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Old 04-07-2014, 08:13   #1
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Best Handheld VHF (or otherwise) Radio for Ditch Bag

Subject says it all.

I'm buying a handheld VHF or two and want to get a general consensus on what people have (for their ditch bag in particular) and why.

Thanks...


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Old 04-07-2014, 08:21   #2
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

For the ditch bag, it is a waterproof, floating DSC with GPS unit. Nothing else really makes sense to me.

For any others, it depends on what you are looking for. We also have a much less expensive basic non-dsc HH VHF and also use it regularly. These tend to be much smaller and more easily carried ashore.

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Old 04-07-2014, 09:17   #3
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

The handheld DSC VHF I see recommended most often is the Standard Horizon HX851.

I'm wondering if anyone has done a good comparison of that model with some of the other handheld DSCs out there:

Icom 92D
Lowrance Link-2
Simrad HH36
Uniden MHS135
others?

The feature sets seem pretty similar. I'm wondering about quality of build, battery life, anything else that would recommend one over the other.
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Old 04-07-2014, 09:34   #4
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

We have the Standard Horizon HX851 and are very happy with it. In another thread, there were people complaining about its battery life, but we have not had any problems with ours - it seems to run forever on a charge and stay charged.

That Icom 92D is a dual-band, isn't it? That would give you extra communications capabilities, but I don't know if they would be useful in an emergency situation.

The only other thing I would look for is how easy it is to use the DSC functions. In the past, you had to know Sanskrit and use Vulcan grips to use the DSC on them. The SH radio is dead-simple to operate its DSC functions.

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Old 04-07-2014, 09:43   #5
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

I looked at the Standard Horizon HX851, but ultimately chose the Uniden MHS235 for it's smaller form factor. Either will do the job.
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Old 04-07-2014, 09:45   #6
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

I have the Uniden VHF. The controls are not intuitive, so you'll need to have the manual handy until committed to brain, but IIRC it has a 6 watt boost and the DSC button is open-cover-and-push-for-5-sec.
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Old 04-07-2014, 10:08   #7
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

You can scratch the new Icom M23 off any list for a starters. Had to read the instruction manual to turn it on, how is that going to work in an emergency with someone unfamilar with it.

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Old 04-07-2014, 10:34   #8
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

Go into a store (if you can) and try them out. see what works for you. If not, then download the manuals and read 'em. If you can understand them, make your choice. Only YOU can make this choice, everyone learns differently. There is no BEST, it's a boat, it's a compromise. Good luck.
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Old 04-07-2014, 11:05   #9
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

I'd stick to the Icom or SH models (DSC+GPS) and skip the Uniden. While Uniden is a good name, it doesn't seem to carry the same reputation for long-term reliability that the other two have. SH is also a "commercial" division of Yaesu, while Icom is generally a consumer-grade product, so again...I'd be most inclined to the SH as being the radio most likely to be working when needed.

In any case, stored with the battery separated and removed, and a set of lithium primary cells in a separate battery tray as well. I think the SH ships with that separate tray and the Icom may not. And happily, the SH also seems to be discounted more than the Icom.

Hard to really go wrong with any of them though.
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Old 04-07-2014, 11:43   #10
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
I'd stick to the Icom or SH models (DSC+GPS) and skip the Uniden. While Uniden is a good name, it doesn't seem to carry the same reputation for long-term reliability that the other two have. SH is also a "commercial" division of Yaesu, while Icom is generally a consumer-grade product, so again...I'd be most inclined to the SH as being the radio most likely to be working when needed.

In any case, stored with the battery separated and removed, and a set of lithium primary cells in a separate battery tray as well. I think the SH ships with that separate tray and the Icom may not. And happily, the SH also seems to be discounted more than the Icom.

Hard to really go wrong with any of them though.


Excellent post about Icom and SH.

I sell handheld radios (HT) for land based applications, limited to 5 watts output. I don't have any experience with any of the marine VHF radios, but I would like to make a suggestion that is universal for any VHF radio. If you replace the antenna with a better one, you will gain a considerable amount of added distance. If your antenna is removable, replace it with a 14" flexible dual band antenna like a Nagoya NA-771.

We regularly see almost a doubling in range just for the antenna swap, which costs less than $10 if you look on Ebay. For that reason, all of my radios come with that antenna. The customer is provided the stock antenna, but he has no choice about purchasing the better antenna because most of them really don't appreciate the dramatic difference it makes for minimal cost.
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Old 04-07-2014, 21:30   #11
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

And standard horizon comes with a battery tray for AA batteries. Load it with lithium batteries and you can store it for maybe ten years.

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Old 04-07-2014, 21:58   #12
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

Quote:
Originally Posted by onestepcsy37 View Post
And standard horizon comes with a battery tray for AA batteries. Load it with lithium batteries and you can store it for maybe ten years.

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The $250 SH HX851 does not (or did not when I bought it) come with a battery tray. It was an extra $30, which I found galling.

Our $69 SH handheld did come with a battery tray - go figure.

SH specifically says NOT to use lithium batteries with their radio - at least they did when I bought them.

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Old 04-07-2014, 22:05   #13
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

HX851 now comes with: NEW for 2013 supplied with higher capacity 1380 mAh Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery

It seems that now all of the hand held radios come with or have optional Lithium batteries.
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Old 04-07-2014, 22:08   #14
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

Quote:
Originally Posted by DeepFrz View Post
HX851 now comes with: NEW for 2013 supplied with higher capacity 1380 mAh Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery

It seems that now all of the hand held radios come with or have optional Lithium batteries.
Yes, our older HX851 also has a lithium battery. That isn't what I was talking about. SH recommended that lithium AA cells not be used in their optional battery tray. They recommended only alkaline AA cells be used.

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Old 04-07-2014, 22:30   #15
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Re: Best handheld VHF (or otherwise) radio for ditch bag

Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
SH is also a "commercial" division of Yaesu,
Quote:
Originally Posted by socaldmax View Post
If you replace the antenna with a better one, you will gain a considerable amount of added distance. If your antenna is removable, replace it with a 14" flexible dual band antenna like a Nagoya NA-771.
If SH is the commercial arm of Yaesu and one has an HX751 and Nagoya 771 is the antenna to get (when your standard whip has gone walkabout) then is this the right replacement?

Amazon.com : HyparioŽ X Nagoya NA-771 DUAL BAND 144/430Mhz U/V SMA-M SMA male Antenna For YAESU VERTAX VX-3R VX-5R VX-6R VX-7R : Car Electronics

I am not sure about the connector - I know it's male but don't know what "SMA" is...
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