Preview: New Garmin inReach SE+ and Explorer+

The new Garmin inReach SE+ (yellow) and Explorer+ (orange) are best described as conventional handheld GPS units with satellite text messaging.

The new Garmin inReach SE+ (yellow) and Explorer+ (orange) are best described as conventional handheld GPS units with satellite text messaging.

Garmin announced two new inReach devices shortly after the New Year, immediately prior to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES):

Last week I was able to inspect them first-hand and discuss them with representatives at Outdoor Retailer (OR). The original manufacturer of the inReach, DeLorme, was purchased by Garmin a year ago. So the inReach+ models, which are the third-generation of inReach, are the first overseen by Garmin.

Functionality & specs

To understand the inReach SE+ and Explorer+, it helps to temporarily forget what you know about the current inReach devices, which I have written about here and here. The history can be helpful, but can also cause confusion.

Both new devices are two-way text messengers. Using just the unit, or paired with a smartphone via the Earthmate app, you can send and receive text messages. This assumes you have an active service plan and sufficient satellite reception.

They share a similar build to the popular Garmin GPSMAP 64. Weight of 7.5 oz, full-color 2.3-inch screen (1.4” x 2.9”), water-resistance rated to IPX7, and battery life up to 100 hours with 10-minute tracking. The control buttons on the Garmin 64 and the inReach+ are arranged differently.

Topographic map data — specifically, DeLorme’s TOPO North America — is pre-loaded onto the Explorer+. The SE+ is not preloaded with any mapping data, but it does have a simple grid map (i.e. no features or contour lines, just its location plus any imported or created routes, waypoints, and breadcrumbs).

The Explorer+ has 2 GB of internal memory for additional map data. However, only certain data is compatible. USGS quads cannot be loaded onto the Explorer+, for example. For navigating Europe, you can load Open Street Maps; the built-in memory is sufficient for about six countries. Syncing of data requires a hard connection with a mini-USB/USB cable.

Routes and waypoints can be imported to both devices through your online inReach account (formerly the DeLorme Explore portal). In the field, you can create waypoints and breadcrumb tracks, and navigate to saved features.

Additional data tiles — e.g. Landsat, USGS quads — can be accessed through the Earthmate app. The inReach antenna can be used to pinpoint current location, rather than relying on the phone.

To use the Explorer+ topographic maps and the SE+ grid map, the devices must be activated initially but do not need an active service subscription. In this sense, they could be considered GPS units with inReach functionality.

The Explorer+ has a digital compass, barometer, and accelerometer, which makes it a more powerful standalone GPS device. For example, it does not need to be moving to know the direction in which it is pointing.

The SE+ retails for $400; the Explorer+, for $450. I almost feel that the price differential was kept intentionally small to encourage Explorer+ purchases. The $80 difference between the current inReach SE and Explorer probably deters more purchases of the premium product.

If my description of the differences was too much for you, try these executive summaries.

If my description of the differences was too much for you, try these executive summaries.

inReach+ versus current inReach: What’s the difference?

The new inReach+ and current inReach units have most things in common, like:

  • Satellite text messaging;
  • Earthmate app connectivity;
  • User interface;
  • Long-lasting battery life; and,
  • Service plan options and cost.

There are also a few obvious differences. The inReach+ units:

  • Cost more, by $70 to $100 at retail;
  • Weigh about a half-ounce (15 g) more;
  • Feature a bigger screen, though the size and resolution is hardly on par with even entry-level smartphones; and,
  • Better protect the S.O.S. button.

The new inReach SE+ is more similar to the current inReach Explorer than to the current SE. The current SE has no mapping functionality. The inReach SE+ has basic features: a feature-less grid map, and the ability to import and create waypoints, routes, and breadcrumbs. It’s like an old-school GPS unit, before they were spec’d with decent screens and maps.

The new inReach Explorer+ is best compared to a conventional handheld GPS unit, but with inReach functionality.

Should I upgrade?

If you already own an inReach SE or inReach Explorer, you may be wondering if there are compelling reasons to buy an inReach+.

It’s not a simple answer, and largely depends on your current and anticipated use, as well as your budget. If you only use the inReach for text messaging, and if you have another GPS solution (e.g. Gaia app) or don’t need one, then the current inReach SE will remain adequate. But if you would appreciate having a combined inReach/GPS, then the Explorer+ would be worth a look.

If you own a current Explorer, the Explorer+ offers only one benefit: it can be used as a GPS even without an active service subscription. If you can avoid paying for months when you hardly use the service (but sometimes want a GPS), an upgrade may actually make financial sense.

What questions do you have about the inReach SE+ and Explorer+? These are new and high-tech devices, and will take some discussion to fully grasp their nuances.

Disclosure. This website is supported mostly through affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors, at no cost to the reader. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support.


97 Responses to Preview: New Garmin inReach SE+ and Explorer+

  1. John Fegy January 16, 2017 at 10:11 am #

    I’ve definitely been eyeing these. I have a failing GPSMAP 60CSx that I love, but have also been thinking about getting some sort of satellite communicator / locator like an inReach or Spot. There are various nuances like you say that sway me back and forth. For example, for a backcountry hike or ascent, a Spot seems sufficient to allow others to track you, however, you MUST sign up for a full year service. I like that inReach allows a la carte monthly service if you just need it for a single long trip. With my dying Garmin, this many really seal the deal for me to go with the new Explorer+. I look forward to your in-depth analysis later. Thanks!

