Garmin - InReach Mini review by 1K

First up, as with any review of GPS or safety equipment, I am not taking any responsibility if you use this review and manage to come unstuck as a result. You're on your own, maybe literally.

Garmin InReach Mini - Peace of mind in a tiny package. If you like to ride out of the way places, or do anything at all that takes you out of cell coverage you should buy one of these. No question. Do it now. If you ride solo, you should already have one. If you ride solo and don't already have one, you should buy one before you even consider that shiny new exhaust, snazzy goggles or go-faster sticker kits.

In New Zealand it is super easy to get out of normal phone reception. It's one of the reasons this such a good country to get amongst it. However, I am not some urine-drinking adventure tosser that thinks carrying a GPS is for pussies, and, to be honest, it's quite reassuring to have an easy, affordable connection to the real world. It's nice to say hello to my wife, or tell my buddy I'll be late to the rendezvous, or inform the ambo's I've broken every bone in my body and if they wouldn't mind giving me a free ride in the big red chopper, from anywhere at all (almost).

I'm going to give it 5 stars as a safety device. There are some issues with it, but these do not weigh down the overall security factor that is the primary reason for owning and using one of these devices.

Pros: Lightweight, great battery life, good Sat reception, easy to use, kinda cool.
Cons: Small screen for onboard messaging, multiple programs required for 'full functionality' (this doesn't really affect its utility).

First the good stuff. Weight and size are minimal. Fits in any pocket and weighs 100grams. We don't need to talk about this. The internal USB charged lithium battery lasts ages, especially if you are not tracking, or if you are tracking, using it in extended tracking mode. I'm not going to put a time on it but if you don't track, keep the Bluetooth off, turn it off at night and aren't sending a lot of messages, it should last 3 - 5 days without any problems. I have never had to charge it on trips up to four days in length. Cold weather would decrease this, but you know that already. The device charges quickly and turns on and off easily with a long push on the power button. Switching off produces an audible note for confirmation (if sounds are on). It's nice to use, looks good and comes standard with a large, one-size-fits-all, get-out-of-jail-free card*.

Menus are intuitive, buttons easy to use and set up basic. The device can do messaging stand-alone, but its tiny screen and limited scrolling options means typing out a message is pretty slow and painful. However, while you can set up present messages (which are pretty limited, people with Spot will be familiar with this), where the InReach crushes the Spot Messenger is its ability to send customised messages and bluetooth pair with your phone. If you have downloaded the free Garmin "EarthMate " app, your phone then becomes the interface for messaging, tracking etc. Too easy. It's $300 for the rudimentary messaging of a Spot vs $590 for the full monty InReach. No comparison. Sorry spot owners. The flexibility of the InReach totally outweighs the frankly meaningless $200-$300 price difference between the two devices.

The only issues with the device are the result of Garmin buying the InReach tech from, well, InReach. For basic function you need a couple of apps and software to make it run, update etc. It's all easy, but lumpy. I imagine it will be sorted when the InReach development side is fully absorbed into Garmin Corp.

At the most basic you will need:
- Device. Expensive, but not considering what you are getting.
- Subscription. Not free. NZ$25/month for the cheapest "Freedom Safety Plan"
- Garmin EarthMate app on your phone. Free. IOS & others
- InReach "Sync" program on your computer to update. Free. Mac & Windows.

Subscriptions vary, but the cheapest here in NZ gives you 10 free messages per month. Messages in and out are counted (obviously). Extras are $0.85 each so no txt romance for you. It's also helpful to tell people to not send you heaps of garbage in reply as it all adds up, unless you appreciate paying $15 to hear all about what the dog threw up on the carpet or what happened at school. I didn't know Dexter would eat that thing either. Wow.

I don't really do the whole tracking thing but if you do, it costs extra if you are using the basic plan. If you are into that get a higher subscription where tracking is either cheaper or free. One feature of tracking is to let others follow your whereabouts online. Maybe when I do my RTW trip I'll go for this. Currently, no. Also requires signing in online. Bloody hell.

For the way I intend to use it, as a safety device, I don't think this has any close competition on the market. It also helps in getting a hall pass from the missus as I can stay in touch and let people know if we have any issues. Gives everyone confidence.

On a serious note, myself, and I'm sure many of our ADV community have been in or know of instances where close associates have needed to walk/run/drive to get to a phone or to reception in emergency situations. Personally, in at least one of these situations, earlier emergency response would have resulted in — how to put this — a less fatal outcome. I'm happy I carry one, even if not for my own sake. With this in mind, if possible you might want to think about carrying the device on you (in your jacket or pants) or if you'll excuse the pun, in reach. Trying to hobble 20m uphill through bush with a broken whatever to reach your bike's tank bag may not be ideal/possible.

Have you bought it yet?

(* does not actually include a get-out-of-jail-free card).
Clear, easy to read screen, if a little small for typing. Device also comes in full black for those who appreciate losing things, or bogans.
SOS. Pop the cover. Press and hold. No rocket science here.
Easy one button power on / off.
USB charge
review by 1K