Review: Garmin inReach Explorer 2-Way Satellite Communicator

Review: Garmin inReach Explorer 2-Way Satellite Communicator

Of all the gear I own, the only one item I will NEVER leave home without is the Garmin Inreach Explorer 2-Way Satellite Communicator.

Why? Because – quite simply – the Garmin inReach is an essential life-safety device that keeps me connected anywhere in the world with both my family and emergency rescue services. With a clear view of the sky, I can connect via satellite to my wife or signal for rescue in the event that I am lost or injured. Regardless of where I go or cell phone signals, the Garmin is always connected.


When I started making more distance hikes and overnight backpacking trips, it became clear that I couldn’t rely on cell phone coverage along the trail. Having some way to connect to my family – and to summon first aid if needed – was essential.



The Garmin Inreach Explorer 2-Way Satellite Communicator is a handheld GPS with two-way satellite communications and bluetooth. It has an internal lithium ion battery that provides approximately 100 hours of standard tracking time and recharges via a USB cable.  Like most Garmin handheld GPS units, the inReach has built in topo maps of North America (or whichever region you purchase it in) and allows owners to upload custom maps to the device.

The key feature of the Garmin inReach Explorer is real-time, two-way communications with rescue services, friends or family.  By pressing the SOS button, you can transmit your exact location and text with rescue services anywhere in the world. You can also use the Garmin’s satellite connectivity to send two-way text messages to friends and family.  The key here is two-way communications, as this allows you to ask and answer questions about your location, condition, and specific situation such as number in your party, extent of injuries, etc.



Garmin inReach Explorer+

Roam far and wide without worrying your loved ones. The Garmin inReach Explorer+ satellite communicator is a GPS tracker, navigation tool, 2-way satellite messenger and SOS device all in one. A digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer make this model more than a basic GPS unit.

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Every inReach device comes with free access to a cloud-powered Garmin Explore website to plan your trips with routes and waypoints, create preset messages and quick texts, sync and manage your device settings, update your firmware, download additional TOPO maps, link your social media accounts, store all your location tracking data and much more.

Other features of the Garmin inReach communicators include real-time weather updates, a durable exterior that is water-rated IPX7 for use in rain and snow, and connects via Bluetooth with your mobile for detailed maps and texting with your phone contacts.


I’ve carried the Garmin Inreach Explorer 2-Way Satellite Communicator with me and it has performed flawlessly throughout the United States and Europe, including in Spain and Portugal on the Camino de Santiago, in Ireland, and England and France on the North Downs Way and Via Francigena.


Garmin inReach Models

Garmin now makes two different models of the inReach: the Mini and the top-of-line Explorer+. I prefer the Explorer+ model due to the full-screen color display and the much better battery life. The Mini is approximately 100g lighter and less expensive, however, you cannot use all of the features of the Mini without a connected smartphone, which may render the weight savings moot.

While the Garmin inReach functions as a handheld GPS without any subscription costs, the SOS and satellite messaging features do require a subscription.  Garmin offers three different subscription models, each at monthly or annual rates.  I highly recommend the “FREEDOM PLAN” option which allows you to toggle your subscription on and off, for times when you are not out on the trail.



Garmin inReach Explorer+ Satellite Communicator

Features:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Comfort:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Durability:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Packability:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Adjustability:5 out of 5 stars (5.0 / 5)
Value:4 out of 5 stars (4.0 / 5)
Average:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)


  • Rugged handheld satellite communicators enable two-way text messaging via 100% global Iridium® satellite network (satellite subscription required)
  • Trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center
  • Track and share your location with family and friends
  • Pair with compatible mobile devices using the free Earthmate® app for access to downloadable maps¹, U.S. NOAA charts, color aerial imagery and more
  • inReach Explorer+ device adds preloaded DeLorme® TOPO maps with onscreen GPS routing plus built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer



As of mid-2019, the Garmin Inreach Explorer 2-Way Satellite Communicator retails for $449, but may be available during sales.  While not inexpensive, the inReach is a vital life-safety device whose value is nearly impossible to measure.


NOTE: I purchased the Garmin inReach Explorer+ on my own and did not receive any incentive for providing this review. The views expressed regarding this product are mine alone based on my own experiences. If you purchase an item linked from this site, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you.