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Thread: Garmin InReach Explorer+ and why I purchased one

  1. #1
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    Garmin InReach Explorer+ and why I purchased one

    Iím in my sixties and have decided to start hunting as part of my ongoing fitness regime and to fulfill a long held passion to hunt. The issue is that throughout my life I have always been in the habit of going off into the bush on my own. Not to much of a worry when you are single, but a little different when you have a loved one waiting at home for you.

    I married my darling wife only five years ago. Three years before that, my wifeís, then partner left one morning to go into the mountains. He never returned. A search and rescue party brought his body out the following day.

    Needless to say my darling wife gets quite stressed and anxious when I go off into the bush for a days hunting on my own. The stress and worry only gets added too when I am late returning because I have mis-timed getting out of the bush before night fall or an agreed time; and being in an area without cell phone coverage, there is no way of letting my loved one know that I am OK - just running a little late.
    So, we started to look for solutions. Being a shift worker, finding a hunting partner that has the same days off as myself was not going to be easy. On top of that, who wants to go hunting with an old codger in his sixties? Usually only other old codgers, and finding one of them with a passion for hunting and the fitness level to crawl through bush, bash through scrubby gullies and climb to the snowline was not going to be easy.

    Technology could be the answer, I thought, so I started to look at beacons. Good for what they are but they still donít give comfort to a wife when you are late, she hasnít heard from you, and because of a past traumatic experience - a loved one never returning - she has visions of the worst scenario.

    Then I came across the Garmin InReach.

    To keep it short, for this post, the key factors that made me decide to purchase this service were
    1/. the ability to send and receive messages to loved ones or rescue services via satellite, and in theory, from any part of the globe.
    2/. To be able to send GPS coordinates to family or rescue services.
    3/. For family to be able to pinpoint your exact location at anytime and to track your progress on a map in real time.
    4/. A very simple system by which to summons rescue services if you should be in distress.

    Garmin currently sell three devices utilising the InReach service. What made me choose to purchase the Explorer+ and why did I not choose the cheaper SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS ? All good questions and I will take you through the process I used to determine my choice in a subsequent post.
    R93, Tikka7mm08, matagouri and 2 others like this.

  2. #2
    R93
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil_H View Post
    Iím in my sixties and have decided to start hunting as part of my ongoing fitness regime and to fulfill a long held passion to hunt. The issue is that throughout my life I have always been in the habit of going off into the bush on my own. Not to much of a worry when you are single, but a little different when you have a loved one waiting at home for you.

    I married my darling wife only five years ago. Three years before that, my wifeís, then partner left one morning to go into the mountains. He never returned. A search and rescue party brought his body out the following day.

    Needless to say my darling wife gets quite stressed and anxious when I go off into the bush for a days hunting on my own. The stress and worry only gets added too when I am late returning because I have mis-timed getting out of the bush before night fall or an agreed time; and being in an area without cell phone coverage, there is no way of letting my loved one know that I am OK - just running a little late.
    So, we started to look for solutions. Being a shift worker, finding a hunting partner that has the same days off as myself was not going to be easy. On top of that, who wants to go hunting with an old codger in his sixties? Usually only other old codgers, and finding one of them with a passion for hunting and the fitness level to crawl through bush, bash through scrubby gullies and climb to the snowline was not going to be easy.

    Technology could be the answer, I thought, so I started to look at beacons. Good for what they are but they still donít give comfort to a wife when you are late, she hasnít heard from you, and because of a past traumatic experience - a loved one never returning - she has visions of the worst scenario.

    Then I came across the Garmin InReach.

    To keep it short, for this post, the key factors that made me decide to purchase this service were
    1/. the ability to send and receive messages to loved ones or rescue services via satellite, and in theory, from any part of the globe.
    2/. To be able to send GPS coordinates to family or rescue services.
    3/. For family to be able to pinpoint your exact location at anytime and to track your progress on a map in real time.
    4/. A very simple system by which to summons rescue services if you should be in distress.

    Garmin currently sell three devices utilising the InReach service. What made me choose to purchase the Explorer+ and why did I not choose the cheaper SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS ? All good questions and I will take you through the process I used to determine my choice in a subsequent post.
    I just bought an inreach mini myself.

    I won't get my hands on it till I arrive in Vancouver next week but looking forward to using some of its handy features that almost make a satt phone obsolete. Definitely cheaper.
    I will put it on a monthly plan while overseas and I think its around $35 a month over there for a certain amount of messages. You can activate and deactivate at any time to suit usage.

