Garmin inReach Mini Review
By Derek WILDING, ACMG Rock Guide
It is often said that good things come in small packages, and the Garmin inReach Mini undoubtedly lives up to this idiom. At just under 100g, the inReach Mini weighs less than your average cell phone and is slightly more compact, to boot. Despite its small stature, the inReach Mini is a powerful two-way satellite communication and tracking tool that boasts a rugged exterior housing, and a long lasting internal battery.
The Training and Assessment Program has been running a small fleet of Garmin inReach devices since the beginning of the year and has been extremely impressed with their versatility and reliability. When paired with a smartphone through the Garmin Earthmate app, inReach Mini devices allow satellite-networked users to effectively communicate with cellular networked devices or web interfaced programs in a format that is similar to standard text or email messaging. There’s often a short delay in sending and receiving messages as they are routed between satellite and cellular networks, but rarely does it take longer than a couple of minutes.
In addition to the standard SOS and the convenient two-way messaging features, the inReach Mini also features preset one-way messaging, for rapid distribution to stored contacts. Routine messages such as ‘Everything’s Ok', ‘Running Late’, Checking In’, etc. can be pre-set and quickly selected from a drop down list displayed on the device’s small external display. They can then be sent to a pre-set contact, another inReach device, or a pre-selected group. For the Training and Assessment Program’s Ski Guide courses and exams, this proved to be an effective means of completing periodic checking-ins with the office, and other groups throughout the day. We did note that the delay when sending messages between inReach devices was often a bit longer, but found that messages reliably reached their targeted recipient eventually.
The inReach Mini’s tracking feature is convenient for locating the position of groups in the field, and for their monitoring progress. Additionally, when paired with the Earthmate app, the inReach Mini enables simple GPS-like navigation. The opportunity exists for Garmin to improve the navigation features and interface within the app, and the current functionality of this feature is somewhat limited. Likewise, the device can procure a basic weather forecast based on its location, or a ‘premium’ weather forecast for an additional fee, but the level of detail for both is somewhat recreational in scope.
Navigation and weather shortcomings aside, the inReach Mini is an impressive satellite communication device, which performed reliably in our field tests and paired nicely with the Garmin Earthmate app, to provide a user-friendly interface.
Derek WILDING is an ACMG Rock Guide, and ACMG Training and Assessment Program Director