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DeLorme InReach Satellite Messenger Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Personal Locator Beacons

  • Currently 3.4/5
Overall avg rating 3.4 of 5 based on 8 reviews. Most recent review: April 12, 2014
Street Price:   Varies from $240 - $250 | Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Easy one-handed (and gloved, if not mittened) SOS operation. Two-way messaging is awesome. Smartphone interface works well. Pairs automatically on startup. Overall very intuitive and easy to use.
Cons:  Expensive. Clunky ergonomics and design. Largest of the devices we tested. Not as effective as a PLB in life-threatening situations.
Best Uses:  Any activity or expedition during which satellite messaging and tracking is useful or crucial, absolutely needs clear view to sky in order to function properly. Water resistant.
User Rating:     
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 (2.6 of 5) based on 7 reviews
Recommendations:  43% of reviewers (3/7) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   DeLorme
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ March 13, 2013  
Overview
The InReach wins our Editors' Choice award because it was by far the most reliable and easy-to-use satellite messenger we tested. It is also the only device we tested that allows your to reliably receive messages. The DeLorme can be used as a standalone device a’la SPOT, or it can be paired with your smartphone, which is where it really shines. Its expensive: $250 for the device and then $100-300 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 Emergency Electronics Review to see how these devices compare in side-by-side tests.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Set-up
Like the Spot 2 Satellite Messenger, the InReach operates on a commercial satellite network and requires a subscription to function. Setting it up was not significantly different from the Spot 2, but the DeLorme website is generally easier to navigate and the user account space is more intuitive. Contrary to the Spot Connect Satellite Messenger, the InReach paired with my phone immediately the first time, and automatically every time after that.

As Standalone
Even without the smartphone pairing, the InReach can still send three different custom pre-defined messages to your contacts. Instead of just sending an “OK” message, you could choose between messages which broadcast your need for a ride, the message that you’re about to launch/depart/drop-in/whatever, or send a “meet me here” to your contacts. Basically, if you like the “OK message” feature of the Spot 2, then you’ll love being able to send three different messages with the InReach. Choosing is simple: just hold the message button down until the light flashes 1, 2, or 3 times.
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

Click to enlarge
Screen shot of locating someone using the DeLorme InReach
Credit: DeLorme

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 2 in the dust. The features are many, but 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.

Messaging
The InReach’s successful message-send rate was 85 percent (instead of 70 percent in the case of the SPOT 2), which provided a small reassurance that if I did need the SOS function, it was more likely to work than the SPOT 2. In addition to that, not only could I watch the message successfully depart via my smartphone, I could also receive messages in reply.

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

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. To buy the unit and use it with the average subscription plan over the next three years will run between $950 and $1200. 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 better at a three-year cost of $360 (taking into consideration the five-year $150 battery life). Therefore, the InReach is best indicated for those who want messaging and are happy to pay for it.

Chris McNamara and Matt Gerdes

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: April 12, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (2.6)

43% of 7 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
8 Total Ratings
5 star: 38%  (3)
4 star: 13%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 50%  (4)
Sort 7 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Apr 12, 2014 - 06:51pm
I am a military pilot, adventurist and general nut job. I have survived by being extremely good at risk assessment and mitigation. My ejection seat is fitted with a PLB so I can be found in the event of abandoning my aircraft. I live in the wilds of New Mexico, and love nothing more than to ride into the middle of nowhere on my motorcycle, and try to find my way home again.

The InReach is a superb piece of equipment, better than my military PLB because it can send and receive custom messages. Easy to set up and use (provided you can read; evidently some people who dislike this product do not know how to follow simple instructions). The battery life is excellent. The data plan allows me unlimited tracking points and plenty of text messages back and forth wherever I am on the planet. I keep the unit in a semi-hardened hard drive case in the back pocket of my motorcycle jacket, so if I fall off and end up stuck in a ditch I can reach it and call for help. From this case it still communicates with its satellites no problem. The iPhone interface app makes it simple to send lengthy messages, the mapping programme has excellent detail and is easily managed, and the unit is small and light enough that I can carry it at all times without being burdened.

