Which one: Delorme inReach SE or Explorer? Key Differences + My Recommendation

The Delorme inReach Explorer (left) and inReach SE (right). Physically, they are nearly identical.

The Delorme inReach Explorer (left) and inReach SE (right). Physically, they are nearly identical.

[highlight]Update, January 2017. Garmin, which bought DeLorme about a year ago, just released two new inReach devices, the SE+ and Explorer+.[/highlight]

  • [highlight]For a preview, read this post.[/highlight]
  • [highlight]For all posts related to the new units, go here.[/highlight]

In advance of my thru-hike later this month of the Kings Canyon High Basin Route, I purchased a DeLorme inReach Explorer and Delorme inReach SE. I bought both so that I could evaluate them in-person before returning one, and I thought I would share my assessment and my buying recommendations.

The inReach will replace my SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger (long-term review), which has been a very reliable device but which only offers 1-way communication. With the 2-way inReach, family and friends can send me messages, too. For my wife, Amanda, this was a must-have feature, since I have a history of being gone during the worst of times, including the 2013 Boulder floods and when our fur child had to be taken to the vet ER.

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Key differences between the inReach Explorer and SE

Specs. Physically, the units seem to be exactly the same. Same size, same weight (6.9 oz), same screen, and same buttons. On the inside, some of the hardware (e.g. battery, antenna, memory) is no doubt the same, too. However, the Explorer has some additional features: a digital compass, barometric altimeter, accelerometer, and more memory.

The inReach Explorer and SE both weight 6.9 oz. The battery is not replaceable.

The inReach Explorer and SE both weight 6.9 oz. The battery is not replaceable.

Cost. The Explorer retails for $380 and the SE for $300 (available at REI.com, Backcountry.com, Cabela’s and other retailers). Since they are not seasonal items, don’t expect to see them below MSRP until an updated unit is released. I bought mine during a Memorial Day sale with a coupon for 25% off one full-priced item. As with the SPOT Gen3, a service plan is required to operate the inReach units. The service and service cost is identical for both units.

Messaging and tracking. The Explorer and SE both offer 2-way communication and tracking. Send 160-character text messages to cell phones or email addresses, and receive messages back. Messages can be sent directly from the device, or via a smartphone that has Delorme’s Earthmate app and that has been paired with the inReach using Bluetooth.

The inReach SE homescreen (left). The virtual keyboard on both inReach units is painfully slow. If you want to send any other messages besides the preset options, type messages with your smartphone using the Earthmate app.

The inReach SE homescreen (left). The virtual keyboard on both inReach units is painfully slow. If you want to send any other messages besides the preset options, type messages with your smartphone using the Earthmate app.

Navigation. For the extra $80 at retail, the inReach Explorer offers the functionality of a conventional handheld GPS unit like the popular Garmin eTrex 30:

  • Provide current location
  • Create waypoints and routes
  • Navigate to waypoints and along routes

Routes and waypoints can be created with the device, or beforehand in your Delorme account and then synced to the inReach.

In contrast, the inReach SE is almost strictly a communication device. One exception: it does provide its current location, which can be overlaid on a topographic map with the same grid system, e.g. UTM.

The product packaging mentions the key difference between the Explorer and SE (navigation features) but otherwise the products are very similar.

The product packaging mentions the key difference between the Explorer and SE (navigation features) but otherwise the products are very similar.

Is the inReach Explorer worth it?

Most definitely, I will be keeping the inReach SE and returning the inReach Explorer. The Explorer fails to offer $80 in extra value as a GPS unit, and these funds would be much better spent on a 2-year GaiaGPS Pro account ($4/month, or $40/year) that allows me to use my smartphone as a kick-ass GPS unit. Alternatively, consider Backcountry Navigator or Trimble Outdoors Navigator Elite.

The inReach Explorer has a pitifully small and low-res screen, relative to the large, bright, and high-res screens on modern smartphones. While the Explorer must be operated with its clunky buttons, a smartphone allows for tapping, pinching, swiping, and rotating.

Furthermore, a GPS app offers a more extensive database of maps and imagery. With Gaia GPS, for example, I can view ariel imagery and USGS 7.5-minute quads, the gold standard for topographic maps in the US.

Delorme's proprietary topo map layer (left) versus the USGS quads as shown in Gaia GPS

Delorme’s proprietary topo map layer (left) versus the USGS quads as shown in Gaia GPS

In the most basic sense, the Explorer is functional as a handheld GPS, and thus could be used as one, which would eliminate the extra weight of a smartphone and the extra cost of an app. However, in nearly all imaginable circumstances I will be carrying my smartphone anyway. First, due to security concerns I don’t leave it in my car at a trailhead. Second, unless I plan to only use the inReach’s preset messages (which undermines why I initially bought the inReach), I’ll want my smartphone: typing on the inReach’s virtual keyboard is painfully slow and frustrating.

If you own the inReach Explorer or inReach SE, I’d be curious to hear the thinking behind your decision and your assessment of the product. Please leave a comment below.

Disclosure. I strive to offer field-tested and trustworthy information, insights, and advice. I have no financial affiliations with or interests in any brands or products, and I do not publish sponsored content

This website is supported by affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors like Amazon or REI, at no cost to the reader. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Posted in , on July 2, 2015


  1. Ryan Zimmer on July 2, 2015 at 5:13 pm

    I agree with what you’re saying about the small low res screen, it’s very hard to read, but you should mention that when the Explorer is paired with the earth mate app for a smartphone you can virtually use your smartphone exclusively via bluetooth paring devices with a decent screen while leaving the Explorer in your pocket eliminating having to use the hard to use buttons and painfully small screen. . I prefer the Explorer just so I can preset a route with waypoints from which my smart phone I can use to navigate and get a good account of the distance between waypoints off of my smartphone .Good read, thank you. Best regards Ryan Zimmer

    • Andrew Skurka on July 2, 2015 at 5:29 pm

      Good workaround, thanks for pointing that out. Any advantage to the Explorer + Earthmate app over just a standalone GPS app, though? In a program like Gaia I can pre-load waypoints and tracks from my online account, and have them display on my phone. I think you are doing the same thing. However, I suppose that I can’t broadcast my route as can be done with the Explorer.

      Also, with your configuration you still must use Delorme’s proprietary maps rather than the superior USGS quads and other imagery.

      • Sean on July 4, 2015 at 3:48 pm

        I believe that the SE can use the earthmate app to navigate as well. It feeds your GPS location to the app. You may need to subscribe to use the earthmate nav features though. I’m honestly not sure because I don’t really use the app at all.

        To reply to Andrew’s question, I went with the SE after years of Spot. Another thing that I like about the SE compared to the spot is that I can pick a by-the-month plan and cancel when the heat gets too bad in the Los Padres to hike from about Memorial day through the first rains in the fall/winter.

        I find my Garmin GPS with a 3 inch screen to be almost too small to use for real navigation to begin with. The postage stamp that the InReach has is just way too small for anything useful for me. If I was worried about battery life I’d almost prefer doubling up and taking my Garmin with replacable batteries over the explorer. Besides, using the explorer for nav capabilities takes battery life that might be better reserved for communication.

        Anyway, they’re both great step-ups over the Spot. They also have a more comprehensive coverage map than Spot does. The 2 way communication, the real savings I get going to a monthly program, and the better coverage all equal a better deal overall.

        The only thing I kind of hate is the sync process for Delorme. You go to the website, configure the address book, the pre-configured checkins, etc… but then you have to sync using a rather painful and basic sync program. You can’t update the unit over the air that I’ve seen and it sucks kind of because you need access to a computer and can’t sync over your phone.

        I suspect a firmware update could fix that though.

      • Nick Nudell on July 4, 2015 at 11:45 pm

        I’ve used an Explorer for over a year now and am using it currently. I completely agree with your assessment. I navigate with it paired to my iPhone since the interface is so miserable. Give me an iPhone with the sat radio and I wouldn’t need this extra appendage at all. The service plans are also very expensive for no good reason. Lastly, if you’re near the PCT, CDT, or other well used trails you can use Guthooks apps to navigate with excellent detail. Cheers!