  2. Phil May January 16, 2017 at 12:31 pm #

    Thanks for.the summary and comparison. I actually just bought an Inreach SE when they were heavily discounted last year…probabky to clear out stock for these new ones. I was having buyers remorse thinking I should have waited for the new version. With the price difference and the fact that I really only want emergency contact and some preset texts to my better half, your summary has confirmed I am good to go and saved $200.

    • Andrew Skurka January 16, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

      You have the right device for your needs. Wise to snag a discounted one.

  3. hunter hall January 16, 2017 at 2:30 pm #

    I have an explorer. The GPS has always bugged me just because it’s not very clear/detailed with topo maps, etc.

    Is the new one much better in your opinion?


    • Andrew Skurka January 16, 2017 at 2:52 pm #

      The Explorer+ will have a bigger screen, but the base map is unchanged — the DeLorme TOPO North America data. So it will still look like a bitmap drawing from 1992.

  4. Russell J January 16, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

    I have the previous generation SE. In addition to two-way text messaging, I’ve used it for recording tracks, letting others follow my progress via the website, and pulling a weather report. I am assuming they are not removing any of this support from the previous versions?

    • Andrew Skurka January 16, 2017 at 10:58 pm #

      I was not told that service for current inReach models would decline or be phased out.

  5. Douche P. January 16, 2017 at 10:45 pm #

    I’m calling in a short on Garmin stock

  6. Bill W January 17, 2017 at 9:30 am #

    Any news on if it will work with Garmin’s “Base Camp”

    • Andrew Skurka January 17, 2017 at 9:37 am #

      Not sure, I will ask.

      I’m preparing a list of questions for Garmin’s media rep, so fire away if you have more Q’s.

      • Tim January 23, 2017 at 12:18 pm #

        I have a question. When will these be available to retailers?

  7. David Terrie January 17, 2017 at 10:07 am #

    Are good paper maps plus Explorer+ with new screen – despite old Delorme topo – all you need to navigate effectively? Would you still feel compelled to check Gaia? How valuable do you find knowing elevation between waypoints?

  8. Jeff Monroe January 17, 2017 at 1:00 pm #

    You had to figure that Garmin would combine the 64 and the inReach when they bought DeLorme. I have owned Garmin 60s, 62s, and 64s receivers, and tested the inReach Explorer for a GPS group within the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club. I remember camping in WV’s Laurel Fork South Wilderness and not getting any satellite connectivity for the inReach, which is why I never bought the unit for my personal needs. Several questions:
    1. Has the new design affected satellite connectivity for communications?
    2. Does the unit’s GPS tracking capability have the same level of flexibility as the 64 series units? (i.e. can you adjust the timing of the track’s data, can you still download and adjust data on Basecamp, can you make tracks on Basecamp and then import them into the receiver?)
    3. Does Garmin still plan to produce receiver models without the inReach capability, or will the 60/62/64 series receivers be phased out?
    4. Will texts be able to be composed on a smartphone and then sent out?
    Thanks for this report!

    • Geekonabike January 18, 2017 at 5:02 am #

      Here’s the manual w/ answers to 2 & 4

    • Adam March 6, 2017 at 11:49 am #

      I also am interested in knowing if the Explorer+ has equivalent GPS functionality to the GPSMAP 60/62/64 models. The manual doesn’t really answer that question.

      • Andrew Skurka March 6, 2017 at 11:54 am #

        Define “equivalent.”

        • Adam March 6, 2017 at 12:03 pm #

          For example, the GPSMAP has the ability to create a very detailed track during a hike (or whatever) that can be seen on the map screen during the hike (then export GPX afterwards). Also having the ability to easily create and select waypoints by entering coordinates on the unit, then getting data like distance and bearing to that waypoint. Bonus points for being able to configure the map screen’s dashboard fields.

      • Adam March 6, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

        Comparing the Maps & Memory specs between the 64st and Explorer+ on…

        Memory: 8GB — Waypoints/favorites/locations: 5000 — Routes: 200 — Track log: 10,000 points, 200 saved tracks

        Memory: 2GB — Waypoints/favorites/locations: 500 — Routes: 20 — Track log: no mention of this.

        I guess that answers my question. The Explorer+ is not the all-in-one solution I was hoping for.

        Also, no GLONASS, no microSD slot and the same ol’ low resolution display (and outdated UI) is a bummer as well.

  9. Dan Durston January 17, 2017 at 3:22 pm #

    I’m disappointed with this new generation. I get that Garmin is trying to sell GPS devices, but for many the main appeal of the InReach is the 2-way satellite messaging. I was really hoping they’d offer this in a smaller/lighter/cheaper unit instead of bundling it with a GPS.

    Perhaps the new Explorer makes sense since those buyers wanted a GPS and now it does this better, but for someone happy with a regular SE there’s nothing to get excited about here. Hopefully they’ve got an InReach Nano in the pipeline.

  10. hunter hall January 17, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

    Totally agree with Dan after looking into it.

    Everyone is going to take their phone anyway for photos and texting, etc. when in cell range, so this new device does not look that promising, especially for the price.

    Having a Gaia Plus account ($5.99/mo), and a Delorme Explorer with a month to month plan may be a little redundant, but I always like a little redundancy in things as important as navigation anyway. The biggest gripe I have with the current explorer is the size/weight.

    The cumbersome buttons, and ’90’s bitmap screen’ pretty much make the tethered iPhone a necessity anyway.

