My earlier preview of the new Garmin inReach SE+ and Explorer+ prompted as many reader questions as it sought to answer. So I followed up with Garmin to dive deeper into technical matters, clarify product functionality, and discuss future product roll-outs. If you’re not yet familiar with the inReach+ units, read the preview first, then return here.
A special thanks to my readers and r/Ultralight for their questions, and to Maddie from Garmin for getting all the answers.
Questions about the inReach SE+ and Explorer+
Does the SOS message function even if the device does not have an active subscription?
Important question! The SOS function will only work if the user has an active subscription! The inReach needs that subscription for the Iridium satellites to pass the message through to the server that connects the user to GEOS Search and Rescue.
Users should read the Quick Start Guide and follow all of the warning messages they will see in our packaging and in our user interface telling them to be sure their device is active. There is a Test page that will do a round-trip test of the system too, a good thing for people to do before they head out into the woods on a trip.
How does satellite reception compare between the current inReach and new inReach+ units? Has the signal strength been improved in this latest generation?
The inReach+ performs the same as the previous generation.
What is the weight of the inReach+ units?
The inReach SE+ and Explorer+ weigh 7.5 ounces (213 grams). This represents an increase of 0.6 ounces (17 grams) over the second-generation units. The increase is due to the larger screen, buttons, and battery.
Besides the TOPO North America maps, what other maps or imagery can be loaded onto the Explorer+? Can you load Garmin maps (which you might already own) onto it? Could this list be expanded in the future with a software update?
The user can view additional maps on their paired Earthmate app, but the inReach Explorer+ will only show the DeLorme Topo North America maps. The Earthmate app will let them view DeLorme Topo North America, USGS 7.5 minute Quads, Color Aerial Imagery, and NOAA Nautical Charts, along with several different hunting map types.
The user can’t load Garmin maps at this time. We are researching how to do this via the Earthmate app for the future but aren’t planning this for the inReach Explorer+. That doesn’t mean I won’t push for it though! Our public answer right now is that the inReach Explorer+ and Earthmate app don’t support the Garmin map engine at this time.
Will the inReach Explore portal and Garmin BaseCamp be merged, so that users do not need to copy their data from one to the other in order to use compatible devices?
We have a few things in the works, but nothing we can comment specifically on now.
Is the battery replaceable? I know it’s not field-replaceable, but over time it starts to lose its charge, and this service would improve the lifespan off the device.
Our battery is rated for 500 full recharges. That means you add up each partial recharge until it totals a full recharge and then you can do that 500 times. We’re estimating 2 years of continuous use but more likely 5 years of normal consumer use.
If the user has a battery that doesn’t keep a charge within the first year, it is covered under warranty and we’ll service it.
Has the operating system from the second-generation inReach units been carried forward to the inReach+ units? Does this O/S offer the same functionality as the Garmin GPSMAP 64, such as the ability to change the log interval, and to import and export data to an online platform?
Yes, the inReach+ units use the same O/S as the second-generation units. Data can be imported to and exported from the device from your account at https://inreach.garmin.com. The inReach+ units offer about ten log intervals, between 1 second and 10 minutes; the default is 1 minute.
Note that the log interval is different than the tracking interval. The latter specifies the frequency at which the inReach sends its GPS location to the Explore web portal and the user’s MapShare page. It defaults at 10 minutes; shorter intervals are available by upgrading to the Extreme service plan.
You may reduce the tracking interval to improve battery performance, using the Extended Tracking Mode. You can track continuously for a month if you reduce the interval to 30 minutes, and for 90 days if you only need to send one location update an hour! That’s a theoretical value, I’ve never been that excited about a one-hour interval… I go with the 2-minute Extreme Plan personally.
In terms of the physical build and components, are the inReach+ units best described as a second-generation inReach inside of a Garmin GPSMAP 64 case, or a GPSMAP 64 that has been tweaked some to get inReach functionality?
While the inReach+ is a handheld GPS like the GPSMAP64, it is definitely a separate model and shouldn’t be described as part of the GPSMAP line. That device uses different maps and has different activity pages. We are exploring ways to incorporate this into future products.
Questions about older inReach units and other Garmin products
For how long will Garmin offer subscription service (e.g. Freedom or Annual Plan) and product support (e.g. warranty claims and repairs) for the original DeLorme inReach, and the second-generation inReach SE and inReach Explorer?
We have no plans to end subscription support for previous inReach products. All of our hardware devices come with documented warranty claims so I would defer to those for how long they will be honored. No changes there either though.
I’ll have to check on repairs, I think some of that might be driven by availability of parts.
Obviously the inReach+ units will replace the current inReach units. But will they also replace the Garmin 60/62/64 GPS units, or will those continue to be available?
The inReach+ unit is a separate product line from the GPSMAP60 series and will not replace that popular handheld GPS line.
When will DeLorme offer an inReach Nano, similar to the original inReach. This screen-less device would be smaller and less expensive than the current units, and rely mostly on the smartphones that most of us already carry into the backcountry (because we use it for navigation and entertainment, and because we don’t want to leave it in the car).
We can’t comment on any specifics now, but stay tuned!
General product questions
What differentiates the inReach from the functionality of a PLB and of a combination smartphone/PLB?
The inReach and a PLB can both be used to signal for help in an emergency, using worldwide satellite coverage. The inReach relies on the Iridium network; a PLB, on the Cospas-Sarsat networ, using a very specific (406Mhz) frequency to broadcast messages.
The functional similarities mostly stop there. An inReach can be used to send customized non-emergency messages (“Hi honey. I’m fine but I took a wrong turn today and will exit a few hours later tomorrow than I expected.”), using the virtual keypad or using the Earthmate app on a smartphone. The inReach can also receive incoming messages, and broadcast a periodic track (e.g. every 10 minutes) so that family, friends, and SAR teams know your location between messages.
A PLB is for emergencies only, and it cannot receive incoming messages. Moreover, it cannot be paired with a smartphone. So, if you carry a smartphone in the backcountry, its usefulness is depending on having cellular reception for phone calls, text messaging, and data.
Can text messages be composed on a smartphone and then sent?
There are three ways to compose text messages on the inReach+. This is unchanged from the current inReach.
First, you can use preset messages, which you create in your online inReach account. To send, navigate to the preset messages in the inReach screen, and select the message.
Second, you can pair a smartphone to the inReach using Bluetooth and the Earthmate app. Essentially, you use the phone like a keyboard and the inReach like a satellite modem.
Third, you can use the inReach’s virtual keyboard. This is relatively tedious, but it’s better than a smartphone in harsh weather conditions like rain and cold, when the touchscreen and battery of a smartphone do not functional as well. We’ve also worked hard to create predictive text and word suggestions so that as you type a possible word will be suggested so you can enter your text faster.
Suggestions for improvement
Fix the character limit. Currently, 10 characters are used to include the recipient, and more characters for the ad at the end. Full use of the character limit by the user would be preferred.
There are options in the Account section of the Explore Web Portal that allow the user to control what is included in their SMS message. From the website:
Add GLONASS support for those in the higher latitudes.
Good request, we don’t have this for the inReach+ but it is something we’re looking at for future products
The screen size and resolution poorly represents the inReach brand. It looks like it has not been updated since the 1990’s.
We chose the best screen we could, given our target BOM and need to keep the cost of the inReach accessible to the consumer outdoor recreation user. Keep in mind that our screens use sunlight-readable transflective displays for easy viewing outdoors, unlike LCD/LED displays (like in an iPhone) that get terrible glares when in direct sunlight.
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