      • Brett Tucker on July 20, 2015 at 12:33 am

        I like Gaia… whenever it works. Unfortunately, and despite numerous updates to the app over the years, it has proven to be unreliable for recording GPS tracks in the field, which is a primary utility in my case on longer hikes. I also rely on my iDevice for running other apps throughout the day, and resource sharing is an Achilles’ heel of navigation apps in general. The upshot in my case is that it makes more sense, and potentially weighs less by reducing the need for a separate charging device, to carry a dedicated and reliable GPS unit with long-running, no-fuss lithium AA batteries. For a couple of extra ounces, the inReach Explorer could replace my eTrex 20 whenever the time comes. Screen resolution is somewhat immaterial to me given my likelihood of also carrying custom paper topographic maps. I’m content to use Garmin’s 100k regional series data cards for basic contextual information while navigating and marking waypoints, and not worrying about whether I’ve properly cached Gaia maps for offline use (another sore spot).

        • Andrew Skurka on July 20, 2015 at 8:11 am

          For recording GPS tracks, I use my Suunto Ambit watch. I can adjust the GPS recording interval so that a full charge gives me about 4 days of tracking; I recharge it with a portable battery if the trip is longer than that. The watch must be using other data (e.g. from the altimeter and/or compass) in order to track location, since it’s far more accurate than breadcrumbs on 10-minute intervals. This is one day from a recent trip: https://www.strava.com/activities/348909871

          • Brett on July 20, 2015 at 11:43 am

            Thanks Andrew. After a little more research, I take back any conjecture about the Explorer being a viable alternative to a full-feature, standalone GPS device, and would instead replace it with conjecture that Delorme is actively attempting to dissuade “all in one” adoption of the Explorer due to its use of the Iridium satellite network, apparently for all aspects of device functionality. Or at least to extract a heavy price from those attempting to do so.

      • Dave on February 15, 2016 at 11:54 am


        I’m a bit confusd by your comment ‘Most definitely, I will be keeping the inReach SE and returning the inReach Explorer. The Explorer fails to offer $80 in extra value as a GPS unit, and these funds would be much better spent on a 2-year Gaia GPS Pro account ($4/month, or $40/year) that allows me to use my smartphone as a kick-ass GPS unit. Alternatively, consider Backcountry Navigator or Trimble Outdoors Navigator Elite.’ As both the SE and Explorer are GPS units.

        Where’s the $80.00 ‘extra’ value? These are both GPS capable units. Am I missng something? I have the Explorer and bought it over the SE for its superior options such as the ability for me to create and load my own routes from my laptop.

        I have Gaia and paid $11.99 for the basic app and it’s works wonderfully. The Earthmate app and my 6+ make a great combination.

        • Andrew Skurka on February 15, 2016 at 4:18 pm

          The Explorer is a weak GPS unit, relative to the combination of your smartphone and a GPS app. Small, low-res screen with no pinch-and-zoom or swipe-to-scroll capabilities; and, at least at the time that I wrote this post, you only had access to DeLorme’s proprietary topo layer, not the gold standard USGS maps. So my thought was that I’d rather dedicate the $80 (price difference between the Exploer and SE) to a GPS app, and use the inReach as a communication device only. I nuanced my argument hence but this is still my general opinion.

  2. Gary Gbur on July 2, 2015 at 7:05 pm


    Thank you for the evaluation! Perfect timing since I was planning on purchasing one of these units within the next month for my Jedediah Smith Wilderness 5 day solo trip coming up in August. I will be purchasing the unit for the exact same reasons. My wife will be alone in Wyoming and my daughter in Chicago, so this gives us a chance when needed, to communicate.

    I was leaning towards the Explorer, because it has the added options of a Digital Compass, Barometric Altimeter, and Accelerometer, and of course the route planning and navigation features that you have pointed out.

    BUT, now this article sheds a different view on how you could use the SE with the iPhone/Gaia setup. Especially since I always carry a USGS trail map with me.

    Originally I was planning on purchasing the Explorer and keeping my Sunnoto Core watch at home to minimize weight and reduntacy. I do carry a Brunton compass with me so I can still navigate without an electronic issue, so those features in the Explorer become less important in some ways.

    Although I’m not familiar with Gaia, I’m going to check it out. I own an iPhone 6, so my only concern on a 5 day trek, would be having to charge up both the iPhone and the inReach unit. Normally I just keep the iPhone turned on when at the trailhead, then turn it off, unless I periodically check for a signal, or use it for an alarm, checking time, etc.

    Looking at overall battery life of both the inReach and iPhone paired together for navigation would be my only concern with this setup. I would be very interested in your trip report to find out how you managed both unit’s battery life. Do you carry an extra external portable battery on a 3+ trip?

    I’m assuming you normally would not be referring to the Gaia/iPhone on a frequent basis since you use a compass and USGS quads for your main navigation tools? In this case, battery life would probably not be a factor for you?

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Andrew Skurka on July 2, 2015 at 8:24 pm

      When I need backup power, the best option is to have replaceable batteries. Simplest and lightest. If that’s not an option, as is the case with the inReach, most modern smartphones, and most Suunto Ambit watch, I bring a backup charger and the necessary cords. Try the Outdoor Tech KODIAK Mini or similar.

      Unless you are camped for extended periods and have reliable sunlight, solar chargers are out.

      I don’t use my smartphone regularly, and I expect the same with the inReach; so they are powered off most of the day. Remember, I’m using paper maps and a magnetic compass for nearly all of my navigation. The inReach I only plan to check a few times per day. In this fashion, I can get a week pretty easily out of my smartphone (even without a mid-trip charge) and the inReach is good for 100 hours when used to track your location every 10 minutes, which is way more battery-consuming that average use.

  3. Andy on July 2, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    I have only used the SE. I pretty much left in on top of my pack and used it via my iPhone (Bluetooth). I had the iPhone in airplane mode (with Bluetooth turn on) and found that I could use any GPS product on my iPhone. Normally in airplane mode the GPS does not work (on iPhones 5’s anyway).

    The 2 way messaging was great for family and the tracking worked very well.

    If using a smartphone I can’t see the need for the explorer.

    I used earthmate, topo maps and guthooks ‘JMT Hiker’, all without any issues.

    • Gary Gbur on July 2, 2015 at 7:38 pm

      Regarding the iPhone, iOS (8.3+), thought in Airplane Mode it turns off all internet functions, phone calls, and texts (2-way messaging), but still allows for GPS functions (tracking, etc)?

  4. Rob on July 2, 2015 at 7:46 pm

    I don’t know if you’re aware that you can get weather forecasts on any inReach.

    • Viv on July 2, 2015 at 8:11 pm

      Rob, thanks for the resource!

  5. Viv on July 2, 2015 at 8:07 pm

    On top of map & compass we do use the SE for work (goodbye SPOT!); I’m currently creating a tabletop exercise to expose the limitations of the SE and further fine-tune our current Em Response actions-on & comms protocols as a result. Our employees also complain about the screen and the keypad, yet for our purposes they can suck it up – daily duties don’t include composing Haikus in the deep woods. There’s an inReach w/ no screen which requires Earthmate and pairing to even write a message; all the reviews I have read about Earthmate seem to be mixed reviews (mostly of the “it’s hit and miss,” nature). For our purposes it was decided that Earthmate was not a necessity. In the end, whether SE alone, or SE+phone (+etc.), I suppose it comes down to streamlining one’s gear based on task priority (nav, emergency comms, or Facebook updates…), device best-suited for key/priority task(s), and avoiding device redundancy (and reducing unnecessary dead weight) in the process.

  6. Dan on July 2, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    I agree. I have an InReach SE, which I bought prior the release of the Explorer.

    Before the Explorer came out, I was hoping Delorme would do a free update for the SE with waypoints, just like how they added current location in a software update. Now that the Explorer is out it’s obvious they aren’t going to do this.

    I wish they would have gone another route and instead of creating a new model, just offered an optional software upgrade to current and future SE owners since the hardware is most likely identical. I would pay $20 for the upgrade, or maybe $40, but $80 is nuts. When I really need waypoints I’ll bring my Garmin Geko.

    • Andrew Skurka on July 3, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Agreed. I don’t know for sure, but given the similarities in the units it would seem that the only real difference between the SE and Explorer is software. If that is true, it would seem unfortunate that they didn’t offer a software option at a better price.

