Garmin inReach Mini vs inReach Explorer+

Garmin inReach Mini vs inReach Explorer
The Garmin inReach Mini (MSRP $350) and the inReach Explorer+ (MSRP $449) are satellite-based communicators that share a common set of capabilities in terms of emergency communication, two-way messaging, tracking, and navigation. Both units require the purchase of a satellite messaging subscription plan, which costs the same regardless of which unit you choose.  Despite their similarities, there are significant differences between the inReach Mini and the inReach Explorer+ which are important to know about so you can pick the right unit for your needs.

  • Physical Dimensions
  • Battery Life
  • GPS Navigation Capabilities
  • Cold Weather Use
  • Darkness

Physical Dimensions

The inReach Mini is much smaller and lighter weight than the inReach Explorer+, making it more suitable for trail runners, day hikers, and ultralight backpackers who want to minimize the weight and bulk of their gear. However, its small screen, touch-screen controls, and monochrome display can make it awkward to access its more sophisticated capabilities, including GPS navigation and ad hoc messaging. To use those capabilities, you need to connect the Mini to a smartphone with Bluetooth, much like a computer monitor, and use your phone’s display and controls.

  • inReach Mini+
    • Weight: 3.5 oz (100 g)
    • Physical Dimensions: 2.04” x 3.90” x 1.03” (5.17 x 9.90 x 2.61 cm)
    • Display Type: monochrome, transflective memory-in-pixel (MIP)
    • Screen Size: 0.9″ x 0.9″ (23 x 23 mm)
  • inReach Explorer+
    • Weight: 7.5 oz (213.0 g)
    • Physical Dimensions: 2.7″ x 6.5″ x 1.5″ (6.8 x 16.4 x 3.8 cm)
    • Display Type: transflective color TFT
    • Screen Size: 1.4″W x 1.9″H (3.5 x 4.7 cm); 2.31″ diag (5.9 cm)

In contrast, the inReach Explorer+ is entirely self-contained with physical buttons that can be used to control all of the device’s functions including a color map navigation screen. In the event of an actual emergency, you’re probably going to want to send and receive detailed messages with search and rescue. The Explorer+ is going to be easier to work with than the Mini and is not dependent on a second electronic device, your phone.

Battery Life

The inReach Explorer+ battery has an average battery life of 100 hours which is twice as long as the Mini’s average battery life of 50 hours.  While there are various tips and tricks you can use to extend the battery life of both units, there’s no getting around the fact that the Explorer+ battery is over twice as large as the Mini’s battery. In addition, if you use the inReach Mini in conjunction with a smartphone via Bluetooth (which is an energy hog) you also have to factor in the battery life of your smartphone.

  • inReach Mini Battery Life:
    • Type: Rechargeable, built-in lithium-ion battery
    • Capacity: 1,250 mAh
    • Recharging interface: micro USB
    • Average Battery Life: 50 hrs
  • inReach Explorer+ Battery Life:
    • Type: Rechargeable, built-in lithium-ion battery
    • Capacity: 3,100 mAh
    • Recharging interface: micro USB
    • Average Battery Life: 100 hrs

With its smaller battery size, the Mini is best used by day hikers and short overnight trips up to 2-3 days in length, while the Explorer is better for longer backpacking, bikepacking, or hunting trips lasting 4 days or more. While you can carry a spare battery to recharge both devices, you’ll have to do it a lot less often with the Explorer+.

The buttons and color screen of the Explorer+ and much easier to use and see than the monochrome touchscreen Mini interface
The buttons and color screen of the Explorer+ and much easier to use and see than the monochrome Mini interface, particularly in low light.

GPS Navigation

The inReach Explorer+ comes with preloaded color maps for North America and Canada (1:24k) and Mexico (1:125k), and it’s GPS navigation capability is entirely self-contained with a built-in display screen, digital compass, barometric altimeter, and an accelerometer (so you don’t have to be moving for it to know which direction it’s pointing. While the Explorer+’s capabilities and ease of use fall short of more sophisticated GPS units, it’s still perfectly usable and makes a good backup for another navigation device, be it map and compass or another GPS unit. You can also control when its GPS tracking capability is activated to conserve battery power.