    For me, a truly revolutionary product would be a smaller, lighter InReach Explorer, with a bigger, better screen, and the same power/functionality as the ResqLink ACR.

  11. David Terrie January 17, 2017 at 6:19 pm #

    Garmin should make a Moto Z phone accessory that adds just satellite texting and SOS.

  12. Gary January 18, 2017 at 8:45 am #

    Thanks for the review Andrew. I sold my Inreach Explorer and will upgrade to the new model. I prefer the new virtual keyboard on the device to send personalized messages rather than pairing it to my iPhone. I like that it has a slightly larger display. My AT thru-hike starts on 3/17. Did they mention when it will be available?

    Gary (Roaming Gnome)

    • Andrew Skurka January 18, 2017 at 8:58 am #

      The “virtual keyboard” is unchanged from the current inReach units. It’s still that awkward 1980’s video game thing. I would plan on pairing it with your smarthphone still.

      Not sure about the ETA on availability. Let me ask. I was under the impression that it would be this spring.

      • Gary January 18, 2017 at 9:33 am #

        Man that’s disappointing about the keyboard.

      • Tim April 17, 2017 at 1:19 am #

        From all the pictures published I would say that the new virtual keyboard os a QUERTY keyboard, whereby the old one was a ABCD keyboard. For somebody who knows how to type/chat using (any) QUERTY keyboard, it should be much faster/quicker to use a QUERTY keyboard.

  13. David Terrie January 18, 2017 at 11:23 am #

    Question for current users: how often do you send custom vs. pre-set message? On trail? In camp? Maybe 90’s keyboard not a big deal for typical use?

    • Gary January 18, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

      I found myself typing messages instead of using the messages I typed in advanced. In my case, I’ll be hiking from anywhere between four and six months. Communicating in areas without cell coverage is important. I have a young daughter who’s going to miss her dad and I know she’ll want to text frequently.

  14. Paul January 18, 2017 at 11:41 am #

    On the surface, the improvements look minimal. Maybe there are some upgrades to the internals?

    A couple questions for the rep (hopefully not too late):
    1. Has anything about the satellite communication technology been updated? Different radios, better signal acquisition?
    2. Why, in the age of smartphone displays, does the display on these devices leave so much to be desired? Is it a compromise with durability?
    3. As David suggests above, anything that would resemble a mi-fi type device smartphone add-on, or in the pipeline? Any convincing explanations against this idea?
    4. How long will the older generation, Inreach for Smartphones (no screen) be supported?

  15. Hunter Hall January 18, 2017 at 11:47 am #

    The only reason I spend 7 ounces of my weight budget on the DeLorme explorer is for 1-SOS functionality, and backcountry communication with important people. 2-GPS redundancy if my phone dies while using Gaia.

    In my opinion, the GPS on the DeLorme is kind of a joke just because it’s so difficult to view the screen or change vantage points, etc.

    I’ve never really picked up one Garmin device I liked to be honest.

    If they were smart, they would make a lightweight, tiny accessory to iPhone/android operating systems that simply enabled SOS/Satellite messages.

    For 7 ounces, you can take an external charge pack large enough to charge your iPhone 5 or 6 times.

    • Gary January 18, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

      I hear you. I have all you can eat data on my IPhone with Sprint. Unfortunately Sprint is useless on the AT and I don’t want to switch providers.

  16. Mike January 18, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

    I’ve been using the the inReach Explorer for backpacking and mountaineering and have been very happy with its reliability and durability and also the service from DeLorme which I would characterise as outstanding. I typically use it in conjunction with a GPS watch (Garmin Fenix 3 HR). The watch is typically set up to give me instant access to altitude, temperature (via external wireless temp sensor), distance traveled and time. The inReach is often in or attached to my pack and relaying tracks as I move, and used for communications as needed (e.g. at basecamp, predefined trip points etc.). I’ve found this combination to be very effective.

    I was a little concerned that an inReach device from Garmin might not have the reliability and durability of the DeLorme unit as I’ve had Garmin devices suffer early firmware problems and have never received the kind of phone support I get from DeLorme. However, I expect the software is from DeLorme so perhaps it will work as reliably as the Delorme at least as far as software is concerned. I do note that the Garmin unit is rated IPX7 vs IP67 for the DeLorme, perhaps because the latter has been tested for dust while the Garmin has not? Possible win for the DeLorme unit there.

    My hopes for a Garmin variant were a better and larger screen (somewhat achieved) and lower weight (weight has instead gone up ever so slightly). I’ll wait for reviews but for my use I don’t see any reason to “upgrade”. In fact, if I was in the market today I might look for a discounted DeLorme unit.

  17. Mariela January 21, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

    I’m going to do Spain’s, Camino de Santiago French rout…ie the way, so this inreach explorer sounds good would it be too much to combin it with the Fenix 5s?

    ?Do I need a paid subscription to use it?

    If so

    I can’t seem to find the prices on the Internet for an international subscription…

    • Mike January 25, 2017 at 12:50 pm #

      Whether it would be too much honestly depends on how you intend to use the combination. If you just want to be in occasional contact with friends and family, I think you would likely have reasonable cell coverage on the Camino de Santiago so for sending the odd text message you would be fine just with a cell phone (though there will no doubt be a few dead spots).

