During the summer Valdres Fjellguider decided to buy an inReach Explorer®+ from Garmin. Garmin has for many years been at the forefront of providing GPS units for outdoor enthusiasts. Garmin has teamed up with InReach to provide and single unit with GPS and satellite communication in case of an emergency. Instead of having to buy a GPS unit and a satellite communication unit you get both in one.
This alone is good news as having to carry several different units is a hassle, especially if you need to carry batteries for all/check and charge each unit before heading out.
The unit weights: 250 grams (This includes a plastic holder and small karabiners).
Cost: approximately 4700 nok (450 GBP).
Battery life: From Garmin website:
- Up to 100 hours at 10-minute tracking mode (default)
- Up to 75 hours at 10-minute tracking with 1-second logging
- Up to 30 days at the 30-minute interval power save mode
- Up to 3 years when powered off
We have only used this on day tours and one longer expedition and therefore can not claim we have exhausted the battery of the unit. After a day guiding on Falketind and 8-hour trip we noticed the power dropped from 100% to 85% quite rapidly then stabilised at this. The unit was turned on and tracking only / waypoints been marked.
What Garmin say about the unit:
Handheld Satellite Communicator and GPS Navigation with 100% global Iridium satellite coverage
- Send and receive text messages1 while beyond mobile phone range
- Trigger an interactive SOS message to GEOS, the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring centre
- Track and share your location with family and friends
- Pair with mobile devices2 using the free Earthmate app for access to downloadable maps3, colour aerial imagery and more
- inReach Explorer+ device adds preloaded OpenStreetMap maps with onscreen GPS routing plus built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer
- Depends on subscription option.
The unit comes with a small explanation book. You can access the until by turning on and scrolling through the screens, adding text in the usual rather time-consuming manner. i.e. using a central button to move from one letter or number to the next. Alternatively, you can connect the device via wifi or USB cable and access them using an app called “Earthmate” on the smartphone or via https://inreach.garmin.com/ webpage. Once they are connected you can access the GPS and do the usual things like add waypoints or tracks and change the predefined messages.
The satellite section is provided by Inreach and you have to pay for a subscription before this operates. There are several payment plans available each with a different set of rules and how many texts you can send. In the case of an emergency, there are two options to trigger the worldwide emergency response. On the side of the unit is an SOS button, flip this and press the button, or alternatively go to the screen scroll to the SOS app and click on it. From my experience, it’s a little too easy to by accident click on the SOS app. You do however get a 5-second delay so you can cancel it.
Depending on what subscription you have paid for depends on the functionality. Preset message (none limited) are as they are described; a message you have already written and stored. They are easy to send. Mine is simply “Everything OK, delayed a few hours” for example which I send to my wife so when guiding she doesn’t call out the cavalry if I am overdue. The other option is to send text messages, which are limited to your subscription plan. These you type as and when you need. From my experience, the preset message is quick and easy to send while text messages take time to write on the unit and are slower to send. You can send an email or mobile and both can reply. In the case of emergency you can, once you have clicked on the SOS button or app start a dialogue with the emergency services. I haven’t used this service yet and therefore can not comment on usability. Its a shame there isn’t a demo mode to practice. I would imagine communication is via text style communication, which would require you to punch in a letter by letter on the unit.
Things I would improve: I don’t know how strong the glass is in the unit but a protective cover would have been nice. In my alpine rucksack spaces is not at a premium and often things get crammed in the top pocket. My Last GPS got a crack on the screen, it still functioned although it could be more difficult to see all the text.
Overall We are pleased with the unit, the map and positioning work as they should. Connected ability from our iMac or iPhone works well and usability seems easy enough. Text message speed is slow (although it does need to go into space and back again 🙂 )