Garmin inReach Mini 2 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Tiny, light, can text from phone and device, great battery life
Cons: No seamless messaging
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Garmin inReach Mini 2
|Price||$399.99 at Backcountry|
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|$249.95 at REI|
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|$280 List||$204.21 at Amazon|
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$329.95 at REI
|Pros||Tiny, light, can text from phone and device, great battery life||Compact, great network, on-device basic controls||Small, affordable subscription options, proven satellite and dispatch networks, simple||Two-way messaging, on-device keyboard, smartphone interface||Reasonable initial purchase price, no paid subscription, uses proven global network, compact|
|Cons||No seamless messaging||No on-device message viewing or composition, USB-C charging (could be a pro for some)||Only supports SOS and tracking on the device itself, no custom messaging, occasional hardware issues||Bulky, tough customer and tech service||No non-emergency messaging|
|Bottom Line||The best two-way texting satellite device on the market, now with better battery life and interface||A small, light, and full-function two-way messenger that competes closely with the top of the heap||Compact, simple, two-way satellite communications using proven technology and relatively affordable subscription options||A two-way texting device with a built-in keyboard reminiscent of old Blackberry phones with slightly limited geographic coverage||This device provides a compact and affordable “help me” button in your pocket|
|Rating Categories||Garmin inReach Mini 2||ACR Bivy Stick||Somewear Global Hot...||SPOT X||Ocean Signal rescue...|
|SOS/Emergency Messaging (30%)|
|Non-Emergency Messaging (25%)|
|Signal Coverage (20%)|
|Ease of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Garmin inReach Mini 2||ACR Bivy Stick||Somewear Global Hot...||SPOT X||Ocean Signal rescue...|
|2-way Messaging Available via Cellular/Wifi?||No||No||Yes||No||No|
|Custom Messaging Viewable and Composable on Device?||Yes||No||No||Yes||No|
|Passive Tracking (turn on and forget about it - viewers at home can watch your progress on the web)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Weight w/ Batteries||3.5 oz||3.6 oz||4.1 oz||6.8 oz||4.0 oz|
|Battery Life (hours)||Up to 120 (rechargeable lithium battery)||Up to 120||Up to 1000 messages||240||24|
|Waterproof Rating||IPX7 (splashes & weather proof, nonsubmersible)||IP67||IPX7||IPX7 (splashes & weather proof, nonsubmersible)||Up to 15 meters|
|Pairs with Smartphone?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Dispatch service||GEOS||Global Rescue||GEOS||Focus Point International||COSPAS/SARSAT|
|Dimensions||3.9 x 2 x 1||1.9" x .9" x 4.5"||3" x 3.6" x .8"||6.5" x 2.9" x 0.9"||3.0" x 2.0" x 1.3"|
|Cubic Inches (L x W x H)||7.8||7.7||8.6||17||6.8|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The inReach Mini was a revolutionary leap, upgrading an excellent product and reducing its size and bulk in a meaningful fashion. Just a few years later, Garmin brings the inReach Mini 2 to market, with important refinements and no loss to everything we already know and love. The newest version is our favorite two-way satellite texting device, slightly edging out even the most exciting competition. It is still the only two-way, global texting device that has full (albeit slow and clumsy) on-device functionality. Deep in the wilderness, where "redundancy" and "backup plans" are crucial bits of vocabulary, the ability to retain full communication without a working smartphone is what sets all generations of the inReach Mini apart from other close competitors. The Mini 2 brings improved battery life, a better app experience, and a slightly refined on-device user interface.
All the devices we tested can be used to summon help in the event of an emergency. In fact, this is the attribute that unites the category. The inReach Mini 2 does so with a paid subscription. Any emergency message is routed through a for-profit call center employed by Garmin. In short, you push the "SOS" button, and a signal is sent, via satellite, to headquarters. That dispatch center will then know your location, some rudimentary identification information (which you added during registration and should update periodically), and that you have some sort of emergency. At this point, you need not do anything more. Dispatch will contact local resources.
If you have further information about your emergency that will help rescuers respond, you can send out these details with the Mini 2. It requires some preplanning and familiarity with the device and its function, but sending more nuanced information to emergency responders is possible. Short of two-way voice communications as provided by a satellite phone (way more expensive) or radio (shorter range and more complicated execution), two-way services like the InReach products provide the best possible emergency messaging service.
Emergency messaging differences between the InReach Mini 2 and its two-way communication competitors are minor to nonexistent; the end result is the same. With them all, you can send a "y'all come" message containing location data and follow up with more details on your situation. The Mini 2 and its close competitors are the most sophisticated emergency notification devices available today.
The original, larger inReach revolutionized backcountry communications with the ability to send and receive texts. The Mini continues this, just in a smaller form. Texting with the InReach device is slightly different from your smartphone (no media, and no group texts, for instance), but it is familiar enough to be easy to operate.
