When Garminabsorbed rival GPS device manufacturer DeLormein 2016, the outdoor community wondered what kind of products the two companies would create when they combined forces. Sure, they’d save our bacon when we’re lost in the woods, but what would they look like? We’re now starting to get some idea thanks to the introduction of the new Garmin inReach Mini, a new device that gives a possible look at the future of satellite communications in the most remote corners of the world.
The inReach Mini is a scaled-down version of the existing inReach Explorer, which Garmin acquired when it purchased DeLorme. The devices communicate using the Iridium satellite network, allowing users to send and receive text messages even in places where cell phone service is completely nonexistent. Iridium offers 100 percent global coverage, allowing a device like the Mini or Explorer to stay in touch with the outside world, even while visiting places like the North Pole or climbing in the Himalayas.
But the inReach devices can do much more than just send text messages. They also function as GPS tracking devices, allowing friends and family back home to keep tabs on the user no matter where they go. The gadget can also transmit an SOS message, giving explorers and adventures the ability to call for assistance should they run into trouble while in the backcountry. All inReach products also offer GPS navigation and the ability to connect to a smartphone and tablet to download topographical maps for use when navigating.
The Mini is the first new inReach device introduced since DeLorme was acquired by Garmin, and it brings a few new features that are all its own. For example, as its name implies, this model is much smaller than its siblings, measuring just 4 inches tall and 2 inches wide. It also weighs a mere 3.5 ounces, which should make it popular with the ultralight backpacking crowd. It has the ability to connect with other Garmin devices for convenient sending and receiving of messages, and the Mini comes with unlimited cloud storage and syncing for storing trip plans, navigational routes, and waypoints. Users can even create predefined messages and texts that can be sent quickly and easily directly from the satellite communicator.
Of course, when you shrink a device down in size, some compromises have to be made. In this case, that comes in the form of battery life. The inReach Mini is capable of functioning for about 50 hours between recharges, which is half that of the Explorer. Two days of battery life isn’t terrible for any GPS device, but it does force users to consider how they will keep the Mini charged while operating in the field.
Garmin says that its newest gadget should begin shipping sometime in June and will sell for $350. A monthly subscription service is required for much of the functionality, with plans starting at $11.95 per month. Find out more on the official inReach Mini website.