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Garmin inReach deep dive: Default & downloadable maps & imagery

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

Overnight I received this question from reader Bob B.:

Can other topo maps be downloaded onto the Garmin inReach Explorer+?

This question — and just about any other that you can imagine — has been answered previously in my previous posts about the Garmin inReach SE+ and Explorer+:

But I sympathize for any reader looking for the answers, because there are a dizzying number of informative comments — 240 total and counting. So I have decided to aggregate map-related information into this single post, to make for easier finding.


inReach SE+ vs. Explorer+

In 2016 Garmin bought DeLorme, which released the original inReach SE and Explorer models in 2014. In 2017 Garmin released two new inReach models:

The primary difference between the devices is that the Explorer+ is pre-loaded with topographic maps while the SE+ has only a simple grid map (i.e. no features or contour lines, just its location plus any imported or created routes, waypoints, and breadcrumbs).

Deeper dive: inReach Explorer+

Pre-loaded data

When purchased in North America, the Explorer+ is preloaded with the following maps:

  • Topo 24K for the US and Canada (Made by DeLorme)
  • Topo 125K for Mexico (Made by DeLorme)
  • World Wide BaseMap (Made by DeLorme)

These maps have not been updated since the 2017 product release, and they will not be updated by Garmin.

Downloadable data

The Earthmate has 2 GB of internal storage for additional data.

The following maps can be added to the device:

    •  OpenStreetMaps, which covers the world and offers road detail, and light topographic detail. Sometimes they include trails. These maps are just like Garmin’s Cycling maps, and receive updates.
    • Earthmate Hunt Edition costs $35 per year and includes GMU boundaries, land ownership, and public land survey maps for all 50 states. It can be viewed directly on the inReach Explorer+ after being synced with the Earthmate app. Per Levi.

What’s not pre-loaded or downloadable

The Explorer+ (nor the SE+) have SD or micro-SD slots, so data that is stored in this format (e.g. Onxmaps Hunt Chip) cannot be loaded.

The devices are not compatible with Garmin Base Camp, so you cannot load the data onto the device from there. Instead, you must use the Explore portal, which was carried over from DeLorme. I would expect the second-gen Garmin inReach units to be better intergrated into Garmin’s systems.

None of the preloaded or downloadable maps offer automatic routing. This is different from Garmin City Navigator and Garmin Topo 24K maps, which will give turn-by-turn directions between two points using roads or trails.

Earthmate app

The Earthmate app is included with purchase of an inReach SE+ or Explorer+, and it can be purchased separately. In addition to the aforementioned OSM and Hunting Edition maps, additional data can be downloaded to Earthmate:

  • NOAA Nautical Charts
  • Aerial Imagery
  • USGS 7.5-minute quads
  • Canadian quads

These tiles cannot be viewed directly in the inReach devices. However, the inReach GPS can be used to identify its location on the phone screen, rather than using the phone GPS.

Functionality with and without a subscription

To use the inReach as a two-way satellite messenger, a service plan is required.

To use the inReach as a GPS, the device must be activated but does not need a valid service plan. This currently costs $25 per year.

Additional questions about the maps and imagery on the inReach+ units and Earthmate? Leave a comment.

10 Responses to Garmin inReach deep dive: Default & downloadable maps & imagery

  1. Troy Timothy March 28, 2018 at 11:29 am #

    My brother purchased the Garmin SE+ for our 95 mile Uinta Highline Trail trek in Utah last summer. We really enjoyed the functionality of being able to send messages to our families, and they enjoyed being able to track our progress throughout the week. Also, having the peace of mind that we could summon help in an emergency was an important benefit.

    That said, there was one annoying issue. My brother continually had to fight with the GPS unit to sync up with his iPhone, and it routinely un-synced, which was really annoying. We are both pretty tech-savvy, so I don’t think that it was an operator issue.

    Overall, the communication abilities more than outweighed the sync annoyances. If you are going to be travelling in remote areas, having the ability to get emergency help is an important consideration, and this unit provided a lot more functionality than a Spot device would.

  2. Sean March 28, 2018 at 11:39 am #

    “To use the inReach as a GPS, the device must be activated but does not need a valid service plan. This currently costs $25 per year.”

    That… seems like it’s kind of crap. I believe even my older Delorme without a plan will at least give me lat & long coordinates. Do you at least get updated basemaps?

    • Andrew Skurka March 28, 2018 at 11:56 am #

      I understand both sides of this. You have to consider that the inReach SE+/Explorer+ are first and foremost a two-way text messenger. If you want just a GPS, they have those available, and there is no ongoing expense after initial purchase.

      If your subscription is not valid, the loaded maps that do update (e.g. OSM, but not the DeLorme data) will update.

  3. Matt R March 28, 2018 at 4:55 pm #

    Andrew, thanks for all your posts on the inReach devices. I recently bought an old DeLorme SE and I plan to use it exclusively for satellite messaging. I also always carry a small Garmin Etrex 20x GPS for navigation and to geotag my photos later from the high resolution track. I always leave the Etrex on except when I’m sleeping. With lithium cells battery life is about 65h, enough for most 5 day excursions.
    Garmin should really offer a next generation inReach+ with the same GPS and map download functionality and the small size of the Etrex and integrated satellite communication that can be switched on when needed.
    And Garmin, please fix the four way controller on the Etrex: it is pushed around too easily when the device is in a shirt or hipbelt pocket.

  4. Joe S March 29, 2018 at 3:43 pm #

    It would be nice to have one device for navigation and satellite communications. This post (and the comments in the previous posts) helped me decide that the current Garmin Explorer+ is not for me. I consider the relative inability to add or update maps a deal breaker. I don’t know why they shipped this device this way, other than to make it look like a Garmin product.

    For emergency two way satellite communications, I ended up purchasing a previous generation (pre-Garmin acquisition) InReach SE. This works well.

    For navigation, I’ve moved from using a Garmin GPSMAP 62s to my iPhone running GaiaGPS. The Garmin worked well, but I really wasn’t using it. The interface of GaiaGPS is FAR superior. Of course, I still carry, and know how to use, a map and compass.

  5. Frank April 2, 2018 at 7:42 am #

    Does anybody know if Garmin is working on a (soon to be released) gen 2 explorer+?
    It seems like a very nice device, but I am hoping for something with a usable GPS with Garmin maps support and hopefully a bigger internal memory or (micro)SD support.

    You can also subscribe here for a sattelite data plan for the explorer+ in stead of via Garmin:
    https://www.protegear.de/english/

    The plans look better, but unfortunately you still have to activate lets say a one day or week data package before you leave for the outdoors. So it won’t work if you try to activate SOS without an active plan. But it is nicer for the occasional hiker.

    • Andrew Skurka April 2, 2018 at 3:31 pm #

      Haven’t heard anything, and didn’t see anything new at Outdoor Retailer in January (where Garmin probably would have been showcasing a new device if they had one). Maybe there is something new at the OR in July, but that means a holiday arrive at best.

  6. Andy May 2, 2018 at 1:25 pm #

    Any idea what the options are for loading a South American topo into the InReach Explorer? Specifically – Ancash Region of Peru….

  7. Levi August 17, 2018 at 9:11 am #

    I just noticed this on the Garmin site:

    ” Earthmate Outdoor and Hunt Edition are no longer available for purchase.”

    Guess it’s time to update your article.

    Any insight as to why?

    • Andrew Skurka August 17, 2018 at 3:44 pm #

      No insights, sorry.

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