After my first post about the DeLorme inReach Explorer and SE, in which I recommended the SE over the Explorer, I was contacted by a DeLorme Product Manager who wanted to share additional information about the devices. While I stand by my SE recommendation, I would like to add nuance to the conversation: hardware differences, plus two reasons to buy the Explorer instead of the SE.
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Despite being the same size and weight, the inReach SE and Explorer do not have the same hardware profiles, and thus have different capabilities. This explains why the inReach SE, which was released first, cannot be upgraded to Explorer-like functionality through a simple software update.
Specifically, the inReach Explorer has:
- Digital compass
- Barometric altimeter
- More memory
Due to these additional sensors and memory, the Explorer is a better GPS unit than the SE could ever be. It can find and apply bearings even if it is not moving. Its location accuracy is enhanced. And it is capable of recording a long track at 1-second intervals.
Two reasons to buy the Explorer
The inReach SE is a 2-way satellite text messenger. The inReach Explorer is a 2-way satellite text messenger plus a handheld GPS unit.
If you own the SE and want GPS functionality, you must either carry a separate handheld GPS unit like the Garmin eTrex 20x, or you must run an app like Gaia GPS on your smartphone. This latter option is my pick, and the primary reason why I recommended the inReach SE over the Explorer: an app is less expensive than the “upgrade” price to the Explorer, and at least currently offers superior layers, notably USGS 7.5-minute topo maps and Landsat imagery; and the phone has a better and more user-friendly screen — it’s larger, brighter, and higher-res, and allows for tapping, pinching, swiping, and rotating.
But why might the combination of the inReach SE plus smartphone app be insufficient? Why might you still want the Explorer? Two reasons:
1. If your phone fails (and your GPS app along with it), you have a redundant system.
Your phone’s battery may die. You may accidentally drop or submerge it. Or you may need to use it in the rain or while wearing gloves, which are challenging circumstances for a touchscreen.
In contrast, the Explorer meets the Mil-STD-810G standard for impact-resistance (shock) and has a IP67 certification for water exposure (submerged at one meter for 30 minutes). Due to its physical buttons, it is still operable in wet and cold conditions. And the inReach is less of a battery guzzler than most phones: when set in tracking mode at a 10-minute interval, the battery will last 100 hours.
2. If you want GPS functionality without needing a separate device.
The inReach Explorer is not a top-notch standalone GPS unit, as I have pointed out. Moreover, without a smartphone and DeLorme’s Earthmate app (free for inReach owners), your 2-way texting is essentially limited to preset messages — using the inReach’s virtual keyboard is painful.
Nonetheless, the Explorer has full GPS functionality: pinpoint location on DeLorme’s proprietary topo map; go-to and create waypoints; and follow and log (at 1-second intervals) tracks. For a hiker or backpacker who does not own a smartphone, or who wants to save weight by leaving their handheld GPS unit or smartphone at home, the Explorer may offer all the functionality they need.
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