  7. Jeff Valliere on July 2, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    Timely, I have been thinking about getting an InReach or Spot for some time, especially lately, since Dave got injured on Bear. His incident greatly shifted my perspective on risk, such a routine run, on a slope I have done many times and not to mention Dave is one of the most competent athletes out there. I can’t tell you how many times I have been off trail, either in the foothills, or Indian Peaks, or other ranges in the state, when nobody has a clue where I am, where something so similar could happen at any time. I know it is stupid. Eager to discuss this more with you on a run soon.

    • Andrew Skurka on July 3, 2015 at 7:20 am

      For your purposes, you’d be better off with the SPOT Gen3. The device is lighter and smaller. The cost is less upfront and less for annual coverage (which you will want since you run throughout the year). And 1-way messaging will be sufficient: you are carrying it just in case, whereas an inReach is really best to minimize the impact of being gone.

  8. Erik Rasmussen on July 2, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    I’ve been using the explorer for the last 6 months. It definitely takes a little bit of figuring out to be confident in the gps on it, but I’ve found it to work great. I keep the InReach in my bag (and let everyone I’m with know where its at for the SOS feature). I then refer to my phone for everything while on the move. If you keep your phone in airplane mode it still works with the InReach for navigation purposes, but allows my battery last a lot longer. The battery on the InReach lasts a long time by itself…I used it for a 4 night yurt trip and still had power left (don’t remember how much, and powered it off at night).

  9. Ray Rippel on July 3, 2015 at 8:03 am

    Could you comment on (or offer a link, if you have already done so) on your approach to keeping your smartphone’s battery charged? Thanks!

    • Andrew Skurka on July 3, 2015 at 8:21 am

      First, don’t use it much. Rely on paper maps and a magnetic compass instead. There are many reasons for this, besides battery life.

      Second, if think I will need to recharge my phone, I bring a backup charger and the necessary cords. Try the Outdoor Tech KODIAK Mini or similar.

  10. Albert on July 6, 2015 at 6:54 am

    Back in 2012, I evaluated purchasing the Spot and the original Inreach – the one that looks like a grey brick – http://bit.ly/1JJ3wI7. I went with the Inreach due to the 2-way communication capabilities.

    Not too long after, Delorme came out with the InReach SE, thus I sold the grey brick and I upgraded to the SE. To me it had a significant advantage compared to the original InReach – that it could use but didn’t require the use of a smartphone for 2 way communication. If my smartphone died or if I left it behind to save weight, I could still type out a message with arrow keys.
    Just as I’m feeling quite content with the SE, Delorme introduces the InReach Explorer. Now I’m feeling that envy itch again. Thankfully, after researching the features of the Explorer, I arrived at a similar conclusion – SE is fine enough and I don’t really need the new features of the Explorer:
    – I don’t need fully featured GPS capabilities with waypoints and routes. When I do, it’s easier to use Gaia.
    – “Good enough is great enough” – The SE has rudimentary GPS built in – it can tell me where I am on a somewhat detailed map. That alone is not great but that coupled with paper maps and a compass, and it’s all we need.

    At some point, I imagine the next generation Inreach models might evolve to full touch screen interfaces like our smartphones or a small full QWERTY keyboard (think old school Blackberry). That would be a nice upgrade. Plus making it smaller and lighter with longer battery life.

    Kudos to Rob (above) with the weather tip. I didn’t know that existed. Previously I’ve had friends send me messages on the InReach for adhoc weather updates.

  11. John Shannon on July 6, 2015 at 9:56 am

    I am confused a little. In one spot it says the explorer acts as gps unit and then it says it fails to. What have I misread? Sorry for any confusion. Thanks for the article Andrew.

    “Which should you buy: @DeLormeGPS inReach SE or Explorer? Easy decision, the SE.”

    “For the extra $80 at retail, the inReach Explorer offers the functionality of a conventional handheld GPS unit like the popular Garmin eTrex 30”

    “In contrast, the inReach SE is almost strictly a communication device.”

    “I will be keeping the inReach SE and returning the inReach Explorer. The Explorer fails to offer $80 in extra value as a GPS unit”

    • Andrew Skurka on July 6, 2015 at 10:51 am

      The Explorer offers GPS features, but the value-added of those features is not worthy $80 due to poor execution. Technically it functions as a GPS, but you’ll have to endure a terrible screen and clunky buttons in order to use it in that capacity.

  12. Gregg Christopher on July 7, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    I went through very similar logic to choose the SE over the Explorer for use in Alaska.

    Since the battery isn’t replaceable, I also like to reserve the sat messenger for emergency use or logistical support. I can be less careful with whatever batteries are being used for navigation. Near the end of a trip, it’s not too bad if the GPS (or phone or whatever) is low on energy, but it seems like you’d always want to have as much charge on the emergency device as possible.

  13. Martin on July 21, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Thanks for the review.

    – Agreed that the keys on the InReach device are clunky, but if you’re ever tried to use a smartphone touchscreen with numb, damp or gloved fingers you’ll appreciate the option to use physical keys.

    – DeLorme’s smartphone app (Earthmate) has some strange omissions. For example if you send a message from the device you can copy it to your MapShare page (or Facebook if you’re so inclined). But you can’t do that from Earthmate.

    – If you only turn the device on for an hour or two each day then battery life is excellent. I just got back from a two-week trip to the St Elias range and I still had 60% left at the end of the trip.

    – Something that DeLorme doesn’t explain well is that no-one can send you a message (email or SMS) unless you’ve previously sent them an outgoing message. If you’re planning an extended trip you might want to send a broadcast message to your emergency contacts before you leave.

    – If you’re weighing up an InReach vs a Spot bear in mind that the InReach uses a different satellite network (Iridium vs Globalstar). Iridium is more reliable at high latitudes, such as Alaska.

  14. Curt on July 23, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    Everyone’s comments are very interesting. I got an Explorer a year ago for traveling in Alaska. I agonized over the purchase of an Explorer vs an SE and finally decided on the Explorer. This may seem like a dumb reason, but my final reasoning was that I’m finally old enough and have a good enough job that I don’t need to be cheap (I’ve regretted some purchases where the decision was made purely on price). Ultimately the main reason for the purchase was to give my wife peace of mind. She can see where I am, communicate with me and get a response.

    Anyway, I took the Explorer, cellphone with a GPS app, and paper map and compass on a 40 mile hike through Canyonlands this spring. Before I went I down loaded USGS maps to the app along with a GPX route to both the app and the Explorer (mapshare). I used the app the most by far. Part of the reason was that I like the USGS map better – as you do. Also my paper map was a USGS map so it was easier to do comparisons. Occasionally I checked the Earhmate app too. Everything worked well. The app I used is different than the GAIA one. It requires an initial purchase but after that there is no charge for map downloads. The tracking feature worked well and it was nice to be able to down load my planned route into it. The app name is “Maps 3D Pro” and its available for iphones. I don’t know if its available for android devices. I don’t remember what it cost, but I don’t think it was expensive. It didn’t burn through the cell phone battery quickly either.

  15. Bill on July 28, 2015 at 7:45 pm

    I keep hearing stories about the DeLorme inReach (they usually don’t specify which model) failing to turn on and requiring a “soft reset” to be able to turn the unit on. I don’t own one and have no experience with them, but this seems like a serious problem. Here is DeLorme’s soft reset procedure:

    Troubleshooting an inReach SE or Explorer

    If an inReach exhibits an issue powering on, pairing to a companion Android or iOS smartphone, or acquiring a GPS fix use the troubleshooting steps below to attempt to resolve the issue.

    Soft Reset

    Power off the inReach and disconnect it from any power source.

    Press and hold down both the X button and the Down button of the directional pad simultaneously for 60 seconds.

    Release the X button and Down button and power the device on normally.

    Test the inReach to confirm the issue has been resolved.

    – See more at: https://support.delorme.com/kb/articles/14-troubleshooting-an-inreach-se-or-explorer#sthash.dnHtIjJj.dpuf

  16. Rene Beaulieu on July 30, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Hi Andrew. Great site and awesome SD Live videos! I was wondering if you have any thoughts on the ACR ResQlink 406 PLB? I am looking into a safety/rescue device that I can bring on my solo backpacking trips in the Canadian Rockies but that doesn’t need a monthly plan as texting on my trips isn’t important for me at the moment. Thanks for any guidance.