If you have an inReach Mini and you want to navigate with it, you need to download maps to your phone for offline use and link the Mini to your smartphone using Garmin’s Earthmate App and Bluetooth. This will drain the Mini and smartphone batteries at an accelerated rate. The Earthmate is also the worst popular phone navigation app available today and is very difficult to interface with other navigation tools.  I’d recommend getting the Explorer+ if GPS functionality is required.

Cold Weather Use

The Explorer+ has a push-button interface that has icons printed on the front-facing buttons. It is very easy to use when wearing gloves in cold weather because you can see what you’re pressing.  This is a great benefit if you use the device in winter, especially in dangerously cold conditions or high windchills, where taking off your gloves would be dangerous. Not surprisingly, the Explorer+’s button layout mirrors those of Garmin’s other button-based GPS units which are also designed for cold weather use with gloves. The Mini’s buttons are positioned on the sides of the device and are much less user friendly because you can’t see the black-on-black icons printed on the buttons. The buttons are also spaced quite close together, which can make it difficult to press the right one without taking your gloves off.

Darkness

Most search and rescue requests are initiated near sundown or at night when hikers realize that they’re horribly lost, that they didn’t pack enough insulation to weather the night, or they freak out because they don’t have flashlights and can’t see in the dark. While you can simply press the SOS button on the inReach Mini or Explorer+ and hope that help is coming, you stand a better chance at survival or rescue if you can communicate back and forth with rescue crews. However, the inReach Mini’s user interface is too dim to see in darkness unless you connect your smartphone to it and burn down both batteries, which you probably want to avoid in an emergency. The self-contained and brightly backlit inReach Explorer+ screen is a much better option once darkness has fallen.

The Bottom Line: Mini vs. Explorer+

If all you want in a satellite communicator is the ability to share your route with others so they can locate you in an emergency (tracking), send pre-canned status messages to your family, or send a pre-canned SOS message, on day hikes and short overnight trips in warmer weather, the Garmin inReach Mini will satisfy your needs.

If in addition, you want a device that you can use on much longer trips or in cold weather while wearing gloves, you need the more advanced capabilities provided by the Explorer+ such as the ability to easily compose ad hoc (not pre-canned) messages to send to your family or search and rescue services, if, for example, you need expert instructions to stabilize a patient; graphical GPS navigation; and weather forecasts; I’d recommend getting the Explorer+.

Why I carry an inReach Explorer+

I own both the Garmin inReach Mini and the inReach Explorer+ but I only use and carry the inReach Explorer+. I hike and backpack in mountainous terrain all year long and need a device like the Explorer+ that I can use while wearing gloves. I also want the ability to compose and send detailed ad hoc messages to my family or search and rescue, especially at night. I feel the latter is particularly important in the event of an injury to myself or a companion, in order to receive medical instructions that can be used to stabilize a patient until rescuers can arrive. Message composition is just too slow, battery draining, and awkward an activity with the inReach Mini or a networked smartphone.

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62 comments

  1. I have the mini. It meets my needs, but I can understood someone wanting more. If I were to upgrade, I would probably skip the the Explorer+and go to the more powerful 66i. It’s only $100 more than the explorer+ at the current sale prices.

    Has anyone had any issues with messages not being delivered? I’ve not, but I don’t use the feature much. From what I’ve gathered, messages sent to email addresses have a better success rate than those sent to SMS. There was a particular problem sending texts to AT&T customers..

    • I’ve seen mixed reviews of the 66i. But regardless, I refuse to pay garmin for more maps for a GPS device (they cost extra) when you get dozens of excellent map layers for free with GPS phone apps, like GaiaGPS. While Garmin’s Earthmate app on phones is barely acceptable, the GPS on the Explorer+ is quite usable with the normal features you’d expect and 1:24k USGS color maps.

      • Yes, the default Earthmate maps are very poor, except for finding abandoned trails since they’ show out-of-date information.

