$350; 3.5 oz.; Buy Garmin inReach Mini Now
Take everything we love about the inReach—the backcountry’s best two-way satellite messenger—put it in a package just larger than a pack of floss, and you get the new Mini. What’s the catch? We can’t find one.
Like its predecessor, the Mini offers two-way texting and email in the backcountry, detailed GPS maps (through the Earthmate app), and simple controls, but it measures just 2 by 2 inches, with a 2-inch-tall antenna. It still accesses the Iridium satellite network for the best coverage available—it works globally, at any latitude. The Mini effectively sent and received texts from a remote Fourteener in southern Colorado, a river in Alaska, and a canyon in the Rockies that’s a notorious dead zone. (Slot canyons are still a problem, as they are for all satellite-connected devices.) “In isolated locations, it gives me peace of mind and allows me to fully focus on my lessons and the area around me,” said a NOLS instructor after a 15-day foray into Colorado’s Holy Cross Wilderness with 12 students.
The Mini pairs with your phone via Bluetooth and the free Earthmate app. Through the app, you can access topo maps, weather charts, and your phone’s contact list for texting and emailing without cell service. We enjoyed being able to check the status of nearby thunderstorms on a spring bid up 14,259-foot Longs Peak. “The weather function is super easy to interpret,” one tester reports. “You don’t have to be a meteorologist to parse it.”
You can send messages on the inReach device itself, so if your phone dies, the Mini is still a valid insurance policy. (Its rechargeable lithium ion battery lasts up to 50 hours when tracking waypoints every two minutes, and 20 days without tracking.) OK, one catch: Service plans start at $12 per month for 10 custom texts (sent and received) and unlimited S.O.S.