In a handheld you're going to use routinely for communication, you should be looking for:
- A volume knob.
- A squelch knob.
- Loud, clear audio that can be heard over weather
That actually rules out quite a few.
Decide if you need DSC and a GPS
for anything. I don't. My handheld VHF is not part of my plan for initial contact to summon rescue
assistance. I do not use my handheld VHF for navigation
because in nearly all cases I'd rather use my phone
, or the chartplotter
, or a dedicated portable GPS. Your use case may be different.
Decide if you need a battery
tray. They are perhaps useful for standby uses. Some handhelds have larger battery
trays that can provide enough power
to support transmit at 5 watts, most don't.
Decide if you need to be able to swap batteries
in a wet environment
. Some radios are sealed even when the battery is being replaced, others are not.
Decide what kinds of charging
connections you can live with. Some are set up for USB charging
, which has to be done in a dry location but uses cables
and a brick you already have. Others have drop in chargers which are bulky but more convenient for regular use.
Decide whether you want the radio
to float. Usually floating radios are bulky or have smaller batteries
and therefore shorter battery life.
I like the Standard Horizon HX380, which doesn't have a GPS or DSC or AIS but is particularly well designed otherwise. There are other good radios out there.