Garmin inReach Mini 2: Incrementally improved, still fundamentally flawed

Today Garmin released the second generation of its smallest and lightest satellite messenger. The inReach Mini 2 offers incremental improvements over the original inReach Mini, while maintaining the same size, weight, and form factor. Upgrades include:

  • Longer lasting battery in tracking mode;
  • Quicker GPS acquisition by using four satellite networks;
  • An automatic track-back feature, helping to return the user to their point of origin;
  • New user interface based on the Garmin watches; and,
  • Electronic compass display heading even when stationary.

The Mini 2 is also compatible with the Garmin Explore Mobile app. I’m uncertain how this app differs from Earthmate, which is the messaging app for the original Mini.

Should I upgrade to the Mini 2?

I own an inReach Mini, used it for several years, and have no intention of upgrading to the Mini 2 because I don’t see $400 of value in these improvements (or even $250, if I was able to sell my used Mini for $150).

  • I don’t use the Mini for tracking, because this feature costs extra and because I can record a more accurate track with my GPS watch or my phone (using the CalTopo or Gaia app). When I turn on the Mini only periodically to check messages, the battery lasts weeks.
  • I’m satisfied with the GPS acquisition time of my Mini.
  • I’d never use the track-back feature, because I carry with me both paper and digital maps, and I know how to read them.
  • The interface on the Mini is acceptable, albeit far from perfect. And,
  • A keychain compass weighs a half-ounce and costs $5, though usually I’m carrying a more functional baseplate compass anyway.

Should I buy the Mini 2?

If you don’t already own the Mini or any satellite messenger, a stronger case can be made for the Mini 2. It’s:

  • Incrementally better than the original Mini;
  • The smallest and lightest satellite messenger on the market; and,
  • Functional as a standalone unit (i.e. if it’s not tethered to your phone) because of its display and virtual keyboard, though it’s not very user-friendly in this configuration.

One alternative option is to buy an original Mini on closeout or used second-hand. This gets you 90 percent of the functionality for the same weight and size, but at a lower entry price. My concern with buying an original Mini now is that Garmin may eventually make it technologically obsolete — or, less aggressively, simply stop making improvements to it (e.g. fixing bugs and security issues in Earthmate).

What could Garmin have done to really wow me?

With the Mini 2, Garmin made several nice improvements over the original device.

Unfortunately, it did nothing to enhance the inReach messaging experiencing, which is the core feature of the Mini and which is inferior to rival products like the Zoleo Satellite Communicator and the Somewear Global Hotspot. Last year I switched to the Zoleo for this sole reason, and this year I will be expanding its use in my guiding program.

Zoleo and Somewear offer “seamless messaging” across wifi, cell, and satellite. By being able to send and receive messages in their apps wherever I am — e.g. deep in the backcountry with only satellite service, on a mountaintop or ridge with cell service, or in a cafe with wifi — my conversations remain continuous and followable, and I can take advantage of less expensive connectivity options when available. In contrast, Garmin forces me to divide my conversations: in the backcountry I must use the Earthmate app (or Explore Mobile, with the Mini 2), and in the frontcountry and in town I use my usual email and texting apps.

The Zoleo also includes a dedicated email address and phone number so that anyone can easily reach me. My wife, my parents, the family of a client, and my guides in the field can just text or email me, like they would anyone else. To initiate a conversation with an inReach user, in contrast, a person must follow these convoluted instructions.

The Zoleo Satellite Communicator debuted in January. It’s a 5.5-ounce two-way satellite messenger that — when paired with the Zoleo app — offers a more seamless messaging experience than other satellite messengers.

Questions about the inReach Mini 2, other satellite communicators, or which to buy? Leave a comment.

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

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Posted in on February 2, 2022


  1. Josh on February 2, 2022 at 2:16 pm

    From my understanding for Zoleo you need to keep your phone searching for a cell signal for it to send over cell which just drains the battery. Is this true? The only other thing I’m hesitant about is if you’re phone is older and doesn’t hold a charge very good your charging your phone more often meaning a bigger battery bank which is more weight…… thoughts? Otherwise the Zoleo is very appealing for the seamless but you’re still screwed if you’re phone stops working which is the biggest draw to garmin. I would also leave the Zoleo, garmin or what have you always on as you never know when something will go wrong…….

    • Andrew Skurka on February 2, 2022 at 2:42 pm

      You could very quickly turn on/off airplane mode, to see if you have service before using your satellite option. No big deal.

      Also, not really sure if I agree that having it “always on” is necessary. In fact, I don’t. I can’t recall a single instance in which I needed it on and wasn’t able to turn it on, or a story where that was true. Maybe if you are kayaking on open ocean or flying a plane, but hiking at 3mph tends not to lead to acute injuries.

      • Chris FormyDuval on February 2, 2022 at 4:43 pm

        As far as leaving on while hiking I was thinking the “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” scenario. You can possibly still connect via smart watch and send a message if you can’t reach your device. Also people can ping your location if you’re incapacitated as long as its on and has a good sky view. And makes the sat acquisition quicker when sending a message. The only cost is having to recharge it a little every few days. Nobody plans on becoming a statistic but it happens.

        • josh on February 2, 2022 at 5:07 pm

          True for garmin but I’m not sure about Zoleo or others

          • Chris FormyDuval on February 2, 2022 at 6:32 pm

            Correct. I was referring to the mini. I leave on during the day, presets often sent via my watch, turn off after reaching camp and/or whenever the last planned message sent. I recharge at night when it gets to no lower than 25% Doesn’t have to be a full recharge just want a little extra in case the next day is unexpectedly exciting. Usually don’t have to recharge any until around day 5 and that’s with some presets and app messaging, weather reports, connection to watch during the day.