    • Andrew Skurka on July 30, 2015 at 8:04 pm

      If you want a pure emergency-only device, a PLB is the most cost-effective option in the long-run. I might look into a SPOT Gen3, though. The unit is $100-150 less expensive than the PLB you mentioned, which means that you basically get 1-1.5 years of free service from SPOT. And the Gen3 can do much more than a PLB, and it’s lighter.

      • LT on December 28, 2017 at 1:48 pm

        I don’t believe the SPOT devices are anywhere near as rugged as a true PLB, plus there’s are the limits of the Globalstar network in high latitude alpine environments. I look at the SPOT devices like those pool floats that are great 99% of the time when everything is fine, but have the big letters that say “NOT TO BE USED AS A LIFE SAVING DEVICE.”

        If the SPOT say, falls onto a rock that’s in a stream or takes a hit that knocks the replaceable batteries loose, or gets otherwise submerged, crushed, or damaged, it will very likely fail when needed. They seem great for keeping in touch with family and non-emergency communications, but if someone’s life might depend on a SAR team showing up… my advice is to bring a suitable PLB as a backup. One is none and two is one when it comes to life saving gear.

        • JodytL on December 28, 2017 at 8:00 pm

          I recently switched to an InReach after years of using a SPOT. The cost is quite a bit more….but, you get texting, message delivery confirmation, and, most importantly, the satellite acquisition is far superior. I recently was able to get a message out in less than 60 seconds from a deep, narrow, canyon, maybe 100′ across at the top and 20′ across at the bottom, on California’s Big Sur coast. have been to this location many times before and was NEVER able to get a message out with the SPOT. Don’t get me wrong, the SPOT only failed me a few times in 6 or 7 years, and the cost(both for the unit and the monthly service was cheaper), but so far, the reliability with the InReach appears to be much better. Another feature for the InReach is the ability to receive weather reports for your coordinates no matter where you are.

  17. Diana Moss on September 1, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    Hi Andrew, nice site. Very robust information. I’ve been reading through all of these different perspectives looking to settle how to best manage emergency, navigation, and tracking needs on my upcoming thru hike (Te Araroa/NZ, Nov 15 through March 16). I will have paper maps and a compass, though I would really like to have a digital navigation aid as well, as the trail is known for being difficult to follow at points.

    Being able to receive messages is possibly nice, though I don’t want to create a scenario with my family where they stress if they aren’t getting messages from me. As a compromise, I’m interested in having a map online where friends and family can check in. It should be stated that I carry a solar battery capable of charging a laptop once or a cell phone three times (Poweradd Apollo). I charge the solar battery via a wall source whenever I get in town.

    My main goals in choosing a device are that it provide access to an SOS, serve as a back up to my map and compass navigation as needed, and to track my location (ideally live, as I go). I could settle for uploading waypoints in town from a GPS, but I don’t know that I’ll have access to my computer at every stop.

    It seems to me that I could either A) cover my emergency-only needs (ACR Resqlink or SPOT Gen3) and then bring a standalone GPS (considering the Garmin Oregon) or B) opt for a DeLorme device (considering the DeLorme inReach 1.5 or the SE), and then turn on my phone as needed to sync the plotted points with a map or provide direction.

    I had been leaning toward option A until I reached out to the mapping site I plan to use (NZ based Maprogress) about compatible devices with their site. I received a reply from a gent who said he’d been out with the military testing both the Spot and DeLorme, and had found that the Spot sometimes failed to send messages while in the forest (to be expected). After reading your review, though, I’m not sure I need all the bells and whistles of the DeLorme.

    Any guidance on this?

    • Andrew Skurka on September 3, 2015 at 8:38 am

      If I understand you correctly: you will have and will rely primarily on paper maps and a compass; the GPS is a backup, and you have ample recharge capacity; and you’d like some ability for your family and friends to follow your trip.

      My recommendation depends on the hardware that you already own and that you plan to bring with you. Assuming you already own a smartphone and intend to carry it along, I would use that as your GPS. Now you just need a satellite messenger. The SPOT and inReach will both broadcast your points to a privately shared page for your family and friends. The SPOT is smaller and lighter, and less expensive to buy and operate for your time frame. The inReach has 2-way communication, and the Explorer version could be a backup GPS.

  18. Minfang on October 7, 2015 at 1:03 am

    In July, I bought InReach Explore because it was on sale, $75 rebate. (SE is $50 rebate). I need a backup GPS, which is why I selected Explore. However, when I found the GPS function was so poor, (no map, only way points), the on sale was end. I have to keep it :(. Any way, InReach is a great world range messenger when you need help.

  19. Andy Gutierrez on November 4, 2015 at 3:27 am

    I agree with you about not leaving a smartphone in the vehicle and I always carry my smartphone with me during hiking and backpacking. I am waiting for my in reach SE and I intend to pair it with my smartphone. I read a great deal of info on the explorer vs. SE and there appeared to be a unanimous vote towards the SE (Thank you all!!). Apparently the pairing with the smart phone takes care of the GPS information that I will need for my trips. If there is an emergency situation, I may need to give my smartphone to someone else (I’m a nurse and I’ll be working with the emergency) in the group so that they can text the search and rescue service and that person may not know how to operate the keys on the SE unit and a majority of people know how to text on a smartphone. Looking forward to using the SE. 🙂

  20. Bob on November 10, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Hi Andrew and other InReach users.

    I’ve been leaning towards the inReach SE for the 2 way communications and SOS capabilities. Although I’m usually hiking on trails and always carry a paper map and non-electronic compass, I like using Gaia to keep a record of my hike – mostly for future reference. Because it is on, I sometimes refer to it for current location. I’m confident I can find myself on a map most of the time – but Gaia with a downloaded map provides an extra level of assurance.

    One problem I’ve had with Gaia is battery life on my phone, and having another device “on” seems redundant. If I had an InReach, it seems like I should leave that on during the day, while hiking, so that it leaves tracks for others (and me on my return.) Then I could turn off the phone unless I wanted to use it for custom text messages or to check current location on a downloaded map. When in camp, I might leave the InReach SE on for incoming messages, and maybe a “all’s well – going to sleep” message to home.

    As such, some form of battery backup is important to me. Like Andrew most of my devices do not have replaceable batteries (except the headlamp – 18650). The devices that need recharging all use USB these days, so I plan to bring a USB charger. If I can find one that uses removeable 18650s, I could at least have one battery pack that can cover all my electronics – too good to be true I’m sure.

    1. Does this plan sound good for up to 4-5 days?

    2. Does the InReach SE use the standard MicroUSB port?

    Thanks for your help and advice.

    Bob (Slbear)

    • Andrew Skurka on November 10, 2015 at 7:55 pm

      How important is it that you have a breadcrumb track of your route? If you insist on having this ability, you’ll be better off with the inReach Explorer, which can do tracks at .01-mile intervals. The SE has no GPS-like features, besides providing coordinates, so you’ll continue to need Gaia and thus continue to encounter the battery limitations of your smartphone.

      Yes, the inReach is recharged via mini USB.

      • Bob on November 11, 2015 at 12:16 pm

        I was thinking I’d set the InReach SE to report my location every hour (or 2 or less) – not necessarily a detailed GPS track like Gaia or the Explorer would do. I thought that would be valuable for search and rescue if necessary, and would provide a record stored on my InReach website for me and others to see from any PC. While it’s on, of course, I would also be able to receive messages if that was necessary.

        I have carried a small ham radio handset in the past, primarily for emergencies, and the weight of that plus a radio spare battery exceeds the weight of the InReach. The InReach seems better suited – especially if I get out of the US at some point (I’m hoping!). And in any case, I carry a spare USB charger for my phone and might just upsize it to be a backup if the InReach needs a recharge.

        Thanks for this article and your feeback.

        -Bob (Slbear)

        • Andrew Skurka on November 11, 2015 at 12:40 pm

          If you only want a track at 2-hr intervals, the SE is fine. You can drop the interval to as low as 10 minutes if you want.

          Re the extra battery, I would go on a trip or two before up-sizing. After a 10-day trip last summer, I had a 70+ percent charge, using it a few times per day to send and receive messages.