The two-way texting functionality of the inReach Mini 2 is matched by a few products on the market. Others might edge ahead with an included on-device keyboard or seamless messaging across satellite and more traditional data services (WiFi, cellular). Otherwise, clarity and reliability are pretty consistent across the board.
Our primary request for future iterations of the Mini or app is to have text chains continue seamlessly on satellite, cellular, and WiFi. Other options include this in a pretty standard fashion, so it cannot be that difficult. We had hoped that the newest update of this device would include this functionality. The app that syncs with the Mini 2 is definitely better than the one used by the original inReach Mini, but it does not yet allow seamless messaging. As a presumably software-only update, it could still be a functionality Garmin eventually includes.
Another sort of non-emergency messaging available on the Mini 2 (and on some other satellite text devices) is weather forecasts. The inReach app, through its "Premium" weather forecasting service, is the only product we know of that allows for the acquisition of a weather forecast for a spot that you are not currently sitting in. This is cool, and we wish other products offered the same functionality. Others offer the option to request a forecast, via satellite, only for the spot you are located at that moment.
Garmin programs the Mini 2 to work with the global Iridium satellite network. With patience and an understanding of the realities of all satellite communications (i.e., that steep terrain, buildings, and vegetation compromise or block all satellite signals, on all civilian networks, and with all types of hardware), the Mini works all over the world.
Many other tested devices use the same Iridium network. In side-by-side testing, we didn't notice any difference in the reception of any of them. There was some speculation that the smaller body of the Mini 2 (and associated smaller antenna) would result in poorer reception than the original "full size" inReach. In the open terrain and fairly steep valleys of Wyoming's Southern Tetons (Coal Creek, on the Teton Pass road, to be specific), the message sending capability of a handful of recently tested Iridium devices was identical. In further testing, the other Iridium-enabled devices have message transmission rates and reliability on par with all the inReach devices.
Ease of Use
You pay for the smaller stature of the Mini 2 by sacrificing some ease of use as compared to the bigger inReach devices. The Mini needs to be recharged more frequently, and sending messages straight from the device is harder. Battery life for the Mini 2 is noticeably better than that of the original Mini but not yet as good as the battery life of the full-size inReach options.
In reality, these drawbacks are minor. You have two main options for texting with the Mini 2, and Garmin smartwatch users have another option that most do not. You can text on your phone using the Garmin app, or you can text directly on the Mini device. Of these, texting with the app is far and away easier than texting on the device. Garmin smartwatch texting is even more annoying than texting directly on the device.
The battery life compromise of the Mini 2 isn't actually that big of a deal. For weekend to week-long trips, we found the multiple days of claimed battery life to be more than enough. The device turns on and off quickly, so you only burn the battery when texting. You will likely be equipped to recharge phones and camera batteries and other electronics on longer trips anyway. In this case, you can top off the Mini as well. It charges with a USB-c cable while the original Mini charges with micro USB, so factor that into your backcountry charging cable selection.
For those who wish to eliminate or reduce their smartphone use in the backcountry, be aware that the Mini 2 will mostly tie you back to that phone for contact and communications. There is only one option on the market that allows for clean two-way texting free of your smartphone (the SPOT X), and it is larger and less reliable than the Mini 2.
The inReach Mini 2 is small enough to be unobtrusive on literally every human-powered adventure. If you don't have room for the Mini, we want to hear about that. Even the quickest trail runs can be accompanied by this highly valuable piece of communication hardware.
The Mini 2 is exactly the same shape, size, and weight as the original Mini. They clearly made hardware upgrades (changing the charging port, for instance, and improving battery life) but chose to keep the form factor the same. Hopefully, this resulted in cost savings that the consumer can realize. The only reason to change the form would be branding; "this is the new version, and it looks different." In some ways, it is refreshing that this otherwise significant upgrade didn't require a new industrial design.
Comparing the costs of these devices and services is tricky. The initial purchase price is easy to compare, but that is only one part of the equation. Many of the satellite communicators we test also require a subscription, with services varying among the different devices and subscription fees. We've examined all the options and have found that the inReach Mini 2, over a long enough time frame, isn't horribly expensive. There are certainly products that come in at a lower initial price, but for all that it does, no product is a better long-term value than the inReach. If you really want to nerd out, we offer a price comparison chart in our main review.
Note that, as we predicted years ago, the value landscape of these products and services is changing at a rapid rate. The entry of multiple competitors really is shaking up the field. We have to update our cost comparison chart every few months or so. Even then, we aren't always catching everything.
At this point in history, the Garmin inReach Mini 2 is the best two-way satellite texting device and service. It is not perfect, but it is better than anything else currently on the market.
— Jediah Porter
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