      • Ben on February 2, 2022 at 6:50 pm

        Anecdotally, on the PCT, I downloaded Gaia’s cell coverage + signal strength layers for Verizon, and I’d check for coverage before I’d bother to take my phone out of airplane mode. I found the layers to be pretty accurate.

        • David M. on February 14, 2022 at 10:48 am

          I wouldn’t trust Verizon’s claims. We live in a dense Denver suburb. Verizon maps (where I assume Gaia gets theirs) claim we’re solidly in full strength service territory. For miles it’s 1 bar, maybe 2 if you’re lucky. No improvement during the last 8 years despite many complaints from the community. We would switch but I think others are equally spotty.

          • Brennan on May 13, 2022 at 1:01 pm

            The Denver area is MISERABLE for cell coverage. Verizon seems to be the best and it is still spotty. We get NO service in our neighborhood whatsoever.

          • Brandon on November 17, 2022 at 12:56 am

            Cell reception indicator “bars” will also show lower if tower congestion is a problem, not just tower proximity.

      • Gerrit Holl on August 17, 2022 at 3:12 pm

        Would the smartphone be able to communicate with the Zoleo when in airplane mode? How does it due so? Bluetooth, cable, WiFi?

        • Offtraildog on August 17, 2022 at 3:35 pm

          I keep my phone in airplane mode, turn Wi-Fi off and leave BT on. This approach helps battery life and works fine with the mini

        • Chris FormyDuval on August 17, 2022 at 3:38 pm

          Will need to have Bluetooth turned on for phone to work with zoleo. Same as inreach.

    • Rich on February 25, 2022 at 8:34 am

      Hey Josh, I’m a few weeks late here, but even if it doesn’t help you (or you never see the reply), I’m commenting for anyone else who may have similar concerns…

      If your cell phone is old enough that battery life is a major concern and you want to keep it on as you’ve described, you may want to consider buying a new, unlocked, older model cell phone. Many times these can be found quite cheap and have more than enough capabilities for what you’d need from it. You could simply remove your current phone’s SIM card, put it into the new phone for any trips, and then put it back into your current phone upon your return.

      For example, I’ve bought both my unlocked Google Pixel 1 (early 2019) and Pixel 2XL (early 2021) for less than $100 each, both being new in box at the time. Lesser [in-demand] phones could probably be had for even cheaper. If someone has the budget for the Zoleo and Garmin type devices, this seems like a solid option if phone battery life is a major concern.

      Of course, with no network connectivity, almost any cell phone will drain pretty quickly if not placed in airplane mode or turning off the cell network search functionality, but figured I’d at least throw the idea out there. I typically keep secondary [unlocked] phones around for situations where my main phone could be destroyed/lost (backpacking, rafting, etc).

      Depending on the model and your level of mechanical aptitude, you could also consider trying to replace the battery on your current phone. I don’t have a lot of experience with doing so on iPhones, but I’ve replaced batteries and screens on nearly every Android I’ve ever owned. There are photo guides out there to walk you through every step of the process, along with plenty of youtube videos

  2. Tammy on February 2, 2022 at 3:51 pm

    Does the Zoleo have access to equivalent networks as Garmin?

    • Andrew Skurka on February 2, 2022 at 5:46 pm

      Yes, both use Iridium.

      • F on November 12, 2022 at 8:28 am

        You are somewhat incorrect here – at least on the “GPS” side. You totally missed the biggest technical difference between the two devices.

        Zoleo can only receive GPS & GLONASS (the 2nd, Russian one being rather useless) according to their specs, while Mini 2 can receive all the modern satellite constellations, including Galileo, BeiDou & QZSS.

        Accuracy and speed of acquisition is almost universally better in a device that supports more constellations (all else being equal), especially under more difficult conditions.

        Whether that’s also true between these two devices is up to testing, as it obviously depends on the real world implementation. Sadly, none of the reviewers so far seem to have the technical knowhow or means to do that…

  3. John on February 2, 2022 at 4:10 pm

    Nice assessment, Andrew.

  4. josh on February 2, 2022 at 5:06 pm

    Sure turning airplane mode on and off is fast but searching for a signal isn’t always unless you are in an area that is definitely no signal, in areas where its sketchy it can take awhile.

    Case for having it on and not mild injuries from hiking…… questions remain bc she did contact loved ones with and inReach but suffered severe injuries from a rock slide.,34233

  5. Josh on February 3, 2022 at 7:42 am

    Exactly. Plus Zoleo only allows 1 canned check in message where Garmin allows 3 different check in messages. small albeit painful to message from the unit, you can, in an emergency can mean ALOT. One fall on the rocks with a phone in your pocket and the screen breaks and can’t use even if your not that badly injured or not at all your screwed.

    • Andrew Skurka on February 3, 2022 at 9:26 am

      The Zoleo has physical check-in and SOS buttons on the device, so it’s still very functional even if your phone gets broken or lost. At that point, you wouldn’t be able to send custom messages, but it’s not like you’d be sending many on an inReach Mini if you were suddenly phone-less either — one msg to say “phone broke” that will take you 10 minutes to type, and then simple check-in msgs for the rest of the trip.

      In all these hypothetical cases, I think it’s important to keep in mind that your emergency contacts should be made aware of the potential shortcomings of your device and how to react accordingly. Personally, my message to my contacts is this: I’m expecting to get out on X day at around X time. If I’m not out by then, give me 24 hours before making any calls.

      • Josh on February 3, 2022 at 9:44 am

        10 minutes to type “phone broke” ? from my understanding you scroll through the alphabet like the old T9 messaging with auto complete before smart phones and touch screens. i could type an entire paragraph in 10min.

        if you send an SOS on a zoelo and phone is dead/broken your not going to get anything from SAR teams or be able to communicate with them. where at least with garmin you can still get incoming and read the messages. yes garmin still has a ways to catch up in terms of streamlining but i still think they are ahead of the new guys.

        i think that’s a given and obvious that your contact should know when to start worrying about you, where you are, where your going ect..