      The inReach comes into its own when you want to continually broadcast your location. In send mode friends can follow your location on a map and you can broadcast messages to your map page (or social media). You can also individually email or text people (send and receive). When emailing people a link to a map showing your location is also provided to the recipients. All these services do require a subscription (someone has to pay the Iridium folk for satellite data usage). Plans are available in many countries but the service is of course global. I.e. regardless of who collects your money all services are available anywhere on the globe.

      Some links for international subscriptions can be found here:

      Now, your Garmin 5s should also allow you to share your location on the go provided you have it paired with a smartphone (it uses (or will use!) Bluetooth). However, if you want continual broadcast that will be using up a fair bit of your phone and watch battery power. The inReach will broadcast for many days so you likely wouldn’t need to worry about power. Plus, if the inReach dies you still have your phone which should work in most instances.

      As I mentioned, I use a Fenix 3 HR myself and I think it is a great watch for anyone on the go, so if you are going to wear a watch I think the 5s will be a great option since it will give you distance travelled, HR etc. My guess is that you likely won’t miss the inReach unless you are super keen to be always broadcasting location to friends and family.

      Always being in contact and having the SOS function is a nice to have but I don’t think this is too important if you are in areas with decent cell coverage. Having said that I have used to inReach when travelling internationally to save on roaming charges (I occasionally use it to send text messages and emails while avoiding the local networks). That is something to think about but is not a very common use case.

      One last thought – though I find the inReach a great tool for staying safe in remote locations, one reason I enjoy the mountains is to get away from it all. So while my inReach may be active it tends to stay in my backpack most of the day. I believe Walter Starkie might have recommended you leave the cell phone at home too based on what I recall of his “Road to Santiago”. Definitely a man ahead of his time!

      Enjoy your trip! 🙂

  18. Susan January 24, 2017 at 12:23 pm #

    I am considering the SE+ or Explorer+ for use on my sailboat. I already have GPS, AIS, VHF, EPIRB, MMSI number.

    What I need is a way to send texts when I do not have cell phone reception.
    I like the idea of the tracker, SOS
    Also I need marine weather data

    What model would be best for my needs? I will be bringing my Ipad and Iphone. Cruising for 6 months in British Columbia

    • Andrew Skurka January 24, 2017 at 5:08 pm #

      If you do not plan to use the inReach for navigational purposes (which I’m doubtful you will, since you say you already have GPS and personally I would much rather use an iPad with a GPS app than the inReach), then you should hunt down a current inReach SE. It’s all that you need, and it will cost less than the inReach+ devices when they become available.

      On Amazon the SE is selling for almost $60 less than the $300 retail. REI is still selling it at full retail, $300.

      My only reservation in suggesting an SE is that I have not received official confirmation that Garmin will continue to service these older Delorme devices, i.e. offer satellite subscriptions, repair them, and warranty them. I can’t imagine that they will not, but I would feel better once I hear something definitive from Garmin.

    • Mike January 25, 2017 at 1:46 pm #

      If it is just for use on your sailboat I agree with Andrew.

      I don’t sail but have used the inReach for kayaking (they sell a lightweight neoprene floatation “case”) typically just strapped to the top of the kayak. In addition to the two way messaging, having friends be able to track your location can also be useful in the event something happens and you are unable to send a distress signal (e.g. fall climbing, capsize etc.) since your last location or possibly your current location will be available.

      The main reason for purchasing the Explorer version would be to have an all-in one GPS navigation backup. I primarily rely on paper maps for navigation but still like having more than one device capable of providing current location or recording a track. I’ve had my Garmin run out of power and failed to activate my inReach track mode (2 AM, freezing hands, gloves, blowing snow – otherwise known as user error) so I was glad to have both devices.

      In terms of weather, I have used the weather service on my Explorer. I use it as background information and then use a barometer for local conditions. I actually quite like the Fenix 3’s weather alerts which have actually shook my rest a few times while I was resting at camp!

      The inReach devices does apparently support maritime weather though I have never used the maritime forecasts:

      Incidentally, my kayaking was in British Columbia – both Tofino (nice surf!) and on the Sunshine Coast (scenic and sheltered waters). If you do get to BC be sure to make a stop in Gibsons, BC. Lovely town!

  19. Dan C. January 24, 2017 at 11:38 pm #

    I’ve been hoping Garmin would upgrade the deLorme units with a more user-friendly keyboard (“qwerty” format, like smartphones and two-way pagers have had since 1990’s). But my real problem is with the entire product concept. Specifically, the reliance on only a proprietary, private, for-profit, pay-for-SOS xmit/receive emergency notification center. The better product us here, but so far only for govt/military customers: The SE and Explorer have their place, but the ACR SARlink design is far superior and will eventually hit the consumer market. I will pass on the Garmin “+” units, get an SE, until a consumer ACR is available.

    • Andrew Skurka January 25, 2017 at 6:19 am #

      Cool device. Wonder what else they have going in their skunk worx program.

      FWIW, the SARLink uses Iridium satellites for its two-way messaging feature. So does the inReach.

      Also, 12.5 oz is not very good. The inReach are heavy, and they are 7.5.

  20. Ted Turner January 25, 2017 at 10:32 am #

    I may have missed it in the responses above, but do either of the new devices have GLONASS?

    • Andrew Skurka January 25, 2017 at 10:41 am #

      The online materials do not indicate any GLONASS compatibility. If they were, Garmin would probably say so, since they make a point to do this with devices that do, like the GPSMAP 64 and the Fenix 5 watches.

      The second-generation devices did not.

