My first experience using the DeLorme inReach Explorer was along the John Muir Trail last summer. Not only was it reassuring to know that if I needed emergency care or evacuation, I would have dependable communication with search-and-rescue (SAR) but it proved useful in many other ways.
The DeLorme inReach Explorer can provide you with real time weather reports. Last summer was a little wet in the Sierra, to say the least. Storms cropped up almost every afternoon, but with the inReach Explorer, I was able to send a text to a specific address, and the free service sent back the weather forecast for the current time as well as for the next few days. That proved to be exceptionally helpful as we tried to plan our days around rain, sleet, hail and lightning storms. You can send an unlimited number of any of the three pre-set messages with any plan (Safety, Recreation, Expedition, Extreme). So by defining “wx now” to “+17204632647” as one of your pre-set messages, these messages will never count against your message quota.
There were also a few fires last summer engulfing sections of the the JMT in smoke. It was a little worrisome because we didn’t know if the fire posed a viable threat or if it was a safe distance away. With the DeLorme inReach Explorer, I was able to use the two way texting capability to text friends and family to find out if we needed to turn back or keep going. This information was also helpful to other hikers we met along the way who didn’t have any means of communication outside of the trail. Needless to say, everyone was greatly relieved to hear that there was no real risk of fire crossing our path and that the fire was many miles away and relatively under control.
The DeLorme InReach requires that you enroll in a subscription plan in order to receive service however, you can suspend your service at any time. Suspending your service simply puts your service on hold until you choose to reactivate it. This allows you to use the InReach for either a month at a time or year round. Plans range in price from the Safety Plan at $11.95 per month to The Extreme plan at $99.00 per month.
For the latest details on subscription plan options, check the DeLorme website.
Of course there are other excellent satellite rescue devices on the market including the SPOT Gen3 and the ACR Personal Locator Beacon, but I chose the inReach because of its two way texting capability. The SPOT is a great device if two way texting is not a priority for you and it can track your hike. It also follows a subscription model. The ACR Personal Locator Beacon is probably one of the best rescue devices out there. It does not provide tracking points or any other bells and whistles, but if you need rescuing, it does that flawlessly without having to pay for a monthly subscription.
There are a couple of things to be aware of with the remote possibility that the DeLorme inReach Explorer stops working. Fear not, there are a couple of solutions to this problem. First you can reset the device, and most of the time this rectifies the situation and you will be back on trail. If an inReach exhibits an issue powering on, pairing to a companion Android or iOS smartphone, or acquiring a GPS fix, you can perform a soft reset to attempt to resolve the issue.
Performing a Soft Reset
- Power off the inReach and disconnect it from any power source.
- Press and hold down both the X button and the Down button of the directional pad simultaneously for 60 seconds.
- Release the X button and Down button and power the device on normally.
- Test the inReach Explorer to confirm the issue has been resolved.
Also, make sure that you use the original cable that came with the inReach. I made the mistake of substituting a longer usb cable that I had lying around the house, but the quality of the cable didn’t carry enough bandwidth to power or charge the device. I had to have the original cable shipped to a resupply location and lost days of tracking, and peace of mind.
Although I didn’t use the GPS features, the inReach Explorer keeps the primary inReach function set, adding a full suite of navigation features to eliminate the need for a separate GPS unit (in theory). Let me note that the GPS functionality is not delivered on a large screen and lacks a lot of detail due to the small screen, but it does include a very simple map view that allows users to navigate with routes, waypoints and tracks. This is great functionality if you are hiking off-trail. The unit also includes a digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer, adding extra navigational functionality while tracking speed, elevation, distance and more.
The Bottom Line
Overall I’m very happy with the DeLorme inReach Explorer. It has provided me, my family and friends with assurance that all is well on the trail as well as the peace of mind that help is just a button press away, if necessary.
The DeLorme inReach Explorer lists for $379.95 and the inReach (without navigation) lists for $299.95. You can find them for less on Amazon.