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Hands-on Gear Review

DeLorme InReach SE Review

A satellite communication device that can pair with some DeLorme handheld GPS devices.
Price:   $300 List | $249.99 at Amazon
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
Bottom line:  Has the same app and connectivity as the new Garmin models, for almost $200 less.
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Dimensions (in./cm):  4.8 x 2.8 x 1.7 inches, 12 x 7 x 4.3 cm
Weight w/ batts oz/g:  8.18oz / 232g
Battery Life (hours):  100 hrs (lithium batteries)
Manufacturer:   Garmin

Our Verdict

The InReach SE offers a solid value because it delivers most of the features of the new Garmin InReach Explorer+ for less. That said, it might not be available for long as Garmin phases out the DeLorme line. It can be used as a stand-alone device, and you really get what you pay for. Less expensive options were far less reliable and much less feature rich in our tests.


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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Chris McNamara

Last Updated:
Thursday
May 25, 2017

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Setup


The InReach operates on a commercial satellite network and requires a subscription to function. Setting it up isn't particularly challenging, and the DeLorme website is generally easier to navigate. 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 A Standalone


Even without the smartphone pairing, the InReach can still send 160 character messages to your contacts. The DeLorme allows 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

Screen shot of locating someone using the 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.
Screen shot of locating someone using the 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.

Also, the DeLorme page allows you to view waypoints across a custom date range.

As a Paired Device


This is where the DeLorme really shines. 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. 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 100 percent. 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.

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

Satellite Network


The InReach operates on the Iridium network, which is global. We were 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 there are likely some less expensive options.
Chris McNamara