      • Ted Turner January 25, 2017 at 11:05 am #

        Thank you. Some of our forestry crews are using older 60-series units for mapping and field data collection and carrying SPOT devices. I was hoping this inReach upgrade would provide better communication as well as improved under-canopy GPS accuracy with only one device to manage.

  21. Sean January 26, 2017 at 7:13 am #

    I was wondering if you would be able to sell this after using it. I would hate to pay this kind of money and be stuck with it as I usually upgrade my devices frequently.

    • Andrew Skurka January 26, 2017 at 8:17 am #

      Yes, you can sell it. It can be factory-reset, and there is a used market for it.

      • Sean January 26, 2017 at 8:58 am #

        Great. Also I wonder if the battery is replaceable. It’s definitely great that it lasts longer than regular batteries but I can see the battery life longevity going down after a few years.

        • Andrew Skurka January 26, 2017 at 9:24 am #

          The battery is not replaceable, at least by the customer. Long-term users of the second-generation inReach complained of battery drain, like a cell phone. But the inReach+ units may use a different battery, from the GPSMAP 64, so the experience may be different.

  22. Jeff Bue January 27, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    Hey Andrew! We are going to be doing the Brooks Range Traverse this summer – do you think this device would be a good option for us? Right now I use a YellowBrick ( for communication, and also carry a GPS. I’ve been happy with the YellowBrick in the Brooks, but it seems like the Garmin would have more communication abilities than the YellowBrick for coordinating with pilots, etc…, and cut the weight of my system, right? I’m mostly concerned about the durability/functionality of the Garmin since there aren’t many reviews yet. What are your thoughts?

    • Andrew Skurka January 27, 2017 at 3:16 pm #

      If you currently carry a YellowBrick (BTW, hadn’t heard of these before, thanks for the link) and a handheld GPS unit, then, yes, a Garmin inReach+ or the older DeLorme inReach Explorer would be a lighter and less expensive system. Because the inReach+ and inReach Explorer is a combined two-way text messenger AND a GPS.

      Yellowbrick says that it allows for two-way text messaging, using the device or (with the Standard or Pro models) by pairing it with a smartphone via their app. But I’m not certain how functional it is relative to the inReach, in terms of character counts. With the inReach, you’re about limited to a Twitter message.

      There are no reviews yet on the inReach+ because they are not yet available. I’m trying to get one early. I would suspect that the hardware and software are pretty good — I was pleased with the DeLorme inReach, and Garmin dropped it into the body of their time-tested 64 GPS.

      • Jeff Bue January 29, 2017 at 6:44 pm #

        Thanks for the info! Looking forward to your review when you get a unit. The YellowBrick sends very short messages (from the unit). I’ve never tried it paired with a phone – the YellowBrick’s battery works exceptionally well in cold weather and is virtually indestructible, so I just use it without a phone.

  23. Adrianne January 29, 2017 at 12:43 pm #

    Hi! I’m looking for a satellite texting device such as the inReach +, but I also want to have access to use the Onxmaps Hunt Chip. Can this device use both, or any word if Garmin is coming out with something that will?

    • Andrew Skurka January 30, 2017 at 7:39 am #

      Neither the SE+ nor the Explorer+ have micro-SD slots, so a Hunt Chip cannot be inserted into them.

      Also, the devices are not yet compatible with Garmin Base Camp, so you cannot load the data onto the device from there either. This could be fixed with a software update, but no word from Garmin yet on it.

  24. Darin February 9, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

    The biggest problem with the previous generation of these devices is they can’t receive texts unless the user sends out a text first. For example, let’s say I’m hiking off grid and my wife wants to reach me. She can’t just send a text to the device from her phone because the device doesn’t have a dedicated phone number. I have to text her first, and then she can reply to my text. The number that appears on her phone from the device might be 123.456.7890. But if I text my coworker from the device he number he sees might be 234.567.8901. And so on. These devices pull from a pool of numbers and there’s no way to guarantee what the “sent from” number will be. I had hoped to use one of these in conjunction with Google Voice so clients could just text me as usual and I would receive the message on the device. Can’t do it. Still a cool device but not as cool as it could be.

    I wonder if the new version suffers from the same problem or if Garmin will finally just assign a dedicated number to each device. That would be magical for my needs.

    I’m not a fan of the huge new versions. There’s no way I would upgrade to one of those behemoths. What lumbering monsters. I was hoping they would get smaller. The best way to use these devices is paired with your smart phone. I think of it as an external satellite radio for my phones. I’ve never used the GPS function even one time on the devices. I just need something to keep me connected to the outside world. Overall, it works pretty well.

    • Tim April 17, 2017 at 2:06 am #

      Global FastTrack Systems seems to offer dedicated and permanent email addresses for the inreach devices.

      This company is one (of several) Iridium value-added service (VAS) providers and they offer alternative data plans for the inreach devices. So after buying the inreach device, instead of registering it through Garmin using Garmin’s data plans, you register it though Global FastTrack, using one of their “ProteGear”-branded data plans.

      The dedicated, permanent email address is a feature called GlobalMail. It is an option available with Global Fast Track Systems’ ProteGear data plans for inreach devices.

      In this respect, as well as in many other aspects, the data plans other VAS offer may be more flexible than what Garmin itself offers.

  25. Mike February 21, 2017 at 10:01 am #


    Thank-you for your review.

    I have one important question: Garmin support states that the Explorer + will not function at all without a subscription service including the GPS? So, basically it is a brick, without a service plan.

