After my recent review of the Garmin Overlander, Garmin gave me an INREACH MINI to review and use in my travels.
So, what is the INREACH MINI? It is a Satellite Communicator with two way communications with built-in GPS technology. In my words; a SOS rescue beacon, a communicator that works using GPS signal (for positioning) and communications (text only) working off the well-established Iridium Communication Satellite Network providing worldwide coverage. The INREACH MINI is one of four devices in the series. The other three being the INREACH EXPLORER+, the Garmin GPSMAP 66i and the Garmin GPSMAP 86i (the marine version of the GPSMAP66i which floats) – the bigger brothers of the INREACH MINI. The other INREACH devices look similar to the standard Garmin handheld GPSs with mapping capabilities.
The devices are ideally suited for people who visit the bush and places far from civilization where no cellphone connectivity is available ie explorers, trail runners, hikers, mountain bikers, sailors, 4×4 enthusiast travelling into Africa and even contractors – professionals working in areas far from home where there might be limited / zero communications. It would be the ideal tool for the monitoring of students under instruction while out in remote area eg scholars hiking in the Drakensberg, rescue services (like in the floods in Mozambique in 2019), the military, botanists, geologists etc. This is the ideal emergency communication device for me when working in Turkey, Kuwait and even Yemen. The communications via the Iridium Satellite would be in the form of normal text messaging or as an e-mail, to a set list of people. Emergency messaging (the SOS button) will be via GEOS, a world leader in emergency response solutions and monitoring. All that is required and important is to set it up prior to departure. Once ready to hit the trail, switch it on and make sure it is exposed to the sky.
I must mention that these devices require a Prepaid Subscription detailed later.
This technology was initially designed and developed by DeLorme which was subsequently acquired by Garmin in 2016.
The INREACH MINI is a small compact device that weighs 100 grams and fits nicely on my snatch bag. The other three devices in the series are larger, but would attach nicely to my snatch bag with a carabiner clip or could be mounted in a vehicle.
The devices allow for preset real time messaging to preset recipients. This needs to be setup before heading out into the unknown. The responses could be set for intervals, depending on your requirements and settings. The preset messaging should be carefully worked out and be appropriate for you and who you intend sending to. Quick messaging can be preset to go to anyone selected.
As mentioned earlier the device can be used to navigate with a compass and bearing. It also has the capability to create waypoints which can be transmitted to your recipients.
The INREACH devices and GPSMAP 66i and 86i will allow for you to track your progress. This takes the form of the well-known track log or bread crumb, which can be communicated to recipients via the messaging function with your location according to your requirements and situation.
The devices have an emergency (SOS) button which will notify the authorities – who in turn will activate the necessary rescue services in your area. The SOS panic button has to be deliberately opened to send an emergency signal for help. Note that if this is done it could be costly and should only be done in an emergency.
Depending on your settings and the battery life, your location updates every 10 minutes for 35 hours on one second logging. If the updates are sent every 30 minutes in battery-save mode, the battery life is to specced up to 24 days.
These devices can be paired to a number of the newer Garmin devices like the Overlander and some of their watches.
They can also to pair to smart phones that have the appropriate app loaded, even without cellular connectivity. These messages are generally longer but it should be noted that they do have a limitation on the number of characters used in the messaging.
The devices come with the standard Garmin outdoor rating of IPX 7 – submersible to 1m of water for 30 minutes.
The button logic and menus I found to be easy to use.
Remember, if using the device for navigation and communication (as in the INREACH EXPLORIER+ or GPSMAP 66i / 86ii) it should be remembered that the navigation feature will consume additional battery power and therefore reduce your communication time.
When setting the device up I selected the Safety Plan subscription as I believe it is the best suited for my needs. It cost R249.99 for a 30 day subscription, which can be suspended at any time and restarted when needed (otherwise the next month’s fee will automatically be deducted from your credit card). In addition add the annual subscription was R409,99. I must admit that the online registration did take some time with its 22 pages of terms and conditions, but was pretty straight forward. For the R249 subscription I will get :
- SOS messages : unlimited (not an option for me)
- Text messages (Quick messages) are limited : 10 messages per month.
- Preset messages : transmissions are unlimited with only 3 set messages available (generally I would not use this feature unless in a real emergency).
- To send, track points : R1.65 each
- Location Pings : R1.65 each
- Basic Weather forecast for a 48 hour period : 1 Text message
- Premium Weather forecast (non-marine) for a seven day period but with updates: R16.50
- Premium Marine Weather forecast for a seven day period as above but with extra marine information : R16.50
- The other charges for extra messaging would be at R8.50 per message.
Professional Plans are available for business and organizations with multiple users and devices.
Please note that subscription plans are not available for some countries but as South Africans we will be able to take out a subscription in South Africa which will give us worldwide coverage.
The general comments I have heard from other people who have used this device and other similar devices is that the Garmin INREACH devices are far better devices with more and better features than similar products.
After reviewing the device, I believe it is a not a “nice to have” piece of equipment but a “must” for anyone moving out into remote areas of the world – giving them the reassurance that someone is always watching their backs and that there is a safety plan available. On the other side, it is a reassurance to the loved ones back at home in knowing where their people are and if in trouble, a rescue plan can be activated in a short period of time.
Some might say that it is costly piece of equipment, but what is costly when someone’s life is at risk?
Happy GPS Adventures