The 8 Best Marine Two Way Radios

Updated April 29, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

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We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. If you're heading out into open waters, make sure you have the capability of calling for help, if needed. These marine two-way radios are available with handy one-button alerts that send your position automatically via VHF, UHF or FM in the event of an emergency, and come in floating and handheld options to suit your boating needs. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best marine two way radio on Amazon.

8. Uniden UM380

The Uniden UM380 may be limited in its transmission range, but it's equipped with a position send option to ensure your whereabouts immediately become known if you're ever in trouble. It also features a full dot matrix display.
  • compact and sleek
  • convenient mic holder
  • prone to engine interference
Brand Uniden
Model UM380
Weight 3.3 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. Luiton LT-898UV

The Luiton LT-898UV is great for retaining long-range transmissions. This radio boasts awesome communication power, even in remote areas where signals are poor, but its programming software isn't compatible with Windows 10.
  • can change frequencies wirelessly
  • connects with most amateur receivers
  • keyboard lock option
Brand Luiton
Model LT-898UV
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

6. BaoFeng Pofung GT-5TP 8/4/1

The BaoFeng Pofung GT-5TP 8/4/1 boasts three frequency range options: commercial FM radio at 65-108 MHz; VHF at 136-174 MHz; and UHF at 400-520 MHz. Owners can also choose from three different background light colors: blue, purple or orange.
  • three power settings
  • includes a car charger
  • scan rate is fairly slow
Brand BaoFeng
Model GT-5TP
Weight 1.2 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

5. Motorola MS350R

The Motorola MS350R is a waterproof handheld radio capable of covering a 35-mile radius. Transmissions can be a little fuzzy at times, but 10 call alert tones, a battery-save feature, and a built-in flashlight still make it a handy item to have onboard.
  • extra large buttons
  • quiet talk interruption filter
  • lcd battery meter
Brand Motorola
Model MS350R-6PK
Weight 6.2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Uniden GMR5095-2CKHS

The Uniden GMR5095-2CKHS is a submersible radio that can operate under three feet of water for nearly 30 minutes. It communicates over 22 channels and has a direct call option in case you need to reach someone very quickly in the event of an emergency.
  • includes two headsets
  • batteries are rechargeable
  • easy access to weather alerts
Brand Uniden
Model GMR5095-2CKHS
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

3. Cobra Electronics MR F45-D

The Cobra Electronics MR F45-D is easily mountable on a boat's control deck. Its 25 watts of power gives a speaker access to virtually any U.S. or Canada-based channel, and it is compatible with GPS systems, to keep you aware of your current course.
  • includes all necessary cables
  • quickly scans through channels
  • access to noaa weather information
Brand Cobra
Model MR F45-D
Weight 3.6 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

2. Midland GXT1050VP4

The Midland GXT1050VP4 features Voice Operated eXchange technology allowing one to use it hands-free. A special vibrate feature informs listeners that someone is trying to patch through, making it great for noisy situations, plus it has an SOS feature.
  • comes in four color options
  • group call feature
  • completely waterproof for rugged use
Brand Midland
Model GXT1050VP4
Weight 1.9 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Standard Horizon GX1700W

The Standard Horizon GX1700W features a built-in GPS and comes equipped with a large, three-inch LCD screen to ensure you always know just where you're headed. At only five pounds and nine inches long, it is smaller and lighter than most high-quality marine radios.
  • three-year warranty
  • features dsc calling
  • programmable shortcut keys
Brand Standard Horizon
Model GX1700W
Weight 3.7 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

Communication Is Key

No matter the relationship, whether you’re lifelong lovers or teammates on an Olympic speed skating relay, communication can make the difference between unbridled success and unbearable failure. There are certain situations and environments where communication is even more important, among climbers on a snowy mountain peak, for example, or when trying to convey a to a student the rudiments of CPR.

One such environment where clear communication is vital is the open sea. Really, navigating any body of water calls for clarity in your comms. May boats maneuver slowly, making the risk of impact on a foggy night high. There’s also a dearth of options for emergency response on the water, and being able to communicate your exact position to the coast guard or other rescue teams is paramount.