        You can just download and use OSM instead for free from an option within Earthmate. I have done this for most parts of the Whites.

      • I just use USGS historical maps and old WMG’s for that research. Works really well and is absolutely free. When walking, I use Avenza Maps with the USGS historical topos which are geocoded. Works great!

      • I got the Mini after reading your earlier review and finding myself on a terrifying 25 trail. I realized I would feel really stupid bleeding out on a trail like that because I was too cheap to buy one. I turn it on in dangerous situations and to send periodic messages to my wife. I hope I never have to use it in an emergency, but by only using it sparingly I hope I will have battery power if ever needed in an emergency. Your earlier advice still works for me.

      • Philip, I too am a Gaia lover. I love the additional map layers. Burn area, closed areas. But more than than I have Nat Geo, USGS and USFS 2016 loaded because in my area of So Cal each has its advantages of finding smaller side trails..
        does Garmin allow Nat Geo downloads or are u limited to their USGS Basecamp type maps ? I’m just starting to explore CalTopo. My primary nav I would hate to go back to a 1.5” x 2 screen Lol

      • The Garmin explorer only lets you use delorme’s maps and they’re nothing to write home about.

    • i just bought the mini on sale. ive sent messages and they seem to be delivered just fine. I am having trouble pairing however. Still learning. It can do alot . I primarily wanted it for sos as I am mostly a solo backpacker, hiker and skier.

    • What phone do you use to link the explorer to?
      Are you saying you could link the Mini to a 66i and use the 66i for the display.
      Am confused on this.

      • I don’t link the explorer to a phone and while you can, I’m not ever sure why anyone would want to. It’s basically self-contained.

        You’d link the mini to a phone, although it’s also not entirely necessary. More of a convenience.

        The 66i is basically an explorer with slightly better maps and complete integration with garmin’s basemap planning suite. The inreach requires an entirely different planning tool (Earthmate) which Delorme developed before Garmin acquired them.

        You can use any phone with Bluetooth.

      • The main reason to set up Earthmate is that it is the easiest way to enter custom messages since it provides both a full keyboard and voice to text input through a well lit interface with fonts large enough to read easily…at least it does on my Pixel 3a. That would be my preference to use with either InReach device both generally and in an emergency situation so I want it available…Chances are the phone and Bluetooth will work but if it doesn’t or conditions make using the phone impractical, I do like that the InReach devices have a backup way of entering text if you need it, unlike some of the competition.

    • SteveB/Eagle, Idaho

      On messages and bluetooth connectivity… I have an original (I think) DeLorme Inreach Explorer from like 5-6 years ago. It continues to work amazingly well but… I have always had problems with messages getting out and getting back in. What seems to be a problem most of the time is that the bluetooth connectivity to my phone stops working. Sometimes restarting the bluetooth on either the phone or Explorer fixes the problem. Sometimes not. I have at times had to power down both and start over. I’ve learn over the years to send both a text and an email to my wife. One or the other gets through. Sometimes it seems to take a while but that could also be due to connectivity issues. I wouldn’t travel in “the Primitive” without it (I live in Idaho and love the Stanley Basin area for hiking, fishing, camping. Too much chance that a Grizz has wandered across state boundaries from the Yellowstone area. Yeah. It could happen. The Explorer also gives me a chance to get back out alive if I break an ankle or a leg. Hard to drag yourself out of the Sawtooth Wilderness Area! LOVE the Explorer but I would continue to test and verify that your messages get out. My experience is that it sometimes pauses until it gets the right kind of attention…

  2. Every time I use my Mini, I spend half my time recovering from pressing the wrong button. My brain wants up/down to be on the right, and OK/back to be on the left. Also, my Mini does not have a touchscreen. I wonder if this is something added to newer models.

    • The problem with the mini is that you can’t see the icons on the buttons because they’re on the sides of the device and colored black-on-black. If you’re like most people you probably don’t use the device very often which makes it even more frustrating. Being able to see the icons on the front of the Explorer+ is a lot more self-documenting. There are also more buttons, so the functions are easier to separate cognitively. My bad on the touchscreen. Confused it with another Garmin device I own. Edited the reference.