        • Sean on February 5, 2022 at 12:01 pm

          I don’t think you’ve ever used the Inreach Mini’s built in keyboard. You will not be typing paraphs. Ever. I promise.

        • Quinn on April 23, 2022 at 10:17 am

          Dude, were just trying share opinions and information to help each other here.
          Change down a gear…

      • Chris on February 5, 2022 at 10:57 am

        Is it possible to pair the zoleo with another phone in the field(meaning no internet connectivity at the time) if the originally paired device becomes inoperable? That would at least partially negate the limited standalone capability assuming it works and there is another phone available. I am able to do that with the mini. The earthmate app just needs to be downloaded to the second device beforehand. Forget orig phone on inreach, pair with new device/app. No account login nor other setup required. Takes about a minute. Note that while any stored messages on inreach with phone numbers/emails do load to the new device contacts do not. Just something to be aware of. Like any device, test the approach before you go so you’ll know what to expect.

        • Andrew Skurka on February 5, 2022 at 2:48 pm

          I don’t know.

          I’m generally wary of far-fetched hypotheticals. Kind of like the one mentioned earlier about having your satellite messenger on at all times just in case you get so injured that you can’t operate it. Maybe my luck will run out, but I’ve spent years in the back country, including years while carrying a phone, and I’ve never been able to not operate my satellite messenger and I’ve never had my phone go down (and also never had my phone go down and was in a situation that an okay message sent using the physical button on my satellite messenger wasn’t adequate).

          • Christopher S on February 5, 2022 at 10:40 pm

            Somehow we have gone from a single-use PLB being a “nice to have” in the backcountry to needing constant tracking and 2 way messaging ability at all times 😂

            That being said by far the biggest improvement for this specific device has to be ditching the old software – I mean at least you can export a GPX from a track you take with this one and easily import it into Gaia or any other mapping software.

            Personally I would like them to split out the inReach messaging itself into a separate app only for messaging. Keep it simple and keep mapping software for mapping.

          • Andrew Skurka on February 6, 2022 at 6:46 am

            So true. At the risk of sounding old, I remember owning a PLB because messenger units did not yet exist, and owning a one-way messenger (original SPOT) because two-way units did not yet exist (or smartphones for that matter).

            I’m uncertain why I take a more measured approach to messengers (ie I have one but it’s not attached to my shoulder strap for constant access and service). Maybe it was those early experiences without one. Maybe it’s having spent years out there safely and concluding that danger is really not around every corner. It maybe it’s more generational — I didn’t text until my first smartphone when I was 29.

            Re the app, yes absolutely decouple the messaging from the maps. Garmin lost the battle with Gaia, CalTopo and others about ten years ago. Please someone send them a memo.

          • James on February 10, 2022 at 2:10 pm

            I think if you’re just hiking then sure needing a phone for everything but sos may be ok. I use an older delorme se for paragliding and spearfishing.

            Paragliding you could be knocked out on landing or not be able to reach your phone while in your hands and injured, you generally have a retrieve team that monitors your track. You might just need some help, it you might need a helicopter, being able to say that without a phone is essential. Spearfishing trying to use a mostly not waterproof phone bobbing in the water is useless. The simplicity of not being a phone is a must in my book. I agree the messaging procedure is clunky but that does not trump needing a phone.

      • Kelly on April 23, 2022 at 1:00 pm

        The statement about taking 10 minutes to type “phone broke” on the Inreach scrolling keyboard got me curious so I did a test and timed myself typing that. Took me about 32 seconds (selecting every letter), and that includes starting and stopping a stopwatch myself. Using the auto-suggest feature I came in at 27 seconds. Totally will concede using a phone is faster, but the scroll to text feature isn’t nearly as bad as many make it out to be. Just takes a little practice.

        What’s annoying and time consuming is if you need to add punctuation. I sent a suggestion to Garmin to include at least a . ? , and ! to the letters scroll to not have to change to the special characters scroll.

  6. stan on February 4, 2022 at 10:39 am

    I have the old version. The main issue is the terrible GPS in the unit.
    The satellite acquisition is very slow. Far slower than my cellphone (yes, I know, cellphones have assisted GPS, but even in airplane mode, far away from any cell coverage or wifi, my cellphone can get a fix in less than a minute, while my inReach Mini takes tens of minutes). Even my old etrex can get a fix in much shorter time.

    If you look at the Garmin forums, many users have the same problem, while for others there is no issue. This makes me think that Garmin has a quality control issue that they refuse to acknowledge.

    If this issue has been fixed in version 2.0, it would be a major reason to upgrade. I don’t trust my inReach 100%, and gladly upgrade for the piece of mind of having a GPS that works just as well as any other 10 year old receiver.

    I never had this issue, but inReach messages tend to be blocked by phone providers and disappear without any warning (e.g. can’t contact any AT&T customers, the forum is full of complaints:
    For a safety of life device, that’s not great.

    One smaller downside of the inReach is that one can’t hand out a phone number or web address to be contacted at.
    For example, when I am out, I leave a note in my truck with my contact information for emergencies (Wildfire, missing person search etc.).
    I can’t put my inReach info there, as there is no public address. The only way would be to publicly share my location (which I don’t want to), and give permission to everyone viewing this webpage to contact me (which I don’t want to do either). So I have to put in a note how to contact a friend who will then contact me.

    It would be much nicer if there was a regular phone number, email address, or even a simple website that I could hand out and then later disable if anyone starts to spam me.

