But because it's not tethered to your phone, it will retain all its advanced functionality—two-way texting, mapping, tracking—even when you drop your phone in a lake. You can set its tracking intervals to as little as 2. It's quite a bit cheaper than the other options if you need a yearly plan , and it has the best battery life. All of our picks are hardy, shockproof, and waterproof—the Spot X is even dustproof. If yours isn't working, make sure the device is outside and has clear line-of-sight access to the sky.
This will be harder to achieve if you're under tree cover. If you're worried about battery life, we like GoalZero's light, portable solar panels to charge your devices on the go. If you'd rather go without a subscription plan, and do away with all the navigation and texting features, consider a personal locator beacon instead. It's initially more expensive, but you won't have to pay subscription fees. It's worth looking at subscription plans before you pick a device. Don't be fooled by the cheapest monthly price; both Spot and Garmin offer month contracts, but they come with an activation fee.
Monthly "flex" plans are usually a little higher. The lowest-tier plans might not include texting or weather forecasts. In general, you'll want to pick a monthly plan if your adventuring is seasonal, like skiing or summer backpacking; get an annual plan if you live in a remote area or are off the grid year-round. When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small affiliate commission.
Read more about how this works. She is currently based in Portland, Oregon. Senior Writer Twitter. Topics Shopping buying guides. Best, -alan.
Best Satellite Messengers and Personal Locator Beacons in | OutdoorGearLab
Hey Alan, fwiw, people routinely carry spots on their bikes on bikepacking races in all sorts of configurations and orientations and they track just fine, for the most part. Sometimes, yes, there are times when they dont send a signal, but it seems to not be related to orientation but to connecting with the satellites in general. On the big Alaskan dog mushing races, spots are mounted facing up, on the sled, and they will often miss sending signals due, I think, to the spotty ha!
The satellites are often only near the horizon, not directly overhead like farther south. Cheers, Josh. Hi Josh and apologies for the late reply. A couple of thoughts on your post. Having extensively used two-way communication in the field in difficult hard to manage situations — both inReach to inReach, and inReach to ground crew — I can unequivocally say there is no comparison between the inReach and SPOT. The inReach is hands down the better unit by a large margin. Iridium is far superior.
Hi Johnny, Apologies for the late reply. Now digging out of the backlog of being away from the internet for a considerable amount of time. Yes, the Iridium constellation is superior. And especially so nearer the poles, e. Alaska and Patagonia two places Alison and I hike a lot. Wishing you a great year of adventuring. Hey Alan, thank you for the indepth review. Have you tested the tracking with less than optimal antenna position? Hi Matt, good Q. The Mini has the same transmit power as the older inReach units.
As such, expect the same transmit performance just a bit less operating time due to a smaller battery. When I am packrafting or rafting, I usually carry my inReach in a flexible see-through waterproof case so I can operate the buttons firmly attached to somewhere on the deck. This also has little impact on transmission, and we got signal out fine from the bottom of the grand canyon when we rafted it a few years back. Your Pelican case is much thicker and without testing it I would not count on it reliably transmitting from inside the case. Hope this helps. And wishing you some great paddling.
I take trips by snowmobile to remote areas in a wide range of temperatures including below zero. I can only carry so much stuff in my pockets too. Has anyone else been using the Inreach on extended cold weather trips and dealt with power issues? So two in the plus column for SPOT. But as you point out 2-way has significant advantages. And also, SPOT is getting some of that long battery life with a weaker transmitting power. So as I and others have noted it is not quite as reliable in getting messages out as the inReach units.
So that longer battery life does have a downside. As to cold Wx operation, Alison and I just finished using the inReach Mini on the Southern Patagonian Ice Shelf and battery life was pretty close to normal and I had it in an external pack pocket so not keeping it warm. Temps were around 20 deg F in the mornings with winds in the 30 knot range. My suggestions would be two. This post has some suggestions for good ones. You comparison chart at the top says Inreach allows unlimited preset messages and SPOT3 allows three. But the SPOT only has 3 messages with no ability to send a custom message — not one typed in the field and not additional preset ones, composed before you leave on your trip.
In comparison, with the inReach you can pre-write a number of preset messages before you leave on your trip. That way you can simply select and send a message in the field but just clicking send. That is, no need to type it. I find this especially useful for things like requesting a weather forecast from my team tracking my trip. I was getting wind speed forecasts almost every day and we did have winds up to kph, with higher gusts.
Thanks for the comprehensive review. Is that still the case? That will stay ready for 6 years without the need to charge. Hi Ted, nice to hear from you. This is going to be a short response as I am leaving for an international trip tomorrow. Anyway here goes. So yeah, you could run it while riding on motorcycle or while you are in your car. And be safe out there on your motorcycle. Warmest, alan. OK Folks… I would really appreciate your input. I would hate it if something happened to me in a remote part of the mountains and they were stranded without anyone knowing how to find them.
I primarily want a device where they can send a SOS and that it is reliable. Thoughts on what would be the best for me and my particular needs? Hi Gerald, lots of good thoughts there. The very short answer is you definitely want the mini. Given you requirements it is almost an exact fit. Have a great year trekking with the grandsons!! Hi Alan: i really enjoy your blog.
The eastern Sierra trip description and photos are wonderful. I have had a Spot for many years. I am thinking of switching to the Garmin for all the reasons you point out. One of the options Spot includes is to pay for what is essentially insurance to cover expense of a rescue if necessary. So far not necessary! But like all insurance, it offers peace of mind. I am wondering if you have thoughts about this. How was the rescue you were involved in paid for?