If science forbid I should ever end up stuck in a ditch in the middle of nowhere this unit could save my life. All for a few hundred bucks. The people who write bad reviews about this kind of technology are the same people who complain their facebook connection is slow when they are half way across the pacific on a jet airliner with a gin and tonic in their hand and a lobster bisque on their seat tray. They would complain about a teleporter being too fast.

One more thing: one of the buttons on my unit failed. I emailed DeLorme and they sent a new unit and a UPS label to return the old one, no questions asked, within a few days.

Great product, excellent customer care, and state of the art sat comms in your pocket for a few hundred bucks. Who wouldn't want one?!?!?

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 7, 2014 - 08:02am
I am somewhat distressed and confused by the terrible reviews this product is getting. I used the second-generation SPOT communicator for about a year, losing more than 50% of my messages and generally considering it a waste of time and money (and no benefit to safety). Then I upgraded to the DeLorme Inreach for smartphones and so far I have enjoyed near-perfect reliability. There was one time I was in a deep canyon under redwood cover when I couldn't get a signal out, but hiking a short way and trying again resolved that.

I did have some issues setting up contacts on the web site; there were some frustrating bugs (contacts not adding properly at first), but I did eventually get it working. I agree that setup online is a bit confusing so I'm docking a star because I never quite understood DeLorme's instructions about adding contacts on the web site and how that makes sending messages from the phone easier. I understand that's necessary for the automated messages in standalone mode, but the smartphone app seems to have no trouble finding any contact from my phone and sending a message whether the person is one of my listed contacts or not.

Part of my docking a star is also because of the size of the unit; it is HUGE compared to the SPOT 2, but I'm willing to make that tradeoff given the reliability. Carrying the SPOT 2 was about as useful as carrying a rock.

I haven't used the InReach very much in the last 6 months or so, and I see all of the poor reviews here are from fall 2013. I hope the quality of the network isn't degrading, as I am considering upgrading to the Inreach SE for the built-in display. I'll update my review if tests of the Inreach this spring result in similar (negative) experiences to those shown here.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Oct 17, 2013 - 01:31pm
Mark Peterson · Skier · Boise
I wish I could rate this product with zero stars instead of the one star required. The Delorme InReach is a terrible product. It does not perform some of the functions advertised and for those that do work, they don't work well. I am an electrical engineer and tech savvy person who uses many different electronic products including computers, phones, tablets, GPS navigators for cars and aircraft, satellite phones, etc. Setting up the unit and online information is cumbersome, overly complex and unreliable. I had to delete and recreate contacts several times to get the thing to work. The unit does not work well in an aircraft. It must have a completely unobstructed view of the sky in order to communicate and send tracking information. Even when it had a clear view of the sky, it didn't work well. Sending and receiving text messages was very unreliable. Battery life is very short. After 10 months of trying to use the product, I gave up and cancelled my subscription. When I called Delorme, they reminded me that I had signed up for an annual contract and made me pay the remaining amounts. I can't believe a company would stick to this policy given my dissatisfaction with the product. What happened to the old Customer Satisfaction Guarantee? Over the past year, I have only been able to get the thing to work properly a few times while it has failed to work many more. As a result, I am going to throw the thing in the trash. Instead of a refund or allowing me to cancel my subscription, they bill me for the remainder of the contract. Stay away from this awful product and look for products from any other company other than Delorme.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Oct 4, 2013 - 06:32pm
Joestealth · Mountain Biker · Newcastle WA
One star is a star too many. I rarely have issues with outdoor gear, most things from most gear makers are dependable and legit pieces of equipment, these attributes are about the only thing that most people require…especially for a device that could mean the difference between life or death. I must second the opinion of another reviewer that this device is nothing more than an excellent box of plastic used to collect subscription fees for DeLorme. It has never successfully sent a message or received one; nor has the light indicating a signal ever been lit. This is a fairly cut-and-dried indicator that there is a defect, as it's sole purpose is to send and receive a signal. Having paid three months of a service plan I feel justified insisting that it be fixed. After spending $250 (and another $60 on fees)and hours on the phone/in-store, most people would feel thath paying to have a product shipped and repaired should not fall on the shoulders of the consumer. Bottom Line: My jacket sends a better signal to a satellite than the inReach.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 16, 2013 - 08:30am
I have nothing but horrible experiences with these guys. First, I buy the product and sign up for their service. There's no way to trial it so I spent a lot of time researching and thought they'd be worth it.