      • Thanks for an excellent review Philip!
        A family member is getting into winter hiking. We went with the Explorer + due to battery life but the added weight is a concern. Your review helped validate we chose the best option.
        Had been tempted by the 66i but we were also resistant to paying for their platform maps. Thx for the other map options.

      • The icons for the buttons on the Mini are on the front of the device! They could be more obvious but they are there. .

      • They really could be more obvious. I’ve never noticed them before. They’re also embossed on the buttons themselves where you can’t see them.

  3. I think you have nailed the trade-offs, Philip. I have a Mini and love it. My overnight trips are rare, but I try to do 2 or 3 day hikes per week. My favorite activity is what I call “exploration bushwhacking” — as opposed to bushwhacking to a destination. As a result I usually (70% of the time) have cell coverage; the Mini’s job is to protect me while I’m in those coverage holes. If I break a leg while I’m far off the trail, it’s going to take SAR a looong time to find me if I can’t tell them where I am.

  4. Excellent comparison. I purchased the Garmin Mini
    8 months ago and have used it extensively in the Smokies and Adirondacks. Overall, it serves its purpose …being able send basic txt and the piece of mind with the SOS functionality.
    Plenty of options other than Garmin for useful maps.
    If purchasing today, I would opt for the Explorer..

  5. I was part of a rescue. We used my Explorer+, to coordinate with SAR, and it required some back and forth communication over 6 hours. The battery was getting low by the end. For that reason I won’t switch to the Mini, but I do resent the weight of the +.

  6. That’s a pretty deep discount for Garmin. Do they have an updated model coming out?

    • The razor is cheap. The blades add up over time.

    • I have used the Expolorer + for extensive winter and summer backpacking and day hikes. Even on shorter days hikes, I would not dream of leaving home without a safety net like this and the peace of mind if offers… or more correctly stated, my WIFE would not allow me to leave home on extended solo hikes/backpack trips without a way for us to stay in touch and for me to reach help if needed.

      Love the produce. Interface is easy and even using all day/night, battery life is great for me (generally under 4 days). I do power down my blue tooth connection to save power (on both phone and Explorer) and thus far, zero power issues overall.

  7. I had both and sold the mini for the reasons you outline plus one more reason which is that I am often with my family members. If I get hurt I want them to be able to pick up the device and use it. It takes about 2 minutes to teach someone how to use the explorer+ in an emergency. The mini is too complicated for me to teach a 13 year old and to make it usable I would also have to teach them how to connect to it on my phone, etc, etc.

  8. Besides having one of these for when I need it, I also feel that I am likely to come across someone else that needs help one of these days.

    • That’s how Bill & I feel when we’re using our older iReach device.
      Hiking in the NH hope anyone who does need assistance is carrying 10 essentials plus appropriate additional gear or the SAR will cost them (as it should) https://hikesafe.com/about

  9. I go on long walks, next one is from my home in Blanco, TX to Terlingua Ranch (about 460 miles). I pull a 2-wheel buggy (wheels are 16″ bicycle type) that pulls so easy. I have a solar panel on top of my gear and it charges a 12v 8ah battery, wondering how I can charge the Mini or the Explorer+ from a battery terminal, but I will get one or the other. I have a very good Garmin GPS and really don’t want to purchase another and if I an link my iPhone to the Mini, what buttons would I have to “push” to send or receive a message? I do about 20 miles a day and having this safety item is a requirement for me.

    • When the Mini is linked by bluetooth to a phone sending or receiving messages is like using an email application on your phone. The bluetooth connection does drain the battery faster, though.

      You can read incoming messages with a few button presses on the Mini itself without linking to the phone. You can also easily send canned messages from the Mini. Once you want original messages it is awkward do without being linked to a phone.

