GoGear: Garmin InReach Explorer+
In our GoGear segment, contributors share one of their favorite products for life on the road and tips for using it. These are items they have tested out during their own travels and enjoyed enough to recommend to others.
We enjoy camping in remote areas and I often hike by myself in off-grid areas with no cell phone reception. One Jeep trip we took in Baja earlier this year was nicknamed as going into the "never, never" because if you got stuck in this remote area, no one was going to come for you and you were never getting rescued. Yikes! With all of that in mind, I started looking at options for off-grid communication options.
Garmin sells three InReach models that all have the same core functions of two-way messaging, SOS with 24/7 monitoring, basic GPS functions like waypoints and the ability to sync via Bluetooth with their Earthmate app. I decided on the Garmin InReach Explorer+ which offers global satellite communication through the Iridium Network and GPS mapping. It also has built-in topographic maps, a barometer, and digital compass.
Setting Up the Explorer+
I've been using Garmin GPS products for years, but the Explorer+ took a little getting used to as the InReach models were originally developed by Delorme, which was acquired by Garmin. While Garmin has further developed and released new InReach models, they have yet to integrate with Garmin maps and their Basecamp desktop application.
To get started, once I set up an account and activated my subscription online at inreach.garmin.com, I added my contacts' email and SMS cellphone numbers, edited my three preset messages, and then synced with a USB cable to my Explorer+. You can also sync via Bluetooth using the Earthmate app.
Using it Out on the Trail
So far, the Explorer+ has worked well out on the trail. I especially like the preset messages and will text/email my wife a "Starting my trip" message at the trailhead, which includes my GPS coordinates and a link to a map. The "Checking in. Everything is OK." preset message is a great way to show her my progress and let her know I'm doing okay, even if my progress isn't exactly as planned. There's a slight delay in sending/receiving messages, but the unit gives a reassuring chirp when it sends/receives with the satellite.
The onboard topographic maps are fairly detailed and surprisingly include many trails here in Oregon, where we have been enjoying much of the summer. I have thankfully not had to test the SOS function yet, but it's good to know there's a third-party monitoring and availability to coordinate rescue or assistance worldwide if needed.
How to Get Your Own
The Garmin InReach Explorer+ retails for $449 and can be purchased directly from Garmin or other retailers including Amazon. All models require a paid subscription to function. I opted for the "Safety" plan with a one-year commitment of $11.95 per month and $19.95 activation fee. The plan includes 10 text messages and unlimited preset messages each month. You can also choose a month-to-month "Freedom" plan. More information is available on Garmin's Website.