    Can you clear this up? In your review, you stated the one advantage to the Explorer + was that the GPS worked, without a subscription….

    • Andrew Skurka February 21, 2017 at 4:22 pm #

      Where are you seeing that?

      That was the case with the second-generation DeLorme Explorer. If your service was not active, it didn’t work.

      But I was told by Garmin that the GPS on the SE+ and Explorer+ would remain functional even if your subscription is not active. (You will still need to activate the device.)

      I’ll check on this just to confirm.

    • Andrew Skurka February 21, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

      More info from Garmin:

      “We are working on an update that will allow users to activate their inReach and then put it into a suspended state which will not require an Iridium data plan. The inReach owner will be able to use the device as a handheld GPS, pair with the Earthmate app, and sync with the Explore site. This plan came along late in the development process so it won’t be available for a couple of weeks. Sales people knew about the plan so they shared that at Outdoor Retailer. Customer Care knows that the devices currently require a subscription so they are sharing that. We’re working on the update as we speak and hope to have it out soon.”

      I have asked if the update will be for the old Explorer too, or just the + devices. Should have an answer shortly.

      • Mike February 21, 2017 at 5:17 pm #


        That’s great news! I really appreciate you digging into this, as the explorer+ will be a replacement for my worn and tired Garmin 450T. And the bonus of a freedom plan when I’m off trail l to keep my wife sane! This is definitely a buy for me, not having to pay for the GPS functionality throughout the year.

        Awaiting your next update.


    • Andrew Skurka February 21, 2017 at 6:38 pm #

      Final detail:

      “[The update] will only be available with the inReach SE+ and Explorer+ versions. We are concerned about users forgetting they aren’t activated and heading out into the wilderness so we’ve made improvements to the inReach+ UI to make it clear that the device isn’t active and no Iridium messages will be sent or received.”

      • Mike February 21, 2017 at 8:17 pm #


        Thank-you once again for the diligence in getting the “true updates” for the unit. I just pre-ordered the Explorer+. This will be a great addition to my pack for lengthy back-country excursions.

        Safe travels!


      • Bill February 22, 2017 at 7:59 am #

        If I’m just wanting one for text and SOS is there any reason I would care if the SE was usable while it’s not activated? I.e. Is there a reason to get the SE+ over the SE?

        • Andrew Skurka February 22, 2017 at 8:09 am #

          For texting and SOS, the SE is the simplest and least expensive inReach.

  26. Advlust February 23, 2017 at 2:32 am #

    Thanks for your comparison! I have the Inreach Explorer still in the box, waiting to be used in my trip this August. I assumed that the GPS functionality is built into the device like all GPS devices are and that we require the subscription only for Sat Comm to send and receive text messages.

    Do I have to get the Inreach Explorer+ for this functionality? I ride motorcycles in remote places and I plan to just use my phone for maps and the Inreach for SOS, Text messages and GPS accuracy.

    • Andrew Skurka February 23, 2017 at 8:27 am #

      Correct. The DeLorme Explorer requires an active subscription to be used as a GPS. Per Garmin, the SE+ and Explorer+ will have a software update soon whereby they can be used as a GPS even without an active subscription. (The device still must be activated, however.)

      • Darren March 24, 2017 at 9:15 pm #

        I called Garmin yesterday and their support guy said the device will always need an active subscription to work as a GPS because it uses the Iridium network only – not the Dept. of Defence free GPS satellites. That for me is a deal breaker as it turns the device into a paperweight unless you pay the subscription each month. I really hope that you are correct and the support guy was wrong but I’m not buying until I see it confirmed.

        • Andrew Skurka March 24, 2017 at 9:37 pm #

          I trust my Garmin contact because he is the lead engineer. But I think the timing of this software update might be slower than they hope or plan.

          • Darren March 24, 2017 at 11:04 pm #

            That’s awesome news Andrew. If I can use this device as a GPS without the monthly or yearly subscription but enable and pay for the InReach capabilities as and when I need it, I’ll buy it without hesitation.

        • Tim April 17, 2017 at 2:15 am #

          Darren, of course the inreach uses the GPS satellites to give you a position fix. And then separately the Iridium satellites for communication. The Iridium network on its own doesn’t allow the device to determine its coordinates.

          The restriction to not give you use of the GPS functionality of the device (unless you an *active*, or later maybe at least a *suspended* Iridium data plan) I reckon purely is a commercial restriction.

  27. Michael K February 25, 2017 at 5:39 pm #

    Is there any real difference in the screen readability from the old ones from Delorme to the new ones from Garmin…? I have heard that the old ones easily activate the sos. Is the set up better on the new ones or should I get the discounted old Delorme unit new.

    • Andrew Skurka February 26, 2017 at 7:10 am #

      The scree on the inReach+ units is bigger, but resolution is about the same, and the U/I is identical.

      I have not heard of any/many stories of people accidentally setting off the SOS on the old units. You have to release a physical locking button before the SOS can be pressed. Hard to imagine how that button could slide while in a pack.

  28. Michael k February 26, 2017 at 7:18 am #

    OK thanks. I’m torn between getting the SE+ (new yellow one ) or the old orange explorer. The new Garmin is 399 and old Delorme orange for 303….

