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Garmin inReach deep dive: Default & downloadable maps & imagery

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

Overnight I received this question from reader Bob B.:

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

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

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


inReach SE+ vs. Explorer+

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

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

Deeper dive: inReach Explorer+

Pre-loaded data

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

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

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

Downloadable data

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

The following maps can be added to the device:

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

What’s not pre-loaded or downloadable

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

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

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

Earthmate app

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

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

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

Functionality with and without a subscription

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

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

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

Posted in , on March 28, 2018
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29 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I just noticed this on the Garmin site:

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

    Guess it’s time to update your article.

    Any insight as to why?

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

      No insights, sorry.

  8. Marco on November 29, 2018 at 3:58 am

    So is it my understanding that you cannot download map onto the device SE+. Correct?

    I followed all the tutorials I could find and when I go to the garmin webpage with the garmin connected I do not have the option “Get More Maps”. inReach sync and firmware updated

    Am I doing something wrong?

    • Andrew Skurka on November 29, 2018 at 7:54 am

      You cannot download topo maps to the SE+ device, only the Explorer+.

      But you can download maps to your earthmate app.

      • Kate on January 20, 2019 at 9:05 am

        Andrew, can Earthmate use maps NOT from Garmin? (I have a Mini, so quite dependent on the app for visuals.) I’m going to Chile, and it seems that the map already in the app is very lacking in detail. For download, Garmin only has satellite imagery (BirdsEye) for that area. I much prefer to have a topographic map as well. Actually, so far I haven’t found any good sources, but there must be some.

        • Andrew Skurka on January 20, 2019 at 9:17 am

          The image data listed in this post is the extent of data that can be viewed on an inReach or in Earthmate.

          If you want other imagery, consider the GaiaGPS or CalTopo app.

  9. Deniz GÖKSEDEF on February 19, 2019 at 12:09 pm

    I have a big problem with my explorer+. I’ve purchased the device from amazon 4 weeks ago. I am living in Istanbul and tried everything to get a local map from inreach sync, but couldn’t achieve anything.

    I have an active plan, the device is activated, I am able to send waypoints and contacts from my garmin account page and earthmate app. So the usb-cable is working but the only maps that I have on my device are the preloaded ones. I’ve also tried a win7 and 10 machines, and my macbook. No way. Also it is not related to Turkey map, I couldn’t download any other map as well So, any experience like this?

  10. Mark Stoneham on May 13, 2019 at 11:36 pm

    Hey Andrew, do you have any insight / theories on when a new series or an update might happen – particularly around loadable maps, Base Camp and 24k topos. I guess it can be achieved without introducing a card slot so need not be a hardware upgrade.

    • Andrew Skurka on May 16, 2019 at 8:38 am

      No, I do not.

  11. Robert Duncan on June 5, 2019 at 11:47 pm

    Looks like they came out with the new device today. GPSMAP 66i. MSRP of 899 CAD at MEC. I want one but at 900 bucks it better be one heck of a good unit. Personally I felt 600 plus the cost of the service plan was more then enough.

    • Andrew Skurka on June 6, 2019 at 7:26 am

      Struggling to justify that expense.

      $300 for inReach Mini gives you the same functionality when you pair it with your phone (which you probably carry with you already). And $30 per year gets you a GaiaGPS subscription, which is more powerful and user-friendly than what Garmin includes in a handheld GPS unit.

      • Robert Duncan on June 6, 2019 at 9:42 pm

        Awesome, I’ll have to check that out. Thanks for the help Andrew

    • Mark Stoneham on June 6, 2019 at 10:23 pm

      Not the advance I was looking for. I ended up going with precisely the combo Andrew has outlined – Mini + Gaia premium. Earthmate is pretty rubbish but with my configuration it’s not really an issue. 66i brings more features but also a shorter battery life, so will be OK for day trippers but could have done with replaceable AA batteries for longer tours.

      • Robert Duncan on June 7, 2019 at 12:20 am

        How do you guys find the battery life on your phone? Most likely need to carry a battery pack as well for a couple recharges?

        • Mark Stoneham on June 7, 2019 at 12:23 am

          Aux battery for sure. But my phone is my map, my camera, my book, and my music. The other thing that helps in the cold is a hand warmer stuck to the back.

          • Robert Duncan on June 7, 2019 at 12:25 am

            Awesome thanks Mark. Do you have a battery pack you recommend? I have one from Costco that’s half decently light but only get 2.5 charges out of it.



  12. Mark Stoneham on June 7, 2019 at 12:34 am

    I have a Cygnett but I’m in Australia so your availability is likely to vary. Available in many sizes/weights.

  13. Patti Singer on June 14, 2019 at 10:30 am

    Thinking of the mini for a hiking trip in Utah and then around my area, since I usually hike solo. I’m confused by some posts about use as GPS without a service plan. Do you need the $25 activation in order to get any of the personal plans? Not sure I want to use this as a GPS, but I do want to be able to use it for messages. Thanks.

    • Andrew Skurka on June 16, 2019 at 12:38 am

      To use the Mini as a messenger, you must activate it ($25) and have a monthly or annual plan.

      It can be used a GPS, but personally I prefer to use my phone with an app like Gaia or CalTopo.

  14. Pat Bernier on September 21, 2019 at 6:54 am

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m lost here and I hope you can help. Owner of a Inreach Explorer+ I can’t find the way to see areal maps on my device and Earthmate. I have the sattelite imagery in my MAPS on my desktop

    Earthmate maps management only allow Topographic or open map downloads.

    Any insight?

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