Launched earlier this month at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas, Garmin’s latest addition to their product line – the inReach – is a real game-changer; combining the pinpoint accuracy of a handheld GPS with the ability to communicate via SMS from anywhere on the planet. The new range of satellite communicators come almost a year after Garmin acquired satellite tracking and communications firm, DeLorme. We have no doubt that the inReach is only the first product in a line of new comms-based technologies that we’ll see from Garmin devices in the future.

Here’s what you can expect from this revolutionary device when it eventually arrives on our shores sometime later this year.

As far as safety and peace of mind go, when dealing with Mother Nature, one’s ability to communicate with the outside world is critical. The problem is, once you’ve wandered far off the beaten track, where satellite phones become your only option, staying in touch with others gets very expensive, fast. Bearing in mind most expeditions take place on shoestring budgets, it’s a dilemma many adventurers and dedicated outdoor folk have been facing for years. Do they divert much-needed funds towards ludicrously-priced comms, or just take their chances and wait until they make it back to civilisation and use their smartphones?

inReachNav, chat or yell for help
Fortunately, Garmin’s new inReach (available in two versions, the inReach SE+ and inReach Explorer+) takes this kind of worry out of the equation. Operating on the Iridium satellite network, a synchronised constellation of 66 low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites that provide 100% coverage worldwide. Both models provide two-way SMS communications between you and any smartphone or email address, regardless of where you stand on the planet – allowing you to remain in regular contact with loved ones at home or, if you’re working, communicate with colleagues back at head office.

Encounter serious trouble in a remote location or while offshore, and the two-way communication advantage these units bring to the party quickly becomes apparent. That’s because, the moment you press their dedicated SOS buttons, the global rescue boffins at the GEOS emergency monitoring centre kick into high gear. After providing you with confirmation that help is on the way, they’ll then track your location 24/7, and maintain a two-way conversation with you until the situation is resolved – updating you on how rescue efforts are proceeding, and passing on relevant information from you to the rescue teams as required.

As satellite communicators, both the inReach SE+ and Explorer+ are identical. However, when it comes to GPS navigation, which model you choose determines how much functionality you get. The more basic inReach SE+ uses GPS to provide basic grid navigation and allows you to drop waypoints, mark key locations, track your progress and follow breadcrumb trails back to base. As you’d expect, the more expensive inReach Explorer+ goes a step beyond – providing full-fledged GPS on-map guidance, with preloaded DeLorme TOPO mapping and waypoint routeings viewable directly on the unit. It also comes with a built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer to help you get and maintain accurate bearings anywhere on or off the beaten path.

Other cool things you can do
Want to keep friends and family in the loop? No problem. All you need do is turn on the tracking function and worried loved ones are sorted. The inReach will send waypoints at preselected time intervals, so followers can track your whereabouts online. You can also invite the gang back home to use MapShare to ping your inReach unit and see your GPS location, track your movements and exchange messages during your trip. You can even embed your MapShare page on a blog, Website or social media platform.

The ability of both units to pair with compatible smartphones provides users with even more functionality and convenience. The free Earthmate app syncs your inReach handheld via Bluetooth with compatible Apple or Android devices, providing you with access to unlimited maps and aerial imagery. It also allows you to conveniently use all of the inReach features on your paired mobile device. For easier messaging, you can also sync your inReach with your phone’s contact list to reach anyone, anywhere – with fewer keystrokes.

Those who like to keep an eye out for the weather will appreciate the optional inReach weather forecast service. This provides detailed updates directly to your inReach device, compatible smartphone or tablet paired with the Earthmate app, so you’ll always know what conditions to expect en route. Basic and premium weather packages are offered. And you can request weather forecasts for your current location, or any other waypoint or destination on your itinerary.

Finally, every inReach device comes with free access to a cloud-powered portal, allowing you to plan your trips with routes and waypoints. You can also create preset messages and quick texts, sync and manage your device settings, update firmware, download additional TOPO maps, link your social media accounts, store all your location tracking data and much more.

Other important specifications
Both the inReach SE+ and Explorer+ feature internal rechargeable lithium batteries, so you can count on a long battery life in every mode of operation – up to 100 hours in 10-minute tracking mode (default); up to 75 hours in 10-minute tracking with 1-second logging; up to 30 days at the 30-minute interval power save mode; and up to 3 years in standby mode. Batteries are recharged via the standard microUSB power cable (provided) or optional in-vehicle 12 V charger. And, as you’d expect from Garmin, both units are tough, durable, impact resistant and water-rated to IPX7 – so no matter what the elements throw at you, they’ll stay up and running.

To access the Iridium network and communicate with an inReach SE+ or Explorer+, an active satellite subscription is required. Depending on usage level, users can opt for an annual contract package or a flexible month-to-month airtime plan, which allows them to pay for service only when they need it. – (c) 2017 NavWorld

*Although Garmin has not made any information about the South African release available, we suspect that the new inReach SE+ and Explorer+ will arrive in South Africa later this year. There will also be a subsctription service required for some features.
If you’d like to join the waiting list to get your hands on one of these fantastic units, please email us at

About The Author

Sean Woods

Originally a photographer for the Star newspaper in the bad old days, Sean Woods turned to writing after the first democratic elections in '94. The career shift paid serious dividends, culminating in him becoming associate editor for Popular Mechanics magazine with a number of technology writing awards under his belt. His interests include anything to do with boats, motorcycles and all those fancy tech gadgets that help the modern world go around.

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One Response

  1. Rob Walker

    So the Garmin InReach looks neat – my problem is the subscription pricely is massively higher here in ZA than US.

    I presently have a SPOT Gen3, which with tracking is around $300 per year. The InReach in the US is priced around that same point. But here, at R499/mo on the annual plan with tracking it’s closer to $499/year. Given the device is also a hefty price over the Gen3, as desirable as it is, it’s hard to justify the upgrade.

    Are Garmin likely to get real and ditch the price hike here in ZA over what US or UK user pay


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