      • Clifford -Both the Mini and the Explorer charge from a 5v USB 2.0 source. Pretty much any battery bank with a USB A socket will work. If you have a 12v source then you will need a 12v->5v USB charger which are commonly available in car lighter plug form. They will continue work while being charged but they do have a power off when charged feature you may want to turn off. Both the Explorer+ and the Mini are standalone. You don’t have to connect them to a phone to use them. You do have to create a Garmin account online to activate them and subscribe. You can connect either to a Smart phone via Bluetooth using the free Earthmate app. This makes custom message composition easier for both devices and allows you to control the device from your phone…eg. sending an SOS. if you so wish.

  10. Kurt Neuswanger, Colorado

    I used my Mini on a 7 day solo backpack in the Wind Rivers. I paired it with my Samsung smartphone. I used the tracking each day. I turned on Bluetooth in the morning, sent a tracking message on my phone and started the tracking, then turned off Bluetooth on both the Mini and the phone all day.

    I turned off the Mini in the evenings after I sent a message confirming my location for the night. I sent maybe 3 messages per day.

    I let the battery on the Mini run down to see how long it would last. On Day 7, it finally reached 10%.

    I used the Mini for about 8 hours per day, so that adds up to about 50 hours. But it was definitely adequate (I had an Anker battery pack if needed). And since I always use my phone to compose and transfer messages and look at the maps, the Mini is all I need. True, if the phone dies, I’m stuck composing messages with the Mini’s extremely tedious layout. But the Mini is basically a satellite enhancement to my phone, not a replacement for it. So I prefer to save weight and storage space.

    • It seems worth noting that the “Average Battery Life” that Philip gives above (100hr E+ vs 50hr Mini) are not the numbers Garmin currently publishes, at least as far as I can find and I’m not sure where they come from. Garmin’s product pages do not estimate “Average Battery Life” but provide numbers for various specific cases. In particular they give battery life for 10min Satellite tracking (default) which is “up to 100hrs” for the E+ and “up to 90hrs” for the Mini. 90hrs is printed on the Mini box I bought in July 2020 so I think they mean it and it is not a typo.

      The very specific definition of these numbers indicate that if you also use the E+ for Mapping and Navigation then you will probably get much less than 100hrs of battery life and that the practical battery life is not as distinct between the two devices as Philip suggests. If you turn on 1s detailed logging these numbers do fall to 75hrs (Plus) and 35hrs (Mini). However, Garmin warns that frequent local logging is a power hungry feature on the Mini. Besides, it is not something you would typically need the Mini to do if using it primarily as a safety device when hiking. Logs are not sent to the Satellite. Frequent logging could be useful for backtracking in poor conditions so use your judgement…5min detailed logging uses much less power if it is something you feel you need to leave on just in case.

      The other number Garmin gives is the days you can expect using 30min tracking with the Ext Tracking power saving mode. This switches off logging, Bluetooth, ANT+ and message checking and sleeps between Sending the current location to the Satellite. I believe you have to manually check for messages although it may check for messages when it Sends. In this mode Garmin claim the Explorer+ can run for up to 30 days and the Mini up to 24 days. I do not have enough experience with the Mini to say if Garmin’s numbers are realistic.

      In my view what is important is that either device has enough battery to last a day or so and be there for you in an emergency. If fully charged either will do that. If you are going overnight you should bring your cell phone as a first priority and an appropriately sized battery bank for the length of your trip. You should recharge your phone and InReach to an appropriate level each night to ensure they are ready for action if needed.

      • Those battery duration numbers are from the REI website not the Garmin website, as you point out. Given the discrepancy between the metrics that Garmin publishes and what REI has published, I called up customer support at Garmin (because customer support people won’t bullshit you) and asked which was a more accurate reflection of reality. They hemmed and hawed about how there’s no good way to know since it depends on how hard your devices have to work to get a satellite lock and what other functions you might be using…but in the end they agreed that the REI metrics were more accurate as a real world reflection of battery performance and not the idealized metrics that Garmin has published. They even went so far as to suggest that Garmin gave REI those numbers (the ones that REI publishes) but I couldn’t confirm that.

      • While that and Kurt’s anecdote makes the 50hr for “Average Battery Life” for a Mini at least a plausible working number it doesn’t lend weight to the Explorer+ having both an “Average Battery Life” of 100hrs and a figure of UP TO 100hrs for 10min Send Tracking (default).