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The Garmin inReach has a similar rescue insurance option when you sign up. Wishing you a safe year of trekking. Thank you for the excellent article. Bought the DeLorme satellite messenger for our oldest daughter and son in law and they love it.
Good Q Bill. I was delighted with its performance, compact size and weight. I would recommend it almost without reservation. I plan to update this post soon with my field testing of the is great device. All the best, -alan. Great write up! So from what I understand how devices need to be placed, I can put that for cycling the Spot is a better solution as the Spot is more easily placed on a backpack. Rather then an InReach where the antenne has to be upright, which is more difficult on a bike. Not necessarily so Steven. In contrast the SPOT tends to hang vertically almost everywhere which is exactly the wrong orientation for it.
In summary, the combo of poorer orientation and lower power makes for less reliable operation for the SPOT. In this case I would say it should be equally easy to get either of these in the proper orientation given a decent mount. Then the downside for the SPOT will be lower power and no 2-way messaging. But at least it would be held flat in the optimal orientation. I would greatly appreciate your advice. I own a horseback riding business in Southwest Montana, we take guests for day trips into the Lee Metcalfe Wilderness.
The trail we use primarily is a creek drainage so it is a deep canyon with steep terrain and lots of timber. We do have visibility of the sky the entire time but not a lot. I have had Spot recommended to me as well as InReach, also have looked into satellite phones. Unfortunately this all seems a little above my head. We do not need anything fancy no tracking, no weather, etc. Just a way to contact help in the event of an emergency. Hi Kate, good question. When using the device in a deep canyon, if you can, try to get into the widest part of the canyon and avoid tree cover.
Satellites are on N-S orbits, so the more your section of canyon is oriented N-S the better. If not, at least try and find the widest width in a N-S orientation. With a bit of persistence I have been able to get messages out of some very deep canyons in Utah.
Best Satellite Messengers and Personal Locator Beacons in 12222
I will follow up with GAIA and will keep you advised with my findings. Your website provides a valuable service to the novice and experienced outdoorsman alike. It is a great forum for the exchange of experiences and knowledge. Regards, Will C. Alan, I went to the Gaia site on Google Play. Any alternatives? Can you be more specific?
SPOT Series Comparison
Thanks, -alan. Are the features really not worth the extra dollars? Originally bought the spot device, but promptly returned it when I realized the transmission success rate was basically unacceptable. Obviously, the ability to communicate with the outside world is priceless in any kind of sticky situation. It seems to have some interesting functionality options. All great points Hunter. I am confused about the inReach SE … i see Garmin and DeLorme units for sale on amazon… are both still in production and what is difference if so… I have read bad reviews with Garmin sync issues and poor customer service so I was thinking DeLorme maybe way to go… your thoughts.
Hi John T, Apologies for the late reply. Yes, this is a bit confusing. Garmin bought DeLorme and therefore inReach units. The older DeLorme inReach units SE and Exlplorer are no longer in production and for the most part seem to have sold out on existing stocks. Again as this post suggests, we feel that the new inReach Mini and smartphone running GAIA GPS for navigation and interface with the Mini is the ideal pairing for communication and navigation.
Hope this helps and wishing you a great year of hiking. I think it is important to note the price gap between these two units has widened significantly. That is a rather large price difference. But enjoy your SPOT. Hi Alan, Thank you for this article as well as your others this has been very helpful to me in deciding what to do about a tracker for a month long cross country motorcycle trip I plan on taking next summer.
Review: Spot X
I have become a huge fan of Gaia on my iPhone and will be using that for my nav along with paper maps. There are a couple comments above where folks are not smartphone owners and seem to be reticent to owning one for reasons other than the gps functionality.
I would point out that they can purchase a high quality used phone from ebay, Amazon etc for much less than they would spend on a dedicated gps unit. They will then enjoy the functionality of the smartphone working with the inreach, as well as many of the other benefits of a smartphone that you have listed. In short, I would suggest that anyone looking for a gps look very hard at a smartphone to be used JUST for the gps.
If you have covered this elsewhere I apologize for missing it. Hope that helps. A quick question- can my family ping the device to see where I am, rather than just where I put track points or without setting up a tracking interval? Yes, they can ping your inReach for location assuming it is on. More info. Alan, thanks as aways for the excellent content. I love using CalTopo for trip planning and Gaia for tracking and nav on my phone. Just want to clarify: though I am not using the SE for navigation, you would run Tracking ON for safety purposes if I needed to be located. Hi Steve, good Q.
I use these files as the base for many of my trip reports. I used it for a week trip in the Collegiates. Worked great, and used the custom messaging on DAY 1 to help someone out who had been delayed on a 14er, fell and injured. I was the first person she came across since her injury.
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Allan,sorry for the mis-spell above! Should be my new Delorme SE. Allan,thanks for all the great info! I have followed all instructions to the letter to no avail. Do you have any suggestions? Hi Bill, yes the bluetooth connection to the inReach can get wonky at times. My first action is to completely delete Forget this Device from my iPhone bluetooth device screen, put the inReach back in pairing mode and try again. I have had good luck with them solving problems.
And let me know how it works out. Allan thanks so much!! As a 81 year old backpacker I really enjoyed using the iPhone with Gaia last year. This also has coverage in hundreds or thousands of miles offshore to these areas. There is a proven They process over 6 million messages a month or approximately 2.
Optional unlimited tracking service will transmit your location to friends and family using Google maps every 10 minutes for a 24 hour period. Tracking can be reactivated by the user of the spot unit by a press of a button. Back to Satellite Phone Products. You must be logged in to post a review.