Garmin inReach Mini Review

DAN "CRUISE" SPARROW
Hiker, Photographer, Adventurer

Includes:

-  Garmin inReach Mini

-    USB Cable

-    Carabiner Clip

-    Spine Mount Adapter

-    Instruction Manual



Specs:


Material: Plastic/Metal

Weight: 3.5 Ounces (100 grams) 

Size: 2.04” x 3.90” x 1.03” (5.17 x 9.90 x 2.61 cm) 

Battery: Rechargeable Lithium-Ion 

Battery Life: Up to 90 hours at 10-minute tracking (default); up to 35 hours at 10-minute tracking with 1-second logging; up to 24 days at 30-minute tracking power save mode; and up to 1 year when powered off (from Garmin’s Website)

Price: $349.99 (USD) 

Monthly Subscription Prices: Vary from $11.95 to $99.95

Pros:

-    The most lightweight Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)

-    Provides GPS coordinates and waypoints 

-    Allows two-way text messaging (through your smartphone)

-    Easy to learn and simple user interface

-    Moderately accurate GPS tracking information (10 min. increments)

-    Uses the Iridium Satellite Network (best currently available)

-    Easy to use phone app called “Earthmate” which allows downloadable maps and gives an easy way to share tracking data.

Cons:

-    Does not work in steep canyons/mountains (like every other PLB/GPS)

-    If you do not initially sync with your computer you may encounter issues

Overview:

The Garmin inReach Mini is the best Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) that I’ve used over the past few years of hiking. The weight and size of this thing is truly astounding for the features that it provides. The initial upfront cost did deter me at first, but as soon as I made the purchase and set everything up through Garmin’s website I knew that I’d made the right choice. After testing it out in the backyard I quickly took the Garmin Mini out to a trail by my house in Southern California to test out the accuracy and see how quickly it sends out text messages.

The first thing I tested was the “Preset” message function which worked perfectly and sent GPS coordinates along with a short predetermined message stating that I was beginning my hike. Turning on the tracking function I was a bit underwhelmed with the ten-minute tracking points, but it certainly gave a good idea of the area which I was trekking around. I was blown away with how simple and effective the “Earthmate” app is when used in conjunction with a smartphone (which nearly everyone is hiking with anyways). The app provides a map (downloaded beforehand) with a GPS position marker, messages just like you would send normally, tracking (where you can select previous tracks or begin a new one), device information, weather, and an “SOS” function. The Garmin Mini itself has an SOS button on the side and can certainly be activated without the use of the app. Honestly, the Mini can be used entirely without a smartphone connected to it at all, but using one allows the access of maps and texting while out in the woods.

Overall this device uses the most reliable satellite network available to notify and direct first responders in the case of an accident outside of cell phone signal range. On top of fulfilling this requirement, the Garmin Mini provides numerous advantages to carrying it with you out on any hike. This is one item that I truly wish I'd had last summer on my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike. 

 

Final Thoughts:

This device is quite simply the best available PLB currently out on the market all things considered. For the average hiker/thru-hiker the Garmin Mini ticks every box, lightweight, pairs with a smartphone, allows text messaging and posting tracks to social media, great battery life, the list goes on and on. Now if you are going to be leading an expedition or large group of people for weeks at a time, maybe the larger Garmin Explorer is more suitable for the job, but I think for 99% of people this small, feature-packed, potentially life-saving device is more than worth the hefty price tag. Consider also that Garmin offers an annual plan or a monthly "freedom" plan with no fees when you suspend your service, this is the ideal choice for nearly every outdoor enthusiast.