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Thread: Garmin inReach Satellite Communicator - Long-Term Review

  1. #1
    Registered User drneo66's Avatar
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    Garmin inReach Satellite Communicator - Long-Term Review

    Over the the last 7 months and ~30,000 miles, I have been using the using the Garmin inReach SE+ to document my attempt at riding every single highway in Minnesota. You can check out my progress here!

    I have also used the device to document/certify an Eggsanity Silver, a Border 2 Border ride, plus the Piston Diversity series of rides. After all of those miles, I thought I’d share some feedback!



    The device:
    I have the inReach SE+ which is about the size of a “normal” handheld GPS unit. Gamin makes two different versions that have the same footprint. They also make a Mini version that’s about half the size of the SE+/Explorer. The difference between the SE and the Explorer is that my unit does not have any integrated maps. You just get a breadcrumb trail. This wasn’t important to me as I’m going to primarily be using this on my motorcycle, and not hiking. Because it connects via Bluetooth to my phone, I can always use Garmin’s free Earthmate app for topo maps if I decide to head off on foot.



    The device came with a strap, manual, and charging cable.The device is rated as IPX7 water resistant, so it doesn’t mind getting rained on or going for a short swim. The screen is bright enough to see in direct sunlight and has buttons that are easy enough to use with gloves on.



    The Home screen:



    Initial Setup
    Setup of both the device and the online account were simple, I didn’t even have to go outside for it to capture the required GPS signal! I opted for the “Freedom Recreation Plan,” which allows me to “pause” the subscription throughout the year if I’m not using it. I did a detailed write up of the pros/cons of each plan here. With all of the taxes and fees, it works out to $37.26 per month.



    General Use
    The Freedom Recreation Plan (FRP) sends up a location every 10 minutes, creating a breadcrumb trail. My inReach has a specific URL that is associated with my device, which I can send to anyone that would like to follow my progress. I can also choose to upload this to Facebook/Twitter/etc. The FRP also allows me to send and receive 3 different preset messages for free (as many times as I’d like too). I have chosen “Starting ride,” “Gas/Rest stop,” and “Ending ride” as my 3 presets. (I chose these presets because I was really only using the device to certify IBA rides.) You can change these preset messages easily on the app or the website. Each time I send a preset message, a small icon appears on my map on the location, plus an email gets sent to whomever I’d like (in this case, to my wife). Contained in the email are my current location, the preset message (Gas/Rest stop) and a link to the map page. The inReach also feeds my Spotwalla page, so I can submit documentation to the IBA easily.



    The tracking screen:







    My 3 preset messages:




    The device's trip odometer that begins when start tracking




    The inReach also allows you to send custom messages too. The on-device keyboard does take a while, but you can link up your phone (via Bluetooth) to the device and type faster. You can also use just your phone and the Garmin app to do just about everything (including triggering a SOS) without having to touch the device at all!





    This gives you a peek at what the online map looks like. On the left is a recent track that I've highlighted.







    I generally ride with the device in my tank bag or in my top case. Neither of the locations impede the device from sending info or location updates. I can actually push/pull messages from inside my finished, insulated garage.



    I have updated the device several times, just use the included USB port and jump on Garmin’s website. You will need to update the device if you make any changes such as preset message info.



    Emergency Use

    Since the device operates outside of a cellular network, I can trigger emergency services nearly anywhere should the need arise. Luckily, I haven’t had the needed, but it is nice to know that I can.



    Weather
    You can actually use the device to pull weather data for your current location or other locations.



    This is the "Basic" weather forecast







    Phone App
    You can access basically everything that is on the device right from your phone. Routes, maps, tracking on/off, messages (both preset and custom), digital compass, weather, history, triggering a SOS, it's all there. The maps are highly detailed and you can download multiple regions if you travel outside of North America.





    Topo maps with a track visible (in blue)



    Other App options




    Battery life
    Battery life has been amazing so far, generally I can get 3 days of 14 hours of riding out of the device before it drops below 20%. Under 20% the device will warn you that the battery is getting low and you should charge in case you need to trigger an emergency. A typical 16-hour SS1000 saw a drop of ~15-20%. Charging is easy as the device uses a micro USB cord. Garmin does have a powered RAM-compatible mount, but I haven’t found it necessary.



    Why I chose the inReach over a Spot device:

    When I purchased the inReach, Spot had yet to come out with their latest version that has the ability to connect to a phone to send/receive messages. Being able to use two-way messaging with first responders to relay information about the situation really sold me on the device over Spot. Being able to say who/what/where/how intense with emergency responders can save a lot time and possibly someone’s life. I have also heard some horror stories with Spot about responding (or lack there of) to emergencies.





    Gripes

    The device itself has been great and the service has been stellar so far too. The website has slowly gotten better as the months have dragged on. Originally I had a tough time loading the maps and clicking on other areas of the website would continually prompt me to change my password. I thought that it was my computer or my web browser, but I got the same thing on other devices. This seems to have resolved itself over the past 4 weeks or so. I’m sure there were some growing pains as inReach transitioned over to Garmin from Deloreme.



    Thanks for reading! Feel free to ask any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them!
    Last edited by drneo66; 11-04-2018 at 01:20 PM.
    1995 BMW K75s - 100k and climbing!
    2007 BMW R1200RT - 62k
    2009 BMW G650GS - 22k and ready for Alaska!

