Three Questions To Ask When Buying A VHF Radio

A top-quality VHF radio can enable you to communicate with others during every-day activities or, more importantly, in emergency situations.

Helm shot of VHF radio
Are you looking for the right kind of VHF radio?Garrett Parker/Unsplash

In the world of two-way radios, the question of whether to choose VHF (Very High Frequency) or UHF (Ultra High Frequency) is a common one. VHF signals operate at the lower end of the radio frequency spectrum, while UHF signals operate at the higher end. Whether looking for a two-way radio for hunting or marine use, a good VHF radio can be your best means of communication. To make a good selection when shopping for a VHF radio, ask yourself three questions—do you want a fixed or handheld radio, in what terrain will you be using it and what distance your radio will need to adequately cover.

Handheld Or Fixed Mount?

Uniden UM385 25 Watt Fixed Mount Marine VHF Radio
This fixed-mount VHF marine radio is resistant to rain and splashing water.Uniden

VHF radios are available in vehicle-mount models for boats and hand-held units, commonly called walkie talkies. For most purposes except marine use, handheld models will serve you best. They are typically small, so are very easy to store, they're not very expensive, and many of them have compact antennas so they can easily ride on your belt or in your pocket. If you want a VHF radio for fishing and other boating uses, however, a model that mounts in your boat offers several advantages, including operating at longer ranges than most handheld models will and being resistant to water because of their frequent use in wet environments.

What Terrain?

Cobra MRHH350FLT Floating VHF
This handheld VHF radio has a backlit display to make communication easy in all lighting conditions.Cobra

If you're going to be using your radio in an urban area with lots of steel and concrete structures, a VHF radio might not be your best option at all. UHF (ultra high frequency) radios, which operate at the higher end of the radio frequency spectrum, typically work better than VHS in those types of environments. But for marine uses where there is a wide expanse of open water or hunting uses in the forests and fields, the VHF radio will meet your needs quite well. Whether calling for help on the open ocean or checking in on a buddy in a tree stand just on the other side of your hunting property, there's a good VHF radio for your purposes.

What Distance?

LUITON LT-188H VHF Walkie Talkie
This VHF walkie talkie is made for hiking, camping, hunting and other outdoor activities.Luiton

The distance your radio will work effectively to communicate with another is called its range, and that's a very important factor to consider when choosing a VHF radio, whether a handheld or boat-mounted model. If you want to communicate with other boats several miles away, you're going to need look for a very strong radio that can accommodate your wish to communicate with someone at that distance. Since boat-mounted radios have separate antennas, they typically have a longer range. If, on the other hand, you only need to communicate with family members at a campsite a mile or two away, a radio with much shorter range will suit your needs just fine. When shopping, try to get an idea of a radio's effective range before making a purchase.