    Not sure what plans they have here yet but a mate that also bought his inreach in Canada had to pay around $150 for it to work here in Nz.


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    I looked at the Mini and I have to say that in terms of size and simplicity I almost put an order in for one. Then I saw the method for entering text and it made me balk. The SE version and the Explorer are pedestrian enough when it comes to text entry but the Mini appears to be even more primitive. I have enough frustration in using the Explorer's text entry but have had practice from owning a Garmin 64. The other things that convinced me to go with the Explorer was the 100 hours battery life as apposed to the Mini's 50 hours, and while the mapping features of the Explorer are quite clunky in comparison to Garmin's other GPS's, for the difference in $120 dollars that I was going to pay I reasoned that having that mapping capability was a good back up.

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    Got an inreach last week, really like the ability to let loved ones at home know you will be a few hours late but no end to call search and rescue....

    Can't seem to get it to talk with my phone, sends txt direct from the inreach but doesn't send via the phone... Also didn't come with any maps, got some on my old Garmin 64s can I just copy and paste them off the card onto the new inreach or swap the sd cards over?

  5. #5
    R93
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil_H View Post
    I looked at the Mini and I have to say that in terms of size and simplicity I almost put an order in for one. Then I saw the method for entering text and it made me balk. The SE version and the Explorer are pedestrian enough when it comes to text entry but the Mini appears to be even more primitive. I have enough frustration in using the Explorer's text entry but have had practice from owning a Garmin 64. The other things that convinced me to go with the Explorer was the 100 hours battery life as apposed to the Mini's 50 hours, and while the mapping features of the Explorer are quite clunky in comparison to Garmin's other GPS's, for the difference in $120 dollars that I was going to pay I reasoned that having that mapping capability was a good back up.
    I always carry my phone in the bush for a number of reasons.

    You can pair the phone to the inreach so writing a message is easy as.
    I will also have preset emergency messages.

    50hrs battery life is a lot of time on the hill over the course of a trip.
    When safely in location or sleeping I plan to have it turned off. Otherwise I have a couple battery banks that will keep it charged.



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    Do they take standard batteries or are specific rechargeable one? Any USB/ power port that can be used with a battery pack?
    How much is the service in nz? A pay as you go system would be good.

  7. #7
    R93
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    Quote Originally Posted by Friwi View Post
    Do they take standard batteries or are specific rechargeable one? Any USB/ power port that can be used with a battery pack?
    How much is the service in nz? A pay as you go system would be good.
    The mini has a built in battery that is charged via USB. I think the other 2 are the same but not a hundy on that.

    Not sure on NZ plans but I will use the pay as you go Canadian plan. The cheapest is $19 dollar a month with 50 megs data iirc.

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    Post

    Quote Originally Posted by Friwi View Post
    Do they take standard batteries or are specific rechargeable one? Any USB/ power port that can be used with a battery pack?
    How much is the service in nz? A pay as you go system would be good.
    No they dont take standard batteries. It has a internal Li-on batt which can be recharged via USB and portable power pack.
    You can pay month at a time or annual sub. heres link to page with details and plans https://explore.garmin.com/en-NZ/inreach/


    @223nut May be a stupid question, did you have the app installed on your phone. It wouldnt talk to my one without phone having app installed. https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...orme.earthmate
    Last edited by Reindeer; 17-06-2018 at 11:15 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Reindeer View Post
    No they dont take standard batteries. It has a internal Li-on batt which can be recharged via USB and portable power pack.
    You can pay month at a time or annual sub.
    @223nut May be a stupid question, did you have the app installed on your phone. It wouldnt talk to my one without phone having app installed. https://play.google.com/store/apps/d...orme.earthmate
    Yeah installed the app before I went... Think I just ended to spend more time fiddling with it to get my head round it instead of trying to sort it out in a rush after sitting in rifles and whilst mate was pouring drinks.... And taking the instruction booklet would probably help!
    Reindeer likes this.

  10. #10
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    Part 2 - Garmin InReach Explorer+ and why I purchased one

    Why then did I choose the InReach service over a standard Personal Locator Beacon or the SPOT Gen3 Satellite GPS?

