The Icom M71 has been an essential part of my paddllng kit for the last year. Small, lightweight and waterproof it lives in my buoyancy aid pocket or under the deck lines and provides useful information on other craft in the area as well as weather forecasts courtesy of the Coastguard.

More importantly, if I were ever to get into trouble, I have the security of being able to make contact with the outside world.

These days most paddlers carry a mobile phone of some description as a form of safety communication and more often than not stay within signal range of the mobile masts. However, handheld VHF radio provides not only communication in the event of an emergency but also a link to useful, sometimes vital information and the ability to communicate directly with other craft – particularly useful in a busy area like the Solent.

The M71 is a compact, handheld VHF with a 115mm aerial situated on the right side of the unit. It is waterproof to IPX7 standard and is contained in plastic/rubber casing. The M71 fits comfortably in my hand and certainly feels rugged and durable.

The controls are simple and straightforward (once you have spent a few minutes with the manual that accompanies the unit) and the layout has made the M71 easy to use with wet hands or with neoprene paddling gloves.

Importantly, for Sea Kayaking, the M71 is waterproof to IPX8 standard – this means it can survive immersion in water to 1.5 metres for 30 minutes (instead of the more usual IPX7 – one metre for 30 minutes found with many handheld VHF’s).

The M71 features Icom’s ‘Aquaquake’ draining function which ejects water from the speaker grille by use of low frequency sound. This combined with the IPX8 rating means I have had no qualms about carrying the M71 in a buoyancy aid pocket, however for extra protection I will sometimes put the M71 in an aquapac bag under the deck lines of my boat. The only issue here is that if I become separated from the boat I am seperated from the VHF!

The IC-M71 comes with a 2000mAh Lithium-Ion battery pack which provides up to 15-16 hours operating time. A clear, four-level battery power indicator shows how much charge is left. In everyday use I have found the battery to hold it’s charge exceptionally well, particularly between trips.

The LCD screen is clear and easy to read, with a wide viewing angle, useful to keep a check on the unit when attached to the deck lines.

I have found reception to be at the very least good and for the vast majority of my paddles it is excellent.

The M71 came complete with battery pack and charger, AC adapter, belt clip and handstrap (I quickly replaced the thin hand strap for some 5mm climbing cord and added a small karabiner to make handling in the wet easier and attaching the unit to the deck lines more secure)

Overall, I love this unit. I wouldn’t be without a VHF, particularly as I paddle solo so often. I was recommended the M71 by the salesman in a local Chandlery and it was excellent advice. If you are in the market for a VHF I would look closely at any of the Icom range – and I hope to bring news of an exciting development in the range shortly after the London Boatshow!

From the manufacturers:

The IC-M71 VHF marine handheld transceiver is designed as the successor to the immensely popular IC-M1EuroV and builds on the ‘ground breaking achievements’ of its predecessor by setting new standards in design, waterproofing and battery technology.

The IC-M71 was recently awarded the “People’s favourite handheld VHF radio” award by marine electronics comparison website

Stylish, slim design
The IC-M71 has a stylish, ergonomic design. A durable and rugged body provides for user-friendly operation and long life.

Advanced waterproof protection

The IC-M71 provides advanced waterproof protection to 1.5m depth for 30 minutes, equivalent to IPX8 rating, a first for the market place. Use this radio in the rain, snow or any other severe weather conditions!

Improved high-power output of 6W*
The IC-M71 has improved output power of 6 Watts which will provide extended communication range for the user. This is another first for a VHF marine handheld in this market.

600mW audio output provides loud and clear audio
The IC-M71 employs a bridge-tied load (BTL) audio amplifier to increase the audio output power. Its internal speaker delivers a loud 600mW audio output with clear sound even in noisy environments. In addition, a water draining support function ejects water from the speaker grille with low frequency sound.

Standard high capacity 2000mAh Li-Ion battery pack

The IC-M71 comes with a standard 2000mAh Lithium-Ion battery pack, BP-245 that provides up to 15-16 hours* operating time. * Duty cycle: 5:5:90.

BC-166 ‘Smart Charger’ supplied as standard
The standard BC-166 charger indicates when your battery has been charged. After approximately 10 hours when the battery has been charged the light will change from Orange to Green. After approximately. 13 hours the charger will automatically switch itself off.

Opening comment function
Displays user, ship, or group name etc. when power is turned ON

High resolution LCD with clear, easy to read characters and wide viewing angle
A wide viewing angle, high resolution LCD is used in the IC-M71, offering bright, easily read characters. The LCD’s contrast and backlight are adjustable in 2-levels.

2 versions available (with or without voice scrambler)
The IC-M71 is available with a 32-code voice scrambler circuit incorporated as standard. This is the equivalent to the UT-112 scrambler, which will allow you to communicate with other current IC-M1EuroV’s with UT-112 scramblers. This will allow you to talk to colleagues without other parties hearing your conversations.
Please note that you require authorisation on your licence to use this feature. This will require you to get your licence amended.

VOX function for hands free operation

With the OPC-1392 headset adapter cable you can use a variety of optional HS-94, HS-95 or HS-97 headsets*. The IC-M71 has VOX (Voice Operated Transmit) capability for hands-free operation. Also, the VOX gain and VOX delay time are adjustable.
* Headsets, HS-94, HS-95 and HS-97 and OPC-1392 are not waterproof.

Wide range of accessories available
An extensive range of accessories is available. The IC-M71 shares many accessories with the IC-M1EuroV.

Ideal for a large range of commercial and leisure users
The multi featured IC-M71 is an ideal transceiver for a variety of commercial and leisure boat owners. The advanced features will appeal to a range of commercial operations such as sea-transport companies, Marinas and Port Authorities as well as Search and Rescue organisations such as HM Coastguard, RNLI and National Coastwatch stations. Such will be the value of this radio that it will appeal to a range of leisure craft users from Jetskiers to ocean going yachtsmen.