      • Why not? The battery is over twice as large.

      • On my most recent trip the mini was on for about 10 hours per day, sending location at 10 min intervals, and ending at about 30% battery. I was very happy with that, but it seems to indicate the 50 hour battery life is more realistic.

      • Philip – Because the given number for the Explorer+ for 10min Send Tracking (default) is “up to 100hrs”…a maximum not an average. That setting seems reasonable for typical usage so if you use other features in addition you will get less than 100hrs out of it. If you turn on 1s tracking…also not unreasonable typical use on the Explorer+ because it has mapping and most people will enjoy seeing their detailed track on it, Garmin say you only get “up to 75hrs”…again a maximum not an average. Looking at the map or composing messages takes power if only because the screen is brightly backlit when you do that. So what is this usage that gives the Explorer+ an “Average battery life” of 100hrs? It seems mythical given the published data.

      • There is absolutely no reason to track every 1 second. Its also very very expensive. Look at the subscription prices. If you want a track use your phone and gaia gps. Costs nothing extra.

      • I meant 1s log “tracking” which is the battery usage Garmin give. Unfortunately Garmin refer to both Send and Log as “Tracking” and I was ambiguous. Garmin don’t give a battery use figure for their Professional plans which allows for 2min Send Tracking. They do not offer 1s Send Tracking as far as I can tell.

        Really all beside the point though. We haven’t come up with anything that justifies 100hr “Average Battery Life” for the Explorer+ so I remain skeptical. Vague guesses by customer support people don’t really tell us much and REI often has incorrect information posted. I suspect the number is a marketing guess possibly due to the REI having a field called Average Battery Life which needed an entry and is probably just an incorrect presentation of the 100hr maximum 10s Send Tracking (default).

        We have now two real life anecdotes that indicate 50hrs is a good working number for a Mini…more usefully expressed as about 6 8hour days. There should be similar anecdotal data for the Explorer+.

      • To be clear 1s Log tracking requires no subscription and is free apart from battery usage.

  11. Not too many comment on 66i. I got one after using the original InReach for many years. I’ve used it hiking around Bigelow’s and AT in Maine. I’ve had a few issues where it had me all over the trail in zig zags but otherwise it has been fun to use. Nice having the weather forecast when cell phone service not present. We do have a new procedure that my wife or family confirms they got my messages as they have not gotten them until the next day. This concerns me if in emergency.

  12. I have the Mini, easily connected to my Samsung 9, then do everything on the phone, with a decent size screen to look at. A tiny battery pack to top up phone and Mini if required, easy enough…..

  13. Yo, Phillip – Canada is part of North America (NA = Canada, the continental US and Mexico).

  14. In 2016 when Bill & I got our Delorme Insight device (pre Garmin merger) there was considerable push back and posts about “yuppie 911s.”For me it is an adjunct device for that moment when oneself or for others need a SOS activated and use these particular to do two-way conversation with SAR to plan next steps.

    I’m concerned people rely on them too much and rely less on acquiring skills through pursuit of hiking education, planning hikes, and avoiding preventable injuries.

    Do you ever have concerns that these electronic systems breed a false sense of security?

  15. Phillip, I used the Mini on my recent hike through the 100-mile Wilderness in Maine (and completion of the A.T.). All of the talk about pairing with your smartphone is good as long as you have phone service. The northern half of the 100-mile Wilderness and Baxter State Park are pretty much deserts for phone service. As long as the Mini can see the sky, it will work fine. Also, I carried a 10,000 mAh battery. The Mini recharged quickly.

    • That’s not exactly true. You can pair the Mini with a phone using Bluetooth without cell phone service and still text/email people via the satellite connection. You really only need the cell phone connection or wireless to download new maps if you want to use the Earthmate app to navigate.

