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Hands-on Gear Review
DeLorme InReach SE Satellite Messenger Review
Cons: Expensive, largest of the devices we tested, some issues with activation
Bottom line: Has the same app and connectivity as the new Garmin models, for almost $200 less.
The InReach SE wins our Best Buy award because it delivers most of the features of the new Garmin InReach Explorer+ for almost $200 less. That said, it might not be available for long as Garmin phases out the DeLorme line. 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.
It can be used as a stand-alone device a'la SPOT. 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 REVIEW: The Best Satellite Messengers and Personal Locator Beacons of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
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.
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.
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 3 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
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.
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.
— Chris McNamara
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Most recent review: April 12, 2017