What a mistake!

I took this on numerous bike rides, weekend camping trips, etc in the wide open deserts of Utah. I kept track points turned on so I could validate things were working. HORRID! It would only occasionally show the track points, stopped tracking and let me without the peace of mind it's supposed to provide. I ended up taking it on a 7-day cruise. We had a room with a balcony and I attached it to a chair outside so that it would have a clear view of the sky the entire time. We were out for a week and yet only about 10 hours of the trip ended up having any track points at all.

So if I'd have had an emergency, we'd have been totally up a creek.

They sell this as though it's going to help, but we would have been worse off, thinking that we were monitored.

So I cancelled. What a headache!!! Nobody in support would help, salespeople go silent. I cancel the service and they continued to bill me. I finally had to open a dispute with American Express. Even after all that THEY STILL CONTINUE TO BILL ME!! I keep receiving new statements, new billing charges and to make matters worse, today there's a new $200 charge for who-knows-what.

Stay away from these people. Regardless of the product and service (which is crappy) these people are the worst!

If you want to have peace of mind and a decent emergency beacon, go with someone else. If you want to keep your money, go with someone else. Stay away from InReach!

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Aug 30, 2013 - 10:03am
Peter · Sailor · Minnesota
This device should be called "Out of Touch" instead of In-Reach, as the device can't be trusted to work, and their customer service and tech support is frustrating at best.

I purchased the Delorme In Reach Satellite Messenger in December of 2012, in anticipation of going on an extended off-shore sailing trip that winter. I tested it at home in December and it worked, but then when I tried to use it in the Caribbean in January, found it would not send messages. After spending hours and hours working with Tech support in January, including installing updated firmware in the device after it was only 1 month old, it still didn't work.

They indicated I needed to send it in, but would need a few weeks to turn it around, and I would need to be somewhere they could send it, so I did not have this saftety device available during the trip. They would not consider allowing me to return it or even refund the monthly subscription payments I was making during the time it was not operating.

I sent it back for service when I got back, recieved it back about 6 weeks later, only after I called and asked where it was…and then tried to take it on a Boundary Waters Canoe trip and it still does not work. Stay away from this device….you will be left stranded and still required to pay the monthly subscription charges.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Mar 16, 2013 - 12:47pm
Mark Mueller · Skier · Crozet
I had been a SPOT user since their Gen 1 product first came out for backcountry adventures, flying, and sailing. I have used PLBs, and have an old 121.5 ELT installed on my airplane. I also have many years experience with the Civil Air Patrol, and know how national-level rescue coordination works. At the end of the day, the InReach messenger is my go-to piece of kit. Both 406 and 121.5 PLB/ELTs have their weaknesses, in a real emergency I really want two-way sat com capability in my kit.

1) Versatility - two way comms is incredibly valuable. Cell service is NOT universally available even in the US (areas of WV are very challenging.) Having both SMS and emergency beacon all in one feature I now consider essential. You can use it both with and without a paired smartphone.

2) Utility - I have used my InReach for SMS in-flight during long x-countries as well as enabling tracking for my friends and family, but also had to use it for SMS during the massive destruction and weeks long power outages due to the derecho last year that knocked out cell service across large parts of the mid-Atlantic region.

3) Simplicity - I trained my 4yo daughter how to work the emergency function.

Yes, it is clunky and it has significant design weaknesses, but I found a pouch that I could mount on my pack that holds the device. When coupled with the Earthmate software, it makes a fairly good navigator. The annual expense is well worth the price if you venture off the beaten path, or like to expose yourself to significant risks in the backcountry for extended periods of time.

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