    First off the beacons.
    The Personal Locator Beacons have been around for sometime now and have proven over and over to be well worth the investment. However, times and technology have moved on. Indeed, if all you feel you need is a device to summons Emergency Rescue if you are in serious trouble in the bush, then I would suggest read no further and go and buy a beacon. But what of the situation where you are in the bush or on a mountain side and you break an arm or sprain an ankle. Are you in a life threatening situation? Immediately? Quite probably not. Would you feel it necessitates activating a beacon and summonsing Emergency Rescue? Think about it. As soon as you hit that button an Emergency Rescue team is dispatched to your location. As they don’t know what the emergency is they will go hard out and are prepared for any situation or possibility. In essence, these men and women are quite likely putting their lives in danger to come and rescue you, whereas, if you had been able to summons the help of a family member or a friend they could have quite likely have been able to walk in at a more leisurely pace and assist you out. When you activate a beacon there is no half measure, the rescue team that responds will go all out; they have to until they reach you and determine the nature of your emergency.
    (These last comments on Emergency Rescue Teams are from my limited knowledge and experiences of thirty years ago. I accept that things may have changed and I could have it wrong)

    And then there is the scenario of you being unconscious. Who knows where you are or how to respond if you haven’t activated the beacon? Quite possibly you won’t be missed until the date or time you were due out of the bush has past.

    If all that was available today was a PLB, then I would have probably gone with that and been quite happy about it; and there is one distinct advantage of the PLB. You pay the purchase cost of the device only. There is no subscription charges to pay as in the SPOT Gen 3 or the InReach services.

    The SPOT Gen3.
    I have watched these devices and the service for some time and had it not been for the InReach service I would have gone with it.

    First off, the SPOT allows unlimited auto tracking on all levels of subscription. This is something that InReach only offers on their second level of subscription. Also, like InReach, SPOT allows unlimited preset messages to be sent to friends and family. The only difference that I see between these messages is the SPOT service basically determines what these preset messages are about in as much that there are three different buttons, one for each message. The buttons are for summonsing help from friends or family, a custom message with you location, and a Check in/OK button with a customised message. InReach has three personally customised messages that you can determine the content and purpose. On my Garmin I have message one reporting “Checking in. All OK.” Message two reporting “Checking in. All OK but delayed” and I have yet to decide what I will have in message three. My understanding and experience so far is that each of the messages from the InReach service is sent with a link to their website that family and friends can click on which immediately presents a map showing exactly where you are.

    Other things that I really like about the SPOT Gen3 GPS is its simplicity, its cheap purchase price compared to InReach devices and the fact that on a trip you can basically set it and forget about it and all your loved ones at home get automated updates on your progress. And of course, it also has an emergency response button that summons a rescue if needed.

    Reasons that I didn’t pick it over the InReach service are the following. That it can only be purchased on a yearly subscription which in effect is dearer than the basic InReach subscription which is paid for on a month by month basis. It hasn’t the facility to allow freehand text messages, nor can you receive messages on the unit. The SPOT Gen3 only gives you the three buttons to send preset messages. Then possibly the final and deciding point that convinced me to go for the InReach were a series of reviews that I have found that have suggested that at times the SPOT service has large delays in relaying the preset messages, sometimes in the margins of hours. It is all very well and good sending a loved one a preset message saying that you are OK but if they are to receive it two to three hours late they may have already initiated a rescue. Reviews and personal experience with the InReach so far have shown delays of only five to ten minutes. That to me is not an altogether desirable margin but an acceptable one if the message reliably arrives within ten minutes of my sending it.

    InReach Service.
    What do I like about it? Well first off, it is owned by Garmin. It used to be owned by a small company, DeLorme, in the States but Garmin brought them out. It seems that Garmin’s direction is to incorporate the service into more of it devices. This makes me feel secure in that I believe Garmin can’t afford for the service to not be good or reliable and there should be an increasing number of devices - albeit Garmin devices - from which the service can be accessed. In the future I would also envisage Garmin finding newer and innovative ways in enhancing and deploying the service. Watch this space.

    As for the features of the current InReach service that I like? Let me list them.
    It is an affordable two-way satellite communicator. (More on the costs shortly)
    It offers two-way SOS. After you have activated the SOS to the Emergency Service you can continue to communicate with them via text. The SOS is linked to GEOS emergency services and Iridium, which is claimed to be the world’s only truly global network.
    It sends preset messages along with you location to multiple recipients. These preset messages are unlimited and free.
    It provides remote tracking so you loved one can be assured as to where you are.
    It offers interactive text messaging and emailing, and updating of social networks. You get 10 messages free a month with the basic plan and then each message costs $1.38 after that. With the more expensive plans the costs are cheaper.
    It allows loved ones to ping your location at anytime to get your precise location.