    • Christopher S on February 4, 2022 at 11:44 am

      Actually you do have an inreach phone number – they just dont officially tell you or guarantee it wont change. Send a text to yourself. The number on there is your dedicated line. Mine has never changed nor have my friends.

      Why Garmin cannot just break out the messaging into a simple and separate app from the mapping is beyond me. Would be so much damn nicer. I dont need to load gigabytes of maps into my phone memory every damn time I want to send a text or check the weather.

      • Andrew Skurka on February 4, 2022 at 12:56 pm

        It’s not quite a dedicated phone number. Most importantly, you can’t be sent a text at that number without you first initiating the conversation. For example, if I get a new inReach and learn that my number is 123-456-7890, my contacts can’t simply text me at that number. Instead, I must text them first, and then they can text me back. For them to initiate a conversation, they must go through the very clumsy MapShare page, which hopefully you’ve turned on (and they’re SOL if you haven’t).

        • Christopher S on February 5, 2022 at 10:43 pm

          I don’t think it used to work like that – I gave out my inReach number and had people texting me to test before trips. No first message sent.

          What your saying sounds like an anti-spam layer which Im all for – my friends and I used to be very wary about who we gave our inReach number as potentially they could accidently send you a bunch of long texts and rack up a bunch of messages. Or your number could end up on a spam text list and suddenly your racking up tons of additional charges

    • barry on May 8, 2022 at 7:56 am

      Your cell phone and any other GPS device that can quickly get a GPS lock is able to do so because of EPO data. This only works for devices that have an internet connection like a phone or are routinely synced to a server like a sports watch. Although not sure why Garmin doesn’t just have the Earthmate app provide EPO data for the InReach, that would dramatically improve the experience.

      Once your your InReach gets a GPS lock it will be faster the next time until you have a large move in location (automobile vs walking) or a long period of not turning it on (like a couple days). The longer you leave the InReach turned on after getting a lock the more soak time it has to track satellites and build up its own knowledge of where they will be in the immediate future and the better it will be at quickly getting a fix the next day. None of this is specific to the InReach, it’s how pretty much any GPS device without EPO works.

      When I last tested this a couple years ago, iPhones downloaded about 7 days of EPO data. Android is probably similar but I’ve never tested it. At any rate if your cell phone goes longer than whatever that period is without service / an internet connection, it will then be just as slow as your InReach to acquire a GPS signal.

  7. John on February 7, 2022 at 12:14 pm

    I have a deadly wasp/bee/hornet allergy. I’m getting immunotherapy to reduce my reaction but currently I go into anaphylaxis in minutes and lose consciousness. I’m told that with my treatment that I will have normal reactions and will continue to carry epi-pens, but this is the reason I’m looking at any PLB. As far as SOS is concerned (all I really care about) which is “the best” (I know that’s a loaded question)? I’m leaning toward the inreach mini 2 now that it’s out, but curious if the others may be safer?

    • Christopher S on February 7, 2022 at 12:27 pm

      Since you are a special case I would probably recommend you carry a PLB (like the Ocean Signal small one) and you always bring a friend who knows where your epipens are and maybe they have an inReach. Worst case if you pass out they can still stab you with one and they can communicate with SAR over their inReach. Keep in mind that in most situations whoever is coming to get you is going to take awhile, however, so I would not rely on it for any kind of anaphylaxis.

      PLB’s have the advantage in that you do not have to worry about the battery dieing for the most part – you just need to replace the battery every 5 years.

      • John on February 7, 2022 at 12:38 pm

        Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve never heard of the Ocean Signal PLB, but just looked it up and it looks promising. I’ll do some more research. As you said, I know I’m not the normal use case for this (and believe me, that’s super depressing and really sucks) so I’m just looking for ways to mitigate risk as much as possible, ie. immunotherapy, extra epi-pens, H1 and H2 antihistamines and even a script for some corticosteroids so that if I need it I can hopefully survive long enough to be rescued. Maybe I’ll get the ocean signal for me and the inreach for my wife, whom I always hike with, just to be extra cautious.

        • Christopher S on February 7, 2022 at 12:41 pm

          You could also invest in one of those full mesh bug suits – they have ones that are a separate jacket / pants and some have a built in hood or you can use a headnet separately. I only have the headnet but bring it on almost every trip as its amazing for keeping out annoying little bugs. I prefer actually the cheaper mesh ones that use a much wider mesh (technically it does not block “noseeums”) because it gives much more airflow than the very fine mesh ones. And it still seems to block everything I encounter. Some permethrin treated pants or clothing might not be a bad idea either (you can send existing clothing to insectshield if you want)

          • John on February 7, 2022 at 12:48 pm

            I’ve seen those full mesh bug suits. They may be worth trying, but the last time I was stung was through a pair of fairly thick running pants and a layer of wool socks from yellowjackets so it likely wouldn’t do much. Short of a bee keepers outfit, not much clothing is going to help block it. I was only out on a day hike and had to be rescued that time. Luckily we weren’t too far from cell service. I’m definitely going to use permethrin but yellowjackets are mean little bastards and aren’t deterred by much. Still, every precaution I can take, I will. They hate the smell of mint, but that would definitely expose me to bears so I guess anything within reason.

  8. Cathy on February 7, 2022 at 1:06 pm

    I consider the odds of a serious injury very low on the types of backcountry trips that I take. An ankle sprained badly enough not to be able to walk is probably the mostly likely, but even that has never happened.

    My biggest concern, and the one that has me thinking seriously about a Zoleo, is making sure my husband knows that I am just late, not injured, and should _not_ be calling SAR! And also keeping him from worrying when there’s nothing significantly wrong. A PLB would be completely useless for this.

    Delays seem more likely than actual unable-to-self-rescue situations. This is based on the eastern US, not Interior Alaska, where the risks are different and higher.