          • Bob on November 11, 2015 at 1:58 pm

            That’s impressive battery life – which would be good feature in a device like this. Their website mentions battery life varies by how often you use the text, which I think will be minimal for me (not a blogger).

            Thanks again for the answers and feedback. Adding this to my Christmas list and will look for a coupon that I can apply.

  21. Fabio on December 21, 2015 at 6:49 am

    Please consider the Locus Pro app, if you use Android. It does much more than GAIA GPS and for a fraction of the price.

    And, I really think that the Earthmate app should really be named “USMate” app, since its maps are mostly if not totally US-only based. Cheers and thanks for your posts.

    • Carlos on July 4, 2016 at 10:05 am

      How does it compare to Backcountry Navigator, for Android too ?

  22. Jeff McWilliams on February 11, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Garmin is purchasing DeLorme. Not sure what this means. Garmin will pretty much have a monopoly on the GPS based navigation market.


  23. Brett Aquila on March 16, 2016 at 4:53 am

    For a one time fee of $80 I’m thrilled to have a complete backup to my smartphone, which will also be my primary GPS device. But to have a completely redundant GPS, digital compass, barometer, altimeter, and more memory in the middle of the wilderness isn’t worth $80 to you when the unit is basically the same size and weight anyhow? If I’m going to the grocery store my ‘single point of failure’ GPS unit can die on me. Not so much out there though. Here’s my $80 and now I have redundant navigation and information in a tough unit.

  24. JimmyW on March 16, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    I’m glad that I came across this post. Now, I carry an ACR Aqualink for emergency location on what typically are long day hikes/snowshoe trips by myself. Here, in Montana, cell service is spotty, and I easily can find myself in a place or at a time where I don’t need to set off a beacon, but want to text message someone. Perhaps my Jeep is stuck in a snowbank or I’m delayed. The SE/Explorer seems ideal for that, and is smaller/lighter than the Aqualink. The keyboard does look terrible, but I apparently can pair it with my droid for messaging. I probably will continue to pack my Garmin Oregon 650. If nothing else, I use it as my camera. The price difference between the Explorer/SE doesn’t make a big difference, and I want to avoid “buyer’s regret.” If anyone has an alternative or suggestion, I’m interested in opinions. Thanks!

  25. Jim Wintermyre on March 18, 2016 at 2:42 am

    Been using an inReach SE w/iPhone for a couple years now. Been super happy with it, and it is way better than the Spot it replaced. I had way too many times when the Spot indicated that it sent a message, but it never actually went through (sometimes even when I was in a spot with a totally clear view of the sky, and even with cell coverage!). And having real 2-way communication is such a huge plus. I recently picked up an Explorer but haven’t set it up yet. True, it’s not that much different from the SE especially if you’re always paired with the phone, but honestly one of the selling points to me was the barometric altimeter, which I’m hoping should provide more accurate elevation data when using the inReach with my GPS tracking app on the phone, in cases where I don’t always have a clear satellite view (mountain bike trails in heavily wooded areas for example).

    Some random iPhone-specific notes:

    – When paired with the iPhone, the phone *uses the inReach’s GPS signal*, NOT the internal iPhone GPS signal. This ends up saving some battery life on the iPhone. At the time I found this out, I believe this only was the case with iOS, not Android, not sure if that is still the case.

    – For cases where I’m going to be out of cell range anyway, I turn off the iPhone’s cell radio. This saves enormously on battery life. One way to do this is to use airplane mode, but after turning airplane mode on you have to re-enable bluetooth, otherwise you won’t be able to talk to the inReach. Another way to do this by setting a SIM PIN code in Settings/Phone. Reboot the phone, and it will ask you to enter the SIM PIN. Just cancel out of that – if you don’t enter the PIN, the cell radio is not turned on. This is different from airplane mode, because the other phone radios can ALL still be used. For example, you could use the internal iPhone GPS radio in this mode while having the cell radio turned off (no way to use the internal GPS if airplane mode is enabled). I often use this mode when tracking bike rides where there is no cell coverage if I don’t have my inReach (and so can’t use it for the GPS when in airplane mode w/bluetooth).

    – I really like the GPSKit app. Don’t really use the EarthMate app other than for messages.

    Another random note. I’d really love to see a collaboration between Delorme (now Garmin?) and ICEdot. Specifically, for the ICEdot crash sensor:

    This device attaches to a helmet, and pairs with your phone via bluetooth. When it detects forces indicating a crash (for example when biking), it activates an alert on the phone, which you have to manually disable within a specified time. If you don’t deactivate the alert, it assumes you’ve been knocked out and sends a text message to a pre-specified number. The problem is this requires that you have cell coverage! Most of the time when I could really use this feature, I don’t have cell coverage. It would be AWESOME if they could partner with Delorme so that they could send that message via the inReach using the phone’s bluetooth connection to it.

  26. Bill McCrossan on April 12, 2016 at 11:28 pm

    Hi Andrew,
    My apologies if you already answered this in the many posts above.
    How do you keep your cell phone charged when your out on multi day excursions?
    I’ll be hiking the Wonderland Trail at Mt. Rainier in August and I’ll be out for 10 days.
    No way my phone will last that long.
    You almost have me sold on the InReach SE & Gaia GPS.
    Thanks & regards…

    • Andrew Skurka on April 13, 2016 at 11:37 am

      I like the Anker PowerCore+ mini, the latest version of which is rated to 3350mAH. In comparison, the battery in my Suunto Ambit2 Peak watch is 480 mAh and my Google Nexus 5 smartphone is 2300 mAh. So with the Anker charger I could recharge the phone once and the battery twice. More powerful Anker charges are available.

  27. Brian Kreisler on May 17, 2016 at 9:33 pm

    Will the SE work with an Android platform phone? Thanks

    • Andrew Skurka on May 17, 2016 at 9:42 pm

      Yes, the SE will work with Android, through the Android version of the Earthmate app.

      • Brian Kreisler on May 17, 2016 at 9:45 pm

        Thanks Andrew.

  28. Craig on June 1, 2016 at 9:10 am

    The one comment I did not see, but I believe is the case, is that if you only want to use the Explorer for a GPS device at some time, and do not need the communication ability, you would still need to pay the monthly fee. With a stand alone GPS unit, there is no cost. Is that correct?

    • Andrew Skurka on June 1, 2016 at 9:23 am

      Yes, the Explorer does not work as a GPS without a service plan. A conventional handheld GPS does not need a subscription, though there may be some costs to get certain map packages.

      • JD on June 12, 2016 at 12:36 pm

        Thanks for this post, it helped me decide on which unit – choosing the SE. I was thinking about the Explorer and assumed you could use it as a GPS without a subscription (thanks Craig for asking the question).

  29. Mike on June 9, 2016 at 11:54 am

    I prefer the inReach Explorer. I had the SE and traded up.

    Seems to me that you are using a watch, a smart phone and the inReach SE to accomplish what the Explorer and a paper map can do. Agreed that typing is slow on the Explorer however, I’m in the back-country and have the time needed to send a message (I’m not in a hurry when I’m texting but maybe you are texting while walking?). I like the fact that I can leave the phone (and watch) behind and not have to worry about battery drain on additional devices. I have everything I need in one unit (I capture fine grained tracking with the Explorer, upload GPS tracks and waypoints to my Explore before leaving on a trip and text occasionally). Route planning on a tiny phone screen is as painful as texting on the Explorer IMO. I bring out the map when I need to plan or establish my location, hand held GPS’s and phone screens are just too small for serious planning.

  30. Monte Cristo on June 19, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    I’m in the market to spend up to 900 max on a reliable, in the deep, GPS Navigation unit. I’m also looking for something I can take to South America and Canada. I like the explorer as it is described, but it appears to have shortcomings. I don’t want to pack a boat load of equipment, and have solar packs for charging. Is it better to have a satellite com device, and link it to your iPhone? This is my take away from reading about 40 posts.

    • Andrew Skurka on June 19, 2016 at 2:55 pm

      I need to ask a few questions before I can give you a recommendation. But here are your options:

      1. Traditional handheld GPS
      2. inReach Explorer
      3. Smartphone with GPS app

      Each option has pros and cons, with regards to battery life, initial and upfront expenses, and functionality. At $900 max, you can just about buy anything, so let’s take that off the table. So my next questions are:

      1. How often do you expect to have the GPS on? And what is the normal length of time between your opportunities to recharge your devices on the electrical grid (not portable power)?

