the DSC distress call feature. Does anyone know if there is any way to test that function?
 

Tongo-Rad

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Feb 14, 2019
Messages
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Victoria
...I have not yet used the DSC distress call feature. Does anyone know if there is any way to test that function?
I'm not sure that is possible: From https://www.boatingmag.com/story/gear/handheld-vhf-marine-radio-reviews/

How We Tested
How [does this radio] stack up? First, we could not test the radios’ SOS capabilities—that is illegal because it could initiate a search-and-rescue mission. We didn’t want US Coast Guard swimmers dropping out of choppers at our launch ramp. So, we have to trust the government agencies that regulate this element of VHF communication devices. We also didn’t test the DSC capabilities because the radios are permanently assigned to vessels and ours would be returned to the manufacturers.
 

Tiger Shark

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Joined
May 10, 2022
Messages
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Location
Coquitlam B.C.
The Standard Horizon HX890 has a DSC loop back self test to supposedly check that function, section 10.11 in the manual. Not a real life test to another radio, but here’s an idea take yours and a buddy’s radio and go down to the bottom of an underground parking garage and test it. Call your buddy on grade level on high power first, if he can’t hear you, your probably good to go. Under 3-4 stories of concrete I doubt a 6 watt transmission is going to get to the outside world.
 

a_c

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Joined
Dec 23, 2014
Messages
101
Location
Victoria, BC
I carried an older Standard Horizon HX 851 (with DSC) as a spare on a recent longer trip, and had to break it out when I inadvertently drained the battery on my HX 290. Not sure if it's just my device, but the 851 battery life (using 5 AAAs, not the rechargeable NiCad pack) was abysmal. Does anyone know how much extra stress the GPS puts on the battery? I suspect the rechargeable NiCad would be a better option, but I'm curious if anyone has had any experience with this type of thing.

Side note - the 851 was solid, and could pull in weather reports from remote locations when newer ICOM radios wouldn't pick up anything (standing side by side with them for comparison), but I had to swap the batteries after 3 days of minimal use, so that almost puts in the paper weight category for me.
 

kayakwriter

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Joined
Feb 27, 2006
Messages
1,133
I replaced some stolen gear a while back and got the SH HX890, but I have not yet used the DSC distress call feature. Does anyone know if there is any way to test that function?
Hi Ian. Sorry I missed this query from a bit back. To test the DSC function, find a friend with a DSC VHF and make a regular DSC call to them using their MMSI or MI number. If the DSC functions are working on channel 70 for the routine calls, the assumption is all is good for DSC distress calls with the Big Red Button. (Source: am a Recognized Examiner/Instructor for the ROC (M) course.)
 
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