  29. Toni March 5, 2017 at 8:31 pm #

    I have a Garmin Montana 650T & love the size, legibility, and touch screen. The ability to import GPX files & micro sd slot for 24K topo are imparative to me while hiking. The detail is incredible! I also have the DeLorme Explorer for two way communication as I usually hike alone, that and SOS capability are also invaluable to me. I want to see these features all in one unit and the ounces be damed! Any chance of getting this all in one? Also the Montana has incredible battery life and uses a rechargeable batty pack or AA’s. On a 10 day trip I simply take a second lithium ion battery for the Montana.

    • Andrew Skurka March 6, 2017 at 9:02 am #

      The new Explorer+ essentially combines your current Montana and current Explorer. There are some differences in the single unit versus the two separate units, but I don’t think any of them are deal-breakers.

      To start, the Explorer+ does everything that your current Explorer does, e.g. two-way text messaging.

      The Explorer+ is not as good of a substitute for the Montana, but again I think you’ll find it sufficient. You’ll have to give up the 4-inch touchscreen. You no longer will have the micro SD slot; but the TOPO NA data is pre-loaded onto the Explorer+, and you can download many more data sets to the Earthmate app (on your phone, which connects to the inReach via Bluetooth). You’ll have to transfer data using the Explore portal rather than Basecamp or whatever you were using for the Montana. Lastly, the Explorer+ has a non-replaceable lithium battery. Lifespan is very good, and you can recharge it in the field using an Anker Powercore Mini or similar with a micro USB cord.

  30. Stephen March 9, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

    Hi Andrew,

    I have three questions I was hoping you have an answer to:

    1. Does it support MGRS for location/coordinates?
    2. Confirm it loses waypoints when it is turned off = cannot plan / track a trip without a computer.
    3. Where can I find out what topo maps are available?

    Many thx

    • Andrew Skurka March 13, 2017 at 10:57 am #

      1. Yes

      2. The user can play waypoints and routes beforehand in the Explore portal. In the field, the user can create new waypoints via the shortcut menu or the New Waypoint tool from the Waypoints page.

      These waypoints are not lost when the device is turned off. In fact, the waypoints are sent via Iridium to the Explore web portal while the user is still in the field so that friends and family, or possibly the office if you’re working with the inReach, can see where you have created new waypoints and how those points are related to the rest of your trip. Imagine a hike where you change your plans in the field and want to create a new waypoint for where you will camp or just mark something that was interesting. Now you’re friends will see “Shelter” or “Waterfall” or “Bridge Out” waypoints on your MapShare to tell the story of your adventure. Waypoints are also synced from the inReach to the Explore site during a cable sync, they are definitely not lost.

      3. Here is the list:

      DeLorme Topo North America (inReach & Earthmate)
      OpenStreetMaps for the world (inReach & Earthmate)
      DeLorme Digital Atlas of the Earth (inReach & Earthmate)
      Hunting GMUs, Parcels, Public Lands (inReach & Earthmate)
      NOAA Nautical Charts (Earthmate only)
      Aerial Imagery (Earthmate only)
      USGS/Canadian Quads (Earthmate only)

      Garmin sent screenshots of each of those map layers, if you wanted to see what they look like. Let me know.

  31. MarkL March 10, 2017 at 4:26 pm #

    The element that seems to beshort shrift is the conversation about what model to get is the barometric altimeter. This can be a key piece of data for navigation, weather forecasting, etc.
    If you are using a phone for your primary GPS functions, it seems like the InReach still has a lot of value as a communication tool, altimeter, remote tracker, and a more durable, longer battery life backup GPS.

    That being said, I haven’t actually used it yet. But then again I am coming from a 401 which is very basic (and small, and light, and convenient.)

  32. Michael K March 10, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

    I am a little confused. I went ahead and got the explorer plus. So I sent some preset messages and included my cell. So my cell got the text message. Is that number that it’s displaying my device contact number? Can the person reply to the text to answer or do they have to go to the website ?

  33. Mike March 10, 2017 at 9:13 pm #

    Both….The only caveat, is you must text them first on a cell phone.

    • Tim April 17, 2017 at 2:11 am #

      As mentioned in another replay somewhere above, Global FastTrack Systems ( offer dedicated, permanent email addresses for the inreach devices.

      This would allow another person to initiate the contact, without the need for the inreach user to first text them.

  34. geekonabike March 11, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    I got my Explorer+ the other day also. Advertised batt seems about right. Allow so time for setup & do the web site sync right away, cuz there is already an update in the can,

  35. Joe Sytnick March 11, 2017 at 6:36 pm #

    Will this unit track other users on the screen? I’m needing something that will track multiple users for snowbiking in the backcountry as it’s easy to get separated in the trees.

    • Andrew Skurka March 13, 2017 at 10:41 am #

      No, the inReach device does not have that capability. I don’t know of a satellite device that does. If you are within cell phone range, you can use a Find My Friends-type app.

      • MarkL March 13, 2017 at 11:51 am #

        As Andrew says, not a satellite device, but the Garmin Rino units have an FRS radio built into them with position sharing functionality: “Rino series handhelds feature a unique Position Reporting capability that lets you send your exact location to other Rino users so they can see it on their map page. Plus, improved audio performance means it’s easy to communicate with any other conventional FRS/GMRS radios in the area.”

        They are pricey ($550-650), they use rechargeable AAs with battery life “up to 14 hours,” weigh almost 13 oz, and are about 1.5 inches longer. They do not have satellite SOS capability.

      • Mark March 15, 2017 at 9:47 am #

        Can two hikers with any of the inreach models communicate directly with each other using the satellite messaging? And therefore send their locations (lat,long) back and forth?