    I have the basic plan which costs me $26.39 a month. There is also a one off joining fee of $34.44. In the monthly plan I can send or receive ten text messages free. There after they cost me $1.38 each. The preset messages are unlimited and free with the bonus that they also send my location. This is the feature I will be using most. If you choose to have automatic tracking on, each trackingpoint costs $0.40. I also have the availability of suspending the service at a cost of $6.84 a month. This will be handy if there is any month when I don’t believe I will get the chance of getting into the bush - can’t really see that happening, but then again it is good to have the options.

    And that is basically why I chose the InReach Service. In my next post I shall detail the reasons leading me to choose the Garmin Explorer+ over the other two devices available.
    Reindeer likes this.

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    Part 3 - InReach, which device.
    When I looked at devices to access the InReach service I have to admit I only looked at the Garmin devices. I believe there are another set of devices offered by DeLorme that I didn’t look at. Why only Garmin? Well, because I am familiar with other Garmin products and I trust Garmin in terms of reliability of service and manufacturing of their devices.

    The Three Garmin devices that are available in New Zealand at the current time and the prices that they were available to me at the time I was looking were as follows.

    InReach Mini - $579
    Actually, the Mini wasn’t immediately available from the retailers I surveyed but was expected to hit NZ shores in one weeks time. While I wasn’t able to put my hands physically on an InReach Mini I spent a lot of time looking at reviews and videos on internet. My first impression was that it was a really neat little device. It was compact and light and just looked a delight, plus it was considerably cheaper than the other two Garmin models.

    InReach SE + $669
    The SE+ from all appearances is very much the same as the Explorer+ but without the mapping features.

    InReach Explorer+ $692
    To date the Explorer+ would appear to be the Rolls Royce of the Garmin InReach devices. It has all the capability of the other two models plus comes with mapping.

    When deciding what device to purchase I was initially looking for something that would give me good solid communication with my family when I was out in the bush; something that was reasonably priced; and if possible something that would be an upgrade to my current GPS, a Garmin Etrex 20.

    At first glance I thought the Explorer+ was going to fulfill all of these criteria. That was until I started looking more closely at the mapping. The mapping on the Explorer+ is from DeLorme. The topo maps that it provides for NZ are not a patch on the topo maps like MapToaster and Freshmaps that are available for the other Garmin models. Also, with the Explorer+ you are stuck with the maps that Garmin offers you as there is no facility to insert a chip with third party maps. Currently you can only download maps from InReach.Garmin and currently they only offer you a selection of DeLorme’s maps. Further, the navigating of maps and routes on the Explorer+ do not have all the same features and choices of standard Garmin GPS’s. Hopefully this and the lack of map choices will change in the future.

    When the realisation hit me that this wasn’t going to be a replacement from my Etrex I then leant towards the Un Reach Mini. It was the cheapest, smallest and lightest and just looked nice. That thought was then short lived when I learnt the the battery life was only fifty hours, as a opposed to 100 hours in the SE+ and the Explorer+ and the means of text entry into the device was just not for me. On the SE+ and the Explorer+ letters are typed into the device by navigating around an image of keyboard on the screen. With the Mini each letter is chosen from scrolling through a long column of letters. I knew that in the bush, and possibly under urgency to send a message, that method was going to drive me to frustration and be somewhat error prone in my hands. I believe that the Mini has been aimed at those who wish to connect to it by smartphone or some other device through Bluetooth. All very well for those that carry a smartphone or other device with them in the Bush. I for one don’t nor do I really want to. So the choice went from the Mini back to being between the SE+ and Explorer+.

    This new choice was really a no brainer. While the maps on the Explorer+ were not to the standard of an ordinary GPS it was not a bad backup in the bush should I need it; and then I was getting the Explorer+ with the maps for only $23 more. I didn’t have to think long on that one.

    In my next post I will tell of some of the things that I think could be improved on these devices plus my initial experience in using the device.

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    Great reviews phil,, thanks for taking the time to post these, look forward to the next segment....

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    With the bluetooth and app you can put the unit outside and stay in the hut and text via your mobile phone on those wet days

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikee View Post
    With the bluetooth and app you can put the unit outside and stay in the hut and text via your mobile phone on those wet days
    This I need to work out how to do... Just need to get out of reception and work on the problem... Sounds like a great excuse to go bush

 

 

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