    I haven’t considered the InReach because it is bad at precisely the features I would most want — free-form text messages.

    • Thomas on February 8, 2022 at 12:11 am

      The mini has three programmable standard messages, so you could agree with your husband on the meaning of three standard messages and have those preset for times when some reassurance is in order.

      I send my crew back home a preformated message every night and also when I enter a high-risk situation and when I exit it. My need to send emails from the backcountry is otherwise nil, and my need to hear what’s going on in the world while I am out is less than nil. YMMV.

      • Cathy on February 8, 2022 at 7:13 am

        I could, but what is the advantage of the InReach over the Zoleo? For my use case, I am not seeing it. If the Zoleo didn’t exist, your approach would be the best available.

        • Chirs on February 8, 2022 at 11:38 am

          When it comes to messaging with a phone the inreach is similar to that of the zoleo so not a big difference in base functionality. You use an app on the phone, it communicates to the device. The zoleo app can function over cellular and wifi to keep message threads together. The other big difference is a dedicated phone number that doesn’t change not that I’ve noticed my inreach number to have ever changed. Those items may or may not be important to you. Most of my messaging is done via the presets and mostly via my watch. It makes for a very streamlined experience. No watch interactive ability with the zoleo. For a long message I bring out my phone. The inreach is a more capable all round device but those extra features may not matter for some and the messaging on the zoleo may better fit needs. The zoleo is heavily dependent on a phone whereas the inreach can fully function separately. Aside from the standalone capability of the inreach the ability to remotely receive and respond to a location request is very powerful. For all of these devices remember when they are turned off they’re as useful as a brick. Think about both most common and worst case scenarios see, if for you there are any meaningful differences.

  9. Chris Schulz on February 8, 2022 at 9:25 pm

    For me its about backup and device independence. If my phone battery goes flat or I smash it, at least I can still type what ever i want and trackback using the Inreach. With the others, they just become a brick that calls a helicopter.

  10. Bob S. on February 11, 2022 at 7:57 pm

    Call me a luddite because I still own a pair of semaphore flags, I think knowing Morse code is a handy skill to have in case I ever get trapped in a disabled submarine and I still use my original DeLorme inReach Explorer.

    Luddite or not, if somebody (other than my wife) wants to give me a Breitling Emergency dual frequency watch I might be persuaded to accept it.

  11. offtraildog on February 19, 2022 at 5:09 pm

    I have used the Inreach Mini since 2019. Primary reason is to inform my wife of my status and in case of emergency. For this purpose, it meets my needs. I do like that the InReach is not dependent on any other device to send messages.
    I created 3 preset msgs (max) that include Mapshare info (Injured SOS sent / Everything OK / Delayed Everything OK) and also 15 Quick text messages (not the limit). Examples: 2-3 hours to trailhead / 3-4 hours to trailhead / Bear Attack / Injured arm / with people .. etc. Each quick text can contain 160 characters. I created critical phrases to string together info if needed when injured since creating a message on-the-fly is tedious. The messages are created on the explore.garmin web site when you log into your account.

    It does have slow GPS acquisition which is what I experienced with every Garmin device I owned thru the GPSMap 60CS. In 2016, I started using my iPhone w/ GaiaGPS and stopped using Garmin GPS products for mapping/tracking until the Inreach which I use solely as a satellite communicator.

    I did use the Garmin Earthmate app on a backpacking trip last year when I needed to coordinate a place/time to meet another backpacker and for that it worked fine.

    If the Mini 2 has better GPS acquisition, I’ll consider upgrading.

  12. Stephen Marsh on February 26, 2022 at 9:21 am

    We picked up the new one basically for SOS messaging and for the insurance discount.

    Previously we used it only to send out the canned message “Camping for the night. We are safe, warm and dry” for family that worried about us.

    I would agree that if you need more functionality, are not using your phone and an app like Far Out for route tracking, and want to communicate, you may prefer a different product.

    If there are new products from other vendors with similar insurance available, that would get my attention.

    • offtraildog on February 26, 2022 at 11:37 am

      Stephen – did you compare the satellite acquisition time between the old version and new version?

      • Stephen on May 10, 2022 at 10:25 am

        It wasn’t significantly different for our applications.

        But that means 5-10 minutes was more than ok.

        The new one is faster than that.

  13. Kelly on April 2, 2022 at 7:34 am

    There is a hack for making the Mini easier to reach and not going through the convoluted method you usually have to. It’s called Fieldmail (website They assign you an phone number (only for texting the Inreach, does not replace your regular phone number), you give that phone number to whoever you allow to contact you, and when they dial that number through the magic of computers it connects through Mapshare automatically and for the user it’s just like regular texting. It does cost like $30 year for like 100 messages a month. (There is an option for more.).

    Granted Zoleo does that as part of their service. But like your case if you need people to be able to contact you easily and you already have a Garmin, Fieldmail solves that problem.

  14. Stan R. on April 4, 2022 at 12:01 pm

    So bottom line here is if you don’t have a satellite tracker device and are in the market for one, which do you recommend? I want to purchase one for my daughter who is going to do the Hayduke this fall and I want to get her something prior to the trip. She used a friends InReach mini on her last thru hike on the Colorado Trail so she is familiar with it.

    We will be dogging her around Utah and meet at pre-planned areas to resupply her so communications will be important. GPS mapping not so much. I’ve wanted to pull the trigger on the InReach mini II but I have looked pretty close at the Zoleo as being somewhat hardier than the mini II. I don’t like the idea of having to use two devices (phone and a GPS satellite tracker) in order to be fully functional.

    • Andrew Skurka on April 4, 2022 at 12:20 pm

      I wholeheartedly recommend the Zoleo.