  36. MarkL March 13, 2017 at 9:40 am #

    In addition to the battery life question above, I had a few other questions for Garmin and they have responded very promptly:

    Q: Do Earthmate, Explore, and the units all support the use of UTM, MGRS, USNG coordinates and multiple datums?
    A: The inReach devices, Earthmate app, and Explor web portal all support those and multiple datums.

    Q: Does the SOS function broadcast in UTM if that is what you have selected? What about the autotext that includes your location when you send a message? I am thinking to clarify communication with rescuers.
    A: When you broadcast SOS, it does not matter which datum you have selected as your exact coordinates will be reported to emergency services and displayed in their chosen coordinate system. Your coordinates are also continuously updated as the SOS is broadcast, so you can be found even if you are moving. If you are communicating with emergency services and need to provide or receive information in UTM format, this is not an issue.

    Q: Can you import/export gpx files directly into/out of the units? Or do you have to go through the Explore interface like I do with Basecamp with my Foretrex 401?
    A: GPX and KML files can only be made up of tracks/routes and/or waypoints, and must be imported via the Explore web interface and then synced to the unit and/or Earthmate app. There is no direct import of the file(s) to the unit without using the portal.

    • MarkL March 13, 2017 at 9:50 am #

      Note: There is a misuse of datum in their reply about the SOS signal, but I don’t think that actually changes the answer. I have asked for clarification and will update if it changes anything.

      • MarkL March 13, 2017 at 11:45 am #

        Via Garmin: “The coordinates sent via SOS will be accurate to GEOS (the SOS provider) regardless of which coordinate system you have the unit set to (you will not need to inform them which system you are using upon initiating SOS).”

  37. Brian Haughey March 14, 2017 at 6:13 am #

    REI currently has a clearance sale on. I just scored an InReach Explorer for $228 plus tax.

    • MarkL March 14, 2017 at 9:29 am #

      To clarify, that is probably the DeLorme unit, not the new units from Garmin reviewed here? They are listed at $303.93 on the REI web site as of this writing.

      • Brian Haughey March 14, 2017 at 9:46 am #

        Yes, the $228 was for the Explorer, as opposed to the new Explorer+. But at the price, and given Andrew’s comparison of the Delorme versus the Garmin, it was (for me) too good a discount to pass up.

        • MarkL March 14, 2017 at 3:11 pm #

          I am tempted, too. Amazon has them super-cheap, too.

          Just not sure I am willing to pull the trigger on a unit with an uncertain support future. Also the ability on the new units to use the GPS w/out a subscription adds flexibility. But it is still really tempting.

  38. Mike March 14, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    I looked at both. I decided to splurge for a couple reasons.

    1. The explorer does not have to have the subscription to operate as a GPS. Monthly fees of the old Delorme explorer will add up quick and a subscription is always required for it to function.

    2. On going support and updates for the Garmin version, whereas I would guess the support and firmware updates for the Delorme units will stall. Purely speculation here.

    My 2 cents ..


  39. John Hunter March 30, 2017 at 2:00 pm #

    Andrew, I admit, that I have not read all the comments on the Garmin inreach Explorer+. I just bought one and am disappointed to find out that you must have an inreach subscription to use the GPS alone. I only need the satellite communications for about 1 month a year, but losing the ability to use the GPS when the subscription lapses is really a flaw in this unit.

    • Andrew Skurka March 30, 2017 at 2:44 pm #

      That situation is going to change. You’re always going to need to activate the inReach+ units in order to use them solely as GPS, but after activation (and paying the annual fee) you will be able to suspend your subscription and use it only as a GPS. Here are excerpts from my correspondences with Garmin:

      Feb 1
      The navigation features in the inReach Explorer+ and SE+ will continue to work even if you suspend your subscription. Users will still need to set up their account in order to gain access to the Explore web portal, activate their inReach, and use the Earthmate mobile app. Once they do this they will be free to suspend their subscription and continue to use the device as a handheld GPS. Obviously I’m going to try very hard to entice customers to keep their plan active with exciting Iridium messaging, tracking, and safety features, but the option will be there.

      Feb 21
      I’d say both Garmin sources were correct. We are working on an update that will allow users to activate their inReach and then put it into a suspended state which will not require an Iridium data plan. The inReach owner will be able to use the device as a handheld GPS, pair with the Earthmate app, and sync with the Explore site. This plan came along late in the development process so it won’t be available for a couple of weeks. Sales people knew about the plan so they shared that at Outdoor Retailer. Customer Care knows that the devices currently require a subscription so they are sharing that. Again, sorry for the headache this caused. We’re working on the update as we speak and hope to have it out soon.

  40. Mike March 30, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    Echoing Garmin info above….

    Hello Mike,

    We have not been informed if the units will ever have the WAAS capabilities but you can still expect the same gps accuracy as our other GPS devices.

    We are expecting to have this update to allow GPS use without an active subscription but no extra details or ETA have been given.

    Thank you for choosing Garmin,


    Product Support Team

    Garmin International

  41. Rick April 18, 2017 at 4:17 pm #

    I bought the Explorer + hoping to consolidate gps and satellite tracking for bikepacking races. (currently using a Garmin Etrex 30 and a Spot tracker). The main obstacle to this is the 500 track point limit for routes in the Explorer (the Etrex 30 limit is 10,000). Does anyone know if this is an issue that could be addressed in a firmware update?

    • Andrew Skurka April 19, 2017 at 3:42 pm #


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