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DeLorme InReach SE Satellite Messenger Review

Editors' Choice Award

Personal Locator Beacon

  • Currently 5.0/5
Overall avg rating 5.0 of 5 based on 3 reviews. Most recent review: October 14, 2015
Price:   $300 List | Varies from $270 - $300 online
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Pros:  Easy one-handed (and gloved, if not mittened) SOS operation, awesome two-way messaging, smartphone interface works well, pairs automatically on startup
Cons:  Expensive, largest of the devices we tested, some issues with activation
Manufacturer:   DeLorme
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ October 14, 2015  
The InReach SE Satellite Messenger wins our Editors' Choice award because it was by far the most reliable and easy-to-use satellite messenger we tested. It's also the only device we tested that allows your to reliably receive messages. The new "Freedom" plans let you send unlimited messages for a month for $65 without an annual contract. We thought we would recommend the new inReach Explorer over the SE. However, we don't find the added features of the Explorer justify an $80 price premium.

The DeLorme can be used as a stand alone device a'la SPOT, or it can be paired with your smartphone, which is where it really shines. It's expensive: $300 for the device and then $15-300 a year depending on what data plan you choose. But you really get what you pay for; less expensive options were far less reliable and much less feature rich in our tests. If you just want an SOS device, consider the ACR ResQlink 406 Personal Locator Beacon, which likely performs better in SOS send mode and does not require a data plan. View our complete Personal Locator Beacon Review to see how these devices compare in side-by-side tests.

RELATED: Our complete review of personal locator beacons

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

The InReach Explorer vs. The InReach SE

The inReach Explorer, $380, has all of the capabilities of the inReach SE, plus built-in navigation capabilities. You can create or view routes (including distance and bearing information), use the built-in digital compass, and access your elevation, speed, and moving average using the barometric altimeter and accelerometer sensors. In addition, you're able to mark important locations with waypoints and navigate a route to your waypoint or back to where you started. The Explorer also lets you view key trip statistics and detailed track logging, as well as plan your route and waypoints ahead of time; you can even share your experiences with your friends and family using a special portal.

Check out the quote below from DeLorme in regards to the new InReach Explorer; you'll also find a side-by-side comparison, with the InReach Explorer shown on the left and the InReach SE pictured on the right.

"Since your last review in 2011 we have launched the inReach Explorer a more robust, GPS navigation model of the inReach SE. The SE is still being manufactured, sold and supported but the Explorer offers several features that the SE does not have. These features include route planning, navigation, waypoints, high-detail "breadcrumb" tracking, and a digital compass. The price point is $379 retail."


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All that said, in the field, we never used the new features. We feel you should save $80 and get the SE.


Like the SPOT 3, the InReach operates on a commercial satellite network and requires a subscription to function. Setting it up was not significantly different from the Spot 3, but the DeLorme website is generally easier to navigate and the user account space is more intuitive. The InReach paired with our phone immediately the first time, and automatically every time after that. This may sound trivial, but in the world of satellite phones, hubs and messengers, it's very rare and enjoyable to have a device that connects so well.

The one issue we ran into was when starting and restarting the Freedom plan. It took some time and activation was not instant. It's a minor headache, but do allow some extra time to activate. Don't try to activate the hour before you leave cell phone range and keep your laptop and connector cable handy.

As Standalone

Even without the smartphone pairing, the InReach can still send 160 character messages to your contacts. Instead of just sending an "OK" message as with the SPOT, you can communicate with your contacts. Basically, if you like the "OK message" feature of the Spot, then you'll love being able to send messages with the InReach.

Both the DeLorme and the Spot 2 allow tracking and shared maps (the DeLorme allows you to adjust the tracking interval via the Eartmate app but the shortest interval possible is only 10 minutes). It's a small thing, but the DeLorme shared-map url is cool and personalized - check it out

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Screen shot of locating someone using the DeLorme InReach. The message bubbles are when we sent a location when we got to camp. The connected dots are when the tracking feature is turned on.
Credit: DeLorme / Chris McNamara

Also, the DeLorme page allows you to view waypoints across a custom date range, whereas the SPOT system only allows you to choose up to the last 30 days.

As a Paired Device

This is where the DeLorme really leaves the SPOT 3 in the dust. The features are many and the two standouts are the ability to send and receive(!) custom messages via your phone to any contacts you choose, and being able to view your location on downloadable DeLorme maps. The free Earthmate app is simple and intuitive to use each time I opened the app in a new location it prompted me to download the maps for that area, and it's also simple to download maps in advance for the region you plan to travel in (much smarter, since downloading 200mb of maps once you're already "there" is easier said than done). The map function shows your location, and also the most basic functions of a GPS: heading, elevation, speed and coordinates.


The InReach's successful message-send rate was 100 percent. The SPOT 3 was also likely 100 percent, but you don't get the same instant feedback to know your message was received. The InReach provided a small reassurance that if we did need the SOS function, it was very likely to work. In addition to that, not only could we watch the message successfully depart via smartphone, we could also receive messages in reply.

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Example of the InReach messaging when paired with a smart phone.
Credit: Chris McNamara

Satellite Network

The InReach operates on the Iridium network, which is global, whereas Globalstar (which supports SPOT), is not. I was not able to find reliable reports on the coverage of Iridium vs. Globalstar for the areas in which they overlap, but satellite phone retailers and reviewers almost unanimously favor Iridium.

The InReach is not cheap to operate depending on which plan you choose. To buy the unit and use it with the average subscription plan over the next three years will run between $950 and $1200. If you just use it for a month or two, the costs would be around $500-600 over 3 years. Obviously, the cost of this service is nothing compared to the value of having it possibly save your life, but the ACR ResQlink performs the basic SOS function at a three-year cost of $360 (taking into consideration the five-year $150 battery life). The SPOT costs $550 over three years. Therefore, the InReach is best indicated for those who want messaging and are happy to pay for it.

Other Versions

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inReach Explorer
  • Fully functional GPS unit in addition to two way text messager
  • Allows for tracks, waypoints, routes, and compass
  • Same texting plans as inReach SE
  • $379.99 ($80 more than inReach SE)


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The DeLorme Flotation Case
  • Cost - $20
  • Will keep your device afloat

Chris McNamara

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: October 14, 2015
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
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   Nov 1, 2014 - 06:40pm
Suzanne Connely · Camper · Taft
The author is dead-on about DeLorme's functionality. They simply take their solution to a higher level than their competitors.

I've used all the devices as well in the back country for years; each product has its own perks & advantages, but pound for pound, I'll take the inReach SE any day of the week.

The Sales Rep at REI in Boulder showed me a live inReach SE demo and we sent and received a couple of messages from the device.

I never really thought about the advantages of 2-way technology, until I was able to experience it.

I've always been fine using the SPOT2, but failed to realize how handy it would be to have real 2-way communications (like on your cell phone) and "converse"..

In a nutshell, getting delivery confirmation that my SOS & text messages got out is huge for me, not to mention how beneficial it is to my family to be able to contact me when I am out in the boonies.

The built in keyboard on the inReach SE finally gives me the flexibiuliy to text what I want, to whom I want.

I'm sure REI could have sold me about anything, but I'm glad they showed me the 2-way inReach. I'm sold on it.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 10, 2015 - 06:09pm
Dangalla · Climber · Eau Claire, WI
The guide service I work for has one of these and it makes communicating to the inside world a lot easier. I love that I can type customized messages and send them to select people with my location. Makes a lot of clients families comfortable being able to chat with each other. Battery is great lasts along time when used only a few times a day.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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