Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Adventure Tech: Meet the Garmin inReach Mini Satellite Communicator

Explorers, mountaineers, and adventurers just got a new, lightweight option for staying in contact while visiting the remote corners of our planet. Last week, Garmin took the wraps off its latest GPS device and it is an intriguing one, particularly for those who like to travel light and count all of their ounces before setting out on an expedition. The new inReach Mini will definitely be a popular item with that crowd as it shaves off bulk and weight from its predecessor while maintaining most of the functionality.

The Mini is the first truly new inReach device to come from Garmin since it purchased DeLorme back in February of 2016. Like it's siblings the inReach SE+ and the inReach Explorer+, the Mini is a satellite communicator that allows users to send two-way text messages from pretty much anywhere on the planet. Each of the units uses the Iridium Network for communications, which provides coverage across the globe, including the Poles. The devices can also pair with a smartphone or tablet to compose such messages, although the SE+ and Explorer+ have onscreen keyboards too. The new inReach Mini will also pair with some of Garmin's other devices to compose and send messages as well.

In addition to texting, the Mini offers GPS tracking for others to follow the users progress, options for GPS navigation, and the ability to send an SOS from anywhere on the planet should they run into trouble. Garmin says the device comes with unlimited cloud storage for trip planning, waypoint locations, and sharing of routes too.

What truly separates the Mini from the other inReach products is its size. As its name implies, it is a very small gadget measuring just 4 inches (10.1 cm) in length and 2 inches (5.08 cm) in width. It also weighs just 3.5 ounces (99 grams), making it incredibly lightweight too.

By shrinking the device down in size Garmin had to make a compromise in the area of battery life. While the larger inReach units offer as much as 100 hours of use between recharges, the Mini is half that at 50 hours. That means you'll have to find a way to keep it charged while on the go if you plan on being out for more than two days. That could nullify some of the advantages gained by using such a small satellite communicator, as it could be worth it to carry the larger ones simply for the battery life alone.

The new inReach Mini will go on sale in June and will cost $349.99. Find out more here.

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