Outside the realm of safety, commercial fishermen and other professionals need to stay informed about channel closings and other changes to the laws governing their behavior. Many state fish and game departments regularly open and close fishing areas to protect the fishery’s health and population in the long term. Fishing outside of regulated periods can carry hefty fines or even result in the loss of a license. Communication with fellow fishermen and others on the mainland can keep you out of trouble.

You may read all this and agree, but also think that taking your simple CB radio on board is going to be enough to keep you in contact. If you’ve spent any significant time on the water, however, you know that that water gets everywhere. Just about everything you bring aboard a boat for more than a few hours at a time is liable to get wet. You’ll make your way through dense fog, high seas with waves taller than your vessel, and long nights of steady condensation, all of which wreak havoc on electronics.

Another hazard on the open water comes in the form of salt. Salt in any water that makes its way on board, as well as salt from the air, is incredibly corrosive to metal. Since most electronic, including radios, have plenty of metal components, this becomes a recipe for failure. Unless you plan to keep your landlubber’s CB locked up in a waterproof safe until you want to use it, you’re going to need a marine two-way radio.

The biggest differences between a marine two-way radio and a standard CB can be found in their frequency ranges and overall build of the former. At any point where water or salt might enter the frame of a standard CB, a marine radio is sealed against egress. It has more rubberized and plastic components than many CBs, as well, making it more resistant to corrosion.

What To Look For In A Marine Two-Way Radio

Choosing from among the many marine two-way radios on the market must seem like a daunting task. There are many models boasting wide varieties of features and specifications that may seen rather foreign to the untrained eye. We’ll endeavor to help you narrow down our list of options into a smaller number for your convenience.

The biggest dividing line between two large camps of marine two-way radios cuts along the variable of portability. You essentially have the choice between a handheld unit and a fixed-mount design. Both can be life-savers in times of emergency, but there are certain features that make one better-suited for certain situations over the other.

Handheld radios are preferred for their portability. These look and feel like walkie-talkies, and you can carry them with you anywhere on the boat. Many designs are both waterproof and buoyant, as well, so if you drop it overboard, you can retrieve it and it should still function. They have a somewhat limited range, however, topping out at around six watts. If you only take your vessel out a short distance from land, and use your radio for short-range boat-to-boat comms or to interact with the operators of locks and drawbridges, a shorter range might suit you fine. Just remember that you’re going to have to keep these charged.

Fixed-mount radios are popular among boaters who venture farther out to sea, as they can get up to 25 watts of power. That makes these model ideal if you need weather information, or to contact emergency services, from a considerable distance. Because they’re mounted in place, they can’t come with you around the boat, but they can draw power from the boat’s battery, meaning you never have to worry about charging them.

A Brief History Of Nautical Communication

It’s hard to imagine a world in which communication across water couldn’t happen along radio waves. We rely so heavily on technology to connect with one another that, if you dropped a millennial on a boat at sea and asked them to hail another vessel, they’d be in serious trouble.

Before radio communication, boats had to be able to see one another to communicate. If a ship were more than three or four miles away, it would largely dip below the horizon due to the curvature of the earth, making communication impossible.

From within visual range, ships employed everything from flags to semaphore to relay messages. Morse Code delivered through flashes of powerful lanterns became a common practice, especially at night when the colors and images born on flags would have been hard to distinguish.

After Hertz, the German scientist whose name graces the measurements of all radio frequency, published his first writings theorizing the ability for radio waves to carry communications, a slew of scientists and engineers sough to make this a reality. One of these first experiments actually happened aboard a ship, when Captain H.B. Jackson created a wireless communication system that reached from one end of his vessel to the other.

In more than 100 years since then, radio has gone on to transmit everything from our most beloved forms of entertainment to the first words mankind ever spoke on another celestial body. It may be a while before we have to rank intergalactic two-way radios, so grab one of these marine models to hold you over.

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Last updated on April 29, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.

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