      The Zoleo especially makes sense for thru-hikers, who are constantly switching between frontcountry and backcountry. With the inReach, thru-hikers need to have two comm systems (one for when they’re in the backcountry, one for the frontcountry), and conversations can become disjointed when going back and forth. With the Zoleo, they only need one comm system, and the conversations are seamless.

      Without a phone, the Zoleo can still send Okay and SOS messages, and the recipients are able to see the locations of those messages. I think it’s pretty low odds that at the same time your daughter’s smartphone would go down AND she would need to send some specific message that cannot be largely captured with “Okay” or “SOS.”

      • Stan R. on April 5, 2022 at 6:33 am

        Thanks for the fast reply on this Andrew. As much as the Zoleo impresses me in the end I’m not the one who will be using it. They both have their pros and cons so I guess what will sway me is posted in my reply to Chris below. Thanks again for the blog and answering my questions

  15. Chris F on April 4, 2022 at 10:37 pm

    These days it definitely comes down to the zoleo and the inreach mini. The inreach has some pros including smaller form factor, fuller feature set, easier tracking, remote initiated location ping, compatibility with some garmin watches( I often read messages and send checkins on the go thru my watch leaving the inreach secure in top of pack)and of course far superior stand alone capability. Note that what I use works for me and may or may not be what I’d recommend for others depending on their particular situation. If you go with the zoleo I’d suggest some low cost/low weight steps to mitigate its heavier phone reliance starting with a sturdy phone case, perhaps more charging capacity than before and if using an iphone, a second charging cable(Anker makes a 1ft, lightning cables are much more susceptible to suddenly stop working) plus add the location share. The other suggestion is to see if she has a preference especially since she’d used a sat messenger before. The main criteria I see is that it 1)does what she needs/wants and 2)helps you sleep at night. Best of luck on her journey.

    • Stan R. on April 5, 2022 at 6:29 am

      Thanks, Chris, for your insight on this, it helps much. I am now leaning towards the InReach Mini II as they both seem to be limited in what they can do when compared against the higher priced full function devices. Smaller size, better standalone capabilities and familiarity with the device and all it’s limitations will be what sways me.

  16. offtraildog on April 5, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    I have the original inreach and am picking up the inreach 2 tomorrow. i’ll post satellite aquisition time differences (hoping the 2 is much faster). I have lots of 60-100′ fir, cedar and pine trees around so should be a good test of a forested environment.

    not a thru hiker and as previously mentioned, I have rarely sent any message other then the 3 preset messages.

  17. Tom Bennett on April 9, 2022 at 6:28 pm

    Here’s why I chose to upgrade from the mini to the mini2: Increased battery life in tracking mode. I do a lot of hiking solo with my dog, and my loved ones like to monitor my progress. On a 10 day trip in the Winds, carrying a large enough battery pack to stay constantly connected is important. The greater efficiency of the Inreach Mini 2 should help. We’ll see.

  18. Roman Dial on April 11, 2022 at 12:21 am

    Wow. This is some kind of thread strong opinion thread here.

    I didn’t text until I was 50. But I have carried a phone on six different ten-day to two month+ scientific expeditions to the Brooks Range over the last three summers. First a little old one and now the big old 12 Pro Plus.

    An iphone is essentially the 21st century Swiss Army Knife, if anybody reading this is old enough to remember those. We do 90% of our science on the iphone.

    We have an inReach Mini, but it’s so clunky I’d never get another if something easier came along, because my phone is my camera/GPS/data/recorder/text/phone/computer when I get back to town and my start and end points are often quite far apart (like the distance from AZ to ID). It’s not like I can leave it in the car or at home, so if I’m gonna carry it I’m putting it to work. And it works great.

    My iphone is pretty much waterproof. Doesn’t need a case.

    I’m more interested in the service costs of the zoleo than anything. My inReach mini is nothing more than an antenna as far as I’m concerned, an antenna hooked to a receiver-transmitter to a satellite. I don’t want to interact with it or with Garmin for that matter. I want something that turns on, seemlessly talks to my phone if I choose to have it talk, and doesn’t otherwise.

    Thanks Andrew Skurka for posting this.

    I’d love to cancel my Garmin account and sell my mini if this is zoleo is a cheaper service and only does the one thing I need it to: talk to satellites until Apple does that for me, too.

  19. offtraildog on April 11, 2022 at 3:14 pm

    been doing some research with the Garmin team. It is hard to use the limited specs on their website to compare storage capability of V1 to V2 and features. I have spoken with 3 garmin employees to research the same questions to see if there is consistency in the answers. Each person i talk to mentions not all my questions are documented and has to forward to the development team to get answers.

    Depending on your usage, this may matter or not…

    I want to use the Garmin to record and store on the device a seperate track each day (for 11 days so 11 tracks/activities). When i get home, I will upload all the data to the Garmin Explore website. Then download the KML and import into GaiaGPS which is where I store all my day-hike data.

    Why? The battery life on my iPhone 12 Pro Max running GaiaGPS for 8-10 hrs drains the battery life 30-40% in clear skies in my geographic area (airplane mode, BT off, WF off). My Anker 20000 Powercore can charge my iPhone 4x max so I might expect to get about 8-9 days of iPhone/GaiaGPS in the field – depending on tree cover, latitude, weather, etc.

