Never have to worry about being out of touch while exploring off-the-grid again. With a satellite communicator, you can send text messages and location data to family and friends using a network of satellites to ensure you remain connected no matter where you are at. Our Garmin inReach review details both the device we use, the Garmin inReach SE+, and the Garmin inReach service plans needed for satellite connectivity.
We like to travel where cell service is unknown – a bit more off the beaten path. With our inReach SE+, we can head off-grid without worry. Knowing that you are always just a few button pushes away from help if something happens while in the wild, frees you from the anxiety of “what if something happens”. While the SE+ is an investment, the inexpensive service plans and the ability to pause your plan while you’re stuck at home make the inReach SE+ a more than worthwhile investment when we head outdoors. There are newer satellite communicators on the market that bring the initial purchase cost down and that have more developed features, but we like the ease of use and dependability of our inReach SE+ for hiking, camping, and coastal sailing. The SE+ is now an older device and at $400 is probably more money than you need to spend on a quality satellite communicator in 2022.
The build on the Garmin inReach SE+ feels solid and rugged. Using the form factor of its line of handheld GPS devices, the SE+ is rubberized and waterproof. With an IPX7 rating, the SE+ can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. It’s relatively lightweight at 7.5 ounces and feels good in your hand while using. It has a nicely sized 1.4″ by 1.9″ color display for messaging and for navigating its features. The SE+ has 6 buttons plus a directional pad on its front and a protected SOS button on its side for emergencies. On the back, it’s equipped with a removable belt clip that includes a carabiner attachment for hanging.
Like any electronic safety device, keeping the batteries charged is a crucial element for a satellite communicator. These devices “ping” the nearest satellite on a regular basis to update your location and to check for any new incoming messages. How frequently you set the device to log your location and check for messages is directly related to how much battery life you can expect.
The SE+ is rated to provide up to 100 hours (approx 4 days) of battery life using the default 10-minute tracking mode. As expected, the rated battery life drops as logging intervals are changed. Using 1-second logging provides up to 75 hours of battery life. The SE+ also has a 30-minute power save mode where the batteries can last up to 30 days.
In our usage, we kept the device set at the default 10-minute logging interval and found that 3-4 days of battery life is realistic. If you like to check the device regularly powering up the screen each time, expect less time out of the batteries. In any case, it’s important to consider your ability to recharge the device depending on the length of your trip. If you’ll be away from power sources your entire trip, it’s recommended to set the logging interval to a less-often setting to ensure you’ll have connectivity when you need it.
Dimensions: 2.7″ x 6.5″ x 1.5″
Weight: 7.5 oz
Waterproof Rating: IPX7
Batteries: rechargeable internal lithium-ion
Charging Interface: micro USB
Garmin offers 3 satellite service subscriptions for its inReach devices, all of which can be paid annually at a discounted rate or on a monthly basis (called “Freedom plans”) with an “annual program fee” of $34.95.
See full feature listings for each plan and compare at the Garmin website.
Since our travels are often sporadic throughout the year, we prefer the monthly “freedom” plans offered by Garmin. A highlight of these plans is that freedom plans can be suspended at no fee when you won’t be needing service. While your account is suspended, you won’t be charged a monthly fee, but will still be charged the annual $34.95 fee at the yearly anniversary of your account creation.
Leave a Reply