Gear Review: Delorme inReach Explorer Satellite Messenger
Fees: Monthly Subscription
Summary: The Delorme inReach Explorer is a multi-purpose, rugged, handheld satellite messenger that’s designed for customized and SOS communications when you’re off the grid. It also has GPS, mapping, and other features that are pretty cool too.
The Delorme inReach Explorer is designed for anyone who ventures off the grid. Designed for backcountry use, this rugged, handheld satellite communicator combines PLB, GPS, messenger, and tracking functions into one lightweight package. If there’s one piece of backcountry gear that always travels with me into the mountains, it’s the Delorme inReach Explorer.
I spent a lot of time researching satellite communicators and PLBs before picking up the inReach Explorer. I’ve been hands on with an older model SPOT and still have my trusty ACR ResQlink PLB, but the Delorme inReach is definitely my top pick.
I primarily use my inReach Explorer for ski touring, hiking, climbing, wilderness travel, and camping, but this thing will work for anyone who’s off the grid – traveling, sailing, fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, and the list is endless. If you’re out there, it’s a good idea to invest in an Explorer.
The main reasons that I picked the inReach Explorer vs anything else are:
- 100 % Global Coverage – Delorme uses the Iridium Satellite Network that provides coverage from pole to pole. This means full coverage on any trips to Alaska or Chile. PLBs also offer full coverage, but SPOT does not.
- Customized Messages – In all honesty, the most important reason that I have the inReach Explorer is for 160-character text communication while in the backcountry. The Earthmate App on my smarthphone pairs with the inReach and allows me to quickly type and send messages to any cell number or email. If you don’t have a smartphone you can still send messages with the virtual keyboard on the inReach. Time consuming, but it works. The majority of my messages are basic and straight forward messages to friends and family about time lines or location, but I also have the ability to communicate in the event of an emergency, which could be life saving. Preset messages are also available. The ability to message my loved ones provides peace of mind when things don’t go according to plan.
- Flexible Plan – The Explorer comes with a price tag of $379. After you purchase the device, you are then required to purchase a subscription plan that allows you to use the device. There is an annual plan that offers a lower rate, but there is also a Freedom Plan that allows you to change your plan every 30 days. This is great for most people who are going use the device a lot during the summer or winter, but then may have it sit in a drawer for a few months. With the freedom plan, you can suspend service, upgrade, or downgrade. It makes it affordable – as long as you remember to change your plan. Personally, I use the Freedom Safety Plan. It gives me unlimited SOS, 10 text messages, unlimited preset messages, 10 minutes+ tracking intervals, $.10 tracking points, $.10 location pings. for $14.95/month. Additional messages are $0.50. It works perfectly for my uses.
Those were my main reasons for purchasing the inReach Explorer. I primarily use the inReach for its satellite messaging functions, but the other features also make this a purchase worthy item. I’ll try to break down different features that I use and then compare the Explorer with other devices below:
- Battery – The battery lasts forever. If you solely use the Explorer for the occasional message, the battery lasts for months. If you utilize the tracking function at 10 minute intervals the battery lasts 100 hours. Add a Goal Zero solar charger to your quiver and this thing will last forever. Charge it via the micro USB cable or an AC adapter.
- Waterproof – The Explorer is waterproof up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. I don’t spend much time on water, but this is nice in case I drop it in the snow or into a creek.
- GPS – The Explorer has all of the features of a GPS thats accurate up to 5 meters. GPS coordinates are attached to all sent messages. There are mapping functions, waypoints, logging function, compass, altimeter, and accelerometer. The downside of this is that the screen is low resolution, so for best results you need to use the topo maps on the Earthmate app on your smartphone. I’ve only dabbled with this function as personally I prefer to use GAIA GPS app for backcountry navigation.
- Social Media Linking – This is an option that I have yet to explore. It allows you to share your location via MapShare on Facebook and Twitter. Please comment below if you’ve used this feature.
- Trip Statistics – When in tracking mode, the Explorer will record trip statistics. It’s useful information, but GAIA GPS and my Suunto Ambit3 Peak are my go to sources for this information.