    The Mini V2 can last up to 14 days w/ 10 minute send interval and standard detail. Since I plan to turn OFF send interval, I expect to get longer battery life. Even if it is less then 14 days, I won’t have to recharge the Mini V2 as many times as my iPhone so I might be able to take my Anker 10000 powercore which is 4.8oz lighter

    Mini V1 – record 500 waypoints
    Mini V2 – record 1000 waypoints

    Mini V1 – record/store one track
    Mini V2 – record/store 200 activities (which are tracks)

    Mini V1 – 20,500 points per track
    Mini V2 – 99,999 points per activity

    Mini V1 – Tracking interval logging – 1sec, 30sec, 1min, 2min, 5min
    Mini V2 – Tracking Interval logging – High Detail (variable based on speed and path traveled, slow, straight, curvy – ex. some people use Mini on mtn bikes) OR Standard – every 10 minutes
    *** BIG change – curious to see if this info is correct.

    Everybody has different needs .. as I have stated, I use my Mini on dayhikes as an emergency satellite communicator and send 1 of 3 preset msgs to my wife. Fast, simple, no iPhone required. On the Mini V2 this takes me 5 seconds.

    This is the first time I’ll take the Mini on a backpacking trip and curious to see how my approach works – send preset msgs and record individual activity each day.

    • Stan R on April 11, 2022 at 3:49 pm

      Quite extensive analysis with more to come! I believe that the Mini II with its onboard track back and the ability to handle multiple tracks, battery life and overall standalone features has sold me. On to Amazon and check prices…

      Thanks to all for all your feedback, it was all very educational for me.

  20. offtraildog on April 11, 2022 at 7:11 pm

    Garmin has been updating their online info….

    This is from the web site.

    Standard: Logs the location every 10 minutes by default. If the Send Interval has been customized, it will match that same interval for standard recording.
    High Detail: Logs the location and updates the track line more frequently in the device memory than the standard option. The number of points recorded will vary depending on changes in direction and speed. For example, a slow, straight path would record fewer points than a fast, curvy path.

    From my correpondence with Garmin …”There is no specific time set for these settings because the Mini 2 is optimized for greater battery life and will track according to movement speed utilizing the accelerometer and other sensors.”


    Though they still don’t specify storage capability. I’ll have to do some tests at home. I’ll set mine to High Detail with Send Interval to OFF

  21. Doug Metzler on April 13, 2022 at 4:01 pm

    What I would like to know is what the power of the SOS signal is. The PLB signal strength is well known and establish by international law. Delorme published the strength of the original inReach. (It is about 10% of the PLB strength, and there are other factors such antenna length, dedicated battery, satellite system, etc. that also make the single purpose PLB better for that single SOS purpose.) So at least with the Delorme inReach I could make an informed decision about wether all the additional features of the inReach was worth the decreased SOS capability. But Garmin seems to have gone radio silent about SOS capability in general. And I am very skeptical about the mini in that regard. Sure, most messages get through sooner or later. But will it push an SOS out of a slot canyon or even heavy forest cover? Wish I had some data to make a decision on.

  22. offtraildog on April 13, 2022 at 5:31 pm

    two very different systems. seems like you know the differences between iridium satellites and the COSPAS/SARSAT systems.

    If I was doing a high-risk adventure, I would take a resqlink 460

  23. Cameron C McNall on May 19, 2022 at 5:49 pm

    I highly recommend the Mini for anyone whose priorities are similar to mine. I hike and climb alone offtrail and like having breadcrumbs left in case I have a problem and am prevented from calling from help. I subscribe to worst-case scenarios, and have had virtually every piece of kit fail, except for the Mini, so I believe in device independence. Rescue coordination is important, so just presets are not good enough. I like having tracks I can use after hikes, so the Mini saves me valuable iPhone battery time (weight). It is the lightest and smallest device. I don’t have any problem communicating with others via email, text, or Mini to Mini. I like it a lot and will be hiking overseas, so the incremental upgrades are worth it to me, although for most I would recommend picking up an original used Mini.

  24. Bonnie on September 15, 2022 at 12:58 pm

    Anyone have any thoughts on which satellite message unit is the best on the water, way offshore, far from a cell tower, used solely if you are away from everything and want to send a message to someone else, but meanwhile have big hands/fingers that can make texting on a regular phone occasionally a problem? Fast and easy is the goal, without too much distraction? Thanks in advance.

    • Andrew Skurka on September 18, 2022 at 12:24 pm

      You definitely want a device with iridium coverage.

      The device that you can most easily fat finger is an inReach-equipped GPS unit from Garmin.

      • Bonnie on September 19, 2022 at 11:16 am

        Thank you!!

  25. Tom Bennett on September 22, 2022 at 12:13 pm

    After using the Inreach Mini2 for several months, I have stumbled upon a problem with the unit, and if I had to do it all over again, I would wait until this bug is fixed before I buy it: you HAVE to have cell service to connect the Mini2 to the “Garmin Explore” app on my iphone. This is easy to do at home. However, I was just in the Gros Ventres and one day the two devices disconnected from each other and wouldn’t connect back. I could still use the Mini2 with the small screen, but all the functionality of the Explore app was locked out, including maps and messages and tracks. A couple of days later I stood on a summit and was able to connect to a cell tower, and then the connection was restored. I have no idea as to why the phone and the mini2 disconnected from each other, but apparently it can happen randomly, and that’s scary. For long trips in remote locations where cell service is not going to be available at any point, I would think twice about bringing an Inreach Mini2.

    • Josh on September 29, 2022 at 4:27 pm

      And now garmin has its own messenger to compete with Zoleo. Also heard the inReach 2 is going to be able to go seamless, I think in conjunction with the messenger. Either way good to see competition and garmin has thrown in a few features Zoleo doesn’t offer.

      • Andrew Skurka on September 29, 2022 at 5:34 pm

        Yep, competition is good!

        • Bob on September 29, 2022 at 7:51 pm

          CalTopo added some cool features recently. One of them is real-time location tracking. It works with amateur radio APRS and Garmin inReach tracking (requires an inReach pro subscription).

          I tried it with my ham radio APRS and it worked surprising well. I don’t have a pro subscription for my inReach device, so I’ll have to take Matt’s word that it works.