  2. #2
    Nick Kennedy
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    This is a great review of the inReach
    I've had one since they first came out and have been very impressed with it.
    I use it in my Glider, Airplane, hiking, Motorcycling, river running and off shore sailing and motorboating in the Fl Keys.
    The battery life is huge.
    My plan is about 15-17 month cheap insurance and the two way texting has helped my out of a couple of sticky situations landing my glider out in the boonies with no cell service.
    When on my bike I often ride alone and If I ever went off the road into a canyon, the tracker would help them find me.
    thumbs up on this device.

  3. #3
    bored, bored ... dlowry's Avatar
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    Nice review, thanks! A question on the weather function, does that need the mobile phone app, or is it independant of the mobile phone?
    Dave...
    ----------------
    15 R1200 RT, 12 G650GS
    83 XN85 D Turbo

  4. #4
    Registered User drneo66's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dlowry View Post
    Nice review, thanks! A question on the weather function, does that need the mobile phone app, or is it independant of the mobile phone?

    No phone needed (ever) - it pulls all the data from the satellite.
    1995 BMW K75s - 100k and climbing!
    2007 BMW R1200RT - 62k
    2009 BMW G650GS - 22k and ready for Alaska!

  5. #5

    Nice new features

    Great report... I have the older one (DeLorme, which Garmin bought) and I appreciated you pointing out all the new features. That, and the screen is WAY more readable than the old.... I may have to pony-up before my next ride!

    Ian
    Go soothingly through the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon.
    __________________________________________________ __________________________________
    '67 Trail 90 || '86 R80 G/SPD+ || '97 F650ST || '00 1150 GS || '07 Xchallenge || '13 CB500X || '14 Grom

  6. #6
    Great review. I just got the mini, haven't had a chance to use it much, but the phone link makes the smaller screen pretty much a non issue. I'm hoping battery life is as good as you report, not sure if the mini has a "mini" battery or not.

  7. #7
    Nick Kennedy
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    Hey Ian
    I've got the older Delorme model too
    Make sure the brightness is turned up to 100% for better readability, by default mine will return to 75%
    If need to use the screen I go into settings and turn it up to full it helps.

  8. #8

    Nice review...but...

    Excellent review! I have found this device to be invaluable to me and my family. I have the Garmin inReach Explorer+. I've got over a year on mine and about 20,000 miles. This includes going up to Deadhorse, Alaska. Everything you've said is accurate. I'd like to call out a few gripes I've had with mine and it's companion app EarthMate.

    1 - I have the motorcycle mount and the sharp charging pins on the mount combined with the bouncing around my bike does when riding off-road caused my unit to fail as the pins hammered the mating pins on the inReach and chipped them to the point they no longer made contact and thus didn't charge the device. I have an RMA replacement inReach now and ended up putting a silicone sleeve on it which makes it lock it more solid so it doesn't bounce around and repeat the issue...hopefully!

    2 - The GPS engine is very "legacy" in how it works. It's limited much more than a Garmin Zumo or pretty much any modern GPS when it comes to the number of allowed points in tracks and routes that it supports. Thus you get a "grainy" view of your route.

    3 - I have an iPhone and the Earthmate app is fairly worthless for it's mapping capability due to the fact that the application doesn't have the ability to override "auto lock" on the device. That means that after a few minutes the phone screen shuts off. This issue doesn't occur on Android devices as there is an option to disable auto lock for Earthmate but they don't offer it on the iPhone. I opened a case and was told as much. Every time there is an update to the app, I check it and iPhone settings to see if they've added it. Nope.

    But, now with my charging issue resolved with a new device and silicone cover and the fact that I've just started using my Zumo 595 as my primary GPS and my iPhone using Galileo Pro as the backup rather than Earthmate I'm very happy with the device and it's role as tracker and notifier. I just wish I'd known about the issue with Earthmate on iPhones as I would have simply purchased the SE+ and saved a few bucks but that's minor.

    Joe

  9. #9
    Registered User drneo66's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fjmartin View Post
    ...
    3 - I have an iPhone and the Earthmate app is fairly worthless for it's mapping capability due to the fact that the application doesn't have the ability to override "auto lock" on the device. That means that after a few minutes the phone screen shuts off. This issue doesn't occur on Android devices as there is an option to disable auto lock for Earthmate but they don't offer it on the iPhone. I opened a case and was told as much. Every time there is an update to the app, I check it and iPhone settings to see if they've added it. Nope.
    You could go into the iPhone display settings and switch it to "always on." However, I agree that it is annoying that it's not programmed into the app itself!!

    Thanks for the rest of the feedback folks!
    1995 BMW K75s - 100k and climbing!
    2007 BMW R1200RT - 62k
    2009 BMW G650GS - 22k and ready for Alaska!

  10. #10
    Registered User zenwhipper's Avatar
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    I love my inReach (1st gen Delorme). Use it on every ride and even when I tour on my bicycle.

    I forgot to lock the SOS button one day on a ride . All of a sudden, having coffee in Chelan, WA a sheriff shows up and shouts out my name! Um, yah that's me. Oh, we got an alert message that you needed 911.

    My wife also got a call from the Sat emergency center - she was quite panicked when she got a hold of me.

    Also- I prefer to feed my tracking info to Spot Walla

    https://spotwalla.com/
    I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.- Mark Twain
    Past bikes: 2001 Kawa ZR750S, 2002 VFR, 2006 V-Strom, 2008 FJR

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