      2. How do you plan to use the GPS? Personally, I only use it as a backup for my other navigation devices (e.g. paper maps, watch, altimeter, magnetic compass). But I know that others live off of theirs. What is your MO?

      3. Do you have a separate satellite communication device (e.g. sat phone, SPOT), or would the Explorer be a two-for, i.e. GPS functionality + 2-way communication?

  31. Monte on June 19, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    I belong to a community club on FB, called South Bend Adventure Club (I didn’t pick the name), and we have 1,800+ members from all over the world. Generally, we have a lot of small day hikes in the Midwest posted, and every few months, people like myself will post much bigger hikes all over. Some of the members that have GPS units, but they look more like toys, and seem only good for geocaching, or tracking a day hike to record distance. I’m specifically looking for a GPS unit that I can use in Death Valley National Park, Appalachian trail in Missouri, and for wilderness camping in Canada. These trips are usually 3-6 days. To answer your questions specifically:

    1. Only when needed, I have a GPS device that will ping my location for post tracking. (5 min. ping interval). No opportunities to charge. I do have a 4 panel Solar Charger that attaches to my pack-back.
    2. Back-up, and match against USGS Map and compass method. (More for safety). I expect to use it more in Death Valley to ensure I can find locations for water bowls, and more as a safety measure in Canada.
    3. No to both; I try to stay away from the service agreements, but if the cost of the agreement matches the usage, I would be OK with it. I really only need a device like this maybe twice a year.

    • Andrew Skurka on June 19, 2016 at 8:30 pm

      I’m still not sure I’m understanding your situation perfectly, but I’ll try to offer a recommendation. If you are only using the GPS as backup, which is my style too, the smartphone with GPS app should be fine. Keep the phone on airplane mode, and recharge it with a portable battery bank like the Anker PowerCore, which at this point will recharge your phone twice. Guaranteed power (no sun, no problem) and no standing around waiting for it.

      If you already have a GPS (the one that records 5-sec intervals) than the Explorer is completely redundant. Stick with the SE and spend the leftover cash on Gaia GPS for your smartphone so that you can have USGS layers.

      Am I missing your situation, or am I making sense?

  32. Warren Campbell on June 25, 2016 at 11:32 am

    I have the InReach SE. I have used it twice in the Tetons, Once in Big Bend STATE park and several long weekend trips. It has never failed to work. The battery for both the InReach and I phone easily last my typical 6 day trips without a backup battery.
    I won’t leave home without it.

  33. Chcuk Tintera on June 28, 2016 at 7:37 am

    Seems to me the decidingSeems to me the deciding factor is the Batteries.
    My Garmin GPS (62 or 64) uses replaceable AAs none of the others, Delorme InReach or most (?) Apple or Android Cellphone do.
    What I’d buy (NOW!) is a Cellphone Phablet with a replaceable battery that has a verified accurate GPS built in _and_ the Iridium system circuitry and a replaceable battery.
    factor is Batteries.
    A Garmin GPS uses replacable AA none of the others do

    • Andrew Skurka on June 28, 2016 at 8:19 am

      With the availability of portable battery chargers like the Anker PowerCore, the most powerful version of which will now recharge an inReach twice (5000 mah capacity for a 2450 mah battery), I don’t think a replaceable battery option is as valuable as it once was. Plus, non-replaceable batteries is where the market is, and your options are greatly reduced if you insist on replaceable batteries.

  34. Monte on June 28, 2016 at 10:08 am

    I hiked over the weekend and tried out some of the devices I purchased: a GlobalSat BU-353-S4, and used it with my fold-able tablet, a dirty elf for my iphone, and a simple handheld GPS Satellite compass. The GlobalSat set-up is not good for long hikes, mostly due to weight and energy needed to keep it operational. Start-up time could also be considered a factor if using for Lat/Lon only. The dirty Elf/iPhone set-up worked OK, but it’s just not rugged enough, and power consumption is an issue, The best results was with my GPS Satellite Beacon/ Compass I already had. The GPS Beacon/Compass lasted much longer than the others, and maintained Sat pings without loss. The backlight would turn off with 10 sec. which helped with battery life.

    If I lived in the Southwest area, I most likely would have trialed the in Reach devices, and simply followed Andrews advice.

  35. Lloyd Fassett on June 29, 2016 at 1:32 am

    An overlooked issue is the broadcast feature of your location. It’s mentioned briefly way up in this exchange. I hike alone, but I have a wife and 4 kids. The Explorer moves the risk of my trips tremendously in ways I hadn’t thought of before I bought it last March.

    On Memorial Day weekend I hiked South Sister out of Bend, OR on the Hiker Trail. There were maybe 200+ people on the hill that day. It’s a well tread, not dangerous in the least, trail. Except that I came upon a small group of people trying to get a girl out of crevasse that she fell in. I could barely hear her yelling and I was a few feet from the opening. Her hiking partner flagged other climbers down and after an hour we got her out without injury. She was really stuck though. I was out there alone, even with 200+ people walking 20 feet away from the crevasse, if I had fallen in there nobody would have been able to hear me.

    The ‘broadcast’ part is important to help people look for you really. About every other week in Bend there is a story about lost or rescued hikers. If you’re broadcasting your location and need to be found, the search and rescue crew knows where to look. If I didn’t have a family I wouldn’t be so inclined to get one as it’s an expensive device to me and I think it’s fine to take that level of risk. But still, happening upon that girl in the crevasse on Memorial Day weekend made me remember how quickly things can happen out there.

    It’s also oddly handy when my wife has a mundane ‘where is x’ question for me.

    With the Explorer, I can keep my tracks online with dates so I can systematically see where / when I’ve covered my usual stomping grounds.

    Ultimately, this class of device fits my life because I have 4 young kids. It’s safer and they can reach me. It is odd though, as I’m 49, that the technology exists. When I was single and a PCT hiker in 1988, I didn’t know where I was and nobody else did either and Iiked it that way

  36. J.R. Harris on June 29, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Thank you for this great website. Excuse me if you have discussed this topic (I could not find it) but could you give some examples of the preset messages you might put on the inReach SE? Thank you.

    • Andrew Skurka on June 30, 2016 at 10:03 am

      The device is pre-programmed with preset messages, but you can also create your own. “I’m camping here.” “I expect to exit tomorrow.” “Brown is down. Please send friends to help me pack it out.” Of course, if you are carrying your smartphone, you can spontaneously write a message rather than using a preset, through the Earthmate app.

  37. Jason McMurry on July 9, 2016 at 11:43 am


    Thanks for comparing both units. I’m a photographer from Klamath Falls, Oregon and I find myself out capturing photos where there’s zero cell signal. So, I have been considering the purchase of one of the inReach units. The main reasons are so my family can have piece of mind by being able to locate me and send/receive messages with them. The SOS abilities are certainly a priceless feature. After reading your review I’m feeling that the SE is the option for me. I typically have a tendency to go for the “best of the best” in terms of product, but it looks like the Explorer simply isn’t justifiable.

    Since my iPhone is always with me, I’m not too concerned with “GPS” function. I noticed everyone talks about Gaia, which looks like a nice app. I was curious if you’ve tried Galileo? It’s offline maps are vector based and functions very fast for cheap. In fact, I got mine free I think during some special they had. I haven’t had any trouble with acquiring signal while in Airplane Mode at all. Below is a link to Galileo for anyone interested in checking it out. Anyway, thanks again for comparing the two! Safe travels!

    Galileo: https://galileo-app.com/


    • Andrew Skurka on July 9, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      No experience with Galileo. When I find something that fulfills my needs (for me, Gaia), I often stop looking.

  38. Les on July 19, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    How often can you change the preset messages and does it cost anything to change them?

    • Lloyd Fassett on July 20, 2016 at 5:23 pm

      As often as you’d like and it doesn’t cost anything on top of the subscription price. You manage the device largely on their website and then sync it through your computer. That’s how the messages get on there, as well as routes.