        • Derek Jordan on February 22, 2023 at 1:36 pm

          If I’m primarily looking for a messenger, would you recommend the Zoleo over the Garmin Messenger? Which do you consider to be the better messaging experience? The operating costs are sort of hard to compare, but they appear close, assuming recreational/in-touch plans and using backpacking for weeklong trips in July – September? Zoleo has a dedicated number, but Garmin has group messages and better battery. Hope you are well Andrew!

          • Andrew Skurka on February 27, 2023 at 9:04 am

            I’ve not used the Mini 2 or the new Garmin Messenger app. Maybe I should so I can get an updated user experience, but honestly I’m happy enough with my Zoleo that I don’t see a reason to change. Also, having a dedicated number and email address is immensely more convenient for anyone who wants to get hold of me, versus Garmin’s Mapshare system, especially for anyone who is below-average with tech.

      • Chris F on September 29, 2022 at 5:36 pm

        Yeah, I think this changes the calculus. It addresses both the zoleo features that some preferred and it’s major shortcomings. At this point zoleos major attraction will be lower cost of entry and a simpler suspend service feature/cost. 5 year total cost of ownership may still be relatively close, no huge percentage difference.

      • Clayton Calvert on November 5, 2022 at 9:58 am

        New firmware released on Nov. 1st enables the InReach Mini 2 to have ‘seamless’ communication over Internet and satellite, as needed, with the updated Garmin Messenger app.
        Group messages are also supported.
        From my testing so far, it is a great upgrade, in my opinion.

  26. josh on November 5, 2022 at 10:10 am

    Do you just need the app and not the messenger device along with the inReach correct?

  27. Colin on November 17, 2022 at 8:18 am

    Great information from all of you–thanks

  28. DT on December 26, 2022 at 12:54 am

    In my humble opinion, and as a mini inreach2 owner, this is a bad review. The author has completely missed the point of the features. For example, “I don’t use the tracking because it costs extra and my watch draws a more accurate trace”. Well does your watch send your coordinates via gps to a close contact so that should you hurt yourself, and stop moving when you should be, and be unable to call for help, you could still helped and be found quickly? Because THATS the point. Think coming off a motor or MTB scenario.
    And based on the equipment the author already owns never had a fit for what the mini does in the first place. Of course it isn’t great for mapping, and of course it isn’t great texting, but the point is that it can and it’s TINY. Think trail runner.
    The Garmin inreach2 mini is best in class for what it was designed for.

  29. Bob S. on March 6, 2023 at 1:19 pm

    The ZOLEO vs Garmin argument is getting a bit stale. I predict by this time next year we will be discussing which direct-to-satellite two-way messaging cellphone is best. Should we go with phones using low-Earth orbit or geostationary orbit satellites?

    The iPhone 14 is (almost) there; the Motorola Defy 2 by the end of Q2 and offerings from Samsung and other manufacturers coming in the 2nd half of 2023. The latest advancements are going to take a major bite out of the two-way satellite messenger business.

    My original DeLorme inReach is reaching the end of its life as is my cell phone. The soon to be released Moto Defy 2’s announced price is $599. I think I can hold off a couple months…

    • Brandon on March 6, 2023 at 1:40 pm

      Half the point of the InReach is that it doesn’t rely on your phone which can go dead as you use it for other things or while it scans and scans for a 5G tower that is nowhere to be found because you forgot to put it on airplane mode when you entered the backcountry. Power bank, you say? Well what if that gets wet or you drop your phone off a cliff while taking pictures, etc. I won’t be trading in my InReach for a phone app.

  30. Bob S. on March 6, 2023 at 4:02 pm

    Maybe it’s not for you but the new line-up of ruggedized cell phones with satellite texting will appeal to people who occasionally hike out of cell coverage and don’t what to pay for a 2nd device and subscription they will rarely use.

  31. Brandon on March 6, 2023 at 8:11 pm

    Yow, sorry about that tone earlier today Bob. Dang internet communication. My fault completely.

    Your comments bring helpful new ideas here for those looking for a single device solution. The Zoleo at least seems to be made obsolete by the devices you suggest.

    I take a lot of comfort in knowing my independently-operating emergency communicator is safe and charged in my bag as I take pictures, notes, and navigate with my phone.

    This does not seem to be the consensus on this page so my risk tolerance may be abnormally low.

    Happy hiking

    • Bob S. on March 6, 2023 at 9:49 pm

      Brandon, no worries I appreciated the reply.

      FYI, the iPhone 14 already has a satellite SOS feature, but two-way communication is only possible with the emergency call center. I’m pretty sure stand-alone satellite devices are more reliable at least for now.

  32. Bonnie on March 7, 2023 at 6:43 am

    Hello all,
    I just wanted to update you regarding my husband who is an offshore fisherman, and that I wrote about before Christmas, regarding which satellite text device would work best for him on his boat.

    I chose the Inreach mini the marine version which has an ability to have a separate stand for it on the boat and so far it’s worked out great. He downloaded the app pretty seamlessly and now just texts the same way as he knows how and we’ve had zero problems. This is if he’s 70-80 miles offshore for days at a time so I just wanted to let you all know. Several other fishermen have it and the ease with which it can be used with his cell phone so it’s in a format that he already knows makes the difference for us.

    The messages themselves, there’s a lag time between messages which since it’s satellite, is expected, but for our needs, it’s worked out great.

    And while the cost isn’t cheap , $50 per month unlimited text, compared to utilizing a satellite email service paired to his vessel monitoring service that is required, (where they charge you by the character versus unlimited,) we’ve actually wound up saving a great deal of money by utilizing the mini instead.

    Thank you all for your input last year to help me make a decision.

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