inReach Explorer – a two-way satellite communicator

I have to admit, I was quite skeptical at first. I expect things to work, apart from being cool, good looking gadgets. Turns out, inReach Explorer from DeLorme is probably one of the most useful and affordable electronic devices for serious wilderness trekking available.

Why remote areas and why serious? Because it’s probably cheaper and easier to use your GPS-enabled smartphone, especially if you are in the area covered with a cellular signal and Internet access. However, if you end up in a place, which not only has no mobile phone coverage, but also some satellite devices simply don’t work (Spot for example, speaking of direct competition), you need something you can rely on. Especially when emergency is needed. This is where Iridium satellite network comes into play. Want to send an e-mail some 900 miles from the North Pole, from a middle of nowhere and under a cloudy sky? Sure, no problem. It just works. Tested.

One thing you have to know about this device is that you will probably need your smartphone or tablet anyway. If not paired, inReach itself doesn’t provide enough functionality to work as a satellite navigation. It will keep your tracks recorded and updated on the Web, show correct directions and distances, and become handy in backtracking, but has no maps and this is where it seriously needs support from Garmin (which quite recently acquired DeLorme). In general, not much different to what GPS-enabled smartwatches have to offer.

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Navigation to POI with inReach Explorer. Awful, isn’t it?

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And that’s how it looks on an iPhone. Much better.

In terms of build quality and overall experience: well done! This is almost like having a product from Apple in your hands (sorry to all Android/PCs fans). Obviously someone put enough attention to detail and careful design, and this applies to accessories as well. What I don’t like, but I think I could get used to, are the navigation buttons in the middle. It’s too easy to press “right” instead of “up” and vice versa, especially when typing (another scenario when you really want your smartphone to be paired via Bluetooth).

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Not only looks nice, but also works. Not so common these days.

I’m concerned about the waterproof USB port cover, which may eventually fall off. I’ve seen similar design in Iridium Extreme 9575 satellite phone, and it didn’t last long enough for the price. This could be solved differently I believe.

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Rubber USB port cover. Handle with care.

What somehow surprised me is that you get topographic maps of the whole world for free (that is, for your iOS/Android device). They are not very detailed (shore, rivers, basic contours), but it’s already good enough.

Another thing I like about inReach and its software is that it’s consistent in terms of user interaction. Once you get used to the communicator, getting your head around mobile app menus (Earthmate) is a no brainer.

Finally, the most important, it does work as an emergency position-indicating device. It doesn’t use the 406 MHz signal however, so it’s not really a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), but if you unlock and press the SOS button, it will call GEOS International Emergency Response Center, which then will notify the appropriate SAR authorities. And, best of all: you can sign up for a full insurance package on the website. How cool and easy is that?

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Size of an average old-school phone is absolutely justified for what this device is capable of.

Highly recommended. It does what advertised, and does it well. There is no need to pay a monthly subscription, so even if used occasionally, your safety and your relatives’ peace of mind is worth the price.

Go shopping!

If you like any of the products mentioned above and trust my opinion, please consider purchasing through Amazon:

DeLorme inReach Explorer

DeLorme inReach Explorer
7.75

Toughness

9/10

    Ergonomics

    7/10

      Features

      6/10

        Reliability

        9/10

          Pros

          • Global coverage
          • Build quality
          • Usability

          Cons

          • Viewing maps with another device
          • Low display resolution