InReach1The DeLorme inReach Explorer is a global satellite communicator – a GPS unit that is capable of GPS positioning and navigation. Yet, the idea this platform is built on is allowing the user two-way communications via text to any cell phone or email address in any country no matter where they are. The Explorer also has the ability to post updates to social media so that friends can track you via your MapShare page. The MapShare can be posted on Facebook, a blog or any other web application that the user may find.

The DeLorme inReach Explorer functions on two networks. One being the Global Positioning System, maintained by the U.S. Government. This allows the unit to perform the standard GPS functions, navigation and the setting of way points. It contains a digital compass, a barometric, altimeter, an accelerometer and an odometer along with taking other trip statistics while in the field, such as trip time, max speed, moving average and trip distance.

Tracking intervals is at the core of the GPS unit portion. This is where all the useful data comes from. Basically the interval is how often it pings the satellite. The shorter the interval, the more data that will be collected, thus the greater amount of details for statistics and for navigation. DeLorme graciously set me up on their best plan (yes, there is a subscription, more on that later). I mostly ran the unit at the shortest interval settings. I did this both on foot and on some driving road trips, and I was quite pleased with the level of detail that I was able to access. At that short of an interval setting, the memory of the unit is going to fill up faster and the battery is going to drain more quickly. I found that the battery life was very good. It’s difficult to quantify the life of the battery because there are so many ways to drain it. But to attempt to test it, I hiked for a few days with a short interval setting, regularly checking the unit for navigation, and the unit stay powered on a single charge. The memory also proved to be sufficient even after storing numerous trips. When in personal use, I would have download the navigation information ahead of time and only loaded the data I would need for that particular trip. Both battery and memory proved to be sufficient for the given tasks.

InReach2

The other main function of the unit is the two-way text communications and the ability to upload content onto social media. It allows the user to communicate via the Iridium satellite network by text. The user can also post directly to Twitter or Facebook by linking to their appropriate accounts. It’s possible to send text messages both to cell phones and to email addresses. The inReach Explorer embeds precise location coordinates in sent messages. Perhaps you found that fantastic nature spot, and you just need to hang out there a few more hours, but don’t want your significant other to worry and call out a SAR team because of a missed return time – it’s okay if you’re inReach.

It seemed to take a long time for my text messages to be sent. DeLorme states it usually takes a minute or so. I experienced longer delays in open fields, so I knew it wasn’t the lack of line of sight causing the slow uptake.

There is more to say about the functionality of the unit, but I want to toss out some thoughts on the user interface (UI). Not awesome. Perhaps I’m spoiled by the world of large format touch screens. Though this unit’s UI works – it works fine – I kept getting the sense that it could be better. The unit works on a central 4-way cursor button with two other buttons that act as (yes/no) and (accept/cancel). Maybe I’m spoiled by the use of touch screens, but I still felt the navigation was less than desirable. The biggest issue for me was sending a text message using the cursor button. Scrolling through the alphabet one letter at a time was, well, not ideal. There are some preset messages, and the user can create their own preset messages, but they could never cover all of the conversations you might have. The rest of the UI is pretty straight forward and easy. Simply navigate the cursor to the desired icon, click the check mark key and go into that sub-directory. Pretty simple and functional.

InReach3

One of the cool functions DeLorme developed was to set up the inReach Explorer to be able to pair with smart devices through bluetooth. This is where the unit really opens up. Download the free Earthmate app and navigation can now be seen on a larger screen. This makes the communication functions within the device easier to work with. This also allows access to downloadable topographic maps and U.S. NOAA charts. Once paired, reading navigation details is even easier and route planning is not only easy, it’s a lot of fun.

Another feature that DeLorme put a lot of thought into and stresses on this unit is the SOS feature. There is an instant SOS button – press it and a SOS is sent to a 24/7 monitored communications center. The SOS operator can then contact you via the two-way messaging feature to get details on the nature of your emergency. This SOS feature can also be accessed in the software.

Initially, I was disappointed with the screen size. However, as I used the inReach Explorer more, I found it wasn’t as much of an issue as I originally thought it might be. Yet, setting it next to my friend’s full screen GPS, I did have a little screen envy. Functionally, in the field the screen size is fine. The user may prefer a larger format, though this unit is still worth a look.

An active satellite subscription is required to use the inReach Explorer, but there are a few options available to choose from. There are four plans to choose from and two categories of the plans. The two categories are an “Annual Plan,” requiring a 12 month contract, or a “Freedom plan” with higher fees. The Freedom Plan offers the user the flexibility to roll up and down the four plans, though there is a 30 day commitment. The Freedom Plan comes at an added cost annually of $24.95.

 

The four plans are:

Safety Plan – $11.95/mo (annual contract) or 14.95 (Freedom Plan)

Recreation Plan – $24.95/mo (annual contract) or $34.95/mo (Freedom Plan)

Expedition Plan – $49.95/mo (annual contract) or $64.95/mo (Freedom Plan)

Extreme Plan – 79.95/mo (annual contract) or $99.95/mo (Freedom Plan)

Each plan offer the user more in terms of text messages, tracking intervals, tracking points and locations pings.

There is also a $19.95 activation fee and overage charges for messages that only apply on the Safety Plan and the Recreation Plan. The Expedition and Extreme booth have unlimited messaging.

 

Bottom Line:

My overall impression of the unit was that it is durable and has a lot of exciting features and some very useful functionality. Again I will state that my beginning impression changed as I used the unit, it offers a lot features and functions. It survived rain just fine and being banged around. It’s a tough and well constructed unit.

Tech Specs:

  • Weight: 6.7 ounces
  • GPS accuracy to +/- 5 meters
  • Water rating: IP67 (withstands incidental water exposure; tested for submersion at one meter for 30 minutes).
  • Rugged, dustproof and impact-resistant (Mil-STD-810G for shock; IP67 for dust).
  • Impact-resistant (Mil-STD-810G for shock)
  • Internal lithium polymer battery (2,450 mAh capacity at 3.7 V)
  • SOS messages are received by GEOS, a worldwide emergency response coordination center with 24/7/365 staffing
  • Weight: 6.7 ounces
  • Email, SOS and tracking functions work anywhere in the world; SMS availability may vary by country.
  • MSRP: 379.95

DeLorme InReach Explorer

$379.95
8

Weight

8.0/10

Durability

9.0/10

Usability

7.0/10

Pros

  • Compact and Rugged
  • SOS feature
  • Global coverage
  • Can pair with a smart device

Cons

  • Slow to upload messages
  • Service plan required
  • Needs to pair with a smart device to be awesome
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