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inReach Explorer

 Review of The inReach Explorer

I was introduced to the Delorme Satellite Communication line at a trade show a few years ago and when given the opportunity to use the hand held satellite messenger on a scouting trip for an upcoming hunt I jumped at the chance. Knowing that emergency help was a button press away was certainly a key feature, but as we starting using the device over the trip, I knew I had to add one as an essential piece of my back country gear.

The inReach Explorer is an upgraded version of the SE, coming with all the features I love plus adding a host of new ones.

SOS – Emergency Help

This was the feature that originally piqued my interest as a safety precaution to guard against the unexpected. It is as simple as it gets, press the clearly labelled red SOS button and the nearest search and rescue operation is alerted to your distress anywhere on the planet thanks to the Iridium Satellite Network that the Delorme Explorer runs on. Text message is sent to you to confirm the SOS message and assess the situation. From there, search and rescue will continue two-way text messaging with you until the situation is resolved.

A real benefit of this feature is that it allows those who may not have considered a remote trip due to medical concerns the extra peace of mind that will now make the trip possible. Honestly, all of our wives also sleep better knowing that we have that added layer of safety.

Two Way Texting and Social Media

This is one of the best features of the device. It allows you to email, text message and update your Facebook and Twitter feeds anywhere you go. The great part is that it works both sending and receiving, so that you can receive responses to your emails and posts. All of this is done through the inReach computer servers so the communication is not direct, but relayed. What that means in practical terms is that the message comes in from inReach and identifies that it is a message from you. This is pretty handy because it keeps the communication down just to the people you want to talk to, however at times even that is too much, like when I get message from home telling me “the dog has chewed a hole in the couch” or “the car battery died”.

Sometimes ignorance can be bliss. A neat feature is that the device will emit a ping every time you get a message and also send another ping once a message you send has actually gone through.

Bluetooth Pairing and Syncing with Your Phone or Tablet

Sending messages can be done by accessing the built-in keyboard and typing the message, but from my experience this is painfully slow. Much like the keyboard on a hand held GPS you must scroll to each individual letter and press enter. A frustrating process as the buttons are small and sometimes hard to press just one at a time. There is also the option to use a set of preset messages supplied as well as add your own presets when you sync with your computer. This is great for things like “back at spike camp for the night” or “up for the morning hunt”.  Far and away the best way to interact with the Delorme is to pair it using bluetooth with your iphone or android device. I use my iphone and connect using a free app from the app store called Earthmate. Taking this approach, typing and reading is a breeze.

Mapping and Tracking

One handy feature of the device is that it can allow others back home to follow your progress by sending them way point alerts. This is handy both for loved ones curious to see how you are doing as well as for people that you may be meeting at a rendezvous. There are also mapping and navigation features on the device that I plan on getting to learn more about in the coming weeks, however thus far it seems to have some rudimentary GPS functions that might help in a pinch, but wouldn’t replace having a dedicated GPS with downloadable topo maps.

Battery Life and Device Design

The battery on this device amazes me. I like to keep the brightness turned up to see easily, and even so it goes nearly a week of regular use on a charge. I keep a couple of portable USB chargers with me so power has yet to be an issue. Otherwise when power is available simply plug it into an electrical outlet with the supplied USB cable and plug.

The device itself is pretty sturdy a feels good in the hand. You can adjust things like brightness and message notifications to your liking easily. The screen while not overly large is adequate and keeps the bulk down. As mentioned, if you plan on texting often you are going to want to bring your phone or tablet to act as an interface.

Costs

Other than the initial purchase price, there a variety of plans offered by inReach, similar to purchasing a cell phone plan. They are priced reasonably and are a lot less money than paying for a satellite phone. You are not locked in to plan so you can change it month by month, a nice feature. In the months I am going to be using the device, I purchase one of the heavy user packages to be able to keep connected with friends and family as well as keep my Facebook and Twitter feeds up to date.

When I am not planning on using it I purchase what’s called a “lifeline mode”. Costing only a few dollars per month it keeps your account up to date and eliminates costly reactivation fees.

In Summary

The Delorme inReach Explorer will become an integral part of my off the grid gear. It is tough and easy to use. The SOS emergency feature is what makes this an essential piece of equipment, but the ease of communicating in the backcountry is a perk that you friend and family will appreciate.

 

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