Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

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Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby markwalkabout » Mon 27 Jan, 2020 1:16 pm

Hey all,

First post.
I'm looking for a PLB to take with me on my walks and occasional motorbike rides.

I've got a 5 year old phone with a battery life of less than a day during normal usage, so GPS and maps are an issue, I'm about to pull the trigger on an Inreach Explorer. But at $650 I'm a little hesitant.

Reviews seem great, i especially like
+ 2 way chat
+ SOS
+ GPS and TOPO maps.

Is there anything similar that offers that sort of functionality that I should compare?
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby ribuck » Tue 28 Jan, 2020 4:11 am

Sooner or later you will upgrade your phone, so perhaps you could consider the cheaper InReach Mini instead.
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby wayno » Tue 28 Jan, 2020 5:16 am

search the forum its been discussed at length before
from the land of the long white clouds...
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby markwalkabout » Wed 29 Jan, 2020 11:22 am

have done @wayno, but will do again, perhaps my "search" wasn't very in depth.

Thanks @ribuck, I've looked more into the inreach mini, the app reviews seem pretty terrible. I've downloaded the Garmin Explore App and i can't play with it unless I have a mini. I'm a little aphrenrsive I'll purchase it and it'll be lacking.

Have you had any experience with it?
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby wayno » Wed 29 Jan, 2020 11:28 am

from the land of the long white clouds...
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby ribuck » Wed 29 Jan, 2020 5:50 pm

markwalkabout wrote:Thanks @ribuck, I've looked more into the inreach mini, the app reviews seem pretty terrible. ... Have you had any experience with it?

I've been using the InReach Mini for 2-way messaging for over a year now and am satisfied with it, and especially satisfied with how small and light it is. It has proved to be robust and waterproof.

My experience with this and other Garmin products is that the hardware is great but the software is very poorly designed, and is clunky in its implementation. So I use my phone for maps and navigation, and the InReach Mini for communications and weather forecasts. I only use the Earthmate app for typing messages. This can also be done on the device, but it's extremely slow as you need to use up/down buttons to scroll through the letters of the alphabet.
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby Watertank » Thu 30 Jan, 2020 12:40 pm

I have the Inreach version without the maps - I like it - I think the screen on the map version is too small for maps - I prefer to use my phone for offline maps and the Inreach as a communication device
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby crollsurf » Thu 30 Jan, 2020 1:46 pm

I walk with my phone for navigation and an ACR ResQLink PLB, so the only thing I'm missing is 2 way comms. Plus most walks you'll pick up phone reception at spots along the way. Longer walks (3 days+)I take a charger as well.
Unless you have a real need for 2 way (group expedition, nervous loved one) or you want to plot and share your walk in real time, I feel the Garmin is overkill, especially when you take into account the monthly costs. If any of those became requirements or I had some cash burning a hole in my pocket, I'd go the Inreach mini paired with my phone.

I agree with ribuck, in 95% of cases, upgrading your phone would be the best option because you get a lot more goodies; navigation, Camera, entertainment (music, Netflix etc) and you can even use it as a phone! I digress but the camera's on these new flagship phones now-a-days are so good, unless you are a keen photographer, there is no need for a camera which is another weight saving advantage of getting a new phone.
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby Orion » Fri 31 Jan, 2020 11:27 am

markwalkabout wrote:I've got a 5 year old phone with a battery life of less than a day during normal usage, so GPS and maps are an issue...


Perhaps this is obvious but you don't need to use your phone in a "normal usage" mode in the bush/backcountry.

Assuming that's not you meant you can always carry extra USB battery packs, although at some point the weight becomes an issue. Another option is to get the phone battery replaced. Or just get a new phone.

The Garmin stuff is currently the best. Are you willing to pay for it? Of course that's the question: Is it worth it? And ultimately that's a personal decision. I decided a PLB was good enough. But if it were less expensive I'd have a Garmin.
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby Gadgetgeek » Sat 01 Feb, 2020 8:59 pm

Really it comes down to what you want it for. I use the mini because overall I want something that tracks position, so an extended stop could be noted by someone watching, if it didn't come with an OK. I'm not really needing GPS and mapping apart from being able to send out coordinates if needed. I'm running a BYO plan at about 60$ so the extra 40$ for the Garmin puts me within striking distance of most heavy data plans anyway.
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby johnrs » Sat 01 Feb, 2020 9:30 pm

Yes folks
This is a really good system for long and remote, think expedition, level trips.
My recent experience with it was as a support person for a group doing the Great Himalaya Trail, 1500 high altitude kms accross Nepal.
See here https://www.thedahldiaries.com/
Very useful and reassuring.
Might be overkill for individual stuff but it depends on your anxiety and cash levels.
Probably the incoming standard for school and community groups.
I have previously got by with various Spots, PLBs and increasingly mobile phone.
The PLBs have really got much lighter, more accurate
As I age the attraction of a communicating device increases
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby Mutley » Wed 06 May, 2020 8:23 pm

FYI Just bought the garmin Inreach mini for $399, ($100 off). From ANACONDA. You just need to sign up as a club member. never seen them at this price.
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby Mark F » Thu 07 May, 2020 5:34 pm

$399 is a good price but I got mine from Johnnie Appleseed in the Black Friday sales - $383.20 with free post.

Back to the op's question. for me the explorer doesn't make sense. My navigation is done with georeferenced pdfs using Avenza on my phone backed up with paper maps. I like the big hi res screen on the phone for navigation and I would most probably be carrying it anyway for a little music, reading or writing. The inreach is just for messages, weather reports and, hopefully never, rescue.
"Perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove".
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Re: Is the Garmin inreach explorer worth the money?

Postby Ms_Mudd » Thu 07 May, 2020 7:55 pm

Mark F wrote:Back to the op's question. for me the explorer doesn't make sense. My navigation is done with georeferenced pdfs using Avenza on my phone backed up with paper maps. I like the big hi res screen on the phone for navigation and I would most probably be carrying it anyway for a little music, reading or writing. The inreach is just for messages, weather reports and, hopefully never, rescue.


I agree, a phones would be much better for navigation, if using a screen.

I have owned an inreach mini since January 2019, battery life is good if you set up screen brightness, tracking frequency etc right. Before that inreach, I was carrying a KTi PLB. I do most of my walking solo and my husband and I decided the simple fact that my beacon hadn't been set off didn't offer the required level of reassurance to him- as I could be laying unconscious in a ditch unable to set it off. I think it is worth it for the tracking and 2 way communication for sure. The mapping on Earthmate, well, it is okay for a general idea but as others have said not really that flash otherwise. I do use it to mark a way point if I want to remember a place or a junction etc.

Like you, my husband is a motor bike rider and he exclusively uses the Kti PLB now, as he covers more distance he gets more frequent phone reception to check in and let me know all is going as planned, his ETA etc. He uses his phone for mapping and logging his off road adventures.
If you walk and ride I think if you were going to outlay for a PLB, then you just as well may spend the extra and get an inreach mini, it is small enough to carry on your walks and will be unobtrusive to pack on your motorbike rides in your camelbak. As far as mapping purposes, I am with the others and would suggest you upgrade your phone or carry a powerbank for your current one.
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