  39. Les on July 19, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    Do the people you are sending and receiving text messages from able to do it from all devices or are they limited to just phone or just computer? Also can it be paired to a tablet or iPad?

  40. Katie on July 29, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    Can anyone compare these and their capabilities to the original 1.5 model? It seems like it would do the same pairing to the iphone as the SE…

    • Andrew Skurka on July 30, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      The big difference is that the SE and Explorer can be operated as standalone devices, without a smartphone. This saves weight and improves reliability. Obviously, the 1.5 version has none of the GPS features of either device.

      Before you buy a 1.5, I would look at whether Delorme even supports it anymore. Software on the newer inReach’s is still be updated, and some of these are very convenient (and less buggy).

  41. Wes Brooks on August 15, 2016 at 10:06 pm

    Hey I’m just wondering if you think pairing with a smartphone would make a suitable GPS? I like the Delorme better than the rest for a lot of reasons, but ultimately I’d like to pair it with my phone and use my map app (earth tone, giai, etc..) for use while driving in addition to using it off the grid..Thanks for your help

    • Andrew Skurka on August 15, 2016 at 10:13 pm

      Why would you want to pair it with your phone when your phone (with the map apps) is already a GPS? Battery life?

  42. Wes on August 15, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    we’re moving to Europe, and even with buying local sim’s we’re going to be travelling a lot so it would be useful for driving outside of our coverage area. I suppose buying a SIM with a greater coverage area might be an option too, but we’re going to be in Ireland mostly so I think there are a lot of dead zones.

    • Andrew Skurka on August 16, 2016 at 10:15 am

      Your described use it beyond the range of my experience. Maybe someone else will chime in.

  43. Richard on August 23, 2016 at 9:18 am

    It is a great shame with all these devices it is common to find that one single device just isn’t quite enough for the things u would like to achieve and we normally end up with several to achieve what we need in different scenarios, but typically large overlap. It is weird how our journey constantly changes, my journey is:

    I started just taking a phone, I spent ages looking for a GPS app to record tracks, follow routes, went through a few, OS maps, Viewranger etc but didnt find one I liked other than Viewranger. But for multi day trips I moved onto a GPS, Oregon 600 with UK OS maps. I used it a lot, together with Basecamp software to plan and follow routes, but for contact always had my phone too. I kept a paper map and compass in my pocket as a backup. Then I discovered Gaia and ended up going back to phone as gps unit and not taking Garmin. But the worries of being on the hills on my own with the dog pushed me into adding something. Initially i looked at PLBs but decided I wanted the 2 way comms so ended up with the inReach SE. But my paper map was the backup so I was using a lot of battery life. I then realised that portable chargers wasnt the way to go. On a per gram per mAh basis they are poor. All that battery casing and loss makes them a poor per gram option. My phone was an expensive phone, one I didnt need on the trail and didnt want to risk breaking it. So I then bought the best Android phone I could find that had a microSD card and a replaceable battery. It had a very good GPS chip in it, yes I couldnt consider the very latest high end phones as they all had nn replaceable batteries, but I didnt want that. My anker recharged the phone 3 times, but I could get 17 batterries for the phone for the same weight! yes 17. So taking 2 spare batterries was just 15% of the weight of the anker that recharged it just 3 times. So what did I end up with?

    For day hikes where I am likely in cell signal I just whatever phone with Gaia on it.
    For multi day I take the cheaper phone with spare batterries and use it for GPS and tracking. I have the InReach SE in the backpack and turn it on to check messages and send out messages at suitable points. Unfortunately I still end up taking a small Anker to charge headlamp and inReach just incase.

  44. Robert on November 7, 2016 at 11:39 am

    Really helpful comments all around. I have a couple questions.

    As I understand it, both the SE or the Explorer will pair via bluetooth with the Earthmate app. Can they be paired with other apps, like Gaia GPS?

    Also, how does battery life for the iphone compare when using bluetooth compared to using gps? If you’re paired with Inreach’s gps, will the phone’s battery last longer than if you were using the phone’s gps?

    • Andrew Skurka on November 10, 2016 at 7:49 am

      The inReach cannot be paired with another app like Gaia. But if the inReach is being used to get the GPX fix, an app like Gaia may use that information rather than using the phone’s GPS chip, not sure.

      A phone will last substantially longer when it’s not using its GPS chip. I don’t know what the multiplier is, but it’s significant enough that this would definitely be the way to go unless you are only using the GPS occasionally and not on a long trip.

  45. Richard Brown on November 10, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Thank you for this article Andrew, very useful, it helped me clarify what I had and what I needed to buy and I ended up using them as follows:

    InReach SE in my pack if going anywhere that might not have mobile signal. Turned on and set to 1 hr tracking interval. It keeps my family happy and hopefully I will never have to use the SOS feature.

    For GPS I use either a Suunto Ambit 3 Peak, a Garmin Oregon 600, or Gaia/OS Maps on my phone. Depending upon weather, trip length, weight I want to carry, am I alone, GPS track accuracy I want to record and a few other criteria tells me to take which. But I normally end up with phone and watch. I like having the info on my wrist its easy to see and the phone is multipurpose, especially for the early winter nights.

    Having said that I still have an OS Map or something printed on A4 in a Ziploc with a compass just in case tech fails me.

  46. Jennifer on December 2, 2016 at 6:32 am

    Hi, I am researching handheld GPS units for my teenage son who has a snowmobile. I have no idea about any of this. I am looking for a handheld GPS navigator (that he can load trail maps etc) that would also have the capability of me being able to track him from home. Apparently this does not exist? It just seems so odd to me that you would need 2 units to do this. One to load maps and use as a navigator and one to use so you can be tracked and used as a communicator, or the 2 way communicator that you would need to pair with an iphone for a navigator. Does it seem odd to anyone else that a unit that can be used as both is not available yet? or I have had no luck finding one. I have read that Garmin recently purchased InReach, does this mean they will be making such a unit now I wonder?

    • Andrew Skurka on December 2, 2016 at 9:51 am

      The inReach Explorer is close to what you described: With one device, your son can load his maps, follow his progress, and share his location with you via satellite. A few issues, however:

      1. He will have to learn to use DeLorme’s Explore platform in order to load his trail maps onto the device.
      2. There are two-unit options that would offer the same functionality at a lower price. For example, he could use a SPOT Gen3 (which retails for $150, or $230 less than the inReach Explorer) and he could buy a subscription to GaiaGPS, which is a smartphone app. I doubt that he leaves his phone behind, and weight is not a huge concern since the sled is doing all the work.

  47. Lloyd Fassett on December 2, 2016 at 12:33 pm

    I strongly suggest you get the InReach Explorer. You can communicate and track him with from a Delorme web page.

    He will practically need to use a smart phone to communicate back and to view maps. The unit does do those things, but it’s really too difficult. It pairs with smart phones to do that.

    I use mine for backpacking and it takes me a day to get into some kind of trouble area. On a snowmobile, you can really easily get to a place in 20 minutes where if your sled breaks or you have an accident, you could actually be in big trouble because of the distance you can cover in 20 minutes. For example, you go with a friend because you’re supposed to, but then you crash into each other breaking both sleds, plus maybe an injury.

    I’d get the Delorme over the spot because with Delorme you can send messages describing the nature of the accident, for example, do you need a helicopter or would someone showing up in 6 hours be ok? The Spot doesn’t do that. It just send an emergency call. The Delorme does that too.

  48. MarkL on December 15, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    I like paper maps, too. My GPS is the Garmin Foretrex 401, which is a wrist-worn unit, black and white, with no basemap capability. I like it because I don’t have to rely on it for fine navigation since I have a map and my eyes. I don’t really miss it.

    It looks like the InReach could actually be something of an upgrade in GPS for me, with the bonus of the SOS, message, and remote tracking functions. Is that an accurate statement?

  49. Sandra on December 26, 2016 at 9:52 am

    I was just gifted an Explorer for Christmas. I’m interested in opinions on which subscription plan is the most useful; freedom plan vs. the basic safety plan specifically.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 26, 2016 at 11:14 am

      I think the “best” plan is mostly a mathematical concern based on your expected usage.

      Personally, I need my inReach for 4-6 weeks per year, mostly in the summer. So the Freedom/monthly plan makes the most sense for me, even accounting for the $25 annual fee.

