There when you need it, unobtrusive and minimal for when you don’t. The inReach Mini strikes a great balance of form and function
Why We Chose The Garmin inReach Mini: Portable communication, emergency SOS, reliable weather reports
If you’re someone who spends extended periods of time in remote regions (we’re thinking hiking, climbing or ski touring in far-flung places such as the Scottish Highlands, or perhaps even further afield), then a GPS communicator could become a trusty companion in your arsenal of equipment.
Garmin have been focusing on producing GPS technology ever since their foundation in 1989. Their first foray into hiking GPS technology began with the original eTrek, which, when launched in the early 2000s, brought consumers a GPS receiver that could fit into the palm of your hand – an extremely innovative bit of kit for the time. Now, after twenty years of streamlining this technology, Garmin have released this, the inReach Mini, a feature packed satellite communicator that’ll make everything else in your pack look oversized.
Who Is The Garmin InReach Mini For?
Thanks to the impressively small form factor, this satellite communicator will be of interest to those who would previously have shunned the larger sizes (and weights) of original GPS devices. Trail runners, hikers, ski tourers and alpinists, we expect, will all appreciate the lack of size and weight of this punchy communicator.
We should first mention that this device certainly doesn’t replace the need for effective map reading and navigational skills. See it as a device that complements those skills, there to support you if / when things go really wrong in remote areas of the world (many regions in Britain’s mountains are devoid of mobile service too).
“The inReach Mini can essentially joy ride your phone so you can use the screen for improved ease of use.”
It must also be noted that this device doesn’t replace the need for your mobile phone, either. In fact, given the small size of the device, some of the features found on the inReach Mini rely on your phone’s typically large screen size in order to make them a simple and slick process – we’ll get more into this further down the review.
Now, with all that said and done, let’s get into the good stuff.
The most obvious difference between the inReach Mini and pretty much every other satellite communications device currently on the market is of course the extremely small size of the device. Coming in at 5.17 x 9.9 x 2.61 cm, or around the size of a GoPro (excluding the antenna), Garmin have clearly aimed to create a device that’s as portable as possible.
For such a small device, the InReach Mini comes stuffed with features. Some of these are there to help make informed decisions when away from mobile service, while others are vital life lines if there’s an emergency in the backcountry.
Interactive SOS Alerts
The feature that everybody hopes that they’ll never have to use, but that could perhaps become the most important to them, is of course the ability to send out a customisable SOS alert to GEOS. GEOS are the emergency dispatch team who are on hand 24-hours of the day, ready to send all the help required in order to come to your aid when you require it.
It must be stressed that although this feature is perhaps the most important found on the device, it should only be used in emergency scenarios. In order to send the SOS message, a tab on the side of the device can be lifted up, revealing a button that is held down, before the message is sent.
Two-Way Global Messaging
The inReach Mini opens up a whole world of communications that wouldn’t have been available when out of phone signal. Text messages, emails and simple text-based (with your current location update) social media updates can be sent from the device, giving you the ability to update friends and family no matter where in the world you find yourself.
These messages can be pre-written on the device, with pre-saved contacts ready to be selected, so that you can easily let your friends know that you’ve arrived safe at your destination in just a few button taps.
The weather can be a fundamental aspect to planning your route, in all outdoor sports, particularly if you find yourself days into a trip and with no mobile data to hand – this is even more critical if you’re travelling in a winter environment and need to consider how the coming weather could change the current avalanche conditions. That’s why we love the fact that the inReach is able to provide detailed weather updates. You’re even able to request forecasts for other GPS locations that you’re planning to head for.
Naturally, to keep the weight of the InReach Mini down (compared to that of the original InReach), Garmin have sacrificed and limited certain features.
Let’s start with the most obvious difference – the screen. The (128 x 128 pixels) screen has been given a real nip-tuck treatment in order to fit onto such a small device. Garmin have also tweaked the operating system extensively in order to be able to serve many of the features found on the device. Writing messages is a great example of this limited functionality, as you’re forced to scroll through the alphabet to reach each character, compared to that of the standard full screen keypad found on many other devices.
The lack of screen real estate is easier to tolerate thanks to the extensive mobile phone connection capabilities. Through the use of the Garmin’s Earthmate app, the inReach Mini can essentially joy ride your phone so you can use the screen for improved ease of use. This includes fast message writing and full resolution maps with location services. This can all be done with your phone still in flight mode (with Bluetooth on), to ensure you don’t drain too much battery in use.
It features a 1,250 mAh lithium-ion battery. This equals around 50-hours of battery life, certainly enough to keep you powered during multi-day adventures, as long as you ensure you put the device to the ‘sleep’ mode and don’t over do it with the communication and weather services.
Jordan Tiernan, Outdoors Magic Staff Writer
“I’ve been testing the inReach Mini during a five-day wild camping trip through the Lake District and while the Lakes are far from the most remote region in the world (and the UK, for that matter), I’ve appreciated having a device that I know will keep me connected to the emergency services if things were to go wrong in this sheltered valley that I’m writing this from (in my tent!)
“When paired with your watch and/or mobile, the device is extremely simple to use – just spend a bit of time at home setting up your contacts and pre-saved messages before you head out on your trip and you’ll find it a breeze to operate. I found the battery lasts around three days of use, and the 1250mAh battery was small enough to not become a drain on my power supply.
“This device really does come into its own when brought into wild and remote regions. One instance I can think of where I would have loved to be in possession of an inReach would be a time where I found myself ski touring in the Mount Cook national park.
“Whilst staying at the Plateau Hut of Mount Cook, we would stand by a radio positioned in the kitchen, to wait for a crackly weather report to be broadcast to the hut at 19.00 every evening. A device like an inReach removes this reliance on others, helping you to make your own informed decisions while out in the backcountry. It can come to be your only lifeline back to civilisation if things go wrong, no matter where in the world you find yourself. That, to me, makes it an extremely worthy bit of kit in this year’s Outdoor 100.”
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