- Weather Forecasts – Explorer can get you the latest weather forecasts while on the go. The basic weather updates cost “1 message from monthly plan.” More detailed forecast ares also available for a fee.
- SOS – The SOS messages are received by GEOS, a worldwide emergency response coordination center with 24/7/365 staffing. In the event of an emergency, hit the SOS Button, wait for a response and text back details about the situation. Help will be contacted, but it takes time. I’ve never used this function, but my strategy would be to contact a friend first via a satellite text message and then trigger the SOS. Hopefully I never have to deal with this.
- Updates – The Explorer is updated via a micro usb cable to the computer. Updates come through somewhat regularly and it’s worth plugging in the Explorer to ensure that it does all of the latest and greatest things. Just log-in to explore.delorme.com and you can change all of your contact details, access your messages, routes, plans, preset messages, social info, updates, etc. Access to the website is essential to make the most of your inReach Explorer.
- inReach Explorer vs inReach SE
Physically these products appear to be identical. The SE does everything that the Explorer does, except the Explorer also has Route Planning & Sharing, Navigation, Waypoint Creation & Sharing, Key Trip Statistics, Detailed Track Logging, Digital Compass, Barometric Altimeter, Accelerometer. If you just want the messaging ability, the SE is a good option. Although the built-in navigation features are well worth the extra $80.
- inReach Explorer vs SPOT
There are many different SPOT devices on the market. The key difference is that the Explorer has 100% global coverage and customized 160-character satellite text messages.
- inReach Explorer vs PLB
The PLB does one thing really well. It signals an emergency. PLBs must be registered with NOAA or similar government agencies. With the Explorer, SOS signals go through GEOS, but the user is able to specify if it’s a busted ankle and SAR is needed or if it’s a life threat and a helicopter is needed. This ability to communicate makes the Explorer the better option in my opinion. There are no additional fees with a PLB – buy it, register it, and only use it if necessary.
The real question is why are you considering this type of device? If you’re looking for a backcountry satellite communication device that allows you to send customized text messages to and from anywhere on the planet while off the grid, the Delorme inReach Explorer is the perfect solution. In my opinion, the other functions and features of the Explorer are just icing on the cake. I don’t use them all regularly, but maybe you will.
I carry the inReach in the backcountry every single time I venture out. It’s worth carrying the 6.4 oz in the event of an emergency or an epic mission. I highly encourage every mountain enthusiast to invest in one of these devices. It can save your life.
Official Technical Specs for inReach Explorer from Delorme.com
- Includes digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer
- Includes an odometer and displays useful trip statistics while in the field, such as trip time, max speed, moving average, trip distance
- 100 hours of battery life in 10-minute tracking mode with a clear view to the sky. Extended tracking mode can extend battery life even more for long-haul trips.
- Color screen and virtual keyboard with predictive text for standalone two-way messaging
- GPS accuracy to +/- 5 meters
- Water rating: IP67 (withstands incidental water exposure; tested for submersion at one meter for 30 minutes).
- Rugged, dustproof and impact-resistant (Mil-STD-810G for shock; IP67 for dust).
- Impact-resistant (Mil-STD-810G for shock)
- Internal lithium polymer battery (2,450 mAh capacity at 3.7 V)
- SOS messages are received by GEOS, a worldwide emergency response coordination center with 24/7/365 staffing
- Weight: 6.7 ounces
- Email, SOS and tracking functions work anywhere in the world; SMS availability may vary by country.
- 100% global coverage via the Iridium satellite network, which is the world’s furthest-reaching satellite communications network.
- Maintains a satellite signal lock even in difficult GPS environments and embeds precise location coordinates in sent messages.
- Pairs via Bluetooth with Apple iOS, Android, or Kindle Fire with bluetooth (smartphones and tablets)
- A contract-free (minimum 30-day commitment) or annual satellite subscription plan is required for use; plans start at $11.95 per month. See plan details.)
Get all the info in the Delorme inReach Brochure.
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