      I go with the simple Safety Plan because most the messages that I send to my wife are Preset (e.g. “I’m camping here tonight.” “Everything is okay.” And even a weather forecast email.). The incoming messages from my wife count against the 10 free text messages per month. If we run over, oh well — we could run 40 text messages over before the $20 extra per month for the Recreation Plan would be at break even.

      • Max on January 25, 2017 at 7:03 am

        Can you clarify how preset messages come through and how billing is handled under the safety plans? I’d be curious to get real world experience on that. Do/can preset messages include coordinates? And, if so, do those coordinates count as a “tracking point” charge?

        • Andrew Skurka on January 25, 2017 at 7:23 am

          You can have three preset messages. They don’t count against your quota. Mine (paraphrasing): I’m okay, and I’m camping here. The third is for a weather report, by sending “wxnow” to [email protected]. More details on that.

          I only send custom messages in a few cases: (1) When recipients need to know something unique, e.g. “I’m exiting tomorrow a few hours later than expected.” (2) If I have leftover messages as part of my plan, and figure my wife would appreciate something more unique than “I’m okay.”

          Also, whenever someone sends me a message, that counts against my quota.

          Yes, preset messages include coordinates.

          No, the inclusion of coordinates does not count as “tracking.”

          The exact message that recepients receive from a preset message reads something like this:

          Checking in, all is good.

          View the location or send a reply to Andrew Skurka: https://explore.delorme.com/textmessage/txtmsg?extId=cedd4b9a-7b74-4f35-a79c-2923b0b13f45&adr=andrewskurka%40gmail.com

          Andrew Skurka sent this message from: Lat 39.993689 Lon -105.244796

          Do not reply directly to this message.

    • Lloyd Fassett on December 27, 2016 at 6:17 am

      I believe the Safety plan doesn’t allow you to update a webpage every ten minutes as does the Recreation Plan. You still get your tracking points stored on the device though, which you can synchronize via usb cable when you get back. The only reason to update every ten minutes are if people watching will bother checking and care, plus if you might get incapacitated and unable to use the SOS button while hiking by yourself.

  50. Sandra on December 26, 2016 at 11:36 am

    Great feedback. I’m leaning towards the safety plan for the reasons you stated above. Thanks for the quick reply.

  51. Buddy on January 6, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    I just received my Delorme Inreach Explorer! I scan the QR code for the setup video… URL does not work. I enter the URL from the user manual in my web browser… No setup videos just a message saying Garmin has purchased Delorme. Searched YouTube to find setup videos… found this one GREAT! Go through all the steps and I’m SUPER excited to start planning. I chose the Freedom Plan ($24.95 yearly) and the monthly Recreation Plan ($34.95). I get a confirmation email that the plan has been setup. I login to explore.delorme.com and a page comes up saying “Enter Your Billing Information”. I tried clicking on the Home tab, the Map tab, the Inbox tab, the Contacts tab, the Messages tab, the Social tab, and the Account tab. Nothing changes… I logged out and logged back in… same thing. I cleared my browser data… same thing.
    I went to my confirmation email to get a customer service number. There were no USA phone numbers so I called the Canada phone number in the email. The customer service agent told me that I needed to call the USA number so I explained that the information was not provided. He gave me the phone number so I called the USA customer service number. After 40 minutes, I still cannot use the planning, contact, social, or any other service provided through the explore.delorme.com. The agent told me that it was an error in their system. It was Friday so no one would be able to work on a solution until Monday… great! I’ve invested about $60.00 in the plan… I asked for a refund. Response: “We can give you a refund but you will have to pay a reactivation fee of $24.95”… to reactivate WHAT??? The service I paid for is not working properly and you’ve already told me that it’s a GARMIN issue!
    I HATE GARMIN!!! I DO NOT RECOMMEND ANY GARMIN PRODUCT AND THEIR CUSTOMER SERVICE IS TERRIBLE!!! The hours for the customer service department: M-Th 8am to 6pm and F 8am to 5pm. Let’s think about this… most people that can afford to buy a Garmin product have a job. Most jobs are from 8am to 5pm, the SAME time the customer service department is open! Great thinking Garmin… you never have to deal with customer issues if your closed when customers can call you! YOU SUCK!

    • Andrew Skurka on January 6, 2017 at 7:15 pm

      Unfortunately you are not the first to complain of poor customer service with DeLorme or SPOT, the two companies from which satellite communication devices are available. I had hoped it would improve with Garmin’s acquisition. System mergers can be tough, so I am somewhat understanding right now, but they need to get this figured out.

  52. MikekiM on March 10, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Just ordered an InReach SE after much research. I am very happy with GaiaGPS for nav functions, route planning and until recently tracking functions. I purchased the InReach primarily for the two way communication and SOS contingency. Battery life on my iphone is really anemic when using the nav functions and tracking in Gaia simultaneously, so I have adopted the following.. Routes are created in GaiaGPS.com and exported to a Suunto Ambit. iPhone is set to Airplane mode and low power and Gaia is set to determine my position only when I press the ‘you are here’ button. Tracks are recorded on the Ambit and the route is displayed on the Ambit as well. The InReach will provide communication and SOS features. I expect to try the Earthmate app, but only for the purpose of making texts easier.

  53. MarkL on March 10, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    BTW: This article could probably use an update. Garmin has taken over and is now officially the product brand. It appears they may have tweaked them as now they are offering the SE+ and Explorer+. The buttons are very different and the whole unit looks sleeker (less square). I am having trouble finding the specs on the DeLorme units, but the Garmins have a 2.3″ screen with 200×265 pixels. I’d be curious to know if they have improved that.

    It looks like the main differences with the explorer is the digital compass (meh) and barometric altimeter (yes!), preloaded maps and more sophisticated mapping capabilities (maybe, depending on use). For only $50 more that seems pretty good unless it kills battery life. I have contacted Garmin to find out what they say about it.

    • Andrew Skurka on March 10, 2017 at 1:46 pm

      I’ve written three extensive posts already about the new Garmin inReach devices, https://andrewskurka.com/tag/delorme-inreach/. What I really need to do is just put a headline on this page.

      • MarkL on March 10, 2017 at 3:52 pm

        Not sure how i messed them. Thanks, I’ll check them out!

        • MarkL on March 10, 2017 at 3:52 pm


  54. Tim on April 4, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    For sailing the Explorer is invaluable. Instead of a high amp draw GPS/Radar/plotter I can use the InReach paired with my phone and navigate. As a bonus I did not have to spend a few thousand dollars on said equipment.

  55. JodyL on May 1, 2017 at 7:27 pm

    This headline and subsequent narrative does not make sense:

    Is the inReach Explorer worth it?

    Most definitely, I will be keeping the inReach SE and returning the inReach Explorer. The Explorer fails to offer $80 in extra value as a GPS unit.

    If the Explorer was “Most definitely” worth it, the narrative would support the Explorer, NOT the SE.

    That being said, the information here was very useful and convinced me to go with the SE.I have used the SPOT for about 6-7 years and am finally fed up enough with their horrible customer service to switch to a more expensive plan. SPOTS CE is the worst I have evr experienced…and their yearly plan jumped up over $60 with the excuse that they have to upgrade their system. pathetic.

  56. Henry on July 1, 2017 at 10:48 am

    I bought the InReach SE while vacationing at Lake George, NY. Because LL Bean had it on sale for 50% off and I thought I’ll never see a lower price for this unit ($160) . I am learning the ins and outs and also paired the unit with my IPhone.
    Thank you for your comparisons, very useful.

  57. Westcoast604 on March 16, 2018 at 3:26 am

    Great comments. I ended up buying the explorer over the SE for the simple reason that I have dropped and broken my iPhone using it to snap a photo in the past, and this way if my phone dies or breaks I have a second source to navigate with.

  58. Patrick Calahan on July 9, 2018 at 11:32 am

    Hi. I know I’m very late to the game…..but I just picked up an Explorer for 232! To be fair, I shopped around and got it off Ebay (new).

    One thing that confuses me about the prices mentioned ($80 difference)…..Right now on Amazon the SE is $299.99 while the Navigator is $289.99

    Isn’t that exactly opposite of the prices before??

    Thanks for the great comparison. Can’t wait to try mine out!

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