  16. Nice article! I get a lot of questions regarding the SOS-based electronics by Garmin, having used a 1st GEN device on my first vac and the second time (yes, twice and both trips landed me in surgery via a helicopter evacuation!) an Explorer+ that, then-deLorme gave me to “sell” my story. No matter which you choose, buy one for yourself, a loved one, or someone hiking a long trail in 2021. Trust me I was at the brink (the guys in the shelter 100 feet away told the Maine Wardens I had been saying the Rosary for hours). The second time “A.T. Dave” was on me in minutes; it is a great feeling when help arrives and you get that message from Houston telling you EVERYTHING they are doing to help you.
    P.S. Take a pic of yourself with pack on, and tell the people on your call-list what colored clothes you wear. Trust me, when their heart starts again from the middle-of-the-night call and they try to think through the fog, a task like sending a pic will give them control and piece of mind…….until you get a “piece of their mind”, of course!

  17. Phillip, your review refers to various tips and tricks you can use to extend the battery life of these devices. Would you please share those tips or point to a good article? So far, I’m not impressed with the Mini, but maybe I need to adjust how I use it. Thank you.

    • I just keep mine turned off unless in an emergency.

      • That’s like carrying a firearm for protection without having a round in the chamber. The seconds that it takes to chamber a round could mean life or death. How long does it take to turn on and acquire a satellite signal before it may be too late? What happens if you get separated from your inReach and the tracking could give the SAR teams a known last location? In my opinion if you have it, use it no matter which one you have.

      • I don’t personally consider on-trail hiking to be that dangerous, but now that I’m hiking mostly off-trail I am considering purchasing a “bigger” plan that provides unlimited tracking and keeping the darn thing on all the time, so my wife can find my body.

      • Robert, since location is sent with preset messages, you could send hourly preset “breadcrumb” messages if on a budget (this would allow the basic subscription plan instead of a plan with tracking included.) This also would likely be easier on the battery than tracking over shorter intervals.

  18. I always give my wife a detailed description of my hikes including a time that she should call for help. I really like the Explorer+ for the ability to let her know if I am changing my plans and get confirmation that she got it.

    • That’s exactly what do to, with one difference. She makes me send a good night message and a good morning message. these are just canned check-ins, but it puts her mind at ease.

  19. Good review except for not covering the single most important factor, at least for those who think of these devices primarily as a safety factor. I have tried to find information on exactly how powerful the signal is that these devices produce and can’t find it anywhere. They do tell you that the mini battery only lasts half as long as the explorer+ but they don’t say how strong the signals are and of course one might assume that the smaller battery would mean a weaker signal. This is important for comparing not only these two devices to each other but also comparing them to a true PLB such as an ACR or McMurdo. These devices have shorter antennas than the PLBs which also limits the strength of the signal. All this probably doesn’t matter at all in ideal conditions but if you are trying to push a signal out from a canyon, tree cover, or just from the shadow of a mountain, this could be life or death. One interesting point in this regard is that my old DeLorme explorer (original model) puts a warning on the screen when the battery gets down to 25% saying it is going into low power mode to conserve power for possible emergency SOS use. Lots of people are using these things these days instead of PLBs and it would be great to actually know how they compare in the basic SOS functionality.

  20. Terry Hargraves

    I used the old Delorme Explorer and now have the Garmin Explorer+. I don’t mind the extra weight of it, and I love being able to use my phone for input. But it falls short in not being able to send the three pre-canned messages from the phone. Hubs worries when I hike alone, and we’ve helped that by setting the 3 messages as “Start/Stop”, “All is Well”, and “I’m punching the SOS”. I send a Start/Stop when I start and stop my hike, and an All is Well every hour or so. It would be so nice to hang the unit high on my pack and send those precans from my phone, but I have to keep it reachable and therefore don’t get quite as good of a signal. I’ve been wondering if the Mini allows sending those big three from Earthmate.

    My second reason for considering the Mini is its ability to interface with my new Garmin Fenix watch. If I could send those big 3 messages plus the SOS from my WATCH, life would be grand!

    Does anyone here have the Mini/Fenix combination that can speak to this?

  21. Very nice — and helpful — write up. Thank you for doing this. I’ll be sticking with my full sized unit.

    HJ

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